Ranma 1/2: Ranko's Wings
An AlternaVerse Series
Episode 1: Here, There, and Everywhere.
By Katrina Lee Halbred
Based upon an idea by Gregg Sharp as introduced in Reluctant Bet. Written with permission from Gregg Sharp.
Disclaimer: All Ranma characters are copyright Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakugan Video, Viz Video, and any others for which I am not aware own the copyrights. The demon-based Ranko concept originated from one of Gregg's series, but except where noted, the new characters and such are my own. Please don't use them without asking first.
Story is copyright 1999, 2005-2007
----------- I -----------
Mrs. Fujishiro smiled as she looked up at the sky, pausing in her task of sweeping the porch of her business. She let out an exasperated sigh, as her expression changed from a contented smile to an almost frown as she saw the dark clouds on the horizon.
Rain again, she thought. Sometimes I wonder why our city hasn't floated out to sea with all the rain we've been getting lately. The matronly woman chuckled a bit. It's almost as if someone upset the Goddess and was cursed to have water fall on them when they least expected it. She shook her head at the strange thought and continued sweeping her porch, humming quietly to herself. Rain or no rain, she still had a business to run.
As she turned around to walk back inside, someone bumped into the startled shopkeeper, knocking her backwards a few feet where she landed unceremoniously on her posterior. As she sat there, stunned for a moment, trying to figure out what just happened, she suddenly found herself picked up by a slender arm and placed back on her feet, gently, as if she weighed next to nothing. Aghast, she looked up into a pair of deep blue eyes framed by a soft face and fiery red hair. A face with a worried expression on it, she realized, as the young lady hastily bowed her head and spoke. "Oh! I'm very sorry."
The girl's movements had been so sudden that her red, pig-tailed hair was still falling to one side.
Mrs. Fujishiro smiled. It was rare that she met youngsters with manners and for some reason, she just couldn't help but like this young lady.
"No harm done, dear. Tell me, child, what's your name?"
The girl raised herself upright, giggling as she did. "I'm Ranko Saotome! Nice to meet you!" As the red-head stood at a more normal posture, the shopkeeper noticed that she had pointed ears. She wondered if Ranko was related to the fay in some way.
The shopwoman did a double-take at the name. Wild-child? Fay indeed.
Quickly, she smiled. "Ranko? That's a nice name. Are you shopping by yourself?"
The teenager giggled, shaking her head. She pointed to a young man with black hair and a balding, overweight man who appeared to be arguing with each other. The pair were across the street. "That's my Big Brother and Papa!"
The woman seemed to study the boy and older man Ranko was traveling with for a moment before turning back to the fiery-haired girl. "My name is Mrs. Fujishiro." The woman bowed to the pointy-eared girl once more.
Ranko repeated the gesture, as proper etiquette required before she straightened herself into a more relaxed posture and looked at the woman's place of business, smiling as she did so before allowing her gaze to travel up and down the street. "The shops in the city are so pretty. All the stuff that glitters and lights up... I never get tired of seeing it. It's all so magical."
The woman's eyes widened a bit, eyebrows rose slightly. "You act like you haven't been to many cities before."
Ranko's voice sounded sorrowful as she replied. "I haven't. Papa has Big Brother and me traveling all the time." She looked up in time to see that her brother and papa had started walking away from her. "I need to go. It was nice meeting you! Bye!" She waved as she ran off to catch up with her family, knowing they'd be upset if she got left behind again.
The woman waved back.
Ranko smoothed out her pink, Chinese style shirt and black pants absentmindedly as she ran to catch up. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn't notice how close to her brother she was until she ran into his back, knocking both her brother and her father down in a heap of flailing limbs.
"Sis!" The teenage boy said. "Watch where yer goin!"
"Sorry, Big Brother, I was just making sure I hadn't ripped my shirt again," she said, somewhat sheepishly.
The boy sighed. "Ranko, were ya starin' at the stores again?" The tone of his voice indicated this was not a new conversation.
Ranko giggled. "Yep! The lights and signs are pretty!"
The boy groaned, inwardly. It wasn't the lights and signs he was worried about.
"Ranma," said the balding man. "You need to keep a better watch on your sister."
Ranma bristled. Growling, he popped to his feet and spun around on the man. "If ya weren't busy spouting off that junk to me, I'd've been able to watch her jus' fine! And quite actin' like she isn't there!" That really made Ranma mad, the way his pop almost always talked about his little sister as if she wasn't present.
Genma growled, as he adjusted his stance as if expecting to be doing battle at any moment. "Don't talk back to me, boy. You know this is for your own good." A stray beam of sunlight caused his glasses to gleam, giving him a more sinister appearance.
"My own good? What about Ranko's? Where's her place in all this?"
The veins on Genma's forehead pulsed as he got more angry. "It will be up to her to find her own destiny!"
Ranma looked spellbound for a moment, his jaw hanging open in shock. "Geez, Pop, that almost sounded enlightening…"
Genma continued. "Your destiny, however, is to do what you're told!"
Ranma's eyes narrowed. "I shoulda known nothing from ya could ever be enlightening!" He scoffed. "I'm sure you weren't trying to help her destiny out a bit by selling her hand in marriage to those losers back at the Amazon village?"
The balding martial artist sweatdropped. There was no way the boy could've known about that! He had made sure Ranma was asleep at the time before doing it. In fact, he had made sure he was on the other side of the village when he was trying to secure Ranko's future for her.
Still, he was glad to be away from that insane village of warrior women. Especially that village elder named Cologne. That she stopped his selling of his daughter's hand in marriage was a minor inconvenience. (He'd already sold it three times by then, making a tidy profit.) No, it was the fact that she had accused him of child abuse that angered him. As if he could abuse his own daughter. It just wasn't possible.
Ranma assumed his own battle stance, glaring at his father.
Genma, used to his thought processes being derailed in this manner shelved the inner collision for later sorting and classification. He glared right back at his stubborn son, waiting.
Neither martial artist noticed when Ranko wandered off again and started looking at TVs in a nearby store front window. Playing on those TVs was something called "Slayers". It was the pig-tailed girls' favorite program, whenever she could watch any of the episodes. For some reason, it was always forbidden to her. She was likewise not allowed to watch any of the magical girl shows either, not that television was something any of them watched very often. She giggled as she watched a girl who looked similar to Ranma's female half throw a ball of flame at some mean-looking men. Ranko thought back to when she was learning about ki attacks from her great-grandmother and she remembered that her attacks needed to have some sort of focus. Hmm, fireball did have a nice ring to it, since that was what it looked like the girl on the screen threw. It looked like a large ball of fire.
She subconsciously started to scratch at her shoulder blades again. She really didn't like it when her shoulders started itching. Still, she knew it was because they were hidden. She just didn't like hiding them. Her cute face screwed up in thought as she tried to understand why people were afraid of them.
Ranko suddenly found her hand stopped by someone. She looked up and smiled at the familiar face belonging to the arm of the person that stopped her scratching. "Hiya, Big Brother! Why are you holding my arm?"
Ranma sighed. "Sis, what did I tell ya about scratching?"
Ranko thought for a moment. "You said not to do it."
The dark-haired boy nodded. "So why are ya scratching?"
His sister pouted, "Because it itches..."
The older Saotome sibling groaned. "Ranko, ya know what happens when ya start scratching at that
area, right? And ya know why ya have to keep your shirt on, right?" Ranma briefly wondered if any other teenage boy with a younger sister had to have conversations like this. Nahhh… it was too weird to be commonplace.
The red haired girl nodded. "Yep! Its so-" Ranko suddenly found her big brother's hand over her mouth.
"Ranko, keep it down. Ya know people don't understand what they mean. And ya know that if ya keep scratching, you'll accident'ly rip yer shirt again."
The pig-tailed girl nodded as Ranma removed his hand. "Sorry Big Brother, but what happens when people find out they are there?"
The teenaged boy smiled. "We'll worry 'bout that later, 'kay?"
Ranko giggled again. "OK, Big Brother!"
"I'm sorry it's uncomfortable for ya, sis. I really wish there was another way to hide them."
She giggled as she replied. "It's okay, Big Brother. It's not that uncomfortable, it just makes me itch some. Besides," She laughed. "This is my favorite shirt! My Big Brother made it for me!" She gave Ranma a big hug, startling him before she skipped off again, heading over to another shop.
He had to smile at the antics of his sister. To him, making that shirt had been of necessity, especially after the first few towns somehow thought she was a dragon or vampire or something else nonsensical. They couldn't find any clothing that would fit a girl with wings and their Pop had absolutely refused to pay for anything custom, complaining that they didn't have enough money. Therefore, it was up to him to make something for her.
He had designed the shirt with buttons on the back for flaps which would allow her wings to slip through comfortably, yet still keep her reasonably clothed. He could've modified a swimsuit top for her, which would've given her even more freedom of movement, but the problems that were caused when her wings became obvious made him glad he hadn't done that. Initially, they had just had her wearing a similar shirt to his, only in pink, but it had no flaps for it. Thus, every time Ranko flexed her wing muscles (which happened to be often), she'd rip her shirt, freeing her wings.
Even after he had made the shirt for her, they'd had problems. In the town they went through several days ago, her shirt flaps hadn't been buttoned and her wings unfolded the first time she giggled. The effect on the townsfolk had been instantaneous. The trio had gone from feeling somewhat welcome to feeling like they were in enemy territory. For some reason, the town thought that Ranko was the descendant of some ancient dragon come back to avenge his death upon them. Since then, Ranma had been very careful to make sure that Ranko had her shirt flaps closed, her wings folded against her back, especially with how large her wings were. (He still wanted to know how they could be covered by a shirt, but he was sure there was a reasonable explanation for it. After all, science wasn't his strong point.) Ranma knew it had to be more uncomfortable than his sister let on, but there really was no other choice.
It was at about that time he happened to look at the shop his sister had been staring into the window of. He paled as he saw what she had been watching.
Oh, no! I hope she didn't see too much of that! That's all we need is her trying to cast spells again! Last time she was watching a show with girls in it who could weild magic, she blew up the building next to us! At least no one was injured, but still, it was too close.
"Ranma," said Genma. "Your sister's going to get us into serious trouble if she isn't careful. Keep a closer eye on her."
"I know, Pop, but she's havin' fun. Shouldn't we leave her be?" He slowly turned away from the shop and headed away, hoping Genma didn't notice what he was doing. The last thing he needed was another ear ache from his pop about the dangers of letting his little sister practice magic.
"She's a martial artist, like us. She should know that she can't afford the luxury of play."
Genma looked thoughtful for a moment. Suddenly, a huge grin plastered itself to his face as he seemed to come to an internal decision about something. "Ranko can have fun after we get to my friend's house. I'm sure she'll enjoy playing with one of my friend's daughters."
Ranma nodded. "I guess ya're right, pop. Still, with her, it don't seem right to treat her that way."
Ranma frowned as he seemed to realize something. "Why are we going to yer friend's house anyways? I thought as martial artists we're supposed to fend for ourselves whenever possible…"
Ranma's father continued to smile. "We're going to keep a promise."
Warning bells started going off in the black-haired boy's head. "Promise? What promise?" The argument they'd had a short while ago had been bad enough, but to find out that the reason his Pop wanted to hurry to his friend's house was to keep a promise really had Ranma concerned. His father never seemed to keep his promises before.
The overweight man hid a grin as he replied. "It's nothing you need to concern yourself with. It's a promise I made to my friend years ago, before you were born, in fact."
It began to rain. As it did, the boy shrunk in size, his hair turning from black to red and his frame becoming decidedly more feminine. His chest seemed to redistribute itself as breasts appeared and his shoulders became less broad. The father increased in size his gi top ripped and pants disappeared. Black and white fur appeared all over his body.
Ranma-chan sighed, hanging her head. "I still think we should go back to China to find a cure. This is stupid, pop."
The panda held a sign up and growfed. Ranma! I'm ashamed of you! I thought I taught you to take life's problems like a man! Not whine like a girl!
The petite red-head glared at her father. "This isn't a small problem that's easy to fix like getting caught in storm at sea or sum'thin'! Do ya know how hard it is, getting on with yer life when yer a girl half the time?!"
People stopped to stare at the spectacle of a young girl arguing with a panda. Especially since pandas were not native to Japan and were therefore only found in zoos.
It's a matter of honor, Ranma. Be a man and deal with it!
"Yeah, right. Where's the honor in being a girl when yer supposed to be a guy? The next thing ya know, you'll be telling me I shouldn't worry and should find some nice guy to get married to and settle down with!"
The panda sweat-dropped. Now, now, I would never tell my son to live as a girl! Now quite acting like one and let's go!
"Forget it! I'm goin' back to China!"
The panda started to take up a battle stance and stopped as it noticed that they had a large audience gathered around them. It growled at everyone, loudly, causing the various bystanders to remember appointments they had or places they needed to get to. The panda resumed its stance.
"If ya want it this way, that's fine with me!" Ranma-chan also took up a battle stance, then frowned in realization. "Hey, Pop, did ya see where Ranko ran off to?"
The panda shook its head. No, she should be okay though.
Ranma looked around hastily. "Yeah, right, she was really alright last time, Pop."
The panda sweatdropped. Well how was I supposed to know everyone would keep thinking she was a vampire?
Ranma looked up in time to see his sister talking with three rough-looking teenage boys. His sister was smiling and talking like she was with old friends. As Ranma watched the exchange of words take place, he noticed that one of the teenagers had been slowly moving himself so that he was eventually standing behind Ranko. Then, much to Ranma's annoyance, she watched as that same teen pulled a wooden stake from within his jacket.
"Aw, shit!" The redhead yelled as she ran off, momentarily forgetting her father and the argument they were having in her rush to save her sister. Normally, her father would've taken that opportunity to beat the hell out of Ranma for "turning his back on an enemy", but Genma was smarter than that. Course, perhaps the main reason for that streak of brilliance might've been attributed to the beating Ranko gave him when she found out what her "papa" did to her big brother and why. Ranma arrived in time for Ranko to dodge a fist and get cut in the side by the stake.
The boy-turned girl grabbed the hand which held the stake that cut her sister, causing the boy who was attached to that hand to grimace in pain. In one deft motion, Ranma twisted the offending body part, while at the same time applying pressure so that the youth dropped the stake and was brought to his knees.
"What do ya think yer doin' tryin' to hurt my sister?" She asked through gritted teeth.
Ranko felt her side, a look of disbelief on her face. She brought her hand up to her face looking at the deep red color on it.
"He... he cut me. Why did he want to do that?" she said. Her soft voice was barely above a whisper but it was enough for her brother to be able to hear the anguish and fear in her voice.
Ranma threw the teenage boy, sending him flying into the other two teens before going over to check on her sister. She noted that she only had a scratch and let out a deep sigh of relief. Before Ranma's eyes, she watched the wound slowly close itself up, becoming nothing more then a red line and then disappear completely, as if it had never existed. The scared look was still in her widened eyes, though.
She looked up into his blue eyes, sniffling softly. "They attacked m-me, Big Brother. Why did they attack me?" Ranma's response was interrupted by the teenaged antagonists as they reorganized themselves.
"Out of our way, red head. We have business with that vampire behind you." The teenager in front said, glaring at both of them with his brown eyes.
Ranma made sure to keep her sister behind her. Though Ranko knew how to fight and in fact was very good at it, she was very reluctant to. This always baffled the young man. However, she was still his sister and if she needed protecting, then that was exactly what he would do.
Ranko sniffled, trying to smile at Ranma. "Sorry, Big Brother, but they aren't very friendly, are they? They kept calling me a vampire." She seemed to stare at nothing for a few moments as if trying to figure something out. "What's a vampire?" The word sounded vaguely familiar to her, but she couldn't figure out why.
Ranma whispered behind him to his sister, still keeping an eye on the three teenagers who had chased her. "Its a dead guy with fangs that drinks blood. Remember when those people came after ya with crosses that time? It's like that."
Ranko frowned, cutely, reaching up to feel her fangs. "A dead guy? They think I'm a dead guy? Who drinks blood? Ewwww! That is so gross." She made a face and then hugged Ranma-chan from behind. "You're so smart, Big Brother." She stuck her head out from behind Ranma's right side, glaring at the boys. "Why are you doing this? I didn't do anything!" She tried to move out from behind Ranma, but found herself pushed back behind her protective sibling. "Stay back, sis," her brother-turned sister said.
The teenagers laughed. "Yeah, right, and those aren't vampire fangs, right?"
Ranko missed the sarcasm in the boy's voice. "No, they aren't vampire fangs, at least, not that I'm aware of. Come to think of it, I don't know why I have these fangs."
The teenager in front growled. He didn't like being made a fool of. "Last chance. Move out of the way or get hurt." He kept his hands in the pockets of his brown leather jacket, and occasionally withdrew a hand to brush back the long, brown hair, which seemed to keep falling over his left eye. His black jeans were scuffed and dirty.
"If you want my sister, then you'll have to get through me first," was Ranma's reply. Bullies like this always made her angry. Doubly so when they decided to pick on her sister.
Ranko suddenly seemed to forget about the possible danger they could be in when she started waving at the shopkeeper Ranma had seen her talking to earlier.
"Hi, Mrs. Fujishiro!" She yelled to the matronly woman.
The shopkeeper waved back, smiling. She had stepped outside to wash down her front porch. Why its that nice young lady I was talking with a little while ago. Ranko, is her name, the shopkeeper thought to herself. She looked at the three teenagers facing off against Ranko and a young woman who was almost Ranko's twin, who seemed to be trying to protect her.
Mrs. Fujishiro sighed in resignation. This wasn't the first time those boys had caused problems like this. "Go home, boys." She hoped the damage to her store this time around was far less than the last time.
The teenager in front, who appeared to be the leader, looked at the shopkeeper, a smug look on his face. "Why should I? You don't want the same thing to happen here that occurred 11 years ago, do you?"
Mrs. Fujishiro groaned. "No one even remembers what happened. All that's left are rumors and half-truths and you know it. Now, lay off the girls and go home." She paused for a moment as something she just said registered. Girls? I thought Ranko was with a teenage boy? Well, no matter. She quickly shook the thought off and continued. "I swear, you three always pick on those that come through here who are different. Last week, it was the green-haired girl with fangs and horns who was chasing her husband. Getting fried like that I bet was an enlightening experience, but it still didn't seem to curb you of your stupidity." She chuckled for a moment at her own joke before continuing, watching as all three teenagers seethed. "The week before that it was that girl with the third eye and her boyfriend. That giant bird of hers almost made short work of you after you stabbed her boyfriend with one of those stakes. Can't you boys find something better to do with your free time?" She raised her broom and got into a battle stance, holding it like a bo. "Go home or get hurt, it's your choice."
The leader's eyes widened for a moment, but quickly narrowed to be replaced by a smoldering glare. "Maybe you forgot, Makoto, the trouble her kind caused those years ago, but I haven't. Even now the town still seems... affected, somehow. It's like her kind are still here. Therefore, since no one else has the balls to stand up to them, my gang and I will exterminate these vermin to make sure our city is purified once again!" The rest of his "gang" voiced their support and agreement, as their leader laughed, sounding like his deck might be missing a few jokers.
The shopkeeper groaned again, wondering if that boy was crazy.
People from inside other shops stepped out to see what the commotion was all about. Once they saw the three teens, they hastily stepped back inside and locked their doors.
Ranma studied her opponents carefully. They didn't look like much, but it was hard to judge since they all were wearing thick jackets. She looked more carefully at the front pockets of the jacket. There, on the pocket, was a symbol. It was a picture of a human head with crude red eyes and fangs, having a red line slashed through it. The one that appeared to be the leader was still looking at the shopkeeper. Ranma watched the other two especially as they appeared to be watching Ranko. The boy-turned girl frowned. She didn't like that. They looked like they were about to -
At about that point, several things happened in quick succession, causing the entire situation to go to hell. The boys behind the leader looked at each other and nodded once. Then, in a snapping motion that was too fast for the eye to follow, they withdrew their hands from where they'd been keeping them and flung them out in front of them. The leader turned his attention back to the battle and also threw something at the Saotome siblings. Ranko, chose that moment to try stepping out from behind her brother so that she could reason with the boys who she knew were good boys, just confused by something Ranko had said. As she stepped out, Ranma turned getting distracted a she moved her sister back behind her, but not before several of the projectiles whizzed by her head. Ranma moved to catch them, but due to Ranko's distraction, he was cut in the arms and legs by some that got by. His sister cried out in surprise as some of the projectiles ripped the back and sides of her shirt. Something flexed on her back and her wings shredded the rest of the unfortunate piece of clothing as they unfolded. This had the effect of showing to the entire world that she didn't wear a bra.
Ranma examined the projectiles she had caught between her fingers. Wooden shuriken? You've gotta be kiddin' me! These kids think they're vampire hunters or somethin'?
Ranko looked at the shredded remains of her shirt in shock, as the tatters slowly fell to the ground, like feathers dropped by a bird. "My shirt," she whispered, still in shock. "My favorite shirt. The one Big Brother made for me..."
Ranko looked at the wound in her Big Brother's side as it bled some. "Big Brother. He's hurt." she said softly. "Hurt, protecting me." Something clicked in Ranko's mind and she growled. She was so mad that she didn't notice that she had risen into the air, her wings remaining fully extended. The fact that she was bra-less never entered her mind, since at that moment she couldn't have cared less.
For a moment, all was quiet as the three teens stared, open-mouthed at Ranko, floating in the air above her brother, her wings fully outstretched and her body glowing a faint blue color. Then, they started laughing. "Get a load of the dragon-vampire we have here." yelled the leader.
Ranma was startled by what happened to Ranko since she hadn't seen this type of reaction before. She was also becoming increasingly aware of the rising temperature in the area. She wondered why it was starting to get so hot...
Tears began to fall from Ranko's eyes as she yelled. "You destroyed my favorite shit and hurt my Big Brother, you meanies!" She held her hands above her, palms outstretched. "FIREBALL!" she yelled out as she brought her hands forward in a swift motion as if tossing something. A bright white light appeared from the trajectory of Ranko's upraised hands and began to grow, impacting the ground at the boys' feet. It grew at an astronomical rate, covering everything and everyone within a few hundred yards in a matter of seconds. When Ranma heard the shout, she hit the deck, but was still caught in the explosion. When the light cleared, Ranko was left standing in the middle of a crater, which was overgrown with assorted plants. Around her, various parts of the street and buildings were damaged, torn apart by trees and bushes that were now growing there. Everyone who had been unlucky enough to be close to Ranko was knocked out. The three teens were out cold as was Ranma-chan and the panda. Surprisingly, Mrs. Fujishiro's shop was left mostly untouched by the attack, with the exception of cracks appearing on her porch.
Ranko gulped, noticing the damage, "Oops... I think I messed up again." She wondered if maybe she should've paid more attention to Great-Grandmother Cologne when she was teaching her about control.
The shopkeeper sighed a deep, long sigh as she looked at the impaired condition of the area around her. Just like the time when they decided that pink-purple-haired girl was a demon just because she was riding her bike at 95 KPH. At least her idea of playing sure threw those boys off, although there was a lot of damage to the local area afterwards.
She smiled at Ranko. "You'd better get going, dear. If they come to and find you still here, they'll probably start fighting again."
Ranko quickly picked Ranma-chan up and slung her over one shoulder. She then looked at the panda and wondered how she was going to carry him. She shrugged and lifted him up by a paw, and tossed him in the air. Then, she caught him and began carrying him like he was a tray and she was a waitress with someone's order. She waved to Mrs. Fujishiro before heading off. "Bye! Thanks!"
The shopkeeper smiled and waved back before sweeping her dirty porch again.
Ranko wondered how hard it would be to find the place that her Papa wanted to go to. She concentrated, trying to remember where he'd said they were going. It had been difficult to find out about since the old panda had been asleep at the time. She giggled as she remember that night. Her papa had been talking in his sleep. Her Big Brother was snoring next to him so she had had to really strain to hear what was being said, but she had finally found where they were going.
She continued walking in the direction they had been heading.
After a while, she stopped a teen-aged boy who was walking by her. He had a slightly dazed look as if he had been day dreaming. "Excuse me, sir, do you know where the Tendo Dojo is?" she asked. His eyes widened noticeably as he took in the site of the panda she carried with one hand and the teenage girl laying over her shoulder all with apparent ease. He gulped audibly as he started to sweat. Something fluttered on her back slightly, drawing the boy's attention to her wings which had folded against her back so swiftly, he wasn't sure he had seen them. By this time, he had to fight to keep himself from panicking. Even so, he took an involuntary step back from the strange red-head before he was able to get control of himself. She shifted her load and the boy she was talking to noticed she was topless. His sweating increased and blood began to drip from his nose as he got a good view of certain areas. He covered his nose with one hand while gesturing with the other and said, "It's a couple of kilometers down this road. Make a right at the first gas station you come to, and then follow that street until you see the dojo sign. You can't miss it." He wondered why all the cute girls were as strong as monsters.
Ranko would've bowed, but her current load prevented her from doing that. "Thank you. Is there something wrong with your nose? It's bleeding." Ranko looked concerned, as she tried to study his face intently.
The teenager shook his head and smiled. "No. Its just a cold."
"Oh, OK. Did that cold cause you to hurt your leg, also?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
Ranko pointed at his pants, just below the waist. "There seems to be some swelling there. Are you sure you aren't injured? I can heal the wound if you are..."
The teenager looked down at what she was talking about, realized exactly where she was pointing and finally panicked. He quickly bade a hasty farewell and ran away from the cute if not insanely strong girl...before running into a pole. He quickly recovered only to run into a wall and knock himself out.
Ranko sighed. She never understood boys. Well... except her brother, that is. She giggled and headed off at a speed that left a few people gawking at her. Of course, this might have also been because she was still topless and many passersby where getting quite an eyeful, since the way she was carrying her load left her chest quite exposed.
Ranko ignored most of the stares. She was used to that sort of thing. Though she did idly wonder why so many guys were running into poles and falling down open manhole covers... it was like they weren't paying attention to where they were going. That was weirder than normal.
----------- II -----------
Ranko arrived at their destination a few minutes later sweating a little and appearing slightly winded. Her Papa sure was heavy! She looked at the sign on the gate which read "To defeat owner in savage combat, please use rear entrance." She shrugged, as far as she knew, her papa's promise had nothing to do with fighting someone so she opened the gate, carefully closed it behind her, and walked over to the front door. The house was huge. There was no other way to describe such a posh building in Japan. For a moment she stared in wide-eyed amazement at the building, never having been this close to a familial dwelling this big before. Ranma-chan groaned from Ranko's right side, which snapped Ranko out of the daze she was in and reminded her of the fact she carried her father and brother on her shoulders. She knocked on the door and waited.
A few seconds later, a rather pretty young lady with brown hair and brown eyes answered the door. She looked down at Ranko and noticed a few things immediately. First, she noticed that Ranko was topless. Next, she made a mental note of Ranko's wings and pointed ears. Finally, she noticed the fact that Ranko was carrying a full size panda and a young girl over her shoulders. She smiled warmly, "Can I help you?"
Ranko made a slight bowing movement, which was difficult with what she was carrying. "Yes, please. Papa said that we were supposed to come here to fulfill a promise, though he didn't say what promise that was."
The young women studied the scene before her, and thought quietly to herself. Father mentioned that a friend of his was stopping by with his children. He also said something about it being to fulfill a promise, although he wasn't very clear about it. Maybe father's friend sent his children on ahead while he took care of something. Still, it's not nice to keep this nice young lady waiting.
The young woman bowed. "I'm Kasumi Tendo. Welcome to the Tendo Dojo." She waited for the girl to give her name. When no name was forthcoming, she smiled warmly. "And who might you be?"
The winged girl blushed as she realized her mistake. "Oh, Sorry! My name is Ranko Saotome! Nice to meet you!" She gave an angelic smile which seemed to have the effect of endearing her to Kasumi's heart.
"Would you like to come in, Ranko?"
"Yes, please!" Came the giggling reply.
Kasumi opened the door all the way to allow Ranko to enter with her burden. The winged-girl started forward only to be stopped by a cracking sound, similar to the sound someone would get if they hit the side of an empty wooden box with a bat. She stepped back and tried again, only to get a louder cracking sound and again be stopped by something. She looked up, giggling as she noticed that Papa-panda's head was hitting the top of the doorway. She backed up a few more steps and tried one more time only to have his head get knocked hard enough that his entire body was dislodged from her shoulder. She shrugged, resorting to dragging the panda inside instead all the while keeping the other girl balanced on her opposite shoulder.
A tall man with a black mustache and black hair walked into the living room as Ranko entered.
"Kasumi, who was at the door?"
"Father, I think the guests you were expecting are here. Only, I was under the impression we would be having three human guests. I guess I'll have to change tonight's menu."
Soun looked at the panda, then at the young girl dragging it inside, then at the young girl on her shoulder. "Um, that must be heavy... Miss...?"
The red-haired girl giggled. "Ranko Saotome." She moved her brother's petite form from one shoulder to the other. This had the effect of drawing the Tendo Patriarch's attention to what the teenaged girl wasn't wearing, her ample assetts quite visible and uncovered. The effect was almost immediate.
"Erk!" He exclaimed, freezing in place, his eyes glued to what he saw.
Kasumi sighed as she noticed the reaction. "Oh, Father, Father, Father," she said as she walked over to help Ranko set her still unconscious brother on the floor.
Ranko looked mortified by his reaction. "Ohmygod! What'd I do?" Her eyes were wide, lips turned downward in a frown.
"Ranko, dear, you didn't do anything wrong," The elder sister began. She paused as she sought the proper words to convey what she wished to the child before her. "Most men will have that kind of reaction if you don't cover yourself up."
The winged-girl looked up at Kasumi. "They will?" Her lower lip started to tremble.
Kasumi realized she might have a problem on her hands. Quickly, she gathered the scared girl into a warm embrace, dong her best to project warmth and love to the younger Saotome. "Do you want to solve that problem, Ranko-chan?"
Ranko sniffled and while looking up at Kasumi, nodded.
"Then wait here a moment while I go get something."
The red-haired girl nodded again as Kasumi quickly went upstairs. She returned a few minutes later, carrying a red bikini top, which she handed to the by then curious Ranko.
The pointed-eared girl looked at it trying to figure out what it was. "It's part of a swimsuit, right?"
Kasumi smiled and nodded. "Yes. It's called a bikini top and it's to cover the sensitive areas of your chest."
Ranko thought for another moment before her face brightened a bit. "I remember!" Then she blushed. "Um, how do I put it on?"
The eldest Tendo daughter patiently helped the young Saotome get her arms through the straps and the bikin top on just right so that her wings were unobstructed and her womanly features were properly covered.
"Thanks, Tendo-san." Ranko looked relieved.
Kasumi smiled again. "Just Kasumi is fine, Ranko-chan." The elder sister looked at her father who was still frozen in shock and shook her head again. "Father!"
He seemed to snap out of it, moving again, though his mouth still hung open. The brown-haired young lady reached over and closed his mouth with an audible clicking sound.
Soun shook his head, as if clearing it. "I'm sorry, miss, did you say Saotome, as in Genma Saotome?"
Ranko giggled again and nodded. "Yepyep! I'm his daughter!"
"Um, yes, of course." He noticed that the young lady had set the girl down as well as the panda. "By the way, why were you carrying a panda and a girl?" He kept looking at the panda, then the other red-head that Ranko had been carrying, then back at Ranko herself, his eyes widening each time or narrowing as if in deep thought.
Ranko laughed. "The girl is my Big Brother and the Panda is Papa!"
Soun's jaw dropped, but Kasumi merely smiled. The Tendo Patriarch started to pick the panda up, but quickly regretted it.
"Akane, Nabiki! Please come here!" Yelled Soun as he struggled with the dead weight of the panda, grunting and sweating without much success before finally giving up the idea of moving the furry beast.
"Ranko, why were you not wearing a shirt?" Kasumi asked, gently.
At that, the child-like red-head sniffled. "Those meanies who were picking on me destroyed the shirt my Big Brother made for me...WAHHH! They kept calling me a vampire!"
The eldest Tendo daughter was surprised as Ranko suddenly started to cry. Quickly, she hugged the winged-girl to her, smiling. "Don't worry, I'm sure your 'Big Brother' will make another one for you."
The cute redhead with wings sniffled again. "You think so?"
"I'm sure he would. If he took the time to make you one, I'm sure he won't mind making another one for you. And if he isn't able to, I'll make one for you."
Ranko giggled. "Yay!"
----------- III -----------
Ranma-chan came to with one hell of a headache. As she sat up, she realized that she was in foreign surroundings. Immediately, she flipped out of the bed roll and got into a defensive stance, startling the girl that was about to apply a wet wash cloth to her head.
"Where am I? Where's my sister? Where's Pop?" The nervous red-head began to ask. Her eyes darting around. About that time, she noticed Ranko talking animatedly with another girl who looked like she could have been the first girl's older sister. Further looking found the panda asleep out in the side yard, by the koi pond, seemingly oblivious to everything. That wasn't surprising to Ranma. She always said he could sleep through an earthquake.
As Ranma's vision began to clear, she got a better look at her captor and the confused expression on her 'captor's' face. She relaxed as she realized that the girl had no hostile intent.
"Sorry, the last thing I remember is getting ready to fight those three teenagers that were picking on my sister..." The red-head began, sheepishly.
The brown haired girl smiled as she pushed her glasses back against her face and stuck her hand out. "That's OK. My name's Nabiki. Nabiki Tendo."
Ranma-chan smiled and shook the proffered hand. "My name's Ranma Saotome, sorry about this."
"Ranma? Genma's your father?" asked a male voice.
Ranma blushed. "Um, yeah." Ranma looked at the black haired man with a mustache, who was kneeling at a table.
"But, you're a girl." He looked from Ranma-chan to Ranko. With a half... dragon sister he thought. I thought Genma said Ranma was a boy...
Ranko giggled from where she was, in the kitchen. "Big Brother isn't always a girl."
Kasumi looked up, casually brushing her long brown hair away from her face as she did. "Ranko, dear, what do you mean, he's not always a girl? Isn't your sister... well... your sister?"
Ranko giggled, her wings fluttering happily. "No. I don't have a sister, Kasumi. I have a big brother and right now, he's a girl." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, there is my blood sister from the Amazon Village..."
Ranma put her hand over Ranko's mouth, smiling. She whispered "Ranko, we don't need ta explain that right now."
Ranko pouted as Ranma removed her hand. "But, Big Brother, why not? She is my blood sister..."
Ranma sighed. "Later, Ranko, please?"
Reluctantly, his sister nodded. "Okay, Big Brother."
Everyone else looked a little puzzled. "Um, son, what are you talking about?"
"Excuse me, Mr Tendo, would you mind if we talked about Ranko's blood sister
later?" Quickly, he looked around for something else to talk about before his eyes fell on the form of the panda. "Oh, why's Pop outside?"
Soun looked puzzled. "Your pop, outside? You mean Genma? Genma isn't here, that I saw. Just a panda."
Ranko giggled again. "Papa is the panda."
"What do you mean?"
Ranma sighed. "Do you have any hot water?"
Kasumi nodded towards the kettle sitting on the table near her teacup.
The redhead looked around at the various confused people before she continued. "I don't suppose any of you here believe in magic?" He watched as everyone except Kasumi shook their head. He was surprised to note that the eldest Tendo daughter smiled in response. "Well, then this'll come as quite a shock ta ya."
Ranma took the kettle and upended it over herself. Before the Tendos eyes, Ranma's shape changed. Her chest redistributed itself to a more masculine build, her shoulders becoming broader, and her hair becoming black. She also grew in size by about a foot. As Ranma looked at Soun and Kasumi again, his blue eyes held sadness.
"Oh, my..." exclaimed Kasumi.
Soun's cup fell from his hands, shattering as it hit the table, tea splashing everywhere. He felt the world spinning... spinning... In the back of his mind he registered making contact with the ground and then darkness claimed him.
When Soun next opened his eyes, Kasumi was applying a damp washcloth to his forehead.
"Well, Daddy, that was interesting. You find out that our "fiance" is a girl half the time and then you faint." Nabiki looked slightly amused, but her expression quickly became serious as she focused on the Saotome sister. Her eyes narrowed slightly. What concerns me though is Ranko. She appears to be... well... half dragon... or vampire, or something. Its as if she isn't totally human, but I don't see how that is possible. Still, she seems innocent enough, but is that an act? And those ears... I remember stories of the fay... She realized that her thoughts were running in circles and decided she needed more information before she could form any kind of hypothesis which could explain the situation. Still, this was all so exciting... Imagine, a human with wings!
Soun quickly got up. "That's right. There is that business to attend to. Oh, Genma, my old friend... I didn't see you come in."
Genma was sitting next to Ranma at the table. The two patriarchs quickly clasped hands in greeting.
"Tendo!" said the balding martial artist, smiling. "Saotome!" replied the father of the household.
There was another girl in the room, leaning against the wall with her arms folded across her chest. She was wearing an off white gi, had long black hair tied in a pony tail with a ribbon, and looked annoyed.
Nabiki looked at the girl and snorted. "Geez, Akane, do you think that wall is going to fall down without you?"
Akane glared at her sister. "Well, not everyone thinks boys are the most important thing on the planet, Nabiki. I think this whole thing stinks. Who ever heard of nonsense like this in this day and age?"
Ranma frowned. "Um... excuse me. Did I miss something? What are you talking about?" Ranma glared at his pop, certain it was something else the old panda had neglected to tell him.
Genma sweatdropped. "Oh.. heheh... did I forget to mention that you are supposed to marry one of Soun's daughter's?"
Ranma was speechless... "I thought you said we were here to fulfill a promise YOU made, Pop..." Ranma had his head down, hiding his face.
"Well, ha ha... that was the promise, Ranma..."
Ranma growled, then grabbed his father by the shirt and threw him into the koi pond. After a few seconds, the panda emerged from the water, clothes in tatters as it glared at the upset teenage boy.
"Oh, dear..." said Kasumi, in surprise.
Ranma marched out to the edge of the pond, hands balled into fists. "How DARE you make promises concerning my life!" A small metal tub slammed into Ranma's head before he got within several feet of his target, splashing him with water and knocking him backwards. She got up, her look smoldering as she conitinued to advance on the panda.
"Father, you have some strange friends." Kasumi was somewhat mystified. She liked Ranko, already considered her as somewhat of an adopted sister, but she didn't know about Ranma. He seemed withdrawn and angry.
Soun sighed. "I assure you they weren't like this before they went to China."
Ranko giggled and walked out into the middle of the war zone, which consisted of Ranma-chan fighting Genma-panda. She poured hot water on both Genma and Ranma with the kettle she had carried out with her. Then, she picked up the overweight martial artist with one hand and grabbed a surprised Ranma with her other, carrying them both into the house by their shirt collars as if they both weighed next to nothing for her.
"Hey, Sis! Put me down! I can walk on my own two legs!"
Ranko frowned. "Oh, no. You're being a bad boy. We're guests at someone's house and you're out there fighting with Papa!"
Nabiki smirked. "This gets more and more interesting..."
Ranko set both of them down at the table. "Now... please, Big Brother, behave? We are guests here, can we act like it? That goes for you too, Papa."
Akane snorted. It figured. With her daddy, it didn't surprise her that these people acted like weirdos. Well, they were still guests and she was going to make them feel welcome. She walked over to Ranko and stuck her hand out. "I'm Akane, want to be friends?"
Ranko smiled, showing her fangs. "Can we?" She was genuinely enthusiastic.
Elsewhere a dark presence, living in a place of almost complete darkness, laughed as it watched the Tendo and Saotome family meeting unfold in its vision crystal. The crystal floated above an outcropping of rock, giving off the only source of light to be found in that place which seemed to resemble the shape of a cave.
"Oh, no, Miss Tendo, you'll not escape my influence that easily. You can't become friends with that demon bitch. You are far too useful for me to allow that to happen. Since the day you saw me take your mother, you have born my mark. You were to young to take then, but very soon, once you've become powerful enough and have become what I want, I'll come to take you as well." He laughed again, a cruel mimicry of gaiety sounding as if the very idea of humor had been twisted and thrust through a grinder before being spilt upon the air.
"This demon girl, on the other hand could destroy my plans. My hold on that city must remain absolute. The power wells there are far too great to allow anyone else to posses them. You will help me destroy that demoness, won't you, my pet, Akane!"
As Ranko smiled, Akane saw her fangs and everything seemed to slow down for the youngest Tendo daughter. A memory lept to the forefront of her mind, unbidden. An image of a dark creature, vaguely humanoid in shape, sharp fangs which glittered in the wan moonlight. In that instant, she hated that creature with every fiber of her being. Her attitude changed slightly, as something in her mind seemed to whisper that the person before was a creature just like the ones that haunted her dreams. Dark, evil creatures that if they weren't taken care of, would be a danger to those she loved. Unwillingly, she found her control faltering over her emotions as her eyes narrowed and the corners of her mouth turned downward.
Ranko began to get nervous as she noticed something about Akane change. There was a faint, red glow around her new friend's body. The glow scared her as she felt the evil which was suddenly radiated off the Tendo girl in subtle but powerful waves akin to leaves disturbing the stillness of a lake. She quickly shook Akane's hand before edging away from her as if that small amount of distance would provide her with added safety.
Ranko's sudden nervousness didn't go unnoticed by Ranma. "Sis, what's wrong?"
Kasumi smiled as she brought in more tea. "Ranko's probably just a little nervous by that red glow that Akane gets from time to time." She looked thoughtful. "Its usually before she gets really mad and then destroys something."
Akane got a worried look on her face. She didn't know she had been that obvious. Ranma eyed her, critically. Her aura seemed off to him, a contradiction. For some reason she seemed to be filled with evil, but he shrugged that off as being impossible. She was far too young for that kind of evil, since generally whenever he had encountered something with that much evil, it had been around for several centuries at least. Something like that demon he had fought several weeks ago.
Nabiki, for once, couldn't say anything. She was still in shock by what she had just heard. Her jaw was still hanging open, which her sister Kasumi politely closed for her, causing an audible "click" sound when her teeth came together. "Nabiki, please keep your mouth closed, its not nice to make faces at our guests."
Nabiki hadn't heard her. Akane with a red glow surrounding her body? Why is that happening again? The last time she had that glow around her body was shortly before she beat the crap out of that kid in school, but there had been a reason for that. She had said so. Why is it happening now? Nabiki tried to sort things out in her mind, not noticing the conversation going on around her.
Akane giggled a bit, sounding nervous. "So, Ranko, do you practice any martial arts?"
Ranko smiled as she replied, but made no move to get closer. "Yes, Papa taught me quite a bit of Anything Goes, amongst others." She frowned. "But, I don't like fighting. I don't want to hurt people."
Akane smiled, slyly. "Do you like to spar?"
The winged girl smiled. "Sparring is OK. Its kinda like wrestling with friends, right?"
Ranma frowned. Warning bells were going off in his head for the second time that day, but he couldn't explain why.
The youngest Tendo daughter nodded. "Then, I CHALLENGE YOU!..." noticed everyone was staring at her and she gulped nervously as she continued. "To a sparring match."
Ranma put his hand up to stop Ranko from getting up. "Sis, I think you should pass on this challenge. Its been a long day." Ranma couldn't explain why something seemed to be screaming 'danger' in his mind. It was almost like Akane was a monster. Yet, all he could see was someone who was very angry for some reason. Something was very wrong here. The level of evil coming off the Tendo girl was impossible and confusing to him. Humans shouldn't be able to give off that kind of power unless... Realization suddenly dawned on him as he recalled something. Humans couldn't generate that kind of power unless they were possessed or being controlled by something far far older. He really did not want to have to face what might be controlling her. That demon had been hard enough to destroy.
The panda growfed at Ranma, holding up a sign. She has to accept the challenge.
"Wow! What a neat trick!" exclaimed Nabiki. "Where'd he learn to do that?"
Ranko giggled. "I gave him a magic sign holder so he could 'talk' to us while he was a panda. I'm just not sure how I made the sign..."
"What do mean 'she has to accept the challenge'?"
The honor of the Saotome name is at stake. She must accept the challenge!
"No, there's something wrong here. The fight wouldn't be fair. Honor is one thing, but shouldn't the fight be balanced?"
Ranma, if she doesn't learn to use her abilities, how will she defend herself when you aren't around?
Ranma sighed. "OK, you're right." Ranma turned his gaze towards Akane, his deep blue eyes seeming to look right into her. "However, this is a sparring match. I wouldn't like it if you tried to hurt my sister."
"Fine, whatever." Akane's thoughts were along a darker line. I'll show them who's their enemy. No vampire is going to endanger my family and get away with it.
Akane headed out to the dojo, her eyes glowing a feint red, briefly.
----------- IV -----------
A few minutes later, Ranko was talking with Ranma on one side of the dojo. Her wings stayed folded against her back for the most part, occasionally unfolding slightly in response to her emotions before collapsing back to their original position. Akane was doing warmup exercises on the other. Genma, Soun, and Kasumi sat against the walls of the dojo to watch.
When they were ready, Ranko moved to the opposite side of the dojo from where Akane was. The angry girl had stopped excercising and appeared impatient for the match to start.
Ranko turned to face Akane, and Nabiki stood slightly to one side of them, with her arm held between the combatants to seperate them having fully recovered from the shock she had been in earlier.
"Ready!" She said, pausing for a moment as both combatants nodded and then dropped her arm in a slicing motion. "Begin!"
Akane confidently stepped forward and took a few swings at Ranko. The red-haired girl ducked the first one, leaned back so that the second one missed her, and then jumped to avoid the surprise leg sweep, tucking her legs under her body as she did, but quickly unfolding to land on her feet.
She watched the angry girl carefully, noting the narrowed eyes, the deep frown, and the flushed look on her face as she realized that Akane was getting frustrated.
"Come on and fight me!" yelled the youngest Tendo while doing a power punch following up with a palm thrust. Both attacks missed their marks as Ranko nimbly did a reverse hand spring to avoid them.
The winged-girl realized that Akane's attacks had quickly gone from sparring level to full on fight in her attempt to land a blow on the agile girl.
"Akane, this was supposed to a sparring match!" was the response as Ranko moved to the side of the black-haired girl's next foot strike. She grabbed the outstretched ankle and pulled in the direction of momentum, very slightly. This caused the 16-year old teenager to momentarily lose her balance and hastily put that same foot on the ground. That gave the red-haired girl enough time to put one hand on Akane's thigh and do a cartwheel over her head, doing a twist and flip so that she landed behind the angry girl in a defensive stance.
Akane fumed even more. She dares to mock me? I'll show her! she thought, darkly.
Both combatants stared at each other momentarily, their expressions telegraphing their thoughts: Akane's was angry and Ranko's was nervous and fearful.
Ranma growled, getting ready to put a halt to this grudge fight, only to be stopped by Genma's outstretched arm. He turn to look at his pop's face and saw him shake his head.
"You know she has to fight alone, Ranma. You can't interfere."
"She's trying to kill her!" he whispered fiercely.
"Then that makes this good training, right?"
Ranma started to respond when he realized Akane was attacking his sister again. Reluctantly, he sat back down. Deep down he knew his father was right about Ranko needing to rely on herself for defense, but she was his sister and he had a hard time watching anyone pick on her.
The mask of fury that was Akane Tendo went into a series of punches and kicks, forcing Ranko to retreat from the blows that were thrown at her. The red-haired girl suddenly dropped into a ball and rolled backwards before she popped out of the roll, flipped, and landed in a battle-ready stance, facing her surprised opponent. The surprise didn't last long as the black-haired teenager charged forward continuing to press her attack on the youngest Saotome.
"Why won't you fight back, you coward!" Akane's exclamation held the shakiness of indignant fury.
Ranko ducked one of Akane's punches. The angry girl's fist connected with the top of the red-head's wing. Ranko suddenly screamed out in agony as an audible snapping sound was heard causing Kasumi to wince as did Ranma. The wing fell, slightly, in what was clearly an unnatural bend. Ranko's eyes closed as tears welled up and leaked out, leaving tracts on her petite face.
"You broke my wing! That hurt, you meanie!"
Ranko opened her eyes, still sniffling and crying as she noticed her fist was out in front of her, pointing upwards, as if she had just thrown an uppercut. She sniffled again and stopped crying.
"Um, where's Akane?" She asked, confused. She noticed Nabiki's shocked expression and everyone else was looking up. She followed their gaze, noticing the hole in the roof that she didn't remember being there a few minutes ago. Soun was crying huge rivers of tears and wailing. (#120 My baby will fall to her death and go splat!). Ranko's mouth hung open at seeing someone crying that much as well as the fact she understood why he was crying. She wondered if she was ever that bad, but quickly decided there was no way she could be.
Where's Akane? she thought, really confused. And where'd that hole come from?
"Geez, sis, you really nailed her a good one," said her brother. He turned to look at his father. "Hey, pop, how high do you think she'll go?"
Genma shook his head before responding. "I don't know. Still, that distance does appear to be fatal, even for a martial artist..."
That got Soun crying even more, virtually flooding the entire dojo with tears. (#123 My baby is doomed and no one will save her!)
Ranko's eyes narrowed. "Would someone tell me where Akane is and what's going on?"
"You mean you don't know?" Nabiki finally snapped out of the shock she was in, staring at Ranko incredulously. "You hit her with a strong uppercut which apparently had some power behind it."
Ranko paled as she listened to Nabiki's explanation. She looked up through the whole again and saw the fluttering of Akane's skirt in the distance, could hear her screaming out, fearfully.
"Akane! Ohmygod!" Ranko's wings flexed and she was gone in a burst of speed, up through the same hole Akane had made in the ceiling, moving fast enough that she caused all the females' dresses and skirts to flutter.
"Sis-?" Ranma stopped when he realized Ranko was already gone in a blur to save Akane.
In a matter of seconds, Ranko had flown up and caught her opponent by the legs and started slowing her descent. Akane, when she realized she wasn't falling anymore, stopped screaming. Then, she realized who was saving her and started beating on any part of the winged-girl's body that was within reach. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the younger Saotome's arms and legs.
"Get your hands off me, you filthy blood-sucker!" she yelled at her red-haired would-be savior.
"Akane, please stop this! If I let you go, the fall will kill you!" Ranko's voice was full of worry and concern. She didn't know how to deal with someone like Akane.
Akane's hand made contact with Ranko's cheek. The effect was instantaneous as Akane's surroundings disappeared, quickly being replaced by the dojo. Ranko stepped away from the angry girl, rubbing her cheek.
"You hit me, you meanie! What'd I ever do to you?"
Akane staggered back, getting her bearings while she tried to figure out what just happened.
"She teleported! Incredible!" Nabiki mumbled, shaking her head. "Vampires can't teleport!" That notwithstanding, it's impossible for teleportation to occur! What about the power-to-mass ratios?
As Ranko's opponent finally got the cobwebs cleared from her head, she noticed that Ranko was across from her and crying. She growled and charged the winged girl.
Ranko continued to cry, her wings fluttering as if in emulation of her emotions, seeming to not have noticed her own reaction to Akane's attack. Akane growled from the hole in the wall she was embedded in as she struggled to get back to her feet.
Nabiki snapped out of her stupified feeling as she realized she needed to do something before her little sister gets really hurt with that anger of hers. "Hey, Ranko! I think Akane wants to give you a big hug!"
Ranko instantly stopped crying, looking up with a hopeful expression on her face. "R-really?" She sniffled then eeped as she dodged Akane's charge.
The angry girl started a constant barrage of punches and kicks, hoping to get at least a lucky strike in at her opponent.
"Hey! No Fair!" Exclaimed Ranko as she quickly found herself backed up against the dojo wall.
The red glow around Akane's body was getting brighter. "At last, the final attack!" Akane threw her entire weight into a forward punch aimed at Ranko's chest. Ranko jumped, landing in a handstand on her opponent's shoulders, staying there long enough for the youngest Tendo daughter to look up into a petite and smiling face framed by red hair before two things happened at once. Ranko flipped off Akane's shoulders, landing behind the black-haired girl while the Tendo girl's fist went through the dojo wall. A board was knocked loose, falling on Akane's head and sending her reeling. Her sense of balance was completely thrown off for a moment. The red glow wavered a bit before returning to a steady red that was even brighter than before. It was so bright that everyone in the dojo could see it.
"What the-?" Asked Nabiki.
"Akane! Are you okay?" Ranko ran over to help steady the obviously ticked-off girl. However, her opponent would have none of it. As the winged red-head reached a hand out to support her hoped-for friend, she suddenly found herself being thrown over Akane's shoulders in a basic Judo throw.
Ranko curled into a ball as she hit the floor and rolled away from the black-haired teenage girl. She popped back on her feet and turned, glaring at Akane. "Stop it! This will get you nowhere!"
Kasumi watched the battle rage on, speechless. Akane's anger has gotten worse. How could we have allowed this to happen? She winced as she watched one of Akane's punches connect, sending Ranko flying backwards, without the aid of her wings. I hope Ranko is okay after all this.
Akane jumped at Ranko, trying a flying back kick. The winged girl ducked and rolled forward. The Tendo girl landed, but quickly went into a round house kick, catching Ranko in the side as her opponent was just getting to her feet and turning around. The force of Akane's kick flung her across the dojo, heading for a wall. She twisted in the air so that her legs would hit the wall first and bounced off the surface, heading back towards her opponent. "Ranko Saotome Final Attack! Amazon Teddy Bear Hug!" the red-head yelled as she grabbed Akane in a strong bear hug, squeezing slightly so that Akane found herself immobilized, her arms pinned to her sides. She was too surprised by the nature of Ranko's attack to react as the momentum from the winged-girl's movements carried them both to the floor. Ranko's hands glowed with a bluish light as both combatants landed, looking almost as if they were prone lovers. By the time they had stopped sliding across the floor, Akane was in a deep but peaceful sleep.
The darkness, once silent, was rent asunder by a roar of rage. "No! She isn't supposed to have healing powers! She's a demon! It just isn't possible!" He growled, angrily. "That demon bastard has weakened my hold on the Tendo girl!"
He continued to brood, watching the drama as it continued in his crystal.
"You will not destroy my plans, bitch. You do not have enough power to do so." As he realized the truth, as he knew it to be, he started laughing again.
Back at the dojo, Ranko had started crying again. "Why did she start acting that way? Did I do something wrong? I didn't mean it if I did! I only wanted to be friends!"
Soun's eye twitched. "Incredible. Its... its the infamous martial arts move rarely seen outside of the legendary Chinese Amazon tribes. The martial arts move used to defeat an enemy without having to kill him by touching specific nerve points on the back. The Amazon Teddy Bear Hug! Oh, to think I should live so long as to see it done in front of me." He was crying again, though these were happy tears. Not that anyone around him could really tell from the rivers he was releasing into the room.
Ranma smirked. "Well, Mr. Tendo. Anything Goes, right? That was a... friendlier way to stop th' fight, 'cause Ranko didn't want ta hurt yer daughter." Inside, Ranma was concerned. Though he could tell Akane was angry, he could also feel something in the air. It was a familiar feeling of something evil being in control. Like the last town, he thought.
Kasumi smiled. "How nice. Such a pleasant girl, don't you think so, Nabiki?"
"Yeah, sis, whatever." Nabiki stared at the scene that just occurred, her mind reeling. That... was an attack? Who in their right mind uses an attack that sounds THAT cute????
---------- V ----------
After a little while, everyone gathered around the table. By that time, Akane had awaken from the healing sleep Ranko had put her under. She looked somewhat haggard, hair mussed up and heavy baggage under her eyes as if she hadn't slept for a few days, but her eyes seemed clearer and the annoying red glow was gone.
"Could someone please explain all this?" Asked a very bewildered Soun. Motioning at Ranma-chan and Ranko. A surprise attack by his father, earlier, had resulted in Ranma swimming with the Koi, and getting admonishments from his father to keep his guard up next time.
"Tendo, it was awful!" began Genma, obviously fake crying into his arm. (It was obvious to Ranma at least. Ranko was trying to figure out what was wrong with her papa.) "My son got so cocky and just had to go to these "special" training-urk!"
Ranma-chan watched in satisfaction as her father flew out the back door, landing into the koi pond with a satisfying splash. She withdrew her arm from the strike position she had held it in as she seethed. Stupid old man! Try and blame me for your stupidity...
"Papa! Big Brother! Both of you stop it! We are guests in someone else's home and you're both acting like... like..." She seemed to struggle with finding the right word she wanted. Her eyes lighted up a moment later. "You're both acting like children, again!" Her mouth was bent in a frown, eyes narrowed slightly, wings unfolded a bit, arms crossed.
Ranma gulped and hastily sat back down next to her sister. One thing she did not want was to upset Ranko. She had learned the hard way how painful that could be, on both her ears and her body.
Genma panda also gulped, sweating profusely as he also hastily sat down where he was supposed to.
"Oh, my..." Kasumi said, softly as she watched yet another Saotome argument get defused by Ranko. The child definitely had potential.
Ranko's demeanor quickly changed as she sat back down, smiling, her wings once again folded against her back.
Then, her expression changed again as she remembered the question that had been asked, letting out a sorrowful sigh. "Well, it all started when Papa got this idea for taking us to some 'special training grounds' which he heard had been used by the best martial artists in the world..."
The Saotome family, Genma, Ranma, and Ranko wandered through the jungles of China. The father led his two children as he navigated the area, in search of their destination. In his hands he held a book, which was opened to a map he was apparently following, albeit he seemed to be making a lot of changes in their travel route. The book said "Tourists Guide to the Abandoned Cursed Training Grounds of China" along the spine.
It had been a long trek for them having been on the search for the grounds for two weeks when they finally wandered into a valley enshrouded in very thick fog. Genma scratched his head, puzzled. He could've sword they'd been by there not too long ago and not only had there been no valley, but there had been no fog either. He shrugged, figuring that those ancient manuscripts he had stolen from that tribe about destination summoning must've helped. It was no matter either way. They had found what he hoped was the right place. Still, it was hard for him to tell much due to the thickness of the fog. In a corner of his mind, he wondered how fog that thick could've appeared so quickly. The rest of his mind quickly brushed that thought aside.
Cautiously, they moved forward, struggling to see in front of them through the thick haze of fog. About the only thing which appeared to be visible was a hut several hundred yards away from them.
Genma immediately started heading towards the hut when he was stopped by the realization that his children weren't following him.
"Sis, what's wrong?" asked Ranma, before Genma could even open his mouth.
Ranko shuddered, eyes darting around as if she expected something to attack at any minute. "There's death here, Big Brother. I can feel it." She gulped audibly before continuing. "This is a bad place. We shouldn't be here."
Genma, upon hearing this, smiled inside, but hid it under a mask of determination. Evil? Good. That will be great in helping Ranma become a man among men. That way, Nodoka won't be able to consider me the failure she always took me for. His thoughts were shrewd, but silent as he worked on getting his children to the springs. Yes, fighting more evil would definitely show Ranma to be a man.
"Come on," he said, his voice oddly persuasive. "We're almost there! That's the guide's hut." He pointed to the cloth structure they saw nearby, hiding the tour book behind his back which was opened to the section that made note of where to find the lone person who lived at the springs.
Ranma had learned the hard way about not listening to his sister whenever she had these feelings. The last time he had ignored her (read: listened to his father), he ended up fighting some tall, ugly, and strong thing with lots of scales and a sharp tail calling itself a youma. It had been a grueling fight and one he thought he had just barely managed to win.
Since that time, he had tried to listen to Ranko whenever she reacted that way. One thing he knew for certain about her: if evil was nearby, she could feel it. From the way she was shuddering, he could tell that she was quite scared.
Whatever she's sensing must be very powerful, he thought.
He looked back the way they had come and realized he could no longer see the entrance to the valley. That was odd since they had not walked forward very far.
The young martial artists looked back at his sister and saw her eyes wide with fright as she shook her head. A meaning was conveyed in that movement that only siblings could understand. He knew what it meant: it was too late, whatever was here already had them in its trap. Ranma wasn't worried. He'd find whatever thought it could mess with his family and show it why it couldn't do that. It never occurred to him that there were some things that might actually be beyond his abilities for if he failed the first time, he'd keep training and trying until he finally defeated what he faced.
"Pop, ya remember what happened last time we didn't listen to her feelings..." Ranma began.
Genma remembered the incident, vaguely, but quickly discarded it. After all, demons could be lurking anywhere, right? So it had to have been a fluke. Besides, Ranma did take care of the creature. Course, it did do quite a number on him and required his sister's extensive talents. Personally, he thought the boy would've learned more if he'd had to heal himself, but he also knew they didn't really have time to wait. Certain other things had almost caught up to them by that time.
He stopped his thinking as he realized he had gone off on a tangent and decided to get back to important matters at hand, mainly his belligerent son.
The balding martial artists bristled. "Are you a coward? Since when has studying martial arts been safe?"
The teenage boy felt his face darken. "I ain't no coward, old man!"
Genma grinned. He's all to easy to play. "Then prove it once we get to the training grounds."
They continued walking towards the hut, stopping as they saw a plum man in chinese-style clothes of green and black step out of the hut.
"Oh, honored guests, I been expecting you," he spoke in broken Japanese as he bowed to Genma and his family.
The Saotomes all bowed in return.
"It is an honor to be here, sir," replied Ranko, formally. Her father remained uncharacteristically quiet.
"Shall we begin the tour?" The guide asked as he waved them beyond the hut.
Genma nodded, excitedly. "Yes, can we? I've heard so much about this place."
The guide nodded as he started walked into the fog. As he entered the murky grayness, the fog seemed to clear in certain areas, giving them site of a large valley with many small pools of water, each with a bamboo pole sticking out of it.
The guide pulled out some note cards and began reading from them. "This here Cursed Training Grounds, Jyusenkyo. There more than three hundred pools here, each with own tragic story." He switched cards.
Genma nodded to himself. This will do nicely for training. "Come on, Ranma! Time to train!" he yelled, leaping up on a nearby pole and waiting, while he balanced on one leg.
Ranko got a suddenly panicked look on her face. "N-no! If we stay here to train, something bad will happen!" She looked up into her big brother's face, her eyes pleading. She could feel the magic in the place and the intelligence behind the magic. "Big Brother, this place is alive!"
The guide nodded in agreement. " You should listen to the young miss. It very bad if you fall in one of those springs."
The balding martial artist fumed as he noticed his son balking. He was the father after all, why wasn't his son doing what he said? "What's the matter, Ranma? Afraid? Come up here and fight, you chicken!"
Ranma growled in response. "Alright, old man. You asked for it!" He leapt onto one of the poles several feet away from his father and faced him.
"No!" Ranko cried out, but she already knew it was too late. Her wings extended from the slits in the back of her shirt to their full extension, fluttering a bit before she got control of herself and folded them back against her body.
The guide looked a little startled. "Young miss, you half dragon?" His voice was full of awe.
Ranko blushed and shrugged. "I don't know."
Behind them, the battle began with predictable results. Genma and Ranma both made flying jump kicks at each other. They connected, both opponents striking the other sending them both flying in opposite directions, heading for a pool.
Ranko moved so fast that she was in the air before the Guide even realized she had moved. She grabbed her brother by the hand, felt him grasp onto hers as she struggled to lift him away from the danger. For some reason, he felt heavier. To her dismay, he started to sink towards the pool below them. She grit her teeth and put all her considerable strength into pulling her brother to safety. A distant part of her mind knew she was doomed to failure, but she ignored it, continuing to try and save her brother.
Another part of her mind recognized the sounds of a splash somewhere behind her followed by a noise that sounded like an animal growling.
She started to perspire as she realized she was losing the battle. Whatever fate the springs held in store for him, they were winning, but Ranko wasn't going to give up without a fight.
Before either of them could react, a tendril of pure, white energy shot out of the spring beneath them and grabbed Ranma's right leg, encircling it like a snake before pulling him downwards toward itself at a faster rate. Ranko growled as she did something she tried not to do: she raised her right hand, a ball of yellow energy forming there. "Let him go!" She yelled.
A second tendril of energy emerged from the pool and struck Ranko across the chest, sending her careening out of control as her body skipped across the tops of several pools before falling into one.
"Sis!" Ranma yelled as he was pulled into the water below him.
The guide stood there speechless as he watched the events unfold before him. He'd never seen this kind of thing before, but there were written records of something similar which happened several hundred years ago. He shuddered as once again the Jyusenkyo Guide's mantra went through his head: Those who were destined for Jyusenkyo, pity them now for it shall have its way with them.
He noted the panda which emerged from the far pool. "Oh, sir, too bad. You fall in spring of Drowned Panda! Legend say one thousand five hundred years ago a great panda fall in spring and drowned. Now, whoever fall in spring take body of panda."
He realized the boy had not emerged from where he had been pulled in. Quickly, he ran over to the pool and pulled the body of a teenaged girl out of the water. She was unconscious but still breathing. The form did not surprise him, since he knew what pool he had fallen in. Indeed he knew where and what every pool in Jyusenkyo was.
The panda had made it back over to where the guide was as had the strange girl with wings. He was surprised to note that she was uncursed, in spite of the fact that she had fallen in Spring of Drowned Dragon. He wondered yet again at her heritage. That would explain why she hadn't been changed after being thrown into the spring.
"Honored guest, your son fell in Spring of Drowned Girl. Legend say five thousand year ago, young woman being chased by warriors of Musk fall in spring and drowned. Now, whoever fall in spring take body of girl."
The guide took his visitors back to his hut, still carrying Ranma-chan. After he laid her prone body on a spare futon, he started a fire.
While gazing at the girl with wings, he said, "Young miss, you sure you not part dragon? You fall in Spring of Drowned Dragon but not change. Never before has this one seen that occur. All before you change when fall in pool."
Ranko shrugged, but remained quiet, looking at her brother with concern.
"Oh, my," summed up Kasumi, putting her hand to her mouth.
Soun frowned looking at Ranko's wings again. "Um... then you aren't under a Jyusenkyo curse?"
Ranko giggled. "Of course not! What would make you think that?"
Soun gulped. Nabiki saved him trying to explain himself. "Gee, Daddy, its not everyday that you meet a girl with wings. And she's not cursed? Now that is news for the tabloids..."
Akane shook her head, sadly. Fools and madmen seemed to populate this city, especially her home!
Genma was crying. "Oh, you don't know the shame of it. My son turns into a girl half the time. How can I raise him to be a man- erk?"
Genma was cutoff as Ranma gave him a flying kick into the koi pond, again. "Geez. You don't have to make such a big deal about this. At least I don't turn into a panda!"
Kasumi quickly snapped herself out of her reverie. As Soun began talking again. "Well, Saotome, I don't see the problem. He's still a young man, so he can still marry one of my daughters!"
The panda used the kettle Kasumi handed him to change back into his human form. "That's right, Tendo!" Said Genma, as he sat his wet self back down at the table, next to his old friend.
"Well, you've already met my daughters, son, " said Soun, indicating Akane, Nabiki, and Kasumi. "Choose one of them and they will be your wife."
Akane growled. "There ain't no way I want any part of this. There's no way I want to marry this... weirdo with his even weirder sister."
Ranma was on his feet. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what I said. You're a weirdo! I bet you ogle yourself in the mirror when you're a girl."
Ranma growled. "No I don't!" He stopped suddenly as his angry expression became one of confusion. "Um... what's ogle mean?"
Akane facefaulted, but quickly recovered, glowering at the red-head without wings.
Ranko tapped her brother on the shoulder. He waved her off. His sister nervously watched Akane as she gripped the sides of the table. Hesitantly, she decided to put some distance between herself and the impending attack which Ranma seemed to be steering himself into.
Soun frowned. Kasumi spoke up before he could say anything. "Father, since I am the eldest, I should be the one to carry the family honor." Kasumi smiled at Ranma and Ranko both.
Yes, she thought. Ranko needs someone to look after her.
The eldest of Soun's daughters felt a sort of motherly instinct which seemed to be awakened by the young red-head's presence.
Soun nodded in approval. "Very good, Kasumi-dear. You make your father very proud."
Akane and Ranma continued to glare at each other. "Fine," began Ranma, smiling briefly at Kasumi before turning to glare back at Akane. "As long as I don't have to marry this uncute, macho tomboy bitch..." She turned and started to walk away.
Ranma never saw the table which Akane picked up and slammed down over his head, causing it to break into several pieces in the process. "Tomboy bitch, am I? Fine! Die, pervert!"
Genma snorted. "Ranma, my boy, you had that coming. Maybe next time you'll have better manners when talking to someone of the opposite sex." His eyes widened, suddenly. "And besides, someone with your martial arts skills should have been able to avoid that attack with ease! I'm ashamed of you, boy!"
Ranko was at Ranma's side in an instant. "Geez, Akane, you could have seriously hurt him!" She began checking her brother for signs of serious injury. She sighed in relief after realizing he'd only been knocked out. She knew how well his injuries usually healed and how remarkable it was, but she still worried about him.
The angry girl snorted. "Yeah, right. That shouldn't have even fazed him if he has studied any martial arts at all. Especially Anything Goes! What a moron."
Ranko tried to glare at the one who had just hurt her big brother. She seemed to be struggling to say something. "You... you... meanie!" she finally yelled. Akane facefaulted, expecting a worse insult. As she recovered, she rubbed her nose which was bruised from her unfriendly meeting with the floor.
Soun frowned. "Akane, even though Ranma did insult you, that was no reason to attack him like that."
Nabiki looked at her younger sister. "Yeah, sis. Do you know how much its going to cost to get a new table to replace that one?"
The black-haired Tendo daughter growled. "Fine, side with... these... weirdos then. Its not my fault none of you see the danger you're in! See if I try and protect you from them!" She stormed upstairs slamming her door. She'd show them there was danger here. She'd show them that she wasn't the bad guy.
After dinner (which was a quiet event), Kasumi asked Ranko if she wanted to help her with the dishes.
The winged-red-head looked up, her eyes sparkling. "Do you mean it, big sister Kasumi?"
Kasumi smiled. She could get used to having Ranma's sister around. "Of course."
The two went in to clean dishes and Ranko learned the art of Martial Arts Dish Catching after she dropped a few while washing them. Kasumi merely smiled and showed her what she had done wrong. After a little while, both were finished with the task.
The way the two got along didn't go unnoticed by Ranma who watched them both very carefully. Kasumi honestly seemed to like having Ranko around. Ranma felt this was a good thing if true. However, looks weren't everything and he didn't trust everything he saw.
"Ranko, would you like to take a bath now?" asked the oldest Tendo daughter after they had finished cleaning.
Her new little sister nodded her head.
The eldest Tendo daughter led Ranko upstairs to the bathroom flipping the sign over as she did. "I'll get these washed for you Ranko-chan as you take a bath. I'll see if I can find something for you to wear in the meantime."
The youngest Saotome smiled brightly. "OK, Big Sister. Thanks."
While Ranko was taking her bath, Kasumi showed Ranma and Genma to the guest room. They put their packs in there, getting themselves settled in. Soun had told them they would be staying awhile to which Genma heartily agreed.
Ranma wondered about it all since so far everything they'd been doing went against what his father had taught him. Still, he refrained from asking the panda anything since he knew he wouldn't get any answers, at least none that would make sense to him.
Ranko relaxed in the furo after already scrubbing down and rinsing off with cold water. It was so nice to be able to soak for a bit after sparring. Remembering that whole incident caused her to sigh, sadly. She never understood why everyone always treated her like she was evil. She wasn't. She was just...different. She didn't know why she had wings and fangs and her parents didn't know either. Sometimes, having the extra things made her feel so... ugly.
She was snapped out of her melancholy thoughts by the sound of someone knocking on the door.
"Um, come in?" she hesitantly responded. She relaxed as Kasumi opened the door.
Kasumi walked in, carrying a change of clothes. She smiled brightly as she entered, closing the door behind her.
"Your pants are into wash, Ranko-chan," she began as she took a seat on the steps of the furo.
Her future sister-in-law nodded.
"Unfortunately, we don't have any shirts or blouses that would fit a girl with wings. Do you have any clothes besides what you arrived with?" The eldest Tendo sister wasn't about to make Ranko stuff her wings into a blouse like their new guest had.
Ranko shook her head. "No, traveling with Papa all the time left us with very little money. So we never really had many chances to buy new clothes."
Kasumi hid the shock she felt upon having her suspicions confirmed. "What about a bra?" She had a feeling she already knew the answer to that question, considering how the teenager had arrived, but she still needed confirmation.
The winged-redhead's face scrunched up in thought for a moment before she answered. "What's a bra?"
This time, the elder Tendo's shock was quite visible as she felt her mouth hang open. She quickly shut it. "Nobody explained what a bra was to you or why you need to wear one?"
Ranko shook her head again.
Kasumi idly wondered how panda steaks would taste for dinner before shaking the thought off. She suddenly had a bad feeling about this as she asked her next question. "Has anyone explained anything about being a girl to you?"
Ranko looked thoughtful for a moment then nodded. "Yes. Papa says women are weak while men are strong. Women should stay home and bare children - "
Kasumi held up her hand, causing Ranko to stop. "I understand what he meant, Ranko-chan." This is not going to be easy. Panda steaks? More like Panda Shish kabob.
"Ranko-chan, there are some important things I need to go over with you tonight, but we will wait until everyone else is asleep."
"Because they are private things, Ranko-chan."
"Tomorrow, while your brother starts school, we'll have to go shopping. There are some things you need in addition to clothes. Fortunately, I know of a few places that make custom clothing so getting something made to fit your wings should be easy."
Ranko nodded, smiling. Clothes... she'd never been taken to buy clothes before. For a moment, she dared to dream that she could look pretty, but a glance at her reflection in the water dashed those hopes. Her face quickly fell.
Kasumi was quick to notice this. "What's wrong, Ranko-chan? Don't you want your own things, your own clothes?"
Tears started welling up in the young Saotome's eyes as she nodded. "Yes..."
"What's wrong then?" Kasumi repeated, baffled by the red-head's reaction.
"Big sister, will I ever look pretty like you?" Came the reply in a small, quiet voice, almost like that of a child.
This time, Kasumi held her shock in check. "Of course you can, Ranko! You are already pretty! Why would you think otherwise?"
Ranko started crying in earnest. The oldest Tendo daughter embraced the young girl who was trying to respond through her sniffles. "My wings, my fangs, even my pointed ears make me look hideous!"
"Oh, Ranko-chan, that isn't true. They make you special, not hideous. Surely you can see that?"
The crying girl sniffled as she broke from her big sister's embrace and looked up at her. "Really?"
Kasumi smiled. "Oh, yes, dear. You are pretty. You just need to learn how to do certain things to make yourself beautiful. Would you like to learn that?"
Ranko nodded excitedly. "When will you teach me, big sister?"
Kasumi laughed. "Soon, Ranko-chan, soon. First, you need to learn about other things."
The winged teenager's face fell again. "But what about my wings and fangs?"
"Those are part of what make you you, Ranko. They can also enhance your beauty."
The red-head was all smiles again.
"For now, we'll concentrate on clothes. I've borrowed another bikini top from Nabiki as well as some jeans for you, since you are about Nabiki's size. The jeans will look better on you than those slacks you were wearing."
Ranko nodded again.
"And tomorrow, we can get you a proper lady's wardrobe."
Ranma's sister perked up at that, still not daring to believe it. "Really? Do you mean it?"
Kasumi giggled. "Yes, Ranko, I do."
Ranko flung her arms around Kasumi's neck in a girlish hug. "You're the best, big sister!"
The happy moment was shattered by a shout from across the entryway to the furro. "Get your fangs out of my sister!"
Ranko looked up, had time to push Kasumi back out of the line of fire before a solid kick rocked her head backwards and sent her flying across the bath where she slammed into the wall head first before she fell back into the water, unmoving.
Kasumi quickly recovered from her shock, eyes narrowed in anger as she rounded on the person who had just entered the room. She did something she rarely ever did: she got mad.
"Akane! That was uncalled for! Ranko is a guest here and you've done nothing but be mean to her!"
Akane was at a loss. She hadn't expected this kind of reaction for saving her sister. Being on the receiving end of her big sister's anger was not something any of them had ever seen before and the youngest Tendo daughter did not like it. She didn't understand what had happened at all. It had all been so obvious to her.
"W-well, when I walked in, Ranko was trying to sink her fangs into you-!"
Kasumi cut her off, thoroughly tired of Akane's unreasonable anger towards Ranko. "It just so happens that Ranko was giving me a hug. She was not trying to bite me!"
Akane's mind reeled. Why couldn't they see the ploy being used against them? Ranko acted all innocent until she got one of them alone and then she attacked, sucking the blood from their bodies. It was an old ploy. Her family couldn't be that dense not to see it.
Ranma, Nabiki, Genma and Soun were in the bathroom in a flash before Akane knew what was going on. "Akane, what happened?" Ranma almost staggered from the force of evil that was coming from the youngest Tendo daughter.
Akane was in a rage, tears coming down the side of her face. "Her kind took my mother from me! Her kind are the ones to blame for her not being here! And now she's turning my whole family against me!" By now, her aura had made itself known and tripled in size. A voice inside Akane's mind, seemed to be laughing.
Ranma stepped forward, visibly agitated. "Calm down, Akane. Ranko's not a vampire. I wish you'd get it through your head. She's not your enemy!"
About this time, Soun had started up the Tendo Waterworks #46, My Baby Girl Has No Honor!...
The dark creature laughed from its shadowy lair as it watched the events unfold in its crystal. "That's it, my pet! Destroy those who would interfere in my plans! The demon girl and her brother must not be allowed to live!"
Akane held her head for a moment, looking almost like she had the worst headache ever as her eyes widened, pupils shrinking as a look of madness seemed to come over her face. She launched herself at Ranma. "Like hell she isn't! She has the fangs! She has the wings! She's a vampire!" Ranma suddenly found himself on the defensive from the angry girl's attacks.
This isn't possible! She can't have this speed and strength! he thought as he continued to block and dodge her punches and kicks. He looked into her eyes and shivered as he realized there was no sanity there. His earlier hunch had been correct. Something had to be controlling her. The question was what?
As the fight between her fiance and her youngest sister progressed, Kasumi saw an opportunity to stop this and acted on it. Moving ever so slightly, she touched an area on Akane's neck, causing the angry girl to suddenly stiffen and collapse into Ranma's arms. The glow that was surrounding Akane's body, quickly winked out.
Ranko's brother looked startled as he went from fighting his opponent to holding her.
The Tendo Patriarch's wailing changed to #78, My Little Girl Had To Be Knocked Out By Her Big Sister!...
Kasumi ran over to Ranko's unmoving form which was slowly sinking under the water and pulled her out of the bathtub.
"Ranko-chan? Ranko, dear are you OK?" She put her head over the winged-girl's mouth and listened. She breathed a sigh of relief as she heard Ranma's sister inhaling and exhaling without apparent difficulty. "Good, she didn't inhale any water..." The eldest Tendo daughter grabbed a nearby towel and as she gently picked the prone red-head up, covered her with it. Then, she started to carry her out of the bathroom.
She stopped just shy of the doorway. "Ranko can stay in my room with me. I'll call Doctor Tofu if her condition gets any worse but for now, I believe she'll be okay." She made sure to look at Ranma specifically when she said that.
The Saotome boy nodded, slightly, enough that Kasumi knew he had understood and had no problems. After his ackowledgement, she carried Ranko out of the furo.
Nabiki sighed as she looked at her younger sister, still being held by Ranma. "Come on, Saotome, let's take Akane to her room."
"Let's get this over with. She's heavy and reeks of darkness," came the reply.
Nabiki stopped walking, eyes widened, eyebrows furrowed slightly. "What do you mean?" She didn't like how that sounded. It was almost like he said... but, nah. Couldn't be. Her sister was just angry, right?
Ranma rolled his eyes. "Are ya' dense or sum'tin'? She's being possessed by sum'tin' dark and evil."
Genma's expression remained emotionless as he studied the scene. Interesting, boy, you made a connection here that I missed. I wonder what else you notice that you're not telling me...
"How do you know this?" asked Nabiki. It took a lot to shock her, being that she wasn't called the Ice Queen for nothing, but he had somehow managed to do just that. She had already written him off a just another dumb jock when she first met him. She was also skeptical since someone like Ranma couldn't even have a base understanding of possession.
The confident teenager snorted. "When you've had some of the problems we've had in various towns, possessions of any kind are just one more thing to deal with."
Nabiki didn't comment. She wasn't sure she wanted to know what he meant by that, especially since his words rang true. She had gotten very good at reading people, as she got older and she could tell by Ranma's body language that he believed what he said. Normally, she would've discounted him as a weirdo, possibly getting close to the straight jacket phase, but his sister did have wings which gave her reason to pause.
Ranma followed the middle Tendo daughter out of the furro, still carrying Akane.
Meanwhile, Kasumi carried Ranko into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. She gently set the limp red-head on her bed, taking the towel off as she did and dabbing the unconscious teenager dry in places which were still damp.
The eldest Tendo daughter wished Akane would get over the death of their mother. With her anger out of control like that it made it difficult for the older sister to get anything done. And yet, Kasumi could feel a presence that resided within the house. A presence she hadn't felt since the death of their mother. That worried her, since the presence was coming from her youngest sister.
She put one of her loose nightgowns on Ranko. It was obviously too big, but it covered all the places that Kasumi felt needed to be covered. Since it was a soft, but solid material, it also gave the winged-girl some much-needed modesty.
After she made sure that her new sister-in-law was as comfortable as she could make her, she kneeled on the ground, removed her Celtic cross pendant from within her blouse and let it hang loosely over her chest. She then closed her eyes, focusing. The pinkish stone in the center of the cross began to glow softly as she continued to concentrate. After a few minutes, she opened her eyes.
Besides having powerful magic, the child appears to be what she is, thought the Kasumi. Yet, there is more to her than is visible. Incredibly, her injuries are healing at an astronomical rate. I'll take her to see Dr. Tofu tomorrow. Maybe he'll be able to tell me more about her background. There is more to her than I can ascertain.
Her thoughts where interrupted by a knock on the door. She already had an idea who it was.
"You may enter, Ranma-kun."
The eldest child of the Saotome Clan quietly entered his new fiance's room, closing the door behind him.
Kasumi smiled, disarmingly. "Hello."
Ranma tried smiling, failed, tried again, and finally settle for sighing. "Is my sister going to be okay?"
Kasumi nodded. "She should be fine once she wakes up." In truth, the eldest of Soun's daughters was still a little susrprised by how quickly her future sister-in-law was healing. Even the bump that was on her head when she had been picked up had already disappeared by the time she was laid in the bed.
Ranma let out a sigh of relief. "That's good." He looked at his fiancee for a moment. Cute and kind, but is she for real? Can she be trusted?
Kasumi spoke, startling him, as she seemed to be reading his mind. "Ranma, you can trust me. I won't hurt your sister. As your fiancee, it is my duty to look after my future sister-in-law, my sisters, and my future husband."
Her inazuke's mouth hung open for a moment before he visibly snapped out of it. "Kasumi-san, I've got nuthin' against ya personally, but when it comes to my sister's safety, due to previous experiences, I take nuthin' at word value." I want to trust you, but due to previous experiences, its difficult.
Kasumi's smile wavered only for a moment. I wonder what their previous experiences were. It's obvious they were bad ones, although I wonder why. "Ranma, first off, we are engaged so you don't have to be so formal with me. Secondly, I am a Tendo. My honor is very important and as such, you have my word that nothing will happen to Ranko while she is under my care."
The teenaged boy nodded, feeling he could trust her word. "Good."
His iinazuke frowned slightly as she continued. "However, I'm concerned about Ranko's upbringing. Who taught her about a woman?"
"Um, Pop did, why?"
Kasumi nodded. "I thought as much. Ranma, she is female while you and your father are male."
Ranma shrugged, nonchalantly. "So? What's that got ta do with anything'?"
"I noticed Ranko wasn't wearing a bra when she got here... and neither do you while you are a girl."
"Of course I don't wear a bra! I'm a guy!" Ranma yelled, then 'erked' in surprise, realizing how loudly he had said that. Kasumi stifled a giggle. She had expected that kind of reaction.
Ranma blushed, embarrassed. "Um...S-s-sorry..."
Kasumi smiled. "That's OK, Ranma. I think Ranko should stay with me. It's obvious that's not getting the right information from you and your father, otherwise she would be wearing a bra. Its female things like that, which she needs to be taught about. She's a girl, not a cursed boy. She needs to learn to cover herself more than she does as well as learning to have feminine modesty. It would be good for her to have someone who could better set an example that she could follow as well as explain things to her that might otherwise be detramental to her well-being if she didn't know them."
Ranma sighed. Kasumi did have a point. His younger sister acted like a tomboy a lot of times, while it was obvious she was trying to be a girl at the same time. It didn't work very well.
The black-haired boy smiled. Maybe this could work out afterall. Ranko did need to learn about being a girl. That was something he couldn't teach or show her since he didn't have a clue himself. He knew very well his pop couldn't teach her properly in spite of Genma saying otherwise. Kasumi seemed nice enough and she would make a good teacher for his little sister to learn from.
He stopped as he felt something. His iinazuke frowned as she walked over to the door and opened it. Soun and Genma both fell inside the room, hitting the ground face first. Nabiki casually walked to her room, opening the door and closing it, softly behind her.
Kasumi looked down at the two fathers and smiled. "Father? Mr. Saotome? Is there something I can help you with?"
Soun gulped as he sought for some reasonable explanation. "Um...We were just looking at the nice design on your door, Kasumi dear. Isn't that right, Saotome?"
Don't look at me, I'm just a cute panda...
Soun looked at Genma-panda. "You traitor!"
The Tendo patriarch chased Genma-panda down the stairs, trying to hit him with his own sign. They ran all the way to the living room, and stopped at the Go board.
"Shall we get back to the important things in life, Saotome?" asked Soun, taking a seat on one side of the board.
The panda nodded and sat on the other side. Indeed, so, Tendo.
Ranma groaned. "I don't believe those two..."
After the previous chaos, there was silence. Kasumi looked back at her iinazuke.
For a moment, he said nothing. Then, he seemed to finally get the nerve. "Um...Thanks for looking after my sister, Kasumi."
The brown-haired girl smiled. "That's OK, Ranma."
Ranma and Kasumi rejoined the families downstairs.
Genma and Soun were chatting away. They stopped when they saw their hope for the future arrive. "Ah, there you two are. We think it would be a good idea if you both shared a room..."
The two in question both turned a deep crimson.
"Father!" Admonished his oldest daughter, a shocked tone to her voice. "I don't know Ranma well enough to be sharing a room with him and we aren't married yet! Its not proper for us to be together before then."
Soun gulped, nervously. "Well...I guess it wouldn't hurt to wait..." He quickly looked for another subject to bring up. "Is Ranko OK?"
Kasumi smiled. "Yes, Father, she'll be fine." Akane's behavior is worrying me. I need to see Dr. Tofu about this before it gets any worse than it already has. Hopefully, he'll know what should be done. Within the last few days, my little sister's anger has been almost horrifying...
Since it was late, everyone retired to bed. Ranma sighed, as he stared off into space. It had been a busy day and something didn't feel right about this house. He knew Akane was being controlled by something, but the beyond that, the entire house felt as though it were suffused with that thing's evil, almost as if it had control of the entire house. That concerned the saotome boy.
Finally, after thinking on the problem for a little while and not coming up with anything, he looked at his father who was already snoring away and decided he should follow suit.
----- End Episode 1 ----
Author's Note: Yes, well after a VERY long hiatus, Ranko's Wings is back. Here's the waited for(?) rewrite to allow me to get on with the next episodes. Granted, it has been about eight years since I wrote this, but hey, I still have the story ideas in my head. Now we'll just see where we end up.
Coming up next: Ranma starts his first day of school, Ranko goes shopping with Kasumi and visits Dr. Tofu. Ranma finds out about Akane's "problem" that she goes through on a daily basis (its not what you think). What the hell is going on here?? Find out...