Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma, Ranma ½, or any creations of Rumiko Takahashi, just the mechanisms that I use for philosophical exploration (like the original character here, Kouki).

Past, Present, Future

Clear blue skies and a midday sun hang in the skies above the Nerima Ward of Tokyo. A warm breeze blows as a seventeen-year-old boy with platinum-blonde hair shoots through the air, landing on the apex of a steeply-angled roof and continuing unpausing along the narrow tiling with the ease of a casual pedestrian on the sidewalk.

His tanned skin contrasts with both the light color of his hair and the striking cobalt blue of his eyes. His white, comfortably loose but practically snug clothing tugs lightly in the gusts of warm air that also affects the yellow-and-brown clad Japanese youth following close behind.

With jarring abruptness, the lead teen shoots off to the right when the roof branches at a ninety-degree angle. Huffing in annoyance, the second boy matches the maneuver with only a slight less grace, his messy brown hair bobbing with the momentum change. The end of the roof comes and goes, passed with a leap as first one, then the other martial artist hits the ground in a roll, springing back to their feet and returning to the rooftops without an eyeblink of pause. Most pedestrians don't spare the event a second glance – such things are standard fare in Nerima.

Intense brown eyes squint at the surroundings. Why does this area look so familiar? The white-clad teen makes a ki-assisted jump, catching the lip of a flat-topped roof and flipping himself up. Ryouga matches the move with a grunt, his mastery of ki-boosting not quite at the same level but the greater strength of his legs enough to compensate for this.

More rooftops pass, and the lost boy recognizes where they are as soon as he sees that familiar high-rise building of Furinkan High. "What the heck 'we doing here, Kouki? It's Saturday, school's almost out."

The blue-eyed boy in white garb reminiscent of a Korean hanbok comes to a stop on a rooftop overlooking the front gate. "Correction: it just released for the day."

He looks down, quickly catching sight of a navy-blue-haired girl stomping through the crowd, followed by a red-haired girl in a red silk shirt, the latter shouting, "It's not my fault, Akane!"

Ryouga twinges, but the platinum-blond must sense the motion because he holds out his hand in a gesture of 'calm down'. He then gestures to Ranma with his head. "Have you ever stopped and thought about him? Or about what he is to the three?"

The lost boy looks down at his declared nemesis, then at the fuming girl walking ahead of the boy-cursed-girl. "A little," Ryouga admits.

"Each of them have a claim on that Saotome," the tanned boy states with the cool tone that makes Ryouga think of a hawk watching mice in a field, though the boy's expression seems attentive and not malicious.

The white-clad youth continues, "Since Akane is here, I'll start with her. Whatever others may say about their parents' agreements, they did not know of each other until they first met those months ago. There was no past history binding them, and there was no future tethering them. What are they to each other?"

He crosses his arms, his cobalt gaze never faltering as he answers his own question: "The present. They entered each others' lives in a present situation - if forced by outsiders, they became and remain present-tense figures."

The lost boy is about to point out that the present becomes the past when Kouki uncrosses his arms and hops neatly down to street level, followed by a curious bandana'd boy who listens for more. "There is a saying among my people: take away a man's present, and he recoils for a moment."

Now Ryouga speaks up, "You don't think Akane should be with Ranma?"

His fellow martial artist doesn't really seem to address the question. "I think her claim on him is the most tenuous. The Tendo girl has the most to start with in many respects, and the least to lose without him. She has plenty of other potential suitors, and seems to share the least compatible interests with him."

Abruptly, he begins walking down the sidewalk. "I'm hungry."

Ryouga rolls his eyes, knowing well that he's just using another excuse to go to his next goal, if perhaps for some food while being there. Knowing the destination – his fellow martial artist loves the stuff – he decides to tease, "Off to get some okonomiyaki?"

"I happen to like it," he replies snappishly, but then resumes his cool air after a deep breath as he takes off to the 'nearest reputable restaurant'.

Ryouga swallows the last of another slice before asking, "So what about Ukyo?"

"She knew Ranma in early childhood," he replies, slightly irritated at having his favorite savory, pan-fried dish interrupted. "It was a rare time of peace and happiness. He is associated with those memories. Ranma is her past, a time before her angers and insecurities and troubles."

Ryouga sips at his cola and tosses out, "And I suppose there's an Ainu saying for this?"

Kouki sticks his nose in the air and answers sagely, if with a slightly unnecessary dramatic flair, "Take away a man's past, and he is wounded for a day."

Raising one eyebrow and drooping the other eyelid, Ryouga inquires, "So what's your opinion on their 'rights'?"

"Ukyo is allowing herself to be held back by her past – admittedly, as many people are – but she has a lot more options. Heck, she could decide to hook up with you," he pauses to chuckle as the lost boy chokes on a half-swallowed gulp of soda. "She may not have been dealt Akane's fortune, but there's really nothing but herself stopping her from going for any other viable candidates."

Ryouga, after coughing a couple times, recovers from his incident of choking on a liquid refreshment and strikes back, "If you're going to point out me, what about you?"

The blond swallows his bite calmly and shakes his head in a simple negative. "To be a viable addition to the tribe, she must be able to defeat me in combat."

Ryouga's eyebrow arches.

The tanned boy in white sighs. "There must be three witnessed matches. She must win at least one to be allowed to join the tribe. I must win at least one to be allowed to return to the tribe."

The lost boy can't help but smile as he states suspiciously neutrally, "So if she gets two out of three that's something special?"

The blond ignores the subtone and nods. "But this diverges from the point: Ukyo could marry virtually anyone, it's really up to her. She has nothing to lose but nostalgia." The meal complete, he stands up and hands a couple yen bills to the busy chef they were just speaking of, and he heads out. "I have to report back to the Cat Café."

Ryouga gently shoulders through a group of incoming late-lunchers and the two walk in silence for a few moments until the bandana'd boy's curiosity prods him to ask about the last one. "What about Shampoo?"

The tan teen looks disappointed, like he hoped to get away without having to deal with that one. "She is harder – she comes from a different culture, her whole back-ground is different. Among the Joketsuzoku, there can be fierce competition for place. Shampoo was a combat prodigy, and so all that came to her – all that were brought to her – were battles. She never had any friends. In many senses, she has no past to ground her. It was duty and obligation that drew her here, so quickly leaving the Bayankala Mountains. No present."

The blond clasps his elbows behind his back as he walks, his features darkening as he takes a moment to think before resuming his introspection. "When she lost to him, she discovered a spark of hope. Somebody had earned a place beside her, not a place over her that she had to be afraid of, or a place under her that she might not be able to recognize. For the first time, she found an opportunity for happiness and a certain fate."

Kouki slows and seems to study the sidewalk, stopping his speaking with a simple, "He is her future."

"Okay," Ryouga says as he crosses his arms, not bothering to hide his piqued interest. "I'll bite. What do your people say about taking the future?"

The blond straightens. "Take the present from a man and he recoils for a moment – we live in the present and can make immediate steps to protect or rebuild it, our present starts in the palm of our hands."

Ryouga quietly glances askance, giving a moment's pause before the Ainu in white resumes, "Take the past from a man and you wound him for a day – our past lies at arm's length, we must be careful in taking it, but with it we can shape and shield our present."

Kouki crosses his arms and looks up at the street signs, as if unable to make eye contact for this final leg of the journey. "Take the future from a man and you cripple him for a lifetime. Our future is our soul, our drive to struggle through the present, giving reason to our entire past, hope for peace and happiness."

I haven't found much literature on the Ainu, the native inhabitants of Japan prior to the arrival of the Japanese, the words spoken by Kouki reflect more the philosophical views that I've been exposed to. You could even take out the names, the point of this story is the meaning of people to each other, and how we make each other what we are. I've done my best to apply the most appropriate "time" to the most appropriate fiancee.

Dedicated to all those who are haunted by their past, struggle in their present, or search for hope in their future.