A trip to self
Author name: Trugeta
Category: Romance / Humour
Sub-category: Action / Adventure
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ as well as many others. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Note further that I don't own any of the trademarks mentioned in this story.
'' – thoughts
# – Panda signs
° – Amazon language
This story takes place after Volume 38 of the Manga; it's an AU, so OOC is to be expected. The story might however also contain elements from the Anime. Reviews are welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 1: Talk under the bridge
It had been one of those days. Ranma sighed. Lately his days had grown a lot worse than ever before, if that was even possible.
Currently he was sitting in his favourite spot, the one place where he retreated whenever he wanted to be alone, to think quietly and undisturbed. The spot under the bridge. Seemingly his only refuge from the daily insanity that was his life.
His day had started out as usually, well, as usual as a day in Nerima can be. The wake-up call from his father had once again consisted of a free trip into the Koi-pond. How he hated it! But his idiotic father always used it to his advantage that he was such a deep sleeper. Damn him! But sooner or later, payback would be dealt out.
Anyways, an instant onna-Ranma and a severe Panda beating later Ranma had joined the others for breakfast. Unfortunately for him (a quick change of forms later, courtesy of Kasumi's and her ever-ready kettle of hot water) it had been one of the days where Akane had helped cooking breakfast, now that they were on break.
Well, what Akane had tried to serve him as breakfast did not exactly look like breakfast at all, despite all attempts of Kasumi to help. Granted, it had not moved on its own this time, but that had not really been reassuring to Ranma. It still had looked like something one would expect to encounter at a toxic waste dump.
His mother had long given up to teach Akane anything regarding cooking, recognizing a lost cause when she saw one, and had delegated this duty to Kasumi. Probably in the vain hope that the oldest Tendo daughter would be successful were she had failed.
Ranma had politely refused to even taste the food, but in hindsight he mused he could have been a tad bit politer still. 'Hmm, maybe I should not have said "Are ya trying ta kill me again with that toxic waste ya call food?"' he thought to himself sheepishly.
His comment had once more provoked the well-known (throughout Nerima anyway) battle-cry "RANMA NO BAKA!" and an all-expenses-paid trip via Mallet Airs. This in and on itself would not have been so bad, after all, he was used to Akane's malletings. No, it was just his luck that he had to land in the canal once more.
And it had just been his luck that Tatewaki Kuno had been walking along the canal when Ranma-chan had emerged from the waters, dripping wet and her shirt now clinging to her well endowed chest. The Kami must really hate him.
Tatewaki Kuno, Nerima's resident delusional Samurai wannabe had, upon seeing his beloved pig-tailed Goddess, once more begun to sprout bad poetry and had attempted to glomp her to 'shower her with his affections', but one vicious right hook had dealt with this problem rather swiftly. It had been quite satisfying to see Kuno sailing over the horizon, where he'd probably annoyed some poor birds during his flight. Plus it had been an excellent stress relief, even if only briefly.
It were not those incidents in and on themselves, but the fact that they happened day in and day out. Once, after the failed wedding he had thought that things would calm down somewhat, but oh, how wrong he had been.
For about one week it had seemed to go his way for once. He and Akane had both put an effort into being nicer to the other, but it had not lasted long.
Shampoo had kept her distance after the failed wedding for exactly this one week. Then she had begun to throw herself at him once more, and with renewed vigour to boot. He had completely ignored Shampoo and had avoided her glomps and lunch wherever possible.
He had even ignored Ucchan, but that had not stopped Akane from mistrusting him. And Akane must have known how hard it had been on him to ignore his first childhood friend.
However, as good-natured as he was, he had not been able to stay mad at Ucchan for long. After two weeks he had forgiven her completely, which had prompted her to do everything in her might to show him her affections once more. Naturally Akane had not taken this well.
Accusations had degraded into a yelling-fest after Ukyo and Shampoo had chased him yet again, and when Akane's temper had once more reared its ugly head it had resulted in a severe malleting for him. Naturally all had been his fault, as usual.
But as so often he hadn't done anything, he had not even remotely shown affection to Shampoo or Ukyo and hadn't encouraged them in the slightest. He had just treated Ukyo visibly as a friend and had even bought the usually free okonomiyaki from her. Shampoo he had still completely ignored, and he had tried to evade her bike and her glomps wherever and whenever possible.
But he had not always been successful, and Akane had once again done what she seemingly did best: jump to conclusions without taking the time to analyze the situation. And usually malletings had followed.
That had been three months ago, and from then on things had grown progressively worse, culminating in the happenings of today. After she had punted Kuno, she had been chased by Kodachi, Ukyo and Shampoo.
It had been a supreme effort on her part to not blow the insane and obsessed gymnast up. One strong part of her wanted to punish her for the stunt she had pulled at the wedding. The gall the girl had had to arrive to someone elses' wedding in a wedding costume! Lastly she had hung Kodachi upside down from a streetlamp tied down in her own ribbons and had escaped from Ukyo and Shampoo taking to the rooftops at a speed the others could not follow.
Oh yeah, to top things Mousse had also given an appearance and had berated and attacked her for 'stealing his darling Shampoo's affections'. It might have been funny had he not been talking to a lightpost. She had dealt efficiently and swiftly with him by tapping somewhat into the powers she had gained ever since Jusendo.
Then she had taken to the rooftops again and had used a restaurant to change back into male form. And here he was now, reflecting about the craziness that was commonly called the life of Ranma Saotome.
Had it not been for Kasumi, he would have probably gone crazy. 'Yeah,' Ranma mused to himself, 'who would have thought that dear sweet Kasumi could teach me something useful? And had it not been for her moral support, I would've snapped!'
Indeed, Kasumi's help during the last few months had been invaluable to him, and he had come to see her in a new light. Every time he had come staggering into the house, she had been there, first aid kit and a kettle of warm water ready. Always a comforting word on the lips and a smile when he needed one.
After Jusendo and their return to Nerima she had also slowly begun to teach Ranma manners and proper language. Even he himself had had to admit that he had been sourly lacking in this category. Not that anyone else outside Kasumi and his mother had minded or had even noticed his improving behaviour.
Kasumi had also made it clear to him, that he would never solve his problems by insulting others. Rather the contrary, he would make them worse, and Kasumi had had loads of examples to prove her point.
He had tried to follow her advice for he knew she was right, but sometimes he fell back into his instinctual behaviour, usually when Akane wanted to cook for him. Usually malletings followed.
'Honestly, I know that I have really improved my behaviour, even Kasumi says so. Heck, she has even praised me for my improved behaviour! But why is it that Akane treats me even worse than ever before? There's not a day that goes by without being malleted at least twice. I'm so sick and tired of it. Now the only thing missing is another loon attacking me.' Ranma thought.
Some mischievous Kami must have heard him, for...
"Ranma, prepare to die!" exclaimed Ryoga.
The eternally lost boy had stumbled by due to pure accident, and had promptly stumbled upon his rival/friend. Sure, he still threw his usual battle-cry at Ranma wherever they met, but after Jusendo it had lost its meaning.
Nowadays he did not fight Ranma with the intent to kill him any more; rather their fights had turned from the heated brawls they had been into something that could nearly be called sparring matches.
Not that he minded, for had Ranma not given his all and killed Saffron, he, Ryoga, would sure as hell not be alive. Had it not been for Ranma, they all would have been roasted by Saffron.
Jusendo had brought Ryoga back to reality even more than Akari had managed and he had known there and then that Saffron had been way out of his league. Saffron had been a true god. But Ranma had managed the impossible and had beaten Saffron. Therefore he owed him and he considered Ranma's 'debt' to him as paid. Well, nearly.
"Hello, Ryoga." was the tired reply of Ranma upon seeing Ryoga for the first time in more than two months.
That stopped Ryoga dead in his tracks. No witty insult? No calling him P-Chan? Ryoga may not have been the brightest bulb in the store, but even he recognized that something was wrong with his sometimes rival/sometimes friend.
Ever since the happenings at Jusendo Ryoga really saw Ranma in a different light. He had always accused him of being cowardly, but at Jusendo he had seen Ranma do things even he could only describe as heroic. Not that he would have ever told him so.
But after Jusendo he had wished Akane and Ranma happiness – after all, Ranma had killed a god to bring Akane back to life. What greater proof of love could one bring? He himself had overcome his infatuation with Akane after Jusendo and was now very happy with Akari. The same could obviously not be said about Ranma, for right now Ranma did not look the least bit happy.
Sensing Ranma's depression, a depression that rivalled one of his at its best, Ryoga did the sensible thing. Instead of going for their usual brawl, he sat his huge backpack including his bamboo umbrella down onto the ground. Then he sat down beside Ranma and patted him on the back. "What's up, man?"
Ranma looked at him with tired and sad eyes. "Everything is going down the drain, that's what's up." he sighed again. Ranma needed someone to talk to, and right now Ryoga was the convenient person. "Regardless how much I try, regardless what I do, she always takes it the wrong way, Ryoga. She never listens, nor does she believe me. She does not even trust me, and that after I killed for her. Heck, I killed a god for her, for Kami-samas sake!"
Ryoga smirked. "'Regardless', Ranma? Using big words today?" he teased.
Ranma shot him a dirty look. "Hah hah, very funny. Not."
The cursed boy sobered and refrained from insulting Ranma for the time being. He was obviously not in the mood. The lost boy wanted to know what was eating his rival/friend. "Okay, sorry. So, tell me what happened."
Ranma looked at Ryoga in surprise. Ryoga had actually apologized? To him of all people? Was he ill? Shrugging his shoulders the pigtailed martial artist began to tell what was plaguing him. "It's not as much as what happened today, but the sum of it all. Every day, day in day out I get clobbered by Akane. For things I did not even do. She always takes anything I say and do the wrong way. Even Kasumi admits it, and would Kasumi ever lie? Did you know that I took 'lessons' from Kasumi to improve my behaviour and manners? All to make it work with Akane, so that we could have a good relationship. And what good did it do for me? Nothing! I get clobbered even more often than ever before. You wouldn't believe how often she told me lately that she hates me. And slowly I start to believe that she really means it..." he trailed off.
Ryoga absorbed all what Ranma had said. True, when would Kasumi ever lie? And ever since he had his Akane-coloured glasses ripped away from his eyes, Ryoga saw things more clearly. He was sure Ranma was telling the truth.
Sure, Akane was a beauty to behold, but it could not be denied that she had temper problems and was way too stubborn to admit her true feelings to Ranma. Alas, if only Ranma knew how much Akane loved him. "Ranma, I saw how Akane looked at you at the wedding. Okay, it was a total failure, and I'm still ashamed of how we fought for the Nannichuan casket like a bunch of children. But it remains that Akane showed her true feelings for you at the wedding. She does not hate you, she loves you."
Ranma sighed and looked at Ryoga. "Then she's hidin' it very well. Ryoga, I have tried as hard as I can to make it work between her and me, but I can't go on this way for much longer. I have decided to give this relationship one more chance to work. If nothing changes within one month, if she still treats me like dirt, I'll cancel the engagement with her. I for my part will do my best to make it work, I won't even insult her in the slightest. Heck, I'll even eat her cooking to make it work."
In former times Ryoga would have attacked Ranma outright for such a statement. But that was before he actually had had the 'honour' to taste Akane's cooking himself for the first time. Ever since then he knew why Ranma always refused to eat Akane's cooking. Fact was, the girl could not cook.
Ryoga still cursed his directional curse that it had led him to the Tendo Dojo precisely on the day when Akane had cooked lunch. Polite as he was, he had not refused when Akane had asked him if he wanted something too. He had even made fun of Ranma when Ranma had tried to warn him. Oh how he had regretted it.
That had been more than two months ago, and Ryoga had spend nearly a month recuperating from what Akane called cooking on Akari's farm. Akari had thought someone had tried to poison her love and had wanted to call in the police for an investigation, but he had talked her out of it.
This incident had also served to remove the rest of his infatuation for Akane, and Akari's devoted care had deepened the feelings he had for the farm girl. During this month Akari had told him some truths, and due to his condition he had been too weak to get lost and he had had to listen. It really had helped that he saw reality without his formerly Akane-coloured glasses, and Akari had driven home a lot of truths.
But for Ranma to say that he would even eat Akane's cooking really meant that he would give his all. "You do love her, don't you?" he finally asked.
Ranma looked at him with a ghost of a smile. "Yes, at least I think I did. Maybe I still do. But I don't know how much longer until she has beaten the love that is left out of me. But for her and my sake, I will make this work. I promise on my honour as a martial artist with you as witness that I will do everything in my power to make it work. After all, Ranma Saotome does not lose."
Ryoga nodded and smiled self-ironically. "I would have never imagined saying so, but after what you did at Jusendo for all of us I gotta say it. I wish you find your happiness, Ranma, like I found mine with Akari. She made it clear to me that not everything that has happened to me was your fault. She was the one who helped me overcome my depression. You know, I still blame you somewhat for getting my curse, but I'm as much to blame. Hadn't I followed you to China, none of this would ever have happened."
Now Ranma looked extremely baffled. What had happened to the real Ryoga? Had he been abducted by Aliens and been replaced? "What?" was the weak reply he finally uttered.
The bandana-clad martial artist smirked at this. "Sounds mature coming from me, huh?" he said and sobered up once more. "Had it not been for Akari, I'd still blame everything that has ever happened to me on you. It had nearly become an automatic reflex. Whenever I'd get lost, I'd blame you. Whenever something happened to Akane, even something you could not control, I'd blame you. I always blamed you for having seen hell, and believe me, the Heituenniichuan curse ain't no picnic. But Akari urged me to tell the whole story about what had happened at Jusenkyo. I was too weak to get lost, and when I did tell her, I remembered that you had chased the Panda, and that he had batted me out of the way. Your follow-up only led to me losing my balance completely, which resulted in instant pig. I then realized that it was as much the Panda's fault. But unlike him, you never denied that you were to blame for that incident. It will be a long time before I can forgive and forget, but I won't try to kill you any more on sight."
Ranma's eyes had gotten as large as dinner-plates. Had he heard right? Ryoga and not blaming him for everything that had happened to him? "Uh, Ryoga, are you sure that you're feeling well? That does not sound like you at all..."
Ryoga grinned. "I know, and you have Akari to thank for it. She made it clear to me that I would never solve my problems by blaming them completely on someone else, in this case, you. After our talks and after she had helped me over my depression, I began to see the situation as it really is. You know, with Akari I really found love, and it isn't even so bad any more when I get lost, for I always manage to find her farm within two or three days. Somehow I'm drawn to her. At Jusendo and before the failed wedding I realized that my love for Akane would always be unrequited, and I moved on. Akari is all that I ever wished for, and she even loves my curse."
Ranma bit back the witty insult that balanced on the tip of her tongue. Now was a time where she was really grateful for the training Kasumi had put her through. "Wow, buddy, it really sounds like you are in love. I'm glad for you." he said, and Ryoga could hear that Ranma meant it. "I only wish it would work out between Akane and me..." Ranma said and sighed wistfully.
The lost boy patted him on the back once more. "I'm sure it will, Ranma, I'm sure it will."
For the first time that day Ranma managed a smile. Who would have thought that Ryoga of all people would help her overcome a depression? But it remained that he had, and he was grateful for it. "Thanks for the talk, Ryoga. I needed that." he said, and Ryoga nodded. "You know what? I'm glad that you don't blame me completely for Jusenkyo any more, but I myself do. And I will not rest until I found something to improve your situation. Akari may like the curse, but you're still nearly helpless when you're a pig. I'll find a way to help you."
Ryoga looked astonished at that. Ranma and helping him? Akari had been obviously right, he had judged Ranma's character wrong. "You still think there is a cure out there?"
Ranma shrugged. "I doubt that there is one for me any more, not after what happened to Jusenkyo. What with the springs all mixed there ain't no Nannichuan spring any more. But who knows, maybe there is still Nannichuan water out there. Or another cure. And if there is, who knows, maybe I'll find it. And if I do, I'll let you know."
The fanged boy nodded. "That would be great. Ehm... Ranma?"
"Yeah?" the pig-tailed martial artist asked.
"How come you don't talk like you usually do?" Ryoga asked.
Ranma grinned. "Ya mean kinda like that? Two reasons. One, you have to thank Kasumi for it. She made a supreme effort to teach me how to talk properly and behave properly. Heck, she even made me read a ton of dictionaries to improve my vocabulary!" he said, and Ryoga snickered at the 'behave' part. Ranma shot him an annoyed glare. "You wouldn't believe how convincing and persistent Kasumi can be, and don't forget, Kasumi controls the food!"
Ryoga snickered at the mental image. Yup, he could clearly imagine. Ranma would degrade into his slang and bad table manners, and Kasumi would refuse to serve second and third helpings. Result: a half-starved Ranma. Heh, he nearly pitied Ranma. But only nearly. "You said two reasons. What is the other?" he asked.
Now Ranma smirked. "As you well know I grew up with Pop as my teacher." he began, and Ryoga nodded. "Well, he was not my only teacher, and I learned from a lot of Sensei at the Shrines and temples we stopped by. I actually learned to read, write and talk properly, but I had to hide it from Pop. He always regarded everything beside the Art as useless, and would have probably punished me for 'wasting time'. Sometimes I think he wanted to keep me stupid on purpose, so that he would have an easier time to live off of me for the rest of his life." he said angrily.
Ryoga nodded. That was something the Panda would do. He had seen many examples of how useless the fat man was, and Jusendo had been the most recent. Meanwhile Ranma continued. "As said, I had to hide it, and it was an advantage in fights too. After all, which opponent would take a slang-talking jock seriously? At first it was an act I put on to irritate my enemies and lure them into a false sense of safety. But over time it became my normal mode to talk, and only due to Kasumi's efforts my linguistic skills are approaching what they were before."
Now the lost boy looked suitably impressed. He was really using big words. Wow. "Wow, I'd never have guessed. Who would have thought that there is more to Ranma Saotome than meets the eye?" Ryoga joked.
Ranma blew him a raspberry, and Ryoga bonged him playfully on the head, just like friends would do. After that, Ranma had a question too. "Ryoga, you said that Akari helped you overcome your depression. Does that mean that she cured you from the Shi Shi Hokodan?"
The lost boy nodded. "Yes, and I don't regret it in the slightest. The Shi Shi Hokodan might have been the strongest weapon in my arsenal, but I had long since realized that it was slowly destroying me."
Now Ranma looked puzzled, and at seeing his look Ryoga explained. "You know that the Shi Shi Hokodan is based on depression." he began, and Ranma nodded. "Each time I used it, I became more depressed. Sure, using the blast would alleviate the depression for a short time, but after some time it would come back crashing down even harder. It was a vicious circle. And had Akari not helped me overcome my depression with her love and care I might have become suicidal. I might have lost my strongest attack, but I gained something so much better: love."
Ranma nodded. "I'm happy for you, I really am." he said and got up. The cursed martial artist then extended his hand, and Ryoga took it. "Thanks, Ryoga. Now I gotta go back, I'm sure they're already lamenting that I haven't returned and what an 'ungrateful and worthless brat' I am." he said self-ironically.
The bandana-clad boy grinned. "Knowing the two old farts you got that right. Good luck, Ranma. I'll go back to the farm now. If something happens considering the Nannichuan or another cure for that matter, here is Akari's phone number and my mail-address. Usually you reach me at the farm, if I'm not lost, that is. If you want to and have the time, you can come and stop by." he said half in jest.
"Thanks, buddy. I might do just that." Ranma said, took the offered card and waved good bye. Ryoga did the same, and seconds later he had disappeared.
to be continued…
My thanks go to Rose Vaughn and HeWhoWalksTheEarth for betaing this; my stories would only be half as good without you.
I'd also like to thank all of you who have taken the time to leave a review, and my review answers can be found at my yahoo group. I enjoy reading your comments, and the suggestions you all make will help to make this story even better.
If you find anything illogical that might have created a plot-hole or anything else that is wrong, let me know and I'll fix it.
Thanks for reading.