Strawberry Vacation

by Trisar Alvein


Pre-Chapter Rant

I... can't think of anything.

You must all be disappointed.

Oh well. Let's start the show!

Actually, though, to all the people who say my chapters should be longer: I try, but when the well for a certain chapter runs dry... what can I do? Also... this is to all you anonymous reviewers who don't leave an e-mail address. I can't reply to your reviews if I don't at least have a valid e-mail address to contact you by... and some of you I would really like to answer. Oh well.

Chapter Three: Familial Situations

Ranko was dreaming. She knew she was, in fact, because she was surrounded by people who she didn't recognize, but felt she should have. Each of their features were slightly shrouded, making them somewhat indistinguishable, but she still felt she should recognize them.

One of the figures, who appeared to be a young woman with long hair, stepped forward, offering her hand to Ranko. "I'm ... You want to be friends?" she said, her lips shaping a word to fill the silence, but with no sound leaving them. "You do kempo, right? Then let's have a little match."

"What? I didn't hear you..." replied Ranko, stepping uneasily back from the girl, who appeared unperturbed. "What did you say your name was?" she asked, but earned no answer.

"You're pretty good! I'm just glad you're a girl. I'd really hate to lose to a guy," said the shadowed girl, smiling brightly before walking away.

"H-hey! Wait!" called Ranko, reaching out, but the other girl was already gone. Instead, a tall, masculine form blocked her path.

"My name is ... Junior. Group E. Captain of the ... club. Undefeated new star of the high-school ... But my peers call me the Blue Thunder of...!" he declared triumphantly. Like with the girl, his lips had continued forming words where no sound had been. "My tree-borne kettle girl! I give you... this!" he said, throwing something to her.

With a deft step to the side, she reached out and caught... and bouquet of roses. Even as confusion rippled through her, the tall boy turned away and began walking off. Before she could say anything to him, he looked over his shoulder and said, "I love you," before vanishing, causing a mixture of revulsion and loathing to flood her being. She tossed the roses aside, clenching her fists tightly to ward off the sensations before a fatherly hand clapped her on the shoulder.

"Well, now! No sweat, your problem isn't so terrible after all!" said a tall, long-haired man. His features were as obscure as the others, but she could clearly see that he had a mustache as well.

"Huh?" she said, obviously puzzled. "I can't remember you or anyone... That's 'not so terrible'?" she asked, finding that she was again ignored.

"My daughter ..." he said, gesturing to a tall girl with a ponytail. "Nineteen. And ... Seventeen," he continued, indicating another girl with a pageboy cut. "And last, ... Sixteen." This time, he pointed to the long-haired girl who had offered Ranko friendship before. As expected, the features were completely indistinguishable.

"Pick the one you want, she's your fiancée," said a new voice, the strange figures around her vanishing like shades. Ranko spun around, coming face to face with another boy. This one was taller than her, but not by too much. His hair was styled the same as hers, and he wore Chinese clothing just like she did. But the most important factor she could see at the moment was that she could clearly see his facial features.

"Who... are you?" she asked, warily stepping back.

"Ranma Saotome. Sorry about this," he said, inclining his head toward her before she was engulfed in darkness.

Suddenly the darkness was gone as she opened her eyes, finding herself staring at the unfortunately familiar ceiling of her clinical abode. As she sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she noticed she wasn't alone, and turned to look at her guest.

"Shizuma-san," she greeted, unsuccessfully trying to stifle a yawn behind one hand.

"Good morning, Ranko-chan," returned the silver-haired woman, smiling softly at Ranko.

"Is something wrong?" asked the bleary-eyed redhead, sitting up. She blinked as she noticed Shizuma's eyes widening and drifting down away from her face, and followed the other woman's gaze down. Hm... That's funny... I must've been tossing and turning during that nap... My shirt's come open... she mused.

She would later reflect that it took far too long to realize what, exactly, was wrong with that statement and to cover up afterward, but a few seconds after realizing she was offering Shizuma a free show, Ranko let out a very panicked "Gah!" and pulled her sheet back up to cover herself. All traces of sleep were wiped from her mind as she began tying her shirt closed without exposing herself again—which, given the saucy smirk on her face, Shizuma would likely have very few objections to a repeat performance.

"My goodness, aren't we the bold one?" said the silver-haired woman with a slight dramatic edge. "To so blatantly flaunt your charms at me, are you trying to intimidate me away from my Nagisa-chan? Or perhaps..." Suddenly, she was so close to Ranko that her face filled the younger girl's vision. "Perhaps you were trying to steal me away from her?" whispered Shizuma, her warm breath caressing Ranko's face and causing her to shudder slightly as a red flush overtook her.

My god, is this what she did to Nagisa-chan that day? she wondered, realizing she'd been caught off guard. I can barely move... and... I can't look away... I'm completely at her mercy...

Fortunately—though Ranko couldn't help but feel a mysterious pang of disappointment—Shizuma opted to back away from the distressed girl, though her smirk was still in place as she took her seat once more. It was only after the 'spell' was broken that Ranko realized how quickly her heart was beating and how heated her face had become.

"I recently commented on your strength of will, but it seems even you can be caught by surprise once in a while," mused the older girl. "Were you having a bad dream, or do you normally sleep so... fitfully?" she asked.

"I... think it was a bad dream. I don't know." Now that she thought about it, Ranko realized that the dream was so vague that she could hardly remember any of it. She did remember one thing though. Letting the sheet drop from her now covered torso, she turned to face Shizuma. "Does the name 'Ranma Saotome' mean anything to you?" Not that I expect it to, but...

To Ranko's surprise, the other girl's face showed every sign of surprised recognition. "How do you know that name?" Shizuma asked, for once as off guard as Ranko herself had been.

"He was in my dream... He dressed and looked exactly like I did... except he was a boy, taller than me, and had black hair instead of red. Who is he? How do you know his name?"

Shizuma bit her lip in consideration. "I'm not at liberty to say, and I've never met him myself. Do you mind? I have to make a quick phone call..." Seeing Ranko shake her head, the silver-haired woman excused herself, quickly leaving the room.

No sooner had she left did Ranko's apparent personal nurse, Mai Itarashi, poke her head in. "Ah, Ranko-chan... Are you feeling any better?" she asked, walking in and sitting down in the chair that was already near the bed. Ranko's eyes instantly focused on the sheaf of papers in the woman's hand, and before either could say anything more, her eyes shot over to her nightstand... which was bare of the same.

Quickly, blue eyes flashed back over to Mai Itarashi, before Ranko flopped down onto her side. "So you know," she mumbled quietly.

The nurse nodded hesitantly. "I had to be sure of anything that might interfere with my patient's recovery... Have you given it any thought?"

Ranko's nod was less hesitant, but her expression was passive. "Yeah... But is it really a good idea?" she asked.

"Give it some time. Talk it over with Hikari-chan. At this point, isn't it really all you can do?"


"Miyuki-chan? It's Shizuma." The silver-haired girl rested the phone against her shoulder, leaning her head into it as her friend greeted her. "I know, I don't talk to you as much as I should ever since the Etoile ceremony. I have other responsibilities now that I'm not tied up by that job or tied down by... memories."

"I understand, Shizuma... Is something happening?" asked the girl on the other end of the phone, apparently Miyuki.

"There is, actually... Do you remember Ranko Tendo? The girl that I mentioned that Amane-san found in the stables."

"Nagisa-chan and Tamao-chan have mentioned her too, but yes, I remember her. Why?"

Shizuma tapped her foot in contemplation before finally deciding to answer. "She knows Ranma Saotome somehow," she replied, adopting a very serious demeanor.

There was silence for a moment. Finally, Miyuki asked, "She does? How?"

"I don't know... You should come and ask her yourself... If you can, could you send Hikari-cha—never mind, I can see them coming down the hallway already." Shizuma couldn't keep a smile from forming on her face as Amane, Hikari, Tamao, and Nagisa turned a corner down the hallway and came walking toward her. "Well, they're already here... you should come soon too."

"I will. This is more important than a few student council duties. I'll see you in a few minutes." There was a muted click as Miyuki hung her end of the phone, and Shizuma hung up herself just in time to receive a hug from her girlfriend. Giving Nagisa a quick, and mindfully chaste kiss, Shizuma greeted the other girls that had arrived. "Ranko-chan is awake, but I saw Itarashi-san duck in just as I left."

"If you're worried about me—" Shizuma very nearly jumped, but managed to maintain her composure and simply turned to face the nurse who snuck up on her. "—then don't be. Ranko-chan and I have already talked... but before I came out, I checked to see what was keeping you, Shizuma-chan, and told her of your little entourage. She said she'd like to speak to Hikari-chan alone."

Four girls giggled at the concept of anyone appending the suffix of "-chan" to Shizuma's name, while the girl in question merely managed a half-hearted attempt at looking annoyed, especially with Nagisa leaning against her. As the giggling quieted, Hikari separated herself from the group, knowing what Ranko would want to talk about. Her expression quickly sobered as she crossed the threshold into Ranko's room, seeing the redhead sitting wholly on the bed, cross-legged but thankfully—to Hikari's mind, as she had no desire at the moment to relive the fantasies she'd finally managed to banish—dressed in her Chinese clothing.

As she sat down, she noticed another detail. Ranko was reading the papers Hikari had given her, which explained why the blonde's arrival had gone unnoticed. "Ranko-chan?" she said, peeking around the edge of the paper to get the redhead's attention.

"Ack!" exclaimed the redhead, quite eloquently in fact, attempting to scramble away from the blonde's appearance and succeeding only in thumping against the wall. For a brief moment, Hikari's heart froze as she thought Ranko had just suffered another head injury as a result of her actions, but she breathed a sigh of relief as she saw that the redhead had managed to protect her cranium and take all of the impact on her back and shoulders. "Hikari-san? Don't do that again please."

"I'm sorry," apologized the blonde, inclining her head as Ranko relaxed. "Itarashi-san said you wanted to talk to me?"

"She did? I mean, she did! Because I do. It's... about that offer..."

Hikari's eyes drifted down to one of the papers Ranko had spilled on the bed in her panic. In plain view was the offer she had tendered to Ranko.

The offer, by her parents, to adopt and induct her into the Konohana clan as Hikari's older sister.

Smiling at the girl she'd already come to consider a friend, Hikari helped pick up it and the other papers that had been scattered, then offered them to the other girl's hand. "What about it?" she asked.

"Well... do you really think I should take it?" asked Ranko, looking far more vulnerable than Hikari had ever seen... except when she looked in the mirror.

"I think," began the blonde, looking especially contemplative, "that you should at least meet Mother and Father before deciding." There was really no easy way to say what Hikari really wanted to, and having been pressured into so many things herself, she had no desire to do the same to Ranko. I just know I wouldn't regret having her as my sister... if only I could keep all those other fantasies of her out of my head, she grumbled mentally.

Ranko nodded tentatively, filing that decision away for later. Meet the parents. Makes sense, she figured. "And... the other offer," she added, holding up another paper with another offer from Hikari's parents and, as well, Hikari herself. This one was considerably less official than the others—the adoption papers were actual official documents for her to sign, while this other paper was actually a personal letter—but was no less important. It was a tendered offer to enroll and fund Ranko in any of the three schools at Astraea Hill that she chose. Included in the offer was that it was still a valid one even if she chose not to enter the Konohana family.

"You'll need schooling, though," pressed Hikari, wanting to see at least this offer go through—and managing to ignore the fantasies that danced around in her brain of Amane, Ranko, and herself having 'fun' with the uniform of whichever school Ranko chose. "Education is very important in getting yourself a job."

"That makes sense, but... if I'm still nameless, I won't get a job no matter how much of an education I have. You know how employers are about ronin," replied Ranko. "I'll... I'll wait on this. Until after I've met your parents, then," she continued, nodding firmly to herself. "And maybe after I learn a bit more about the schools."

Hikari nodded. It was a good choice, to wait to assess a situation before making a decision. She could see in Ranko's eyes how she was fighting the urge to make a decision on pure instinct, but the girl also didn't seem to be aware of said fight. Further deliberation was cut off as she noticed Ranko blush, her eyes locking on something at the door. Hikari turned, but was confused as all she saw was Shizuma peeking her head in with her customary smirk. A smirk that, Hikari had to admit, could sometimes make even her weak in the knees when Amane wasn't around.

"Ranko-chan, do you remember what we were discussing earlier?" asked Shizuma.

"Yeah, some boy named Ranma Saotome... Why?"

"A friend of mine who... knows Ranma is here and would like to speak with you, if that's alright."

Ranko nodded in reply, watching as Shizuma slipped back into the hallway. She blinked as a girl with dark blue hair and piercing brown eyes entered the room. A frown briefly crossed the redhead's face as she tilted her head, a faint buzzing in the back of her mind indicating recognition. It was, in fact, the same kind of buzzing she got thinking of the names 'Tendo' and 'Saotome,' but she couldn't quite find the connection.

"Ranko Tendo?" asked the blue-haired girl, breaking Ranko's reverie. When Ranko nodded, the bluette continued, "I'm Miyuki Rokujou... Shizuma told me that you know a man named Ranma Saotome?"

Ranko's face shifted into a slight grimace. "I know of him, and I could spot him on the street. I think he has something to do with my fam... the Tendos, I mean," she said, her face darkening at her own slip. Miyuki blinked, but offered no comment. "He was in a dream I had. Tall, with black hair tied in a pigtail like mine, and wore Chinese clothing in the same style I do. The way he was standing... I think he's a martial artist, too."

Miyuki nodded at that. "Yes... He's also my fiancé. I'm to marry him after I've graduated from St. Miator," she said, earning a quizzical look from Ranko. "Is something the matter?" she asked.

"No... but in that dream, there was this older man that was offering up his daughters, then Ranma showed up and said, 'Pick the one you want, she'll be your fiancée.' He was the only one I could see clearly... everyone else was... well, it was like trying to watch them on a small black-and-white TV with bad reception"

Miyuki frowned deeply. That was an odd portent, to be sure. "Anything else?"

Ranko nodded, causing Miyuki to urge her onward.

"I think I know you."

Of all the things Miyuki had been expecting, that certainly was not one of them.

Post-Chapter Notes/Rant

Dun dun dun!

Lina: Stop that.

Sorry. Anyway, not much to rant about. I was hoping to make this longer, but lacked inspiration, felt like another pseudo-cliffhanger, and couldn't think of anything to have happen to the Nerima crew. For any of my interested readerbase though, I've started a forum on FFnet. If you want to talk to me or your fellow readers, there's the place.

See you next mission.

P.S. There's a pun to be found! See if you can spot it!