I'm so very sorry it took so long for me to update. My birthday was on a school day and well, some important stuff happened. I'm sorry that I had to deal with all those distractions and I would have updated sooner, had I the chance.
I have been drifting in and out of consciousness since that fateful accident a week ago. It hurts everytime I open my eyes and face the blindingly bright light, which leaves me with the aftereffect of seeing a vague light when I look away. There is a rhythmic throbbing in my head but I pay no attention to it.
Instead, I see the bouquet of fresh red roses on the table beside my bed. Someone has been leaving me roses (beautiful, fresh ones, too) everyday, so that the wonderful scent greets me everytime I am conscious. I have a feeling that Ranma is that person. It makes me feel wonderful and the pain lessens when I think about him.
I notice that I am still at the hospital. I was hoping that I would wake up and discover myself in my room. Disappointment weighs me down but I do not mind much because after all, nobody gets what they want, right?
I try to get up but pain attacks my body and I crumple down on the bed. I can't breathe! Panic racks my body and I try to gasp for breath but I feel no air enter my dry mouth.
A familiar male voice calls my name and strong arms support my body, positioning me in such a way that I immediately feel more at ease. I choke and air rushes back into my deprived lungs. "Thanks, Ranma," I managed to sputter out. My voice sounds wooly and unreal to me. It is quite rusty from disuse.
After I speak, the arms around me tense. Ranma doesn't respond and I wonder why. I look up at him only to find that it is a guy but he isn't Ranma.
Stormy grey-blue eyes stare back at me, hurt – is that jealousy? - and anger hidden in them. Spiky raven black hair falls into those oppressive eyes and I can't help but notice the carved strength in his features, the lean strength in his body and the heat he is radiating. His hair seems rakishly long but it only reaches the collar of his elegant satin blue shirt.
And then he speaks hoarsely in a deep, baritone voice that makes me feel so far away. "Akane, I'm not Ranma." He expels his breath in a deep sigh and releases me gently but (I'm certain of this) almost reluctantly. I open my mouth to ask the most obvious and most important question, who are you then?
Cynically, his sensual lips twist into a half smile and he answers me before I can ask him the question. "I am Haru."
Could it be?
"Yes, it's me, Akane. I've returned." His lips quirk up sensually.
I close my eyes as overwhelming happiness envelopes me and memories hit me from every side. Haru, my childhood friend. The one person I could never – would never – share with anyone- besides Ranma, of course. I've known him since the day my mother died. I was only maybe four at the time, but he was around six. We were always there for each other. At least until I turned twelve. He disappeared then and I never saw him again.
But he is standing in front of me now, hands shoved into the pockets of his black Levis jeans, looking as alive as I am. A forgotten memory from six years ago come back to haunt my life.
"Ranma's at school now and I d-" he stops talking suddenly to peer at me. "Did you think that those roses were from Ranma?" I realize that he is hurt and disappointed that he was mistaken for another guy. Somehow, I sense that my answer is important and I smile weakly telling him, "Not anymore." This seemed to please him, as Haru's face brightened up.
"I'm sorry I went away- I had to," he explains. "I needed to train harder; make myself more worthy for you as the emotions I felt… were so strong. I couldn't help it, Akane." The room spins sickeningly and I hold up a hand. "Haru… dizzy," I gasp.
He understands, surprisingly. "I'm sorry. I'll leave now," he grins. We fall silent for a few moments until we hear a sound from outside my room. It sounds like a small object falling. He cocks a grin at me before bending down and pressing his lips to my forehead. When his lips connect with my skin, a flood of sensation bursts inside me and it leaves me shocked; too shocked to protest him leaving.
He hops out of the window almost cheerfully and I touch my forehead gingerly. Could a guy finally like me for myself?
Wait, how does he know about Ranma?
I decided to visit Akane and I skipped school just to see her. I figured that I ought to come here at two since she is usually awake at this time.
However, here I stand, outside her door, hidden by the shadows. A strange boy is standing beside her bed, his body bent. They seem to be engaged in some sort of important discussion. They suddenly keep quiet and I wonder why. Unfortunately, the loose button on my shirt (I had forgotten to ask Kasumi to mend it) chooses this moment to drop.
The sound of the button dropping snaps them out of the awkward silence and the strange boy smiles. He kisses Akane's forehead before jumping out of the window happily.
He kissed her.
I feel strange. I, Saotome Ranma, have allowed a strange boy to kiss my fiancée. Nobody has ever really bothered to kiss Akane before. Not even myself, sadly.
No, that isn't true. I have tried. Sometime ago, somewhere in our deep past, I must have tried. I must have. For some reason, I doubt myself. Maybe it's because I'm lying to myself again. I seem to be doing that often.
Then, my brain finally catches up with my eyes.
A boy has just kissed Akane, my fiancée and I didn't do a thing about it.
The strange truth sinks in slowly albeit hesitantly. "Damn!" I swear. I fall back against the wall, elbowing it as I come into contact with the cold, hard concrete. How could he? Akane is mine! She's my fiancée! Doesn't he respect that? A swarm of different emotions swirl through me, polluting my systems like poison. I gain clarity of the situation just long enough to identify each feeling.
Desperation (I don't know why but I'm sure I felt this particular emotion).
Akane betrayed me.
The fact hurts me beyond logic. My only choice was to turn around and walk away. I run away from Akane's hospital room as fast as I can, praying that she doesn't notice me. My vision blurs and I stumble through my run, coming dangerously close to falling several times.
The single rose I brought her was dropped along my way.
How can a single rose compete against a bouquet?
It's almost dark but I refuse to go in. I prefer the peace out here in the garden for it is noisy inside. Ranma's suitors have turned up once again.
These two are the only ones left.
Ukyo was smart enough to marry Konatsu, her cross dressing ninja, after the failed wedding. The pair is happily and thankfully well suited but apparently she regrets chasing after Ranma so publicly. "He could only be a friend," she says to Akane nowadays. "I should have been smart enough to see it coming."
Someday, in the uncertain future ahead of us, Ranma will marry Akane, I'm sure of it. I know I'm rarely right, but this time I'm certain. And when they do marry, I will be standing beside them, saying that I knew it all along. Although I'm pretty sure not one person will believe me.
The wind suddenly sweeps through the garden with an outraged howl. I remember a night like this, a long time ago… Somewhere in a past I choose to forget… It's been so long.
Unknowingly, my hold on the pipe in my hand tightened. My breathing becomes labored and ragged. My nails dig into my palm and I hardly notice the pain. I do notice that my crimson blood falls to the grass rhythmically.
And then I see it coming.
A fist seems to appear out of nowhere and it smashes my face.
"You abandoned me." My eyes are closed but I open them at the sound of the voice accusing me.
Thunder rumbles overhead and lightning streaks through the sky. In a few seconds, as expected, rain falls to the ground. I feel my body transform.
I look up to see my attacker.
It is him.
I try to growl but at that very moment, he smashes my face again.
I am claimed by darkness.
I check the book again. On the cover, the name Tendo Nabiki is embossed in silver. It's mine, alright. Disappointed, I sigh. I wish it isn't. If it weren't mine, it means that I wouldn't have to bother with the accounts and stuff. I could do anything I wish.
But it's mine.
I make a face and continue reading it. Blah, blah, blah. I really love what I do, but I wish for a rest. A holiday to the hot springs, maybe. Mmm… I'd love that…
Speaking of love, Akane's supposed to be back by tonight. Good. I really miss her, although I will not admit it. After all, I am the ice queen of the family.
It's raining. Again. Kami, can it not rain for just one day? I mean, I planned to go swimming tonight. Just great.
Suddenly, I hear a rustle outside my window.
That is my first thought. It is then followed by:
Someone is in deep shit down there and for one, I'm glad it isn't me.
Just then, a stone strikes my window.
A pebble from a stray car?
I change my mind when more pebbles follow.
I can smell the blood! Unless I'm sadly mistaken, a stranger is standing outside my window. A stranger covered with the sharp, metallic smell of blood.
He has left my window. I can no longer smell him. Immediately my body relaxes and I slump to the floor, almost sobbing with relief. Never have I been so afraid in the short nineteen years I have lived.
"Do you want to know who my next victim is?"
He's after me? Kami, I hope not. I have nothing to offer.
"Answer me, Nabiki."
He knows my name! Kami, I'm the one in deep shit now.
"Who is it?" I ask, trying not to tremble. Trying to control myself. Trying to be calm and collected, as usual.
A rich chuckle greets my ears.
"Now run along downstairs, Nabiki. There's going to be a little gathering in a few moments."
With fear constricting my throat, I obey him and run out of my room and down the stairs. I can hear shouts and whispers from the living room. Akane is dozing on a chair and Genma's … dozing… on the… floor? Wet? And bleeding? I find that a little curious. And why are Shampoo and Kodachi the only ones in the living room besides them?
Trying not to let anyone know how shaken I am, I make my voice boom loudly hoping that nobody will notice how shaken I am.
"And can anyone tell me what exactly happened here?"
As expected, everyone turned to face me. Somehow that stranger… his voice echoed in my head.
Do you want to know who my next victim is?
Shampoo turns to face me and she starts speaking in her usual rabid broken Japanese.
"Genma, he attacked."
Do you want to know who my next victim is?
Oh, damn. I should've guessed from the growling. It could be worse, I thought shivering. He could have attacked me.
"Peasant! Where is my sweet potato?"
Huh. Kuno KodachiNerima's resident madwoman. Not that we don't have enough of those.
'He's out. Don't ask me anymore questions unless you have enough cash on you and you are willing to throw it around."
That seems to quiet her down. She harrumphs and exits the house screaming in her high pitched voice about peasants with no shame. Something along those lines. I turn to face Shampoo. "Amazon hussy, you'd better leave." She seems insulted but she exits, mumbling in Chinese all the way. Thank heavens she's gone.
"Kasumi! Father!" I call.
It takes them approximately ten seconds to arrive. It takes Kasumi five seconds to notice the panda lying on the floor bleeding, the "Oh my" and blinking not included. Dad manages to take in everything faster.
He strides into the kitchen and comes back with a kettle of boiling water. "Kasumi, you won't mind if I take this?" he asks her. My lovely sister just shakes her head, speechless for once. Dad pours the water on Genma and the panda changes species. Welcome back to humanity, Saotome Genma. The panda-turned-man coughs, splutters and, amidst much fuss and drama, he sits up.
"Cut the drama, Mr. S," I drawl. "Unless something is wrong with my eyes and the books I've been studying, you were hit just hard enough for you to lose consciousness." Genma blushes a little and has the grace to avert his eyes in embarrassment.
"Dad, Mr. S has some explaining to do." I glance at my dad and he seems to be averting my gaze. Interesting. "And maybe you have some explaining to do, as well."
My dad cleared his throat and glared Genma. Thunder rolled outside. The electricity went out and I cursed.
"I haven't got much time, people."
"You're right, Nabiki," he says. "Genma and I... Well, we have been keeping a secret from everyone." He glances at Genma for a fraction of a second and turns his head away. "Go on, Soun. They have to know," Genma says.
"It happened twenty years ago, on this very night…"
I see the bastard. He's talking to Akane's father. I know exactly what they're discussing. I check my watch. After Ranma arrives, I remind myself. I shiver with anticipation. I have to stop them from completing the story or else my grand entrance can't be… that. It has to be grand or it isn't a grand entrance.
A smirk graces my features. Nabiki, Kasumi… Akane's sisters. Kasumi's engaged to Tofu now, I hear. Nabiki's not interested in guys but she has captured the interest of the retarded Kuno Tatewaki, son of the infamously mental idiot, Principal Kuno.
Ranma, where are you?
I tap my foot impatiently. It's rather stuffy and uncomfortable here. I just had to pick a bush to hide in. At least it's dry.
Ah, my sharp ears catch the sound of twigs snapping and dried leaves crunching despite the heavy fall of rain. Soon, I catch sight of an attractive, petite redhead entering the house. She seems angry. That must be Ranma. Him and his famous curse.
Or rather, she and her famous curse.
That was tasteless, I think to myself. Even for a person like me.
This is it.
Time for my 'grand entrance.'
Ranma entered the living room, daring everyone to say something about her bad mood with a glare. When nobody responded, she snatched a kettle of hot water from Kasumi with a mumbled "thank you" and poured it on herself.
She became a he. Ranma snarled at Genma. "Ya gonna say somethin' 'bout my mood, Pop?" Genma shook his head. "Sit down, Ranma. We're in the middle of an important discussion. You have to join in." Ranma laughed. "What is it, this time?" He glanced at the sleeping Akane for a few moments before returning his glare to Genma.
"Rest assured that it has nothing to do with marriages and engagements, Ranma," Nabiki spoke up from beside Akane. Her usual calculating smile was in place but she seemed to be trembling a little. Ranma's instinct practically screamed that something dreadfully wrong was happening but he ignored it.
Soun and Genma exchanged glances. "Family matters," Genma finally said after a while.
Ranma tensed immediately. "Nothing to do with Mum?" he asked, suspiciously. "No," Genma answered. "She's still in Hokkaido, visiting someone." Ranma immediately relaxed. But not for long.
"Then what, Pop?" he demanded.
"It's about me, Ranma," a male voice mocked from the doorway.
Every person in the room felt tense and strained, especially Genma and except Akane, who was just waking up.
Ranma whirled around only to see the strange boy who kissed Akane. He was wearing a cloak and a hood concealed his features.
"You!" he spat. "You're the boy who kissed Akane this afternoon!"
Nabiki's eyes swiveled to the stranger, shock lurking underneath her calm exterior. She recognized his voice. How could she not?
The boy chuckled. "Amusing, aren't you?" He let loose a laugh. "Boy, indeed."
Ranma felt his cool drain away slowly, just by looking at the boy.
"I'll have you know that I've just turned twenty, Ranma."
Ranma felt a rush of adrenaline storm his body.
"What do you know about me? We've never met before!"
Amusement lurked in the stranger's face.
"How ironic, Saotome Ranma."
The stranger's eyes traveled around the room. Genma and Soun were missing. Typical, he thought. Lightning flashed over the dark house, lighting up the interior for a few moments.
"Very well, I'll just have to introduce myself, then."
He swept into a sweeping but mocking bow, allowing the hood to all off.
Grey blue eyes met stormy eyes of the same shade.
"Pleased to meet you, Saotome Ranma. I'm Saotome Haru, your brother."