Meeting Later - Chapter 1
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to the wonderful Rumiko Takahashi and her licensees (Viz Communications in North America). This work is strictly for the non-profit enjoyment of fans. No copyright infringement is intended.
Meeting Later is originally a story by Tom Wrensch, personally one of my favorite authors. Tom has given me the honor of continuing this series but the idea and first chapter are all his work.
Last Updated: 04/05/10
Ranma watched her warily.
She was wearing a gi, so she was almost certainly a martial artist. She was also female and close to his age. Past experience suggested she was here to either marry or kill him.
She was moving oddly though. More like a drunk than a martial artist. That gi had seen better days too, and her hair was stringy and plastered to her head by sweat. The bags under her eyes made her look like she hadn't slept in a long time. Or bathed, he noticed, as she got closer.
She stopped in front of him and looked into his face with red eyes that didn't seem to focus too well. "Can you show me where Nodoka Saotome lives?" She asked in a rough voice.
"Umm...yeah." Now what did she want with his mother?
"Oh good," she whispered just before collapsing.
He caught her and swung her up into his arms. 'Great, just great, now what was going on?' He started to head home. His mother would want to see her. At least she wasn't very heavy.
Ranma knelt by the side of the futon in the guest room, where his mother had had him put the girl. His mother dipped a cloth into a dish of cool water, ringing it out slightly and placed it on the girl's head.
He watched his mother who was looking at the girl thoughtfully. Finally his curiosity overrode his patience, "So who is she?"
"Her name is Akane Tendo. Her father is an old friend of the family, he and your father trained together. I visited them regularly while you were on your training trip."
"So why is she here?"
His mother changed the compress on the girl's head before answering, still with that thoughtful look.
"I don't know, my son. I would guess she's in some kind of trouble. Something she couldn't go to her family with for some reason."
Nodoka looked up at Ranma, the thoughtful look vanishing under her usual look of vague good cheer.
"It's getting late, and I have to go to the market. I want you to change the compress every five minutes. I'll bring up some food for her when she wakes, I don't think she's eaten recently."
"Ah, mom? Wouldn't it be better for me to go to the market for you?"
His mother's eyes twinkled. "Would you rather go shopping, or stay and take care of a cute girl?"
Damn, Ranma really hated it when his mom asked questions like that. "Um...take care of a cute girl?"
Nodoka stood. "Be nice to her, she's had a rough time."
Akane groaned. She hurt all over, her head was pounding and her legs and arms were sore and her stomach was clenching in painful cramps.
"Hey, you awake?"
Akane cracked one eye open at the question, to see a boy, the one she asked about finding Aunty Saotome's house.
"Who are you?" She croaked.
"Oh, sorry, my name's Ranma Saotome. You asked about my mom's house so I brought you home. She's out right now, but should be back in a half hour or so."
So this was Ranma. She'd heard a lot about him from Aunty when she visited. He was supposed to be quite the martial artist, and of her own school too.
Akane tried to moisten her dry lips before answering, without much success. "My name's Akane Tendo."
"Uh, yeah, hi. Hey, you want some juice? Mom figured you'd be hungry and thirsty."
Ranma helped her sit up and she drank the glass of juice, not caring what kind it was. When she'd finished Ranma presented her with a bowl of rice, which she grabbed and ate in haste. It wasn't until she was licking the bottom of the bowl that she realized she was eating like a starved animal.
"Uh...thanks. I was really hungry." She said lamely.
"No problem. Anything else I can do for you?" Ranma asked.
"I could use a bath." Akane admitted.
"Sure, I'll go ready the furo and find a robe or something for you to wear when you get out."
Akane leaned back in the hot water with a sigh and stared up at the light blue ceiling of the bathing room. She felt #so# much better. After three days of wandering the streets looking for Aunty, a nap, some food, and a hot soak felt like heaven.
She grimaced as that thought reminded her of the reason she was looking for Aunty. A tear slid down her cheek as she thought about her father's unreasonable demands. How could he try to force her to marry some boy she'd never even met! She'd been so angry and upset at the way he didn't care what she wanted that she had fled the house. Only when she'd wandered the streets for several hours did she realize she couldn't go back. Not with her father caring so little for her happiness.
She forcefully pulled away from those thoughts. There'd been enough tears already. She had made it to Aunty Saotome's. If anyone could help her deal with this, it was her.
There was a light knock on the bathroom door. "Can I come in?" Nodoka called through.
"Aunty! Please do."
The older woman came in, laying a towel down to sit on the edge of the furo. "You look better." She said looking over the girls face, "Has my son been taking care of you?"
"Yes, he's been very kind." Akane almost hated to admit that any boy was nice, but anyone who gave her food when she was that hungry deserved a little slack.
"Good. Now would you like to tell me what's wrong?"
"I...It's Daddy. He wants me to marry some boy I never even met." Akane explained her father's announcement and his demands that she marry. The tears started partway through the story and she finished it with her face buried in the woman's kimono.
"Akane," Nodoka said in a stern voice.
'Oh no, she's going to make me go back.' Akane thought.
"You may stay here as long as you like Akane-chan. I'm going to go have a talk with your father." Aunty still sounded angry, but the anger was obviously not directed at her.
"You mean it Aunty? I can stay here?" Akane asked hopefully.
"Of course. You finish your bath, I will go to speak to your father. Ranma will take care of anything you need." Nodoka stood and brushed her kimono off with unnecessary force.
"Don't worry Akane." She said before leaving the bathroom. "We'll work something out." Then she was gone.
Akane leaned back feeling much more hopeful. With Aunty on her side she had a much better chance of getting out of this, or at least of having some kind of choice in the matter.
Ranma sat leaning against his bedroom door.
Akane was getting dressed in his room so she could raid his closet as necessary. She certainly couldn't wear that gi she'd had on, and they had to go out for dinner. His mother had left, saying she'd be gone overnight, and had left money for him to take Akane for dinner. When he'd offered to cook she'd just said Akane needed some cheering up and this would help.
So now he was waiting outside his door. He was hungry, but girls always took #so# long to get ready that he'd probably be here for at least an hour or maybe...
"Okay, I'm ready."
Ranma fell backward into this room when Akane slid the door open. She giggled as she looked down at him.
"You shouldn't lean against the door when you know someone's about to come out." She pointed out.
"I expected you to take longer to get ready."
"I'm hungry. Anyway, what do you think?" She asked, turning around.
She was wearing an older pair of his black pants and a white sleeveless shirt. The pants were a little tight across her hips - a problem he was familiar with - and the shirt was a little big. She was carrying his red sweatshirt, which didn't really fit him anymore.
"Looks good. Didn't any of my mom's stuff fit?"
"Just the underwear, she's taller and thinner than I am. The sports bra that was in your closet was too big. Speaking of which, whose is that? Most guys don't have a bra in their closet." She said with a grin.
"Umm...that's hard to explain."
"Hey, it's not what you're thinking."
"Uh-huh. Well you can tell me about it later. For now, let's go. I could eat a horse." Akane said, grabbing his hand and dragging him toward the door.
Akane was having a good time. They went to what was obviously the local high school hangout. Many people greeted Ranma, though no one came up to talk to him. They took a corner booth in the back and started a long technical talk on Anything-Goes martial arts, ate a huge meal, and then switched to talking about their lives.
Ranma acted like a real gentleman the whole time. He didn't stare at her chest, didn't make any suggestive comments, and didn't even try to brush against her. Were it not for the sports bra she'd found in his closet she'd wonder if he was gay. Of course if his girlfriend wore a C cup bra, there wasn't much reason for him to look at her chest.
Then Ranma started talking about what had happened since he'd returned from his long training trip with his father over a year ago. The Chinese girl who whose village law said Ranma was her husband, the Okonomiyaki chef who thought they were engaged, the thing with the daughter of a man with a takeout-food empire, Ranma had even more trouble with unwanted fiancées than she did.
She was having a good time, but she was also recovering from three days of wandering around without sleep or food. She started yawning uncontrollably shortly after the double fudge sundae.
"We better get back, you look tired."
Akane yawned again. She was getting #so# sleepy. "Yeah, sorry, I guess I haven't recovered from my trip yet."
Ranma nodded and gave her a reassuring smile and went to pay their bill. He chatted for a moment with the counter guy and she leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes.
She was asleep in seconds.
Ranma looked down at the sleeping girl shaking his head and smiling slightly. He yelled for someone to hold the door for him as he picked her up. He had to put up with a little good-natured teasing, but his reputation kept it from getting out of hand.
The walk home was short, and she wasn't very heavy, so he had no trouble getting her back and up the stairs to the guest room. He pulled up the covers and whispered a good night.
As he was leaving the room she half woke up and murmured something that might have been 'good night'. Ranma smiled again and closed the door.
He kept smiling as he walked down the stairs. He hoped Akane would stay a while. It would be nice to have someone his own age around, especially one who was a martial artist. Of course she might freak when she found out about his curse, and she would find out. He'd half expected to get splashed while they were out tonight. If she were staying here, she'd have to be told.
He'd just have to hope she didn't think he was some kind of freak.
Akane stumbled out of the guest room and managed to make her way down to the furo. A full night's sleep had helped a lot, but she still felt groggy and slow. Since she wasn't about to go jogging this morning, the best way to wake up would be a bath.
After nearly stumbling into a closet by mistake, she managed to remember where the bathing room was. She stripped off the clothes she'd been wearing the night before and stepped into the bathing room. She heard a little 'eep' as she came in. There was a little redheaded girl sitting on a bathing stool with her hands over her eyes.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here." Akane said. The girl wasn't so little, she noticed. In fact that bra she found in Ranma's closet could easily belong to her. So, after she crashed last night Ranma had his girlfriend come over to spend the night. Well, she owed him from his help, she wasn't about to tell anyone about it.
"It's okay." Akane said to the girl, who was still covering her eyes, "I won't tell Ranma's mom he invited you here."
"It's not like that." The girl protested. "And could you please cover up?"
"If you want, we're both girls though, what's the problem?" Akane grabbed a towel and wrapped it around herself. "Okay, I'm covered."
The redhead opened her eyes but still avoided looking directly at Akane.
"So if you're not Ranma's girlfriend, who are you?" Akane asked.
"I...I guess I better tell you the truth. Just stay covered up for a minute and I'll explain."
The girl dumped a bucket of water over herself, rinsing off the remaining soap, and stepped into the furo. Akane blinked as her hair changed to black, and her face and body seemed to shift slightly so she looked like...
"Ranma?" she screeched.
"Yeah." His voice once again the one she was used to. "Now you know my dirty little secret."
"You... You're a girl?" She asked.
"No!" Ranma nearly shouted it. "I'm a guy. It's just...a curse. Pop and I fell into these cursed pools in China and now cold water turns me into a girl and hot water turns me back."
Oh." Akane looked down at her feet, not sure what to say, and noticed that she wasn't very dressed.
"Uh...I think I'll go out and wait for you to finish." She said faintly.
Akane left and waited in the changing room, just standing and thinking.
A magic curse! She didn't know if she should be excited or horrified. At least it explained the bra in Ranma's closet. Changing for gym class must be a real pain, and swimming class would be impossible, not that she didn't have her own problems in swimming.
Ranma came out of the bathing room with a towel wrapped around his waist. She looked at him carefully. It was hard to believe he'd just been a girl. He sure looked like a guy now, and a very good-looking one too.
He was looking down at his feet, she didn't know if that was to avoid looking at her or because he felt embarrassed by the curse.
"Akane, I'm sorry about this. If you want to leave I'll understand."
"Leave?" Akane squeaked. Her own problems crashed back down on her. "No, I don't want to leave! I...why would I want to leave?"
"A lot of people don't like freaks like me." He said bitterly.
Akane's own troubles suddenly seemed less important. They certainly were nothing like this! It must be really tough. Akane's heart went out to the boy in front of her. How did he manage with a curse like that? How many people had found out and been afraid of him? Without thinking she put her arms around him and gave him a hug.
That's when the door to the changing room opened and Aunty looked in.
Nodoka smirked. "I see you two are getting along well."
Akane and Ranma looked at her like two deer caught in the headlights of a truck, not letting go of each other or even blinking. She had originally assumed it was some kind of odd accident, which seemed to happen to her son on a regular basis, but the way they were reacting it might be more than that. Not that she minded.
"Well, I'll just leave you two alone and start breakfast. I look forward to your explanation."
She slid the door closed, heading for the entryway where she'd left Kasumi waiting.
"Did you find them Aunty?" Kasumi asked.
"Oh, yes. Akane and my son were in the changing room. I think Ranma just finished and Akane was about to get in the furo. Would you be a dear and take a robe into the bath for Akane?"
"Certainly, I want to see her anyway." Kasumi started rummaging through the pack of Akane's cloths she'd brought from the Dojo.
'That should give them enough time to get decent.' Nodoka thought.
Ranma and Akane stood still as statues for a few seconds before Akane realized that she was still holding Ranma and quickly stepped back.
"Oh, man." Ranma muttered. "This is not good."
"Uh...I'm sorry Ranma. I was just...you seemed so sad and..."
"It's okay Akane. Actually, thanks...that was nice of you. As for mom, we'll just tell her the truth."
"That's probably best. I guess I better go take my bath."
"Right, oh and Akane?" Ranma said with a grin.
"What is it?"
"You're really cute in just a towel." Ranma said.
"You...you...pervert!" Akane tried to sound angry, but his grin was infectious. She knew he was teasing her, but that didn't mean she could let him get away with a comment like that. She swung her arm up for a slap, slowly enough that he could easily duck under it.
He didn't duck, but took the light slap without losing his grin. Unfortunately she lost something, the towel, having been loosened during her hug with Ranma, was dislodged completely by the motion of her arm and fluttered to the ground.
Ranma's hand came up to cover his eyes again. Unfortunately that hand had been holding his towel on and it joined Akane's on the floor.
And, of course, that's when Kasumi opened the door to the changing room.
"Oh, oh my! Excuse me." She closed the door.
Ranma felt around for his towel with his eyes closed while Akane retreated into the bathing room.
"That is soooo not good." Akane heard Ranma groan through the door.
Akane looked back and forth between her sister and Aunty. She and Ranma were nervously trying to explain what happened in the bathroom. Aunty was giggling, she didn't know if that was good or bad. Kasumi didn't look convinced.
"Well, that was so pathetic that I have to believe it." Aunty finally said. "And we do have other things to discuss." She put her chopsticks down and turned her attention to Akane. Akane put her own chopsticks down and felt herself tense up. This was it.
"Akane, I spoke with your father. For now you will stay here, Kasumi brought some of your things."
"Thank you Aunty."
Aunty Saotome looked sidelong at her son. "Would you like Ranma to leave?"
"Umm...No, I know about Ranma's problem, it's only fair he know about mine."
"Very well. Your father has set up a meeting with your potential fiancée for a few months from now, during winter break. We will all go visit your family for the New Year holiday. At that point you will be given a choice."
Akane sighed and relaxed. She could refuse the engagement and have her life back. In the meantime she could stay here and not have to hear her father talk about family honor and her duty all the time. "Aunty? What about school?"
"As your old school is too far away, we will arrange a transfer to the school Ranma goes to. You should be in his year. Maybe you can help him get his grades up." Aunty said the last with a hard look at Ranma, who muttered something and looked down.
"That... that sounds wonderful. Thank you Aunty." Akane had mixed feelings about switching schools. No more Kuno, or the hentai horde trying to beat her up every morning, but she'd miss her friends.
"Akane, daddy was very upset when you disappeared like that." Kasumi scolded.
Akane narrowed her eyes. She wasn't too happy with her father right now.
"Kasumi, I'm sorry over any worry I might have caused you or Nabiki. As for daddy, I doubt he was as upset as I was."
Kasumi frowned a little. "All right Akane, I understand why you're upset. This is a matter of family honor though, you should think about that."
"I have. Isn't it normally the oldest daughter who gets stuck with such things?" Akane loved Kasumi dearly, but she was just a little too subservient sometimes.
"Usually, but I'm not a martial artist like you, so daddy thought it would be better if you were to inherit the Dojo."
"I think we should talk about this some other time." Aunty Saotome broke in. "Akane has to get ready for school."
"Oops, I better go get ready too." Ranma jumped up and ran upstairs.
"I put your bag in the guest room." Aunty said. "The uniforms are brown, so try to wear something that will match. We'll get you a regular uniform tonight."
"Thank you Aunty!" Akane paused before going up to the guest room. "Kasumi, thank you for coming. I really #am# sorry if I worried you."
"I do understand Akane." Kasumi said gently.
With a smile for her sister she ran upstairs. Hopefully, Kasumi had packed her brown skirt.
Kasumi sighed. It had been odd to be helping Nodoka get Ranma and Akane ready for school, rather than getting Akane and Nabiki ready herself. It had been a bit hectic, as they had to leave early and stop at the office to make arrangements.
Taking a sip of the tea Aunty had brought out, Kasumi closed her eyes. Things were going to be different for Akane here. That might be a good thing, it would at least get her away from some of the problems she had with the boys at school and also get a chance to know Ranma.
This whole deception bothered her though. "Are you sure we shouldn't tell them, Aunty? I don't like lying to my sister," she asked, looking at the older woman.
"We need to give them a chance to get to know each other first. With your father's premature announcement this is the only way. We don't need to actually lie, though we must be very careful what we say around them. Your comment about the Dojo was almost too much of a hint."
"Sorry, Aunty. I didn't realize it until after I spoke. She should be able to figure it out, I was very surprised when you said she was here. Who else would daddy engage her to except the only other Anything-Goes trained martial artist her age?"
"If they figure it out, then so be it. Hopefully they will at least be friends by then."
"Maybe more, they certainly got off to an... interesting, start this morning." Kasumi said with a small blush.
Nodoka smiled. "Yes, they did, didn't they."
"All right Miss Tendo, would you tell us a little about yourself, please."
"Certainly Teacher. My name is Akane Tendo. I'm a martial artist of the Tendo School of Anything Goes. I'm staying with Ranma Saotome and his family for the next few months."
"Thank you. I assume you will have a proper uniform soon?"
"Very well, there's an empty seat behind Mr. Saotome. Perhaps you can ensure he stays awake in class."
There were some giggles among the class. Ranma looked disgusted.
She found her seat and started listening to the teacher. He was incredibly boring, as only a history teacher can truly be. At least she hadn't had to beat up a couple dozen boys that morning.
Ranma's head started to droop and he started snoring lightly. She bopped him lightly on the back of the head and he started awake. Maybe keeping Ranma awake in class would be enough of a challenge to keep her occupied.
"I can't believe you fell asleep in class five times!" Akane said.
"And I can't believe you whacked me in the head that many times!" Ranma rubbed the back of his head for effect.
"Stay awake in class and I won't have to."
"Yeah, I guess. Let's eat here, okay?" Ranma waved to a spot under a tree.
"Looks good. Who do you usually eat with?"
"Sometimes some of the guys, sometimes by myself."
"Really? It sounded like a lot of the girls were interested in you, don't you ever eat with them?" Akane asked. Actually that was an understatement. Most of the girls she talked to were jealous that she was living in the same house as him. A few had accused her of 'moving in' on him.
"Uh, I used to have trouble with a lot of them coming around and giving me food and stuff." He admitted.
"They don't anymore?"
"Not too often. I got a little annoyed with some of the more persistent ones and asked to be left alone during lunch."
Akane froze with her chopsticks halfway to her mouth. "And that worked?" she asked. She certainly hadn't had any luck stopping the horde from attacking her.
"Not right away, but yeah they did. The other students kinda listen to me since I got some of the bullies under control."
"Oh." So Ranma was the best fighter in the school as Kuno was at Furinkan. He was certainly nicer than Kuno, who'd never done anything to stop the random violence and a lot to encourage it. She wondered if he was better than her, not that it really mattered without that stupid announcement Kuno made. Actually she kind of hoped he was a little better, it would help her training more to fight someone better.
"Hey, Ranma? You want to spar after school?" Akane asked.
"Sure, I'd love to. I usually spar with pop in the morning, but he was still gone this morning. From what mom said I think he was staying with your family. Say, are you sure you're up to sparing? You were pretty messed up yesterday."
"I'm fine. I might not be at my best, but I can spar."
"Cool. I want to see some of those Tendo school moves you were talking about last night."
"I'll be glad to show you...the hard way." Akane grinned at him. It would be nice to have a regular sparing partner again.
(To be continued)
As I said above, this chapter was the work of Tom Wrensch. All reviews will make there way to him. I will be continuing the story from here, with his blessing.
Thank you for reading.