A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part I
Author's note: This story is a continuation on the Ranma 1/2 anime, including the OVA's and movies. Therefore, keep in mind that anything exclusive to the manga hasn't happened in this story.
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is not my idea, it was created by a very talented manga artist named Rumiko Takahashi. The only characters I'll claim are my own original characters that I've added into this story. Just so you know.
Outside the doors of the Cat Café restaurant, the end of the date between he and Shampoo was unfolding into a nightmare for Ranma Saotome.
Time seemed to stop for a brief moment when Akane slapped him across the face, turning his head to the side and nearly knocking him over from the sheer force of the blow.
Akane stood before her fiancée seething, shaking with anger. She'd never felt so furious in her life. After everything she'd been through with Ranma, she at least trusted him not to do anything with any of the other girls who were after him. But he had, and he'd done it with the one she disliked most of all.
Shampoo, who'd been standing behind Ranma, still stunned by his sudden kiss, was quickly snapped out of her trance at the moment her rival slapped her friend. She'd seen it happen numerous times before, but she wasn't going to stand for it this time.
"What you doing?!" she yelled, reaching out to grab Akane by the collar of her jacket.
The fiery Amazon girl wouldn't get her chance to do anything, however, as Ranma stuck his good arm out to hold her back.
"You let go, Ranma! Shampoo no let Akane do that...!" Shampoo protested, trying to fight her way past him.
Slowly, Ranma turned and looked over to Shampoo with a calm, yet pained expression on his face that was powerful enough to neutralize her raging emotions. With Akane's palm mark still visible on his cheek, he then shook his head, implying to her that it wasn't necessary.
"It's fine, Shampoo," he said quietly, turning his attention back to the dark-haired girl in front of him.
"You..." Akane's voice shook as she stared directly into his eyes, "I thought it was weird you were with each other so much after you got back. You were always smiling around her too. You never used to be like that..."
"Shut up!" she cried out, the tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. "I know...I shouldn't be surprised. You were together in China for such a long time, it's only natural you'd fall for each other. And she's just so much better than me, isn't she? She's better looking, she can cook, and she's a better martial artist..."
"It ain't about that!" Ranma interrupted.
"Then what is it?!" Akane screamed back at him. She wanted some kind of answer, any answer, but Ranma just didn't have one for her right now.
Unsure what to tell her, Ranma silently averted his eyes from his fiancée and tilted his head toward the ground.
The pigtailed boy's response seemed to change Akane's anger into pure heartbreak as she broke down crying in front of him.
"I...I trusted you..." she uttered, weeping uncontrollably.
Akane couldn't take anymore. Feeling sick and betrayed, she hastily spun around and took off running from the restaurant, leaving a trail of tears behind her as she vanished into the night.
Ranma wasn't feeling too good about himself right now, to say the least, but this nightmare scenario wasn't over yet. Still standing underneath a nearby streetlight was Ukyo, who looked incredibly torn as she tried to gaze directly at her childhood friend without turning away.
"Ucchan..." Ranma mouthed, trying to think of something he could say to comfort her.
"Ran-chan...I-" Ukyo began to say, trembling as she cut herself off. She wanted to talk to him so badly. She wanted to ask him how he really felt. Everything that she'd just witnessed was too overwhelming for her though, and she just couldn't bring herself to say anything else.
Clenching her fists with frustration, Ukyo slammed one of her hands into the light post next to her, leaving a noticeable dent in it as she, too, fled the scene as quickly as she could manage.
With only he and Shampoo left standing outside the restaurant, Ranma crouched down near the ground and ran a hand through his hair, trying to take in everything that had just happened.
Behind him, Shampoo could only look down at her grief-stricken friend with concern. "Ranma..."
"Sorry," the pigtailed boy said, his eyes still fixated on the ground. "I...I really didn't want things to happen like that."
Taking a deep breath, Ranma slowly stood back up and peered over his shoulder at the lavender-haired girl.
"I...gotta go," he said, starting to walk away as he turned forward again. "I'll see ya, Shampoo."
Just like that, their date was over.
Quietly, Shampoo watched Ranma head down the street, leaning back against the door to the Cat Café while he disappeared from sight. She and Ranma had fun together all night, and so many good things happened, she thought.
Shampoo brushed her fingers against her lips, remembering how Ranma had kissed her. And even better was the fact that all three of her rivals for him had seen it. It was the perfect scenario.
All things considered, she should have felt like she was on top of the world. So, why was it, Shampoo wondered, that she felt so awful right now?
Over at the Tendo residence, things were mostly quiet as everyone had turned in for the night and gone to bed. Everyone except for the redhead sitting at the bottom of their staircase, that is, who was kicking her legs up into the air to try to alleviate some of her boredom.
"They sure are staying out late..." Ringo Saotome said with a light yawn.
Despite how late it had gotten, she was determined to wait near the door until Ranma and Akane came home. It certainly wasn't something she needed to do, but it was something she wanted to do nonetheless.
Even Ringo's will power couldn't keep her awake forever though, as she leaned back against the staircase and began to doze off.
"It's no good," she yawned again, her eyes beginning to feel heavy. "I'm so...tired..."
The sudden sound of the front door sliding open woke Ringo right up, however. Surprised and a bit startled, she opened her eyes wide and sat up straight to see who had just come home.
"Akane!" she spoke, standing up as she watched her friend shut the door behind her. "Welcome home!"
The youngest Tendo daughter didn't respond, standing completely still with her back up against the door and her head tilted downward.
"Um...s-sorry about earlier," Ringo continued, worrying that Akane was still upset with her. "I should have told you I was helping Shampoo train, but I was afraid you'd be mad about it. I'm really sorry!"
Slowly, Akane pulled herself away from the door and began walking over to Ringo.
The red-haired girl gave her friend a concerned look, still unsure what to make of her behavior as she came closer to her. But when she noticed a pair of teardrops falling to the floor, everything began to make a little more sense. "Akane, what happened?!"
Seeking some measure of comfort, Akane planted her face against Ringo's shoulder and wrapped her arms around her tightly as both of them collapsed to the floor.
"Akane..." Ringo said softly, holding her sobbing friend close to her chest.
"I...I never should have trusted a boy..." Akane whimpered.
Realizing that Kasumi's premonition earlier may have come true after all, Ringo closed her eyes and gently patted Akane's back.
"There, there. Let it all out."
Meanwhile, over at his clinic, Dr. Tofu sat at his desk in his undershirt and pajama bottoms, reading through a recently published medical journal he'd received in the mail. The entire building was dark except for the one lamp he was using to help him read.
Reaching up and rubbing his eyes, Tofu reluctantly closed the book and set it down on his desk.
"Okay, that's my limit for tonight," he told himself. His thirst for knowledge was as strong as ever, but he knew as well as anyone that the human body needs rest to keep going.
The young doctor was about to turn off his lamp, but a sudden loud knocking at his door stopped him.
"Goodness, a visitor at this time of night?"
Surprised by the uncommon occurrence, Tofu headed toward the clinic entrance and flipped on the light, hearing the knocking at his door once again.
"I'm coming. Just a moment," he called out.
Once Tofu unlocked his door and slid it open, he found a very familiar young man standing in his doorway. "Ranma?"
"Uh...hey," the pigtailed boy greeted him.
"Well, this is unusual," Tofu said, adjusting his glasses. "What can I do for you? Are you injured?"
"Nah, just the same old broken arm," Ranma replied, trying to manage a smile.
Tofu narrowed his eyes as he looked at his visitor, noticing how visibly troubled he appeared to be. "Did something happen?"
"Yeah...kinda," Ranma answered him. "I...uh...thought I could use someone to talk to, and I wasn't sure where else to go..."
It was rare to see Ranma looking like this, so Tofu had no doubt that something serious had happened to the boy. With a kind smile, he raised his hand into the air and stepped aside.
"Say no more," he told him. "Come on in and take a seat. I'll make some tea for us."
"Thanks, Doc," Ranma said as he entered the clinic.
While Tofu went to heat up some water for the tea, Ranma slumped into one of the chairs in the waiting room, still shaken by what had happened earlier outside the Cat Café.
"By the way, how is that arm of yours?" Dr. Tofu asked him as he walked.
"Feelin' better every day, actually," Ranma told him optimistically. "Still ain't supposed to be perfect for another month, but it ain't hurtin' much anymore."
"I see. That's good to hear," Tofu smiled.
The young doctor came back a short time later with two hot cups of tea in hand and handed one to his visitor as he took a seat next to him.
"So, tell me what happened."
After taking a sip of his tea, Ranma looked down at the cup in his hands and thought back on the events that night.
"I...had a date with Shampoo tonight," he explained. "It was somethin' I promised her back when we were in China, and she wanted to go to this thing over at Odaiba tonight, so we went."
"Ah yes, Odaiba. I've been there once before. It's quite a lively place," Tofu said. "Go on."
"Yeah, well...when we got back and I was walkin' her home, she brought up the whole..."friends" thing, and she got kinda upset," Ranma continued, staring blankly at his tea as he tried to recall exactly what happened next. "And then...I didn't want everything to end like that, so I tried to stop her, but she kept tryin' to go inside. So...I dunno what I was thinkin', Doc, but...I spun her around and I...kissed her..."
Dr. Tofu turned and eyed Ranma closely. He knew well of the pigtailed boy's fiancée situation, and also how fond the other girls, namely Akane, had grown of him.
"So...the kiss is what's troubling you?" Tofu asked.
Ranma shook his head in response.
"That ain't all," he said, placing his forehead in his palm. "I...I swear I didn't know they were there, but...Ukyo, Kodachi, and Akane...they all saw me kiss her."
"Oh, dear," Tofu sighed, placing his cup down next to him. "I take it they didn't react well."
Ranma shook his head again, prompting Dr. Tofu to lean back in his chair.
"With a situation like yours, I suppose it was inevitable for someone to get hurt eventually. But for everything to happen like that...it's very unfortunate," Tofu said in a somber voice. "Poor Akane...I can only imagine how upset she must be."
"See for yourself," Ranma muttered, pointing to the palm mark on his cheek. "I just...I dunno what to do, Doc."
Tofu nodded knowingly, peering over at his longtime patient. "Ranma, just how do you feel about Shampoo?"
Scratching his head, the young martial artist thought hard about the doctor's question for a moment.
"I...we've been gettin' along good ever since she said she wanted to be friends," Ranma replied, hunching over in his seat. "And...I never really thought of bein' more than that since then. Akane was sayin' earlier that she always saw me smilin' when I was with Shampoo, but I never noticed..."
"Mmhmm," Tofu nodded again. "Kissing someone isn't a common way of getting a friend to stop and listen to you, Ranma."
"Grrr, I know...!" Ranma growled with frustration.
Trying to get him to relax, Tofu reached over and put his hand on the troubled teenager's shoulder.
"Listen, I have no idea what you must be going through right now, Ranma. One thing that's for certain though is that nothing you say or do will likely mend what's been done to the other girls right away," Dr. Tofu told him. "But what I think you need to do, Ranma, is to sit down and sort out your feelings, especially how you feel about Shampoo."
The pigtailed martial artist took a deep breath and leaned back in his seat as he looked over at the young doctor again. "Doc, you're gettin' married to Kasumi, right? How did ya know that...y'know...she was the one?"
Tofu immediately blushed at the mention of his bride-to-be. "Uh, well! I...I guess I always felt a bit strange when I saw her. My heart would start beating faster and I'd get a little nervous, things like that. But most of all, I think I just knew because I was always happy whenever she was around."
Ranma had never really pondered or paid attention to what made him happy before, he thought to himself. What Dr. Tofu was saying made sense though. The person who he felt the happiest around...it may have been a key to figuring out this dilemma he found himself stuck with.
The heir to the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts left Dr. Tofu's clinic later that night feeling a bit more calm after having talked things over, but without any of the answers he really needed. Those, he knew, he would have to come up with on his own.
Walking home with his hand stuffed in his pocket, Ranma was quiet and deep in thought about his next move. He didn't want to think about what things would be like the next time he ran into Ukyo or Kodachi, and he really, really didn't want to think about what would happen when he ran into Akane tomorrow morning. Not that he'd mind if Kodachi decided to keep her distance, but he didn't want to have Ukyo or Akane mad at him like this. Ucchan was his oldest friend, and Akane...well, although they fought a lot, he still liked her and enjoyed being around her.
And then there was the issue of Shampoo.
Ranma began to slow a bit as he walked, thinking back on everything that had happened lately with his lavender-haired friend. He'd never thought much about the relationship the two of them had until Dr. Tofu had brought it up with him earlier. They got along well as friends, better than he ever could have imagined, in fact. But was that the extent of their bond? Shampoo had made it clear that she wanted it to be more than that, but what about him? Sure, he'd put a stop to Shampoo's wedding without a second thought, and he was the one that initiated the kiss between them tonight. But doing things like that didn't mean that he...loved Shampoo. Did it?
Still unsure about many things, Ranma reached the Tendo household and cautiously strolled up to the door. He could only hope that Akane had already gone to bed for the night as he slowly slid the door open and peeked inside.
What the pigtailed boy found waiting for him wasn't Akane, luckily, but rather his former female half sitting at the bottom of the staircase with her head leaning up against the wall.
Looking mentally exhausted, Ringo didn't move at all as she shifted her gaze over toward the door. "Ranma..."
He couldn't be sure what happened, but Ranma had a fairly accurate idea of how things had gone down. "Hey. How is she?"
"Akane...she finally cried herself to sleep," Ringo said, taking a deep breath and staring blankly at the door again. "I've never seen her like that before, Ranma..."
Ranma knew what she meant, having seen Akane run away in tears earlier. "Sorry ya had to go through that, Ringo."
"It's okay," the redhead replied, shaking her head. "Hey, Ranma?"
"Everything's...going to be okay, right?"
"Somehow, yeah," Ranma told her. He hoped, at least.
Even as the pigtailed boy lay in bed that night, he wasn't sure of that. There was no telling what tomorrow would bring.
Ranma continued to toss and turn, trying to will himself to sleep, when he began to hear the faint sound of footsteps coming from the hallway. Slowly, they came closer and closer until he was positive that someone had stopped outside the door to he and his father's room.
"Akane...?" he uttered almost inaudibly.
Several seconds passed before the person turned around and walked back through the hallway and down the stairs, their footsteps sounding further and further away until Ranma couldn't hear them any longer.
Rubbing his forehead, Ranma turned over in his futon and closed his eyes again. Now wasn't the best time, he figured. He would try to talk to Akane tomorrow after she had a chance to calm down.
The dining area of Ucchan's Okonomiyaki was always dark and quiet after business hours, but on this night a soft sniffling sound could be heard from within the building as the owner of the business sat on one of the stools with her face buried in her arms on top of the counter.
Ukyo Kuonji felt as though she'd been blindsided by a dump truck after watching her fiancée pin one of her rivals up against the door to the Cat Café and kiss her. The fact that Ranma and Shampoo had grown closer than they were before the China incident was obvious, but she never could have imagined that Ranma would make such a forceful move as what she witnessed. Thoughts of where she went wrong and where to go from here filled the okonomiyaki chef's mind, but mulling over those questions wasn't doing her any good at the moment. Right now, all she wanted was to finally fall asleep, and maybe, just maybe, she would wake up tomorrow and find out everything that had happened was all just a bad dream.
Even as she heard the unexpected sound of her restaurant's door sliding open, Ukyo didn't budge at first, simply not caring who it was or why anyone would be entering the building so late at night. Her curiosity would get the better of her, however, as she slowly turned her head to see who it was.
There, standing in the doorway with the moonlight shining behind her, was Akane Tendo. Her eyes were still red and her cheeks puffy from crying herself to sleep earlier. What really stood out about her, though, was that she had a backpack strapped to her back as she eyed her classmate closely.
"Akane..." Ukyo muttered, wiping the tears from her face. "What are you-"
"I'm leaving," Akane told her. There was no hesitation in her voice whatsoever.
Sniffling again, Ukyo managed to sit herself upright as she peered over at the youngest Tendo daughter. "Leaving?"
Akane nodded. "I can't stay here anymore."
"You're gonna run away from everything?" the okonomiyaki chef asked her.
"I'm not going to stay here and watch Ranma and that tramp anymore!" Akane hissed, her fists shaking with anger as the tears began forming in her eyes again. "They can have each other! I'm sick and tired of it! Everything!"
It wasn't like Ukyo didn't understand Akane's feelings, but it was clear to her that she wasn't acting rational at the moment.
"I...look, I know, Akane. You're not thinking, though," Ukyo said, trying to calm her down. "Where would you go?"
"Anywhere! Anywhere but here!" Akane yelled in response.
Before Ukyo could say anything else, Akane quickly stormed forward and slammed her palm against the counter.
"Don't try to talk me out of this, Ukyo! I'm going!" she declared with a firm resolve. Then, as she looked down at her classmate, the wild look in her eyes began to soften slightly.
"Just...come with me."
"Wh-what?" Ukyo asked, sounding confused.
"I said come with me," Akane repeated impatiently.
Despite how ludicrous it sounded to just up and leave town, the okonomiyaki chef couldn't help but consider the offer after everything that had happened. If there really was something going on between Ranma and Shampoo, things were going to be very awkward for her if she stayed. Ranma was her childhood friend, but would she actually be able to sit back and smile as his friend while knowing he was in a romantic relationship with another girl?
"I...I can't..." Ukyo stammered uncomfortably.
"Why not?!" Akane shouted.
"Ran-chan...he's the best friend I've got, Akane," Ukyo said, sounding very somber while leaning over the counter and resting her forehead on her hands. "I spent all those years trying to find him...I don't want to lose him again. And I've got my restaurant here, and friends...I-I just...I can't."
Biting down on her lip, Akane reluctantly conceded that there was no convincing Ukyo to go with her. "Fine..."
Ukyo raised her head and painfully watched her classmate turn and head toward the door.
"Don't go, Akane..." she pleaded.
There was no turning back now for the young Tendo girl, though. Ignoring the plea, she stepped outside the restaurant's door and grabbed onto it, turning back one last time to look at the torn okonomiyaki chef.
With that simple, yet meaningful line, Akane slid the door shut behind her and walked off into the night, leaving her friend and rival with yet another burden to deal with.
"She's...gone..." Ukyo gasped, trying to hold back her tears as she began to grasp the reality of what had just happened.
Shaking her head in disbelief, she collapsed onto the counter again, her muffled weeping the only sound in the room.
"Ran-chan...what should I do...?"
The next morning, Ranma Saotome awakened to the tranquil sound of birds chirping outside. As he slowly opened his eyes, however, the memories of the night before began coming back to the forefront of his mind. The peaceful sound of the birds was misleading, he thought, considering what was probably in store for him once he headed downstairs.
Reluctant to get up, Ranma closed his eyes again, intending to go back to sleep for a while. Unfortunately, he wouldn't get the chance, as a quick swing from his father's foot knocked him out of his futon and sent him rolling along the floor.
"Oww! What was that for?!" Ranma snarled.
"What do you mean?! It's morning!" Genma responded sharply. "Get up, already! It's time for our workout!"
The pigtailed boy rubbed his hand against his forehead, looking completely devoid of the energy needed for their usual round of morning exercise. "I don't think I wanna go out there right now..."
"What are you talking about?" Genma asked, eying him curiously.
The thunderous sound of Soun Tendo's cry echoed throughout the home, startling everyone.
"I knew it," Ranma groaned, no doubt in his mind that Soun's yelling meant trouble for him. "Today's gonna be a bad day."
Genma was incredibly confused about what was going on, but things would soon be clarified as he heard the loud sound of footsteps rapidly approaching.
Frantic for some sort of explanation, Soun slammed the door to the Saotome's room open and held out a piece of paper to the younger of the two.
"Ranma! What is this?! What happened?!" he shouted.
Kasumi and Ringo soon entered the room behind Soun, wondering what the commotion was all about.
"What's the matter, Father?" Kasumi asked him.
Nervously, Ranma grabbed the paper from Soun's hand and looked at it. The paper, he quickly realized, was a note from Akane.
"I'm sorry, but I can't stay here anymore. Please don't worry about me. I'll come back someday, I promise. -Akane"
"That IDIOT!" Ranma fumed, slamming the note down on the floor. "Why didn't she just talk to me?!"
Ringo looked to be in shock as she staggered backwards into the wall. "Akane...she...she's gone...?"
"Oh, Akane..." Kasumi said, sounding extremely worried. "Why would she do such a thing?"
Soun continued to stare a hole through Ranma. "Why, indeed! Mind explaining what this is all about, son?!"
The young martial artist had the attention of everyone in the room. Brushing his hair back, he let out a sigh and readied for another earful. "Last night...Kodachi, Ucchan, and Akane all saw me kiss Shampoo, and then Akane ran off cryin'."
"So that's it!" Soun yelled angrily. "Ranma, you go find my daughter right now and bring her back here!"
"Mr. Tendo, we don't know where she is, and I don't think she wants to see me right now anyway," Ranma told Akane's enraged father. "What could I possibly tell her that would make her come back?"
"Tell her you love her! Tell her that the kiss with Shampoo was just an accident! That she forced herself on you!" Soun shouted.
"Shampoo didn't do nothin', Mr. Tendo!" Ranma snapped back at him, stunning the others with the strength of his voice. "I...I was the one that kissed her. That ain't gonna change."
Genma was beginning to feel uncomfortable and walked over to his old friend, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, Tendo. This isn't all the boy's fault."
"That's right, Father," Kasumi chimed in. "You can't just put all the blame on him like this."
Soun took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down before he looked down at Ranma again.
"Son...I think you should gather your belongings and leave."
There was an initial reaction of shock amongst the others in the room, but before any of them could raise a complaint, the head of the household turned and stormed off down the hallway.
"Father, wait...!" Kasumi pleaded as she went after him.
Ringo dropped to her knees in disbelief. Her peaceful life with her family and friends was being torn apart piece by piece, and that realization hurt her worse than anything. "No...why is this happening...?"
Ranma was a bit disheartened by the demand, but it didn't come as a complete surprise to him given the situation.
"Guess that's that, then," he muttered.
"I'll try talking to him, boy," Genma assured his son. "Don't wander off too far, alright?"
"Yeah," Ranma said softly. "Thanks, Pop."
The pigtailed martial artist wasted little time packing all of his clothes and other possessions into his backpack, and, without any guarantee of where he would stay, walked out the door of the Tendo residence that he'd called home for nearly two years.
Unsure where the future would take him, Ranma Saotome turned around one last time and bowed in front of the home before leaving.
"Thanks for everything, you guys."
End of Chapter 23