For the Sake of the Art
A Ranma ½ Fanfiction story
By Patrick Nguyen Huu
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ belongs to Rumiko Takahashi-sensei, BSSM belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, I'm just borrowing the characters. Meiou Ryoko belongs to me, though.
Summary: Ranma/Kasumi pairing? Maybe Ranma/Setsuna, haven't decided yet. Set after Saffron. Akane hits Ranma one too many times, and he runs away from the Tendo home. He comes across an old friend, Meiou Ryoko, and sets up temporary camp in Juuban… (Probable crossovers with Aa! Megami-sama, Sailor Moon, Tenchi Muyo.)
Arc One: Martial Artists, Goddesses, Sailor Senshi, and Demons
Chapter One: One Time Too Many
"RANMA NO BAKA!!" The yell was accompanied by the shape of the pig-tailed martial artist soaring through the sky, courtesy of a certain Tendo Akane's mallet. As he reached the apex of his flight path and started his descent, Saotome Ranma was still trying his best to figure out what he had done this time to get his fiancee mad. Hm…It wasn't another of my fiancees, neither Shampoo or Ukyo were around…She wasn't cooking either…I didn't walk into her in the bath… About two seconds before impact with the ground, he sighed and decided to give up on this futile enterprise. I'll never understand that stupid, violent tomboy…was his last coherent thought before Ranma hit the pond in the center of the Nerima Park with a giant splash.
A wet, pissed off, female, profanity muttering red-headed, pig tailed martial artist climbed out of the water and trudged out of the park, heading for the general direction of the Tendo dojo. By the time Ranma arrived, it was already deep in the night, and the house that was connected to the dojo was dark. Checking the moon, Ranma estimated it to be about 2 am. She spotted a light in the kitchen and knew Kasumi was still awake, and decided to head for the kitchen entrance. Ranma was surprised that Kasumi was still awake. Although she knew that the eldest Tendo daughter stayed up late to prepare for the next day, this was pretty late, even by Kasumi's standards.
As Ranma approached the kitchen door, he heard quiet breathing and slowly began to slip into the Umisen-Ken. Kasumi's presence in the kitchen was usually accompanied by the quiet clatter of kitchenware or the slight tap of her feet on the wooden floor. Ranma heard none of them. She slowly prodded the door open and let her eyes adjust to the light, letting out a sigh of relief when she saw Kasumi sleeping peacefully over the counter, although she did notice the barely visible telltale streaks of tears and the slightly red color of her eyes. Still, a crying Kasumi was better than an endangered Kasumi. Slightly. As quietly as she could, Ranma set a kettle on the stove and removed Kasumi's first-aid pack from the cupboard.
After tending to her wounds, Ranma let out a sigh of relief and removed the kettle, pouring the hot water over herself, relishing the tingling sensation that accompanied the transformation. Ranma set the empty kettle back on the stove, turned off the stove, and turned to Kasumi, who was still sleeping peacefully slumped over the counter. Slowly prying her hands off the table, he slipped an arm around her slender waist and another around her shoulders. Ranma started moving up the stairs as quietly as he could to avoid waking up the sleeping woman in his arms – or anyone else in the house, for that matter. He hesitated a moment before Kasumi's door then opened it and stepped inside. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he quickly found her bed and pulled down the covers.
Ranma gently deposited Kasumi on her bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. She was snoring slightly, he noted amusedly. As soon as he let go of her, though, she started moving around in her bed, trying to find the warmth of his arms again, kicking the covers off herself in the process. Ranma chuckled, and pulled them up again, his shyness around women temporarily forgotten. Odd…usually I'd be trembling and spouting gibberish by now…never around Kasumi though, the martial artist thought with a smile. She's actually pretty cute when she's like this…he thought as the moonlight fell through her window and illuminated her face, long brown hair framing her face. Oh my…did I just think that? Ranma mentally kicked himself. No, no, no, no, no, wrong. That's Kasumi, for Kami's sake! But…she's pretty. Even more so when she's awake, he admitted to himself.
After watching her sleep for another few minutes, Ranma snuck out of the room, closing it behind himself and headed for the guest room. As he peeked in, he saw the expected, his father snoring loudly, draped over the only two futons in the room. Grumbling something about oversize, fat pandas, the youth headed for the dojo to spend the night in.
As the first rays of sunlight filtered in through the windows of the dojo, Ranma opened his eyes and shook his head. He rose from his sitting position and stretched. Seeing that he wouldn't be getting any sleep anytime soon, he decided to head for the kitchen and start on breakfast after taking a quick bath, feeling a little guilty for having found Kasumi passed out on the counter the night before. Why exactly he was feeling slightly guilty he didn't know, but he decided she was in for a treat today. Since the battle with Saffron on Phoenix Mountain he had been helping her around the household more, and knew she was getting up very early to prepare breakfast. As he put the finishing touches on the Miso soup and started chopping the vegetables, he heard a slight rustling from the living room, indicating someone was coming down the stairs.
The martial artist craned his head around to see Kasumi standing in the doorway. He shot her a quick, slightly embarrassed smile, his hand shooting to the back of his head in the familiar gesture as he realized she had not set her alarm the previous night and overslept. "Ohayo, Kasumi." "Ohayo, Ranma-kun. What are you doing up so early?"
He turned back to chopping the vegetables. "I was up early anyway, so I decided to cook breakfast. I mean, you work so hard for us, I figured you earned a break, maybe take a nice, long soak or something." Kasumi nodded, "Yes, but…"
"No but. If anyone earned a day off, it's you," Ranma told her with a tone that effectively ended the argument. Not that Kasumi minded. She shot him a smile which he didn't see, and said, "Thank you, Ranma-kun, I think I'll do that." As she left the kitchen, she shook her head as she thought she recalled being cradled in his arms the night before. Oh my…such improper thoughts, and with Ranma-kun, no less! He's Akane's fiancee…But, I still wonder how I got back to bed last night. Kasumi stepped into the bath, wearing only a towel around her midsection and slid into the furo, sighing as she felt her muscles relaxed in the hot water. It had been so long since she had been able to take a long soak in a furo. Not since mother's death, I think…Oh my, I need to remember to thank Ranma-kun again, later. With a smile on her face, Kasumi closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the bath.
As Kasumi came down the stairs and into the kitchen, she saw Ranma put the finishing touches on breakfast. He grinned his trademark cocky smile and waved her over. "Tell me if it's all right?" He asked. Kasumi glanced at the food with a mix of apprehension and appreciation. He'd never actually cooked, despite having helped her in the kitchen. As she took a small scoop of Miso soup and tasted it, her face lit up in surprise. "This is…excellent, Ranma-kun." And she meant it. Although it lacked a certain touch that she knew came from putting your heart into the cooking the food was extremely good. And she knew that his heart belonged to martial arts, not cooking. She allowed herself a mental grin as something clicked in her mind about the way he'd moved in the kitchen earlier – like he was in some sort of martial arts tournament. He had moved with the same grace he performed his katas with. Kasumi giggled at the thought of a form of martial arts cooking. As she nodded her approval Kasumi swore she could see Ranma let out a sigh of relief. "Well, take a seat a the table, I'll be right out. And don't you dare to clean up the table," he added with a smirk. "Today's your day off. And I mean, your whole day off."
Kasumi nodded and settled herself at the living room table. Soon, the rest of the Tendo family and Saotome Genma came down the stairs. The elder Saotome led the way as usual, hoping to be the first at the breakfast table. As they saw Kasumi sitting at the table, waiting patiently for breakfast as if it would fix itself, the reactions ranged from inquisitive to openly questioning. Tendo Soun quickly glanced over at Kasumi and returned his attention to the newspaper, not fazed in the least. Nabiki didn't seem to notice, seeing that she was still half asleep, and Akane was arching an eyebrow. Genma was livid. "Who's making breakfast?" The clock ticked, and the minute hand clicked into place.
The kitchen door opened, and Ranma stepped through, carefully balancing everything at once. Kasumi shot him a concerned glance, but he just grinned and blurred into motion, flipping over the table, depositing the food and bowls with Amaguri-Ken like speed. As he ended and set down a bowl of steaming rice in front of Kasumi, he smirked. "Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts – table-setting." Kasumi suppressed a chuckle, while Genma admonished his son for being late with breakfast. Akane glared at Ranma. "Are you trying to poison us, you pervert?"
Kasumi could see the hurt in Ranma's eyes and sent a prayer to Kami-sama that the morning would go peaceful. Ranma was boiling with anger and hurt at Akane's comment. Feh, what did I expect from that stupid tomboy, anyway? Compliments? He was about to snap a retaliatory comment about his fiancee's cooking when he caught the pleading look in Kasumi's eyes. With a sigh, he tried to suppress his anger as best as he could and handed out bowls to everyone else. "Akane, that wasn't nice. Now, Ranma went to the trouble to make breakfast, and I, for one, will gladly try his cooking." She shot a grateful look at Ranma, who she saw easing up a little. "Besides, can't be worse than the toxic waste you cook up, sis," Nabiki mumbled between mouthfuls of rice and pickles. "This is actually pretty good," she commented, ignoring the artic gaze Akane sent her way.
Akane was about to disagree just for the sake of the argument, but couldn't really find a fault with the food – except for the fact that it was way better than her own creations. No matter how mad she was she couldn't critique Ranma's cooking without looking bad herself. Swallowing her pride, she ate the food, shooting angry glares at her fiancee.
School was boring as always, with Ranma sleeping through most of his classes – not surprising, especially since he hadn't gotten any sleep the night before – and getting "bucket duty" for not paying attention in English class. Ranma was fine with that, since it was either this, or get drained by Hinako-sensei. And as attractive as his English instructor was in her adult form, he preferred to not experience the feeling of getting drained of his ki again. He still shuddered at the thought. Finally, the bell signalling lunch break rang, and he vaulted out of the window on the third floor, flipped in mid-air, and landed gracefully in the yard, only to sprint off to a secluded tree. He didn't feel like dealing with his fiancees this morning. Between the fact that he hadn't gotten any sleep and was cranky, and had started the day off with Akane on the wrong foot, he was feeling tired, upset, and empty all at once. Only good thing today was Kasumi, he thought. But then, Kasumi's always the one good thing in my life, he added with a smile.
"Ran-chan!" Ukyo's voice rang out across the yard. Accompanying it was the telltale ring of a bicycle bell. Ranma groaned and made himself smaller among the leaves of the tree as he dug into his lunch bento, hoping fervently he wouldn't have to face the two girls who were looking for him down below.
Ukyo glanced around the school yard. "Ran-chan!" She shouted as she continued looking for her fiancee. She was itching to whip out her grill and prepare some okonomiyaki for him for lunch. Beside her, a certain pink-haired amazon was likewise looking for Saotome Ranma, hauling a large delivery case that no doubt contained ramen noodles – the specialty of the Cat Café, and one of Ranma's other favorite foods. However, the subject of both their adorations stayed hidden from view, holding as still as he could in the tree above.
Ranma held his breath as his other two fiancees passed underneath the tree. He was about the let out the breath he had been holding as he saw them pass, when something completely destroyed his hope. "RANMA NO BAKA! Come here and eat my bento, you coward!" Accompanying that yell came a mallet flying his way. The pig-tailed martial artist had a split second to ask himself how in the world Akane managed to nail him with her mallet even if she didn't have the faintest idea where he was hiding. Then the mallet hit him and smashed him out of the tree, and he fell to the ground with a crash, straight into Ukyo and Shampoo's arms.
"Feh, what was that for, you kawaiikune tomboy?" He groaned before realizing where exactly he was. "I didn't do anything."
The youngest Tendo daughter shot him an icy glare. "Not yet, anyway, but I bet you were about to do something perverted, you…" Her eyes widened as she took in the scene before her, the half-unconscious Ranma in the arms of both Ukyo and Shampoo. Her pupils contracted to slits. "And it looks as if I was right, you PERVERT!" Her spare mallet whipped out of whereever she kept them, and catapulted her fiancee into low Earth orbit once more. She was dusting off her hands when she registered the angry glares of her rivals. "What?" she shrugged. "He had it coming, doing perverted stuff." Ukyo's hand was twitching towards her battle spatula while Shampoo was boiling with rage. Fortunately for Akane, the bell saved her from having to battle the two enraged suitors of her fiancé.
Ranma's flight path took him directly to the Tendo dojo, and he was bracing himself for the impact when he saw Kasumi stepping out of the kitchen door and right into his flight path. "Out of the way!" He yelled and twisted. Ranma saw Kasumi turning, her eyes widening in shock at the incoming airborne martial artist, freezing with shock. Missing her by mere inches, Ranma slammed into the wall next to the door. "Ouch," he groaned as he slid down the wall. "Oh my, Ranma-kun, are you all right?" Kasumi shook off the shock and looked at him, concern written plainly across her face.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be fine…That kawaiikune tomboy didn't have to hit me that hard…wonder what got into her this time…" Ranma mumbled. Kasumi took his hand and led the martial artist back into the kitchen, digging out her first-aid kit. "Did you have another argument with Akane, Ranma-kun?" She asked as she applied disinfectant to the scraps and cuts on his arm. "Argument? Feh, pretty one-sided argument. I'm eating my lunch and she comes and mallets me twice," Ranma muttered quietly, but Kasumi heard him. "Oh my," she commented. "That's not nice…"
Ranma stood and flexed his arm. "Thanks, Kasumi, I don't know how long I woulda lasted without your first aid," he said with a smile. To Kasumi, it seemed forced, and she could see the exhaustion in his eyes. "Would you like to talk about it, Ranma-kun?" He shook his head. The offer was tempting, but…She's doing so much already, I don't want to have her have to listen to my junk of a life, too, he thought. "Nah, not right now. Thanks, though, Kasumi." As he set on cleaning the dishes left over from breakfast he noted with relief that Kasumi had actually taken his advice and decided not to do anything. "Are you going to be all right, Ranma-kun?" She asked once more from the doorway. Really looking at her for the first time since he'd almost crashed into the girl, Ranma nearly choked and turned away quickly. Kasumi was wearing a long white summer dress. It wasn't that he hadn't seen the girl in a dress – she wore dresses every day – but she looked ready to go out. Oh boy…and I thought she couldn't get any more pretty than that… "I'm good, I'm good," he told her. "Sorry I was keeping you from going out," he added sheepishly.
Kasumi glanced at him again. "It's all right, Ranma-kun, I was only going to go shopping for myself…" As she spoke she realized how odd that sounded. Since her mother died she hadn't had time to go shopping for herself. "Well, I will be going now if you are sure you don't need any help?" Ranma shook his head vigorously. "As I said this morning, this is your day off. Enjoy your trip," he told her with a smile, still slightly red in the face. "Thank you, Ranma-kun," Kasumi told him and left.
After Ranma finished cleaning up the dishes and checked the clock to make sure he had enough time for practice before having to start dinner he left the kitchen and headed for the dojo. With a sigh, he prodded open the door and slid into the training hall. Trying to get rid of the madness in his life for a few moments, he started a slow, relaxing kata. Halfway through, though, he lost his concentration, being distracted by angry thoughts at Akane, annoyance at Shampoo, and even at Ukyo. Only good thing is that Kodachi didn't show up as well…
Seeing that he wasn't going to calm down anytime soon, he focused on his broiling emotions instead and leapt up into the air, launching into a vicious, high-speed aerial combat kata that was unique to the Saotome Ryu, hoping the day wouldn't get any worse.
Dinner was a quiet matter that evening, with Ranma gobbling down the food as fast as he could, Akane sending icy glares his way – the breakfast thing apparently not forgotten, and now dinner to top it off – and Soun and Genma shooting confused glances at themselves and their children. It was obvious something was going on, but neither would talk. Matter of fact, no one was talking during dinner. Once he was done, Ranma resisted the urge to get up and bolt for his room, as he had to clean up the table and do the dishes. Or rather, wanted to. As everyone cleared he table, he slowly got up and started collecting the bowls and dishes. "Phew, at least she didn't mallet me…" he muttered as he carried everything at once into the kitchen. At least he wouldn't be running into Akane into the kitchen since she had been banned by both Kasumi and her father after her last creation had squiggled and moved off the stove on its own accord, thrashing the kitchen in the process. Later that night he'd heard something about a youma attack on Juuban ward involving an acidic, gory and generally really disgusting type of monster the Senshi had alledgedly never seen before.
As he spun the last bowl in the air and caught it with a flourish, he heard a light clapping from behind him. Turning, he saw Kasumi standing in the doorway. "Hi, Kasumi," he said while depositing the bowl back in the cupboard. The young woman smiled at him before speaking. "Ranma-kun…I wanted to thank you for doing this; I can't remember how long it has been since I had time to go do something for myself…" she trailed off. Too long, apparently, Ranma noted in his mind. "Well, 'twas nothing, if anyone earned a break it's you."
Kasumi caught a tired look in his eyes. She suddenly realized that if anyone else in this household deserved a break, it was the boy before her. Fighting with his fiancees and his enemies every day…No wonder he's tired, she thought. She offered him a reassuring smile. "Sometimes I just wish I could do more, Ranma-kun," she said quietly. He arched an eyebrow, looking more pensieve than she would ever have thought he could look. She almost chuckled. "What do you mean, you already do, like, everything…You keep the house running…" Ranma gulped. "You keep me running. I don't know if I woulda lasted without your advice and first aid," he added with a humorless chuckle.
"Ranma-kun, do you love Akane?" Kasumi blurted out. Oh my, did I just ask that out loud? She covered her mouth with a hand in shock as she watched Ranma's reaction to the question. She was surprised to see that his only reaction was a slight shrug and a tired gaze. "I don't know, Kasumi. I honestly don't know. I thought I did, once…Hell, I probably still like her, but love?" He shook his head slowly. "Probably not. Not anymore." Kasumi stared at his confession. "I mean, the only reason why I'd marry her now is because of my family's honor. Even if it's an arrangement oyaji made and I don't agree with it, I'll marry her if I have to."
"I…see…" she finally said. She was saddened to hear that he no longer felt the kind of affection for her sister that she had tried to kindle in both of them over the years, but it didn't exactly come as a surprise. She had seen and heard what the boy had done for her sister, and she had seen first hand how she treated him most of the time. Mallet-sama and her uppercut were only two of the things that constantly enlargened the rift between her and Ranma. Not to mention the fact that she calls him a pervert and freak all the time, Kasumi mentally added. No, if you take everything into account, it's no wonder he stopped loving her…Kasumi could only shake her head at the foolishness of her sister. She had such a great chance, getting Ranma as a fiancee, and Kasumi had seen, more often than not, the real Saotome Ranma emerge from behind the cocky, brash façade he presented to the world, and she envied her sister for her engagement to this young man. And despite the sadness she felt for her sister, an odd sense of elation filled her, as well. The young woman didn't know what caused it, and she felt uncomfortable with it.
"You know, Kasumi…I'm starting to think I've had enough of this mess…" Ranma had continued without even noticing himself. "I'm getting tired of getting glomped by Shampoo, of being afraid someone's gonna get poisoned by the old ghoul. Sometimes I just wish Ryoga would just get lost – permanently - and Mousse would just go home to China and take Shampoo and Cologne with him, and most of all…" he sighed, "I'm damn tired of getting hit by Akane…she never listens, she only hits. And hits. And hits some more, for good measure." He suddenly realized what he had said, and turned an apologetic look at Kasumi. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said those things 'bout your sister."
"It's quite all right, Ranma-kun. I know the constant fighting is getting to you. But still…I have to thank you for all you've done for my family," she told him with a smile. And me, she added mentally. Ranma shrugged. "All in a day's work. Anyway, it's late and I better get some sleep. Night, Kasumi." She nodded. "Good night, Ranma-kun." As he left the kitchen Kasumi was left sitting at the counter, wondering what in the world had just happened, why she felt so sympatethic with the young martial artist, and, most of all, why his declared break-up with Akane filled her with a sense of satisfaction and hope.
As Ranma climbed the stairs, he heard noise coming from Akane's room. Listening for a moment he could make out the distinctive, high-pitched squeal of a piglet and knew P-chan was back. Shaking his head in disgust he kept going towards his room when he heard a female shout. In a flash, he was at Akane's door and tore it open, only to see…
Akane sitting on the floor in her nightwear, rubbing her behind. What drew Ranma's attention more as he scanned the room for a threat was the doujinshi Akane had slipped on. The booklet had apparently fallen from its place under her pillow and Akane had stepped on the glossy cover as she chased after P-chan who – once again – was suffering severe nosebleed and was trying to get away from her to get it to stop. Suddenly, Akane looked up from her position on the floor and her gaze wandered up to him. She started blushing furiously. Then, in an instant, her expression changed from embarassment to pure anger. "RANMA NO HENTAI!" The scream reverberated in the entire house and was loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood.
Having gotten accustomed to screams like these, the neighborhood and most of Nerima didn't care, and neither did Saotome Genma, Tendo Soun, or Nabiki. Kasumi, though, surprised at the the violence of the outburst, rushed upstairs, barely missing a flying Ranma who had been sent flying down the stairs courtesy of a thorough pummeling by Akane. Akane wasn't far behind Ranma as she kept on punching and kicking in his general direction, half of the attacks missing and very nearly tearing into the interior décor of the living room. Ranma, on the other hand, was too busy snatching vases and framed pictures away from his crazed finacee. Kasumi shot one look at Akane's room, spotted the doujinshi, and let out her trademark "Oh my," before rushing down to separate the two.
By the time she arrived she saw Ranma cringing under one of Akane's punches, still balancing two vases, four pictures, and half a dozen various knickknacks. As she leapt between the two Kasumi took in the look of pure anger Akane had directed at Ranma, and Ranma's look of shock and confusion as he tried to dodge Akane's attacks half-heartedly. The eldest Tendo daughter landed between the two fighters, having absolutely no idea what to do to break them up. She didn't get very far, either as one of Akane's carelessly thrown punches headed her way. "Kasumi!" Ranma shouted, reaching in with one arm to block the punch, his reflexes a plit second slower than usual, as he recovered from the surprise of having Kasumi in the middle of the fray. Akane's fist connected with her sister's solar plexus, knocking her back. Ranma cringed as he heard the cracking sound that indicated at least bruised ribs, and spun around to catch an unconscious Kasumi.
Akane was still in attack mode, barely recognizing she had struck something, when Ranma snapped out of his state of shock and started blocking her attacks. It was then she realized she had hit something, and that something was lying in Ranma's arms. She also noticed the look he shot her, filled with hatred. For the first time, she gulped, afraid of her fiancé. "What are you doing flirting with Kasumi? How dare you take advantage of her now?" she tossed at him carelessly. Ranma snarled and leapt out of the room into the night, Kasumi still cradled in his arms.
Ono Tofu was about to lock the door to his clinic when a dark shadow leapt down from the nearest roof and landed right in front of him. In the light of the streetlamp, the doctor recognized the face of probably his best customer. However, the pleasantries fled Tofu's mind as he took in the haggard look in Ranma's eyes and the load he was carrying. Fumbling with the key to unlock his clinic again, he beckoned Ranma inside. "Ranma, what happened?" He asked as he led Ranma to an examination room. While the boy was busy laying Kasumi on the bed, he scuttled around flipping on various lights, fighting not to fall back into his Kasumi-mania.
As he started examining the young woman's body, he noiced Ranma turning his back on them, especially as he started unbuttoning Kasumi's blouse to take a look at the bruise Akane's punch had left behind. After making sure Kasumi was fine, Tofu turned his attention to Ranma. "Well, she was quite lucky. That hit missed her lungs and pretty much everything. She has a cracked rib, though, and will need to refrain from straining her right side. That was a pretty powerful blow, though. Ranma…who hit her?" The doctor noticed with interest that the youth's expression darkened visibly.
"Akane," Ranma finally whispered, and Tofu shuddered involuntarily at the icyness that laced his tone. Tofu was shocked. "What?" "You heard me. Akane hit her. We…got into a fight again and she jumped in. I couldn't block it in time…" Tofu noticed Ranma was shaking, though whether in anger at his patient's sister or in shame for failing to protect Kasumi, he didn't know. "Ranma, let me take a look at you, then you can take Kasumi home. She's all right, don't worry. She's sleeping now." He shot a reassuring smile at the boy. As he examined him, his internal question grew into a nagging feeling of unease. What in Kami's name were they fighting about? I've never seen him this battered before…looks like Akane used him as a punching sack or something, he thought. And he didn't know how close to the truth he had hit.
After he had given the young martial artist a check-up and made sure none of his bruises and injuries were permanent, Tofu released Ranma. "Ranma, if Akane keeps being like this…I think I'll need to have a talk with her," he told him at the doorstep. "Thanks, Doc," Ranma shot back before leaping off into the night, carrying Kasumi in his arms again. As he leapt off, he heard a slight moan from below and saw Kasumi stirring. He didn't know how she had been knocked out by Akane's punch, then realized that she probably had a way lower pain tolerance than he did…and Akane did hit like a mad ox, at least for normal people. He carefully adjusted her to a more comfortable position and hurried back to the dojo.
He quickly found Kasumi's door and opened it. For the second time in two days he was in here, he mused as he gently laid Kasumi on her bed. The girl rolled around and hung on to him as he drew the covers up to her chin. Quietly trying to dislodge himself from her, Ranma quickly discovered that Kasumi had a stronger grip than he would ever have thought her to have. The martial artist found it impossible to remove the girl's grip on his shirt without damaging the fabric or waking her up. So, he sighed and settled himself as comfortably as he could next to her bed. As he watched over her sleeping form, his gaze wandered to her face, and he froze as he saw a tear slip down from her eye to form a small spot on the pillow. It was soon followed by another one, and another.
Ranma stared at her in puzzlement and fear alike. Kasumi was crying? He suppressed the urge to run away screaming and yelling, for Kasumi to loose her composure was unheard of. Trying to decide on what to do, Ranma decided to do the next best thing he'd picked up from movies – luckily, it was the same thing his instincts told him to do. He shifted Kasumi slightly and sat down on the bed, holding her in his lap. With wonderment he noticed her quiet sobs dying down and her tears drying as her face assumed a serene, almost content expression. Ranma allowed himself a small smile as he settled back against the wall and closed his eyes. He could get used to this.
Ranma woke up early in the morning, the sun wasn't even over the horizon yet. As he shot a glance at Kasumi's alarm clock, he noted it was 4 in the morning. Just then he became acutely aware of the sleeping heap of Kasumi that was bunched up in his lap, one of her arms pillowed under her head, the other hanging on to his left arm. Slowly reaching over, Ranma turned off the alarm and carefully disentangled himself from the sleeping girl. Sighing as he recalled the events of the last night, Ranma didn't feel particularly eager to meet the rest of the household, never mind explain why Kasumi had a couple of cracked ribs. Filling the furo with hot water, he sighed as he slipped in, intending to relax for a few minutes before starting his morning exercise and making breakfast.
Kasumi woke up as the first rays of the sun fell through her window and stretched in her bed. Wondering how she had gotten into her room once more without remembering, she tried to recall what had happened to night before. "Oh my…" she muttered in shock as she stood up and inspected her torso. Sure enough, it was wrapped in a light bandage. Kasumi sighed as she pulled open the curtains. I'll really have to talk with Ranma-kun and Akane-chan about what happened. My, that was worse than any fight I've seen before. She smiled slightly as she saw a figure in the garden, going through his katas fluidly in the morning sun.
Kasumi was one of the few, if the only, person who had made it a habit to watch Ranma practice, for the simple reason that his grace and prowess in his katas calmed her more than the most relaxing Tai Chi. It felt as if Ranma wasn't just practicing his Art, it felt as if he had started to become the Art. The embodiement of the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, he seemed to have reached a point where his fights resembled a dance more than actual fighting. She watched him go through moves that she doubted even their fathers could copy with the same elegance and speed, once more amazed at the prowess the youth showed. With a little regret she saw him stop and move back into the kitchen.
As Ranma was setting the table for breakfast, he heard Kasumi come down the stairs. Over the years he had lived with the Tendo family, he had learned to distinguish the different attributes of the people living in the house, from his father's stomping footfalls, over Nabiki's slightly tripping walk – due to the fact that she was still half asleep – to Kasumi's light, quick footfalls. That, and Kasumi's serene aura were pretty distinctive. "Ohayo, Kasumi," he said without even looking up. The girl smiled and stood on the last step for a moment before continuing downwards. "Ohayo, Ranma-kun." As she looked over the breakfast table, she offered him a shy smile. "You didn't have to make breakfast, Ranma," she told him.
"Ah, it wasn't a big deal, I was up early anyway," he stuttered, hoping she wouldn't remember him staying in her room last night. If Akane's temper was hereditary in the Tendo family…He shuddered at the thought of an angry Kasumi. "Ranma-kun, uh…I'd…I wanted to talk to you about what happened last night…" Kasumi finally started. Ranma froze in shock and fear. Crap. My life's over. I'm done for. Finished. Dead. "I need to talk to you and Akane about that fight you had," she finished. Ranma let out a sigh of relief. Phew. Thought I was a goner for a while. "Well, uh…She screamed, I came to her room." Ranma frowned. "Shoulda known better though, stupid tomboy doesn't want me there even if she's dying. Anyway, I saw she slipped on…something, and she started yelling 'pervert' and started hitting me like mad. I've never seen her so…crazy before. That's about all that happened before you came." He carefully avoided mentioning the doujinshi, knowing full well that it would upset Kasumi.
"What happened then?" Kasumi pried. She had a vague idea of what had happened, and judging from her fuzzy memories and the bandage around her torso, Akane had really blown it this time. Ranma shook his head sadly. "Well, I tried to take the fight outside while Akane was hitting everything in her reach…that's when you jumped in. I tried to block her punch, but I couldn't reach, and she…hit you. I took you to Tofu's after that, and back home after he told me you were going to be fine. He also said you should avoid straining your right side." An uncomfortable silence fell across the living room as the two looked at each other. "I'm sorry," Ranma finally whispered. "For what?" Kasumi stared at him in confusion.
"For not being able to protect you…you're always so nice to me, and I…couldn't even keep you from getting hurt because of something I caused," he said, hanging his head. The girl looked at him in surprise. "Ranma-kun, you have nothing to feel sorry about. I have to thank you for taking such good care of me, and trying to protect me…no one has done so much for me before…And it wasn't your fault…" Kasumi trailed off as she heard footsteps come down the stairs. "Come on, Ranma-kun. Let's get ready for breakfast," she told him with a smile as she settled herself at the table. "I'm dying to see what you cooked up today." She didn't notice the dejected look he shot her at the thought of encountering Akane again.
Breakfast went different from the loud, noisy manner that was inherent to most meals in the Tendo household. Ranma seemed to be quite down, not even noticing or caring that his father kept stealing food from his plate; Kasumi had returned to her usual cheerful self, Nabiki was quiet as she was every morning, Soun had buried himself behind his newspaper, and Akane was alternating between shooting venomous glares at her fiancé and concerned glances at Kasumi. Over night, her twisted logic had managed to shove off all the guilt and responsibility for the fight the night before and the subsequent injury of her sister to a certain pig-tailed martial artist who was currently sitting across from her at the table.
Genma looked up from his food for a second to take in the scene before him. "Ranma! What did you do to your fiancee? Apologize to her now!" He shouted before returning to gobbling down his food. Instead of his usual, hasty, stuttering response, Ranma surprised every single person at the table when he didn't even look up. "Oi, listen oyaji. I ain't done nothin' wrong, so stop bugging me." That earned him a snarl from his father. "How dare you talk to me like that, you ingrate son! Apologize to Akane and to me, right now!"
"Or what? You'll disown me? Go ahead, you'll be doing me a favor, getting rid of all my fiancees. Beat me up? Go ahead and try." Ranma still didn't look up as his father leapt at him in outrage. One and a half seconds, a loud splash, and an annoyed grunt from Ranma later, the young martial artist retracted the fist he had in the air and returned to eating. Genma dragged himself out of the pond and hurled himself at his son once more, intent on bashing him over the head with the sign he had produced from nowhere. "Oyaji, bug off. I told ya, I done nothing wrong, so stop telling me to apologize to that stupid tomboy," Ranma said, his voice still completely even as he caught the sign and landed a half-dozen kicks aimed at sleep-inducing pressure points in the panda's midsection. The groaning panda slumped next to the breakfast table. Ranma never stopped eating.
"What are you talking about, you pervert? First you walk into my room, probably to peek in on me wearing underwear, then you hit Kasumi and take advantage of her! You…you…PERVERTED BASTARD! RAPIST!" Ranma cringed slightly and caught a distressed look from Kasumi. He had noticed that Akane's outburst had woken up both Tendo Soun and Nabiki. "What did she say, Ranma?" The elder Tendo asked coolly. "Is that true?" Akane was livid. "Of course it is! What do you expect from a pervert like him? He'll probably start stealing panties, too!"
The sound of flesh meeting wood stopped her tirade before Kasumi could. All eyes turned towards Ranma, who had his fist buried in the doorframe. "Listen now, Tendo Akane." His tone was so low they could barely hear it, but laced so thickly with ice that everyone flinched. "I've had enough of your antics. I've never walked into your room with the intention on peeking in on you. I was merely concerned for you, seeing that you screamed. I never hit Kasumi, and I would never, never, take advantage of her…and do you know why? Because I have far too much respect for her. Respect you lost a long time ago, along with my love for you. And for the last part…It wasn't me who hit Kasumi that night, although I am to blame she took that hit. But you were the one to throw the punch, Akane, and that is something I won't forget. You can scold me and insult me, I don't care. You can hit me, I'll heal. But you hit Kasumi, and that I won't forgive." With that, he stood up from the table and walked out the door.
The rest of the occupants of the table were frozen in place, except for Akane. She leapt up and darted after him. "That pervert…liar…how dare he tell those lies! All of this is his fault…" She saw him standing at the gate, school bag in hand. "Saotome Ranma! Stay right there you pervert and take back those lies!" She yelled as she charged him with a battlecry, mallet in hand. The rest of the Tendo family wasn't too far behind, fearing the worst for the well-being of the youth currently facing Akane's anger.
Akane brought the mallet down on his head hard, but was surprised to find her strike stopped in mid-air. Suddenly, splinters rained down and she glanced in shock at the hilt of the mallet she once held. Ranma had a finger stretched out. "Ryoga isn't the only person who can master the Bakusai Tenketsu," he told her. "I've had enough. You never know when to quit, do you, Akane?"
Kasumi's hand went to her mouth as she looked on in shock. Nabiki was shaking her head in disgust. "Sis, as much as I love you…he's right. You just don't know when to quit. You can only push a person so far…" Of course, at that point, her own conscience caught up with her. What in the world was I thinking? This is Ranma, for kami's sake! He'd never hit a girl who can't defend herself, least of all Kasumi! Man, Akane must be rubbing off on me…I'm starting to jump to conclusions, too. Soun was observing the scene, showing no sign of emotion whatsoever. I guess she did push the boy too far…I wondered when that day would come.
"The engagement is off. I denounce every claim anyone makes that I ever was, or will be, engaged to Tendo Akane," Ranma said. With a savage yell, said Akane charged at him, swinging her fists wildly. Ranma dodged her clumsy attacks, and let her exhaust her repertoire of moves before striking back. A palm strike to the center of her chest was all it took. His hand touched her lightly, his upper body leaning forward in his loose stance, sending the girl flying back through the open gate.
"I'm done here. Tendo-san, I'm sorry this didn't work out, but I am not staying with Akane. And no one's going to stop me. Kuno can have her for all I care, although I'd pity him if he did. I'm not going to run away from my engagements and my honor like Pops, but for now, I need to get away before I do something I'd regret later." He turned to look at the other people. "Oh yea, Nabiki. Pops has a couple thousand yen hidden under the third floorboard of the guest room from the door. And Kasumi…I'm sorry, for everything. Send my regards to Ucchan and Shampoo." With that, Saotome Ranma turned and left the Tendo dojo behind.