Ranma 1/2 is owned by Rumiko Takahashi. Familiar of Zero (Zero no Tsukaima) is owned by Noboru Yamaguchi. All rights reserved.
Goodbye and Hello (And Goodbye)
Life sucked, Ranma thought, nodding firmly to himself.
China was bad enough. Having been dragged to Japan to be engaged to a total stranger against his will was worse. Being forced into an engagement with a violent, obnoxious, uncute chick was just insult to injury. And now, he had to live with the pain in the ass and even go to school together. How unfair!
"Man, all I freaking want is to get rid of this stupid curse!" he groused to himself, making his way to the school he was supposed to be attending, Furinkan High School, instead of doing something more important. Like restoring his manhood to full-time status.
"We're not going to get married, you know!" the girl Akane Tendo started, interrupting his thinking process.
"You're tellin' me?" he shot back, completely annoyed with her.
"So don't hang around me in school."
He snorted. "Don't worry! I can't stand macho chicks like you!"
Seconds later, he took a shot to the back of his head. For the moment, Ranma thought that violent chick had hit him with something.
Turning around, he blinked in surprise and annoyance at his irate father standing on the fence with him.
"Pop! What're you—"
"You're in no position to be choosey about women!" the older Saotome roared. "Listen, Ranma, I'll tell you only once—"
Bored with what felt like a lecture, Ranma's foot shot out to knock his father off the fence and into the canal with a loud splash. Staring at the resulting panda bear splashing about in the murky water, he called down to it. "What's wrong, Pop? Weren't you going to say something?"
Panda-Genma sprang up several feet over the fence, intent on paying his son back for his insolence. Ranma hopped off quickly, tucking himself into a small ball in order to avoid the bear's swipe. Having successfully dodged the attack, the younger Saotome made to land lightly on the ground several feet away.
"Ha!" he called out from over his shoulder. "Check this—"
And he suddenly fell into blackness.
Akane and Panda-Genma blinked as a greenish oval appeared just in front of Ranma's path of descent. The boy never had a chance to see it, nor be warned. He fell into it, and suddenly disappeared.
"GROWRF!" Genma lunged forward to grab the boy, but it was too late. The floating oval ring disappeared before Genma made contact with it.
Akane blinked again. "Uh, what just happened?"
Panda-Genma turned to Akane, opened his mouth…
And realized pandas couldn't talk.
"The hell happened to me?" Ranma grumbled, blinking rapidly. One moment, he was flung into darkness now, here he was bathed in light.
His eyes caught sight of the bright azure sky overhead, fluffy clouds rolling across. There was grass beneath him, warm and soft. A gentle breeze caressed his skin.
"Where am I?" he wondered aloud.
A head entered his visual frame, wavy strawberry blonde hair dripping down all around her face. She frowned as she looked at him, brows furrowed in puzzlement.
Ranma took his eyes off of her. The girl was sort of cute, but the last thing he wanted was to hear his old man gripe at him over that stupid fiancée issue again. Who the hell asked him to decide things for him anyway?
"Who are you?" the girl asked.
"Ranma Saotome," he said, redirecting his attention to the girl. The second look pointed out that she most certainly wasn't Japanese by a longshot. Was she American? What was an American doing here? Wherever here was…
"Where are you from, commoner?"
"Commoner? What?" Did he hear right?
"Louise, what were you thinking, calling a commoner with 'Summon Servant'?" Ranma heard someone say as laughter erupted all around them, making it clear that he and the girl were not alone here, wherever here was. The girl that was interrogating him turned red in the face.
"I... I just made a little mistake!" she snapped back at the crowd, all of them wearing cloaks and holding what looked like a conductor's baton, thick little handle with a drastically tapered body.
"A mistake? What are you talking about?"
"It's not like something odd happened!"
"Of course! After all, she's Louise the Zero!"
The laughter roared to life once more, and the little girl shook. Probably with anger, since Ranma deduced her name was Louise. Louise the Zero.
He took a moment to raise and chamber his legs before he snapped them outward. His body sprang from his prone position on the ground and into a standing position, drawing a few eyes towards him.
"So, Louise the Zero, where am I and how do I get to Furinkan High School from here?"
The crowd surrounding both him and the Louise the Zero girl paused at his words for a moment before breaking out in guffaws.
"Even the commoner calls her Louise the Zero!"
Ranma blinked at everyone. "O~kay… anyway, Lou—"
"Don't call me Zero, you stupid commoner!" the small girl – barely looked older than twelve or so – barked, pointing her own smooth stick at him.
"Hey! Who're you calling a commoner!"
Ranma snorted in annoyance. Subtract all thoughts of this girl being even somewhat cute. She was just as obnoxious as that macho chick he'd been saddled with.
"All right, all right! What's the commotion?" A bald man wearing glasses and a heavy cape asked as he waded through the crowd of young faces, a big wooden staff in hand.
"Miss Vallière, what seems to be the matter?"
"Mr. Colbert! Please, allow me to try summoning one more time!"
"Summoning?" Ranma questioned, only to be ignored.
Mr. Colbert shook his head. "I cannot allow that, Miss Vallière."
"Why not?" Louise asked.
Mr. Colbert shook his head. "It is strictly forbidden. When you are promoted to a second year student, you must summon a familiar, which is what you just did."
Ranma had a weird feeling he just fell into a group of cosplayers acting out scenes from a video game, what with all this talk about "summoning" and "familiars." "Uh, hey—"
Again, he was ignored as Mr. Colbert continued. "Your elemental specialty is decided by the familiar that you summon. It enables you to advance to the appropriate courses for that element. You cannot change the familiar once you have summoned it, because the Springtime Familiar Summoning is a sacred rite. Whether you like it or –"
"Hey!" Ranma snapped, breaking up the conversation and drawing both of the strangers' eyes to him. Satisfied that people were now paying him some attention, he cleared his throat. "Look, I have no idea what's going on, and I'm sorry if I busted up your gameplay or whatever, but right now, I really gotta get back to Furinkan High School, so if someone can tell me where I am and how to get there from here, I'd be really grateful."
Silence followed his words. After several seconds, it turned from awkward to uncomfortable.
"Well, don't everyone speak all at once…" Ranma said, scratching the back of his head.
Mr. Colbert opened his mouth to say something, closed it, then opened it again. He turned to Louise. "At any rate—"
"Hey!" Ranma cried, suddenly and doubly ignored.
"Commoner, though he may be, he was still summoned by your spell. Never in history has a human been summoned as a familiar, true; however, the Springtime Familiar Summoning takes precedence over every rule. In other words, he must become your familiar."
Louise's face fell. "Ugh!"
Ranma gave up on the two and asked someone in the crowd. "Hey, you know how to get to Furinkan High School from here?"
His only response was a blink and a contemptuous frown.
Did he step in dog shit or something?
Mr. Colbert turned Louise to face Ranma, then roughly turned the pigtailed boy to face her. "Well then, continue with the ceremony."
She made a sour face. "With him?"
Ranma looked at Louise, then Colbert. "Ceremony?"
"Yes, with him. Hurry up and form a contract. The next class will begin any minute."
Various people chimed in.
"Yes, Louise, hurry up!"
"Form the contract!"
"We don't have all day for you try yet again!"
Ranma simmered in annoyance. This was going way too far. People kept talking as if he wasn't here, or were ignoring him altogether. Fine, whatever. He started to just pick a direction at random and go with it until he found Louise standing before him.
"What do you want?"
"You should count yourself fortunate."
Ranma blinked. "Oh, you're talking to me now?"
"Normally, you'd go your whole life without a noble doing this to you."
He perked an eyebrow at the girl. "Uh, what? I just want directions."
Louise closed her eyes, shoulders slightly slumped in resignation. She waved around the wooden stick in her hand.
"My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; bless this humble being, and make him my familiar."
Ranma frowned, watching her as she chanted those same words over and over. Elemental? Blessing? Familiar? None of it made sense. "Uh, lady, I don't know what you're saying but I'm not—"
The wand tapped him on the forehead, making him blink in surprise. What was that supposed to be?
He snapped back to reality when found a pair of pinkish lips on a collision course for his face.
"Wh-whoa, hey now!" he jerked away from the girl, blood rushing to his face. She wasn't about to do what he thought she was going to do, was she? He barely even knew her name! And man, would he'd never hear the end of it from Pop if the old man found out about this!
"Just stay still…" Louise moved in on him again, face drawing near. Ranma again dodged.
The strawberry blonde growled in annoyance. "Stop moving! I have to complete the ritual!"
"No way! I'm not going to let you!"
The crowd snickered.
"Geez…" Louise lunged for Ranma, but he sidestepped her. Quickly she gave chase, shouting at the pigtailed boy, who continued to dodge and evade her for a full minute. The laughter swelled, Louise's face burned from both exertion and mortification, and Mr. Colbert palmed his face in embarrassment.
"Enough," Mr. Colbert finally said, gesturing with his thick staff
The next thing Ranma knew, his feet had taken leave from the ground, his entire body being buoyed by some weird force.
"What the?" He tried to flip, turn, twist, anything to get back to the ground, to no avail. He could just see the bald instructor pointing the staff at him. "What the hell is this!"
"Gotcha!" Louise gasped, arms latching onto him like a starfish with a mussel. A sheen of sweat adorned her brow, a trickle flowing down her cheek. "I'm going to kill you for making me run…"
"Please, continue, Miss Vallière."
Ranma struggled in vain to resist the weird force, to break free. "Put me d—"
Louise's lips pressed to his. Ranma went into a rigid shock; even his braid stood out on end.
The girl withdrew, a clear look of annoyance on her face. "It is done… you stupid familiar."
"Now, now, Miss Vallière, this is a first for history, a human familiar," Mr. Colbert spoke solemnly before his expression brightened. "Besides, while you may have failed 'Summon Servant' several times, you managed to succeed with 'Contract Servant' on your first try!"
"It's just because he's only a commoner."
"If he was a powerful magical beast, she wouldn't have been able to make a contract."
"He's a commoner, and she just barely made that contract! What does that tell you?"
The laughter swept over the field, making Louise turn red all over.
Ranma's brain rebooted. "What the—you kissed me!"
Louise's glare returned. "Shut up; it's not like I wanted to…"
The pigtailed boy started to retort when a wave of fire ripped through his entire body, making him tense all over. The most unintelligible sound squeaked through his throat.
Louise regarded him with a hint of satisfaction in his suffering. "Settle down, it's only the Familiar's Runes being inscribed. Quit being such a baby."
"Fuck… you…" Ranma growled. It felt like someone was pouring molten steel into his body.
Louise colored scarlet as the rest of the crowd "oooh'ed" in shock. "Wh-what kind of commoner are you! Speaking so coarsely among nobles!"
The burning sensation ebbed away and his body cooled. Ranma stopped clenching up, only to glare at Louise. "YOU get set on fire and tell me how good it feels!"
"That was remarkably fast," Mr. Colbert replied a little too loudly as he tromped over to check out Ranma's left hand. He blinked in surprise. "Those runes…"
Ranma snatched his hand free to examine it. "Wh-what the hell is this!"
The older man clapped his hands together, a small bout of sweat on his temple. "Well, let's go back to class everyone!"
"Wait a minute!" Ranma turned to face Mr. Colbert, only to be treated to a bewildering sight - everyone from the crowd, including Mr. Colbert was flying from the field. Flying! Like birds!
He stared, watching their figures shrink into the horizon, completely ignoring anything else.
"They're flying," he said dumbly. "They're really flying…"
"Who are you and how dare you embarrass me so!"
Ranma snapped out of his stupor to see that the strawberry blonde was still there.
"How the who the what huh?" He shook his head hard. "Where the hell am I? And why are those guys flying!"
"This is Tristain! And this is the renowned Tristain Academy of Magic!"
Ranma blinked. "Academy of Magic? Like spells and stuff?"
"Yes! I'm a second year student, Louise de La Vallière. I am your Master from now on. Remember that!"
"So, if you can do magic," Ranma continued on, having completely ignored everything past "Yes." "Does that mean you can like… break curses and stuff?"
"I- er-um, w-well, yes, b-but—"
In an instant, Ranma held out a bouquet of flowers. "Louise, was it? We may have begun on the wrong foot. My name is Ranma Saotome. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."
She blinked, a small blush appearing on her face. "Uh, um…"
He took her hand and looked into her eyes warmly. "Please, allow me to escort you back to your place."
She shook her head clear and jerked away. However, it did nothing to the blush on her cheeks. "That's not funny, familiar!"
Ranma made a weird face. "Familiar?"
"Yes, familiar! I summoned you into this world; therefore, that makes me your Master."
He blinked owlishly. "Isn't slavery outlawed?"
"Slavery? This is a time-honored service to a noble; you should count yourself blessed, being the only human familiar in the history of Halkeginia."
"'Honored' wouldn't be quite the word I'd use here," he said flatly before turning on the charm. "Anyway, I just want you to do one little favor for me so I can go on my merry way back to Furinkan. Wherever that is from here."
She looked at him aghast. "'Favor?'" Her face reddened as he scowled. "Favor! How dare a familiar talk so disrespectfully to his Master!"
Ranma scratched his head boredly. While he really, really wanted to get cured of his curse, it was looking less and less appealing to stick with this girl. Already, she was reminding him of that lousy Akane from last night, except there was that whole Master/Slave fixation she had.
"Uh, yeah… whatever you say. Look I gotta get going, so—"
"Wh-what! You're not going anywhere you ignorant familiar! I'm your Master, and you're my familiar! Listen to your Master!"
That did it. "Forget it; I'm outta here."
"See ya!" He picked a direction at random and started walking.
"Where do you think you're going!" Louise shouted at his back.
"School. I already got enough problems as it is without having to deal with you…"
"W-Wait! Stop! You can't leave me!"
"Oh yes I can."
She tried to tackle him from behind. Not that it did much good, as he continued to walk on as if unimpeded.
"I order you to stop!"
"Stop, you stupid familiar!"
He sighed, deeply annoyed as the girl had climbed up on his back and was squeezing around his neck as if to prevent him from going. She really didn't have much in the way of strength. He just hoped she didn't decide to bite his head or something.
"Look, I really don't care much for this crazy notion you got about you 'owning' me or something. So, bye."
"You can't do this to me~!"
"No, really, I can." He took a hop up into the trees. Twenty feet, forty feet. Louise squealed and clutched onto him tighter.
"You stupid~! Don't let me fall!"
Ranma made a face at that, continuing his ascent and travel. "What're you worried about? You can do magic; just fly or something."
She squeezed harder. "I can't!"
"What're you talking about? Aren't you some sort of mage?"
The girl stopped talking and Ranma kept flying from tree limb to tree limb.
Why he hadn't just tossed the girl off now, he hadn't a clue. Maybe because she weighed like next to nothing to him. At any rate, he really needed to get rid of her, or else he'd have to endure his Pop's lecture about why he had to be engaged to the Akane girl.
"T-the truth is… I… am a failure at magic."
Ranma caught hold of a tree, stopping his travel as he glanced at the girl clutching to his back. A quick glance down revealed he was at least a good seventy feet or so from the forest floor. "Say what?"
Her fingers dug into his flesh, legs clamped tightly around his waist. "I… I can't do magic… I barely was able to summon you! And you're a commoner, which really shows how much of a failure I am!"
"…you mean, you can't fly or anything?"
He could feel the girl shiver against his back, and it wasn't from cold. Ranma sighed, biting his lip. "All right, all right, I'm sorry. I didn't know, really. Hang on tight."
And with that, he hopped down from branch to branch, ignoring Louise's squeaks of fright until he touched ground.
As soon as he felt the girl light off of his back, she was in his face, her cherub face red and wet with smeared tears. She beat her tiny fists against his chest, repeatedly shouting, "Stupid!" and "You jerk!"
"Hey, I'm sorry! What do you want me to say?" Ranma said, his hands up innocently as he let her beat on him; after all, he did make her cry.
A minute or so passed before the girl took time to catch her breath. Her fists didn't hurt him, but he figured telling her that would only piss her off even more.
"So, we good?" he asked.
She frowned at him. "Are you dense?"
Ranma sighed and took a seat on the ground. "Look, let's start again from the top. What exactly is going on, how did I get here, and what's up with this 'familiar' business?"
Louise started to say something, but took the time to visibly will herself to join him in the sitting. "Fine. I can do that."
So they sat, and they talked. And talked. And Ranma was fast getting that sinking feeling that he wasn't anywhere near Nerima. Or Japan for the matter.
"Wow," Ranma idly commented, munching on a bread roll as he looked at the night sky from Louise's bedroom window. "Who'd've thought there could be two moons in the sky at once?"
"There aren't two moons where you're from?" Louise asked. She eyed the boy with a hint of suspicion from her seated position on her bed. Another world? She summoned someone from another world? Preposterous!
"Nah, just one." He chewed slowly. "I'm really far away from home…"
She frowned and did not answer.
"All this way, just to be some sort of gofer for you… what a waste."
In all of her life, she never once heard of a familiar that just up and left their Master. She had no designs on becoming the first, either. Because this Ranma guy was more than willing to leave. Threats had no meaning to him, and in all honesty, she didn't have any sort of power to stop him if he wished to go, either.
And yet, he decided to stay with her, even help her out if he could. Albeit, with the caveat that she didn't try to claim him like a stray dog.
But he's supposed to be her familiar~! None of it made any sense!
"As I said, I only cast the spell. It's supposed to pick out whoever fits best with the caster's affinity." She looked decidedly dejected. "And since you don't have any special abilities, like say, flight or firebreathing..."
He threw a cocky grin at her. "I'm the best martial artist you'll ever meet."
"…I'm not even certain what that is or how that would count for something."
Ranma shrugged. "Eh, you'll see." He yawned. "Okay, so where's my room?"
"There isn't a room for you. Familiars…"
"My name's Ranma, Zero."
"Stop calling me that!"
"Then start calling me by name!"
"Look, even if I do call you by name, it won't change how anyone else is going to treat you. To them, you're just a commoner. Even moreso, you're the familiar of Louise the Zero!" She snorted, looking off to the side in a huff.
He shrugged. "I don't care what other people think. I'm still just as much a person as anyone."
"You really don't know anything about this world…"
"No, and I don't care, either. I just want a cure for this stupid curse."
She looked away. "Fine, Ranma…"
He made an exasperated face. "Don't get so happy over it. Anyway, where would I have normally slept?"
"In the same room as me."
Ranma frowned. "Well, that's going to be awkward…"
"Because you're a girl. Guys shouldn't be sleeping in the same room as with a girl, you know?"
"You're a familiar; no one would have thought of you any differently."
"I'm not a pet."
"You're supposed to be something like, a manticore, dragon, hell, even a bird or a dog."
"Not today," he smirked.
Louise gritted her teeth. "You're so obnoxious!"
Ranma stuck his tongue out at her. "Anyway, where do you keep bed mats at?"
As Ranma rooted around her room, Louise almost wished that Ranma guy did get struck by lightning or something. If this is what it meant to have a human familiar, she'd just as soon rather have a cockroach. She just hoped this was nothing more than a bad dream.