Chapter 6 - Pride and Cowardice
Ranma stood in front of a mirror. She turned from side to side. Reluctantly, she slipped on the t-shirt with the glittery lettering. She made a face and thought incredulously, 'Me? Boy crazy? That's a laugh.'
"Well?" Akane asked.
"I'm don't know about the shirt," Ranma answered, pulling the shirt back over her head.
Akane apologized with a smile, "Same here. I prefer something uh... less..."
Ranma held the shirt up to Akane, flashed a smile and teased, "Glittery?"
Akane chuckled, "Maybe." She stood up and looked out the window. "Anyway, dad bought it for me the week of mom's funeral. So there's no way I'd refuse it."
Ranma looked at the shirt and said, "I see."
"This might suit you better, " Akane replied, holding out a pale pink blouse, "...but I'll want it back."
Ranma accepted the baby-doll top from Akane and slipped it on. She flipped her hair out and looked in the mirror. The first thing she noticed was how the combination somehow made her seem more cheerful. She liked it, but thought, 'So pink...Dad is going to hate me if I wear this.'
Akane said, "You look very cute in that."
"Thanks, but I think that is what kind of scares me. Dad might get upset if he sees me being so unmanly." Ranma said in a depressed tone, then added, pointing at the window, "If it's all the same to you, I'd like to go outside and see if I can find my panda. I really appreciate all of the trouble you've gone through to help me."
"No, no trouble at all, and If your dad gets mad at you for wearing pink," Akane snorted derisively and shook her fist, "I'll teach him a lesson." She relaxed and looked at Ranma curiously, "Do you want me to help you find Panda-kun?"
"Uh, no thanks," Ranma replied, fidgeting slightly, "He's very shy. I don't want you to scare him off."
Akane looked at the raindrops trickling down the window glass. "If you say so. It looks like the rain is letting up a little, but you better take my umbrella, just in case. I'd hate to see that hairstyle of yours get wet."
"Where is the umbrella?"
"It's near the door."
Ranma padded to the door. There was a bamboo tube attached to a coat rack. In the tube was an umbrella. She slid it out carefully and examined it. The handle was wooden with sunflower patterns. The cloth was yellow with pictures of little white ducks on it. Ranma giggled a little, in spite of herself. "Arigato, Tendo." She said mirthfully.
Akane bowed in return and said, "Doumo."
Ranma left Akane's room and found her way to the doorway nearest to the dojo. It was still sprinkling rain outside, so she pushed on one of the duck's heads on the umbrella's handle and it popped open due to a spring-loaded mechanism. It was very dark outside. She found that if she walked towards the dojo, a sensor automatically turned on a floodlight so she could see.
A lump formed in her throat as anxiety over her appearance filled her. She knew her father would be upset. She dreaded confronting him dressed the way she was, and with makeup. The last time she was so girly, her father splashed hot water on her and kicked her out of the house into the busy streets of Tokyo. Ranma was disgraced and humiliated. The people walking by would stare and a few would openly call (formerly her, now him) a pervert. Having nowhere to go, he ran into an alleyway and cried his eyes out. As fate would have it, an old lady dumped cold water out of a window and it landed on him, reverting him back to his female form. Nobody could call her a pervert when she was a woman, but it didn't stop her from feeling anger towards society for chastising her when things like that happened. It was her idiot father's fault she was in that situation. He should be the one being yelled at.
Ranma decided she needed to go home. She wiped her lipstick off with a handkerchief then waited until after dark before trying to go back. The door was unlocked. She went inside and saw her father passed out on the floor with a bottle of sake. Not taking any chances, she went into her room and changed into her gender neutral silk Chinese outfit and curled up into a ball on her futon. That was the last time she wore anything as feminine as what she had on currently.
Just thinking about those days in the city caused her to have a panic attack. She thought, 'What if he leaves me for good this time?' Another part of her said, 'Stupid! Stupid! Stop being such a sissy. This isn't your fault. You didn't do anything. Just explain this to dad and he'll understand. He hasn't had a drink in a few days. He only gets like that when he drinks.'
She took a deep breath and exhaled. A light from a window reflected off of the fog from her breath. It was dark, cold and the pelting sounds of the raindrops felt like a bad omen. Her wooden shoes had perpendicular blocks on the bottom which gave her some extra height normally, but in the muck, they sank into the mud. Each step in the mud made a moist sucking noise.
When she arrived at the dojo, she saw a muddy furry leg sticking out from around the corner. It was clearly the hind leg of a panda. The air smelled like wet fur and sake. The sake was an even worse omen. She fearfully came around the corner and ended up face to face with her father in the form of a giant panda. His squinty eyes moved up and down her slowly. Then he became angry, kneed her in the solar plexus, causing her to double over, then took a wooden sign and beat her over the head with it. Her vision wavered, and she lost consciousness. He slung her over his shoulder and entered the dojo.
Ranma woke up on the floor next to her father. He was back in human form and pacing back and forth. Ranma tried to get up. Pain shot through her head, and she said, "Ow." and rubbed the sore spot where the sign hit her. She sat up and grimaced at him. "Why did you hit me?"
"Are you trying to piss me off?"
She looked away and said, "No." The heat of her anger burned her cheeks.
Genma huffed angrily and seethed, "Then why did you tell them to call your mother? I told you what she'd do if she found out about you! As if that wasn't bad enough, I saw you upstairs playing dress-up like a fairy princess as though nothing was wrong. You will pay for this, Ranma!" His battle aura flared bright red. He grabbed the girl by the straps of her jumper.
Genma's arm drew back. Ranma shielded her face in anticipation and pleaded, "P-please don't, pops." She started shaking and she felt warmth trickle down her leg. Before she could say anything else, Genma punched her with incredible force, causing her to fly across the dojo and into a wall, splintering it on impact. The pain was blinding. She slumped over like a rag doll.
"Rotten good for nothing son of mine!" He yelled, grinding his teeth in fury and choked out, "You aren't going to cheat me out of my retirement! You were supposed to marry one of Tendo's daughters. How is that ever going to happen if you keep dressing up like this? What will your mother think about all of this? No son of mine would ever allow this to happen."
Ranma's face was numb and she tasted copper. She looked down at her jumper and at the small warm wet spot. She covered it with her hand to hide it. She didn't need to give him another reason to humiliate her. She cried, "I am your son."
Genma looked down at the girl cowering in front of him. Part of him wanted to keep on hitting her until she begged him to stop or he felt satisfied. She had tears running down her face and her small hands shielded her. His heart softened at a completely unrelated thought... 'He said he was my son. Maybe there was hope for him yet.' Yes, he would shape his son to be a man. His mood lightened. He scowled and said, "Go clean yourself up. Remember the plan."
Ranma wiped her eyes and said, "Hai." She leaned over to try to stand, but she felt dizzy. Screwing her face up in determination, she tried again, but failed to stabilize herself enough. She fell backwards and hit her head against the wall. She screwed her face up in frustration.
"Completely useless." Genma muttered and held his rough hand out to Ranma to help her up. Ranma looked at it like it was poisonous, but grabbed it anyway. The minute she stood up, she pulled hers away from his. She pouted angrily and grabbed her umbrella. She wanted to tell him that she hated him. She wanted to say something so that the bile would stop rising in her throat at her own cowardice and hurt pride. She wondered if she'd always let him bully her around. She pictured herself years from then, being beaten and bruised. Her lip quivered and she mumbled, "I can't let this go on."
Ranma pointed her umbrella at Genma and shouted, "I've changed my mind. I'm not going to do it."
Genma sized Ranma up and said, matter-of-factly, "Yes, you are."
"No, I won't!"
"Fine, go prance around in your sissy clothes and play with dolls with Tendo's daughter. Maybe I was wrong about you. Maybe you are incurable. Maybe I should go find a proper heir. Why am I wasting my time with a worthless girl when I could be training a man amongst men?"
"You bastard. It's not my fault I'm dressed like this! I asked you to get me some hot water when we arrived here, but no. You are the reason I'm like this," The red-haired girl pointed out angrily, "As long as we're talking about it, it's your fault from the beginning that I change into a girl in the first place. You pushed me into that spring."
Genma pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. "Oh here we go again. So it's my fault you didn't dodge my attack back at Jusenkyo. Ranma, you have nobody but yourself to blame for that. As for when we showed up, I admit, it was my idea. It's easier to stay away from hot water than cold. Naturally, you'd have fewer chances for your curse to be discovered that way. Once you marry Tendo's daughter, he won't be able to do anything about it. It's the only way. He'd never let you marry his daughters if he found out my son is a sex changing freak."
"Freak?" Ranma yelled incredulously, feeling the sting of the insult and cried angrily, "How dare you accuse me of being a freak when you turn into a smelly fat panda! At least I'm human."
Genma took a step towards her menacingly and said, "Don't you dare compare our curses. I didn't become a flower arranging homosexual. You did. I have a theory, Ranma. Maybe you're a girl because of the times you cried, clung to your mother, and acted like a sniveling sissy, hmm? It's divine judgment. You're weak and pathetic."
The insults were digging deeply into Ranma's psyche. She looked down at her small hands and delicate arms. They did seem small and frail. The umbrella felt heavy and began to dip slightly. Some part of her realized what her dad was doing. He was trying to break her down and make her feel small. She allowed her confidence to return and held the handle tighter. She scowled and said, "You taught me once that martial artists protect the weak, dad. Well, here I am! You say I'm weak. So why aren't you protecting me? You only insult me because deep in your heart you know that you're the failure. You've never protected anyone but yourself."
Genma growled. He channeled his ki energy into his hand and swatted the umbrella away with such force that it embedded itself into the wall. Ranma squeaked and jumped away from him into a corner. She fearfully looked around for an escape, but the entrance was too far. She cursed under her breath. She would have to make a stand. The most she thought she could hope for was to get a few good hits in, but it was worth it, because she was sick and tired of the punishment. She threw herself into a relaxed stance, faced her father and said, "You think that scares me? I'm not afraid of you."
Genma cracked his knuckles and advanced closer. His face was reddening with rage.
"Besides, If you hit me, you'll only show what a coward you are! Look at how much bigger you are than me!" Ranma shouted. She held her hands in front of her defensively and said, voice quavering, "One step closer and I'm going to tell mom everything. I mean it!"
Genma hesitated then said, "Your mom has nothing to do with this. This is a fight amongst men."
"Amongst men, pops? Men?" Tears ran down Ranma's face. She pointed at herself and yelled, "I'm barely hanging onto what's left of my male side, pops, but only for your sake. Look at me! Do I look like a man to you?"
"I can eat bamboo and shit panda droppings, Ranma, but I know who I am. You're not a woman any more than I belong in a zoo. Prepare yourself."
Ranma snapped. She pointed a finger at Genma and shouted, "All you are is a sad little man with a fear of women. You ran away from mom, like the coward you are!"
Genma swung his fist at Ranma's cheek, but she dodged it. She was a blur of movement. Ranma's expression was calm. She said, "I won't allow you to hit me anymore, you fat drunk."
Genma laughed, "Oh really? A frail little princess like you is going to stop me?"
Suddenly Ranma leaped into the air and thrust her foot out at Genma's crotch with the force of a hammer. He doubled over, unable to speak or breathe. While he was stunned, she extended her elbow out and smashed it into Genma's kneecap, dislocating it quite painfully. Genma was incapacitated, rolling over on the floor in pain.
"Yes. I will."
Genma grabbed his knee and popped it painfully back into place. He screamed in pain. After a couple of deep breaths, he saw spots in front of his eyes. Ranma kicked him in the head, and he fell down unconscious. She walked over to the bathroom and returned with a bucket of cold water then splashed the old man with it.
"I loved you and all you've ever done was make me feel horrible and hate myself. Now you are going to know what it means to be pushed into being something you're not." Ranma said, barely able to stop pouting and shaking from pent up emotions. She took a cleansing breath and looked around the room.
A phone sat on a small table near a softly glowing lamp.
Ranma walked toward it and took a deep breath. She picked up the receiver and dialed the operator. Someone answered, "Moshi moshi."
"Please connect me to Ueno Zoo."