Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi. This story is for the free use and enjoyment of those who read it.

Schools United


By Michael Fetter

Four years ago . . .

Her head hurt, a lot.

Grunting from the dull pain settling in her head, Ranma-chan sat on her elbows as she took in her surroundings. She was lying on her back against a cold wood floor in the dining room of the Tendou home. This wasn't unusual since Akane often clobbered her in this particular section of the house. It was a little strange, however, when she discovered her clothes were missing.

"Wh . . . What happened?" Her mouth was dry and throat sore. Ranma tried to lick her lips for moisture, but stopped when she tasted something in the corners of her mouth. It was salty and thick, not a good taste she decided.

The Tendou sisters were in the room with her since she had woken up. They had remained, hiding in the corner, each wielding their own heavy blunt object. Kasumi held a rolling pin and Nabiki had a folding baton that she carried for protection, most likely against people she was blackmailing. Akane didn't have her mallet in hand, instead Ranma-chan could see a glint of the suns rays shining off of a recently used frying pan. That might be why she was on the ground; made fun of Akane's cooking again, Ranma-chan smirked. The taste in her mouth, however, was not as bad as Akane's cooking. Could she be getting better?

At last, Ranma-chan thought, I don't have to worry about dying of food poisoning.

"Ranma?" Akane questioned in a low and unsteady voice. She sounded worried and perhaps a bit frightened. Ranma-chan was instantly checking the room more closely for threats. Not that she cared too much about what happened to Akane, it just wouldn't look good to have her fiancée in danger that's all.

"Yeah?" There didn't seem to be any trouble. Ranma-chan tried sitting up a little more, to at least cover herself up just a bit. Flashing the Tendou sisters was not one of her ideas of fun, especially with Nabiki in the room. I'll have to check her for a newly used roll of film, Ranma frowned. Kuno would just love to have a set of nude shots.

Ranma stopped in her efforts and groaned in some pain. The dull ache in her head was quickly going away. This new pain came from her groin. Maybe I got kicked, she speculated, but the pain was not like anything she had received from a fight. There certainly wasn't anyone here that could land a punch against her anymore. Perhaps Ryouga had come by and . . . No, the damage would be much worse and I don't see anything except a couple of overturned chairs and some ropes tied around the legs of the living room table.

Taking a closer look, Ranma could see rub marks from where the ropes were tied. Someone had to have been pulling at them for some reason. There were some cracks and a puddle of fluid running along the grain of the wood. Some of the fluid was definitely blood. Ranma became very nervous as she searched the Tendous for any cuts from her place on the floor.

Each of the girls had a bruise in one place or another, but she couldn't see any red stains to indicate where the flesh may have been cut. "Where's pops?"

The three girls stiffened just a bit more at the question. Whatever had scared them still had them on edge. They didn't respond for a long moment until Akane took a nervous glance out the back door to the koi pond.

Genma was lying face down over the large boulder. There were numerous cuts and bruises over his body. The old filthy gi he wore had been torn to shreds and now barely hung off of his body. Whatever happened, the old man had been worked over bad. Ranma couldn't see any real wounds. Most likely there were some broken bones, but nothing the old man couldn't handle. Genma may be fat and stupid, but he was still in pretty good health. Despite how Ranma teased his father, the cursed boy did have some respect for the man's martial ability.

"Are you guys alright?" The girls were still holding up their weapons, but seemed to be relaxing their guard a bit more.

Kasumi was the first to take a step in Ranma's direction. She still hesitated before setting the rolling pin on the table, giving Ranma a wary glance. "We're fine. Are . . . are you okay, Ranma?"

Ranma blinked at the amount of fear Kasumi was showing towards her. This was the girl who always smiled no matter what strange, unexpected, or dangerous thing happened around Ranma. "I'm . . . I'm . . ." Ranma looked at the Tendou sisters in turn, eliciting a small flinch from each. "You guys are really freaking me out! What's going on?! What happened?! How come Mr. Tendou ain't here? Did something happen to him? Did something come looking for me again? What the HELL IS GOING ON?!" I'm not panicking . . . really, I . . . I'm just getting frustrated. Yeah, that's it. Why won't they answer me!

"What do you want with daddy, Ranma!" Akane snapped at her. Her battle aura burned red and as she began to stomp over to Ranma-chan, a gleam of murder in her eyes.

This was not the response Ranma was expecting. Something must have happened to Mr. Tendou, she realized as Akane dropped her frying pan and pulled out one of her mallets. She watched in shock as the other sisters seemed to scowl right alongside of Akane.

"A . . Akane." It came from the sofa. Whoever was there was grunting with some effort to speak the name. A trembling hand grabbed the top cushions and pulled himself up. Mr. Tendou came into view. There was a large bruise over his temple and a little blood running down the side of his mouth. His long black hair was a tangled mass of sweat, half-plastered to his forehead and bare shoulders.

The three sisters stopped everything they were doing, dropping blunt objects and frowns for looks of concern. They were at his side immediately as he attempted to stand up. A towel was tied about his waist and there were burn marks about his wrists and ankles. "He . . . she did not know what she was doing. We should find out if . . . if she will be alright."

"Me?" Ranma-chan asked. "I feel fine. Just a bit tired, and sore in some spots. Should be gone by tomorrow." She tried giving one of her cocky grins, but faulted under the silent yet serious looks she was getting. She blinked trying to feel her body for any other wounds she hadn't found before. Despite the soreness of her groin, her tummy felt oddly warm and the muscles around her body were more relaxed like she had been exerting herself for a while. That all worked with what she thought, though. Someone came in, Ranma fought, which worked all the muscles, and she probably used her ki, which was always pooled into her tummy until it was ready to be released. That made sense, but why would she be getting all of these strange looks. Ranma-chan was used to anger from Akane and sometimes Nabiki, but Kasumi? And why was Mr. Tendou so . . . worried? Or was it fear?

"I hope so, Ranma." That one statement put more dread in Ranma's soul than she had ever experienced before. Well, . . . except for the Neko-ken. Looking out into the courtyard, she decided her father had that beating coming along time ago.

"Kasumi." Mr. Tendou spoke again, finally tearing his eyes off of Ranma-chan. "Please call Dr. Toufuu while Nabiki and Akane help Ranma onto the couch. I'll go check on Genma." Nabiki and Akane seemed a little reluctant, but they each nodded and set about to obeying their father's command.

Nabiki retrieved another towel from the linen closet and draped it over Ranma-chan's body before leaving for the bathroom, saying she felt sick. Akane was about to follow when Ranma reached out to stop her. "Akane, what's going on? What happened?"

Her shoulders shook in . . . anger? fear? revulsion? . . . , but she didn't turn around to look at her fiancée. Akane closed her eyes tightly, futilely holding back the tears that rolled down her cheeks. "Nothing." She whispered. "I'm sure it's nothing."

Ranma-chan watched her fiancée quickly walk out of the room, tears continuing to streak down her face. Akane seemed about to burst into a fit of sobbing as she left the room. Out in the yard, she could see Mr. Tendou and oyagi sitting in the veranda discussing something. Her father seemed very angry and was cursing loudly, but Ranma couldn't make out anything useful. Soun remained very calm and subdued as her father continued to curse, slowly wearing himself out. When it was over, Genma glared at Soun before nodding once and entering the house.

"Pops?" Ranma-chan called from the couch.

Genma stopped in the doorway to look at his . . . child, disappointment clearly evident on his face. Without uttering a word, her father walked up the stairs to their shared room and returned a few minutes later with a backpack over his shoulders. When he came back downstairs, Genma did not even look in Ranma's direction as he walked quietly down the hall.

Ranma heard the front door snap shut as the lock slipped back in place.

Soun was still sitting in the veranda, crestfallen and searching the ground for some guidance.

The sound of tinkling ceramic brought Ranma back to her surroundings. Kasumi had returned with a pot of tea and few cups on a serving tray. Holding a small bowl of cool water, she used a washcloth to clean Ranma's face before returning to serving the tea. Ranma took a large gulp from the cup she was given and rolled it between her hands.

"Feeling better, Ranma?" Kasumi asked in a much more pleasant tone than before.

"I . . ." She wanted to say she was fine, but things had become just too weird. No one was giving her any answers. The looks Ranma did get from people she looked on as family, were even more disturbing than the silence. Something was going on and Ranma couldn't see it or touch it and that meant she couldn't fight it.

Curling up into a ball, Ranma pulled the towel in tighter to her body. Her voice was soft and trembling slightly, "Kasumi, . . . I'm scared."