Ranma ½ – Happily Ever After
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ is the property of Takahashi Rumiko and all those other large corporations that publish and distribute Ranma ½. No profit is gained from this work, just a great deal of enjoyment writing it.
This story begins approximately two years after Akane and Ranma first meet and occurs well after the end of the anime series, OVA's and the movies. Ranma and Akane are just finishing off their second year of high school and Nabiki is getting ready to graduate and go on to college.
To be specific, the story begins five days before Akane's seventeenth birthday, which for reasons that just seem to work out I have placed early in the month of February, before Valentine's Day.
Also, just for matters of discussion (and because my story doesn't work if I don't) I have placed Ranma's birthday for sometime at the beginning of August. He will be eighteen on his next birthday.
Chapter 1 – You Had to Bring That Up, Didn't You
There wasn't any way, by any stretch of the imagination, anyone could look at Ranma and think that he was happy. He sat in the dojo, by himself, contemplating what he was going to do.
Of course he had no one to blame for the situation other than… his father. Ranma knew full well that Akane's birthday was in five days. Why did his father have to bring it up in front of everyone? And make such a big deal out of it? And how it would be absolutely inappropriate for Ranma not to get some kind of gift for his fiancé?
Akane, of course said in no uncertain terms that she did not expect or want any kind of a gift from Ranma… But that meant that it was all that much more important for Ranma to have a gift for Akane.
That was the problem. As much as Ranma might have wanted to buy any kind of a gift for Akane, Ranma was basically broke. He had been saving money for just this occasion (doing odd jobs for Doctor Tofu), but most of that money mysteriously disappeared out of his dresser about the same time a bottle of sake appeared, which his father and Mr. Tendo had finished off the night before.
His other option was out of the question. Ranma was already significantly in debt to the Bank of Nabiki, although Ranma was almost desperate enough to do the full nude poses in his female form that Nabiki wanted to sell to Kuno… Almost.
Ranma had considered going to see Doctor Tofu and ask for an advance on his pay. He was sure that Doctor Tofu would understand the situation, but then Ranma remembered that the doctor was out of town to some kind of medical conference.
Then again, why should Ranma worry about it? Akane did say not to get anything for her, and she never seemed to appreciate anything Ranma had ever gotten for her.
That was it. It wasn't worth worrying about it any more.
It's often said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Ranma stood outside the Cat Café in his female form contemplating what he was about to do. He had worked here once before almost two years ago. At the time he was stuck in his girl form because he could not stand the touch of hot water. He may have been desperate then, but somehow, he felt all that more desperate now.
Ranma took a deep breath (placing significant stress on the buttons of the shirt he was wearing) and entered the café.
As usual Grandma Cologne was in the kitchen cooking, Shampoo was waiting on tables and Mousse was bussing the table of a customer who had just left.
Ranma's entry into the restaurant prompted the predictable reaction.
"Why Ranma come here as girl?" Shampoo said upon seeing Ranma. "I go get hot water and we go out on date."
"No Shampoo," Ranma replied, stopping her. "I came to talk to Grandma Cologne."
"Ranma you have a lot of nerve coming here like this. I challenge you this very instant for the hand of my darling Shampoo!" Mousse yelled.
Unfortunately, Mousse, in typical fashion, was not wearing his glasses and was actually challenging one of the large cat statues that decorated the restaurant.
"Mousse, over here," Ranma said sarcastically. "And as far as I'm concerned, you can have her hand and the rest of the body that goes with it. Grandma Cologne, may I talk with you for a moment?"
"Of course son-in-law-chan," Grandma Cologne said as she exited the kitchen and entered the main part of the café. "What can I do for you?"
"I need a job," Ranma explained. "Just for a few days. I need to raise a little cash to do something."
"Shampoo give you all the money you need if you go out on date with her."
"No Shampoo, I don't have any desire to go out on a date with you." Ranma wasn't that despirate.
"Son-in-law, I would love to hire you, but business has been slow… although maybe for a few hours each night when Shampoo is making deliveries."
"That will be fine."
"When can you start, son-in-law?"
"How about right now?"
"Well then, get moving. I have two tables waiting for their orders and their noodle is getting cold."
'Something is definitely wrong,' Akane thought to herself. 'Ranma never misses a meal if it is humanly, or considering Ranma, inhumanly possible.'
But that was, in fact, what happened. Ranma didn't arrive home until well after dinner and he headed straight to his room, not even looking for something to eat. (Not that there was anything, since Ranma's father had graciously finished Ranma's portion of dinner as well.)
Akane fumed. Ranma had probably had dinner with one of his other 'fiancés'. Shampoo and Ukyo were always willing to feed him… Not that it really mattered to Akane, but he could have at least had the decency to let someone know so that Kasumi wouldn't have made portions for him for his father to eat.
But something wasn't right. Ranma hadn't stopped to talk. He just headed straight to his room, and it was unmistakable that Ranma was in his female form. Ranma usually avoided that like the plague (or Akane's cooking). Something definitely was not right.
Akane was not normally an eavesdropper like her sister Nabiki, who made a habit (and living) off of the practice. But Akane had just finished her bath and was walking back to her room and happened to walk past the guest room where Ranma and his father had been staying for the last two years. It was difficult not to listen to the conversation coming from the room. Ranma and his father were nearly yelling at each other.
"If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't be in this mess," Ranma yelled, definitely still in his female form. "Just let me get some sleep. I'm exhausted so I'm going to sleep like this. So keep your hands to yourself, you old pervert, or I'll tell everyone that you were responsible for bringing Happosai to town."
"But everyone is wondering why you missed dinner, and I think especially Akane."
"Look, when I think it's time to tell people what is going on, I'll tell them. Until that time, it's nobody's business… And it's especially none of your business. Now let me get to sleep. I have school in the morning and I have to get up early to get a bath."
"I said back off… and watch where you're putting that hand!"
Morning found Ranma at the breakfast table, cleaned up and returned to his male form.
"Kasumi," Ranma said, even before he sat down, "I sorry for not letting you know that I'd be missing dinner last night. Something came up at the last minute. I hope I didn't cause too much of a problem."
"No, it really wasn't any problem at all," Kasumi responded as Ranma sat down at his place. "We were just worried that something had happened to you."
"I'm sorry I worried you. But I wanted to let you know that I probably won't be at dinner tonight or tomorrow night, and possible the night after that. I have something that I'm working on after school and it is going to keep me tied up at least that long."
With Ranma seated and everyone at the table, all repeated, "Itadakimasu!" and Ranma began to eat quietly. Everyone wanted to know what was going on, but it was obvious that Ranma was not about to volunteer any information.
"So what was so important that Ranma would actually miss a meal," Nabiki finally asked, breaking the icy silence.
"None of your business," Ranma answered quietly and returned to eating his breakfast.
The walk to school was equally as quiet. Ranma walked along the top of the various fences and walls on the way to school, just as he normally did as Akane walked below on the street.
Something was definitely wrong. Akane had never heard Ranma cut off Nabiki like that… not that she didn't deserve it. She was always poking her nose into other peoples business, usually for her own personal profit.
Akane wondered what kind of trouble Ranma's father had gotten him into. It was quite likely that another fiancé had suddenly shown up. She really couldn't blame Ranma for not wanting to talk about it, as Akane realized that she did have a tendency to over react.
"Ranma, if there is anything that I can do to help, please let me know."
"Don't worry Akane. This is something I have to work out myself or I'd never have any respect for myself."
That being said, they continued their walk to school… in silence
Akane could never quite understand how Ranma could just simply vanish the way he did. One moment, Akane was looking squarely at Ranma in his seat at school, but when the bell indicating that the school day was over rang and Akane was distracted for even the shortest moment, Ranma did in fact disappear from his seat, not even leaving a cloud of dust in his wake.
It was really starting to bother Akane though. What could be so important to Ranma? And how had his father been responsible for it?
Maybe Ranma had found a way to break the curse. That was one thing that Ranma was obsessive about. But then, why keep it a big secret? Akane thought back to all of the other times Ranma had thought he had found a way to rid himself of the curse. They had all been miserable failures for one reason or another. Could it be that Ranma didn't want anyone else to see another failure? Or maybe it was something dangerous?
On the other hand, it was just as likely that another fiancé, somehow arranged by his father had shown up, just as Akane originally thought.
Well, it didn't really matter, one way or the other. If Ranma wasn't going to ask for help, or accept any help that was offered, it was his problem. Akane got up from her desk and made her way to gymnastics practice.
True to his word, Ranma was absent from dinner and the atmosphere around the Tendo dinner table was, to say the least, tense. The question on everyone's mind, though no one had verbalized it yet was, "Genma, what the hell did you do to get Ranma into trouble?"
The strange thing was, that was the same question that was on Genma's mind also. He had no clue what Ranma had been talking about the night before. Genma knew of course that everyone in the house had heard the conversation from the night before. It was difficult not to. In fact, the neighbors several houses to either side probably also heard it, but most simply ignored what was going on at the Tendo house. It was simply too weird.
Nabiki, in her own gentle way, finally broke the ice. "OK, old man, who did you sell Ranma off to this time and how much is it going to cost to buy him back?"
"I don't have a clue," Genma responded defensively. "I tried to find out from him last night, but he wouldn't tell me anything."
"So you haven't promised him to someone as a fiancé in exchange for a bowl of noodles, or lost him in some lame brained schemes?" Nabiki pressed.
"Not that I can remember," Genma said thoughtfully. "And I resent the fact that you think I value my own son so little as to trade him for a single bowl of noodle… I would have at least bargained for noodle for the rest of the household."
It was quite late when Ranma arrived back at the Tendo house, but Akane was waiting for him, or as the previous night, her. Ranma was still in his female form when he tried to slip through the door.
"Ranma, what is going on?" Akane asked. She was honestly concerned.
"Akane, I'm sorry, but I'm too tired to talk about things tonight."
"As crazy as this might sound, I'm really worried about you."
"Thank you Akane. Give me a few more days and I hope everything will work out."
"The bath is ready for you, if you'd like. You look like really worn out."
"Thank you again. I think I'll take you up on that. I'm not sure I want to spend a second night as a girl sleeping next to my dad."
"Are you hungry? I managed to hide some of dinner away so your dad didn't eat all of it."
"No, I'm fine. I had something to eat before I came home, but thank you anyway."
"I'll see you in the morning."
"Yep, see you in the morning."
No one could ever accuse Ranma of being an analytical thinker, and Ranma would be the first to admit it. So it really came as no surprise to him that he had missed one important element in his plan. He would have the money to buy a birthday gift for Akane, but he had no clue as to what he should buy.
By the time Ranma finished with his bath and returned to his room, his dad was sound asleep (thankfully) and snoring as loudly as ever (not so thankfully). Ranma laid down on his futon, trying to come up with some idea of what to buy.
The first thing that came to mind and just as quickly dismissed was some article of clothing. Although Ranma had the advantage of trying on anything he might buy (in his female form, his build was not really all that different from Akane's), Ranma was afraid Akane might misunderstand his intentions, especially if he bought something that he thought might be cute on Akane.
Although Ranma knew that Akane liked to read, he really wasn't sure what her tastes were. And although Akane was always buying cookbooks, it would, more than likely, be a deadly mistake for Ranma to buy one for her.
Ranma just lay in bed, listening to the rhythmic buzz saw that was his father's snoring, having no clue of what to buy.
This morning was very much like the previous morning. Ranma came down to breakfast, ready for school, apologized to Kasumi for missing dinner the night before and sat down to eat his breakfast in silence.
Nabiki was still trying to pry information from Ranma, but Ranma politely told her to mind her own business. When Genma tried to do the same, Ranma was far less polite, finally saying after his father's third asking, "If I thought you had any business knowing, I would explain it to you, using nice small simple words so that you would have a remote chance to understand."
With that, Ranma finished his breakfast, got up, excused himself and left the dining room.
Akane quickly followed Ranma. It was so unlike Ranma to talk to his father like that (although after a moment of thought she realized that Ranma usually would have just punched his father). Akane was almost in shock.
Akane caught up with Ranma as he was leaving the house.
"Akane, please don't start with me this morning?" Ranma said. "I really don't want to explain things right now."
"I wasn't going to ask about that," Akane responded, keeping up with what Akane perceived as a slightly quicker pace on Ranma's part. "But weren't you a little hard on your father this morning?"
Ranma stopped and faced Akane. "My dad has a bad habit of getting me into really uncomfortable situations, and then butting in and making the situation even worse. It's probably wrong to blame the situation I'm in entirely on him, but I think I can take care of this myself. I don't need him doing something to mess it up. Anyway, do you really think he understood the fact that I insulted him?"
With that Ranma hopped onto the top of the wall and began walking again toward school. Akane thought about it for a moment. She thought, "Genma is probably still trying to figure out exactly what Ranma said"… and she was right.
At the end of the school day, Ranma again disappeared as the day before. Of course Akane expected that. Ranma asked her to tell Kasumi that he would again not be at dinner, but that this most likely would be the last night.
In many ways, that was a relief to Akane. More than likely it meant that Ranma had resolved his problem and things could get back to normal at the Tendo household… although Akane wasn't quite sure that anything that occurred at home could be considered normal.
At the moment, though, Akane had other things to worry about. A Prefecture-wide gymnastic tournament was scheduled for the weekend after next and Akane had a good chance of qualifying to represent the school in the balance beam competition.
This afternoon, the tryouts were being held to determine the two girls who would represent the school and the alternate. Last year, Akane had been selected as the alternate. The club advisor had told Akane that this year she was good enough to be one of the representatives and even good enough to win the competition.
Next to her martial arts, gymnastics had become the second most important part of her life. She had put a great deal of effort into both. She wondered if Ranma had noticed. She wondered I Ranma noticed anything about her.
Ranma had managed a clean getaway from school. He still had some time before he had to be at work at the Cat Café, so Ranma took the opportunity to do some shopping. The shopping district offered a wide range of gift ideas… clothing, books, toys, gadgets, trinkets, but none of them struck Ranma as quite right for Akane.
Of course, Ranma continued to think about why he was going through all of this trouble. The engagement arranged by their fathers had been nothing but a pain in areas where Ranma had received significant bruises. And there was no real affection between Akane and Ranma. And when Ranma thought about it, Akane had a habit of not being very understanding of Ranma's situation.
But even with all of that, Ranma could not come up with a single reason why he shouldn't buy a birthday gift for Akane.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw it. It was perfect, and after tonight's work, Ranma would have enough to buy it and maybe even have a little left over. But Ranma would need some help to pull it off. Maybe Kasumi could help, and Ranma was sure that she could keep a secret.
Ranma thought for a moment. Akane and Nabiki would be involved in club activities and both Ranma's and Akane's father had the tendency to be out for the afternoon for one reason or another. Kasumi would be home alone preparing dinner. He had just enough time to get home and back to the Cat Café in time for work.
And so Ranma headed home as fast as he could.
The tryouts went far better than Akane could have imagined. Not only had Akane done well enough to qualify to represent the school in her best event, balance beam, she had done well enough in the other events to qualify in the all-around competition, even doing well in her worst event, the uneven parallel bars.
As a result of Akane's good fortune, it was decided that the entire gymnastics' team should go out for a treat. And a treat could only mean one thing… a trip to the ice cream parlor for something really gooey, covered with chocolate.
Of course that would mean a trip past one of Akane's least favorite places… the Cat Café. No, that wasn't true. If circumstances were different, Akane and Shampoo might actually be good friends. But as it was with Shampoo laying claim to Ranma as her fiancé, there was always tension between Akane and Shampoo.
Not that Akane was particularly interested in prospect of marrying Ranma… a marriage that had been arranged by their fathers. Why didn't Ranma just go and marry Shampoo? She is very pretty. And she can cook. And she is really interested in marrying Ranma… even if it was only because Ranma had defeated her in combat. Why should Akane care?
As the group approached the Cat Café, it was busy as usually, although most of the customers were male, there to look at Shampoo as she delivered the orders to the table, although the noodle dishes that they served were very good.
Normally, Akane wouldn't have bothered to even look into the restaurant, but something seemed to drawing the attention of the customers. Looking in, Akane's jaw nearly hit the ground. There, inside, causing all of the excitement was the pig-tailed girl… a.k.a. Ranma. So this was the big secret. What the heck was Ranma doing working there? What kind of trouble had he gotten himself into? Or was he just trying to spend time with Shampoo?
Akane fumed… for a moment. Then she thought, if he wanted to spend time with Shampoo, why in his female form? Akane wasn't quite sure what to think.
Everything had worked out well for Ranma. As he had suspected, Kasumi was the only one at home, and she promised to keep the secret about what he was doing, although Ranma only told her enough to get what he needed for the gift he had picked out. Kasumi found what Ranma needed quickly… quickly enough that Ranma was able to take care of setting up the purchase of the gift and get to work with time to spare.
As had been the case for the previous two nights, the topic of discussion around the dinner table was the absence of Ranma from the dinner table. Akane held back from saying anything as Nabiki continued to ask questions to jar Genma's memory as to what kind of trouble Ranma was in.
Akane mulled the question quietly, resisting the urge to shout out what she had seen. Through all of this, Kasumi sat quietly, with a somewhat knowing smile on her face. Kasumi knew something also, but she wasn't going to say a word, and Akane decided to do likewise.