A/N: I don't know how I came up with this one, but it was such a cute/ odd idea that I had to write it down!
Disclaimer: Obviously, I do not own Ranma ½ or I would be rich…very rich.
Akane glanced up as his muffled voice wafted through the closed window. She stood and walked over to the window. He had expected her to open it and talk to him, but she just smiled at him sadly and shut the curtain.
Ranma pulled himself back onto the roof, and frowned. He'd seen her packing her backpack, the one she normally took with her when she went on training trips.
Why? He thought.
He climbed down from the roof and walked back into the house through the sliding doors.
He knew she'd been acting a little odd the last few weeks, ever since China and the failed wedding. Was she that unhappy? Did she hate it here? Why would she want to leave?
They were friends, or so he thought, and might have been more. They still fought, he couldn't help that, but he had been trying harder. He was always careful with her, since China, wanting to know where she was at all times. And now she wanted to leave? How was he supposed to protect her if she was gone?
He entered the living room, glancing momentarily at Soun and Nabiki Tendo who were watching TV on the couch. He started toward the stairs, pausing at the bottom when he heard a door slam. Akane appeared at the top of the stairs. She was wearing pants and a loose T-shirt, not her usual attire, but something more comfortable for walking long distances in. She looked at him for a minute, before redirecting her eyes and slowly descending.
Ranma frowned as she ignored him. "Akane, where-"
"Akane! Ranma!" Kasumi called, cutting him off. "Could you come here for a second?"
Akane brushed past Ranma toward the front hall, where the whole family had suddenly gathered.
"We're going out for a while," Kasumi informed them as she pulled on a jacket.
"All right," Akane said, ignoring Ranma's eyes on the back of her head. "Where are you going?"
"Kuno baby invited us over for dinner, or rather he invited Akane and the Pig-tailed Girl. He should have good food, though." Nabiki said. "We figured you two didn't want to go. Unless, of course, you do?" Nabiki chuckled as Ranma and Akane shook their heads vigorously, eyes wide.
"Well, then," Soun said as he held the door open for Nabiki and Kasumi. "Have fun, you two!" He walked out the door, giggling.
Akane and Ranma just watched the closed door for a minute.
"Well," Akane finally said, "That was convenient timing." She shrugged her shoulders and walked back to the kitchen.
She opened the fridge and pulled out a number of ingredients, most of it easy food that wouldn't spoil from not being refrigerated. She took uncooked ramen and rice from the cupboard. She put all of the ingredients in a bag and started to go out the door.
Ranma stood in her way, arms crossed, refusing to let her out.
"So, 'Kane, where ya goin'?" He asked, eyes narrowed.
She glared back at him again, holding his gaze, before sighing. "I'm going to come back, you know."
"That's not what I asked."
She tried to walk past him again, but he sidestepped in the way. She took a step back and said, "I don't know, Ranma. But it's going to be far away from here."
She groaned. "Ranma, I really don't have time for this."
Ranma crossed the space between them and grabbed the food bag from her hand.
"Now ya do." He said as he tossed it onto the table on the other side of the room.
She glared at him, her teeth clenched. She was starting to get irritated. "Ranma, you're being ridiculous."
"I'm being ridiculous? You're the one being stupid!"
"What? I am not!" She shouted back, clearly angry now.
"You can't just waltz around like that!" He shouted back. "You idiot, you can't even make tea. Who's gonna take care of you, huh?"
She paused, looking up at him. She smiled suddenly. "Ranma, I'm going to be fine. I'm just going on a-a vacation of sorts for a little bit."
"What for?" She didn't answer. "At least," Ranma hesitated, trying to find a good reason to make her stay. He couldn't think of one. It was just as dangerous here in Nerima as it was anywhere else, what with all the psycho paths in town. "At least let me come with you."
She blinked before scoffing. "No, I'm not going to let you come with me! If you came with me, there'd be no point in leaving in the first place!" She shouted, annoyed with this whole conversation.
Ranma stopped. He let her walk past this time, staring at the place where she had been a minute ago. Was it his fault she was leaving? He turned, watching her walk down the hall to her room.
He snapped out of it and quickly caught her. "You can't go!" He said grabbing her arm.
"Oh yeah? Why not?" She yelled, trying to free her arm.
"Because!" He paused for a second, trying to get a better hold on her as she squirmed away from him. "Because you're not strong enough to just go off by yourself!"
She growled as she was jerked back, her feet practically leaving the floor. "I'm still a martial artist, Ranma! I can take care of myself!"
"Saffron isn't going to come back, Ranma!"
She broke away with a quick jab to his stomach which he brushed off. They stared at each other, breathing hard.
The tension broke as the phone rang. Akane looked down the hall as it rang again. Ranma reluctantly let her walk into the other room. He stood in the hallway and listened as she answered the phone.
"Hello!…What?…Oh, Yuka….Now? Um, well…."
Ranma's head lifted as he heard her tone of voice. He walked into the other room as Akane said, "All right, I'll see you in a few minutes…bye."
"Who was that?" He asked.
Akane looked at the phone sadly. "It was Yuka. Something happened. I told her I'd come over."
"Right now?" Ranma asked hopefully. If she could be delayed, that might give him enough time to figure out how to stop her.
"Don't look so happy."
Ranma felt a sudden sense of triumph as she walked into the front hall. But when she slipped her tennis shoes on, instead of her regular shoes, he looked at her suspiciously.
She frowned at him. "Come with me if you want."
Ranma snorted and followed her out the door and down the street.
When they reached Yuka's house, Yuka flung open the door and threw her arms around Akane's neck.
"Oh, Akane!" She sobbed onto her shoulder.
Akane patted her back. "It's ok, you'll be fine…" she reassured her. Akane glanced back at Ranma. "I think I might be a while."
Ranma, who was starring at Yuka with wide eyes, nodded and turned back down the street, knowing Akane wouldn't leave with Yuka like that.
He turned back.
"Thanks...uh, for walking me over." She gave him a small smile.
He frowned as they disappeared inside the house.
When he reached the Tendo Dojo he raced upstairs to Akane's room, determined to find the backpack and unpack it. He opened the closet, looked under the bed, and checked behind the door…he couldn't find it. He rushed back downstairs, thinking she might have placed it near the door for a quick escape. He searched each of the rooms, coming up with the same answer.
A sudden fear bubbled up in his throat. He went back to Akane's room and opened all the drawers. They were completely empty.
He didn't even bother closing the drawers or shutting the door behind him as he ran back to Yuka's house.
He rang the doorbell, shifting impatiently from foot to foot as he waited. Yuka opened the door and he was surprised to see that her eyes were dry. In fact, there was no sign of her previous breakdown at all.
"Oh, Ranma, um-" She said when she saw him.
"Where's Akane?" He asked, interrupting her.
"Oh, well, you see, she isn't exactly here right now…"
Ranma spun around, not waiting for her to finish.
He ran around Nerima, taking streets he thought she might use, but then resorted to just running along fences and hopping across buildings, calling her name. A crushing dread settled over him as he searched and researched Nerima's streets, going so far as Tokyo's borders. He checked every train station and airport he could think of, every place he could ever remember her taking a liking to, every place she might even hate, going so far as bursting through the door to the surprise of the Neko Hanten owners.
But it was as simple as that: Akane was gone.
11 months later…
The metal fence beneath him twanged as his footsteps ran faster along the top of it. Ranma didn't bother watching where he was going, knowing the way like the back of his hand.
Not that he enjoyed this daily routine.
He hated school. Really hated it. And ever since Akane had left he'd hated it even more. He'd actually stopped going to school for a while, after she'd left. He'd just stay at the house all day, training or watching TV all day. Eventually, he felt himself going completely stir-crazy and was forced to leave the house. Now he went, and like clockwork did his work—actually did it— ate lunch, and went back home again, where he'd proceed to finish his homework and then train until dinnertime.
Not that he found much point in doing any of it. Except for the training part. He periodically had Shampoo and Kodachi bombard him, Mouse get angry about Shampoo's extra attention, Kuno bellowing where his "precious Akane Tendo" was, and Ryoga either screaming "prepare to die!" or camping in the Tendo's back yard in wait for his lost love. Not exactly the picturesque scene for the residents of Nerima.
In fact, it was nearly time for Shampoo's early morning bike route…
As if on que, her bike bell sounded behind him, warning him to either get out of the way or be run over. Of course, as soon as he did jump out of the way, she just redirected her bike, so he was run over anyway.
"Nihao, Ranma! Shampoo bring you too, too delicious breakfast, made just for you!" Shampoo said cheerily, pulling out her delivery box.
He groaned and pulled himself up, rubbing his head. "No thanks, Shampoo. I already ate." He tried to turn but found that Shampoo was already in his way.
"Shampoo insists, Ranma. Is made special, with all Shampoo's love!" She held the ramen bowl up to his nose. It did smell delicious, but Ranma considered the fact that normal ramen was not supposed to be blue, and again decided to not eat it.
"Shampoo, I'm going to be late," Ranma said, ignoring her puppy-dog eyes.
"Aw! Is ok, Shampoo understands. Ranma want to become not only strong airen, but also very smart airen! Shampoo see Ranma after school, then!" Shampoo lurched forward and crushed him to her in a goodbye hug. Unfortunately, Mouse chose this particular moment to turn the corner.
"What are you up to with my future bride, Saotome? I shall-" Mouse was cut short when "Ranma Saotome" (a light pole) was cut in half by his sword and fell on top of his own head. "This fight…isn't…over…" Mouse mumbled before passing out.
Ranma and Shampoo watched him slump to the ground, neither bothering to aid him.
"Stupid duck," Shampoo muttered, annoyed.
"Oi! Get your hands off Ran-chan, you Chinese hussy!"
Ranma sighed as Ukyo pulled her battle spatula from her back and Shampoo glared at her.
"You challenge Shampoo for airen? You no know what get you self into." Shampoo said darkly, taking a defensive stance.
Ranma rolled his eyes. They always said and did the same things. Didn't they ever get tired of it?
Ranma took their distraction as an opportunity and hurried along the road toward the school. He knew how the fight would end, anyway. Cologne would show up, tell Shampoo fighting a non-amazonion, weak, underprivileged girl wasn't worth it, Ukyo would get ticked off until she remembered she was late for school, and the fight would break up…just like it happened everyday.
He heard the bell ringing in the distance and sped up.
"Hahaha! You better hurry up, budda, or you're going to be late!" Principle Kuno's voice wafted toward him over the speakers as he neared. "You know the punishment for being late!"
He reached the school just as the gates were closing and quickly slipped inside.
"Ha!" He laughed in triumph…that is, before the sidewalk beneath him opened up and he fell through.
He, er, now a she, swam back to the surface of the pool of water he'd fallen in. She looked up at the fake sunny, blue sky of the principles office and sighed again. She turned and started swimming toward the little island where a very tanned man in a Hawaiian shirt was playing the ukulele.
"Haha!" Principle Kuno exclaimed when he saw Ranma. "You late, boy! You know the punishment! You have ta spend the rest of the day as a little wahine! Haha!"
Ranma started. "What? I thought the punishment was that you had to trim the soccer field with fingernail clippers!"
"That was last weeks punishment. But now that you've cut the grass ev'ra day, it don't need no more trimmin', so now we makin' you stay a girl! Haha!"
"What good'll that do you?" Ranma mumbled, sloshing onto the beach.
"True, dat, but you is a good lookin' wahine, and today we need a good lookin' representative of Furinkan High 'cause we be havin' inspectors comin' to da school to check in on da big Kahuna." Principle Kuno leaned back in his sun chair and strummed his ukulele, which was horrendously out of tune.
"What? No way!" Ranma turned and started in the direction of the door, which happened to be hidden away in a deep, fake forest.
"Aw, come on, little budda, don't be makin' me send ya to da detention room, ya?"
Ranma growled and opened her mouth for a reply but was cut off as the roof opened again and Ukyo fell through the ceiling into the fake ocean.
Ranma stopped and waited for her to swim to shore, and just as Principle Kuno was in the middle of telling her her punishment Ranma grabbed a conveniently located coconut and knocked him out.
Ranma and Ukyo wandered through the jungle for near two hours—fighting two teachers dressed as gorillas and a man-eating flower on the way—and finally found the secretary's desk that was placed just beside the elevator that led up to the main building. She smiled, greeted them both by name, handed them some dry clothes and hot water, and sent them back up to the school.
Ranma spent the rest of the day avoiding the principle's attempts to turn him into a girl, Kuno jr.—who wanted to know, again, where "the foul sorcerer had whisked Akane to"—and a couple other girls who had started fawning over him when his fiancée conveniently disappeared. He ate lunch with Daisuke and Hiroshi, and Ukyo fed them some okinomiyaki that had previously been poisoned by Kodachi and turned the three of their eyes green for the next few hours.
All in all, Ranma was immensely relieved as he walked home along the fence that no one else had mobbed him in the last while, and would most likely leave him alone the rest of the day, all of them afraid of Nabiki Tendo, who was visiting from her college this week.
He had started home late—due to a recently conscious, and unconscious again, Mouse—so the sun was low in the sky, the clouds already turning orange, when he reached the Tendo gates. He hopped off the fence and crossed the street, jumping over the gate and walking down the path to the front door. He walked in, hollered "I'm home!", slipped his shoes off and headed into the dining room where everyone was already seated for dinner.
"Welcome home, Ranma!" Kasumi greeted, smiling up at him, the first to notice his presence.
Genma and Soun glanced up at him over their bowls of food, nodding. Nabiki didn't even bother looking up, but continued whatever she was doing on her palm pilot.
"Hey, m'boy, how was school?" Genma grinned at him.
Ranma shrugged. "Same." He knelt down at the table and ignored the empty space at the table across from him.
"Here you are, Ranma," Kasumi said, handing him a bowl of steaming rice and vegetables. Ranma smiled at her, catching Genma's chopsticks that were headed towards his bowl in his own.
"Ukyo called, Ranma," Kasumi said casually. "She said that she hoped you'd stop by later. She thought you might need a break from things."
Ranma smiled. Although he never did take her invitations he was still glad Ukyo was here. If it weren't for her help, he didn't think he'd have survived the past few months, what with all the crazed suitors, and deranged loons, in this town.
After a few minutes of polite chat around the table—well, except for the sounds of Genma and Ranma fighting and chewing—Nabiki sighed and turned off her palm pilot and picked up her chopsticks. Just before the screen went blank, Ranma caught a glimpse of the web page she had been on:
Ranma looked at Nabiki's face, which was uncharacteristically make-up-less and had dark bags under her eyes. He knew that it wasn't her college classes that were making her stressed.
She was still upset with herself. Angry and upset that she hadn't been able to locate her little sister. She'd started looking for Akane the day after she left, and still was drawing a blank. She didn't even know why. She had connections in nearly every surrounding country, agents and spies that covered all the surrounding towns, and none of them had even seen Akane leave. Quite a few of them lost their jobs after that. She couldn't find even one scrap of evidence that Akane had been anywhere; it was like she had fallen off the ends of the Earth.
Ranma shook his head sympathetically. The whole family had taken it hard. Kasumi pretended like it didn't bother her, but he knew she still cried sometimes. Her smiles were wider than usual, like she was trying to hide something, and not shown nearly as often.
Soun didn't cry just "sometimes", he cried every night and sometimes part of the day. He'd stopped eating when Akane had left and locked himself in his room for nearly a month and a half. It wasn't until Nabiki and Kasumi had snapped him out of it…literally. Nabiki had slapped him across the face and Kasumi had yelled at him, telling him he wasn't the only one that was upset. Soun very quickly sobered up, only to break down again and go on about his "beautifully wonderful and caring daughters".
Ranma glanced at the girl in question, amused at the memory. She caught his eyes and smiled gently back at him. He was relieved to see that it was genuine.
He was glad that he was with this family. He knew that if he'd been alone with Genma he'd have ended up killing the idiot, who would probably have him engaged to another girl faster than he could blink. And if he'd been alone with Soun he was sure he'd have gone mad from his incessant weeping. Kasumi and Nabiki, odd as they were, were firm in what they believed in. Kasumi believed that Akane would come back, and Nabiki believed that she would be able to find her. Either way, they had both comforted Ranma and convinced him to stay at the dojo and wait, instead of rushing off on some half-formed plan of a rescue.
He had to admit, though, he was getting anxious. It had been almost a year. He was a Senior now. He'd already promised himself that if there was still no sign of Akane after he had finished school, he'd go find her right after graduation.
He didn't want to think any further about that, though. He'd never show any sign of it but it gave him a stomachache. He didn't want to think about the possibility of him never finding her, or, if he did find her, her not wanting to come back.
Ranma was jerked from his thoughts as the doorbell rang.
He turned with the rest of the members at the table, blinking in surprise. For a minute no one moved, too shocked to do anything. No one had visited the Tendo dojo in near a year. And the people that did never bothered to ring the doorbell.
The doorbell rang again and it stirred the family into action.
Soun folded the newspaper he had been reading, Nabiki and Genma straightened in their seats, and Kasumi rose with an "Oh my" to get the door. Ranma remained frozen, chopsticks halfway to his mouth.
A few seconds passed and the doorbell rang again, allowing everyone to assume that Kasumi still hadn't opened the door.
Ranma sighed when he felt everyone's eyes suddenly on him and walked toward the door.
Kasumi was standing with one hand on the doorknob, not moving. When he got closer, she looked up at him, startled. "Oh, Ranma, I just..."
He just gently moved her out of the way and opened the door after a deep breath.
Who stood on the other side wasn't even close to what they had been expecting.
"Is this the Tendo Dojo?" the guest asked. He was a boy, about ten years old, with unruly black hair. His clothes were dusty and he had a heavy, shaggy looking backpack loading his shoulders. He would look every bit a street urchin, if it weren't for his hard, determined gaze.
"Um, yeah." Ranma responded lamely, Kasumi blinking over his shoulder.
The boy looked relieved as he bowed low to them.
"I am Yunshin Hikawa," he said, "and I have news for you and this household."
Kasumi recovered first. "Please, do come in."
Yunshin stepped through the doorway, glancing around.
"This way," Kasumi said, smiling down at him, and turned to go back into the dining room.
Yunshin took a step, then turned and looked up at Ranma. They watched each other for a minute, sizing each other up.
"Are you Ranma Saotome?" Yunshin suddenly asked.
"Um, yeah, that's me."
Yunshin's stern face suddenly broke out into a grin. "Oh, I see," He said. "I've heard much about you, Ranma Saotome, it's good to finally meet you." Then he turned and headed into the dining hall.
Ranma watched after him, thinking. So, a ten-year-old kid had heard about him? He hoped he didn't have it in his puny head that he was going to challenge him.
Ranma rolled his eyes and walked back into the dining room.
Yunshin was sitting at the table now, in Akane's seat. Ranma suddenly felt very protective of that cushion and resisted the urge to "accidentally" dump his food on the kid.
Kasumi placed a bowl of food in front of Yunshin, which he just stared at.
"Go on, you must be hungry," Genma reassured from next to him.
Yunshin glanced at the bald man before picking up his chopsticks and the bowl. The speed with which he ate rivaled that of the Saotome family.
When he was finished, he placed the bowl on the table again and sighed, content.
"D-did you enjoy it?" Kasumi asked, stunned.
Yunshin patted his stomach. "Mmm, yes, I did. It was even better than I had imagined."
"Oh, um, thank you?" Kasumi said, confused.
Nabiki narrowed her eyes at the boy.
"Who are you again?" She asked.
Yunshin blinked at her. "I'm Yunshin Hikawa. I've come to bring you a message."
"Oh? What message? From who?"
Nabiki had no idea what the answer to this question would bring to the members at the table. Although, if she had, she'd have been too shocked herself to even ask.
But, since she didn't, Yunshin just straightened up, his purpose remembered.
"It's about someone very close to me," He started seriously. "And you. Keep in mind that she didn't send me, I came on my own. But I think that you might want to know so that you're not caught off guard when she gets here." Yunshin paused dramatically before saying the last sentence. "Akane Tendo is coming home."
A/N: Bwahahaha! Heh, evil cliffy! Whose the kid? How's he know Akane? Where's said girl been all this time? You'll see, you'll see, you'll see! XD