A Brand New Day
Chapter Five: On The Outside Looking In
A Ranma 1/2
Ranma 1/2 is (c) Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, Kitty, Fuji, Shounen Sunday, etc. etc. I make no claims to these characters, referred situations, etc. The plot line is the only thing that belongs to me.
December. Early Evening, Tendo Training Hall and Dojo in Nerima, Tokyo
A shadowed figure rested against the doorframe of the Tendo household, staring in with a melancholy expression on her face as she watched the annual Christmas festivities ensue. They started at the same time they always did, but so much had changed. People had changed. Everything seemed different now.
"I'm on the outside looking in..." the girl whispered sadly to herself.
"Then why not go inside?" her companion, also hidden in the shadows, asked. The girl turned to him, the dim light from the dojo's Christmas tree partially lighting her face and hair. Dark tresses tied in a tight pigtail gleamed in the multi-colored light, and her normally light eyes were dark as she regarded the young man.
"I- I can't."
"If you stay outside forever, eventually, you'll never get in," the boy sighed. It was no use arguing with this girl; she won every fight without even trying. But the lights, and the happiness radiating from everyone inside made him long for his own home, which he hadn't seen in over a year. He knew his companion felt the exact same way. Here she was -home- but it was so different from the home she had left eight months ago. She had changed. They had changed. Everything was different, and she was afraid to enter a world where she knew nothing.
"I miss them so much, Ryoga..." the girl whispered again, her voice beginning to shake with sobs. Ryoga quickly comforted the girl with a gentle embrace, and soothed her by stroking her hair. She cried into his shirt, and as the tears fell, she made a single wish. That somehow, some way, she'd be welcomed into their hearts again...
"It'll be all right, Akane..." Ryoga whispered, and stared at the sky. He too, made a wish, on a shooting star. He hoped that her family would understand why she had run away. He hoped that the one person he knew she loved would still love her, like he had eight months ago. He hoped everything would just... turn out right.
Kasumi wandered around the room, smiling and making small talk with everyone. The party was in full swing; the decorations lit up the room, and one of the old DoCo tapes played in the background.
Kasumi shook her head sadly at the memory. It was Christmastime, the time of the year when families were supposed to be together, but no one had seen or heard from Akane. Despite her better judgement, she was beginning to believe what she had overheard her father and Auntie Nodoka talk about some time ago. Perhaps Akane really had died...
At that moment, she was closest to the dojo door, where she noticed two figures barely illuminated by the soft moonlight. She moved in their general direction, with the intention of getting them to join in the festivities. She had to get someone to have fun, because Ranma's semi-gloomy aura was starting to make everyone else unhappy as well.
"Ryoga, what if someone sees you?" Akane whispered, distress creeping into her voice.
"So what? They all know me!" Ryoga shot back, staring in at everyone. People seemed to be having fun, but for a good deal of people, it looked forced. Akane just didn't see what a great impact her disappearance had obviously had on the people of Nerima.
"But they don't know me!" Akane muttered, trying to explain her logic. She didn't look like the same girl she had been when she had left here eight months ago. She had longer hair tied into a pigtail. She donned Mandarin style clothes appropriate to both her forms. Ryoga, on the other hand, still wore his yellow and green clothes, complete with checkered bandanas. To show her 'sisterhood' to him, however, Akane sported the same bandana, and her Mandarin style shirt was a golden yellow. Her pants were a jet black, similar to the ones Ranma always used to wear. In fact, Akane saw briefly, glancing inside from her position in the shadows, it was very much like what he was wearing now...
"You mean you don't want them to know it's you?" Ryoga hissed, astonished.
Akane glared at him. "Of course not. I came here again to fix all the mistakes I made before. Have another chance."
"I thought we came here to give everyone else their cures, so we can get cured ourselves."
"Why do you care so much anymore? It's not like you turn into a pig, so it's not as much of a hassle. Having two forms can be rather advantageous, don't you think?" Akane grinned. She liked it when Ryoga got beaten by her male form. She always wondered privately if she'd be able to beat Ranma as well. Now that she, too, was cursed...
'Things aren't... they can never be the way they used to. I'll never fight Ranma unless I really have to,' Akane thought to herself.
But she was reminded of the curses and their respective cures. "You can't be seen, not yet." Akane said, pushing Ryoga into the koi pond. The splash wasn't loud enough to get anyone's attention, so when Ryoki --the name for Ryoga's cursed form-- emerged from the water, she stalked over to Akane and hissed angrily in her ear.
"What'd you do that for?"
"You know why. If anyone sees us, we'll just tell them we're just friends of Ryoga, waiting here because he said he'd be here in a few days."
"Yeah, and someone will say 'You mean a few weeks'," Ryoki grumbled. She squeezed the water out of her medium-length locks, and tied them back with her bandana once more. She wasn't very wet after all, and had no need to change clothes
"Oh hello!" a sweet voice exclaimed. Ryoki and Akane gasped and turned to the source of the voice and Akane felt her heart lodge in her throat. She had come this far, and now...
'Now I can't speak, and I'm scared spitless! My own sister... she'll see right through me!'
"Oh... I don't recognize you... are you friends of Ranma?" Kasumi chose her words carefully, emphasizing the word 'friends,' since Ranma's "friends" often wanted to kill him.
"Uhm... sorta..." Ryoki spoke up, smiling. "We're actually friends of Ryoga Hibiki, and he told us to meet us around here. We hope we're not intruding."
"No, not at all." Kasumi smiled, relieved that these people could be trusted. Despite Ryoga and Ranma's rivalry, if the boy himself wasn't around, then surely these two nice girls could be trusted.
She turned and motioned for the two to come in, and was shell shocked when she saw the both of them in the light. The first girl, the one who had spoken, was a spitting image of Ranma's girl-form, only without a pigtail, and in...
'Ryoga's clothes...? Is she really only his friend?' Kasumi wondered absently. The other girl looked very much like Ranma, only female. Right down to the Mandarin style shirt and black pants... though she too, donned a bandana similar to Ryoga's.
Both of them, Kasumi noted, wore golden bracers on their arms, made out of a seemingly thin cloth.
"So, what's your name?" Kasumi asked, leading them toward her family and the Saotomes.
"Oh, I'm..." Ryoki exchanged a glance with Akane and winked, "Ryoki. And this is..."
"I can speak for myself, you know." Akane grinned. "I'm Yoiko."
Kasumi smiled politely at both of them and bowed. "It's very nice to meet you both. Father, Nabiki, Uncle Saotome, Auntie Nodoka, Ranma, this is Ryoki and this is Yoiko. They're friends of Ryoga's. They say he's going to be around here in a few days."
Ranma nearly choked on his punch that he was drinking when he caught sight of Ryoki and Yoiko.
Yoiko looked just like him! Only she was a-- a she!
'There's something about her... that name... "Yoiko"...' Ranma thought to himself.
"Gee, Ranma, I didn't know you had a twin sister." Nabiki remarked dryly, her eyes scanning Yoiko's face. The girl seemed rather impassive, but somewhat uncomfortable.
"I don't!" Ranma countered, his eyes never leaving Yoiko. Nabiki narrowed her eyes as she watched Yoiko fidget uncomfortably as Ranma continued to stare at her.
"Wow, this is some party," Ryoki finally spoke, looking at everyone. Her eyes finally landed on Ukyo, who was sitting alone in a corner sipping soda. Her green eyes suddenly became vacant as she remembered the last time they had spoken. Well, at least... in her REAL form.
"Why... why isn't DoCo on stage?" Yoiko finally asked quietly. She faintly heard the sounds of their last recording. Last Christmas, they had recorded the song 'A Pure And Honest Christmas'. Even now, after so much had happened, it was still one of her favorite songs. She still treasured the memories of that Christmas.
The feeling of being held in Ranma's arms, of gazing into his eyes, flooded back full-force, and Yoiko suddenly blushed. Nabiki again narrowed her eyes, but this was a first meeting, she couldn't risk being too suspicious of the newcomers.
"Oh, after... after my little sister left, we stopped doing any recordings," Kasumi explained, without putting too much emotion into her voice. It was hard for her, just as it was for her father and Ranma, to discuss Akane without getting upset. Nabiki, on the other hand, seemed as stoic as ever, and Kasumi cast a wary eye at her younger sister, who seemed awfully wary of the girls.
"That's... that's wrong!" Yoiko finally exclaimed, her nose still a faint hue of pink. She looked a little miffed, and then embarrassed at the stares she was getting. She quickly fumbled for an explanation. "Well, Ryo-chan told us about DoCo, and how everyone who sang in it was really great. They cheered a lot of people up who didn't like the holiday season so much."
Ryoki's nose turned rather pink when Yoiko said 'Ryo-chan', but she said nothing. She nodded at the end of Yoiko's short speech and then put her two yen in.
"Yeah... I mean, Ryoga was always depressed, right? So he liked it when everyone got up and sang."
"Say..." Yoiko began, "Why don't we get DoCo back up again...? Maybe some people would be in higher spirits."
"No way." Ranma's voice came forth. All eyes in the group turned to him. Yoiko looked a little shocked, but noted how his eyes were cold. She really had done some damage, hadn't she?
'Well,' she sighed, inhaling, 'this is the best way to make amends.' Putting on her best pouty face, she clasped her hands in front of her.
"No. 'Sides," He looked down at her and then back up again when he felt his heart beat doubletime, "I'm a guy. Guys don't sing."
Yoiko and Ryoki looked at each other seriously for a moment, the inside joke left unspoken, causing both of them to almost break out into laughter. How much they'd laugh if Ranma knew they had cursed forms!
Ryoki gulped and turned around. There stood a smiling Ukyo. She tossed her empty soda cup in a nearby trashcan and grinned. "She's right," Ukyo said, motioning to Yoiko. "I'm Ukyo Kuonji, okonomiyaki chef."
"I... I know..." Ryoki stuttered. "I mean, I... uh, Ryoga's told us a lot about you."
"He has, has he?" Ukyo grinned and Ranma raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, we'd be dying to have some of your okonomiyaki one day." Yoiko put in, jabbing Ryoki in the side. The last thing either of them needed was Ryoki getting mesmerized by Ukyo's eyes.
"Great! So now..." Yoiko looked to Kasumi and Nabiki. Kasumi smiled and nodded, while Nabiki mumbled something akin to "Whatever..." while she crossed her arms over her chest.
"That's three." Yoiko said smiling. Feigning innocence, she asked Ryoki who the fourth member was.
"Oh... the Amazon, Shampoo." Ryoki said. She eyed Yoiko nervously. Would she really ask Shampoo...?
"Xian Pu!" Yoiko called across the room in Mandarin. Shampoo stared at the source of the voice in surprise. The girl's Mandarin was flawless; she could tell from the one word spoken. She exchanged a glance with Mousse in wonderment.
"Yes...?" She started in Mandarin, unsure what the mysterious girl wanted.
"Would you grace the audience with your singing again, Xian Pu?" the girl queried, her expression that of an adoring fan.
"Ah... sure..." Shampoo muttered. Mousse, too, was now suspicious of the girl. Her poise was that of a talented martial artist, but... there was something off about her.
'Something about her is familiar...' Mousse thought. He glanced down at the crone and she, too, looked suspicious of 'Yoiko'.
"Oh dear... even with Ukyo-san singing Ranma's part, we're still short one part..." Kasumi murmured, listening to Akane's enthusiastic voice blast over the stereo.
"I'll sing it." Yoiko expected Ryoki to jab her, but the latter was nowhere to be found. 'Probably went to get some hot water. I guess it's okay now.' Yoiko thought to herself. Kasumi handed her the lyrics, but Yoiko just grinned.
"I know 'em all by heart. Just start the music, and I'll sing." Kasumi did just that, and made the announcement that, thanks to a few special volunteers, DoCo was back again. After only a few moments, "DoCo" came out on stage-- everyone dressed in their nice clothes, save Yoiko, who still sported her regular outfit. Her things were outside on the veranda, but there wasn't enough time to change, let alone change into anything fitting enough for the situation.
The audience quickly assembled as smiled when 'A Pure and Honest Christmas' began playing, and the temporary stage was lit up.
People clapped along with the melody, even Mousse did. Ranma however, glowered in the corner, not allowing himself to be happy in the slightest. Nabiki, Ukyo, and Kasumi started out, followed by Kasumi's brief solo, then Ukyo's, and...
"Hey, what kind of lovely dream will come tonight...?"
Ranma's heart leapt into his throat. From the shocked faces of his father, his mother, and Uncle Tendo, he knew they thought it was uncanny that this Yoiko knew Akane's part so well... and sounded an awful lot like her.
'But she couldn't be... why would she hide from me?' Ranma wondered. The song went on, and he became easily entranced by her voice.
DoCo continued performing through the night. Nearing the end of the party, Ryoga finally made an appearance. Yoiko rushed up to him and embraced him, and he hugged her back as well. Yoiko's disappearance from the crowd drew attention to the duo.
"R-Ryoga?" Ranma exclaimed, blinking in surprise. Since when did Ryoga appear when he actually said he would?
"The one and only, Saotome." Ryoga cracked a grin, showing his sharper-than-normal canines. Yoiko, still wrapped around him, licked her own artificial 'fangs'. They had been playing brother and sister for so long that they had decided to play their parts to the fullest. She could even eat with them. But sometimes, they were just a mite uncomfortable. She wondered why no one had commented on them thus far.
Most of the guests not normally involved in the Tendo-Saotome's affairs had left, so the small crowd surrounding Yoiko and Ryoga consisted of the Tendos, the Saotomes, Ukyo, Shampoo, Mousse, and Cologne.
"So, what is this?" Nabiki asked, motioning to Yoiko, attached to Ryoga.
"Are you guys...?" Ranma started, dreading the answer. He didn't want to think that another girl was cute, let alone one that looked sort of like him; that wouldn't seem right, but he still hoped she wasn't Ryoga's... girlfriend.
"Uhm... no, not really," Ryoga responded vaguely.
"Where'd you come from anyway, Ryoga-chan?" Ukyo asked, grinning. She was almost twitching where she stood, to prevent herself from hugging him.
"I was around... I said I'd meet Yoiko here, so here I am."
"Oh my! Where's Ryoki-san...?" Kasumi murmured, looking around. She was nowhere in sight. Yoiko and Ryoga both looked embarrassed, but neither of them said anything.
"We... better get going," Yoiko finally said.
"Oh... where will you be staying tonight?" Kasumi asked sweetly.
"Uhm... we're roughing it. It's what we do," Yoiko explained. She was nervous that everyone would see right through her- if they weren't already. If it was as easy as giving everyone their cures, she would have done so, but it wasn't like that at all. She had other goals to accomplish. She looked at Shampoo and Cologne pointedly before turning with Ryoga and heading toward the veranda.
"Why don't you come to the New Year's Eve Party as well?" Kasumi asked.
Everyone started to clean up, as the festivities had generally come to a close, and Ranma was in the middle of picking some lanterns off a string on the ceiling when he decides he wanted to ask Yoiko something.
"Oh!" Kasumi exclaimed, and everyone looked at her.
"What is it, Sis?" Nabiki asked. Kasumi was staring out at the veranda, where one had a clear view of the koi pond sparkling in the moonlight.
"They... they're gone."
"Of course they're gone, they left, didn't they?" Mousse asked in confusion.
"Mu-Tsu, I don't think..." Shampoo spoke in Mandarin. She hadn't heard a reply from Ryoga or Yoiko either, and wondered where they had disappeared to. But there was no sign of them.
"I heard that she and Ryoga are..."
"No way... I don't think so, but they..."
Ranma was tired of hearing all the rumors about Ryoga and the mysterious Yoiko. It still baffled him that she looked so much like him, but bore an uncanny resemblance to Ryoga as well. She had said they were only friends, but they acted like so much more than that. What was more, he was sure he wasn't the only one who thought she sure sounded a lot like Akane.
'Don't be an idiot, Saotome. She's gone. You had your chance with her and now...' So, although on the exterior, Ranma defended that Akane would one day return to him and her family, he was waging a losing war with his conscience that said otherwise. This same voice told him that Yoiko was probably Ryoga's cousin or something, and she was very beautiful, regardless of any similiarities she shared with himself or Ryoga. Ranma wanted to punch himself, but he didn't even have the strength for that anymore. He couldn't even bring himself to talk about it with Ukyo, and she was his best friend.
"Hey, welcome to Ucchan's, Ranma," Ukyo greeted Ranma as he walked into the restaurant. It being Christmas weekend, business was a little less busy than normal, but at this hour, people seemed to have a craving for okonomiyaki. It was tolerable enough, what with Konatsu helping out. Like everyone else, Konatsu had changed as well, but his change was not inspired by Akane's sudden disapperance. People who knew him, namely Ukyo and Ranma, attributed his change to time. Kontasu now acted and dressed like a young man of his age, instead of the "kunoichi" he once had been.
"You won't believe some of the things I've heard today. Seems like anyone who was at the party last night is talking about the 'Mysterious Yoiko and Ryoki'," Ukyo commented, making Ranma's favorite dish, a deluxe seafood okonomiyaki, as she spoke.
"Really? Surprise me." Ranma prompted her for some of what she had heard.
"Oh, a few people think they're Ryoga's mistresses," Ukyo scowled when she said this, and Ranma looked at her quizically. "Ryoga-kun isn't like that," she explained.
"Weren't you just calling him Ryoga-chan last night?" Ranma asked, smirking. Ukyo blushed and hit Ranma upside the head with one of her smaller spatulas.
"In any case, no one's seen either of them. Not that people are hunting, but you get my drift."
"I... I kinda want to see Yoiko again," Ranma mumured. When he caught Ukyo's questioning gaze, he waved his hands in front of him defesively. "It's not like that. I just want to ask her some stuff."
"Heh... you mean if she's got a boyfriend?" Ukyo grinned devilishly.
"Well, ye... NO!" Ranma stuttered, his nose turning pink.
"You like her! Haha!" Ukyo crowed. She laughed so hard she was nearly in tears, and Konatsu had to apologize to the customers for her abnormal behavior.
"S'like talking to a brick wall..." Ranma muttered, waiting for Ukyo to stop laughing. He sighed. Ukyo was right... a little. Okay, maybe a lot. But there was something nagging Ranma in the back of his mind. What was it? Who was Yoiko?
who wants'ta roast marshmallows? -----(()
Ehehe... in any case, this is Chapter 6, over and done with. Yay! As you may know, the song Akane was singing with DoCo is "A Pure And Honest Christmas". It really helped inspire this scene, along with this fic, so if you have it, listen to it. It's really good! I know that sounds weird, seeing as this isn't a 'songfic,' but still. I am thinking about posting some fanart for this. It wasn't originally intended for this fic, and the one that was intended for BND (Brand New Day) when I started writing it doesn't seem to look like fanart for BND. In the long run, if you've got your own fanart (for this, other fics of mine... anything), please send it to me. Heck, even if you DON'T, email me please! )
Author's Note: I was rather distraught to discover my first review for this fic (which I consider my pride and joy of Ranma fanfiction, even if it's old and unfinished) was one from a person who called me a selfish bitch. Those were his exact words to me. I have since removed the review. I'm not the type to sink to the level of a "hater-reviewer" and I don't plan to mention any names; those that saw the review before I did know who he is and what he said. That's enough of that.
I appreciate the few people who did respond by saying that I shouldn't listen to so-and-so and he didn't have a brain in his head, etc. It made me feel slightly better.
I know I'm not an expert writer or anything; it's not like I was just posting the story because I had it. Rather, I posted it because I wanted to get some constructive criticism. But there is a rather thick, dark line between constructive criticism and outright flames. This has to be the first time I've gotten a true flame on had always figured before now that if someone didn't like what they read they'd either leave a polite review saying what I may have "screwed up" or they would just click BACK and forget it. I have read plenty of fanfiction that I detest, but you don't see me (or any other "respectable" writers, for that matter) leaving hate reviews.
There's an old adage: if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Modern people have adapted that phrase and turned it into something along the lines of "If you can't say something helpful, keep your trap shut, cause I don't want to hear it."
YES, I was after helpful comments on my old writing, looking to improve a storyline I knew was flawed. That was why I didn't post it for so long! But a constant string of "you suck" and "this is totally unrealistic" is something I don't need to hear. Post those thoughts on a ranting page if you hate it so much--or go read an author that suits your needs.
I will NOT remove the story, and though I do plan to revise it, the general plot of the story will remain the same. I had this problem with another Ranma fanfiction of mine as well, "Strange Love." I know I have a bad habit of posting several parts of something without beta-ing it, or writing and posting something as soon as I get the idea. It was different with BND. It's been around for a while, and I have the entire story plotted out. Yet, since it's so old, and I can't afford the time required for a full revision, I just posted the fic "as-is."
But there are several things I adhere to in fanfiction writing--one of them is not straying from an author's original portrayal of characters. Hypocritical, I know, by showing Ranma as someone who gave up on martial arts because of Akane. I look at that now, and think, "That wouldn't work like that. I might need him to get weaker somehow, and I think having him believe Akane is dead might do that for him." Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, now did it? But I do stick to the fact that Akane doesn't discover Ryoga's curse, and should she, her reactions could vary. I AM a girl, and having been in several of Akane's situations (albeit not the cursed pet pig part), my reaction to someone I needed as a companion while running away from home would be slow acceptance. I would not yell and scream and plot bloody murder; neither would Rumiko Takahashi.
But until I get some parties interested in beta'ing BND on a regular basis, it is, for now, on hold.I apologize for this, and really wish I didn't have to resort to such tactics, but I am upset.
Thank you for your time,