Shinnosuke was gone for the moment, Kodachi having hauled him
off for safekeeping while she awaited whatever plot Asuka had devised.
It wouldn't do to have the forgetful boy be set on fire or otherwise incapacitated before the competition was over, and as long as he was away from the Black Rose that seemed a likely outcome.
Immediately after the two had left for their date, as Kodachi had called it to confuse Shinnosuke, Akane's room had blasted apart in a mad quest for the small card that Urd had entrusted to her. Fortunately, Kasumi had not yet laundered the clothing that had accumulated over the last two days, and within a few minutes the silver-haired Goddess of the past was sitting on top of the television answering the youngest Tendo's questions.
"Things tend toward a certain path, Akane-chan, some people are destined to do certain things, perform certain actions, some are fated to cross paths in one way or another, and still others will never meet at all. You changed your fate, Akane-chan."
Before Akane's atonished eyes, a large flat pane of glass materialized under Urd's outstretched hands. "Watch," the Goddess commanded. At a gesture from the bronze-skinned woman, a small ding appeared in the clear sheet, as if a tiny pebble had bounced off it at a high speed. A multitude of small, weblike cracks spread out from from the pockmark, splintering the surface of the plane.
Urd gestured several more times, each time creating tiny scars in the glass, always at the point of a crack created by the previous one. "The bigger or more important the event, the more cracks are created, the more possible outcomes exist. This is somewhat of a cliched explanation, but it's still one of the better ones I can give you."
The Goddess' hand swept over the tableau, highlighting each of the tiny pivot points with a light green glow. "This is the way things were for you, but now..." As the young Tendo watched, the first pockmark in the sheet of glass began to flow slightly upward, and the spiderweb of cracks it had formed flowed with it. "This is the way things are. Notice that every single event after the first changed as well, but only slightly, they don't want to move if they don't have to. Your wish shaped the first change, moved it,and realigned it almost completely, the others merely followed suit."
Understanding somewhat, Akane nodded, but a thought and a memory continued to nag at her. "Then shouldn't Shampoo still be cursed, if things tend to turn out similar, I mean."
"That I blame on Ranma's father." Urd shrugged, and the flat pane vanished from in front of her. "Other than Happosai and Ranma he's the only human I know of who can throw a monkey wrench into the workings of the universe like that at will," she grumbled.
"So, Urd, is there any hope for me and Ranma? Is there any way I can get him back from Ukyo?"
Reaching forward, the Goddess cupped Akane's chin with one hand, using the other to wipe away the tears that were beginning to form in the young woman's eyes. "There is always hope, Akane-chan, and as a Goddess of Love I plan to see to it that you and Ranma find happiness."
A moment of silence passed between the two as Akane nodded gratefully to the powerful woman before her, the quiet continuing until Urd glanced at a nearby clock.
"Speaking of which, Akane-chan, if you want to jumpstart things, I'd suggest following Kodachi along on her little date. Time is of the essence, and every little minute counts. Besides, I need a drink."
With a gasp, and some murmured thanks, the youngest Tendo ran for the door in pursuit of the Black Rose and the White Lily. Watching her charge leave the house, Urd gave a melancholy look to her surroundings and fled through the television set.
From her hiding place outside the living room, Nabiki sat in stunned silence as the full weight of the conversation between Akane and the other woman settled over her like a lead blanket. Wishes? Curses? Goddesses? Changing the past?
Nabiki slowly slid down to the floor, her back flat against the wall, and pulled her knees up to her chest.
"Akane, what did you do?"
A Wish Come True, Part 5: The Breaking of the Black Rose
A Ranma fanfiction by Brian
The gates of the Kuno mansion opened almost before Akane reached them, and out stepped Kodachi and Shinnosuke. Whether they were dressed for a funeral or a wedding was not immediately clear, as the mournful tone of the Black Rose's gown did not rule out either possibility. The sight stopped the young Tendo in her tracks. "Kodachi, what on Earth are you wearing?"
The gymnast fiddled nervously with one of the frilly adornments to her ebony wedding dress. "Is this not what one wears on a date?" She turned to the young man on her arm. "Shinnosuke, am I dressed appropriately?"
"Who are you, again?"
Kodachi sighed sadly. "Remind me later, I shall purchase an instant camera or some such item for your daily recognizance."
"Okay, I'll remember."
Again the Black Rose heaved a deep resigned breath, she could almost see the idea leaving the young man's eyes as his attention wandered. "Come along,Shinnosuke, we don't want to be late or I may have to set Asuka's hair on fire." She put a finger to her cheek in thought as they began walking. "On second thought, I may do that anyway. Are you coming along, Akane-chan?"
The long-haired girl in question hurried her steps, keeping time with the couple in front of her, a smile quirking at her lips as she walked alongside her friends.
"I wouldn't miss this for the world."
The restaurant was quiet, which not unusual for the middle of the week, but it put Ukyo on edge just the same.Absently, she poured batter onto the grill for one of the three customers that were there, entering the zen state of cooking.
Ranchan should be home by now.
Worry began to gnaw away her as the minutes passed and customers flowed in and
out of her awareness. Ranma always came right back to her restaurant after school
unless there was a duel or an important fight, and he always told her when there was
going to be one of those.
She told herself she was being silly, and that her fiancee would be home any time now, but as she watched her patronage dwindle, the little nagging doubt in the back of her mind continued to burn away her resolve. Overall, the odds favored that something bad had happened or would be happening very soon.
The last time Ranma came home late he'd accidentally beaten up that Akari girl's sumo pig and she'd tried to haul him off to a wedding chapel. Before that had been those Amazon twins, with their power over plants that still gave Ukyo the occasional nightmare. The time before that, he was fighting some strange giant minotaur creature that was actually just pissed off at the old pervert.
Ukyo fumed at the memory of Tarou, and the resultant kidnapping, as she shooed the last of her customers outside and closed up the Ucchan. Ranma was somewhere in Nerima and he was in trouble, whether he would admit it or not, and it was her duty as his fiancee to rescue him.
Trudging through mile after mile of jungle got old after a while, as Ryoga had discovered throughout his life, and as he swung his razor-sharp belt to hack away at the underbrush around him he couldn't help but reflect on that fact.
How many forests have I walked through in the last year? How many deserts? Are there even that many forests and deserts in Japan?
A large tree fell before him, a single stroke of the lost boy's weapon proving too much for the aged wonder, and Ryoga found himself in a small clearing. The tranquility that had been overtaking him at the beauty of the spot was interrupted as his stomach made its presence known, and he began foraging for what scraps he could find. After several minutes, he'd scrounged up what looked like it might make a half decent meal; some berries and nuts, several small mushrooms, and a thing that looked like a potato. Removing a few non-perishables and a small stove from his oversized backpack, Ryoga set up camp.
As the sounds and smells of grilling food filled his nostrils, memories of recent weeks flowed through him. Sitting back on his haunches, he silently began to meditate, focusing his spirit into a blue ball that hovered just on the edge of his awareness.
Yes, things had been getting steadily worse recently. It seemed that as Ranma's good fortunes flourished and his love life grew to include even more strange and exotic women, things turned further south for Ryoga Hibiki. Since Ranma had met his latest girl, Akari something or other, Ryoga had managed to drive the one girl that he loved even farther away. If Ranma hadn't splashed me in front of her... He fought down the urge to scream his frustrations out at the night, it didn't help and usually made things worse.
Reaching forward with his chopsticks, Ryoga picked up one of the small mushrooms and shoved it into his mouth, stoically munching on the meager feast before him.
A voice to his left brought the lost boy out of his meditations, interrupting his meal in the process. "Sir! Stop! Don't eat that!"
Startled, Ryoga swallowed the mushroom.
"Oh dear," said the mysterious traveller. "That's not good."
Ukyo planted her foot on the giant pig's snout, leaping over the beast's back as it charged toward her. From the sidelines, Akari shouted apologetically at the okonomiyaki chef.
"I'm really sorry about this Ukyo, but Ranma's father..."
"I know what he said!" the chef interrupted. Damn that panda.
Katsunishiki brought up his hind leg, landing a solid blow to Ukyo's back as she landed, sending her into an uncontrolled tumble. The chef regained her footing as the monstrous animal brought itself around to face her, the two combatants staring each other down with grim determination.
Ukyo unsheated the large spatula on her back and brought it in front of her, readying herself for the coming battle. "I don't care if you are just some dumb animal," she leveled the tremendous utensil at the sumo pig. "When I get through with you, you're bacon"
Katsunishiki's eyes narrowed as he prepared to charge again.
The garden itself was a peaceful place, where people could come to admire the skills of botanists and gardeners, or enjoy the beauty of a wide selection of flowers and plants. The gazebo, placed delicately at the center of this temple to all things green, was currently occupied by a small table, with place settings for four, and five young people about to begin one of the more bizarre competitions in the history of Nerima: The Boyfriend Duel.
Asuka traced a slim finger along the faceguard of the armor her chosen was wearing, chuckling lightly at the ingenious nature of her plot. Kodachi stood across from her, looking slightly scorched after the explosives she had unleashed, toward the White Lily and her so-called boyfriend, hadn't worked out quite as she had planned. Shinnosuke groaned quietly, his clothing still smoking somewhat.
Akane reached an unsteady hand toward the forgetful boy's twitching form. "Kodachi, Asuka, maybe we should wait and do this another time."
The two girls rounded on Akane, glowing fiercely as they glared at her.
"Stay out of this, Akane-chan!"
A smirk adorned the White Lily's face as she eyed her opponent. "Are you ready, Kodachi?" She rested lightly against her armor clad escort, wrapping her arms around him possessively. "I believe you'll find my boyfriend most enticing, far moreso than the churly fool you've selected for yourself."
The Black Rose hoisted Shinnosuke back to his feet.
"1, 2, 3, duel!"
Asuka daintily removed the helmet from the suit of armor, and with a loud crash Kodachi dropped Shinnosuke to the ground, her eyes wide with shock. Akane could only stare in amazement at the face that had been revealed.
The Black Rose was the first among them to find her voice.
There stood Ranma, positively glowing and groomed to perfection, though standing awfully stiff. Akane peered closer, poking him in the forehead with one finger, but saw no movement from the pigtailed boy. Asuka slapped the long-haired girl's hand away without glancing at her, maintaining eye contact with Kodachi.
"I did a little research, Kodachi, and you want him, don't you? I could see it in your eyes. Why you desire this fool, I do not know, but he's mine now, and you can't have him."
Kodachi broke away, casting her gaze to the ground as hot tears poured from her eyes and memories flashed through her mind. Unwillingly, she relived the breaking of her world, and remembered why the laughter stopped.
Two months ago...
Ukyo urged her fiancee forward, a bound and gagged Ryoga knelt on the floor next to them, and Kodachi stood before the group looking confused.
"I don't know about this Ucchan, it don't seem fair." The pigtailed boy nervously scratched the back of his neck as Kodachi leered at him hungrily.
When Ukyo handed the bucket of water to Ranma, the chains holding Ryoga threatened to shatter, and certainly would have if he'd had any leverage, but Ukyo had enough experience with her yakisoba that she could effectively tie the lost boy up.
"It's for the best, Ranchan. She needs to know."
Ranma dug his foot into the restaurant's tile floor, looking down at the ground as he launched the explanation of Jusenkyo and the countless magical springs that could be found there.
The Black Rose dismissed the idea with a haughty laugh and a wave of her hand. "Myths and nonsense designed to ward off the local peasants, or savages like that Shampoo barbarian, such suspicions do not become one such as yourself, Ranma-sama."
With curious eyes, Kodachi watched as Ranma hefted a bucket of water in one hand, suspending it above Ryoga's restrained form.
"Ranma, don't you dare!" The lost boy had managed to eat through his gag and was shrieking objections and obscenities at his rival. "You can't do this Ranma, you have no right, not in front of Kodachi, please!"
The pig-tailed boy's hand wavered, and he turned once more to gaze at his fiancee, his Ucchan, a question of uncertainty in his eyes
"It'll be okay, Ranchan, what he's done to her isn't right and she deserves to know the truth."
"What are these fools babbling about, Ranma-sama? What truth?"
The bucket tipped, the icy liquid dousing Ryoga and causing him to shrink. A small black form wiggled free from the chains that had fallen loosely around it, and when the piglet's eyes fell on Kodachi they grew wide.
Eyes wide with fear, Kodachi leaned closer, examining the tiny animal with an astonished gaze. It was the pig she'd adopted after the first gymnastics match with Akane, there was no question, and though she had originally intended to feed it to Midorigame something about the creature stayed her hand.
She had kept it for herself, instead, calling it Kuro-chan and keeping it in her room away from the traps and dangers of the rest of the mansion. Though its peculiar habit of wandering off had annoyed her she could admit to herself that she had grown to enjoy the tiny creature's company.
"Kuro-chan is that Ryoga boy? No, it cannot be." She backpedaled away from the tiny piglet, falling onto her rear and scooting up against the far wall constantly denying the spectacle she had just witnessed. "It cannot be, magic isn't real, it doesn't exist, these things do not happen."
Ryoga shied away from Kodachi's huddled and muttering form, hiding behind one of Ukyo's legs as she and Ranma moved forward. "There are a lot of springs at Jusenkyo, Kodachi. The spring of drowned pig, drowned panda, drowned man."
Kodachi began laughing madly as the pig-tailed boy stepped closer, there had been a panda occasionally, she'd seen it, and the pig she had known for so long had just appeared before her eyes. The laughter began building in volume and pitch, and Ukyo was again thankful that the inside of the restaurant was somewhat soundproof.
"And the spring of drowned girl."
The Black Rose's laughter reached a fever pitch as she stared at Ranma, who was holding another bucket in his hands. She began to shake her head violently, hoping that she could deny what she was about to see. As the water cascaded down Ranma's body, and it slowly took on a more feminine appearance, the laughter that had been bubbling up through Kodachi's throat ceased itself entirely, as though it had never been.
"Pig-tailed girl." It was a whisper, like a sword being drawn.
Kodachi stood, calmly, and walked up to the redhead, cupping her face with her hands, squeezing her breasts, and otherwise examining her for any signs of fraud or deception, signs she knew she would not find.
Then she hauled off and punched Ranma in the face.
The unexpected attack sent the already embarassed pig-tailed girl sprawling into the side of the grill. Ukyo leapt to her fiancee's defense, imposing herself between Ranma and the Black Rose. With quiet intensity, Kodachi's ribbon disarmed the okonomiyaki chef and a few thrown clubs forced the cook backward, nearly tripping her over the fallen redheaded girl.
With a downward glance, Kodachi stopped her offensive and locked eyes with Ranma. "Listen well, Ranma-sama, for I am about to tell you something of great import to myself and my honor. This trespass, this lie you and the peasant Ukyo have perpetrated against me, will not be easily forgiven and will never be forgotten."
She punctuated her declaration by stepping on Ryoga's tiny body, and kicking his now still form into Ranma's stomach. "I love you, Ranma-sama, and I will have you whether you wish it or no. Do not forget that."
With the calm of the sea, Kodachi left the Ucchan. No storm of rose petals, no crackling laughter to herald her exit, merely a door sliding shut with a soft click.
Akane nimbly vaulted through another series of hoops, landing a solid kick into her friend's ribcage, which went unnoticed by the Black Rose. A club appeared in the gymnast's hand and soundly thudded the youngest Tendo's skull, sending her to the floor a loud crash.
"Get up, Akane-chan, we aren't yet finished."
Struggling to her feet, Akane assumed a defensive stance across from her sparring partner, barely dodging a thrown club as she rose. "Good lord, Kodachi, what happened? You're never this angry when you fight, you're always laughing and dancing around."
"Shut up and fight!" The Black Rose bounded forward, extending her heel in an attempt to remove Akane's head, but the long-haired girl rolled away from the attack and retaliating with a sweeping kick.
Kodachi didn't even notice, taking the hit without flinching, as she devastated Akane's ribcage with a series of clubs and a ball. Akane collapsed after the onslaught, gasping for air as her diaphragm attempted to recover. She managed to gasp out words between sharp intakes of air.
"Ko-chan, tell me what's wrong"
"Never!" Kodachi screamed and began pummeling Akane's prone from with forceless kicks. "How dare he, how dare he, how dare he!" The litany continued, though there was so little power behind Kodachi's feet that the Tendo heir felt it would be better for her friend to simply vent than to try and stop her.
"How dare he!" the Black Rose screamed a final time, throwing a club at the wall of the dojo and inflicting a new hole in it in the process. As the sound of splintering wood came to her ears, Kodachi's rage bled off into a deadly calm. With new eyes she took in her surrounding, noting Akane's quiet observation as she stepped lightly around the dojo, coming to a stop at the double doors which comprised the center of one wall.
With a pleasant wooden sound, the night air flowed into the training hall, and Kodachi turned back to her friend with a smile devoid of happiness. "Rest up, Akane-chan. I will return tomorrow and we shall fight again."
"How dare he, how dare he..."
"Do you concede Kodachi? Is not my boyfriend, this Ranma person, superior to your own?" Asuka leaned forward, delighting in her opponent's downcast expression, though curious as to what exactly she was muttering to herself about.
"Ranma's paralyzed," Akane shouted in protest.
"Silence peasant girl, allow my opponent to answer for herself." The White Lily brought her face within inches of Kodachi's ear. "What say you, Black Rose? I have beaten you. Admit it."
"Asuka..." Kodachi spoke quietly, the tears refusing to stop as she kept her eyes directed at the ground. She had avoided Ranma for over a month, hoping if she avoided him for a time her feelings would change or evaporate, but seeing him now had brought all her adoration and love back even more powerfully than before. At last, the Black Rose managed to look her rival in the eye, and scream.
"Asuka, you whore!"
The black wedding dress flew away, revealing Kodachi's battle leotard, as she leapt toward Asuka and wrapped her hands around the White Lily's throat. Akane lifted the drugged Ranma out of the way as her friend tackled the other girl to the ground, proceeding to pound the back of her head against the wooden floor of the gazebo.
Reaching around her enraged opponent, Asuka jabbed one of her lilies into the small of Kodachi's back, delivering a strong surge of electricity into the gymnast's petite frame. As the pain hit, the Black Rose clawed out with her hands, ripping open a small gash on the left side of Asuka's face that spanned the distance from the outside of her eye to the side of her mouth.
As the two combatants rolled away, and Akane began dragging Ranma out of immediate danger, Asuka shrieked in rage, catching sight of the mark upon her beauty in a nearby mirror. The two rivals leapt at each other, Asuka using all the tricks she knew to strike at her foe, and Kodachi fighting with none of her usual grace or fluidity, lashing out toward her enemy like a feral beast.
Throwing the armored young man across her shoulders, Akane began moving away from the field of battle. Kodachi could take care of herself, and she needed to get Ranma out of there so he could recover from whatever Asuka had done to him. As she exited the large botanical garden, an ice cream shop came into view and Akane felt drawn to the place.
The customers and employees didn't bat an eye as she entered, with the young armorclad man across her back, deposited Ranma in a booth and occupied the seat opposite him.
As she leafed through her pockets to see what she could afford, Akane noticed that Ranma had begun blinking and twitching his mouth. If what she knew of Kodachi's poisons held true with Asuka's, that was a good sign.
Now all she had to do was wait.
Ukyo dropped to her knees, keeping herself from falling face-first to the ground only with the aid of her spatula. The large tool now sported several large dents and bends in the metal, beaten to the point where it was probably beyond repair. A few feet away, Katsunishiki finally fell over, the ground shuddering under the beast's tremendous weight as he slipped into unconciousness.
Akari rushed to the aid of her guardian, inspecting his bruises and scars with a trainer's eye. As she adminstered some salves and bandages the pig's wounds she spoke calmly to Ukyo without looking at her.
"I'm so sorry about this, Ukyo, really I am, if only there was another way..."
The okonomiyaki chef ignored the rest of Akari's speech, having finally managed to regain her breath after the hard-fought victory, and struggling to her feet to find Ranma. A brief threat toward a nearby vendor revealed that a mysterious blonde woman on a horse had hauled an apparently unconscious pig-tailed boy to the botanical gardens.
Now with a slightly more concrete lead, Ukyo headed away from Akari and her pig, muttering a dedicated string of curses toward her future father-in-law as she walked down the street.
Akane returned to the booth, laden with ice cream, finding Ranma still unable to move more than his head, though he now followed her with his eyes and a bore a skeptical expression as he spoke.
"Do I know you?"
The long-haired girl sat down across from him and looked into his eyes, seeing no spark of recognition. She'd never noticed it before, but every time she'd spoken with Ranma, every time he'd looked at her, there had been a look in his eyes that he never gave to anyone else. God, it hurt more than she thought it could, that he didn't know her at all, didn't even think she looked familiar. Tears formed at the edges of her vision, and she looked for answers in her sundae.
"Hey, don't cry, please?" The pig-tailed boy gave a lopsided grin, hoping to cheer the morose girl in front of him. "C'mon, a cute girl like you can't be crying all the time."
Akane's tears evaporated, and a look of awe appeared on her face. Ranma had called her cute, he never did that, the whole idea of it was just wrong on some fundamental level. "Sorry," she muttered, "I just... nevermind."
The pig-tailed boy rolled his eyes, girls were so weird. "Um, so thanks for getting me out of there, who are you anyway?"
"I'm Akane." The long-haired girl thought better of giving her last name, if Ranma's memory was long enough knowing she was a Tendo might dredge up some unwanted emotions. "I'm a friend of Kodachi's."
"Kodachi has friends?"
The genuine surprise in his voice was difficult for Akane to miss, and she found her old self warring with the new memories of her friendship with Kodachi. Part of her was as surprised as Ranma was, but a larger part of her wanted to punch him in the head for such an insensitive comment.
"You can be a real jerk, Ranma, you know that?"
Sighing, Akane spooned the chocolate and vanilla mixture into her mouth, meditating on how best to proceed. "Just eat your ice cream."
"I can't move my arms!"
As her own snack disappeared, the young Tendo found herself staring wantonly at Ranma's sundae, and wanting to bait him at least somewhat she reached forward and took the dish. "If you don't want it, I guess I'll eat it." Akane held a spoonful of the treat inches away from her mouth, watching Ranma squirm as he saw someone threatening to eat what was rightfully his.
The long-haired girl started to laugh at the paralyzed boy's face, his eyes were wide with horror and he was practically drooling, he looked like a little lost puppy. Filling Ranma's spoon with the confection, she brought it to the boy's lips.
Ranma did so, and Akane shoved the spoon into his mouth, feeding him the ice cream he desired so badly. A laugh bubbled out of her at the absurdity of the scene, and Ranma found himself joining in as feeling flowed back into his arms and legs.
"Thanks," he said. "I'm starving."
End Chapter 5
Chapter 6, Ukyo and Akane.