Chapter 1 -- Prologue
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. This piece of work is purely for enjoyment purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. RxA matchup likely. OOC likely.
Akane was so tired. It seemed that the meaning of life had slowly drained out of her world leaving only a shell going through the motions as if some poorly made manikin. She could feel each one of the strings attached to her body. Her honor. Her family. Her friends. Her enemies. It had been like this ever since Shampoo had messed with her memories and Ranma had made it so so very much worse by trying to fix it without knowing how. The baka actually thought she was cured, but instead the core of herself was sealed away able to observe, but never to change the automatons programming that her body had become. It was Genma's fault of course. Well not really, but Ranma really didn't know much about girls and his attempts to cure her were partially what shaped the pseudo personally that walked around and called herself Akane Tendo. Oh to be fair no one really noticed, since in a way she had been trapped in her own shell that was very similar outwardly for such a long time, particularly since the hentai horde began. Now the shell had taken a life of its own, with touches of how Ranma thought she truly was, and she was but a passenger in her own mind. At least that was the best explanation she had been able to come up with over the months. She tried to hammer at it, to break the walls that held her true self captive. Unfortunately, the shell was made of magic and bits and pieces of her own essence -- particularly her anger and paranoia. In the beginning she made a little progress, but over time the loss of hope weakened her and the chances of freedom seemed to dwindle to dust.
She came to call the her that was not truly her Enaka. It seemed fitting to give something that was a perversion of her true self her own name spelled backwards. Unfortunately in naming it a small amount of acceptance seemed to creep through. Acceptance that things were not going to change. That she would live her life as a passive observer in her own body. Their were times when a ray of light shown dimly into her prison. They were the times when against all odds Ranma would see her true smile leaking through the shell that was Enaka. He would see it and somehow she could feel the warmth from him. Those moments were so rare and precious that she tried to savor every one of them.
It was strange, that Ranma's cat persona seemed to be somehow able to see the real her. She treasured Neko-Ranma in some ways more than the real one since Neko Ranma could sense the true her and was happy to be in her presence. In a strange sort of way Neko's caring brought her real self just a little closer to the surface. It never lasted though. Some fiancee, crazed fiancee stalker, sick pig, sister, parent, amazon or pervert would interrupt. The list seemed almost endless some days, but the results were little different. As if a reset button was pressed, she would punish Ranma for her 'just' reason and punt him into orbit, the fiancees would fight each other. Flavor with old overused insults, and spice with blackmail.
"Oh P-chan. I'm so glad to see you. Look your so wet. Come with me and I'll dry you off then you can get under the covers with me and we can get some sleep."
P-chan "Bweed" in agreement and soon he was nestled above her breasts. A thin nightgown separating him from her and a cover keeping them both warm.
Akane tried. She tried very hard to ignore the revulsion she felt at being used like this. The feeling of being helpless combined with this at first it sickened her spirit to such a point that all that was truly Akane almost vanished. She couldn't recall much of the first couple of months after the pig started sleeping with her. Eventually she managed to crawl out of her own hole with that legendary Tendo stubbornness. It was amazing how helpful pure thoughts of revenge were in giving her an anchor. She wanted to strangle the little chunk of bacon. She wanted to force him to eat Enaka's cooking until he died. She sometimes spent hours thinking up punishments. It kept her sane in a twisted sort of way. Oh intellectually she knew that Ryoga was helpful at times and not actually truly evil. That didn't stop her from planning though. Planning was one of the few things she could do. It helped keep her sane.
She thought once again of her family. She could almost understand Kasumi's obliviousness. Actually she could easily understand it. It was after all just another version of what she herself was trapped in. The choice of how to respond seemed the only difference. Was Nabiki the same way? Did her desire to protect herself after mother's death by being in control take a life of its own too? Perhaps Shampoo was involved too. In a way she hoped not, since at least before she wasn't aware she was trapped. Sometimes being unaware was so much better than being aware. Still she would not chose to become that way again.. at least most of the time.
Ranma was the enigma. In many ways he acted clueless as well. It seemed that tiny pieces of him were missing. The parts that truly understood how to relate to emotions -- to truly understand people. She thought some of it was explained by his upbringing, but didn't think that could explain all of it. It was during one of Ranma's cat times when she realized what was missing. The normal Ranma was missing the playfulness and sensitivity of a kitty cat. It was certainly a strange theory, but it would explain much if the Nekoken had a more long term effect than they thought. Of course she had little to base her theory on, but for some reason she was fairly certain she was right.
Being a disembodied mind certainly allowed one time to think. It was all she could do. She regretted that the marriage ceremony was bombed. Oh she wasn't truly sure she loved Ranma. How could one truly know without interacting with him? She admired him though. How could one not? His indomitable spirit. His skill in the art. His honor. Well ok his honor got old some days. She doubted that even a direct confrontation that P-chan was Ryoga would have convinced Enaka, but she really wished he would not have put his honor before hers. She didn't actually know about the promise, but she suspected something like it was the reason he didn't just come out and tell her. She thought that Ranma must suspect her of knowing about P-chan and pretending otherwise. Her life stank some days. Actually her life stank most days. She mused that at least Kasumi kept tricking Enaka into walking in on Ranma in the furo. It wasn't much of a high point for her life, but it was well nice to see him. She just wished it didn't have to end with a mallet.
Of course seeing him like that made her yearn even more to be free. It wasn't as if she planned anything hentai or anything like that. Well at least not for a year or so, but she definitely wanted to personally get to know her fiancee. She was sure there was so much more to him that what she saw through Enaka's eyes and she yearned to find out more. Unfortunately the walls you build yourself are sometimes the hardest to knock down... Especially if the walls are reinforced and laced with chinese magic applied by two different people-- one who had no idea what he was doing and one who really didn't care that much and just wanted to appear compassionate lest Ranma dislike her.
It took her almost a full year of work, but she had figured out how to influence Enaka. She only seemed to have the strength to make a meaningful influence about once a month, and those almost always ended with Ranma getting defensive and the mallet cycle repeating. She really really hated that mallet. It symbolized too many bad things.
Time passed, the wedding came and went, or perhaps one could better say the wedding came and fled the smell of gunpowder,okonomiyaki, and ramen. She had begun to truly despair. Still she desperately hoped Ranma would stay with her. Ryoga continued to disgust her. The perverted pig actually fell in love with that that... thing that was but a mere shadow of her darker self. How pathetic could someone be? She could tell Ranma's confusing feelings were at least based on the truth. The few times she saw true caring in his eyes were those few, infrequent times when a bit of her true self shown through. How could she not care for the idiot? He was the only one who truly saw her anymore it seemed, even if only in glimpses.
Ranma looked back and considered his time with the Tendo's. So much had happened, and only a little of it was good. Any sane person would have simply given up and left long ago. Perhaps even written off people altogether. He could do it, he knew. Of course, in all the chaos he could see those oh so brief moments where people truly showed nobility. He lived for those moments.
The moments when Akane would give a true smile, or when Nabiki would charge him for her help almost in afterthought, or when Kasumi would smile after seeing him clean the yard. Kasumi's true smiles were almost as rare as Akane's. He treasured them all. Even Nabiki's in her rare unguarded moments. All in all, despite all the bad points, he had a family and it wasn't something he was willing to give up easily.
The other fiancees had their moments. The brief moments when Ucchan would stop thinking about the stupid engagement and be a friend. The times when they all worked together and Shampoo would act as a fellow friend and warrior and forget just for a moment to act so needy and airheaded. Heck even the old letch had his moments. Ok you could count them on a single hand, but he had them. They mostly consisted of his true desire to have an heir that became greater than him at the art. Actually he thought about this a lot, but it was only a few times when he didn't also combine it with wanting a true disciple in the perverted arts that reduced the total number of noble moments to so few.
Ranma thought Mr. Tendo was noble in a pathetic sort of way. For that matter so was the panda. They simply did not let reality compete with their own view of the universe. In so doing they could be cruel. His mother was little different. She just had her own universe that was separate from Mr. Tendo and the panda. Then again he was hardly much better. He often knew just seconds after saying something how stupid it was, yet he always said it. It was actually something he had tried to fix about himself with almost no success.
Time passed the wedding came and went. He had wanted it, until finding out that apparently the only reason she had agreed was out of pity so he could have the cure for his curse. After that he was kind of glad the wedding was ruined. A part of him also was glad that the spring of drowned man water was drunk by Happosai. Some tiny voice seemed to say to him that he would never be complete if he was cured then.
The special moments seemed to come less and less, or perhaps they no longer offset the negatives in his life. He needed something to change. Some solution to appear for him to grasp onto. It seemed anytime the status quo was in danger of changing it got beaten back by force, and a good deal of that force involved Ranma getting the crap beat out of him.
Akane had gotten better. She was still limited to forcing one significant action, but shortly after the crashed wedding she had somehow figured out that the action could affect others rather than her almost robotic self. Her few attempts were always with Ranma. From What little she could tell it was much easier to get someone to do something some part of themselves wanted to do anyway, or at least didn't actively oppose. It was significantly harder, but in some ways more effective since the mind she tried to compel usually didn't reject what she was doing. She still remembered her nearly pointless test where she had imprinted the command, "Don't insult Akane." In truth it was the wrong thing to do since it seemed to lead to a spiral which got Ranma even more depressed as her robotic shell kept bashing him for little or no reason even when he didn't insult her for days on end. She really regretted that, and hoped one day to make it up to him.
Unfortunately she only had one idea. One hope to save herself, and hopefully Ranma as well, but the risk was insane. Then again perhaps she was a little crazy by now too, or at the very least desperate. Regardless, being a passive observer in your own body for a year and a half certainly isn't conducive to ones mental health. The plan was ultimately simple. She just had to wait until the next time he was in the nekoken and touched her.
It was the fourth month since the failed wedding. Things between her pseudo personality Enaka and Ranma had hit an all time low. The fiancees had seemingly gotten even more desperate. In the past month alone Ranma had been subjected to a magical potion from Shampoo and a chemical one from Kodachi. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately they were given within hours of each other.
Ranma was running out of energy. Cold rain ran down her shirt, making her silk shirt cling in ways that Ranma was in no shape to even notice. Indeed she could barely think at all. Had she been thinking rationally she might have been grateful that both attempts at coercion occurred at the same time, since they negated each other to an extent. Well in truth Ranma was simply unable to think at all, which if she had been thinking rationally was still better than the alternative of going back to either Shampoo or Kodachi and making one or both of the young women very happy.
Ranma valued his personal honor more than almost anything in his world. The only things he ever let influence him in manners of honor were his love of his mother and his feelings for Akane. Held only slightly less important than his personal honor was his desire to never lose when it mattered. The idea of letting herself be used as a result of an outside coercion, or worse betraying Akane was just anathema to him. This and his phenomenal stubbornness were partially why he had never succumb in the past to all the methods of coercion used on him. Unfortunately the compounds circulating in her blood now were far too strong to allow anything resembling human to win, even each other.
Ranma had ran out of energy a few blocks back and she had sought shelter from the pouring rain in what turned out to be the alley behind the Nekohaten. It was the last place she would have come had she been thinking, but higher thoughts were beyond Ranma right now. Shampoo saw her when she had reluctantly come out wearing a raincoat to set the trash out for the evening. She ran for her forgetting the rain, and of course becoming a small white and purple cat that continued to jump right into the soggy neo girl's chest.
It was all too much for Ranma. Had she been able to think she might have sought to run or flee, but that ability was beyond her now. Indeed being so close to one of those she was magically compelled to be with froze her muscles even more. The nekoken was a primal creation though. It came easily and took control. Indeed there was nothing to get in its way since the chemicals and magic had suppressed the rest of Ranma's normal will and personality through their interaction.
Neko Ranma threw Shampoo away from her and ran off towards the Tendo's. Perhaps the kind one would give her some food.
Arriving at the Tendo's she saw the food provider sweeping the kitchen and rubbed up against her leg.
"Ara. Ranma-chan. You want something to eat? Oh thats a good kitty." She got out some tuna fish she had mixed with mayonnaise earlier and spread it on some bread. "Here ya go."
Ranma-chan had consumed several sandwiches by the time Akane came through the door causing neko Ranma to notice her and pounce. Shortly afterwards Akane was sitting down and acting as a lap for neko Ranma-chan.
Now Akane's pseudo personality knew how to treat kitties, so she starting running her fingers through his hair and trying to make the kitty happy. The real Akane took this time and pounced. She had waited almost four months for this opportunity. Using all the will and energy she had saved, she forced into Ranma's brain the need to stay in the Nekoken until he could make the Nekoken a part of himself. The other thought she managed to impress into his mind was to free Akane. These things weren't in words, but he or rather she at the moment would obey them. For some reason it seemed to take hold much better than Akane would have guessed, but she did not know about the incidents involving Kodachi and Shampoo earlier.
Akane prayed Ranma was strong enough to do it and that he could someday come to forgive her. She didn't think she could ever forgive herself. It was her only hope and she damned herself for doing it. She hadn't thought of the potential for him to be trapped permanently in the Nekoken, but for some reason that seemed to be a real possibility now. Her true mental self collapsed from exhaustion, as the fake Akane continued to pet the cat.