The door had barely shut behind her friend before Hinako found herself thinking about their study session. At first the young man had seemed a bundle of nervous excitement, his eyes darting about, scanning the room. Once they started actually going over the homework and talking about the things he wasn't sure on, he seemed so serious. Were they not trying to study she would have giggled at the intensity on his face.
Shaking away the memory, she tipped back in her chair while reaching into her desk for a lollipop. There were some definite holes in Ranma's understanding of the work. His grasp of English was actually decent, as long as it was the practical applications such as speaking and reading. When they got into the theory and the structure of the language they ran into the issues where Ranma hadn't been paying attention.
Ranma had admitted to not having paid much attention in classes up to that point. He had also resolved to do better, even take notes. The proud smile he had as he showed her the notes from the day helped her suppress the cringe at the terrible scratches that passed for writing. When she pointed that out he told her he had a plan and to trust him. She did.
After admonishing him to study hard and directing him towards several books on study habits, she had bit him goodbye. Now she had to decide what to do with her friend now that she'd found him again. Things had been too crazy yesterday to truly give much thought to having completed her search. She was too elated at having actually found him to realize the implications.
What is it that she actually wanted from the pigtailed boy? Beyond the complications of student/teacher relationships, there was the age difference to consider. Reconnecting with her first friend was definitely on the list but beyond that she had no idea. Was he still the goofy, friendly boy from her memories or had he changed?
If she went by the rumors she'd overheard from the other staff and some of the student body, Ranma was some kind of career delinquent and lothario. How many fiancees the boy had and how and when the next would show up were both topics of hot debate in the staff room. There were even supposed to be a betting pool setup regarding the myriad things that occurred around the resident trouble magnet.
Sighing, she spun around in her chair for a moment below plopping the lollipop in her mouth. Curse this childish body and its incessant desire for sweets! Bah, this wasn't something she was going to solve in a day. Fortunately, she was his teacher now. There was plenty of time for her to figure out things over the remainder of the school year.
Maybe she'd ask Grampa Happy and that nice lady friend of his for some advice.
Ranma stared at the little ducky placard with both dread and thin hope. Beyond this seemingly innocent guardian lay the potential solutions to one of his issues. Yet that guardian was only a prelude to the struggle ahead.
Reaching up to knock, he hesitated, knuckles a bar inch from the wood. Things hadn't been going well of late between himself and the tomboy. He wasn't sure how to deal with her. Normally when someone got angry with him he could just challenge them to a fight. Yet every time he tried to spar with Akane things went in directions he couldn't expect.
Talking to his father had been useless. Talking to Nabiki had proven expensive. Talking to Mr. Tendo had been wet enough to almost trigger his curse. Talking to Kasumi had seemed out of bounds before. Maybe now? Maybe?
Pushing those thoughts aside, he took a deep, calming breath, then finished knocking.
"Akane, it's me. I was hoping you could help me with my homework."
The door whooshed open. Ranma took an abrupt step backwards at the manic look that gleamed in his fiancée's eyes. A small grin spread across the girl's face as she nodded, telling him to meet her at the table before returning to her room for her bag.
With a confused nod, Ranma headed for the table. After taking a seat, he gathered the papers from his bag, going over them for a moment to get a feel for the subjects they were going to cover. There were many things about the topics that he knew he could do better on. Before he could muse more on the subject, a book bag slammed into the table.
"Alright Ranma! Let me show you how a Master does her homework!"
Ranma tried to follow along the explanations as Akane showed him her homework. At times he could understand what she was doing and at other times he was left to puzzle out what she was doing as she bulled along the homework without telling him what she was doing. After what had to be fifteen minutes of her just doing her homework while not saying a word, he finally asked what she was doing.
The look she gave him had Ranma nearly recoil.
"What is it you don't understand, dummy? I'm showing you what to do!"
"'Kane, you doing the homework doesn't tell me what I'm supposed to be doing. Other than what the assignment is. I still don't know how to do the work."
Akane scowled at her reluctant fiancé. She took a deep breath. This wasn't the time to punish him for being stupid. This was her moment to show that she was better than him at something. If she hit him now she wouldn't have the chance to show him up.
"The paper explains what the assignment is, Ranma. Just read the directions and fill out the answers." Akane suppressed a growl as Ranma looked down at the paper in his hand, the stupid look on his face making it hard for her to keep calm. Why was she stuck with such a stupid fiancé? If it didn't involve martial arts, the boy was hopeless.
"Listen, pervert. I can't explain everything to you. Just do your homework like I am! It's not hard."
Ranma looked between his fiancée and the paper and held back a sigh. Sure he could read the directions. He knew what he was supposed to do. He just wasn't sure on where to find the information, as no explanation was given for that in the directions. Maybe it was something that had been covered in one of the classes he hadn't been paying attention to?
Realizing he wasn't going to be able to get further with his work for the moment, the pigtailed martial artist began gathering up his papers. "Thanks for the help, Akane. I'm going to get some training in before dinner and work more on this later."
Akane looked at her departing fiancé and seethed for a moment before pausing. Even though he had been as stupid as ever, that had to have been one of their calmest interactions in a while. Was it because he could see how much better than him she was? Was that what it took for him to stop being such a jerk?
Staring down at her homework, she found no answer there. With a sigh and a shrug, she returned to her papers. No reason not to get them all done before dinner.
Ranma flowed through his katas, movements slow and deliberate as he focused on perfect execution rather than speed. While he let his body go through the motions, his mind concentrated on the other matter that had been occupying his attention for the day.
There were many areas of his education that had been neglected, either from the efforts of his father or his own negligence. Most of those would take time for him to correct. Time and a good deal of studying. However, earlier today he'd identified an area that he could improve that would help in all areas of his education.
It was time for a training trip. The Master of Martial Arts Calligraphy had told offered him a rematch any time he wanted as well as offering to train him. The weekend would be a great opportunity to learn. He could leave right after dinner and reach the area in time to camp for the night. He could then find the master in the morning.
The most difficult part of his plans was going to convince the fathers to let him leave without Akane. If he just snuck out they would track him down, not to mention what the rest of the wackos in the district would do to him. He shuddered at the idea of the Kunos trying to join him on the trip. Ranma was half tempted to sneak off into the night anyway, regardless of the complications. He could probably outdistance everyone and none of them would suspect him looking for the Calligraphy Master.
With a soft sigh he shook away that thought. He wasn't going to just run off this time. He needed the support of the fathers to make this work. He would just have to confront hem at dinner.
Throughout dinner, the pigtailed martial artist was subject to a number of different looks from around the table. Akane kept offering him glances, a slight smile on her lips. Nabiki had a blank look on her face as she contemplated the resident chaos generator. Kasumi had a kind smile that she offered the young man. Ranma's father kept looking at the food rather than the boy himself, looking for openings in the defenses.
The Tendo Patriarch seemed to be the only person ignoring the aqua challenged boy. While Soun wasn't completely ignorant of the happenings at home, he did tend to let others handle things until he was needed to step in. Peace at the table was a rare commodity of late and he was happy to let whatever magic was granting such a boon continue uninterrupted.
Ranma tried to ignore the looks he was receiving as he instead focused on the food before him. By now defending against his father's attempts to purloin food was second nature, chopsticks flashing out to deflect a grab. The different from the norm today was that Ranma was trying to eat a slower pace. He knew that things were about to come to a head with his decision to better his education. The deliberate pace with dinner would hopefully give him enough time to come up with an argument that would work against his father.
All too soon Ranma was looking down at his empty plate and then over at the empty serving platters. Nothing new had occurred to him regarding his plans. Taking a deep breath, he decided to just get it over with.
"Hey Pops, I need to go on a training trip this weekend. I'll be heading out tonight." He waited for his father to open his mouth to reply before he added, "I can't take Akane with me on this one. One, she can't keep up since she hasn't learned to roofhop yet. And two, she's already better than me at this subject."
That last part managed to shut up the part-time panda. Looking between Akane and the boy, Genma tried to come up with an argument that wouldn't just sound like him wanting the girl to go. Sure, he could insist, but if the boy was truly planning on roof hopping the entire way, there was no way the girl would be able to keep up. Maybe it would be enough to prevent the other girls from tracking him down if he kept Akane here as well? The wheels had just started turning before the train got derailed.
"Why don't you teach Akane to roof hop over the weekend so she can go with me next time?"
Teach the girl? Genma looked over at Akane and nearly flinched at the look of intense and eager anticipation on the girl's face. He didn't want to train her and yet, it would probably help the two grow closer. Especially if it let her keep up with the boy like the other fiancees. Before he had a chance to respond, the boy had already disappeared, the clatter of dishes in the sink the only sign of his movements.
A couple minutes later, Ranma came downstairs in female form, backpack held loosely in one hand. She smiled at Kasumi who offered the boy the tea kettle. One quick pour and one steaming, male martial artist was out the door with a grin.
Kasumi watched the young man leave with a gentle smile on her lips. He was trying so hard to juggle all the responsibilities in his life. The recent addition of taking those educational responsibilities seriously was both wonderful and terrifying as she worried how the dynamics of everything would settle. Perhaps it was time for her to talk to Ranma's teachers and see what could be done.
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A special thanks to everyone who reviewed chapter 7.
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