Author's notes: Sorry about the delay. I've actually had this ready since a couple of days after the last submission. Unfortunately, college has kept my current pre-reader from taking a look at the story. I didn't want to keep people waiting too long so I have run through this draft a few more times to find as many of the problems as I could and am sending it as is. If anyone is interested in pre-reading just send me a message.
Disclaimer: I do hereby swear that I, brindani, have no ownership of Ranma ½ or any characters contained therein.
Chaining of a Curse
After walking for ten minutes, the two teens found an ideal empty lot.
"Ranma, what exactly are we doing?" Ukyo asked with a wrinkled brow as she touched her head flush with her left leg.
"I'm trainin ya'," Ranma replied doing similarly with his right leg.
"What do you mean? All we're doing is stretching," Ukyo said before switching to her right leg.
"Exactly, you gotta be flexible to learn Anything Goes."
"It couldn't mean doing this much stretching, can it?"
"Sure it can. Anything Goes relies on speed and flexibility to hit yer opponent hard while avoidin' their attacks."
"I guess that makes sense, so how long does this part of the training last?" Ukyo asked, wanting to get on with what she was more familiar with as true training.
Instead of answering Ranma stood up, gesturing with one hand for Ukyo to do similarly.
As the spatula wielding girl absently brushed off some of the grass that stuck to her pants, Ranma's gaze swept over Ukyo's form speculatively.
"Can I see yer spatula for a sec?" Ranma asked once Ukyo's full attention returned to him so she would notice his hand pointing to the large kitchen utensil strapped to her back.
Ukyo shrugged her shoulders before unstrapping her spatula and handing it to Ranma.
Ranma hefted the weapon up, carefully examining it from the cloth wrapped handle to the large spatula face and back. With a small nod he hefted the weapon up like a katana though awkwardly due to the heavy head. With a flash, the blade lashed out in a large sweep nearly throwing him off balance with the extra weight.
Ukyo covered her face, trying to stifle a laugh that almost made it through.
Ranma frowned at the weapon for a moment as if it disrupted him deliberately. Bringing it back to the fore, his eyes focused in determination. Ranma burst into motion, swinging the weapon wide, twisting the weapon midway to come around for a double chop. In an instant he changed directions again using air resistance to help turn the heavy blade to twist above his head before slashing the invisible opponent in front of him.
Ukyo blinked as Ranma modified his style to further accommodate the extra weight and incorporated several kicks and later a few midair slices as well. With one final twirl Ranma spun the spatula around in mid-air, handing it back to Ukyo, handle first.
Ukyo was impressed; Ranma had achieved a limited mastery of a weapon in a couple of minutes that she had spent her whole life perfecting. She believed that she could take him if they were limited to the spatula as she could see plenty of holes in his impromptu style, but still…
"That's an interestin' weapon you got there. Could be useful, but it's way too heavy."
"Jackass, it's apart of my family's style. It's as strong as steal, of course it's going to be heavy." Ranma only shrugged.
"Anyway, we better get started. First I want to see just how good you are; attack me," Ranma said, spreading his feet apart, and allowing his arms to hang loose at his sides.
"Are you sure, Ran-chan? I don't want to hurt you."
"Don't worry, you can't," Ranma said, his cocky grin making a quick appearance.
"If you say so," Ukyo said, slightly irritated that he didn't take her seriously. Slowly she took off her spatula and held it with one hand on the base and the other slightly above. Ranma simple nodded his head before raising his hand in a 'come get me if you can' gesture.
Ukyo smiled before dashing forward, hoping to catch Ranma off guard with a quick sweep aimed low at his legs. Ranma simply jumped several inches into the air, just barely enough for her spatula to pass harmlessly below him.
Surprised, Ukyo maintained her attack with a calculated barrage of strikes; left, right, forward, each meant to herd the boy into a corner where the pigtailed martial artist would be unable to escape. His back was about to hit the fence, Ukyo raised her spatula for her finishing strike only to find Ranma duck into a roll, straight between her legs.
This was only one of many times that Ukyo's standard tactics failed her and after several minutes, she had become rather frustrated. It was during one of these frustrating moments that Ranma lashed out with an open palm, striking Ukyo's wrist. The spatula that hand supported flew away from Ukyo, hitting the dirt hard, slowly vibrating to a stop.
"Now let's see how you do with unarmed combat," Ranma stated when Ukyo threw a questioning glance at him.
Shrugging she set her feet apart and positioned her fists in front, preparing to attack.
From her perspective Ranma's casual stance supported no defense. Ukyo knew this was deceptive from her previous encounter and decided to play it cautious. First she tried a front punch with her right arm keeping the left back to guard against retaliation.
As before, Ranma simply danced to the right of her attack, stepping into easy range of her back, stopping short of an actual hit to her unprotected side.
Ukyo turned around and tried to fake another punch before ducking for a leg sweep. Anticipating Ranma's jump, Ukyo pivoted with her arm to bring her other leg up to hit his feet out from under him. Ranma simply brought his feet up further, bouncing off of her outstretched leg, somersaulting to land behind her once again.
Turning slowly, Ukyo found Ranma standing behind her with a smirk plastered on his face. Through her agitation, she didn't notice the calculating eyes that critically analyzed her every move. 'What is the Jackass doing? How could he possible gauge my skill if he never fights back?' Ukyo thought to herself.
Pulling her fist back, Ukyo ran towards Ranma fully intending to land a hard blow to the head. Seconds before the strike landed, Ranma raised his palm up.
"What?" Ukyo asked, flaying her arms out as she staggered to a stop.
"Like I said, that's enough. I've figured yur current level. You're really strong; you gotta be to wield that thing…" Ranma gestured towards the large spatula still stuck in the ground, "…which means yur punches are strong, but slow and predictable. You're also pretty good at figuring out what your opponent's gonna do. We should start ya with some endurance, balance and speed."
Ukyo blinked, 'Ranma just said something intelligent.'
"So, let's begin with something you're familiar with," Ranma said, gesturing towards the fence surrounding the lot that they were currently in.
'Not this again.' Ukyo remembered this from before. Her sulky face soon resolved as she recalled exactly why she was here in the first place. 'I will have my vengeance.'
Ranma then hoped on-top of the fence, waiting patently for Ukyo to follow. Quickly retrieving her spatula, Ukyo jumped up next to Ranma, managing to only wobble slightly before catching her balance. When Ukyo settled, Ranma started walking backwards, careful to keep an eye on Ukyo as she progressed.
Ukyo suppressed a groan as she rubbed her aching arm and leg muscles. Ranma had said that she needed to work on her balance, endurance and speed. Who would have thought he meant at the same time? She didn't even know it was possible to run along a fence; at least until Ranma had done so backwards while keeping pace with her. She still had no idea how he made those sharp turns that he shouldn't have been able to see coming; she had run off the top a couple of times before learning to lean in a little further to round the corner.
Now if only that had been the end of it, but of course it wasn't. Once her feet were too tired to run, Ranma had her walk along the fence with only her hands. She was glad she had a belt on that day or there may have been problems with that last exercise.
As it was, every muscle in her body felt as if it were in flames.
"You alright, Ucchan?" Ranma asked, watching her body language as she tried to stretch out her soreness.
"I'll... huff… be alright… puff… in a… huff… moment," Ukyo managed after several painful seconds. A loud grumbling echoed from the depths of her stomach.
"Hmmm, gettin' hungry? I'll take you out to eat."
Ukyo paused in her gasping, 'That was unexpected.'
Ukyo gawked at three large bowls full of white rice, a platter of sushi, two bowls of miso soup, four glasses of green tea, and a plate full of egg rolls. Gingerly looking up, Ukyo noticed the cuplike saucer that held about a mouth full of rice in front of Ranma.
"Where did you get the money for all this?" Ukyo asked amazed.
"Ahhh… Cologne slipped me some cash while we were leaving as well as a note," Ranma answered, handing Ukyo the slip of paper.
Here is some money. I know that training has its costs and I want to make sure that Ukyo is trained with no expense spared. Come to me if you need more.
"I'll have to thank her when I get back," Ukyo mentioned before noticing several more dishes making its way over to the table.
"I couldn't possible eat all of this, Ranma," Ukyo said.
"Don't worry, I'm hungry."
"What do you mean? If you were hungry, you should have ordered more then just a little rice. For that matter, why did you order all this stuff for me?" Ukyo asked, indicating the food plus several bowls of udon placed before her.
"Because we are going to work on some speed training, of course."
"Speed training? I thought we were finished for the day."
"Oh no, make everything into training. That's part of the Anything Goes training style. At least the old panda was right about one thing."
"How can you eat and train at the same time?" Ukyo asked, her eyebrows drooping in confusion.
Ukyo did not like the devilish grin that came across Ranma's face.
"That's easy; all you have to do is defend your plate."
"You mean you are going to steal my food?" Ukyo asked incredulously.
"Oh don't take it like that. I ordered plenty, but if you can't keep up, I'll leave you some."
"So you think I can't keep up with you, huh?" Ukyo loved a challenge.
Recognizing the smile that spread across her face, Ranma brought out a cocky smirk of his own.
"Whenever you're ready," Ukyo said, bringing her chopsticks forward.
"Ok" Ranma said waiting; watching her chopsticks critically.
Seeing that Ranma wasn't going to make the first move, Ukyo shot her hand down, stabbing an egg roll, Ukyo brought the tidbit of food towards her mouth, started to close her teeth and … nothing. With a loud clank, Ukyo's teeth closed on the chopsticks.
"Wha… where?" Ukyo open her eyes to see where her morsel had disappeared, only to see Ranma rubbing his stomach in satisfaction.
"A little slow there, make sure to keep your eyes open to watch for any possible attack. Now try again," Ranma said, his chopsticks remaining loose, but ready.
"This time I'll win." Ranma only smirked.
Once more, Ukyo dove her chopsticks towards the rice, trying to reach it before Ranchan could react. This time she was careful to watch his chopsticks which remained stationary. She wouldn't let this fool her again as she brought the food towards her mouth she diverted at the last moment to avoid the eye blinding strike. Closing in, she brought the food to her mouth and tasted satisfaction letting herself savoir the victory that she had gotten a bite of food past him.
"Second lesson, watch your resources."
Confused, Ukyo looked down only to find that one complete bowl of rice was gone with only a singe grain left standing ostentatiously on it top.
"Boy! What are you doing with this girl! You should be with your proper fiancée," A gruff bark of a voice drew both Ranma and Ukyo's attention to the front of the restaurant where a wide girth outlined the doorway.
"Proper fiancée? What the hell do you mean, jackass? You already stole my dowry."
The large man strolled in, oblivious to the incredulous stares directed his way. When he reached the table, he quickly noticed all the food lying on the table in front of Ukyo and the little bowl of rice before Ranma. His eyebrows quickly drew together in anger.
"Are you teaching this girl The Saotome Style of Anything Goes Martial Arts? This is outrageous. I shall not allow you to teach without being a master yourself," Genma finished; his head held high as if the matter was final.
"You idiot, pops. If I don't help Ucchan with her fight then I'll be stuck a girl permanently. Do you think I can 'join the schools' if I'm a girl?"
"What do you mean? As soon as you are splashed with hot water, you change back; same as me."
"Not no more. From what the old…" Ranma looks back briefly before stifling a shudder at the hardening glare directed at him, "…woman says, I'll be all girl if she don't find a cure. You understand that, you idiot?"
"Who is the stupid one, boy? She has obviously tricked you into believing this bunch of nonsense."
"Nonsense, huh?" Ukyo stated, standing up and taking Ranma's head in hand, turning it to the side. "See, there are thin patches of red hair even when he is a guy," Ukyo finished by pointing to a small section of hair with her index finger.
Roughly, Genma pulled Ranma towards him and tried to rip the red strands of hair out of his head.
"OOOOUCH! WHAT DID YA DO THAT FOR?" Ranma screamed before hitting the part time panda over the head.
On his stomach, Genma looked horrified at the pure red strands of hair intermixed with black that remained in his hands. "Oh god, it can't be true."
"If you had just listened ta me in the first place, I coulda told you it was true. Cologne is working on a cure right now. In exchange, I'm helpin' Ukyo get back at the chef guy that beat her. Course I'd of helped anyway, but that's 'sides the point."
Genma wasn't paying attention to his son as he closely scrutinized the girl. She looked awful flushed about the whole thing. That wasn't good, but like the boy said, if he was a permanent she then there was no joining of the schools. Things had gotten far too out of his control for his liking. He would have to implement some of the more drastic measures soon.
"Alright, boy, but don't get too attached to this… girl," Genma finished by gesturing to Ukyo.
"Whadya mean pops? We ain't done nothin' but train." Though the words rang true, Genma didn't like the small pink coloring on his son's face. He would have to work fast.
Genma turned without replying; running out of the restaurant and leaping to the roof tops, quickly sprinting in the direction of the Tendo dojo.
"I'm home, granny," Ukyo managed to mumble as she slid through the door to the still-in-development Cat Café.
"Oh, there you are; I've been wondering what you were up to," Cologne spoke as she hoped in from the back. "By the looks of it, Ranma did well for the first day. Let me guess, endurance, speed, balance, and just a little strength training?"
"How did you know?" Ukyo asked with a groan as she attempted to move her right arm around to get some feeling back into it.
"I've done some intense training in my time, child. I know what training causes what aches."
"For not having taught before, Ranma sure does seem to know what he is doing. I'm just glad he let me eat my fill after the speed training, only lightly taping my chopsticks or bowl to get the point across."
Cologne raised an eyebrow. "It appears that the boy has some unusual training methods, going so far as to train while eating, interesting."
"That maybe true, but I've never felt so sore in my life."
"It's all for the better, child. You will be ready when the time comes."
"True, how is the work on Ranchan's problem going?"
"Not as well as I would have hoped. I've at least found a tentative method to separate Ranma from the curse due to the circumstances, but it could cause even more problems later on."
"Oh, I hope it will work out," Ukyo mentioned dourly.
"You must really like the boy to be so concerned?" Cologne commented with a wizen little smirk crossing her face.
"Granny, you said you wouldn't embarrass me about that," Ukyo stated, momentarily loosing her gloom in favor of hiding her cheeks with her hands.
"No, you forget, I said I would stop for the time being. I never said I would stop for good." For several moments, Cologne cackled evilly. "Don't worry, child, he is, after all, a very handsome young man. If I were two hundred years younger, I would probably try for him myself." The far off look on Cologne's face convinced Ukyo she did not want to know what the older woman was thinking.
Ranma was happy for a change, he had his first student and she was progressing very well. Pride swelled within him as he hopped across various roof tops, heading back towards the Tendo dojo.
He hardly even noticed as he landed inside of the wooden fence. A small smile played over his lips as his legs led him towards the main entrance.
Once inside, Ranma's smile vanished from his face. He felt something was off. Glancing around, he quickly found what was missing. In one corner stood the go board were the two fathers had played constantly since their arrival, yet now only Soun sat in front of it; his glazed eyes looking directly through the board.
"Uh, hello? Where's Pops, Mr. Tendo?" Ranma asked, waving his hand in front of the other's face, trying to get his attention.
"What? Oh, Ranma, I've been waiting for you. Genma has taken Akane on a training trip to help prepare her for her future."
"Pops is trainin' Akane? What's he up to now?"
"Don't worry about Akane; she is a very independent girl."
"Independent, that's one word for her," Ranma muttered under his breath.
"What did you say?" Soun asked, his eyes took a dangerous glint as his eyebrows drew down.
"Nothing! Nothing at all!" Ranma said, waving his hands back and forth in a placating manner.
"Ok, you may stay here while they are gone," Soun's said, his face instantly morphing into a happy face.
"…uhhh thanks," Ranma said, still feeling something very wrong about the situation.
"Kasume, could you bring in a few snacks? Ranma must be hungry by now."
"Yes father," Kasume responded before entering with two trays of food, placing them lightly onto the table.
Ranma licked his lips as a nice plate of cut apple, miso soup, crackers, and several bowls of stir-fry settled in front of him.
'Soetome Rule number one: never pass up a free meal; you don't know where your next will come from,' Ranma thought instinctively before digging in, his worries lost in an eating frenzy.
Ukyo's sleeping form lay motionless on her futon, a small smile gracing her lips. Dreams flitting through her mind varying from her triumphant defeat of the Crepe King to a certain young pigtailed boy.
Her sleep was so deep that Ukyo didn't notice a shadow appear in front of her screen door. Noiselessly, the screen opened revealing an indistinct form that slide into the room, quickly melting into the shadows of the far wall. Slowly, it crept along the edge of the room. Twin clicks where heard and a rough sliding noise. Ukyo frowned slightly before turning on her opposite side, back to the inviting dreams of victory.
Several seconds later, the figure moved again. Gradually its dark form approached its helpless victim. Its feet settled just before the futon, hands inching forward until…
"AHHHHHHhhhh!" Ukyo's startled scream shattered the morning calm as she flew through the air roughly landing on something soft. Dazed, Ukyo sat up finding herself laying on a mattress. Glancing around, she found Ranma jumping out of her bedroom window.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR, YOU JACKASS!"
Ranma blinked, startled by Ukyo's reaction. "Pops always started with some morning training. What did ya think I was doin?"
"You threw me out of the WINDOW!"
"Sure I did. It's alertness training. It's suppose ta help keep you aware of yer surroundins."
"An unusual, though I must admit effective, method sonny boy. In the future, however, could you keep it down?" croaked a voice coming from Cologne in her night gown staring down at the two from Ukyo's window.
Both youths turned towards the older, Ranma absently tugging on his pigtail while blushing. "Uuuh, yeah, sorry 'bout that."
End Chapter 4
Post Author's Notes: I love reading everyone's reviews and it really helps me stay motivated to work on the story. I was a little intrigued that many want Ranma to stay as a girl permanently. Will this happen? You never know though I'm leaning against it.
I'd like to bring up a few points brought out by Campin' Carl. Shampoo caught Ranma off guard and half asleep, that was how she was able to get the upper hand in their brief fight.
Cologne knew of the curse as she was the one mentioned looking in through the window when Ranma changed into a girl so he could stay the night.
I really do appreciate Campin' Carl, and every one else brining up very valid points and I do plan on going back to address them in the future.
Thanks for reading,