Chapter 4, What The Future Brings

I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me, kill me or give me chicken pox.

Kasumi hung the laundry on the clothesline like she had done thousands of times before. Using careful precision to maximize the use of sunlight, each and every article of clothing dried without creases or wrinkles. She labored for a dozen minutes more as she placed her sister's clothes, her father's linens and the families' houseguest's things one by one on the thin weatherproofed cord. One article of clothing caught her eye from Grandfather Happosai's 'collection.' It was one of Ranko's bras.

Today is the day they come home, she happily thought as she removed the garment from Happosai's pile, and placed into one for Ranma. It will be good to see them again. It's been so long since they've been home.

She hummed a tune her mother used to sing to her, and picked up the clothes basket to return back to the laundry room. As she entered, she found her sister, Nabiki, shaking her head as if she was disappointed in something. The middle sister sighed, "you'd think they'd learn by now, sis."

Kasumi shrugged at the inevitable. "I know. But it's what father wants."

"What father wants and what reality gives him are totally opposite things. You know that Akane would never agree to this."

The eldest Tendo sister sighed in agreement to Nabiki. She looked down at her laundry, trying to reconcile her feelings about the matter. "Father seems to think so."

Nabiki's frustration showed only for a second from beneath her cold and uncaring exterior. "Maybe if he had some of those love mushrooms from the mushroom temple. Even when those two ate them, it didn't last. You know as well as I, that they're too young. Heck, from what I know about the law, it says they're too young to be married anyways."

"Father already took care of that, remember?"

Nabiki gritted her teeth in anger. "Yeah, but even with parental consent and the court order he got by being on the city council, it's still wrong."

"It's not our place to disagree with father."

"Maybe if it was the fifteenth century. But things are different. I know about the tax laws, and why he wants the marriage to take place, but couldn't he wait a few years? At least after we're sure that this is what they want? I mean..." Nabiki leaned against the laundry room wall as her older sister placed the basket on top of the washing machine. "Akane isn't ready and she sure isn't interested in marrying Ranma."

"Don't be so sure of that." Kasumi replied smugly. She took out the few articles of clothing she had liberated from Happosai's collection and sorted them, bras first, panties second.

"Akane not being interested in Ranma? That's something I'm sure about. If daddy thinks he's going to get Akane to agree to go through with this because of that little surprise he got, he's right. But will it keep them out of divorce court? Heh, heh…" Nabiki snickered. "I don't think so."

"You underestimate those two. All they need is a little coaxing. And what surprise are you talking about? I know that the decorations he ordered are a bit much but once they know what's at stake, they will agree.

"Are you talking about this?" Nabiki slid open a closet door, and inside was a wooden cask that was large enough to hold twenty liters of liquid. Stenciled on the side of the barrel was a very familiar word, 'Nannicuan'.

Kasumi dropped her head low. "Nothing escapes your attention, does it?"

Nabiki slammed the door shut in disgust. "Not when Daddy paid for it with the household account." She crossed her arms and shook her head some more. "Do you know how much that thing cost?"

"For Ranma's sake, I think any price would be worth it. You know how much a cure for his curse means to him."

"But to use it to force him to marry Akane? Or worse, force Akane to agree to a marriage she doesn't want? They'll get a divorce or kill each other before the year is out! Doesn't he see what's wrong with that?"

Kasumi folded the last of the clothes, and quickly piled them into her basket so she can deliver them to their respective owners. "There's nothing wrong with that. They're going to marry anyways. What harm is it if they marry in a few days instead of a few years?"

"What harm is it? Listen to what you're saying! Akane hates him. He hates her. It's obvious with how much they're fighting. I'm shocked that one of them hadn't come back here or ended up in the hospital already. I'm still wondering how those two went on a training journey together for weeks and not ended up on the evening news. It's got to be a ruse of some kind."

Kasumi gestured to the door. "Follow me, I've got to put these away."

"Lead the way." Nabiki stood aside to let her sister pass, and she followed her out of the laundry room. She shot a glance at the far side of the house where Mr. Saotome and her father were outside on the porch, playing their usual game of Shogi. Shaking her head in frustration, the middle Tendo continued up the stairs and followed Kasumi into Akane's room. There, Nabiki shut the door and blocked it by standing in the way, arms crossed and her toe tapping the floor. "Okay Sis, don't avoid the issue. They're not ready and you know I'm right."

"It's not like we have a say in the matter. Mr. Saotome and Father have made the arrangements already."

Nabiki happened upon a picture of P-Chan on Akane's dresser. She looked at it and groaned. "I know about that too. If the minister were available today, they'd be married by tonight. At least they've got a few days of freedom before Daddy springs this little surprise on them. I don't plan stick around when they find out."

Kasumi asked incredulously. "You're not going to tell them, are you?"

"And put up with three days of yelling, screaming and destruction? No, thanks, I'm kind of used to the peace and quiet for the last few months and I'd like for it to stay that way for at least a little bit longer."

"Yes, it has been a bit quiet around here. Not many of Ranma's friends stop by anymore."

"That's because they've been running all over Japan looking for them. I made sure they knew those two weren't here."

"Yes, I know. Shame on you, it wasn't very nice."

"Nice? You think Shampoo's being nice when she busted down the front door with her bicycle when she came around? How about Ryoga and his 'Ranma Saotome, prepare to die!' speech? Or what about Kodachi with her little ninja minion? Don't get me started with Kuno-baby. At least Kuonji seems sane, but I have my doubts about her too."

Kasumi acted oblivious to her sister's outburst. "They do bring food and gifts when they stop by. They have their unique ways of showing affections, and they at least display good manners."

"Last time someone stopped by to show good manners, we had to rebuild the back wall of the dojo."

Kasumi corrected her. "Mr. Taro was here visiting Grandfather Happosai, not Ranma."

Nabiki feigned ignorance as she held a hand to her chest. "Oh, how could I forget? Especially when he got mad because Happosai wasn't here and he smashed the wall looking for 'the cross dresser.'"

Kasumi finished replacing the last of Akane's 'borrowed' underwear and slid the drawer shut. "That was a simple misunderstanding."

"Everything is a misunderstanding around here." Nabiki looked at her watch and sulked. "What do you know? They're late. Well, it was fun while it lasted." She turned the knob and opened the door, pausing for a moment and she muttered under her breath. "I'll go barricade my room now. You know the town knows they'll be here today."

"Yes, they do have a way of finding these things out."

"Yeah, they do." The middle Tendo left Akane's room and entered her own. Shutting the door softly, she engaged the lock and quickly sat at her desk. She pulled out a sheet of paper from under her blouse and read what was written on it. Smirking, she opened a drawer and took out a few ornate envelopes and finely crafted invitations. She selected her best calligraphy pen and carefully and methodically began to write in some names. "Akane, this is for your own good."

Ranko's nap was interrupted by a familiar voice accompanied by a light tap to her knee. "Hey, jerk. Wake up."

The redhead mumbled something then turned to her side.

Her new companion waited a few seconds, and then poked Ranko on the seat of her pants. "We're late."

She quietly muttered. "They can wait."

Akane kneeled down next to her fiancé and in a singsong voice replied. "They've waited all summer. Of course, if you want to miss Kasumi's dinner…"

In a flash, Ranko was up, brushed off and ready to go. "Why didn't you say so? Let's…" Ranko's smile turned to an expression of puzzlement and she pointed a finger at Akane's head. "Uh… Akane?"

Akane looked up from her kneeling position and then stood up. "What's the matter?"

"Your hair? How did you grow it back so soon?"

The Tendo grinned. "Sailor Senshi magic, of course."

"Huh? Did I miss something?"

"No, it's a wig, stupid. I bumped into some of my friends from Furinkan and they helped me out."

"Hmm, it doesn't look bad at all. I think if you…" Ranko formed a ball of ki and nipped off some excess hair from the wig and with lightning speed she had it trimmed to the previous length before their adventure in Jadeites'' world. "That should do it."

The Tendo reached up and felt that her wig had been tampered with. "What did you do? You had better not have ruined it!"

"It looks good. See for yourself. Now where… Ah…" Ranko peeked around and spied the public restrooms down the end of the path. Shortly, the pair were inside the ladies room after a moment of coaxing for Ranko's sake. Akane looked at her reflection in the mirror and admired Ranko's handiwork.

"I guess if the dojo doesn't work out, you can get a job as a hairdresser."

"Uh, I'd rather not." Ranko turned on the tap and ran her hand under the water, waiting for it to heat up.

Akane wordlessly left the restroom, walked down the path and waited patiently. A moment later, her fiancé in male form emerged from the restroom, chased by two older and very angry women. "Someday, he'll learn."

Minutes later, the pair were walking towards the direction of the Tendo Dojo. Ranma kept looking in all directions while Akane ignored him. "I think you lost them."

Ranma kept his vigil. "Man, I never thought a purse could hit that hard.

"You'd be surprised what some women carry in their bags."

Ranma rubbed the bump on his head. "I dunno. The way it hit me, I could have sworn she had a brick in there."

"It's your own fault, you know."

"It's not like I did anything."

Akane stopped in mid-stride and she grabbed Ranma's arm, stopping him in the process. She then reached for his hand and playfully slapped it. "That's for being a guy in the ladies room. What did you think was going to happen?"

"But I wasn't doin' nothin'! Geez, it's not like I'm the ol' freak."

"You've got a lot to learn about being a woman." Akane started again to walk toward home.

Ranma angrily retorted. "Who said I wanted to be a woman?"

"You were one for a couple of months. After I tell Kasumi what happened, she'll make you some red beans and rice." Akane stuck her tongue out. "Welcome to womanhood."

"What's that supposed to mean? Why do you want me to eat red beans and rice anyhow? That's only something girls do."

"You forgot about your little bleeding problem?"

"No, I didn't forget about that. I'm thinkin' of seein' Dr. Tofu next week and seein' if he'll take an X-Ray or something and make sure I healed up properly."

Akane summoned super human strength to keep from bursting out laughing. "Oh, I can't wait to hear what he has to say about that."

Ranma noticed Akane's smirk. "It's not funny. I could've bled to death."

"Sure. Yep. Anything you say."

Ranma growled and slowed down his walk slightly. "You're not taking this seriously."

"C'mon, let's get home before it gets dark. If you're lucky, Kasumi can make your special beans tonight."

Ranma stared dead ahead, in front of him was a paved road with houses on the left side and a tall chain link fence bordering the canal on the right. Ranma focused his senses and walked a little faster to catch up with his fiancée. "Akane, you know that ol' bat you use when you're playin' softball."

Akane turned to look at Ranma. "Ol' bat? What are you…?" She was about to slow her pace to continue her question when Ranma grabbed her hand and led her toward home at the speed of a brisk walk.

Ranma's attention remained focused on a light pole, even as they quickly passed it. "Yeah, that thing. Don't you worry about spectators?"

The worried look on Ranma's face clued the Tendo in on what was going on. "Yeah, do we have one?"

"At least one. I've been meaning to ask. How'd Shampoo take the news?"

Akane grinned evilly. "She took it lying down."

"Did she at least get the message?"

"I think so. I hope so."

In a slightly louder voice, Ranma replied. "Good, I don't want to deliver the message again 'cause I'll be delivering it personally."

In moments, at their hurried pace, they reached the end of the block and turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. Appearing from behind the lamppost, Cologne balanced silently on her gnarled walking stick. "Message delivered son-in-law. If there was any doubt in my mind, it's gone now. What happened to you? This doesn't bode well for my great-granddaughter."

A few minutes later, the pair reached the rear entrance of the Tendo compound, a place they hadn't seen in quite some time. Ranma and Akane breathed a sigh of relief before they burst through the gate and into the rear entrance.

Akane was the first to enter the house. "I'm home!"

Kasumi rushed out of the kitchen and held out her arms. "Oh, Akane, it's so good that you're… What happened to your hair?"

Akane's face fell and she reached up to touch the top of her head. "You can tell?"

Kasumi lifted up her hand and with a gentle nudge of her index finger, she pushed the wig back into place. "There, now no one can tell. What happened?"

"I'll tell you later. How have you been?"

As the two descended into idle chit-chat, Ranma slid away and crept into the kitchen, looking for a snack. Behind him, crept his father and Mr. Tendo who were hiding implements of persuasion.

"You don't need that, Pops. You can get the ceremony started." In a blur, Ranma stuck out his finger twice.

The men froze in mid-strike. Both of their mallets exploded, showering the fathers with hundreds of wood fragments.

Genma brushed the particles off and crossed his arms in suspicion. "This is some sort of reverse psychology isn't it, boy? You're saying that to fool us."

Ranma rummaged through the freezer and pulled out three tubs of ice cream. "Nope. I wanna marry Akane. When can we do it?"

"But… But…" Stuttered Soun as he held up his hand and waved it pointlessly. "I… You… Akane… Akane!" He turned to the open doorway and called out for his baby daughter. "Akane, I need you to come here."

"Yes, daddy?" Akane entered, all sweet and innocent. She growled at Ranma, then dropped the act and stood at his side and held his arm.

Ranma held out a tub for Akane. "Want some?"

"Would I? I hadn't had this in weeks." With the same efficiency as her fiancé, she grabbed a spoon and wolfed down the contents of the ice cream tub in seconds flat. Kasumi, Genma and Soun stood mesmerized at Akane's incredible speed.

"Hey, leave some for me!"

"Sorry." She sheepishly replied. "Beating Shampoo made me hungry."

Soun blinked. "You beat Shampoo?"

Genma was speechless. He could have sworn he saw Akane use Ranma's Chestnut Fist technique to devour ice cream.

Kasumi held her hands to her face in surprise. "Are you alright?"

Akane smiled. "Never better, I'm still hungry. When's dinner? Oh, and can you please serve me a double helping?"

It was Kasumi's turn to blink. Akane never asked for that much before in her life, even when she was training hard to beat all the boys who challenged her in the mornings last year at Furinkan. "Of course. I may have to make another dish."

Akane snickered in Ranma's direction. "Well, you could make red…"

Ranma poked Akane in the ribs and then tried to look innocent.

Soun held up his fist to his mouth and faked a cough to draw attention to himself. "Ahem. Akane, your fiancé said that he wishes to marry you."

"Yes, that's right. He proposed a week ago. When can we do the ceremony?"

The room echoed the sounds of three people hitting the floor at the same time.

Akane looked down at her fallen family. "Was it something I said?"

Ranma looked up from the tub of ice cream he was eating out of and shrugged. "Want some more?"

"You bet."

Ranma lay down on the roof of the dojo and stared into the night sky. Thoughts of the day and the last few months circulated in his head and kept him from relaxing. He folded his hands behind his head and watched the stars twinkle among the bright haze coming from the city around him. He remembered the times he lay on the ground, looking up from his bedroll at the sky when he was on a training journey and wondered in amazement at the difference the sky looked from the city versus the country.

Not very far above the horizon lay something that now had a hand in his destiny, the moon. What was it like living there? He wondered. When Usagi revealed herself to be Sailor Moon, she told him she was the Moon Princess, an idea Ranma laughed off as nonsense. Now, it didn't seem so far fetched anymore.

Princess of the Moon? Ranma shook his head at the absurdity of it all. Ami was Princess Mercury and Rei was Princess Mars, so what did that make me? Prince of the Sun? That didn't feel right to the young man lying on the tiles. Princess of the Sun? Yuck! Despite having a more natural sounding feel to it, Ranma wasn't keen on being Princess of anything.

A familiar tomboy landed only centimeters away from Ranma's left leg. Akane looked down at her fiancée. "Got room for company?"

He sat up on his elbows and gestured to his side. "Sure."

Akane carefully kneeled down and turned over to lie on the roof next to her fiancée. She felt uncomfortable for some reason and lifted up her arm to examine the underside of the sleeve on her dress and gasped at how dirty it was. "What?"

"If you're going to lie up here, you gotta sweep first."

Akane looked around for a solid object to throw. Finding none, she settled for playfully slapping Ranma on cheek. "Jerk! You could have warned me."

Ranma's evil grin was his only reply and he resumed staring into space.

Ignoring her dirty clothes, Akane lay back and looked up and saw nothing in particular. A minute passed with the couple admiring the scenery above and listening to the chirping of the cicadas hidden in the grass below. She turned her head and lovingly gazed at the face of her rescuer. "How are you feeling?"

Ranma continued to stare skyward, not moving from his position. "I dunno."

That wasn't an answer she was hoping for, but coming from Ranma, it was expected. She rolled her head back and watched a plane flew high overhead, running lights blinking, leaving a clear outline of the craft's silhouette. It kept her attention for a moment before a shooting star whizzed by in another part of the sky. "Look at that."

He nodded. "Uh, huh."

Akane closed her eyes and made a wish. She opened them and smiled. "Did you make a wish."

"Uh, huh."

Articulate as ever, jerk. Akane softy shook her head at the cluelessness of her betrothed, but it was one of the many flaws he possessed. Despite that, she knew he was the one she wanted to be with, even when he spent half of his time as a girl. Her face hardened and she crossed her hands on her tummy, clasping them together with a little fear. "What's going to become of us?"

"I dunno. Probably go somewhere for honeymoon after Pops and your dad stop dancing around and get the wedding taken care of."

Akane's eyebrow twitched. Leave it to him to miss the point. "I mean, after that?"

Ranma shrugged. "Finish school, and teach at the dojo. With Ami's help, I'm passing."

Akane slapped her own forehead with the palm of her hand. "No." She sat up and looked down at the lying man. "I mean, what about us? Now that you're... You know? What's going become of us?"

Ranma looked away for a moment. Uncertainty, guilt and lack of foresight were written all over his face. He sheepishly turned to face his fiancée again. "I dunno. I mean, Jadeite's toast, so he ain't botherin' us again. So, I dunno if I'm going need to do that stuff again. I was kinda hoping I don't have to, but..." He looked downcast. "Something tells me this is only the beginning."

"Where do I fit in all this? I want to fight with you." Akane's eyes were pleading.

"Fight with me? I..." Ranma's bravado faltered at Akane's puppy dog eyes. "You saw what those things we fight are like. You really sure about that?"

Akane nodded in understanding. "I've never been more sure of anything else in my life."

"What we went though was a walk in the park. I... I... I gotta train you, a lot."

"Ranma." Akane took her fiancée's hand and held it firmly. "I spent my life learning the Art. It's what I want. Don't treat me like a baby now."

Ranma's smile betrayed a hint of mischief, and a mixture of other playful emotions. Without another word, he turned his head to face the sky and resumed watching the stars. "Well, it's going to be a challenge."

Akane raised an eyebrow.

"I gotta figure out how to squeeze ten years of trainin' into a few months. I think you'll do okay.

Akane smiled in return and she too laid down to think about her future. Her smile widened as she gently caressed her husband-to-be's hand, because unlike many other times, he was caressing her hand back.


"What, Ranma?"

"What do we do about the Kuno's?"

"Let's not spoil the mood by talking about them."

In the distance, an insane laugh was heard.

Akane moaned. "Speak of the devil."

SPLASH! Ranma was doused with cold water and a short old pervert was attached to her breasts. Ranko sighed. "We're home alright."

What do we do about Akane? Rei Hino pondered as she pulled out her robes from her closet. She quickly changed into the proper attire of a Miko and walked over to the chamber where the sacred fire was located. Finding the proper wood, she made the prayers and neatly stacked the small logs in place at the center of the pit.

"Hello, Grandfather."

Rei's Grandfather stood in the doorway and made a bow. "You did good. If your mother were alive today, she would be proud."

"What about father?" Rei growled. "Did he even ask about me?"

Her Grandfather looked away, waited for a moment, and left without a further word.

Rei closed her eyes and spoke words for Risa, her mother, to hear. "I know you were with me, protecting me when my friends and I needed your help. Right now, I need you more than ever. Please guide me, help me. Help her."

After the proper rituals were performed, Rei lit the wood and tended it until it was a raging inferno. She concentrated on the flames. Searching, seeking, gazing and questioning the images she saw. Fire danced in a rhythm all its own moving to an alien beat as it connected the real to the beyond.

The future, what will it bring for us? For her? She focused on the enigma named Akane and prayed for an answer.

A week later, at Dr. Tofu's office, which was located in an unusually quiet area of Nerima. The senior citizens flocked to the district because of the peace and tranquility that permeated the region.

The silence was shattered that day, as a young man screamed at the top of his lungs. "You mean to tell me that happens EVERY (CENSORED) MONTH!?"

Please review my story. It makes me feel oh so happy and stops me from planting man eating vines in your backyard.