Author's note: Hey there! If you're still with me, then thanks very much!
Just a couple of things to mention. Firstly, the last three chapters (five, six and seven) all took place in the same day, so, if you're wondering why Ranma and Akane were still hating on each other in the last one, that's why. It won't all be like that, though, I promise.
Secondly, this fic isn't going to be short. I have so many ideas for it that it's likely to be huge. That's why the hating is dragging on so much, in case you're wondering.
Lastly, the title is from a film of the same name that involves a calm lake, beneath which hides a monstrous crocodile.
Anyway, please enjoy! And try not to flame too hard, people!
Chapter Eight: Placid Lake
Akane, seated at her desk, yawned. It had taken a while last night, but she'd finally managed to convince her father to train her properly again. He'd sobbed about it for a while, protested and sobbed some more, but he'd eventually agreed to it, saying that he was proud of her and it was probably about time anyway.
It was clear from the training session that Soun's abilities had dwindled over the years. He hadn't even trained himself for twelve years, never mind anyone else, so he was considerably out of shape. He had still managed to put up a decent fight, though, when he hadn't been wimping out and refusing to hit her, so he clearly still had some skill left.
Yesterday, she'd been in such a rage over Ranko, but, today, she felt much calmer. Maybe it was partly because of the talk she'd had with Kasumi and Nabiki. Maybe it was partly because she'd vented her frustration in the training session with Soun. Mostly, though, it was because she simply didn't hold grudges for very long. She could fume about something for an entire day, but a good night's rest tended to cleanse the anger from her system.
Despite no longer being angry with Ranko, she wasn't about to give up her new training sessions. Heck, she'd gotten this far, so why stop now? If her father was willing to train her, she wasn't about to tell him that he didn't have to anymore.
She was still determined to beat Ranko. One day, she'd defeat her and claim back her glory as Nerima's top martial artist. After spending years as the top dog, it was rather degrading to feel like the underdog at the arrival of one new girl, who had no problems with rubbing her superiority in her face. It made her look weak and she hated looking weak. For now, though, she was content just getting on with her life.
At that moment, the chair at the desk next to her moved. Turning to look, she noticed the girl in question sitting down. After a moment, Ranko turned her head and their eyes locked. They held that position for a few seconds before Ranko closed one eye and stuck her tongue out. Akane frowned lightly. So, Ranko wasn't going to be mature about this. Well, just because she wasn't pissed off at the girl anymore, it didn't mean that she had to like her. After another moment, she turned away, determined not to let Ranko ruin her day.
Ranma sat with her head on her wrists, pretending to be interested in what Miss Sachiko was telling her. She simply wasn't, though, and never would be. Bored, she glanced to her left at Akashi, who was studiously taking down notes.
She wasn't annoyed with the guy anymore. She'd gotten over that after a good sleep. He was still a stupid femboy, but she had better things to do than concern herself with him. Besides, some of what her mother had said had gotten through to her. She realised that she had gone a tad too far with Daichi yesterday. In her defense, it had been many years since she'd last eaten octopus puffs, so she'd been very keen to eat them again. However, she would no longer go so far as to grab hold of a guy when flirting with him for free stuff. She was sure she could make it work just as well from a distance.
After a few moments, Akashi seemed to sense that he was being watched, as he lifted his head and looked over at her. Knowing that he still didn't like her, she decided to mess with him some more and grinned cheekily. She was rewarded with another slight frown before he looked back down at his notes and continued writing.
She looked away from him, no less bored than before, and considered what Akashi had said yesterday. The guy had freaked out at finding out that she wore boxers and no bra. She puzzled over this one for a minute. Was it really such a big deal? And why would a guy care about that, anyway?
It wasn't that she didn't have any bras or panties. Oh, no. In fact, before she'd started her classes, Nodoka had taken her around various clothing stores. Not only had she bought her a few pieces of feminine clothing, she'd also gone as far as to get her fitted into female undergarments. She shuddered. It hadn't been a pleasant experience. She'd tried to repress the memory, but yesterday's fight had dragged it up again.
Nodoka had said that, if she was going to school as a girl, she should at least dress appropriately, using the bras for support and the panties for comfort. What she didn't know, though, was that Ranma had no intention of ever wearing those hideous garments. She was sure that girls liked them and were used to them. She, however, was not a girl. 'Ranko' did not truly exist, so she wasn't about to make her as real as possible by wearing those things.
If that strange femboy next to her didn't like the fact that she preferred boxers and a bare chest, well, that was his problem.
Akane settled into her usual chair at Benjiro's desk at recess, only to jump as Chikao's arm wrapped around her shoulders.
"Dude!" he hissed with a huge grin on his face. "You are so lucky you get to sit next to Ranko, you know. Care to swap seats?"
"... Huh?" Akane replied, still too stunned to speak.
"Her performance yesterday was quite a sight to behold," Benjiro said. "Don't you agree?"
"She's quite the martial artist," Daichi added.
Akane frowned. "Hey, I am, too..." she replied.
"Yeah," Chikao said, "but she was awesome. She totally kicked your ass, dude."
Akane's scowl deepened at the insult.
"Now, Chikao..." Benjiro said, "that's not very nice."
Chikao smirked. "True, though."
"Who knew she was so strong," Daichi said with a smile. "She must have trained her entire life to get that good."
That comment stung Akane's heart. She was a talented martial artist, too. In fact, she'd been the best in Nerima for many years. God, Ranko was showing her up. She was making her look like a complete novice in comparison.
Ranma seated herself at Reina's table, ready for a relaxing recess, when Reina suddenly gave her ribs a gentle nudge with her elbow.
"Hey, Ranko," she said, "nice fight yesterday. Didn't bruise Akashi too badly, I hope?"
"Eh, he'll be fine," Ranko replied.
"It looked so rough!" Ruka cried. "You kicked him, he slapped you..."
Ranko shrugged. "It was nothing, really. Akashi has a thick head, so I'm sure he'll survive."
"What about you?" Rin asked.
Ranko proudly puffed out her chest for a moment. "You kidding? I'm a martial artist. I can handle much more than that."
"Well, if you're sure..."
"And what was that he said about boxers, anyway?" Reina asked.
"Oh, that," Ranko replied. "Well, I'm not a fan of bras and panties."
"... I see..." Reina smirked. "Not much of a girl, then, huh?"
Reina blinked, obviously not expecting that response, but said nothing on the matter.
"Oh, my gosh!" Ruka cried. "Wasn't Akashi just the coolest yesterday?"
"Oh, definitely," Rin replied. "What he said was rather moving and inspiring."
"... Care to clue me in?"
"Tsk tsk," Reina replied. "Clearly, you weren't paying attention, Ranko."
"He stood up for girls everywhere!" Ruka squealed in delight.
"Yes," Rin said, "he certainly knows a thing or two about feminine modesty."
"Unlike a certain someone we know," Reina added.
"He's not like the other guys at all!" Ruka said, cupping her hands under her chin in a dreamy state.
"No," Rin said. "They'd all be happy if a girl was walking around bra-less... but not him."
"He's so considerate! I wanna marry him even more now!" Ruka sighed happily.
Ranma clicked her tongue in irritation. The stupid femboy slaps her and her friends start fawning over him for it? "Hmph. He's probably a girl himself. That'll be why he cares so much."
Reina lightly batted her on the shoulder. "Now, Ranko..." she said, smirking, "no need to be so jealous of your rival."
Ranma smirked right back. "Rival? Ha! Hardly. I kicked his ass yesterday."
"Yes..." Reina poked her in the side. "But he's more considerate about girls than you are... and you are a girl."
Ranma opened her mouth to argue this point, but realised that Nodoka wouldn't be too happy with her if she did, so she closed it again.
Eventually, it was lunch time, Ranma's favourite time of the school day. Her stomach rumbling, she picked up her book bag – which contained today's bento box and yesterday's baked sea breams that she'd not been able to eat yet – pushed her chair back and stood up. An instant later, someone crashed into her.
"Hey!" Akashi cried in his rather feminine voice.
Ranma turned to frown at him, but the sight of the guy's angry scowl gave her a strange impulse to mock him.
"Watch where you're going, femboy!" she said. She pulled down the skin of her eye and stuck out her tongue. "Your big head getting in the way again?"
Akashi growled threateningly. "Why, you... jerk!"
Ranma made a thoughtful pose. "'Jerk'?" She grinned mockingly at Akashi. "Wasn't it 'bitch' yesterday? You must be losing your touch, Akashi."
Akashi growled again. "Just... stay out my way, Ranko!" He barged past her, knocking her sideways into her desk.
Ranma was not pleased about being shoved into her desk. Standing up again, she glared at Akashi's back, then opened her mouth wide and stuck her tongue out, waving her hands around at the same time. "Nyah! Gee, Akashi, I didn't know you had such thick thighs!" Akashi stopped dead. "They could put a gorilla to shame!"
Akashi whirled around and glared daggers at her. "What was that?"
Ranma retracted her tongue. "Seems you're pretty dumb, too!" It made her oddly giddy to see how much these insults pissed him off. She simply couldn't stop. "I said your thighs make your arms look like twigs!"
Akashi scowl deepened. "Why, you..."
Suddenly struck with inspiration, Ranma gently struck her palm with her fist. "Hey, that's it!" She grinned widely. "You're dumb as a brick, and built like a stick, with thighs that are too thick!" She laughed at her own ingeniousness.
Akashi growled. "Raaaankoooo!" He picked up a chair and flung it at her.
As she saw the chair flying towards her, she had a split second to dodge. Fortunately, her brain just managed to function fast enough. She tilted as far to the left as her body would allow and the chair crashed into the wall, barely missing the window.
"Mr. Tendo!" Miss Sachiko's microphone-enhanced voice yelled across the classroom, causing everyone to jump and look at her. A vein appeared to be twitching on her forehead. "I will not allow fighting in this classroom! Pick up one more item of furniture and you will be made to stand in the hall!" Ranma sniggered, causing Miss Sachiko to turn to her. "And Miss Saotome!" Ranma immediately stopped sniggering. "No bear-baiting! This classroom is my pride and joy and I will not tolerate another fight in here! If even one thing gets broken, there will be hell to pay! Do I make myself clear, you two?"
"Yes, Miss..." both teenagers grumbled.
This appeared to calm Miss Sachiko down. "Good. Now, get on with eating your lunches in peace."
Akane stood in the dojo, dressed in her kenpo gi, and faced her father with determination. Soun, on the other hand, looked uneasy. His stance was completely wrong, almost lax, as though he wasn't even trying.
"You're certain to still want to do this, Akane?" he asked cautiously.
"Yes, I'm sure," she replied.
"... Okay, then." He tightened his stance. "Come at me."
Akane nodded, then gave a battle cry and charged. She flung out her fist, but Soun blocked by crossing his arms over his face. Irritated, she pushed her fist harder, making him slide backwards slightly. Realising he wasn't going anywhere, she swung her leg around, only for him to duck out of the way. Not expecting this, she lost her balance slightly.
Soun immediately grabbed her suspended leg and flipped her. She flew into a backwards somersault, landing in a crouched position with a small twinge in her ankle. She ignored it.
"Come on, Dad! You're hardly trying!"
He looked at her sadly. "Oh, Akane... do you really think I could hurt my youngest daughter?"
"Come on! Attack me!"
She lunged at him again in a flurry of punches. He managed to dodge every single one without too much effort.
Akane was getting pissed off. Why couldn't her father consider her a martial artist in her own right? Whether or not they shared flesh and blood, she wanted to be taken seriously! She swung a harsh punch, which barely missed and cracked a hole in the wall. Distracted, she stared at her embedded fist in horror.
"Oops..." She pulled her fist out of the wall and turned to Soun, embarrassed. "Sorry, Dad."
Soun blinked at her for a moment, then put on a contemplative pose. "Hmm..."
Soun nodded a few times to the ceiling. "Mmm-hmm... mmm-hmm..." He relaxed his pose and looked back at Akane. "I think I know what the problem is."
Akane's eyes lit up. Her father was actually going to teach her something useful? "Yes? What is it?"
He put on a sagely pose. "What we need to do, I think, is to work on your technique."
She was really fascinated now. "Uh-huh? Uh-huh?"
He folded his arms. "Your kicks are powerful, but you put too much energy into them."
She blinked. "Huh?"
"Your technique has always been about power, rather than speed." She frowned lightly. "If you wish to beat this... what was her name?"
"That's the one. If you wish to beat this Ranko girl... whom I've been told is rather advanced in her martial arts skills... then you will need to sacrifice some power for speed."
This offended Akane. "Hey, what's wrong with my technique?"
Soun jumped backwards, clearly not expecting the outburst. "Well, I..."
"It's worked plenty of times for me in the past, so why wouldn't it work now?"
"Dad, it's the technique I'm most comfortable with!"
Soun suddenly burst into tears. "Please! Stop yelling at me!" He ran to the corner and crouched down, sobbing.
Akane heaved a sigh. Gosh, her father was such a crybaby. Maybe he had a point, though. He was only trying to be helpful and Ranko was pretty damn fast. It probably would take a lot more than power to beat her. After all, she was a whole other class of fighter. Hell, she could probably knock out the horde of Furinkan High perverts twice as fast as she could. That thought alone annoyed her.
"Alright, Dad. I'll give it a try."
He slowly turned to peek at her through waterlogged eyes. "Y-You mean it, Akane?"
"Sure. Just show me what to do."
Soun jumped up in delight, spinning to face her. "That's my girl!"
The next day, Ranma was running late to school. While he'd been male, his mother had decided to let him get up on his own today, but he'd insisted on sleeping in late. As a result, Genma had barged into his room and belly-flopped on his bed, sending him flying into the wall. It hadn't been the greatest of wake-up calls. Honestly, he'd have preferred another bucket of cold water.
After that, he'd had to wolf down his breakfast at a speed foreign even to him, change forms, get dressed and race to school. Currently female, she was running full-tilt along the fence. She suspected there was no need to run on the fence – as the pavement would have worked just as well – but it was good balance training. Plus, it made her feel a bit cooler, knowing that she could do this when not many other people could.
Up ahead, she could see the school gate closing. She clicked her tongue in annoyance, although it wasn't too much of a problem. She wasn't a martial artist for nothing, after all. Jumping down from the fence, she ran towards the gate. As she got closer and closer, she could see the gap between the metal barricades getting thinner and thinner. Before she'd even made it in time, they connected in the middle.
Smirking as she approached the gate at full running speed, she jumped high into the air, propelling herself off the top of the gate with one hand and doing a somersault before landing in a perfect crouch. Without stopping to admire her skills in the art – as she already knew how amazing they were – she stood back up and continued running towards the school building.
Bucket duty may not be that big of a deal to her – considering her incredible upper body strength and ability to hold things many times her own weight – but that did not mean that she enjoyed doing it.
She dashed inside, quickly throwing off her outdoor shoes and switching them with her indoor shoes. Closing her shoe locker, she shoved her toes into the indoor shoes, wiggling them around and tapping them on the floor to make them fit, then ran to the classroom.
With any luck, she'd make it just in time and Miss Sachiko wouldn't have to put her on bucket duty. She'd much rather sit next to that grumpy femboy, Akashi, than stand in the hallway for half an hour. As a male, he'd done enough of that in the boys-only middle school he used to go to.