All C&C welcome. Not to mention needed.
1/2/09: Chapter One, revised
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THE FORGOTTEN GAME
By: Angela Jewell
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Based on the trilogy, The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith.
Ranma 1/2 is the property and creation of Rumiko Takahashi, and whoever else owns it. I'm not making any money off of this so don't sue me. Besides, good luck if you tried. I'm broke.
I am afraid,
there is no where to turn,
I am surrounded
by your ignorance.
Surrounded by so many,
I still can't get away from
my own loneliness,
I reach out,
I yell and scream
yet, from the hundreds
that are listening
there is no response.
- Ivanna K
Akane glanced over her shoulder, checking to see if she was still being followed. Unfortunately they were still right behind her, matching her pace step by step. Whenever she slowed down to look in a store window, they slowed down too, pretending to take an interest in whatever they were supposedly looking at.
There were only two of them, but they looked like they meant business. One was dressed in a black t-shirt and leather vest, a black bandanna tied tightly around his head, covering what little hair he had. The other wore a long flannel shirt, black-and-blue-plaid. It was unbuttoned, and appeared not to have been washed for days.
Akane quickened her pace, silently praying the men would get tired of trailing her, and leave her alone already. It wasn't that she was scared . . . mildly irritated was more like it. The real problem was that Akane was running late . . . she didn't have time for some silly confrontation, no matter how badly the two jerks behind her deserved a good beating.
The party was in an hour, and she still had nothing to show for it. And she refused to return home empty-handed on Ranma's birthday.
This year, to her extreme annoyance, her family was making a big production out of it. Apparently, they thought it was his last birthday as an unmarried man . . . whatever that meant. All Akane knew, was that if she didn't provide him with a gift, her father and Mr. Saotome might provide one for her. And Akane would do just about anything to stop THAT nightmare from happening. Besides, it was the jerk's birthday, and she had to get him something. But so far, nothing she'd found in the many stores she'd visited had felt right.
And Ranma sure hadn't made her job any easier. The only help the dummy had provided were strict orders not to 'bake or try to make me something.'
Akane found herself fuming at the memory. If he hadn't been so fussy, she could have knit him some mittens to go with his scarf, and been done with it. Instead, here she was, being stalked by two creeps who didn't know the meaning of the word subtlety, and searching hopelessly for a gift that would spare her from ridicule, embarrassment, or another surprise wedding. In Akane's opinion, things couldn't get much worse.
That's when she heard the sound of thunder rolling in the distance.
Glancing up at the sky, Akane groaned as she noticed rain clouds forming overhead. "Just great," she muttered, glaring at the offending heralds of bad weather. If she caught a cold because of this, she was going to make Ranma pay. . .
First though, she needed to find shelter. Quickening her pace, she began to pay special attention to the stores she passed, looking for any that appeared to be open. Apparently, she wasn't very good at shopping either. Every store she passed had their store-curtains down, and their lights turned off. And now that she thought about it, she couldn't even remember the last time she passed a building that was actually open.
Could she have wandered that far off the beaten path?
Glancing behind her once more, she paused . . . surprised to find her two-man fan-club suddenly gone.
That was odd, she thought, as her eyes swept the area, trying to figure out where they could have went. She'd passed the same shops as them. Had they somehow managed to find a store that was open?
For a moment Akane hesitated, unsure if she should backtrack or press her luck and keep going forward. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each (the main con being, she had no idea where she was; the other, she had no luck), she realized the choice was an obvious one. Turning around, Akane started heading back the way she had come-when a sound from the other direction caught her attention.
It sounded like a door being slammed shut.
She turned back, her eyes immediately drawn to a lone building further down the street; part of it hidden in shadows.
For some reason, she was sure that's where the noise had come from.
With thunder rolling closer, and no other viable options in sight, Akane made a decision. She hurried towards the building, silently praying the rain would hold off until she reached it. Yet as she drew closer, something about the place started to feel off somehow. It wasn't until she was almost there, that she realized why that was. A mural was painted over the length of the building, leaving not a single space left uncolored. But the painting itself was very strange. One moment, she thought she was looking at a snake; the next moment, a man, hunched over. And the more she looked at it, the more it seemed as if the painting were . . . moving and shifting somehow. . . as if it were alive.
Akane laughed. She must be more tired than she realized.
"Hello," a voice spoke up. "Can I help you?"
Akane nearly jumped out of her skin at the unexpected intrusion; but rather quickly, embarrassment replaced her surprise. For someone to sneak up on her so easily, she hadn't trained enough!
Smiling, she turned to find a man standing before her . . . and nearly lost her breath.
The first thing she saw were his eyes.
Except they weren't just blue. They were a shade Akane couldn't describe, let alone imagine existing. No boy should have eyes like that-they were almost too beautiful. And what was more, he had white hair! True white-the color of frost or tendrils of mist. He was gorgeous in an exotic, uncanny way. As if he had just stepped out of another world.
Akane knew it was rude to stare . . . but really, she couldn't seem to help herself.
And then he turned away, and it was as if the magic that had held her captive was gone. Heat rose to her cheeks as she realized how rude she had been just then. She couldn't blame him for looking away. "Sorry," she told him, blushing furiously. "You must hear this a lot, but your eyes . . . they're very pretty." The moment the words were out of her mouth, she would have done anything to shove them back in.
I sound like an idiot, she thought, mortified.
But instead, the boy smiled. "Not as often as you'd think, actually. So thanks."
For some reason, Akane blushed again. Now that the initial awkwardness had been mollified, she tried to view him objectively from a distance. He was around her age. Lean, elegant, and extremely handsome. If he had been Kodachi's date against the white Lily, she would have won for sure. Still though, somehow, handsome didn't do him justice. Ranma was handsome. So was Ryoga, and Mousse. Even Kuno, in a really, weird, twisted way.
But the boy standing before her was something else entirely.
It wasn't just due to the way he looked.
There was an unmistakable air of danger that seemed to surround him; something she couldn't quite put her finger on. It was more than just his black clothes, or the snake tattoo on his right wrist. It was part of his aura, and a feeling within her that nearly screamed in warning: "stay far away." But Akane, chalking it up to another side-effect of her insanely horrible day, decided to ignore it. Especially when it chose that moment to finally start to rain.
The boy lifted his head, looking mildly annoyed at the unexpected rainfall, and then turned to her and asked, "Would you like to come in? Have a look around?"
That's when Akane realized he was standing in a doorway attached to the wall. . .
She stared at the open mural, never having guessed it was masking a door. But Akane didn't have time to admire it for long; the rain was starting to come down hard, and she had no desire to stand out in the cold. "Sure. Thank you," she said, as she followed him inside, secretly exulting in her good fortune. She hoped the guys who had been following her were sitting in an alley somewhere, soaked to the bone.
Still, as her rescuer led her down a long, dark hallway, Akane frowned. She could barely see a thing. "Give me a second, and I'll get the lights," the boy told her, as if reading her thoughts. He opened another door and disappeared inside, and Akane's eyes fought to adjust to this new darkness. Just when she thought she could make out the shape of a table, light exploded all around her, and she suddenly found herself standing in the middle of a large room.
All around her were games. Shelves full . . . more games than she even knew existed.
Akane gasped in surprise, overwhelmed. "This . . . is a store?" she asked, her voice awed. It was actually very quaint. It felt old, like it had stood there for centuries, quietly existing as modern shops cropped up around it, burying it until it was forgotten. It had the comforting scent of old books, of shaved wood, and . . . peppermint? Akane felt like a child in a candy store, as she wandered from table to table, trying to take everything in.
"It's our grand-opening," the boy told her as he returned a few seconds later, a large sign now in his hands. "I just had the sign finished. Catchy, right?" It read: Games Galore - not your average gaming store. Akane stared at him for a moment in disbelief. She wasn't exactly an expert when it came to shopping, but she liked to think she could could tell the difference between an old store and a new one. And new did not describe this place one bit. She could see dust on some of the tables.
"I see. . ." she replied, quietly deciding to let it go. If he thought it was new, maybe she could get a discount.
"So, what exactly are you looking for?" he asked her.
Akane shrugged as she moved towards the nearest shelf, her eyes sweeping over the eclectic selection. There were a few she recognized. Entire shelves were devoted to chessboards and mah-jongg tables, and she noticed several decorative go-boards that would be of interest to her father. But all the rest seemed foreign and ancient-as though out of place on a small island like Japan. One game was a narrow case covered with hieroglyphics, and another, a red box with a gold star of David in the center. There were dice everywhere, all different shapes and sizes. If she couldn't find the perfect game for Ranma here, she had a feeling she never would.
"I'm trying to find something for my fiancé," she told him, as she picked up a cylinder canister, and shook it. "He doesn't play games very often, but if I can find something that looks fun, I know I can get him to play." And lose, she thought giddily, but kept that part to herself. Anything to bring Ranma down a peg or two was worth several thousand yen in her book. Extra, if she could crush Shampoo and Ukyo in the process.
But Akane didn't notice the look that crossed the boy's face as she said the word fiancé. "Anything in particular?" he asked.
Akane bit her lip, thinking.
"How about the Egyptian Game of the Dead?" he suggested, nodding towards the case with the hieroglyphics. "Or maybe you'd like to cast the ruins." He picked up a leather cup and shook it suggestively. The sound resembled rattling bones.
Akane shook her head. "No. Nothing like that," she told him, the death-angle ruining her enthusiasm pretty quickly.
"Well . . . there's always the ancient Tibetan game of goats and tigers," he said, gesturing to a carved bronze board with tiny figurines on it. "The fierce tigers stalk the innocent little goats, and the innocent goats try to run from the tigers. It's for two players."
Akane frowned. Something about the way he described that game had felt very wrong. "Do you have any games that a lot of people can play at once?" she asked him, trying to push her worries to the back of her mind.
The boy looked at her sideways, and smiled. "Of course," he told her, and then added, "The more the merrier, right?" He winked at her, and grinning, stared at her with those intense blue eyes.
Akane, feeling unsettled, quickly looked away. In an attempt to distract herself, her eyes fell upon another game; this one, with a grinning skull and crossbones against a blood-red cover, its board laid out beside it. It was burgundy, and decorated in a dungeon-type style, with little devils scattered across the gameboard. Suddenly, Akane had a very good idea of what kind of game her host would be suggesting. . .
All at once, this place didn't seem so charming. It felt cloistering and stifling; the wafting peppermint, nauseating. Akane couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. Just like the mural.
Okay, she thought, time to go. Who cares if she got a little wet walking home in the rain, anyway. Ranma practically lived that way! "On second thought, I really need to get going," she apologized, now actively avoiding looking at any games. "Thanks anyway," she told him, as she turned towards the door, anxious to be gone.
"Mystery," he said, and something in his voice made her pause. "Danger. Seduction. Fear."
Akane turned back around to face him, watching him carefully.
"Secrets revealed. Desires unveiled." He smiled at her, pronouncing the last word distinctly. "Temptation."
"What are you talking about?" Akane asked him, not liking the look in his eyes one bit. Suddenly, she was reminded of her initial impression of him; the one she had decided to ignore, and had chalked up to an overactive imagination. Now, she was feeling it all over again.
"The game, of course," he replied lightly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "That's what you want isn't it? Something that will catch your fiancé's attention. Something special. . .?"
Akane had to forcefully tear her eyes away. "I really should be going," she answered.
"We do have something like that," he told her, ignoring her comment. Without another word, he disappeared through a door in the back room, and Akane watched him go, suddenly torn. Her head was screaming at her to get out of there, but her feet remained stubbornly rooted to the spot. As much as she hated to admit it, she was curious about what game the boy had in mind. What kind of game could do everything he just described?
Danger. Seduction. Fear. It was sure to catch the attention of everyone at the party. Even Shampoo and Ukyo wouldn't be able to complain about it being stupid and boring. And then, her face grew hot as she remembered what else he'd said. She didn't have any secret desires, of course. But could all of the others say the same. . .?
Before long, the boy walked out of the storage room, a plain white box held there in his hands. "I think this is what you're looking for," he told her, seemingly pleased with himself.
Akane glanced skeptically at what he was holding, then up at his face.
"Really?" she asked him, her eyebrow raised. The box was roughly the size and shape of a Monopoly game. It was white and glossy and didn't have a single word or phrase printed on it. There was nothing special about it. It was just a plain white box.
But the boy nodded, and Akane tried looking again, harder this time.
Maybe there was something she was missing. . .
Yet no matter how hard she tried, the result was the same: If this was the game he'd been describing, it fell very short of expectations.
"Would you like to hold it?" he asked her, and before Akane could even respond, he had placed the box in her hands-like a doctor handing over a newborn.
Akane stared down at it, slightly confused. Oddly enough, she had felt something the moment she touched it. It seemed to hum in her hands; despite it weighing next to nothing. And there wasn't a single fingerprint on the shiny surface, not even a smudge. Akane ran her hand along the sharp corner of its edge, trying to imagine what lay within. And then, before she was ready, the boy suddenly took it back, tilting it between his own hands, gazing at its glossy cover.
An odd sort of possessiveness took hold as Akane stared at it. This was what she'd spent the entire day looking for. She knew it without a doubt. "Okay, I'll take it," she announced, her voice almost breathless, her heart racing. But then a thought: "Umm, how much is it?"
The boy looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he shook his head, looking apologetic. "Actually, on second thought, I don't think I can sell it to you after all. Sorry. . ."
Akane stared at him, uncomprehending. Then to her abject horror, he started heading back towards the storage area, Ranma's gift still firmly in his hands. "Wait!" she shouted, as she chased after him. "What do you MEAN you can't sell it to me? Why not?"
A smile crossed his face briefly at her words-but when he turned around to face her, it was gone. "Because it's special," he told her. "I can't let it go to just anyone, for any reason." As her face fell, he added sympathetically, "Maybe if you explained what it was for. . ."
"I told you," she replied petulantly. "It's for my fiancé. Today's his birthday."
"Ah. I see." He tapped his fingers on the box. "And who's all going to be at this little party?"
Akane bit her lip to stop herself from snapping back none of your business. Instead she tried to concentrate on the white shiny box. "Oh, just some friends," she hedged, not bothering to elaborate. She couldn't exactly tell him the truth. She didn't have the time or desire to explain her life story to a complete stranger. All she wanted to do was buy the game and get out of there as quickly as possible.
He tilted his head to one side; light flashing off the earring he wore. Whether it was a dagger or a snake she couldn't tell. "So?" he prompted, obviously unimpressed with her explanation.
Akane nearly growled in frustration. "SO," she explained testily, "a game would be a great addition to our party. Everyone loves games, don't they?"
"Do they?" he asked, laughing. Akane almost snapped right then and there-he worked in a game store, didn't he?
"Look, are you going to sell it to me or not?" she replied, finally fed up.
"Here," he replied, holding the box out to her, his voice surprisingly gentle.
Akane blushed, embarrassed by her excessive anger. After all, it was just a game. "Thank you," she replied as she took the box from his outstretched hands. It felt cool and smooth to her touch, and when she held it, it felt like it belonged there.
"500 yen," he told her, and Akane marveled at the price. It couldn't have been that special if it was worth less than her weekly allowance.
Digging in her purse, she quickly handed him the money. The boy hit a key on an old brass cash register, opening up the small drawer where the money was kept. Inside, Akane saw an odd assortment of strange-looking money, all jumbled together; the like of which she'd never seen.
The boy looked up from the cash register, met her eyes and smiled.
"Enjoy," he said; though his eyes were laughing at her.
Akane didn't have a chance to ponder that look. From somewhere in the store, a clock struck the hour, reminding her that she was in a hurry. Glancing down at her watch, Akane felt a jolt as she stared at it, not believing her eyes. Seven o'clock? There was no way she could have been in the store for over an hour!
But she had.
"I have to go," she said as she hurried towards the door, distracted. "Thanks again-see you later."
She hadn't meant anything by it, and she certainly hadn't expected him to answer. But he did. He murmured something along the lines of, "sooner than you think," though Akane was certain she must have misheard him. Without bothering to look back, she opened the door and made her way down the darkened hallway, sighing with relief when she finally stepped out of the store and closed the door behind her.
It felt so good to be out of there. Even the rain felt refreshing.
Cradling the white box against her chest, Akane smiled; satisfied with her well-earned prize. She knew she'd be a little late getting home, but in the end, it'd be worth it. All it would take was a little gentle prodding, and Ranma would be putty in her hands. Then, she could literally beat him at his own game, and truly wish him a happy birthday.
Stepping away from the wall, Akane turned to take one last look at the unusual mural.
And froze . . . not believing what she saw.
The building was blank. There was no mural, and there was no door.
End of Chapter 1
500 yen is roughly $5 dollars.
Several thousand yen, could be anywhere between $20-30. (At least, from what I understand).
Eventually, I plan to revise ALL these chapters, so I apologize if what follows isn't up to par and is riddled with inconsistencies (I did start this story 9/10 YEARS ago). But I'll get there in due time. I promise. ^_^
And if you haven't read any of L.J. Smith's books, read them! Read them now! I recommend The Forbidden Game Trilogy (obviously), and also The Secret Circle, and the Night World Series. The Vampire Diaries is also good, and was recently made into a television series airing on the CW (though it GREATLY differs from the books).
Okay, that's it for now. For those of you who have read the books and are curious, no, I do not consider this a crossover. I purposely changed Julian to Gabriel because I didn't want this to feel like two stories crossing universes, but something that could legitimately happen in the Ranma-verse. Hence the name change and why Gabriel is much more proactive than Julian (plus a strong fighter, a necessity in Ranma). So no, they're not the same person, Gabriel is just based on Julian. It's not like I'm ripping Julian away from Jenny who has now decided to woo Akane instead. If that were the case, then yes, I'd consider this a crossover, but in this story he is completely integrated into the Ranma-verse; hence the distinction between BASED on and CROSSED OVER.
Hope that clears up any confusion!
I got a rude anonymous review about this very subject so wanted to address it here.
"A woman must not depend upon the protection of man,
but must be taught to protect herself."
~Susan B. Anthony