What if Ranma had acted a little faster?
Akane has always claimed to be a martial artist, but what if she actually loved martial arts?
"Your problem isn't so terrible after all!" exclaimed Mr. Tendo.
Ranma-chan stared at her father's friend incredulously. Not so terrible? Poor man… he's lost his mind.
"My daughter Kasumi. Nineteen. And Nabiki. Seventeen. And Akane. Sixteen." Three daughters, all of them beautiful. Judging by their stances and clothing, Kasumi was the most traditional and practically the opposite of the more modern Nabiki. Akane, the youngest, seemed to have taken up martial arts in her spare time. Of course, none of their characteristics mattered any because he wasn't about to choose any of them. Stupid old man, he knows we have better things to do than waste time playing matchmaker with girls, thought Ranma distastefully.
"Pick the one you want, she's your fiancée," Mr. Tendo ordered.
Ha! As if.
Ranma was about to inform the old man of his incredible delusion when he was interrupted by the very daughters he allegedly had to choose from.
"Oh, he wants Akane!" The oldest remarked brilliantly.
"Eh?" The youngest daughter turned to her sister in surprise. Obviously, she hadn't been consulted when the decision was made.
"Oh, definitely!" The second Tendo child quickly threw her lot in with her elder sister. A united front would serve them well.
Akane looked between the two traitors with rapidly mounting fury. "You must be joking! Why would I be—"
Joking… Is that what I am? A joke?
"Well… you hate boys, don't you?" Nabiki interjected her younger sister's argument with a rhetorical question.
Kasumi jumped right in and completed the double-pronged attack. "So you're in luck! He's half-girl!" She explained cheerfully, uncaring of his feelings.
Now thoroughly insulted, Ranma decided that he wasn't about to waste another second of his time away from China. He never should have left it in the first place. Even the amazon Shampoo was better than this.
"Me? Marry that—" Akane continued the argument, but he wasn't listening anymore.
"Where are you going, boy?" Genma asked threateningly. His son wasn't even remotely impressed, but his query served to draw the attention of the Tendo family to his impending departure. The daughters ceased their squabbling and observed their interaction in silence.
The redheaded beauty turned and glared at his old man. "Back to China!"
The elder Saotome jumped from his seat and towered over him, posturing like a threatened beast. "Hold it right there! You're not going anywhere," he warned.
His son stood unimpressed, long used to such displays from his sole companion. "And who's going to stop me, you?" Ranma-chan asked derisively. The redhead shook her head. "You can't keep me here against my will old man. Even if you could beat me consistently enough, you can't keep an eye on me twenty-four hours a day." The cursed martial artist moved towards the kettle and used the previously scalding water to activate his curse. "I'm going back to China, even if you're not coming with me," his newly masculine voice informed unshakably.
The bald, scruffy and bespectacled martial artist observed his heir for untold moments in the silence between measures. He watched unwaveringly for so long that his son became uncomfortable in his presence for the first time in recent memory. Finally, Genma nodded respectfully to the man he had trained, the peer he had crafted. "Alright son, let's make a deal. We'll settle this the old-fashioned way, with a martial arts contest, interested?" he asked.
Ranma, already unsettled by his father's odd behavior, eyed him warily and proceeded with caution instead of the carelessness that normally characterized him. "What do you have in mind?" he replied.
"You want to go back to China to find a cure for your curse… you still don't understand why we left. That place is dangerous boy. If you want to leave you'll have to prove to me that your mastery of the art is enough to let you survive over there," the teacher decided.
The student narrowed his eyes. "What are you up to? I can beat you three times out of four and you know it," he said. Surprisingly, not only was his statement delivered without arrogance, his father didn't appear to disagree with it.
The wily man smiled and continued on. "We'll see. Show me if you defeat your old man in a constricted space."
Ranma felt his eyes widen. "Here?" he asked, nonplussed at his father's choice.
The man nodded. "Yes. A martial arts contest limited to these walls. You lose automatically if you damage anything or exit the room, willingly or otherwise. Agreed?"
The boy watched his father carefully and quickly realized the man was serious. "What do I get if I win?"
"If you win, I'll allow you to go back to China. In fact, I'll even go with you, to make sure everything turns out alright. But if you lose, you have to promise not to leave without my permission," Genma explained.
Ranma took his eyes off his opponent and quickly noted the number of obstacles he would have to take into account, including the Tendo family.
The walls are thin… I'll have to be careful with them. The ceiling is low, but sturdy and other than the table, there really isn't anything else in the way. Doable.
The martial artist turned to his old man, smirked and subtly shifted his weight. It was with some surprise that he noted Mr. Tendo's comprehension of his stance. Evidently, the man was a rather skilled martial artist. For a second, he wondered why the man hadn't taught Akane. There was no way he was unaware of his daughter's faults in the art. He wondered. Just for a second. "Alright, let's do this."
It was kind of surreal, the way it began. What would prove to be the single greatest, most elegant display of physical prowess, mental sharpness, concentration and control, the culmination of a decade's worth of spilt blood, heated sweat and Spartan lifestyles, the foundation of the most beautifully meaningful display of martial arts she would ever see began as she and her sisters carelessly judged the worth of an unfortunate son. A son who had traveled further along his chosen path in 16 years than they were likely to in their entirely lives. Nabiki would have to own a large fraction of Japan in order to equal his accomplishments.
Eventually, it would occur to her that Ranma Saotome either had to be a monster or a god to be that skilled at that age. Either way, the source of his talent couldn't be anything natural. Genma certainly had little to do with it. The man may have been an extremely skilled martial artist, but he couldn't teach to save his life.
Though they had heard the Saotomes' exchange and agreement, the Tendo daughters still failed to grasp the meaning behind their father's urgent request for them to join him at the table. It was only after they obeyed his will that they realized that their well-being wasn't the reason. His faint grin belied his anticipation.
They hadn't seen Soun get this excited for a long time. It was as if their father returned to the larger-than-life man he had been in their youth. The two eldest continued to gawk liberally at their parent, but Akane turned to watch her father's guests.
They were standing just a few feet beside the table, clearly in each other's range. Genma was in a simple but perfectly executed martial arts stance and his son stood in a manner that was deceptively dismissive.
Akane only had a moment to evaluate their position before Ranma's leg ghosted out of perception and reappeared inside his opponent's guard. Though she had little time to think about it, her experience with the art determined that there was no way anyone could react to a blow with that kind of velocity. It was akin to dodging a bullet from a dozen feet away.
Soun's precious baby girl was fundamentally shocked when the balding man stepped outside of his son's range and skillfully grabbed the attacking leg before using it to throw the pigtailed youth towards the thin wall head first.
Those same foundations were completely razed when Ranma demonstrated greater control over his body in midair than she did on the ground. The boy quickly drew his knees to his chest so that the momentum of the movement carried his body into a rotation until his chest faced the floor. As he got closer to the wall, he extended his legs fully and gracefully bent his knees when his feet made contact with the wall. Against all of her logic, the boy managed to completely absorb his momentum and land on the floor without scratching the wall.
Soun's children could only gape in awe as Ranma closed the distance attacked with far greater caution than before. He threw a series of lightning fast jabs that drilled through Genma's guard but did little damage, dodged the counter and pursued his offense. For the next few minutes, the males of the Saotome clan fought each other under the vigilant and ignorant eyes of the female members of the Tendo clan.
Then, just as Ranma began pressing his advantage, Akane had an epiphany. As her mind was slowly accustomed to the high speeds, she finally unraveled the mystery behind Ranma Saotome. In his movements, she could read his heart. The battle was a skirmish of flesh to flesh impacts, invisible strikes and cunning strategies. She could not follow his limbs like her father could, so she watched the bigger picture. It was a long-awaited release for a long period of pain and frustration but contrary to her expectations, the sight wasn't brutal and the attacks weren't vindictive. There was no revulsion, only focus.
Ranma may have been angry, but he did not hate his father. That was clear as day in every move he made, even to her. Instead of being marked by vengeance, the fight was a venture for independence, a cry for adulthood, a revolution.
It was art. Ranma's body was his instrument and his heart was his opus. He fought for freedom. He fought for respect. He fought out of love for the only family he ever knew.
All of a sudden, she could see the endgame in whatever glimpses of their eyes she could catch, the certainty of the son and the acceptance and pride of the father. In a flurry of movement and damage it was over.
The young man jumped over the attacking leg, flipped in midair, pushed off the ceiling and planted his knee through his father's block and directly into his chest. The blow was strong enough to temporarily throw Genma off balance and slow his movements and reactions.
Ranma capitalized instantly.
He grabbed the bald man by his tattered gi and swung him in a full circle, picking up momentum before slamming him onto, and through the table. The wooden piece of furniture crumbled with a thunderous crash, scattering small scraps of wood onto the surroundings and leaving the room in profound silence.
The champion stood beside the defeated solemnly for this victory marked a new chapter in his life. He raised his head towards the ceiling, sighed in relief and smiled out of satisfaction. He turned away from his unconscious companion and walked towards his prize.
"Where are you going?" asked Mr. Tendo.
Ranma stopped and stared at his father's friend over his shoulder. The young man clearly wondered if he should answer such an obvious question. "China. The old man'll catch up," he finally answered.
Soun nodded and continued. "Yes, I believe those were the terms agreed upon in case of your victory, but you did not win," he remarked.
The cursed teen fully turned to face his newest obstacle. "What are you talking about? I won fair and square!" he exclaimed.
"Did you now?" Soun asked rhetorically. Akane chillingly noted that her father suddenly sounded a lot like Nabiki. "You were to defeat Genma without damaging the room or leaving it. You destroyed the table."
"What! No I didn't, he did!" Ranma said while pointing towards the clear sign of his victory. Everyone could see that he was getting increasingly aggravated, but their father showed no fear even though the young man was almost certainly his superior in the art.
"Did he?" Soun responded. "Genma must have taught you about personal responsibility. My old friend had no part in the destruction of the furniture. Since he could not move, he only served as a tool and tools cannot be held accountable for anything. Don't you agree young man?" Mr. Tendo asked, knowing that the boy would not respond.
"You… you…" Ranma began to shake in silent fury. Mr. Tendo met his eyes easily.
"The truth is that you failed the exercise Ranma. Your skill in the art is commendable, but you still lack maturity. You lost, accept it," the master of the house ordered.
Eyes like blue sapphires burned before they darkened into frost. Tensed muscles relaxed on command until no trace of anger remained. The young man turned and walked away.
"And where are you going now?" Soun asked.
Ranma waved his hand nonchalantly. "To take a bath," he said offhandedly.
This is a preliminary version, which means that there's a chance I'll come back and modify this text. Probably not anytime soon. Oh yeah, I don't own Ranma.