A Different Path- Chapter 1 A Ranma 1/2 fanfic by Hueloovoo, aka Andrea Colene, aka Angie "kitn"
Well, after all the times I started and didn't finish a story, I decided to go ahead and post one on the net. Maybe some C&C will prod me to finish this one, for a change!
Disclaimer- I don't own any of these characters, I didn't create any of them. That honor goes to Takahashi Rumiko-megami. I'm borrowing them without permission from anyone. All rights belong to her and whoever else owns them.
Early thanx to Nicholas Leifker and Ichinohei Hitomi for the continuing inspiration from their story, "Clothes Make The..." and for their comments on my first draft. Keep writing, and I promise I'll try! :-)
As a final note, I wrote this in 1998 under the name Andrea Colene, and have only recently been reinspired to go back to it. That is one example of how blocked I can get. I am trying to learn to continue things though, and hopefully can stick with this one. Thanks for bearing with me!
...- foreign language (i.e. Mandarin Chinese, English...)
"I'm ready any time you are, Pop!" The statement fairly dripped false machismo, but Genma just leapt onto one of the tall bamboo poles standing over a myriad bunch of small pools. Ranma was suddenly struck by how much Genma's stance looked like that of a begging puppy dog.
"Come on, boy"
"Right behind you, old man! This don't look so bad!" Ranma jumped onto another pole with a look of boredom. The guide was babbling, but the two martial artists ignored him as nonthreatening. Then both leapt into the air, straight at each other.
An impressive aerial display of martial arts ensued, with punches, kicks and blocks traded faster than the untrained eye could follow. Shortly, Ranma landed a kick to the side of the old man's head, knocking Genma face-first into one of the pools.
"Oh, no, sir! You fall in Shanmaoniichuan! There very tragic story-"
Unfortunately, Ranma missed the rest of the guide's monologue, as an enormous panda flew out of the water, wearing Genma's clothes and spectacles, to take the same ridiculous puppy-pose on a pole.
"Wha... What the hell is that?!"
While Ranma's mind reeled, the panda leapt over and kicked Ranma off his pole and into another pool. It was strange, the water felt warm and inviting, like a loving parent's embrace. A tingling enveloped his body, and Ranma noticed a subtle change in balance, as certain sections of his body became more buoyant.
Somehow, Ranma heard the guide's words, even underwater. "Ah, too bad, sir! You fall in Nanniichuan, Spring of Drowned Girl! Now, whoever fall in spring, take body of young girl. See, now you young girl."
Could it be?! Shock was the first reaction, but luckily, no one could see Ranma's face, as Ranma fought an urge to giggle down to just a broad grin. She looked down, opening her gi top, to see the evidence she could already feel.
"Haha...aaaarrgghhh!!" She barely forced the joyous laughter to sound like an enraged yell, then proceeded to chase the panda from one end of the Baiyankara Mountain Range to the other. After all, she couldn't have her father find out how she really felt... Thankfully, her father was running for his life, because anyone who might have had time to notice could have seen the lightness of each step, and the silly grin plastered on the girl's face.
Ranma stood opposite the inhabitants of the Tendo Dojo, soaking wet and thoroughly embarrassed. The middle daughter- Nabiki? - was feeling the front of Ranma's shirt, squeezing something very dear to her.
"Could you please stop that?"
"Nabiki, stop! He... she's a guest!" Akane defended. Ranma could have kissed the girl as she continued, "Hi! I'm Akane! Wanna be friends? Come on, I hear you know kempo"
"Then, how about a little match? Don't worry, I won't hurt you."
The two left for the dojo, Akane hoping that her father would handle the panda. Akane took a strong stance across from Ranma, who stood in a relaxed, easy posture.
"Ready, begin!" Akane started with a right hook, but Ranma blocked and poked her in the ribs. Akane jumped, but regained her stance and launched another attack. Ranma dodged with unnatural speed, and swept Akane's legs from under her.
'She's really good! I can't hold back against her!' Akane thought, then launched a punch, mustering all her strength and speed. Her fist broke through the wall, though, Ranma having jumped over her. Akane felt a poke at the back of her head, and turned around.
"Hahahaha... You're pretty good! I'm just glad you're not a boy." Ranma's face was unreadable for a moment, then she smiled.
Akane stayed in the dojo, straightening things up (mainly cleaning up the broken cinder blocks from earlier in the day), while Ranma went inside in search of a hot bath. She loved the relaxing feeling of barely withstandable hot water, in spite of the fact that it meant changing forms.
Ranma's thoughts wandered as the water cooled. His greatest wish had been granted, but there were still problems. It hurt to have to hide the truth, but Ranma was the only son... the only heir to the Saotome school of Anything Goes Martial Arts. But, then again, it might not be a matter of choice. Years of false machismo had already started to fade in the week since Jyusenkyo, and Ranma really couldn't bring himself to mind. However, he resolved to hold on to it, hide the truth, for as long as possible.
The water was cooling, so Ranma stood up to get out and remake the introductions, no point in putting off the inevitable. Of course, Akane picked that moment to walk in, thinking of joining her new friend in a hot bath. After all, they were both girls, right? Ranma simply stared. 'Whoa!'
The beautiful dark-haired girl calmly turned around and left, as Ranma looked down at his male body in disgust and loathing. Then came the scream.
Ranma woke to find an abundance of pain and the two eldest Tendo girls looking at her. She made a mental note to watch for Akane using furniture as weapons in the future. Kasumi was the first to speak.
"Oh, she's awake."
When Ranma groaned in reply, she continued. "Are you okay? Please don't think too badly of Akane. She's really a very sweet girl, she's just a bit... hot-tempered."
"Oh, good, Kasumi, like that explains it." Nabiki snorted, as Ranma stood up.
"I'm going to go finish my bath." Ranma felt like she really needed another relaxing soak. She was gone before either of the sisters could speak again.
'Wow, and here I thought I was a tomboy, just because I have a guy's body... She was so friendly at first, before she found out I'm half boy.' Ranma took off her shirt in the change room and turned to the door. Just as Akane opened it from the bath. Ranma stifled an insane urge to giggle.
The next day began with a beautiful sunrise, the birds in the trees heralding a day for new friendships, new beginnings. Watching it, one could only imagine that all of the past was gone, to be replaced by new happiness.
"School?!" This said with a horrified look, as from a person offered the death sentence.
"Well, son, we are going to be staying with the Tendos for a while."
Then Nabiki walked by. "Good morning, Ranma, you'll be going to the same school as Akane and me."
"Nabiki, wait up! I'll walk with you to class." Akane rushed out, only to be stopped in her tracks next to Ranma-kun on the porch by Nabiki's reply.
"Oh, no. Ranma's your fiancee. You should walk HIM to class."
Ranma wanted to kick her soooo bad.
He and Akane left for school in silence, Akane on the sidewalk, Ranma on fences and walls. After a few minutes, Akane looked up and broke the tension.
"We're not getting married, you know. So don't hang around me in school."
Ranma wouldn't have replied, but sensed the presence of his father, and decided to provoke him. Besides, Ranma was in the mood to needle Akane.
"Don't worry, I can't stand macho chicks like you." '3... 2... 1...' Ranma dodged the old man's attack. Pop was so predictable.
"You're in no position to be picky about women. Boy, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand-" He trailed off into growls as Ranma-kun knocked him off of the fence into a drainage ditch. Ranma hated it when the old man called him "boy."
"You were saying, Pop?" Ready for the coming attack, Ranma timed the dodge just right... Landing in the direct path of a woman watering the sidewalk. 'Perfect'
Akane jumped at the chance. "Nice dodge. Too bad she was faster than you."
Ranma just smiled back, utterly confusing Akane.
"Wow, and the bokken didn't even touch me! He could almost give me a real fight!" There, that sounded suitably macho, although Ranma wondered at the need for it, in her current form. "C'mon, Akane, let's go to class."
"But... you're a girl."
Ranma shrugged and smiled. "Oh well, it seems like every time I change back, I get hit with water again. I might as well stay like this."
Akane rewarded this logic with an odd look and a shrug.
A short while later, Ranma and Akane found themselves standing in the hall discussing how Kuno caused Akane's fame amongst the boys at Furinkan High. As if mere thought had summoned him, the enraged object of discussion appeared, bucket of water in hand. Ranma reacted automatically by jumping over the water splash. Form change or no, walking around school sopping wet was not her idea of a good time.
"Never, Ranma Saotome! I will never allow your engagement to the fair Akane Tendo to proceed."
Every window within earshot instantly opened, giving way to a horde of gossip.
"Akane and the NEW GIRL?!"
"I dunno, they make a cute couple."
"Shut up, loser, you're dreaming."
However, neither subject of debate had time to refute any of this, as Kuno made a small connection in his mind. "Hold, fair maiden, for thou art not the cur I did best in combat early this morn."
"Hey! You didn't beat me, you jerk!" Ranma's snap kick sent Kuno reeling. Kuno, however was surprisingly quick to recover.
"Oh, though she be but little, she is fierce! Who art thou, my pigtailed Helen? For to hear your name would be as the breaking of light upon the darkest, coldest winter morn, and the sweet symphony of thy voice a rapturous delight of the heavens."
Ranma stood in confusion as the fencer continued without stopping to breathe, and grabbed Ranma in a tight embrace.
"My goddess in pigtails, I shall never release."
The flood of poetic speech cut off abruptly when Akane kicked them both out the open window, to the pool below.
"Oops... Oh well, I guess Ranma probably deserved it too. If not, I'm sure he will sometime soon."
Meanwhile, Ranma tried to avoid Kuno's attempts at "saving" her. They grappled underwater, until by some horrible mischance, Kuno's hand firmly latched onto Ranma's left breast. Kuno had only a moment to contemplate his future, or perhaps his lack thereof.
Ranma gripped Kuno's ears and leaped from the very bottom of the pool, high into the sky. On the downswing, Kuno became intimately acquainted with the tiling around Furinkan High's swimming pool, then settled down for a brief nap, as Ranma left to dry off.
Minutes later, Ranma sat on a tree branch, well out of sight, wringing out her pants. She loudly fumed at the swordsman.
"What a pervert! He didn't have to squeeze me so hard!"
Just then Akane appeared on the ground below. "Ranma, you'd better get back to class, or the instructor will count you as absent."
"I don't care. I'll just explain that that pervert tried to molest me. It's true, anyways." If only she could be sure that little complaint wouldn't reach her father's ears. No doubt Genma would lecture Ranma about letting anyone see her "cursed form."
Akane actually looked slightly worried. "Are you alright? What did Kuno do to you?"
"Aw, don't worry. But if he ever grabs me like that again, he won't live long enough to regret it. If he's lucky." With that, Ranma left school, uncaring what classes she might miss.
Darkness gathered in the sky above Nerima, the overcast sky letting very little glow through to testify to the remaining minutes of sunset. Ranma sat in her room, where she had been pointedly ignoring a lecture from her father for over an hour.
'Maybe if I go talk to her, she'll listen. I really need to talk to someone, and definitely not Pop...' Having come to a decision, Ranma stood up and left her father in the middle of a sentence that she had never heard him begin.
As she neared Akane's door, Ranma could hear muffled voices. Not wanting to impolitely eavesdrop or interrupt, she cleared her throat and knocked softly.
"Akane, can I talk to-"
Akane's angry shout cut her off. "That's easy for you to say, Nabiki! Now all the girls at school think I'm a pervert like HIM."
Each word was salt in an open wound to Ranma. She had been ready to show her most vulnerable thoughts, and before she even had a chance, Akane was hitting the sorest emotional point Ranma had! It was too much! Choking back a sob, Ranma dashed for her room, now vacant, and slammed and locked the door. "She's just like all the rest..." Ranma cried bitterly into her pillow.
Several minutes later, Ranma was regaining some control over the tempest of the soul, and heard a gentle knock on her doorframe. "Ranma, may I speak with you?" Kasumi's voice was soothing.
Ranma almost denied her entry, then reconsidered. Kasumi was one of those gentle people who could be trusted easily. Ranma was sure she'd never make fun of Ranma for crying, or tell anyone about it. Ranma slowly unlocked the door, then returned to her pillow.
Kasumi padded in, relocking the door, and sat down next to Ranma on the futon. "Ranma, I'm going to tell you a story." Ranma tried to protest, but Kasumi continued without pause.
"A long time ago, our mother left us. The pain of her death affected my sisters and I in different ways. I was the oldest, and the family was really in trouble. We had lost our direction. I reacted by trying to hold the family together. Nabiki soon followed, immersing herself in the financial aspects of keeping us afloat. Akane dove into martial arts, intent on protecting us and continuing the family dojo."
"I know Akane can be a little... insensitive. I saw you run from her room, and I can feel that you're hurting. I don't pretend to know why or understand, but if you need someone to talk to, I will be here. And I promise not to judge you." Kasumi looked down at the floor.
Ranma tried valiantly, pitting all of her strength and willpower into it, but she might as well try to hold back the passage of time, or the flowing of the tides. Voiceless, gasping sobs escaped as tears tracked their way unchecked down the redhead's face. Years of pain and shame bubbled to the surface.
"Poor girl, it's okay. Let it all out." Kasumi held Ranma like a frightened child, as she had her sisters after their mother's death, until the crying stopped. It was a long time.
When the deluge ceased, it was because Ranma felt like she was about to be sick. This always happened, she'd cry for a while, start to feel sick, and stop. Worst of all, she never really felt purged afterwards, just numb and nauseous.
"Ranma-chan, do you want to talk about it?"
"I want to, Kasumi, no one's ever been this nice to me since we left home... But... I can't. It's just too hard..."
"That's all right. Anytime you do want to talk about it, or even just let your tears out, let me know. I won't tell anyone about it, alright?"
Kasumi left, and Ranma lay staring at the ceiling for long moments.
'Akane... She already thinks I'm a pervert. Damn it! I never asked to be different!' A night table suffered for her anger, and inspecting the remains, Ranma decided to go for a walk. Genma, returning from the bath, stepped quickly out of her way as she passed in the hall. He was puzzled at his son's remaining in female form, but her expression made him think that now was not the right time to question.
"Kya! Kya! KyakyakyakyaKYA!"
Seven heavy posts wrapped in the remains of sturdy cord lay in splinters. Ranma's voice carried to the door of the dojo.
"I never asked for this! I just want to be normal!!" The splinters offered no rebuttal.
"She wanted to be my friend..."
Kasumi quietly returned from the dojo door to the house. In the front room, Father and Mr. Saotome played go, while Nabiki watched the news. Akane was still in her room doing homework, so Kasumi knocked softly.
"Who is it?"
"Akane, it's me."
The door opened, to display a tidy room, weights and equipment in a corner next to a desk. Akane returned to the desk and closed her textbook, then sat next to Kasumi on her bed.
"Akane, is something bothering you?"
Akane checked to make sure the door was closed, then turned to face her sister. "Kasumi, it's not fair. I mean, I'm supposed to marry that... BOY! He's a stupid, egotistical, macho jerk! He's everything I hate about boys! Plus, he's a pervert! Twice he saw me in the nude!"
Kasumi winced at Akane's heated voice, and edged away from her sister a bit. Akane noticed, and adjusted her voice to a less threatening growl.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you, but I don't want this."
"That's alright, Akane, but will you do me a big favor? Ranma heard you talking to Nabiki earlier. She was on her way to talk to you as a friend, and whatever you said hurt her. Why don't you go out to the dojo and just talk to her?"
Akane listened to the first part, then missed the rest in a flash of anger. "Just WHAT was that jerk doing eavesdropping-"
Kasumi was stunned at what she had just done, and withdrew her hand. Then her voice grew even softer than usual as she remembered a redhead crying on her shoulder. "Little sister, there's a girl, our GUEST, outside the dojo who is struggling not to hate herself, and all you want to do is hate her some more? Mother didn't teach us hate."
Akane stood beside her bed, stunned beyond anger, and saddened at the mention of their mother, and feeling guilty, an emotion she was unused to dealing with.
"Kasumi, I..." Never since their mother's death had she seen Kasumi so upset. "I'll talk to Ranma."
As Akane left, Kasumi padded, quiet and sad in her motions, to the family shrine.
"Oh mother, what have I done? I always kept my temper before... But I never felt such pain from anyone before..."
Ranma sat on the dojo steps, fighting to remain awake. Between the emotional and physical exertions of the past day, she felt like a badly used dishrag. She did, however, display some alertness, tensing as slow footsteps approached in the near-darkness.
"Go away, I'm busy."
"Busy doing what, staring at the grass?"
"Aw, whatta you care? It's not like some perverted freak matters to you, right? You better leave before someone sees you talking to me."
Akane flinched at the bitterness in Ranma's voice, but braved the storm nonetheless.
"I admit, what I said was mean, and MAYBE even uncalled-for. But why should you even care about the opinion of some uncute tomboy? It's not like you did before."
"Damn it, Akane, you wanted to be my friend! Do you know how many friends I've ever really had, that I could really talk to? I had one! ONE! That was so long ago, all I can remember of Ucchan is his face! Do you know how horrible it was to be stuck all alone with the old man, tryin' to make me into some testosterone-drippin' boy?! Who cared if that was what I wanted, I had to be the perfect son. Well, I'm not! I just wish Mom were still alive, so... so..." Ranma trailed off, staring at the grass, fighting back a few dry sobs.
For the second time in less than an hour, Akane stood stunned into silence.
"Just go away, I don't want to talk about it anymore." Ranma stood and started back toward the house.
"Ranma... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, but I DON'T want to be engaged to anyone right now. I'm not even out of high school yet! Besides, I haven't been too happy with boys in general lately, what with all the fights at school..."
Ranma listened, a guarded look on her face, as Akane tried to explain her words, then her features stiffened in resolve.
"Akane, do I LOOK like a boy?"
Akane, taken aback, stopped and blinked. "No, but you are, even if you have a girl's body right n-"
Ranma interrupted, "That's just it, Akane... I'm not. I pretend most of the time, but I've never been a boy... inside... This 'curse' was almost everything I coulda wished for. You don't know what kind of hell it's been, Pop pushing me to be a 'man among men' as he phrased it. I'm more of a sexless tomboy than you ever were."
Fresh tears streaked Ranma's face, and she idly wondered about dehydration. Akane, for her part, struggled for rational thought beyond a growing dislike for being stunned past words.
"Damn, I wonder if I'm ever going to stop crying..." Ranma commented, trying to break the tension. "Listen, Akane, I need sleep. I'm sorry I just dumped all that on you. If you're disgusted with me for being such a pervert, I'll leave you alone from now on." Akane could feel, without seeing, the depression the girl was radiating. "I'll leave everyone alone." That last, in a barely recognizable whisper.
"Ranma, wait..." The red haired girl paused, staring at the ground as Akane struggled for some soothing words, "I'm sorry, I didn't know all that. Listen, it's a lot to take, can I have some time to think about it?"
A barely perceptible nod, and Ranma went back inside. Akane sat on the dojo steps for a long while.