Sailor Ranko: A Love Story
A Ranma 1/2 / Sailor Moon Novella, 2nd in the Sailor Ranko series
Copyright 1999-2008, Rebecca Ann Heineman
Ranma 1/2 and the characters therein are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Sailor Moon and the characters therein are the property of Naoko Takeuchi. Based on "Sailor Ranko" by Duncan Zillman.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Chapter 1, Facing The Music
I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me, kill me or give me pneumonia.
Ranma walked in the direction opposite of the Cat Cafe with a worried look on his face. Keeping his thoughts to himself, he repeated a mantra. I can't go back. I can't go back.
Behind him, Akane stood silently and watched him leave. She was expecting him to turn around and tell her that he was only joking and he didn't mean what he had just told her. But Ranma kept walking, ignoring his instinct to duck out, double back and keep an eye on the tomboy in case she got into trouble with her imminent fight with Shampoo. One thing that his experience with her on Jadeite's world had taught him was that she needed to spread her wings, to be trusted to fight on her own and to win her own wars. And a war was coming, not from creatures from another dimension, but from his own past. He stared downward, sulking in how had things had gotten so out of hand. Kodachi, Lin-Lin, Lung-Lung, Ukyou, Shampoo and who knows whom else were all trying to win his affections. Of all of them, Shampoo had made it clear that she was not going to take his engagement to Akane lying down and she was going to force him to accept his 'marriage' to her whether he liked it or not. As far as Shampoo was concerned, Akane's life was forfeit if that was what it took to get Ranma to return to China with her.
He stopped dead in his tracks as he heard Akane's challenge to Shampoo. She yelled it loud enough that half of Nerima could have heard. "I don't have to take that any more. Come on out here and face me. I challenge you for Ranma's hand. The winner will be his wife."
Wife. Ranma felt pride in that word and the idea that Akane wanted to spend her life with him. It took superhuman effort for Ranma not to turn back, not to stand by Akane's side and ensure that she would win the fight. He slowly walked forward, forcing himself to take step after step as he paid close attention to the sound of combat behind him. No, I can't help her. It wouldn't be fair, he told himself, knowing that unless Akane won unaided, the combat's results would be declared null and void by Cologne, and it would only delay another assassination attempt on Akane's life. With a determined stride, he picked up the pace and walked away from the battle and toward another war. This one was a challenge that he had to fight on his own. Akane may have been the right one to deal with the Shampoo problem, but the issue that lay ahead was his and his alone to solve.
He reached the intersection and turned the corner and kept going, ignoring the passersby who walked to and fro visiting shops, buying snacks from street vendors. A few people were waiting for a bus and they barely gave him a glance as he went by. The air was filled with the sounds of happy people going about their daily lives, oblivious to what the young man sporting a pig-tailed hairstyle was doing. Ranma sighed and stopped, hands in his pockets and his shoulders slumped in depression. He moved toward a storefront and watched a salary man run by, waving his arm high, trying to catch the attention of a taxi. A mother went by with her four-year-old son, and then a small group of girls wearing sailor-style school uniforms giggled as they stole a peek at Ranma's biceps and they quickly scurried off. It's not even a school day today, he thought, watching them huddle in front of a candy cart buying treats for themselves. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and clasped in his fist was a gold encrusted red pen with an ornate star at the end with a symbol of the sun in the center. He quickly made it vanish, returning his gaze to the schoolgirls, who were disappearing into the entrance of a cram school.
Just like Ami, he pondered as the school uniforms the girls wore reminded him of his duties as the Senshi of the Sun. He faced down the street and several blocks ahead, barely visible, was where he had to be. He waited a moment, as he used the time to procrastinate. The smell of takoyaki made his stomach growl and he absent-mindedly rummaged around his pockets for some loose change, only to come up empty.
A meal was waiting for him ahead, yet the price to pay wasn't in yen, but something higher. He swallowed and took another step toward his damnation. He kept his gaze firmly on the sidewalk as his shame kept him from holding his head high. Here was the Senshi of the Sun, fearless and courageous. Yeah, right, wondered Ranma as a fit of depression worthy of Ryoga flooded his soul. Some Senshi I turned out to be, gah! Ranma gawked at the comment he made about himself. He shook his head vigorously to get the idea out of his mind that being a Sailor Senshi was a good thing. I'm a guy for crying out loud! The more he thought about it, the more he thought that maybe wearing a tuxedo wasn't such a bad idea after all? He had worn tuxedos before, like when Shampoo was under the spell of the reversal jewel, and he looked good. Ranma's confidence came back to him as he smirked in pride, Yeah, I could do that. But could he? He felt natural in the guise of Sailor Sun, too natural. Memories came back, and he brushed them aside, wishing that they would never return. The tux, yeah, how... Who am I kidding?
Ranma sulked again. He couldn't do that. 'Tuxedo Ranma' didn't feel right, he was Sailor Sun and that's all. His pride wouldn't allow him to take a demotion among the Senshi, and sealing the deal was the loss of power. Besides, he probably couldn't take the form of a tuxedo-wearing guardian anyways, the very idea seemed out of place, unnatural.
Deep inside, he knew where his power was coming from, and yet he still didn't want to admit it. It had been about three months since he got the transformation pen and almost for two months straight he was Sailor Sun. His feminine side had won this battle, but was it going to win the war? Was it going to take him completely? How long before Ranma was gone and all that remained was Ranko and Sailor Sun?
He shuddered and looked up and read the sign of the shop he was about to walk in front of. He stopped dead in his tracks, how did I? He checked himself to see what gender he was and he was still a guy. Something in the back of his mind said that it was possible for him to teleport, but Mercury's portal was locked away at Rei's place, or was it? Were they playing a joke on him? He couldn't have walked three blocks that quickly, could he? He looked behind him and the street was familiar. Looking in the direction he was going he read the sign again and recognized the storefront and the folding wooden sign that had the day's specials written on it.
"Ucchan," he whispered, half happily, half fearfully.
A beautiful waitress in a crisp clean kimono emerged from the shop and bowed in respect. "Good morning, Ranma-sama!" Konatsu looked up and made a happy smile. The genius kunoichi was someone Ranma had helped rescue from his cruel stepmother just before he and Akane were sent off to Juuban. Even though Konatsu was male, he was raised as a woman and it was almost impossible to tell that the demure, ladylike and pretty waitress was actually a guy.
Ranma weakly returned the bow, "hi, Konatsu-chan. Can I come in?" Ranma grimaced at the politeness he was showing. He had to act natural until he spoke to Ukyou, then he had to get ready to run like hell.
Konatsu's lipstick gleamed in the early morning sunlight and his makeup was perfection. He smiled and waved Ranma in, "of course you can come inside." He hurriedly rushed under the shop curtain and a moment later he said excitedly to his mistress, "Ranma-sama's here!"
"It's now or never," muttered Ranma, with the word 'never' sounding like the better choice. He lifted a hand to move the shop curtain out of the way and he went inside. There, the restaurant was almost empty. Sitting in a small table were two boys from Furinkan High he recognized from chance meetings in the hallways, but he had no idea what their names were. They looked in his direction for a moment, and then went back to talking to each other. At the grill was a salary man, who was giving some money to Ukyou. The gentleman bowed and walked toward Ranma, who took a step to the side to let the patron exit.
Ukyou closed up the register and waved at her best friend, "hey, Ranma honey! Sit down. Long time, no see." With a huge smile on her face, she mixed up some batter and poured it on the grill. In the time it took Ranma to sit in his usual seat in the restaurant, Ukyou was pouring her special sauce on a fully cooked okonomiyaki and she drew out a heart with the dark gooey liquid. Sliding a spatula under the Japanese pancake, she effortlessly flipped it into the air and it landed perfectly in the center of a plate. She served it with a smile. "There you go."
Without hesitation, Ranma grabbed the meal and chowed down. In less than fifteen seconds, it was devoured and his stomach demanded more. Holding up his empty plate, he asked. "Another please?"
The chef quickly whipped up a second one and in a show of great skill, she spun around facing the wall away from him and flipped the pancake behind her back. It flew through the air and landed right in Ranma's mouth. "There ya go, Ranma honey... Now..." She spun back and slammed her spatula down hard on the cooking surface causing a few condiment containers to bounce a centimeter high. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Mmmmhmmh?" Ranma said while wolfing down his meal. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as Ukyou leaned forward, expecting an answer.
Her patience was rapidly running thin. "Well? I come to find out you snuck off to Hokkaido and I spend over a month running all over Japan looking for you. The least you could have done was call me so I could save you from Akane's cooking. What gives?" Her eyebrows twitched and her anger crept through.
Ranma chewed a bit slower, hoping the time dilation would bleed through into reality and delay the inevitable. Instead, it had the opposite effect as Ukyou sat on a tall stool and rested her head on her hands.
Ukyou looked Ranma over. "At least she didn't kill you and you don't look like you starved yourself. How in the world did you survive camping out with her for months? If you needed someone to help you train, you know I'd be there." Ukyou smiled. "Remember when Happosai made you weak?"
He grimaced at the memory.
She smugly added. "Yeah, thought so." She pulled out a grill scraper and began cleaning the cooking surface of burnt food particles. "You, Ryoga, Cologne and I went off on that training journey with you so you could learn the Hiryu Shoten Ha. I took care of you then." Raising her voice with every scrape, she spat out angrily, "why didn't you take me with you this time?"
Ranma swallowed what he thought could be the last of Ucchan's okonomiyaki he'll ever have in his extremely short life. "I... I..."
"I... What?" Ukyou's piercing glare grew, fueled by weeks of anger and frustration. "You up and disappear and I had to spend good money to find out where you went. All I got for my trouble was sore feet and a month's worth of lost business."
"I'm sorry 'bout that, Ucchan."
Angrily she shouted, "Sorry? Sorry? Is that all you've got to say? What's this I hear about you planning on moving to the Minato ward? Was that where you've been all this time? Here, I thought you'd be out at some martial arts retreat and instead you're smack in the middle of the biggest thing to hit Tokyo!"
"Don't but me, Mister." If smoke could come from Ukyou's ears, the room would resemble a fog bank. "You take off. Your dad lies about it. I end up on a trip with Shampoo and her whacked out buddy Mousse, and tried to stay alive with all the times she tried to off me and then I come to find that you've been in downtown Tokyo the whole time. Then I get my butt to the Minato ward only to find that you and... And..." Ukyou held her giant spatula in her arms and bent the handle in her rage. "Akane! You and her took off again to parts unknown and I get caught up with those monster things who tried to drag me off to who knows where."
Ranma's jaw dropped to the floor at the revelation. "Ucchan? They took you to Jadeite's world?"
"What are you talking about? They tried to drag me off, but Ko-chan here smacked those things around and I chased them down the street until the Sailor girls showed up."
Konatsu bowed toward Ukyou. "You are too kind."
"I'm sorry! I didn't know! I was trying to save Akane!"
"What else is new?" Ukyou threw her giant spatula to the floor. "Prince Kirin, Prince Toma, the Amazons and heck, I heard Gosunkugi kidnapped her at least once. She's always getting kidnapped." Anger spent, she sank onto her stool. "Why don't you try someone who isn't always getting into trouble?" She muttered something else, but Ranma couldn't hear it.
"She... Uh..." Ranma tapped his fingers together nervously. He fought to urge to run back to the Cat Cafe to see if something had gone wrong and Akane needed his help, and then he remembered the look on her face, the raw strength that girl had and how skilled she had become in the art. Those memories quashed that idea. "She's not the kind who gets kidnapped anymore."
"What's that supposed to mean, Sugar? With the number of times she's hauled away, she'd make the cover of Hostages Monthly."
"Well, she can defend herself now. I mean, really defend herself." He glanced out the door of the restaurant and added with pride and respect. "Shampoo's finding out how much right now."
The sound of his voice, the way he talked about her, and he hadn't said a single insult the whole time he's been here... Ukyou whispered, "no."
"Wha'?" Ranma looked around the grill area for anything out of the ordinary.
"You didn't? You couldn't? You..."
Ranma scratched his head in puzzlement. "Did what?"
Ukyou's face began to turn red. Her eyebrows arched further and her fury boiled over. "You chose her, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?"
He held up his hands and waved them around like he was swatting thousands of angry bees. Judging by Ukyou's building battle aura, bees were a safer option. "I... I... I can explain!"
"Get out." It was not a request.
He backed away from the angry chef and held his hands up defensively, "But!" He ducked as a tiny spatula flew over his head and imbedded itself into a brick and plaster wall behind him. "Ucchan!"
"Don't you dare Ucchan me!" She produced four small spatulas, two in each hand, and with swift motions, she flung them at her best friend. "How could you?"
Ranma ducked and rolled on the ground, avoiding all of the spatulas, plates, knives and flour bombs being hurled at him. "Cut it out!"
"I intend to." A dozen butcher knives flew in his direction, piercing his clothes and they pinned him to the concrete floor.
"I can explain!"
Ukyou towered over her friend, and held out her empty hand. Konatsu disappeared and reappeared holding a giant spatula and he placed it in Ukyou's grasp. She held the weapon over her head and paused as she looked into Ranma's eyes. His eyes were pleading for forgiveness, even when Ranma was trying to wrestle himself free from the floor. She relaxed her grip on her weapon, but remained ready to strike a killing blow. "Explain, and it'd better be good."
"It was Pop's idea. He conned me into going to Azabu-Juuban for private math lessons 'cause my grades sucked. Then he had Akane go with me. We went to Juuban High and got caught up with the demon attacks and..." Rapid editing went through Ranma's mind, since telling her the whole truth wasn't something he could do without blowing his cover. "And we went to the desert and hid in a cave to get away from what was going on." Ranma braced himself for impact. He closed his eyes and held his hands up to cover his face as best as he could despite the fact he couldn't move very much.
"Math lessons? You went to Juuban High for Math lessons?" Ukyou started to chuckle. "That explains Miss Hinako. You mean you went to downtown Tokyo because your grades sucked?" She burst out laughing. "No wonder you didn't want anyone to follow you! The great Ranma Saotome, in math cram school! Ha ha ha!" Ukyou lost her composure, and fell back laughing.
Ranma laughed too, and wiggled to try to escape from the floor. One of the knives near his left leg jarred loose and he kicked it aside. One down, eleven to go.
Ukyou stopped laughing. "When the demon attacks started, you could have come here." She grew cold. "Why didn't you come back to the Nerima ward?"
Uh, oh... Ranma's fingers were able to jiggle another knife, but it still held fast. Think fast Saotome, "Akane wanted to stay and fight," nice work moron, now I'm really dead.
"That's why you didn't come back? Because Akane wanted to stay? You should have let her. Let me guess, she got kidnapped, didn't she?"
"I had to get her back!"
"Get her back? And you didn't ask for help?" She sarcastically added. "That's right, Mr. Macho doesn't ask for help. Nothing ever changes with you and... Wait a sec; you just said you went with her to a desert? The nearest desert is hundreds of kilometers away."
"Desert? Uh, I meant dessert! Yeah, we went to a dessert shop where Usagi, Minako and Ami hang out and..."
"Usagi? Minako?" Ukyou's temper flared again. "Who in the world are they? More fiancées?"
"Wait, it's not what it sounds like!"
"Then what does it sound like? You say you got math lessons? That'll be the day! There isn't a cram school that'd put up with you!" She lifted her weapon high. "Ice Cream? Desert? Monsters? Kidnapping? I'm through with your wishy-washy garbage you've been giving me, Saotome. If you're going to lie, try to keep your story straight." She held onto the handle tightly and waited for her cue to slice Ranma into bite-sized pieces. Seeing him on the floor, the man she loved, she lost her nerve and a tear flowed from an eye. "I'm the cute one, remember!"
In a tone of seriousness Ranma hadn't seen before, Ukyou growled at her captive. "So, who's it going to be? Me? Or are you planning on hooking up with Shampoo? Or Kodachi? Or whoever Usagi is? Or..."
Ranma spoke with authority and conviction, something that caught the chef off guard. "Akane."
The temperature dropped a few degrees from the coldness that came from the tall girl. The weapon slid out of her lifeless hands and fell to the floor with a loud clang.
Ranma turned away. "I'm sorry."
With a massive heave, Ranma's body went flying out the front entryway, across the street and into a pile of trash that was left out for the garbage collectors. Stars flew around his head as he lifted himself out of the rubbish. "Ucchan." A frying pan connected with his head and rang out a loud bang.
Ukyou stood in the doorway with tears pouring out of her eyes. She wordlessly unhooked the shop curtain and picked up the menu sign and returned back into her restaurant slamming the door shut behind her. A moment later, the lights inside turned off.
Ranma sighed. "That could have gone better."
Konatsu appeared next to Ranma and he poured a cup of cold water on him, changing Ranma from a him to a her. "With Ukyou-sama's compliments, so sorry," he disappeared.
Ranko sighed again. "Yep, that could have gone better."
"Ukyou-sama?" Konatsu asked in a worried voice as he sat near his mistress. "How are you feeling?"
Ukyou numbly pulled the knives out of the floor and placed them one by one on a table. She quietly approached the wall and pulled out all of the spatulas and other utensils she had used as weapons and placed them beside the others.
She slowly walked into the back of the darkened shop, up the stairs and into her bedroom.
Konatsu stood at the foot of the stairs and watched his mistress fade from sight. He bowed his head in sadness and tidied up the main area of the restaurant. After spending a few minutes cleaning up, a young man called his attention. "Miss?"
The kunoichi smiled at the honorific, even though technically it was incorrect. "Yes?"
The two boys from Furinkan looked at each other then at the waiter who looked like a waitress. "I think we're locked in here."
He gasped, they were right. He waved toward the rear of the place. "I'll let you out the back. Come this way."
One of the boys snickered, "dinner and a show, just like Daisuke said. We gotta come here more often."
Upstairs, Ukyou locked the door to her bedroom and went over to her dresser drawer. Opening it, she pulled out a large group picture. In it, were many people she knew. She fondly remembered the picture being taken during a Christmas party that was held at the Tendo residence months ago. Her eyes drifted to the image of her best friend, and standing next to him, was her new sworn enemy, Akane Tendo.
She studied the image, examined every line, and came to the conclusion that the war was over long ago. Ranma and Akane were a couple, even back then.
Placing the picture back in the drawer, but this time face down, the chef slid back down on her bed. A small smile formed on her face, "Akane, eh. She'll slip up and when she does." She looked at a small picture she had purchased from Nabiki of Ranma in a combat pose. "You'll know that I love you, and you'll come home with me, as it was meant to be."
She closed her eyes and her memories played back a time several months ago.
"Whee!!" Miss Hinako spun in a circle, holding in her hand a stick with a yellow ribbon tied to the end of it. Her long brown hair flowed around as she twirled and spun like a gymnast in training, more playing than performing. The teacher wore a yellow dress make of elastic spandex that seemed to be a size too large for the woman's tiny body. Her appearance was also strange since she looked to be no older than twelve years old and acted more like a four year old.
Ukyou entered the classroom, wearing her Furinkan girl's school uniform and sat at her desk. She placed her books down and opened her school bag. Checking her homework, she nodded that she was ready for the school day. Under the sheets of paper containing her assignment was a plastic bento box containing a specially prepared okonomiyaki that she made especially for Ranma. Everything was in order, so she placed her school bag under her desk and waited for the day to begin and Miss Hinako to lose interest in her latest plaything.
The school bell rung and two students were conspicuously absent, namely Ranma and Akane. Ukyou didn't pay any special attention to the fact that they were missing, Ranma was notoriously late and Akane usually was the cause of it.
Miss Hinako's ribbon stick fell apart from her over use of it and she twirled over to the podium at the head of the class. She opened up roll, doodled a happy face in it with a crayon then called out the names listed, "Yamada, Takehito, Ichirou, Kuonji, Saotome... Oh, I see Mr. Saotome's been a bad boy today! He's late!" The pint-sized teacher pulled out a tiny five-yen coin and held it out threateningly. "I'm ready for you, Mr. Saotome."
She stood there for five seconds before she got bored. "Oh, well, Tendo?" She looked around the classroom, very annoyed. "Two misbehaving students! I can't have that!" She waved her arms and had a temper tantrum. "Bad! Bad! Bad!" As she jumped up and down, another teacher appeared at the open doorway and knocked to get Miss Hinako's attention.
"Happo five yen satsu!" She aimed her coin at the hapless teacher, but nothing happened. Her technique for draining battle aura only worked on active combatants.
The teacher breathed a sigh of relief and held out a note. "This is for you."
She hid her coin behind her back like a little girl who just got caught raiding a cookie jar. "Sorry, I thought you were someone else. Oooooh, shiny!" She lunged forward and snatched the note, which happened to have a little bit of glitter on it.
The tall man left the room to get as far away from classroom 1-F as he could. "They don't pay me enough for this."
"Whee!!" sang Miss Hinako as she folded the note and fluttered it like a butterfly around the room. Again, after her attention span ran out, she turned the note over and read it. "Oh, Mr. Saotome, you're off the hook this time." She tossed it into the trash and stood once again at the podium. "Now class... Let's see... Oh, yeah... Yamada, Takehito, Ichiro, Kuonji, Saotome... Oh, I see Mr. Saotome's not here..."
Ukyou shrank at her desk; this morning wasn't going to be a good one.
During lunch, Ukyou sat at her desk, a little bored and lonely. She stared at Ranma's desk wondering where he was. Now that the teacher was gone, she got up and approached the trashcan. Taking a quick look around, she reached in and rummaged to find the note. She pulled her hand out only to find that it was covered with melted chocolate and peppered with cookie crumbs. Turning her filthy arm, she found the glitter-covered note. Carefully using her clean arm, she pulled the note off the sticky mess, only for the paper to break apart. She held the note out and read it only to find that a part of it was illegible.
Miss Hinako Ninomiya
Room 1-F 10th grade
Tr... .. ... ... ...
That's just great, growled Ukyou to herself. She maneuvered toward the doorway and went to the girl's restroom, taking extra care not to contaminate anyone with whatever substances she was coated in. Inside the restroom, she stopped at the sink and examined her arm, trying to see if she could make out the last sentence of the note from the paper fragments still stuck to her arm. As she watched, the tiny fleck of paper dissolved in the chocolate colored goo. Not wanting to have her arm suffer the same fate, she turned on the water and with a bit of soap and elbow grease, removed the glop off of her arm.
Ukyou placed her hands on the edges of the sink and felt an urge to smash it with her bare hands. A voice from behind her asked, "five thousand yen?"
Her half-lidded eyes expressed her disdain for the person behind her, yet she was the only one who could quickly provide her with an answer. Pulling out a five thousand yen note from her pocket, she held it up to show the girl she meant business.
The Ice Queen of Furinkan High School, Nabiki Tendo, smirked in her usual fashion. She plucked the bill out of Ukyou's hand. "You want to know where Ranma is?"
"What do you think?"
"It doesn't matter what I think, but I'll tell you what I heard."
Nabiki loved her job. "Mr. Saotome said that Ranma and Akane have gone off to the Tanaka Dojo in Hokkaido."
"Hokkaido? That's clear on the other side of the country! What are they doing there?"
"Going to the Tanaka Dojo, it seems." The middle Tendo shrugged. "That's what I heard, straight from Mr. Saotome's mouth."
"Whom else did you tell this to?"
Nabiki held out an open palm. The chef placed another five thousand yen note in it. "This had better be worth it."
"My information is guaranteed to be accurate and worth the price."
Ukyou grew impatient. "Who?"
Ukyou rolled her eyes. "Anyone else?"
The taller girl knew better than to ask Nabiki to keep her mouth shut. She didn't have that kind of money and ten thousand yen had already tapped her out. "Thanks."
Nabiki stood and watched as an angry okonomiyaki chef stormed out of the restroom. "Pleasure doing business with you." She grinned evilly; the plan was working perfectly.
Please review my story. It makes me feel oh so happy and stops me from filling your house to the brim with Valentine's Day chocolates.