Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and all related characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, Viz Comics, Kitty Film, Shogakukan and Fuji TV. My name is, sadly, not in this list.
Ryoga snorted as he sat huddled next to his backpack underneath a park bench. He glared at the reason for his ire, the sky, as it showed no sign of letting up on the rain anytime soon. The little black piglet drew many curious stares, but nobody approached him and for this he was grateful.
During his travels, many people had come up to him and tried to catch him, looking to snag a themselves a quick, tasty meal. Some had noticed the yellow and black bandanna around his neck, assumed he belonged to somebody and left him alone. More than a few girls had attempted to keep him, but he always ran and, despite being a piglet, he was too fast for any of them to catch.
As far as he could see, the only upside of his Jusenkyo curse was how close it let him get to Akane. Sadly, even that was starting to lose some of its shine.
Ryoga wasn't sure when it had happened, but he had been looking forward to spending time with Akane as P-chan less and less. If he had to guess, he figured it had started after the disastrous match with Ranma when he had used his perfected Lion's Roar technique. Akane had shattered his heart for the second or third time in a week that day and, though he had picked up the pieces, he had never truly recovered from that devastating blow.
All Akane ever really spoke to P-chan about was Ranma.
Whether it was something he had done to upset her directly or it involved one or more of his other fiancées, it all boiled down to Ranma in the end.
The only time she ever spoke about Ryoga was when he had just seen Akane as a human but ended up wet and running into her as a pig. Akane always described him as a nice boy; friendly and caring - the complete opposite of Ranma. However, she also kept telling P-chan how much she wished that Ranma wouldn't pick on 'poor sensitive Ryoga' and that Ranma really shouldn't bully the weak.
That Akane continuously thought him weak enough to need her verbal - and sometimes physical - protection from his enemy was a deep cut into his already incredibly battered pride. He valued Akane's opinion of him very highly and it hurt him to know that she didn't think he was capable of defending himself.
Still, he kept going back to the Tendo Dojo; kept returning to the girl that was so wonderful yet so cruel to him. Ryoga didn't have anywhere else to go, either as a human or a pig. At least at the Tendos, he was assured a meal and a roof over his head.
The black piglet sighed heavily. Latching his jaws onto his pack's straps, the little porcine heaved. Having no place else to go, he decided to try and find the Tendo Dojo. Ryoga knew he could at least have access to hot water there. The sight he made drew even more stares than he had already been getting, but he ignored them; far too used to strange looks by now.
The world was a large place when you were on foot. It was made infinitely larger when you traversed it as a small, foot-long animal that most wild animals saw as prey. Thankfully, Ryoga was in a town and did not have to worry about any wild animals. Still, he kept his guard up just in case. Dogs and cats had attacked him before and it was not a pleasant experience in the slightest. He was always able to fight them off, but he had never gotten away from such an encounter completely unscathed.
After thinking about why that was, Ryoga had settled on the conclusion that it was because they were true animals and were born that way. They knew every possible way to manoeuvre their bodies and how to properly interpret and react to any and all animalistic instincts. This theory mollified him slightly, but he was certainly in no rush to prove it. To do that, he would have to ask Shampoo or Mousse if they had similar problems when they fought with regular animals. That would mean admitting his less-than-stellar victories and he knew his fragile self-esteem could not bear the humiliation.
An hour or so later, thoroughly soaked and feeling angry and depressed, Ryoga simply gave up and flopped to the ground, letting his jaws slacken their grip. Taking an uninterested glance around, he tried to find any remotely familiar sights. Ryoga had stopped beside some sort of cement fence that went on for as far as his eyesight reached. There was a road on his other side and a few buildings across it. His muscles were crying out in protest to any movement and his jaws tingled unpleasantly from being clenched tightly for so long, sapping him of the will to move any further. Ryoga's attention was drawn when a door slid open across the road, spilling light forth that stopped just shy of him.
An unidentifiable figure, appearing black because the light was behind it, stood in the doorway. "Ugh, this rain really isn't helping my business," it said unhappily, apparently observing the sky.
Ryoga's ears pricked up when he heard the figure speak. He recognised that voice! He called out her name, though it came out as, "Bwee!"
Luckily she heard his squeal and peered in his direction. Spotting the blob of black through the sheet of rain, Ukyo ducked inside her doorway. Emerging a couple of seconds later, Ukyo opened her umbrella and walked across to Ryoga. Tutting to herself, she hoisted his heavy backpack awkwardly onto one shoulder and scooped up his small form with her other arm, tucking him in the crook of her elbow.
Once they were back inside her restaurant, Ukyo shook off the umbrella and slid it back into its stand before taking in her shop curtain; closing the restaurant for the rest of the day. Going over to the bar, she set the wet piglet down on the counter and set the backpack on the floor directly beneath. "Stay here, okay?" she ordered before rushing upstairs.
Now alone, Ryoga took the opportunity to let the warmth of the store wash over his wet, cold, tired and aching little body. He felt guilty as he saw the mess his muddy hooves were leaving on Ukyo's spotless counter. Silently, he vowed to make it up to her when he could. He had just completed his vow when Ukyo dashed back into the room with a soft, fluffy, light blue towel clutched in her arms.
Smiling at him, Ukyo sat on a bar stool in front of him and draped the towel over his back and head. Still smiling, the pretty chef began rubbing him dry. Ryoga squeaked in embarrassment and annoyance, but Ukyo decidedly ignored his protests. A couple of minutes later, Ryoga sat there with clean hooves, ruffled fur and an expression that was half-mortified and half-glare. How he pulled off such an expression - and as a pig no less - was a mystery to Ukyo.
Unable to contain it any longer, Ukyo laughed. "Oh, come on, don't be that way, sugar!" she said, giggling lightly. "I'll go and heat you some hot water for a nice bath now, okay? I just didn't want you catching a cold or something while waiting."
Ryoga snorted and gave her a disbelieving look. Ukyo might act like quite the tomboy, but she was a girl at heart and he knew she was enjoying this immensely. Girls, no matter how tomboyish they acted, still liked cute things to a degree. Ryoga in his pig form was no exception.
He watched her as she practically danced around the counter and into the kitchen behind it. Ryoga hadn't meant to come by Ucchan's, but he was very glad he did. He still needed some more time to think about his situation with Akane and being at her house, therefore having her around, would be far too distracting for him to think properly.
Maybe he could even speak to Ukyo of his troubles…
Ryoga shook his head violently, his ears wildly waving side to side. Ukyo was a very nice girl when she wasn't hitting him, but he was unsure if she was enough of a friend to divulge such personal things to. After all, they really only spoke about plans to break up Akane and Ranma; never anything personal beyond their non-existent relationships with the aforementioned pair as every conversation they had ever had involved Ranma and Akane in some way…
The Eternally Lost Boy sighed and closed his eyes, trying to wipe his mind blank. He had done an awful lot of thinking today, more than usual even for him, and he was left mentally and emotionally - as well as physically - exhausted.
Ukyo chose that moment to re-enter the room. "I've put the kettle on," she informed him cheerily. "You're only a little piglet, after all." Despite her earlier demeanour over the weather, the impromptu visit by P-chan had done wonders for her mood. Ukyo had been feeling a little stressed lately - running her business, going to school, fighting over Ranma… It had all become a bit too much. Having P-chan around to talk to would do her good as she didn't have anyone else to turn to for simple conversation. She got on fairly well with Akane, but she couldn't picture herself venting things to the other girl. No, for that she needed someone who wasn't directly involved in her problems. A little animal was perfect.
Sitting back on the bar-seat she had vacated not two minutes earlier, the okonomiyaki chef put her elbows on the counter and rested her chin in her hands, staring absently at the black piglet. "I don't know what you were doing next to Ryoga's backpack, P-chan, but he should be grateful that you were watching over it. Leaving it out in the rain like that, honestly… Though, it wouldn't surprise me if he dropped it somewhere, got lost, and you happened to find it. Akane keeps saying you're pretty smart for a pig. Were you bringing it to someone Ryoga knows, little guy?" she asked, reaching out and scratching him under the chin with a couple of fingers.
Ryoga, embarrassed though he was, could not help but melt at her touch. It felt surprisingly good and Ryoga suspected that it was an animal thing. They always liked being petted, didn't they?
"You know, you have amazing timing, P-chan. I wanted someone to talk to. Things have been getting even more hectic than usual lately. I'm getting a little tired of all the fighting, blackmailing and backstabbing. I can't stand that Chinese hussy, Shampoo! Or Kodachi, for that matter. They both keep trying to win Ranma-honey with potions and powders…"
The Lost Boy, now The Lost Piglet, stared at the girl before him curiously. He didn't know Ukyo very well, despite the many times that they had teamed up. He only knew that the two Saotome males had run off with her dowry when she was six. She had come to Nerima for revenge, but had somehow ended up pursuing the engagement. He was also well aware that she knew next to nothing about him. She knew about his abysmal sense of direction, the fact that he was always trying to best Ranma in combat and that he was head-over-heels for Akane.
"That's why I never really go all-out with Akane," she confessed. "She never tries anything underhanded like the other two. If we weren't engaged to the same guy, I'm sure we'd be great friends. Still, she stands between me and my love so she is my enemy!"
Ryoga blinked, unsure if he had heard correctly or there was water down his porcine ears. Now that he thought about it, Ukyo really only seemed to focus on fighting Shampoo and Kodachi. She had tried to set Akane up with him, meaning she cared something for Akane's happiness. He found it odd that he had never noticed this until Ukyo pointed it out. He supposed that he had been too wrapped up in Akane to take note of what the other girls did.
"I don't know about that psycho, Kodachi, but even though Mousse cares so much for her, I can't picture Shampoo loving him back even if she gave up on Ranchan. Akane on the other hand, I can easily picture with Ryoga."
Ryoga's ears immediately perked up at this. He had wondered if Ukyo was taking a shot in the dark when she had set him and Akane up in her restaurant. Apparently, she really thought he had a shot with the blue-haired girl. Feeling much happier than he had all day, he paid rapt attention to Ukyo's words.
"I mean, the guy practically worships the ground she walks on! He's certainly strong enough to protect her if someone comes after her to kidnap her or something. Provided he can find her…" Ukyo said, muttering the last part.
Ryoga still heard it and cringed slightly. Ukyo had just hit upon one of his greatest fears. What if someone got hurt or something and he was lost, unable to reach them in time? He had always had someone to follow so far, but that wouldn't be the case forever.
"You know what, P-chan? If Ryoga didn't act so love struck around Akane, I think she'd notice him more. To be honest, I think she thinks he's a weirdo whenever that happens," she admitted, her eyes unfocused as she stared unseeingly at the wall.
Ryoga made a strangled sort of sound. Was it true? Did his shows of affection weird out the love of his life?
"Ryoga's a really nice guy, though. He's always buying Akane presents, but I guess you already knew that, right? I wish Ranma-honey would buy me something…" she said, swinging her gaze around to rest on the youngest Tendo's pet. "I'll admit I'm jealous…Akane doesn't know how lucky she is getting all that stuff and having a cute pet to cuddle and talk to. It gets really lonely here sometimes…"
Ryoga gave her a soft, sad, "Bwee…" knowing exactly how she felt. Loneliness was the worst feeling. Anger dimmed over time until it faded completely, sadness could be swept aside if you knew how and happiness lasted only briefly until it was snatched away, leaving you feeling worse than before. Loneliness, however, was much harder to shake off as it sunk deeper than most emotions.
Ukyo sighed. "You're a great listener, P-chan. Maybe I should think about getting myself a pet like you? Nah, I don't think I'd be allowed with the restaurant and all. You should come and visit me more often, what do you think? I'll feed you and everything!" Ukyo had her hands clasped in front of her and she was staring at Ryoga with wide, hopeful eyes.
Knowing that there was no way he could refuse such an earnest request, he snorted an affirmative answer, nodding his head to make sure she understood.
It did not take long for Ukyo's mood to plummet once more. "Ranchan doesn't come here much. When he does, it's always for the food, never because he simply wants to see me," she whispered brokenly, tears building up behind her eyes.
Ryoga, like most males, hated to see a girl cry but had no clue what to do. While he mentally panicked, his piggy instincts took over and he trotted to the upset girl. Snuffling reassuringly, he laid his head against her left arm and rubbed it up and down as though patting her.
The chef gave a wet giggle, scratching the piglet behind the ears. "Yep, definitely jealous of Akane. You're such a sweet little thing!" A high-pitched whistle rang through the restaurant and Ukyo stood up, picked up Ryoga, and went into her small kitchen.
This was the first time Ryoga had been anywhere inside Ukyo's house beside the restaurant part. As Ukyo walked over to the steaming kettle, Ryoga was looking around.
The kitchen was not very large; about half the size of the Tendo's. It was full of things you'd expect to see in any kitchen, but there were no personal touches. Ryoga was deep in thought wondering why and so paid no attention as Ukyo grabbed the kettle and went upstairs to the bathroom.
The bathroom door wasn't shut properly, so Ukyo opened it with her foot as her hands were full. Setting the kettle down on the edge of a modest-looking bathtub, she placed the quiet pet inside it. "Alright, now for that bath, sugar. Well, it'll be more of a shower, but…same thing really."
Ryoga had barely heard Ukyo and was unaware of the kettle of hot water she was holding above him.
It's an interesting fact that all cursed victims of Jusenkyo can instantly identify the sound of water. Because most victims try to avoid cold water as much as possible, they develop a strange sense for water. Cursed martial artists of Ryoga's calibre, already with a sixth sense for incoming danger, have associated water with danger and can usually tell when water is heading their way.
Ryoga, of course, was no exception.
No matter how good his reflexes were, there was no way the piglet could dodge the stream of hot water. His eyes widened and he sent a quick prayer to whoever was listening that Ukyo would kill him as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Then the water hit him.
It flowed over his head, splitting into several smaller streams, and continued down his back. Ryoga could feel the tingle of Jusenkyo's magic, starting where the water was touching his skin and continuing to spread throughout his entire body. He could feel the almost instant shift from pig to human - so familiar by now that it barely registered in his mind.
Ukyo gasped and dropped the half-empty kettle as her hands flew to her face, automatically covering her eyes.
Ryoga sat there, naked except for his bandanna, doing his utmost to cover himself while stammering incoherently. He was making no sense beyond some unidentifiable garbles, but Ukyo didn't hear him at all.
The chef's mind had been stunned and only one thought was making its way to the forefront. "Y-you…you're…P-chan…?"
Ryoga squeaked and fell silent, becoming far too pale to be considered healthy as the blood drained from his face. Ukyo didn't say anything else, so he figured that this was his best chance to explain. He was thankful that she had left her giant battle-spatula downstairs behind the grill; he wasn't sure he'd survive the beating she'd inevitably dish out if she was armed with her favourite weapon.
He took a deep breath and said, "Ukyo, please listen to me! Yes, I'm P-chan, and I'm sorry that I never told you and that you had to find out like this, but nobody goes bandying about their biggest secrets! I didn't mean to hear all that stuff you said, but I couldn't help it. I'll never tell a soul, I swear, just please have mercy on me!"
Ryoga had said all of this fairly quickly and it was all Ukyo could do to keep up. It had been a rather long speech for the usually withdrawn boy. Shaking her head infinitesimally from side to side, Ukyo pushed many of the whirling thoughts in her head as far back as they would go; leaving her free to think in a more rational manner. After a couple of failed attempts to speak, something in the chef's brain seemed to click into place and the words tumbled forth.
"How could I have missed it? Your unmistakable bandanna, the pig-related insults Ranma-honey's always hurling at you, the strange reactions you've had around water the entire time I've known you… Heck, Ranchan's even called you 'P-chan' plenty of times!" Exclamation over, Ukyo seemed to sag as though saying all of that had drained her of energy.
Her vulnerable state did not last long as she puffed up in obvious anger. "Y-you…JACKASS!" she burst out, her loud voice piercing Ryoga's ears and - coupled with the furious tone it held - making him cringe reflexively. "I just told you a whole bunch of private stuff that wasn't meant for anybody else's ears!"
Even without her weapon, Ukyo was not helpless. In the way that only a hurt girl can, she swung her hand and slapped him right on the cheek, hard enough that - despite his formidable resistance and endurance - his head snapped to the side.
She pulled her now-stinging hand back for another strike but, as she caught sight of his face, lowered her hand until it was resting in her lap. His expression of utter defeat, shame and guilt caused something to tug at her heartstrings. She could not bring herself to inflict more pain upon the pitiful creature before her; he looked as though he were mentally and emotionally torturing himself quite thoroughly.
Tears were silently streaming down his face and he bit his lip hard, his fangs puncturing the delicate skin and drawing small beads of blood. He wanted to apologise again, to ask for forgiveness…but he couldn't form the words. Ryoga didn't want Ukyo to hate him. He had no real friends and, although Ukyo was bordering the line between acquaintance/ally and friend, she meant more to him than he realised. If Ukyo shunned him now, it would create an unhealable crack in his heart of glass.
"Alright," she said, anger colouring her tone, "I'll give you a chance to explain things. I don't want any of your melodramatics, just the facts, understand?"
Ryoga nodded and almost reverently accepted the towel she handed him, swiftly wrapping it around his bare body.
"Now…tell me how you got cursed."
Ryoga eased himself into a more comfortable position, blushing at his state of dress and close proximity to a pretty girl, and began to speak, keeping in mind to stick strictly to the facts to avoid incurring her wrath upon him again. "It happened when I followed Ranma to China and caught up with him and his father at Jusenkyo, though I didn't know it was them until the first time I arrived at the Tendos."
Ukyo nodded although her eyes narrowed slightly. "So…you just fell in a spring while you were there?"
"Oh, well, uh…no. Actually it's Ranma fault."
"What did I say about melodramatics? Everyone knows you blame Ranma-honey for everything!" Ukyo hissed dangerously at him.
Ryoga held up his hands and waved them as though to ward her off. "Wait! I'm telling the truth! Ranma knocked me off a cliff and I fell, landing in the Spring of Drowned Black Piglet!" he gasped out quickly.
Ukyo blinked and let her anger abate. "I knew there had to be some other underlying reason besides Akane that drives you to keep attacking him. This explains it. Right, so how did 'P-chan' come about?"
"When I first arrived at the Tendos, it was the middle of the night and raining heavily. Ranma and I were fighting in the yard when something struck my head from the side. The blow made me drop my umbrella and I ran for it, not wanting Ranma to see my cursed form. I'm not sure how it happened, but I ended up in Akane's room. She just thought I was some little lost animal and adopted me. I didn't tell her then because, not only was it embarrassing, it gave me a perfect way to get back at Ranma…"
Ukyo watched as he trailed off and gained a regretful look on his face. She couldn't blame him, really; she knew the feeling of needing to lash out at your source of anger in any way possible. "I'll grab your backpack from downstairs so you can get dressed. We'll continue this conversation later," she said, strolling out of the bathroom with a bit less grace than she usually displayed.
The Lost Boy continued to stare at the doorway long after she had passed through it. His mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions…and he was caught helplessly in the tempest. Ryoga struggled to conceal his inner turmoil from showing on his face as he heard Ukyo's footsteps echo up her short hallway, coming closer every second.
The bathroom door slid open and a dull thud was heard as Ukyo dropped the heavy backpack on the floor. "Here. I'll be waiting in the hallway to guide you downstairs, so don't be forever, got it?" at the other's vigorous nod, she slid the door shut and leaned her back against the wall on the staircase side of the bathroom.
Ryoga emerged fully clothed, although his hair was still wet, and wordlessly followed an equally silent Ukyo down the stairs and into the restaurant where he sat at the counter, dropping his backpack on the floor, and Ukyo pulled up a chair to sit behind the grill.
"I know that Akane sleeps with P-chan," Ukyo began frostily. "Do you have a good reason for that?"
At this, Ryoga's face quickly turned crimson. "W-well…it j-just sort of…h-happened," he stuttered out, twisting his fingers together and looking everywhere but at the irate chef.
"Would you care to elaborate?"
"Akane suddenly announced that we - P-chan and her - were going to bed. I was busy gloating at Ranma, so her words never hit me until we reached her room. I never peeked at her or anything! I always turned around whenever she got changed. I thought to myself that I needed a real reason to be in her room like that, so I vowed to protect her at night whenever I was around," he explained as calmly as he could.
Most of the fire went out of Ukyo's eyes. She knew - as did practically everyone - that Ryoga was terminally shy. Even though she knew he slept with Akane as P-chan, she could not bring herself to call him a pervert. The poor boy just didn't have it in him to do anything inappropriate with a girl; he would pass out with a bloody nose long before he got anywhere.
"Now, I know Akane and I are rivals for Ranma-honey's heart, but I still don't want to hear of you doing anything…untoward. Is that clear, buster?"
"Yes, ma'am!" Ryoga hastily, though happily, agreed, glad that she had apparently let him off the hook.
Ukyo suddenly grinned. Ryoga couldn't tell if it stood for something good or bad and stayed silent just to be safe.
"Oh, one more thing, P-chan…"
The bandanna wearing boy scowled at the - literal - pet name, but let it slide. It wouldn't do to anger the okonomiyaki chef at the moment.
"Try to find your way here if you need hot water, okay? It really is nice to talk to someone else and I imagine that you get lonely wandering around by yourself with no one to talk to either," she said, looking a little shy at her blunt admission.
Ryoga nodded, understanding completely, and simply said, "I promise."
A/N: Ah, wasn't that cute? Nah, not really, but it was something, right?
My all-time favourite Ranma ½ pairing: Ryoga and Ukyo. I don't know why exactly, but I do know that Akane is not good for the Eternally Lost Boy. She's too brash and he's too emotionally fragile to handle her temper.
I know Ryoga's no innocent, but people always seem to cast him in a darker light than he's earned. Yes, he's tried to kill Ranma for real, but he's saved him far more times. And, in the end, he couldn't even bring himself to let Ranma stay locked as a girl; risking his own life to jump in a rapidly closing fissure to retrieve the only cure. Now, are those the actions of a bad person? Like I said; he's no innocent, but he's not inherently bad.
If you guys want me to turn this into a multi-chaptered story, let me know in your review! 'Cause I will if enough people want it. Please review and let me know what you think!