Disclaimer: All rights and privileges to Ranma ½ belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Viz Communications, Inc., and associated parties. The characters of her series are used without her permission for the purpose of entertainment only. This work of fiction is not meant for sale or profit.
Story Arc 1: "Byouki"
Part 1: Rain and Cats Don't Mix
A/N: I'm experimenting by having my entire story grouped together by story arcs. I hope it isn't too confusing. I figured this would be easier than having separate stories and listing them as "sequels". I have three story arcs planned thus far. Enjoy.
"Gee Akane, you look like a half drowned mess!"
Akane glared at Ranma, not at all happy with herself or him at the moment. Her classmates stared at her disheveled appearance as she made her way to her seat. Each uncomfortable step made an unpleasant "squish" sound. Her clothes were soaked through, sticking to her frame like a second skin. Her plum jacket was equally wet, forming a rather large trail of water on the school floor. Her short, wet hair lay flat and plastered to her head.
"I wouldn't -- (sneeze) -- be in this mess if a certain -- (sneeze) -- cat-fearing jerk hadn't run off with my -- (sneeze) -- umbrella!" she yelled at him between sneezes.
Ranma was about to defend himself when he caught her shivering. Guilt turned his tongue into clay. He knew she was right.
The day had begun normally enough. After breakfast, they started off walking to school together, with Ranma actually walking beside Akane instead of on the fence. Ever since the failed wedding, small things between the forcibly engaged couple had changed. Nothing dramatic, of course. Akane and Ranma still argued and bickered; Ranma was still chased around by other women; Akane was still fighting off the insane attentions of Tatewaki Kuno. Yet as much as things had stayed the same, there were subtle but significant differences. Akane was making visible efforts to not lose her temper – as badly – as she used to with Ranma. She would smack him relatively light if she was upset, instead of sending him through the door and into the koi pond. Even Ranma was trying harder not to bait Akane's temper. Their near-death experiences at Jusenkyo had forced the high schoolers to mature a bit.
Less than five minutes after Akane and Ranma left the Tendo household, they were caught in one of the icy downpours autumn inevitably brought. Thankfully, Akane had brought her umbrella which they proceeded to share -- until Shampoo intercepted them. The purple-haired Amazon clung to her 'Airen' in a death-grip, insisting Ranma go on a date with her that instant and share her umbrella.
In the mayhem of Ranma trying to wiggle free from Shampoo while remain dry himself, Shampoo lost grip of her umbrella and transformed into the most terrifying beast imaginable –- a cat. In his panicked state, Ranma pushed aside all obstacles to his path of retreat: literally. Akane found herself knocked into a puddle by her ailurophobe fiancée, umbrella clenched in his fist as he made a beeline for Furinkan High School.
Ranma remembered the events of the morning shamefacedly. "You should go change. The sensei is late, so you have time."
Akane looked at the clock worriedly, but nodded her agreement. She was surprised the sensei wasn't here already. He was usually very prompt.
Akane was at the door when the last person she wanted to see entered --- principal Kuno.
"An' where do you think you goin'?" he asked her.
Akane sighed. This day was just getting worse and worse. "Principal, I need to change my clothes. I'm soaking wet."
"You is?" he looked at her puzzled, as if noticing for the first time the puddle of water that was accumulating at her feet. Like father like son, Principal Kuno was equally clueless in life. "You shoulda ben mo' responsible. Change af'da class. Now is da lesson time."
Akane looked angry, but wasn't in the mood to push the issue with the lunatic principal. She knew she could probably get the sensei to excuse her anyway. "Where is the sensei?" she asked.
"Sensei sick, so I be da sensei today."
The class muttered loudly in protest. Akane grudgingly returned to her seat, cursing the bad luck of the day.
Class progressed, and Akane was feeling more and more miserable with every passing second. Ranma kept stealing glances at her, and he began to worry as he watched Akane continue to shiver and grow pale.
Enough was enough. Ranma stood up, interrupting the lesson. "Just let Akane leave and get changed. She's freezing in those clothes." He announced.
Akane stared at Ranma in surprise as the class murmured loudly. Many raised their voices in agreement. 'Yeah!' and 'hear-hear!' could clearly be heard from some of the boulder students. In addition, audible comments of "See? He really must love her" floated around, making Ranma blush and correct his telling statement.
"Uh, well… her shivering and stupid teeth chattering are drowning out your lesson." He lamely excused.
The principal's tan face slowly turned red. "I'se da big kahuna, not you, brudda. So sit an' be quiet!"
Ranma's concern smoldered into anger. "I don't care if you are the 'big kahuna'. You're a thoughtless principal for -- !"
Principal Kunou slammed his fist hard on the desk. "You wan' mix it up wit' da principal? Fine. New rule: evahbody -- sistahs an' brudda's – gotta get dem buzz cuts if yo' wahine leaves ta change before class over." He held the hair-razor in his left hand for emphasis.
"What?!" shouted Ranma, in unison with his classmates. They knew it was no idle threat; Principal Kunou was serious. He had tried something similar before, and they had barely managed to keep their precious locks.
Though clueless, the principal could also be crafty. As he planned, the students who moments before were on Ranma's side were now clearly turned against him. Everyone stared daggers at Ranma, and others yelled at him to sit down and shut up.
Akane's face fell. "Just great." She thought to herself. She could see Ranma's fist bunching up. If the principal kept pushing him, they'd come to blows, regardless of how the rest of his classmates might fare.
Akane put her hand on Ranma's shoulders, coaxing him to return to his seat. Her fingers were ice cold. "Sit down before you make things worse!" she urged him, half annoyed but also half touched by his actions.
Ranma listened reluctantly, but kept a fretful watch on Akane when he thought she wasn't looking. His hatred for the principal increased with every shiver and sneeze Akane made.
Eventually the class ended. Akane gladly sped off to change into drier clothes. Gratefully, it was Saturday, (A/N: School in Japan is a half-day on Saturday), meaning classes were done for the day.
Though finally in dry clothes, Akane still felt chilled to the bone. She stubbornly tried to ignore her throbbing temple. "Stupid rain, stupid Shampoo, stupid principal and stupid, stupid Ranma!" she vented aloud. She stepped out of the girl's dressing room in ill humor, only to find said Ranma leaning against the wall, waiting for her.
Akane's heart thudded loudly in her chest at the sight of him. In typical Ranma fashion, he was trying to hide his concern for her, but over two years of living together in the same household had taught Akane to see past some of his social shields. The tight set of his jaw and apprehension in his eyes betrayed his otherwise relaxed figure.
'He's worrying about me. Does it mean he actually does care about me?' she asked herself, heart pounding.
After the fiasco of the infamous failed wedding, their parents had eased back on pressuring and setting up their children to get married. Perhaps Soun and Genma were too tired to deal with it any further, or at least too wary of inviting the predictable disaster that arose whenever they forced and plotted romance between Akane and Ranma. Granted, Soun still yelled at Ranma if he caught him around a girl other than his daughter, and occasionally Genma lectured Ranma to behave like a man and carry on the Anything Goes Martial Arts -- namely by marrying Akane, the heir to the dojo -- but overall Ranma and Akane had been left unmolested for over three months. With the imminent threat of marriage no longer looming as closely over their heads, an unspoken agreement that their relationship was free to develop was established. They had willingly spent more casual time together, knowing that excursions to the ice cream shop or the movies would not result in embarrassing dancing and singing of joy by their parents, or worse yet, wedding bells.
Ranma scanned Akane quickly with his eyes. The warm clothes had not returned her usual warm glow and complexion. His eyes crinkled in concern.
"You waited for me?" Akane asked. The smallest hint of hope mingled with disbelief in her voice.
"Yeah, well… might as well walk home together, right?" he answered as nonchalantly as possible.
Akane smiled sincerely at him, "Thanks Ranma."
Ranma's own heart skipped a beat, the usual effect of her cute smile on him.
"N-No problem." He replied, trying to push his emotions aside. She really was cute when she smiled.
If Akane could read Ranma better than most, he could also do the same with her. The slight change in her gait was one sign, but more noticeable was her lack of energy. Akane was generally an upbeat, genki girl. It was that energy that fueled her love of sports and martial arts, as well as her temper. Yet now each stride seemed labored; there was no bounce to her step. Occasionally she ran her hand over her forehead, as if trying to clear away a headache. She did this only when she thought Ranma wasn't looking, but he noticed.
The walk was held in unusual silence. Partly because Akane felt too miserable to attempt small talk and also because Ranma was too busy internally wrestling his anger, worry and guilt.
Anger was currently winning, breaking the silence. "That principal! If he ever tries something like that again -- no one, not even you, is gonna keep me from --" He stopped abruptly as he realized his companion wasn't listening, but was several steps behind leaning against the fence. One hand held her head in evident discomfort.
He walked toward her. "Akane? You alright?" The expression in his eyes spoke volumes.
"Y-yeah, I think so." Akane tried to muster a smile to relieve him. The result was less than convincing. "My head's pounding, but I'm okay."
Ranma gave her a dubious look.
"No, really!" she protested and resumed walking. She barely made three paces before she swayed, feeling dizzy and unsteady. Instantly a gentle but firm hand caught her arm.
Akane's eyes were closed tightly as she tried to ignore the dizzy pound of her head.
"If you're not feeling well, just tell me. You can let down that tough-macho-chick act every now and again. It wouldn't kill you!"
Akane was incensed at the remark, but tried her best to ignore the usual litany of insults Ranma threw at her. "I'll be fine once I'm home. I'm probably just coming down with a cold."
Ranma felt frustrated. She could be so stubborn! Almost as stubborn as himself.
"Sheesh Akane. If I left it up to you, you'd hardly take care of yourself. Let's head over to Tofu's."
Akane glared at him. "At least I'm not as bad as you! Half the time I'm the one who has to drag your unconscious carcass to Tofu sensei!"
The outburst brought spots to her eyes and the throbbing in her temple to increase. She swayed slightly, and Ranma noticed.
"Dummy! You can't even stand straight. I don't care if I have to carry you -- you're going to Tofu's!"
Ranma continued to hold her arm and half guided, half dragged the unsteady girl there.
They entered the clinic and Ranma let go of Akane's arm.
"Sensei! Hey sensei! I got one of the Tendo daughters -- the stubborn, uncute, tomboy one -- who needs to see you!" he called out, but there was no response. Ranma walked toward the inner office to search for him.
Akane hardly paid heed to the name-calling. The room was swirling around and she felt unbalanced. She had felt chilled most of the day, but now the room felt suffocatingly warm. She was vaguely aware of calling Ranma's name before the world went black.
A/N: Please REVIEW. This is my 1st Ranma fanfic! I'm happy to take all comments -- negative & positive! :-)