Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½. I am not profiting from this story in any way. So there!
Introduction: Thanks to all the lovely input I received from the first chapter, I've been slowly working on its follow-up. I humbly apologize for taking so long, as it's now months later than I intended to be finished with it, but I must admit I've been struggling with this chapter. I do hope it's adequate! I had originally planned to return to the first chapter and make significant revisions, but I haven't really been happy with what I've come up with in terms of changes and/or additions. Perhaps I'll re-work the whole story once it's complete to establish a more consistent level of quality throughout. For the time being, I'll leave it as is…for better or worse. (Though I did make some minor touch-ups, including a clarification that Akane took part in pounding Genma after getting cursed.) Anyway, I won't ramble on any further right now, so here you go. Enjoy!
(Special thanks to Noy Telinú and zeltronica for their input once again. Thanks also to Pahhur for additional comments.)
A New Face, a New Life?
Chapter 2: Please Take Care of Me!
"I said not to worry about it, alright?"
"But I really am sorry! You've been so kind and understanding, and yet I blew up at the first hint of something perverted."
"It's fine…you had a bad day. I get it, believe me. Anybody would have a short temper under the circumstances. I'm not gonna hold it against ya or anything," Ranma assured her companion as they moved briskly down the sidewalk the morning after the cursed Saotomes' arrival in Nerima.
"Well, you see…" Akane began hesitantly, "I don't have the best temper in general. But that's mostly because of…er, never mind for now. You'll probably see for yourself soon enough." The cursed boy sighed, resigned to what he was sure would be a daunting day.
"Eh? Whaddaya mean?"
"Don't worry about it," he insisted, eager to change the subject.
"If you say so," Ranma replied uncertainly. "Hey…couldn't we just forget about classes an' focus on findin' a cure?"
"Dad and Kasumi can be pretty stubborn," Akane explained. "There's no way they'd accept something like that as an excuse to avoid going to school."
"Well, it was worth a shot. Oh yeah…your sister said she was leavin' early to 'take care of things.' How's she gonna do that? There ain't no record for a girl Saotome Ranma, at least that I know of, an' they're sure not gonna believe that Tendo Akane became a guy over the weekend."
"I know," a wincing Akane admitted, "but Nabiki's…resourceful. When she wants something done, it usually happens. I don't know how she does it—and I'm not sure I want to—but I expect that by the time we get to school, she'll have something arranged for us."
"Really? Prob'ly don't wanna get on her bad side if I can avoid it, then."
"Um…I'm afraid it might already be too late for that, Ranma," Akane offered, guilt evident in his features. "I think she's pretty upset with you and your dad over what happened yesterday. I'll talk to her later, but maybe it would be best just to keep your distance for the time being," he said with a frown.
"Ah, I gotcha. That's no problem. It'd be weirder if she wasn't mad, I guess," the redhead sighed.
"Hey, we should hurry, right? Don't wanna be late on the first day o' school!" she called with false enthusiasm as she jumped from the sidewalk to the top of the chain-link fence running alongside it. Rather than slowing down to preserve her balance on such a precarious edge, the cursed girl actually picked up the pace.
Akane was so caught off-guard by her casual display of skill that he was completely distracted from the previous dip in mood. "What the heck are you doing?" he asked, shocked.
"Huh? It's just balance trainin'. Why?" she asked with a curious tilt of her head, never stopping her forward motion.
"Do you think you could teach me to do that? I feel like I could use some help getting used to this body," Akane admitted. "Going by everything I've seen from you so far, you seem to have gotten used to that form pretty quickly. I mean, the way you and the stupid panda- er…the way you and your father were going at it this morning, I would never have guessed it wasn't the body you were born with."
"Nah, you were right the first time. He really is an idiot, ain't he? As for me, I'm just, I dunno…adaptable, maybe? That don't explain how Pop can do so much the way he is now, but I figure all that means is that pandas are a lot more capable than we give 'em credit for," she said with a shrug.
"No, I'm pretty sure pandas can't normally do backflips or spinning kicks," the cursed boy observed. "But you didn't answer my question! Will you teach me?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry. Sure, we can do that. It should help with your coordination. We can start workin' on it after school, 'kay?"
"You mean it, Ranma? You'll really work with me?" Akane asked, his eyes big and hopeful.
"Hey, I said we're in this together, didn't I? Helpin' ya with stuff like that goes with the territory," she said with a grin.
"Thank you, Ranma. I really appreciate it. But you know…you're probably not gonna want to run up there after today, at least not to and from school."
"Well, once you're in a uniform, you'll give everyone quite a view from up on the fence," the brown-haired boy noted wryly.
"A uniform? You mean…a girl's uniform! ?" Ranma gasped. "Like what Nabiki was wearin'? A, a dress an' everything! ?"
"Sorry, but that's what they'll expect you to wear. And it's not like I'm any better off, you know. Although a boy's uniform'll be a lot less embarrassing than what I'm wearing now," Akane complained, extremely self-conscious over the fact that he was once again dressed in one of his father's old gi. There weren't really any other clothes in the house that fit him, but his eldest sister Kasumi assured him that she would find something else he could wear by the time they returned from school.
Ranma grunted in resignation. She most definitely wasn't pleased by the prospect, but the knowledge that Akane would be dealing with the same thing—or nearly the same, since obviously guys' clothes would be far less embarrassing—made it seem not quite so daunting. "Okay, so I'll have to wear one of…those. Fine. I can handle it! But why wouldn't I wanna walk up here anymore? I'm sure it won't slow me down none."
"That's not the problem, baka. Think about it…walking on a high fence…wearing a skirt? You'll be giving everyone a free show!"
"A 'free show'? Hmm…ohhh. Crap! Sorry, not used to thinkin' 'bout this stuff. I guess that's out, then. Man, this whole thing stinks," the Saotome girl said in frustration.
"You don't have to tell me," Akane concurred. Just as he was about to continue, he spotted their destination up ahead: the gates of Furinkan High School. His expression darkened as he spotted a crowd of boys waiting by the entrance.
"Damn it! Those stupid jerks. Well, at least they'll give me a chance to work off a little steam. See, this is why I hate boys!" the long-haired boy growled.
"Huh? Akane? What's goin' on?"
"I'll explain later!" Akane shouted back as he rushed into the crowd.
Ranma looked on, thoroughly confused, as bodies began flying from within the crowd. Her concern spiked until she realized that Akane was the one doing the damage. In a matter of moments, the entrance was fully cleared and the bruised and battered bodies of dozens of male Furinkan students littered the courtyard. Eager for an explanation, Ranma jogged up to Akane's side.
"Hey, what was that all about?" the redhead inquired.
"Boys being stupid perverts…that's what it was about," Akane answered, clearly on edge. "A while back, this, this jackass made an announcement during a school assembly that anyone who wanted to date me had to beat me in 'honorable combat.' So every morning since than, those idiots have been waiting there before class to try and beat me. I hate it!"
"Wow, what a moron. Sounds like somebody needs to teach him a thing or two," Ranma observed.
The Tendo boy gave a derisive snort. "No kidding. But I'm sure you'll get plenty of opportunities. In fact-"
"Halt, knave!" a new voice bellowed out.
"-He should be here any second. Hello, Kuno-senpai. How are you this morning?" Akane greeted acidly.
"Miscreant! Who are you to interfere in a young man's sacred quest to win the heart of his beloved?" a young man called as he appeared from within the midst of arriving students; he was dressed in the traditional hakama of a kendoist, wooden bokuto in hand. "Ah, but is it not customary to introduce oneself first? Presenting the rising star of the kendo world, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High School…Kuno Tatewaki, class 2-E, age seventeen."
As he completed his introduction, posing dramatically, a flash of lightning streaked across the sky behind him.
"Neat trick," Ranma mumbled to herself.
"Now state your intentions towards the fierce tigress Akane!" Kuno commanded
'"Fierce tigress"?' the pigtailed girl noted in confusion.
Used to such nonsense, Akane merely rolled his eyes. "I can assure you, I don't have any 'intentions' towards Tendo Akane. But I can also assure you that she's NOT interested in you! At. All. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she hates you! Besides, you probably won't be seeing her for a while, so you might as well put an end to this stupidity," he said coldly.
"Lies! Lies and slander! Your transparent ploy to rid yourself of competition will not work with me, heathen! You are clearly trying to subvert the will of Heaven by spiriting away Tendo Akane for your own vile ends. I will not stand for it! Prepare yourself!" the older boy roared, charging forth with blindingly fast strikes of his kendo sword.
Not anticipating such a potent attack from the upperclassman, Akane was nearly knocked flat by Tatewaki's opening salvo.
"What the-! ?" Akane gasped as he just barely dodged an onrushing blast of air propelled at unbelievable speed by Kuno's wooden blade.
'When did he get so good?' the cursed boy wondered, shocked. "You…you've been holding back with me all this time, haven't you! ? You total JERK!" he growled, sprinting towards the enraged kendoist.
"Release Akane, fiend!" Tatewaki bellowed, hard pressed to deflect the cursed boy's powerful blows.
"I didn't do anything to her! It's not my fault she's not here!" Akane snapped, frustration mounting that his attacks were failing to make it through Kuno's defenses.
"Bah! The words of such a base deceiver are worthless!" Kuno snarled. "It is time to end this farce. I strike!" With that, the kendoist tore into the cursed boy with even greater ferocity.
'Damn it!' Akane lamented, stumbling under the intensity of Kuno's attack. 'I'm not gonna be able to finish this! He's too fast. I can barely stay on my feet!' Indeed, the only thing keeping him standing was his magically increased mass and the greater durability that came with it.
"Enough's enough!" Ranma shouted, impatient to see things brought to a close. Leaping in between the two combatants, she delivered a swift kick Kuno's sword hand, sending his weapon hurtling to impale itself in a nearby tree.
Turning his attention to the red-haired girl who was attempting to interfere with his man-to-man duel, Kuno gaped in shock at the sight of her. "What fire! What passion!" he exclaimed. "How has my glorious self never before laid eyes upon you, O flame-haired beauty? Pigtailed girl, I would date with y-"
The disarmed dolt's distracted declaration was cut short by a fist to the head courtesy of Akane that blew him across the courtyard and into the surrounding wall. The resulting impact crater left a spiderweb of cracks across its surface. Staggering to his feet moments later, Kuno proudly proclaimed, "I fight on!" before collapsing in an unconscious heap.
Satisfied that his opponent was finally down for the count, Akane directed his glare as his redheaded companion. "Why'd you do that, Ranma! ?" he yelled. "That was my fight!"
"Well, you were sure takin' your sweet time!" came the cursed girl's testy reply. "'Sides, looked to me like he caught ya by surprise. Lemme guess…he never went all out on ya like that, huh?"
"I can't believe him! He's just been playing with me all this time! Now what am I gonna do! ?" the chocolate-haired boy complained. "Ranma, will you help me train? I'm…not sure I could've beaten him on my own," he observed, his fists clenched in frustration.
"Uh…yeah, I guess," she replied hesitantly. "But why's it matter? I'm here, right? I can just take 'im out whenever he's a problem. What's the big deal?"
"'What's the big deal?' Seriously? The big deal is that I want to be able to take care of him myself! What, do you think because I'm really a girl, that I don't have what it takes or something?"
"Hey, I never said anything like that! I just figured you wouldn't hafta worry about dealin' with him anymore. So what if he's a bit outta your league?" Ranma asked, genuinely confused.
"Baka! I'm the heir to the Tendo School! I have to have what it takes to deal with idiots like him! He's my problem, not yours!"
"I'd say he's not just your problem anymore, 'little sister,'" a familiar female voice noted.
"Hey, Nabiki," Akane greeted his elder sibling with a sigh. "Did you get everything taken care of?"
"Was there ever any doubt? Now, come inside. The bell will be ringing soon."
The two cursed teens followed the middle Tendo child obediently into the school building.
"By the way…" Nabiki began.
"What now?" Akane replied, still on edge.
"Why did you go after them in the first place?"
"Whaddaya mean 'why'?" he asked irritably. "The perverts attack me every morning! Of course I'm going to fight back!"
"No, they attack Tendo Akane. You, on the other hand, could have simply strolled right in without any problem. You might have even avoided ever attracting Kuno-chan's attention. You sure have it now, though—both of you do. Or at least you will when he wakes up."
"Yeah, I was wonderin' that too," Ranma chimed in. "But I didn't say nothin' 'cause I figured you knew what you were doin'. Maybe I should've after all. Now we're gonna hafta deal with that dumbass botherin' us."
"…Ranma?" Akane replied.
Moments later, Nabiki directed her two companions to an empty classroom. "Here we are. Now that we have all of this morning's pleasantries out of the way, let me be the first to welcome you two to Furinkan High School." With that, she handed them each a sheet of paper detailing their school registration and respective class schedules (that is, the registration and schedules for their new alter egos).
Looking the paper over, Ranma made an expression not unlike if she had just eaten something sour. She turned towards Nabiki in consternation.
"Hey, what's with this? I guess I understand the name ya picked, but why not 'Saotome'? I woulda liked to keep at least that much," she complained.
The brown-haired girl regarded Ranma with a frosty expression. "Well, your father was quite insistent that you not be registered as a Saotome. I didn't get much of an explanation why, but then I'm still getting used to having conversations with a giant panda. So I figured, 'why make it complicated?'"
"What you really mean is that he didn't pay you enough to care. Right?" Akane asked.
"And what about me, huh? Why would you change my family name?" he inquired angrily.
"Hmm…so you'd be a matching set, I suppose?"
"C'mon, Akane…you didn't wanna be late, right? We should head to class," Ranma urged, hoping to avoid an argument.
"Fine…but this conversation isn't over, Onee-chan!" Akane promised.
"Yes, yes," his sister called with a dismissive wave of her hand as she headed towards her own homeroom, never bothering to look back. "Oh, and try to simmer down, Akane. You don't want everyone's first impression to be that you're the 'angry boy,' do you? Although there is a market for the fiery, brooding types. A lot of girls like the sense of danger, you know?" came Nabiki's wry observation as she turned the corner and disappeared from view.
"Damn it all…I guess we might as well go face the music, huh?" the cursed boy grumbled.
"Class, there are two announcements this morning," the homeroom teacher for class 1-F began. "First, Tendo Akane has unfortunately had to leave school unexpectedly due to a family emergency. It is not known at this time whether she'll be returning to Furinkan."
The entire class gasped in disbelief. Two girls in particular seemed truly dismayed by the news. And off in one corner, a boy hardly anyone ever noticed looked as if the world had just ended.
"Also, we have two new students joining us this morning. They've just returned to Japan from a trip to China, so let's give them a nice 'Ni hao!'"
Not surprisingly, no one responded to the teacher's suggestion.
The first of two youths standing at the front of the class stepped forward. She was a fairly short girl with shockingly red hair tied back in a pigtail. The girl was dressed in boyish attire, and it was readily apparent to those who paid attention to such things that she was not wearing any type of support for her rather generous assets. Most of the boys were thrilled by this discovery, while the majority of the girls were less than pleased. "Hey. I'm Sao…uh, I'm Tendo Ranko," the redhead began. "I'm the best martial artist around. Pleased to meet ya," she said with a halfhearted wave and a small grin. A number of males in the class couldn't stop themselves from drooling over her easygoing, tomboyish charms.
"Wait…Tendo Ranko?" inquired one of the two girls most visibly disappointed by their classmate's departure. "Are you related to Akane? Do you know what happened?"
"Uh…yeah, Akane's my…cousin. Somethin' came up, so Akane had to leave an' I had to come here. It's complicated, but hopefully she'll be able to come back before too long," "Ranko" explained with a sigh.
The class then turned its attention to the tall boy waiting to introduce himself. The strikingly handsome young man was dressed in martial arts attire that would have seemed odd on most people but somehow felt entirely appropriate on his athletic figure. His long, dark brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, and a number of girls quickly found themselves wishing they could run their hands through it. He seemed nervous, which simply added to his appeal among the class's female students.
'He looks like a poor, lost puppy,' one instantly smitten girl thought, worries over her missing friend Akane having fled as she took in the sight of the hunk before her. Anyone watching her might have imagined seeing little hearts popping into existence above her head. 'Come over here, puppy! I'll take you home with me!'
"Hello, I'm…Saotome Kaneda," he greeted. "I'm also a martial artist. It's nice to…meet you. I'm in your hands." Akane finished his introduction with a bow.
"Thank you, Tendo-kun, Saotome-kun," the teacher said. "Unfortunately, first day or not, you were still late. Please stand in the hall," he instructed before handing each of them water buckets to carry.
"AWWW!" came the loud complaint from nearly the entire class, thoroughly startling the two newcomers.
The pigtailed girl and ponytailed boy trudged out to the hall, buckets in hand, leaving a room full of disappointed students in their wake.
"Could this day get any worse?" Akane asked, unwisely tempting fate.
"No kiddin'. But at least that Kuno-baka prob'ly won't bother us again today. After a punch like that, anybody would be out of it for a while. That was a hell of a hit!"
"You really think so? Thanks, Ranma. I…wanna apologize for getting mad earlier. I know you weren't trying to show me up or anything. You were just trying to help. I really appreciate it, because I don't know what would've happened if you hadn't stepped in."
"Eh, it's not a problem. I ain't gonna get all bent out of shape over somethin' like that. 'Sides, I shouldn't've said that it didn't matter whether you could handle Kuno on your own. I wasn't really thinkin' of how you'd feel about it. If it were me, I'd be ticked off too. I'll train ya so you can take care of that moron, 'kay? You obviously have the strength for it, 'specially now, but I think you'll need to work on your speed and coordination. It's the same stuff we'll need to improve for fence-walkin'," Ranma replied, leaning casually against the wall.
Akane watched the red-haired girl intently as she closed her eyes, seemingly prepared to doze standing up. "Thank you, Ranma," he whispered. "I wouldn't want to be going through this without y-"
"I will not permit it! Such blasphemy shall not go unpunished!" roared the figure rushing towards them.
"Wonderful," Akane sighed, moving into a defensive stance.
Ranma's eyes instantly snapped open as she prepared for an attack. "Huh. Almost anybody, then. Who would've thought he was so durable?"
"Saotome!" Kuno Tatewaki shouted, briefly confusing the cursed couple before they determined he was addressing "Kaneda." His ranting quickly drew the attention of Ranma and Akane's classmates, who all crowded at the doorway to see what was behind the commotion. "Was not one Tendo enough for you! ? Not only have you absconded with the tigress Akane, but you dare to claim the goddess Ranko as your fiancée? I shall free the fair damsels from your vile clutches!"
"FIANCÉE! ? YOU'RE ENGAGED! ?" the class thundered in disappointment.
"Guess it could still get worse after all, huh?" Ranma observed. "But how the heck did he find out already?"
"Nabiki! She must've told him," Akane growled. Turning his attention to the oncoming kendoist, Akane answered his allegations. "First, I already told you…I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO AKANE! If it were up to me, she'd be here! Second, I didn't 'claim' anyone! Our families decided the engagement, not us!"
Ranma frowned at her companion's words, though she wasn't exactly sure why.
Kuno remained wholly unconvinced by Akane's claims. "Bah! I will not be misled by your wicked words, trickster! Prepare yourself, for your doom is at hand!"
"Will you put a sock in it already?" Ranma snapped, tossing her water bucket at the arrogant upperclassman. "We just wanna get through the day, you jerk! So leave us alone!" The red-haired girl then then took advantage of the distraction and proceeded to punt Kuno down the hall, sending him careening right out through an open window.
As the rest of their classmates gasped in shock, Akane rushed towards the window. "Baka! This is the third floor!" he yelled back to Ranma.
The pigtailed girl's eyes widened. "Oh, crap," she whispered, running to join her fiancé. "Do you see him?" she called.
"Thank goodness, he landed in the pool! But he could still be hurt. Someone needs to get down there right away," the long-haired boy replied, just as he was about to turn and head for the stairs.
"Already on it!" Ranma replied, catching Akane completely by surprise as she leapt from the window to the pool below.
"Ranm- ko!" Akane gasped, watching the cursed girl splash down. Grimacing, he sprinted towards the stairwell.
Down in the swimming pool, Ranma quickly swam to the aid of the dazed upperclassman; Kuno was floating face down, clearly confused about what was going on. Taking hold of him, she moved to drag the boy to the edge of the pool. The contact brought Tatewaki back to his senses, and he instinctively grabbed the nearest object for support. That object just happened to be Ranma's breast.
At about that time, Akane exited the school building and raced to the pool. Before he arrived, however, the surface of the pool erupted in a massive spray of water in all directions as a figure rocketed upward.
"HENTAI!" Ranma screamed, slamming Kuno onto the pool deck and sending him into unconsciousness for the second time that morning. Outraged, Ranma sat down on the deck and tried to calm herself. She turned towards the sound of someone approaching.
"Hey, are you all right?" a dripping Akane asked, having been thoroughly doused when Ranma tossed Kuno out of the pool. Despite his irritation at getting drenched, his first concern was for the redhead's welfare.
"Yeah, no thanks to this idiot over here," she answered, jabbing her thumb in the direction of the unresponsive kenodist. Noticing Akane's state, she asked, "What the heck happened to you?"
"Uh…you happened, actually. When you threw Kuno out of the pool, you splashed water everywhere," the cursed boy explained, waving his arm to draw Ranma's attention to the large puddles all around the pool. "You must've lowered the water level in there by half a meter!" he exclaimed.
"Hehe…oops," Ranma replied with a sheepish grin that quickly slipped from her face. "Well, what're we gonna do now? We're soaked! We can't sit in class like this. So, does that mean we can leave now?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course not! It's our first day, and it isn't even lunchtime yet! We'll just have to go to the office and see if they have any spare clothes on hand. Guess you'll get an early shot at those uniforms, huh?" Akane chuckled.
Ranma paled a bit at his comment. "Aw, man! This sucks."
"You look fine. Don't worry about it."
"I don't really care how I look. I feel like an idiot! 'Sides, this getup's too tight up top and too loose at the hips," Ranma complained.
Akane grit his teeth in annoyance. He was doing his best to bite back an angry retort, as he knew the girl's uniform Ranma currently wore was of the same size as Akane's own had been. "How do you think I feel?" he asked, gesturing to his own ill-fitting attire. "The pants are riding halfway up my calves and I can barely keep the jacket buttoned. I look ridiculous!"
"Y'know," Ranma began as she and Akane sat down under a tree for lunch, "judgin' from the looks you've been gettin', I don't think the girls 'round here would mind an awful lot if you ditched the jacket entirely."
"Ew! Don't say that. I'm trying not to think about that type of stuff," Akane replied with a look of disgust. "And what about you, huh? You must've noticed how the boys can barely keep their eyes in their sockets when they look at you," he observed disdainfully.
"What? Really! ? Oh, jeez. Why'd ya hafta tell me that! ?" the pigtailed girl lamented, shivering.
"I guess we're just going to have to learn to live with that for now, right?"
"…I guess," Ranma concurred, frowning as she dug into her lunch. "Hey, this is really good! Your sister made this?" she asked, her mood brightening dramatically.
"Yeah, she did," Akane said with a sigh. "She's pretty amazing, you know. I always wanted…well, I guess it doesn't matter much anymore."
"Akane?" his companion inquired, concerned.
"It's nothing," the ponytailed boy answered. "So, after classes are over, we'll meet up with Nabiki and go to the store to get our uniforms. But our clothes should have dried by the time we have gym, so we won't have to leave school wearing these stupid outfits."
"Oh, yeah…gym. Hey, I feel like we're forgettin' somethin'…" Ranma noted, trailing off as she spotted a pair of figures approaching. They were two girls from their class, one with dark hair tied back and the other with long, light brown hair hanging freely down her back. Their attention was focused primarily on Ranma, though the shorter-haired of the two stole glances at Akane whenever she thought she might go unnoticed.
"Hi there," her companion greeted when they stood before the sitting couple. "We're from your class. I'm Yuka and this is Sayuri. It's nice to meet you!" she said with a small bow. The short-haired girl, Sayuri, gave a friendly wave.
"Oh, uh…yeah, likewise," Ranma said hesitantly.
Akane watched the redhead silently, unsure of how to act around two of his oldest friends. "H- hey," he mumbled.
"Well! You two have certainly had an eventful first day!" Yuka giggled. "Is life always so exciting around you?"
"Er…somethin' like that," the cursed girl answered. The lone male in the group declined to comment.
"You mind if we join you?" Sayuri asked, her eyes focused on the handsome young man.
Akane groaned internally. "No…not at all," he replied after some hesitation. "Please do."
"Thanks!" she chirped as she and Yuka sat down, facing the two new students.
"Oh, Tendo-san…you might want to sit differently," Yuka explained, giving a meaningful glance towards Ranma's cross-legged pose. "You don't have a lot of experience with skirts, do you? I bet they're kind of inconvenient for a martial artist. And are those boxers?"
Akane blushed, looking away.
"Eh? Sit differently?" Ranma asked, looking down at her lap. Yelping, she clamped her legs together. "Oh! Heh. Sorry! Yeah, you could say it's a pretty new thing for me," she explained with a sigh.
"Hey," Akane whispered in her ear, "sit like I am, okay?" He was seated with his knees forward and his legs tucked under himself, as if he were still a girl trying to protect her modesty.
Ranma quickly followed suit, filing away the information as simply one more thing she needed to learn if she wanted to survive this whole "being a girl" thing. "Hey, thanks for tellin' me," she said to Yuka. "An' no need to be so formal. Just call me Ran…ko."
"Sure, Ran…ko," the long-haired girl giggled. "So, aside from Kuno-senpai, how are you liking it here?"
"Uh…well, there ain't been much else so far. But it seems nice enough," Ranma answered, earning a nod from Akane.
"So you had to borrow spare uniforms? I take it they must have only had boys' underwear available," Sayuri observed. "Do you have a change of clothes for gym class this afternoon? I think I have something that'll fit you, Ranko-chan, though the top might, um, be a bit tight." She blushed, embarrassed to be admitting such a thing in front of a cute boy (even if he was technically off the market).
'Oh, hell. Changing!' a wide-eyed Akane realized. Whispering to Ranma again, he noted, "Yeah, I figured out what we were forgetting."
Having caught on as well, a blushing Ranma nodded.
Later, a beet-red Akane stood awkwardly on the soccer field (or football pitch, as the case may be) with the rest of the boys in his class, trying unsuccessfully to pull his borrowed, too-small shirt down to cover the whole of his midriff. "Um…thanks for loaning me these clothes," he said to a shorter boy with shaggy brown hair.
"Don't mention it. Sorry the shorts are so tight, but they're my spares that I've already mostly outgrown…and you're kind of a big guy," the boy, Hiroshi, explained with a grin.
"Yeah," Hiroshi's dark-haired friend Daisuke chimed in, "you're already the envy of every guy in the class. Not only do you show up engaged to the hottest girl in town, but all the girls start falling for you as soon as you walk in the door! And the free show you're givin' 'em all right now is just icing on the cake. Look at them staring!" With that, he pointed to the girls some distance away, most of whom quickly turned their heads to pretend that they hadn't been observing the new boy. A few, however, including a smirking Sayuri, continued watching Akane regardless of the fact they'd been spotted.
Mortified, Akane followed the girls' line of sight down towards his shorts…to find that Hiroshi's clothing did indeed leave little to the imagination. "Gah!" he shouted inarticulately, quickly turning around and hiding the offending region with his hands. "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this…" the cursed boy growled.
"What, are you shy or something?" Daisuke asked, chuckling at Akane's reaction. "How can you be embarrassed when you've got a girl like that? I bet you've (bleep) already. Have you (bleep)?"
"WHAT! ? NO!" Akane roared.
"Chill, man!" Hiroshi soothed. "It's just us guys, after all. You can tell us. I mean, she is gorgeous, right?"
Seeking out his red-haired fiancée, the Tendo boy watched Ranma demonstrate her superhuman agility on the high jump equipment. She moved with such grace and absolute control over her body that it was easy for Akane to forget she'd only been female for a matter of weeks.
"Yeah…" Akane whispered, not fully aware of what he was saying.
"So spill it already!" Daisuke prodded. "You've probably even (bleep) too. Haven't you?"
"What the hell's the matter with you! ?" the cursed boy shouted. "I would never-"
Akane was cut off abruptly as a soccer ball struck him hard in the back of the head, sending him to the ground in a heap and eliciting gasps from his female admirers.
Attracted by the girls' reactions, Ranma turned to see Akane crumpled on the field. As she jogged over to check on him, she heard one of the two boys standing near him ask, "Aren't you supposed to be a martial artist or something? Shouldn't you have been able to dodge that?"
Not bothering to look up from where he lay, Akane replied with a simple "Shut up."
"You alright?" Ranma asked as she walked alongside Akane, who sported a sizable bump on the back of his head.
"For the millionth time, yes! I'm fine," he grunted, making sure not to yell and exacerbate his pounding headache any further.
"You don't really seem like it, little brother," Nabiki observed as she walked along ahead of them. She had accompanied the cursed couple after school while they went to procure their own school uniforms. Indeed, the pair were now finally dressed in uniforms that actually fit them. But someone had to haggle with the tailor over the exorbitant prices, and she was sure Akane wasn't up to the task. And Ranma…as far as Nabiki was concerned, the ex-boy had yet to prove that she was anything other than a hazard to the Tendo family. It was much too early to trust her. But at least the girl presented all sorts of opportunities for profit. Nabiki had spent much of the day making plans on how best to exploit the arrival of "Tendo Ranko" and "Saotome Kaneda." She just needed to make sure she didn't fall victim to any of the madness that clearly surrounded Ranma, as her younger sibling already had.
"Why don't we stop by Dr. Tofu's clinic on the way back?" the middle Tendo child suggested. "I'll explain about the curse, so hopefully he'll be convinced that you're, well, you. He can check you out and at least give you an ice pack or something."
"Dr. Tofu! No…no, that's not necessary. Besides, I, I don't want Dr. Tofu to see me this way," Akane choked out, looking away from his sister and fiancée.
Nabiki sighed. "Akane, Tofu-sensei's going to need to know eventually. You might as well get it over with, and it'll be easier if I'm there to back up your story. Plus, I won't even bill you the usual fee for my services."
"You're already charging me two thousand yen for going with us to the tailor! And I don't need to-"
"Hey, Nabiki," Ranma interjected, cutting Akane off, "where's this guy's clinic? Lead the way."
"Just a few more blocks. Follow me," the brown-haired girl replied, walking on.
"Ranma, I already said I don't want- Hey, what are you doing! ? Put me down, damn it!" Akane shouted as the petite redhead threw him over her shoulder, his head throbbing anew.
"Relax, Akane. We'll just let the doc have a look and then we can leave. Agreed? Ow! Hey, those're my ribs you're poundin' on back there!" Ranma snapped, jumping up to the fence along the sidewalk and sprinting to catch up with Nabiki.
The trio soon arrived at their destination, a modest building advertising services in acupressure, acupuncture, and moxibustion. Nabiki regarded her cursed companions with a smirk as Ranma hopped down in front of the entrance to the clinic, the much larger Akane still struggling to break free of the pigtailed girl's grip.
"Are you done struggling, big boy?" she asked her neo-brother. "And yes, I heard all about your little show in gym class. You should really give me some warning in the future so I can set up a proper viewing stand and charge admission."
Akane's cheeks lit up like a neon sign. "N- Nabiki! S- stop talking, please," he stammered.
"Well, we can discuss such arrangements later. I'll go in and give the good doctor a heads-up." With that, Nabiki turned and entered the clinic.
"So, you gonna take it easy and just let 'im check you out?" Ranma asked, not yet releasing the ponytailed boy.
"Fine, whatever! Just let me go already, you jerk!" Akane snarled.
"Yeah, yeah," she mumbled, depositing the Tendo boy on the sidewalk. "Man, you really do have a temper, don't ya?"
"W- what the heck do you mean by 'temper,' huh?" he sputtered angrily, wincing as he aggravated his headache again. Abashed, he massaged the lump on his head. "Er…yeah, I guess I do. But you shouldn't go tossing me around like a sack of rice or something! And I did warn you this morning, you know. I just get so mad sometimes that-"
"Akane? Is that really you?" a voice called from behind the couple as a hand came down on Akane's shoulder, sending both teens leaping away from the sudden intrusion.
Spinning around, they found themselves facing a dark-haired, bespectacled man in a black gi. "Oh, I'm sorry for startling you," he said with a gentle smile.
"That's fine, Tofu-sensei. We were just talking about something. And yeah…it's me," Akane confirmed with a sigh, not able to meet the doctor's gaze. "Nabiki told you all about the curse, huh?"
"She did. I've heard tales of Jusenkyo before, but I've never seen the proof of its power firsthand. And you must be Ranma?" Dr. Tofu asked, turning his attention for the moment to the red-haired girl. "I'm Ono Tofu, the local chiropractor. It's a pleasure to meet you." He gave a polite bow.
"Oh, uh…yeah, nice to meet you too," Ranma answered, scratching the back of her head in minor discomfort at the doctor's actions. "Hey, I don't s'ppose you know of a cure, do ya?"
Tofu shook his head regretfully. "No, I'm afraid not. But I can promise you that I will start researching the subject right away. If I find anything that seems promising, I will be sure to let you know immediately."
"Thanks," Akane replied. "That's as much as we can ask."
"I'll see you at home, Akane," Nabiki noted, popping up behind the the doctor. "Don't give Tofu-sensei a hard time. You two stay out of trouble, you hear me?" she said with a grin as she departed.
"So, I'm told you got a nasty bump today, Akane. Not getting into more fights, are you?" Tofu inquired with a knowing look.
"Fights? Me? Hehehe. Of course not! I mean, at least not in the last few, um…hours," the long-haired boy said sheepishly.
"Well, let's head inside and look you over. Nabiki suggested I should probably check you out in general to make sure this transformation hasn't done anything harmful to you, and I agree. You too, if you'd like, Ranma," Dr. Tofu advised.
'Nabiki did?' Akane thought, shocked that his older sister would show such concern.
"Eh…sure, I guess so, Doc," Ranma replied warily, before following the doctor and her fiancé into the building.
"That guy's a martial artist, ain't he?" Ranma inquired, walking with Akane as they headed back to the Tendo home.
"How could you tell?" asked her companion, holding a cold compress to his head.
"He snuck up on us without even really tryin' to. He's gotta be pretty skilled to do that."
"Yeah, he's one of the best I've ever seen. But he's so unassuming that you wouldn't think he'd be that good. Whenever I've gotten injured in training or something, I've always gone to him. He's…a good friend of the family," Akane explained, frowning.
The cursed boy's mood didn't go unnoticed. "How come you were so worried about the doc seein' ya like this?" Ranma asked. "Do you…?"
"Please just forget about it, okay?" he requested, cutting her off. "It's not important now."
Ranma placed her hand on the taller boy's shoulder in an attempt at comfort. "I'm sorry for screwin' things up for ya, Akane," she sighed. "But I promise we'll get through this one way or another. You believe that, right?"
"…Right. One way or another," Akane agreed, offering a sad smile.
"Hey, enough mopin' for today. How 'bout when we get back to the dojo we work on your control in that body? The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get started on balance training. Whaddaya say?" she suggested with a grin.
The Tendo boy found her optimism infectious. "Thank you, Ranma. That sounds perfect. Let's go!" With that, Akane raced for home.
"Ha! Think you can beat me, do ya?" the cursed girl shouted. "Well, Saotome Ranma don't lose!"
"Yeah? What about Tendo Ranko?" her fiancé called back.
"Nah, she don't either!" Ranma replied, laughing as the pair disappeared around the corner.
Author's Note: The chapter title is, as some readers surely know, a reference to the common greeting for transfer students in anime and manga. I originally intended to have Akane actually speak the line during his introduction, but it didn't quite seem to fit. But I thought I might as well at least leave it in as the title. As mentioned in the introduction, I've had some trouble with this installment and I'm still not completely happy with it. The school stuff was kind of grueling for me…which was problematic, since that was most of the chapter. However, I didn't want to drag out posting this any longer than I already have. Hopefully the chapter works well enough for now, and I'll continue trying to improve it in the future. Also, future chapters will deviate further from canon as changes compound—but certain moments will still show up in one form or nother.
"Tendo Ranko" is of course the obvious choice, especially since Genma wanted as little evidence as possible that she was a Saotome (for reasons I'm sure y'all can guess). "Saotome Kaneda," on the other hand, is inspired by various earlier boy-type Akane stories. I thought long and hard on a unique name for Akane that made sense and didn't seem pretentious, and I just couldn't come up with one that I liked. Apologies to Noy Telinú for not using any of the generous name suggestions! But if anyone else has one that they're convinced is truly better, PM me! I just might change his name here if it's compelling enough…or I might use it the next time I need a male name for Akane in a story. Which will be soon, actually.
I'll be starting one more story before I get back to this, but I'm quite certain the gap between chapters won't be nearly so long next time. Thank you so much for reading, and don't hesitate to offer any suggestions for how I can make this story better. Be well, everyone!