Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma 1/2.
Author's Note: This happened before chapter 16 of Young Heart.
A girl in a different uniform stood by the school gate of Oizumi Sakura High School. She came just when classes ended and an outpour of students was going out.
"She's cute," one male student said.
"She's exactly my type," another whispered.
"Isn't that a Furinkan High uniform?" a girl asked.
"I wonder who is she looking for," another said. "I hope it's not Ryu of the baseball club."
For the next twenty minutes, a lot of speculations circulated around the identity of the girl. She was even been hit and flirted by a number of male students, but they were ignored or rejected immediately.
Just when it looked like she was about to leave, she finally found the person she was waiting for. She hurriedly came to meet up that person.
"Excuse me. Are you Morisato, Reiko?" the girl asked.
"Yes, I am," Reiko answered, a bit surprised with the sudden appearance of the stranger.
Undoubtedly, Reiko was fairly popular in school. Her popularity wasn't because of her great personality, network of friends or school activities. Although her grades were among the top ten in their school, it wasn't enough to raise her fame. She got her status after she rejected the school's baseball ace. Instantly, she became known to the whole school and it was only a month after she transferred there. It wasn't exactly what she was hoping for, but things had already got out of hand by the time she realized it. Then she became the object of humiliation. She was alone, harassed and bullied for rejecting a guy.
So when a girl from a different school came up to her, she was wary of her. "What did I do this time? Is she going to harass me for her boyfriend? Hopefully not. I don't even remember talking to a guy this week," that was Reiko's thoughts as she looked at the girl.
"Can we talk?" the girl asked.
Reiko was a bit hesitant because she still don't know who the girl was.
"I'm sorr..," was her reply but it was left unfinished when the girl said, "Please. Don't worry, I won't take much of your time."
"What's your name?" this time Reiko questioned.
"I'm Tendo, Akane. I'll explain everything. Can we just go and talk somewhere else? The guys here are really annoying and I can't hold my temper anymore," tightening her knuckles as she saw another group of guys staring at them.
Finally noticing the attention, Reiko agreed, "Sure."
They came to a family restaurant near the station. They ordered immediately as they found their seats. Then, an awkward silence came between them. Reiko was concentrating of remembering the Tendo girl's name, while Akane don't know how to start the conversation.
"Are you related to Nabiki Tendo?" Reiko was the first to break the awkwardness.
"Yes. I'm her younger sister," Akane answered. "I'm Ranma's…"
"Fiancee," Reiko continued loudly. "I'm sorry. I just remembered it."
"It's not a big deal. The engagement was all our parents' idea, not ours. So it's not really that binding to us." This time Akane became flustered.
The arrival of their order was a welcomed interruption. Akane was so flustered with her complicated relationship with Ranma that she didn't know how to continue and Reiko was still confused as to the purpose of this meeting. It was interesting to note that both of them ordered parfait.
"Ranma loves ice cream," Akane stated.
"Yes, she does, I mean, he does," Reiko agreed.
"So you found out about his curse?" the blue-haired girl asked as she took a scoop of her chocolate ice cream.
Reiko softly replied with a "Yes."
"When I first found out about it, I was really angry at him. I thought he was a girl at first because I met him in his girl form. For the first time, I found a friend, who is a martial artist like me, a tomboy like me and a girl like me. But then I found out that she is a he. I felt like he betrayed me." Akane stopped to wipe out some ice cream on her fingers. By that time, she already got Reiko's attention.
"But later on I found out, it wasn't only me that was hurt. He was also someone desperate to have a friend. His father started training him when he was five. Of course, they moved around a lot. The childhood friend he remembered was actually a girl, who he believed for the longest time to be a boy. So my point is, he doesn't really know how to be friends with others," she continued. "And he's not the best friend you could have. He is too immature for his age," laughing at her description.
"He's stubborn too," Reiko pitched in.
"Yeah. He can be arrogant as well," Akane added.
Reiko agreed. "childish."
"Insensitive. Jerk. Stupid. Pervert," after noticing the awkward looks she got from Reiko, she stopped. "Sorry, I got carried away."
"It's okay. You know him better than I do," Reiko stated.
"But the Ranma I know is somewhat different from the Ranma you met a few weeks ago. It was like his age finally matched with his personality," getting a bit serious this time. "But at the same time, he also grew up at that time, emotionally, I mean. It's the first time I saw him get worried at what you would think of him. He is not that kind of guy. He often does what he wants without thinking about other's feelings. His father taught him to be a man amongst man, which is why it was hard for him to talk about how he felt. But after meeting you, Ranma became more open. Of course, you have to be patient with him but at least he can now tell you about how his emotions or thoughts without thinking that it weren't manly to do that." She briefly stopped to have a drink of water. "The aging mushroom was ready days before he told you about his curse. I was urging him to eat it because his other fiancées are already getting out of hand. Also, I think you shouldn't get involved with his crazy life."
"He told me. About you. About Shampoo. About his other fiancées. But only a little bit," Reiko specified.
"I see," Akane said. "Frankly, I don't want you in his life. You don't know any martial arts. You're too normal for him and I'm afraid that you'll only become a liability when his other fiancées would know about you. But Kasumi said that you are good for Ranma and that you could help him a lot. I wanted to disagree with her, but after seeing him changed, I couldn't."
"So what do you want me to do?" Reiko asked defensively.
"Please be his friend," Akane begged. "He was sorry when he hurt your feelings. He's new to having a friend so he didn't know what to do about you. And I think there's no easy way to tell you about his crazy circumstance without scaring you."
Then came the silence. Reiko was too occupied with her thoughts after Akane's revelation. She thought the biggest surprise was Ranma's curse or his weird life, but actually she was more surprised that a girl like Akane was able to be beside him all through those things. She wondered why someone like Akane, who cared so much of Ranma, would want someone like her.
The ice cream was already melting. The silence dragged on. Akane wasn't too eager to break it as she was dreading that Reiko would say 'no' to her. Honestly, she wasn't wholeheartedly on this. A tiny part of her was afraid that Reiko would take Ranma away from her. Also, it was already hard having his fiancées competed for his attention, and Reiko would be an addition to them – and a strong rival it would seemed. Yet, she wanted to trust his feelings for her, just like what Kasumi told her to do. After all, they've been through a lot.
"Why are you doing this?" Reiko earnestly asked.
"Because Ranma would be a better person with you around," Akane said persuasively. But it sounded more of trying to convince herself than to convince Reiko.
"You love him," Reiko stated as if seeing the girl's heart for the first time. She saw the hesitation in Akane's eyes when she said those words. But apart from it, she saw how she deeply cared for him. Her eyes sparkled just by talking about Ranma. She told her about all his flaws but at the same time, she defended him.
Akane just smiled at her. A sad one that is, but still a smile. "Not yet. I don't even know how love feels like," she shyly admitted.
Reiko wasn't familiar with love as well. She hadn't fallen in love yet, so she couldn't be certain with her. But this she was certain, that Ranma was one lucky guy to have Akane and her to care for him. Besides she had already decided to forgive the guy even before Akane came. After thinking through things and missing the boy, she thought that she too was desperate to have a friend. So why can't two desperate people get along with each other. She had planned to meet him but every time she went there, she would chicken out. He called her a coward before so she guessed it was all true. So she was gathering up her courage all this time, however, something came up.
While Reiko was analysing everything, Akane couldn't believe herself admitting her feelings in front of a stranger. It was a mixture of both relief and fear to say it. She was relieved to finally say it and to admit it in the open. But at the same time, it was scary for her to do so because now that she was certain about him but also uncertain of how he feels. More than anything, she felt happy knowing how exactly she felt.
"Okay," Reiko uttered.
"What?" the confused Akane asked.
Reiko laughed at her. "I mean, I'll be Ranma's friend."
"Thank you." Akane felt relieved to hear the answer.
"Would be alright if we become friends as well?" Reiko inquired.
Catching Akane by surprised, she muttered foolishly, "No, I mean, Yes. I would love that."