Furinkan High School, 9:15 A.M
« ... Miss Tendo might know the answer to that question... Miss Tendo ? »
Akane was sound asleep, her arms spread over her table with her head in the middle.
« Miss Tendo ! » the teacher called with an angry tone.
Akane lifted up her head, startled. A few students in the class started laughing.
« Sorry... I—I didn't sleep well last night »
The look on the teacher's face softened a bit. « It is the third time this week, I'm very concerned about you Miss Tendo »
That was the end of his moment of compassion.
« Now this might help you stay awake » he said, handing her a bucket of water. « Ten minutes in the hall. »
Akane went straight to bed after school on that day. She hoped she could get a bit more sleep than the previous nights, but as soon as her eyes closed, the same nightmare she had been having every night since her conversation with Ukyo took over her mind.
It always started with her and Ranma sparring together in the dojo. Suddenly, Ranma would collapse on the floor, his eyes wide and his mouth open. Akane would kneel down and ask what was happening. Ranma would put his hands on his stomach and look at them in horror.
They were covered in blood.
Then he would gaze upon her with the same shattered expression that had clouded over his face when she had told him the engagement was over, and he would whisper her name over and over again, until his eyes closed shut and he stopped breathing. At that point, Akane would realize her own hands were holding something, a katana, which was covered in blood.
« NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !! I didn't ! I didn't kill him ! »
As usual, Akane's scream woke everybody up in the Tendo house and Kasumi rushed into her room and held her tight until she calmed down.
« It's alright little sister, it's alright »
« I killed him Kasumi ! He's never coming back, he's never coming back... »
« He is... just give him some time. Now Akane... tell me what happened between the two of you please »
Akane's big dark eyes met her sister's grey ones. She didn't want to relive what had happened, she didn't even wanna think about it, but her sister seemed so concerned and serious that Akane took a deep breath and told her the whole story. When she was finished, Kasumi looked away with a severe expression.
« I can't believe that Hibiki boy betrayed you like that, if I had known, I never would have let him enter this house and... »
« Oneechan » Akane interrupted her sister. « What should I do... ? »
« Akane-chan »
« Y—Yes ? »
« Do you love Ranma ? »
Akane's heart skipped a beat. « Heeeeh ? Wh—why are you asking me this ? »
« Do you love him ? » Kasumi repeated.
The youngest sister felt her face redden with embarrassment.
« I—I don't know what you're... I mean—why would I love such an insensible, irresponsible jerk like him—I'm just, I'm just worried that's all » she said in one breath.
« Could you imagine your life without him ? »
Akane's face was now bright red and burning hot, and she tried to hide it by burrowing under her blankets.
« No » she said, once she was sure her big sister couldn't see the effort it had taken her to say this out loud.
A smile was stretched on Kasumi's lips when she said : « I asked him the same question once, and he gave me the same answer. Trust me, he'll be back »
Strangely, hearing it from her sister helped Akane believe it, and she stopped having nightmares every night. She even managed to get excited about her upcoming birthday. « Let's not make a big fuss out of it... » Akane insisted, and the three Tendo sisters spent the day together. They went to see a movie at the cinema, ate an ice cream (courtesy of Nabiki) and finally got back home to share a delicious meal with their father and Ranma's father. Nobody mentioned Ranma at all on that day, which helped Akane not to think about him, as long as she was busy thinking about other things. But as soon as everybody went to sleep and she found herself alone in her room, sadness and anger overwhelmed her.
« That idiot didn't even bother to come back... today » she muttered to herself, while gazing at the stars from the little balcony adjacent to her room.
Why would he, a little voice in her head replied, he never even cared about me...
« Though, even if he was there, I'm sure he wouldn't even bother wishing me a happy birthday » she added, gritting her teeth.
As the blowing wind sent a shiver down her spine and she was walking towards the window to get back to her room, Akane felt a hand land on her shoulder.
« Happy birthday » a voice whispered behind her.
Startled, the young girl shrieked, grasped the stranger's hand, pulled on it as hard as she could and had him fly over her head and crash against the wooden floor of the balcony. The latter—which hadn't been properly fixed since the incident with Nabiki— collapsed under the shock and they both landed flat on their backs on the ground.
« Damn... Still as violent as ever, I see... » Ranma muttered, rubbing his back.
« What... what took you to creep up on me like that you idiot ?! » Akane yelled, turning her head to face her ex-fiancé.
Their eyes met.
« Ranma... ? »
« Akane I... »
The young man looked down for a moment, catching his breath. Akane stood still, unable to tear her gaze away from him. She was too afraid that he'd disappear if she looked away for one second.
« I need to talk to you » he finally said with a sigh.
« Let's go inside the dojo before anyone sees you here » Akane said, standing up.
Ranma closed the door of the dojo, and before he understood what was happening, Akane was kicking him in the crotch. He groaned in pain and fell on his knees. When he was able to speak again, he said with a higher voice than usual :
« What was that for ?! »
« And he dares ask ! » Akane yelled, leaping through the air at him, her right foot ready for another kick.
But this time, Ranma saw it coming and dove away before her foot landed on him. Akane just had the time to break her fall with her arms.
« Will you just stand still and take it like a man ?! » the young girl burst out, flames dancing in her eyes.
« Why are you trying to hit me ? I haven't said anything yet ! »
« That's the problem ! You're not saying anything ! » Akane shouted, and tried to hit him with her fists.
Ranma caught her right fist right before it reached his face and dodged the other punch by sliding his head to the side. Akane growled and tried to free her captive hand with her other arm but Ranma grabbed it and twisted it up behind her back.
« Let go ! » the young girl shrilled, as she hurt herself trying to break his grip. That failed attempt only resulted in Ranma pushing her against the wall, and pinning her hands above her head. His chest was now softly pressed against her bosom, and she could feel his heart beating as fast as her own.
« Listen to me ! » Ranma ordered and waited until she looked up into his eyes « I'm—I'm sorry... »
« What... ? »
« I'm sorry that you're too stubborn to let me speak ! » Ranma said and Akane scowled at him, but didn't move « I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about Ryoga... I'm sorry that I didn't have the balls to tell you the truth about the letter » he continued and as he spoke, he slowly released Akane's arms, until his hands rested on her shoulders « Because the truth is... I was too scared you'd reject me after what had happened with the pig-boy »
« Then what was it all ab... » Akane began, but Ranma put his index on her lips before she could finish her sentence.
« I'm not done with the apologizing yet » he murmured with a hoarse voice that sent shivers down Akane's spine. « I'm sorry that I didn't try to hold you back when you said the engagement was over, and I'm sorry that I... wasn't able to tell you these things before tonight » His shaking hands slowly slid down Akane's back until they reached her slender waist « And... »
Akane's breath grew ragged as she saw Ranma's head leaning forward, so that their burning faces were now only separated by a few millimeters.
« What are you doin... » the young girl protested with a shriek that was muffled by Ranma's warm lips suddenly pressing onto hers.
Her eyes wide open with surprise, she struggled to shove him away but he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss.
Akane thought her chest was going to explode. How dare he kiss her ? Like that ? Before she knew it, her own mouth was responding to the kiss, her lips slightly opening, her tongue searching for his. The young girl knew she was giving in, but it felt too good to stop now. It felt nothing like the first time they had kissed—by accident—when Ranma was in his neko-ken state. It was a thousand times more intense. Extreme. Passionate.
It almost hurt when Ranma loosened his embrace and softly broke the kiss. They stood still for a moment, panting.
«... I'm sorry I... never dared to do this before » he whispered in her ear.
Akane was amazed. Everything she had ever wanted him to do, he had done. Everything she had ever wanted to hear, he had said. Well, almost everything...
« Ranma... Do you love me ? » she asked, looking up into his blue eyes.
Ranma took a deep breath. He knew it was coming. He knew he would have to say these three simple words, that would change everything for ever, that would make everything better... or worse. But it was out of the question to deny it any longer.
« Since the very first day... » he admitted, his voice trembling a bit « Akane...I love you, I always have »
Akane's eyes filled up with tears. Finally, finally he was admitting it.
Ranma's heart was still thumping in his chest. He had said it. He realized with a shiver that he couldn't back out anymore, pretend that he didn't mean it, claim that he was out of his mind or under some magic spell when he said it. He had opened his heart to her, and he was left bare-naked. More than ever, he wanted to know if everything he felt for her was mutual.
« D—do you... ? » he queried, his face turning bright red.
Akane chuckled. « Of course I love you, baka ! »
Ranma savored this moment for a few seconds, smirking from ear to ear, before asking : « Then why did you call off the engagement ? »
« Because... I was hurt, and upset, and I wanted to hurt you as much as you had hurt me » the young girl explained.
« Are you still mad at me ? »
« After all that apologizing ? How could I ? »
They both laughed, still standing in an embrace position. Akane felt like kissing him again, but she resisted the urge. There were still a few things that needed to be explained first.
« Where did you go after we argued ? Why didn't you come back home before today ? Some of us even thought you were dead ! »
Ranma frowned. « Some of you ? Did you think I was dead ? »
« Well I—I was afraid you might do something stupid... Ukyo and the others told me you never joined them after our fight, they didn't know where you'd gone. They waited for you, they didn't want to reverse their curses without you, but you never came, so they never did... »
« Man... I'd completely forgotten about them, all I could think about was how I'd screwed everything up with you, and how you would never forgive me for that... » he paused, before adding : « And I've done some serious thinking too... It took me days to figure out what I really want, out of life I mean, but now I know »
« And... what is it ? » Akane asked apprenhensively.
Ranma looked at her, with hungry-looking eyes « I wanna spend the rest of my life with you, I want to marry you, and take over the dojo, with you. »
Akane felt herself blushing from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.
« If... that's okay with you, of course » he added with a timid smile.
« It is » Akane smiled back. « It's more than okay »
« Hell, if Pop knew that everything he planned for me was actually what I really want... » the young man said for himself, jokingly.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, an idea popped in Akane's mind.
« Ranma, let's go » she said in a barely audible voice.
Ranma frowned, puzzled. « Let's go... where ? »
« Away, just you and me » the young girl heard herself say « Let's go on a—on a training trip, I want you to make me as strong as you »
Ranma chuckled. « As strong as me ? I'm the best of all martial artists, you'll never be able to get to my level ! » That's what he would have said if the situation had been different. But looking at the hope in his fiancée's eyes, he regained his composure and thought better of it. « You're serious ? You want to leave, now ? »
The young girl nodded her head up and down enthusiastically.
« But what about your family, school ? »
« School's out of the question... I totally failed Todai placement tests » Akane admitted, shaking her head in a slow motion.
« Well, what about your dad and your sisters then ? » Ranma reminded her.
« I'll write them a note, and it's not like we're going forever ! Believe me, they'll be happy to know that we ran away together... »
As the idea was becoming a plan, the two teenagers felt the adrenaline rush through their bodies.
« You—you really wanna do this ? » Ranma queried.
Once again, Akane nodded with no hesitation : « More than anything »
And then they kissed passionately, hungrily, as if they couldn't get enough of each other, a bit clumsily as well, but it didn't matter, because they knew they were gonna have plenty of time to practice...
The next day - Tendo kitchen, 9 A.M
Kasumi : Oh my !
Nabiki : Kasumi what's going on ?
Kasumi : On... on the table...
Nabiki : Maaaaaaaaan ! Are those two really gone ? Together ?!
Soun : Who is gone ? Where ?
Nabiki :Akane and Ranma eloped.
Soun : WHAAT ?! My baby girl ! Where's my baby giiiiiirl !!
Genma : Tendo-kun ! You know what that means ! They've finally accepted their engagement ! They're going to take over the dojo ! Our future is assured ! Ahahahahahaha !!
Soun : Saaaoootooomee-kuuun !!
Kasumi : Maybe we should try and find them, it's not correct for two fiancés to spend time together alone before marriage...
Nabiki : Yeah, what if Akane gets pregnant ?
Genma : Granchildren ! We're gonna have grandchildren ! That's wonderful ! Dance with me Tendo-kun !
Soun : Bwaaaaaaahaha ! I'm gonna be a grandpa !
Nabiki : Oi Kasumi, what's that ring around your finger ?
Kasumi : This might not be the greatest moment to tell you this but... Tofu-sensei has asked me to marry him, and I said yes !
Kasumi : Daddy, are you alright ? Oh my... seems like he's passed out...
Well there you go, that's the end of my first fanfiction ever "Man up and say it", I hope you enjoyed reading it, I know I enjoyed writing it, especially this last chapter !!
Don't forget to REVIEW ! It's the best reward I can get for all the hard work I put into this story ! I don't know if I will write a sequel yet, but I might someday so stay tuned ! I might also write other stories, but probably shorter than this one, unless I come up with a gr-amazing idea !
Ja, mata ne !
Music I listened to while writing this chapter :
- Far away (Staind)
- With me (Sum 41)
- You are my love (Sakura version)
- Near to you (A Fine Frenzy)
- Yurameku Kimochi - Tsukushi - Planetarium (from the Hana Yori Dango original soundtrack)