夢ばかりじゃない少女 - Yume Bakarijyanai Shoujo.

Not Just a Dream Girl

Akane Tendo was something of a dreamer. She was also a well regarded girl in her high school. She had above-average grades, she was captain of the Karate Club (the first girl and first second-year student to have the title), and she was competing at the national level in martial arts, aiming to compete in international tournaments once she graduated.

She had learned the Tendo-School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, which was really a fancy name for a style rooted in kenpo, but borrowing here and there from just about every style imaginable, from the graceful styles of Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua, and Wing Chun to the Hard styles of Huang Gar, Krav Maga, and Jiu Jitsu. On top of those influences, were the tenets of unpredictability and adaptability from Jeet Kune Do.

She had slowly learned that she could overpower opponents that, on paper, were stronger by knocking them off guard, or distracting them with enough feints that they didn't see the hit coming. Since she never used the exact same feint twice, she was considered quite formidable by the sport.

Her family life was rather normal, aside from the fact her mother passed away when she was still a young girl, leaving her father alone to raise her and her two older sisters. It had been a fairly quiet life, until Ranma Saotome showed up, soaking wet in a worn gi, shaggy black hair slick with rain, along with his father.

Ranma Saotome was, by all accounts, a normal, if naive guy. His life had been focused heavily on Martial Arts, perhaps to the detriment of his overall education. For him, the martial arts were not sport, but a way to hone body and mind for battle. As a result, however, he was much faster and stronger than Akane was. Faster and stronger than just about anyone Akane had ever seen, either in person or on tape.

Ranma had been trained with the expectation that his destiny was to be a martial artist in the true sense of the word. He was to be a fighter who wouldn't just run a school and become a grandmaster of the style. Ranma accepted and understood these expectations on a fundamental level. He felt that he could be the kind of fighter who creates a new schools, finds new ways to fight, and reflects a spirit so strong, its presence would be felt for generations.

As a professional martial artist, Akane she was awed by him. Watching him perform a kata was like a session guitarist seeing Jimi Hendrix write "Purple Haze" or a dime-store novelist witness Ernest Hemmingway write A Farewell to Arms.

Personally, however, she was somewhat apathetic to the boy. That apathy had become shock when learned the reason for his arrival. It wasn't like arranged marriages were unheard of, after all, but usually that happened between the ultra-rich as a way of not spreading their wealth too thinly. Granted, her father was a staunch traditionalist and, given the honor-soaked nature of the martial arts community, it wasn't too surprising to hear he had made such an arrangement to his best friend so many years ago.

After the announcement, Akane pulled Ranma aside to the Dojo to have a private conversation.

In the stillness of the air and the slight chill of the room, the two erstwhile strangers, now betrothed, sat next to one another for a long time. They occasionally looked over at the other. Finally, the boy leaned back and said, "This is really stupid. Arranged marriage? Really?"

Akane nodded, laughing bitterly. "Yeah, I guess they were really drunk 17 years ago, huh?"

The boy looked thoughtful and offered some solace.

"Maybe it's just easier to go along with it for now and at twenty, we break it off?"

Akane nodded, "Good enough for me."

Ranma shrugged, "And hey, who knows, maybe something'll happen, after all. You're pretty cute, you know, and tough as nails."

Akane lightly grabbed Ranma by the shoulders and turned him to look straight into his eyes."Look, you seem nice enough. I'm sure any other girl would say you were dead handsome or something, but... I'm only saying this once, so listen good. I wouldn't ever admit this if it didn't affect you and our parents. Just to repeat, I will say this once and you cannot repeat this. They can't know about this. Not until I'm independent and I can survive even if they disown me..."

She screwed up her face, breathing slowly to find her center, forcing her strength up. The room was silent, only her breathing was audible.

Finally, she let go the boy, and looked downwards , speaking quietly, "I'm gay, Ranma. I've never liked boys, not like that. I've only ever had eyes for other girls. That's why I can't really marry you, arranged marriage or not. I'm sorry, but it's who I am. I spent too long coming to terms with myself to not make it clear to you." She softened her eyes at the joy and smiled faintly, " No hard feelings, right?"

The boy blushed a bit and nodded, "Yeah, I mean, I didn't even know this was gonna happen anyway. And well... I mean, uh, I've been on the road a long time. I don't think I ever even really thought about stuff like that, not really. I just thought boys just ended up with girls no matter what anyone thinks. The monks don't got a lotta dating advice..." Ranma laughed weakly, "Actually, I'm a little jealous at how well you know yourself. You're pretty cool." He smiled a bit.

"Thanks, Ranma. Um, look, I'll be around to help you out if you need it. I hope you can teach me some moves sometime. You're an incredible fighter." She extended her hand. "Okay, friends?"

Ranma reached and shook her hand, "Friends."

And on that handshake that first night, they left on amicable, if distant terms back to their respective bedrooms.

That's when the dreams started.

Akane sat in the Tendo living room, Ranma and his father Genma seated across from her, her father, and her sister's.

Genma looked down, "Hmm... how best to explain this..." He suddenly grabbed Ranma, tossing him into the koi pond.

When Ranma emerged he had become a petite woman, red hair tied in the same pigtail as before.

"Whaddya do that for Pops?"

"If I can get some hot water, Tendo."

"Kasumi, please.

"Of course, Father," Kasumi stood and walked towards the kitchen as Genma continued, "it is such an awful fate to befall my son! His manly honor tarn-" the girl Ranma interrupted his bemoaning by tossing him into the pond. A large panda returned with hot water. Ranma poured it on herself, returning to the black-haired boy.

"It's a long story, but we fell in a cursed spring in China at this training site, Jusenkyo. It's basically Pops's fault, the idiot."

Akane yelled at Ranma, "You pervert! I saw you in the bath!"

"Well maybe if you saw the 'Do Not Enter' sign, youd've been fine!"

"I thought you were a girl! It's okay if it's two girls!"

"Well, too bad. I'm a guy!" Ranma asserted, raising a fist and pointing a thumb at his chest, to emphasize the point.

Akane then found herself running behind the short and petite girl-Ranma, who was, improbably, running on top of a chain link fence down the road to the high school. As small as she was, her skills seemed unnaturaly good.

"We're gonna be late Ranma! I can't believe Dr. Tofu didn't have hot water!""Huh? Whatta you talkin' about Akane? We got plenty of time!""We don't! I have to fight the Hentai Horde!"

Ranma looked on with confusion, but as they reached the gates of Furinkan High, Akane's message was made clear. Dozens of boys, mostly in sports clubs engaged her in combat. Akane made quick work of them, Ranma watching on curiously.

Suddenly a single man remained, tall, wearing a hakama and carrying a bokken.

"The Blue Thunder of Furinkan High shall have your hand this day!"

"How many times do I have to say no, Kuno-sempai?"

"I, Tatewaki Kuno shall fight for your love, as I decreed!"

"That's kinda messed up, dude."

"Who dares impugn upon my honor in such a detestable fashion?" Tatewaki looked up and saw Ranma, rendering him awestruck.

"Such untamed beauty. Tell me, pigtailed girl, what beauteous name has been bestowed to thee?"

Ranma jumped down from her perch."Buddy, I don't know what you're high on, but the name's Ranma Saotome. Why don't you play Samurai someplace else?"

"You must be unaware of who I am, beautiful goddess. I will show you my blade and win your heart along with the fair Akane's!"

Ranma jumped unto his outstretched bokken and crouched on the sword's spine. Before Kuno could react, she calmly, but quickly kicked him in the face several times before jumping off, landing on his head forcefully, reducing the kendoist to a heap. Ranma grabbed Akane's hand.

"All right, let's get outta here."

Akane thre her hand off, "That was supposed to be my fight, Ranma!"

Ranma looked confused, "You want this idiot?"

"Eww! No! But this is my fight!" Akane stomped on Kuno's still form for emphasis

"Well too late now. He really pissed me off. Let's just get outta here!" Ranma grabbed Akane's hand again and pulled her away from Kuno. The two girls ran into the school building.

Akane woke up dazed. She rubbed her head to wake herself. Even after washing her face, she was still a bit off-kilter as she went downstairs. She saw Ranma eating breakfast heartily, backpack at his side. He wore a red short and loose black silk pants.

"Hey Akane, morning."

"Morning. Are you coming to School?"

"Yeah. Of course, I haven't been to a real school in a while. Hope I can keep up. I know I prolly look kinda weird, but I don't got a uniform," he took a sip of tea, "Let's get out of here soon, I want to get there in plenty of time."

Akane nodded slowly, "Sure."

The walk to school was rather slow paced with Ranma and Akane walking side by side down the street. Akane looked at the fence they were walking alongside.

Idly, Akane asked, "Hey Ranma, think you could walk on that fence if you tried?"

Ranma looked at her with a quizzical look, "I dunno. Maybe. It'd probably be kinda hard... why do you ask?"Akane shrugged, "No reason... I just thought maybe you were good enough to do it.""Huh... I can give it a try."

Ranma jumped up, pulling himself up to the top of the fence. He wobbled a bit as he stood there.

"It's kind of narrow. I can maybe walk down it, but there's no way I can run on. Not without some more balance training.""Run?""I dunno, I was just thinking what it'd be like to run on the fence, like if we were late for school, or something."

Akane shook her head, "Well anyway, let's stop dilly-dallying and head over."

Ranma jumped down, landing a bit roughly, and the two kept walking towards school. He looked around, taking in the houses and green space that was around them.

"This is a pretty nice neighborhood. Good thing you guys live near a chiropractor. We'll probably need him if we have a training accident.""Huh, how do you know about Dr. Tofu?""You told me about him when we... Um.. I thought you told me. Maybe it was Kasumi, instead?"

Akane shuddered slightly, her head buzzing faintly, as though she had forgotten something back home. She checked her bag.

"I remembered my lunch... Ah! Club Practice! I forgot cause you came last night!" Akane grabbed Ranma's wrist and the two began to run.

As they approached the gates of Furinkan High, they saw the typical hustle and bustle as student trickled into class, the occasional teacher walking alongside, more bleary-eyed, but with more authority in their steps.

Ranma casually remarked, "Hah, this is kinda screwy, but I kinda expected there to be a horde of guys we'd be fighting to get to class on time. Maybe cause you said you're captain of Karate Club? What was I thinking? Shouldn't have had that ice cream before bed."

Akane didn't look at Ranma as they approached the front of the school building.

"Um, Ranma, the faculty office is just ahead once you get inside. I'll see you there. I gotta check in with the Karate Club. I hope Yuka doesn't kill me. She's... a bit strict."

"Hah! So much for the perks of high office. See ya later, Akane." Ranma waved as Akane ran around the school building.

As Ranma walked inside, he was accosted by a strangely familiar man. He wore the school uniform of white dress shirt and dark slacks, but he carried a bokken."

"You. What is your relationship with Akane Tendo?"

"Who the heck are... do I know you? Ya seem kinda familiar."

"My name is Tatewaki Kuno. Third year student. Captain of the Kendo Team." He brandished his bokken for effect, pointing to Ranma, "But I'm the one asking questions. How do you know Akane Tendo?"

"Look Kuno-sempai, I'm new here. I ain't gotta tell ya jack shit. But I'm feeling generous today. Name's Ranma Saotome. Pops and I just moved here. We're staying with the Tendos. Akane and I are just friends. Pals, buddies, bros, ya know? And, I don't know how I know, but I'm pretty sure that answer ain't gonna suit you."

Kuno looked down at Ranma with a cold menace, "You're more perceptive than I figured. No, I am not satisfied. I don't appreciate those who are in the way between myself and my goal of attaining Akane."

Ranma, instead of being perturbed began laughing an ugly, loud laugh. Other students, who up to now had been blithely ignoring Kuno and the new guy, turned in amazement.

"Haha! Good luck, buddy. I'm just gonna tell ya you got your work cut out for you!" his laughter enraged Kuno, but the kendoist merely stewed and walked away from the new student's hysterics, "See ya sempai! I mean, I don't know her that well, but I can tell ya, she ain't interested. Like at all. Seriously, you'd have better luck dating a cactus I mean-"

Ranma's bravado was cut short by a punch to the face by an enraged Akane.

"You idiot! Shut the hell up! I'll deal with Kuno-sempai. That's my fight."

Ranma replied with a flip response, "Well too late now. He really pissed me off. Let's just get outta here," As soon as he said it he looked at an equally confused Akane, "huh, weird deja vu."

They walked into the faculty office and Ranma began his first day of school.

A week had passed since he had come here. They had settled into a routine. Ranma worked quite hard at school, though with his spotty attendance before, he was still just a middling student. He didn't participate in clubs, preferring to come straight home to train. Akane and Ranma would do homework together at night. Overall, it was a calming scene.

Akane felt relief at the way she got along easily with Ranma, even with their fathers' expectant looks hovering around them. They both had similar goals in the future (to teach martial arts and hone their skills), they had an easy-going teasing banter when they spoke, and oddly enough (to Ranma at least), they both had the same taste in women.

To his credit, Ranma specifically had been rather warm to Akane as well as taken to his schoolwork with the seriousness that he had for his martial arts. Akane noted that it made him seem more mature than she expected a boy her age to be. Really, to Akane's mind, aside from the hiccup of the first day, they had become very good friends.

That night, Akane dreamed once more.

On the rooftop of Furinkan High, Ranma stood before Kuno. Ranma's hands raised in a battle stance, his eyes narrow as he gauged his opponent, dressed in full hakama, holding his bokken in a battle stance.

"Foul sorcerer! I will defeat you and claim the love of the beauteous Akane and the lovely pigtailed goddess."

"Seriously! You haven't gotten it through you're skull? I'm a guy!"

"Well, that is readily apparent, you fiend! You claim to be Akane's betrothed, yet you are always with the pigtailed girl. Do you have no shame?"

"Look who's talking, you creep!"

"Have at thee!" Kuno charged Ranma, who dodged the strike, but noticed the front of his shirt was ripped at the waist.

"Ranma, he's slicing the air! He can cut you with just air pressure! Watch out!" Akane yelled as she ran out the door from the thrid floor, just as Kuno slashed horizontally towards the entrance to the roof.


Ranma yelled as he jumped in front of the girl. The shockwave tore a large diagonal slash across his shirt and left a large bruise on Ranma's chest. He doubled over in pain.

"And now, the end game, Saotome. You can, if you desire, beg for your life to be spared and, provided you offer Akane and he pigtailed girl as spoils, I would be willing to let you-"

Ranma swept the Kendoist's legs, "Like hell! You can't have my fiancée! And I ain't dating you, either!"

"Ranma..." Akane looked on, happy.

"Watch yourself tomboy," Ranma said with grim seriousness, "with that flat chest of yours, Kuno's strikes will really pack a wallop."

"Ranma..." Akane repeated, in a far more sour tone.

Enraged, Akane grabbed Ranma and Kuno by their lapels and threw them to opposite corners of the roof.

As the two came to, Ranma yelled, "What dya do that for, you gorilla! I mean, talk about not cute! I- aw crap" Ranma's rant was cut short by two shockwaves approaching. He flipped laterally, avoiding them, but opening a hole on the edge of the roof.

"You shant escape so easily, Saotome!"

"I'm not trying to, you bastard!"

Ranma moved in an erratic zig-zag pattern towards Kuno, dodging the strikes he sent, he then dived into a crouch and, using his momentum, flung his right leg at Kuno's midsection, sending the Kendoist flying, Ranma trailing along.

"Hah! Got ya, you lovesick... Oh, come on!" Ranma realized he and Kuno were falling from the roof. Ranma sighed in relief when he saw they were going to land in the pool. That is, until he remembered that it was a pool full of water. "Dammit, Kuno!" was the last thing Ranma said before angling his feet downwards, towards the water.

Akane ran to the edge of the roof in time to see the large splash of the pool. By the time she reached the pool, Kuno was floating unconscious on the surface of the water, while Ranma, topless, was wringing out the water on her shirt.

"Honestly, why am I even bothering, I can't even wear this thing again." Ranma muttered to herself as she opened up the shirt and seeing the ribbons of fabric fall from it . When she noticed Akane she casually looked up, smiled, and waved, "Oh, hey Akane, can I borrow a shirt?"

"Ranma, you pervert! Don't you have any feminine modesty!"

Ranma stood up suddenly, a fist raised, looking up at Akane with an defiant expresson, "I'm a guy, dammit!"

Akane looked at Ranma and blushed. Ranma looked at where Akane's eyes were pointed and also blushed as she suddenly covered herself.

"Oh, real nice! Can I get a shirt now? At least until I get some hot water?"

The next morning, Ranma and Akane walked to school. On a whim, Ranma jumped up and started walking.

"Hey, this ain't too hard after a while. You should try it, Akane."

"I think I need a bit more balance before I can manage that. Just don't fall."

"I'll try not to. At least there's a canal on the other side."

"Yeah, but you don't want to fall in there."

Ranma looked at her, confused, "Um, why not? River infested with tetanus or somethin'?"

"Because you'll... you'll get your... uniform wet."

"Oh yeah. Duh." He said, lightly slapping his temple.

When they arrived at school, Kuno, in his uniform, with a gakuran loosely worn on his shoulders like a cape, was waiting for him. He held the spine of his bokken against his shoulder, like a schoolyard thug.

"Saotome. Just the weirdo I wanted to see.""What's up Kuno-sempai?" Ranma asked in a naïve voice.

Kuno suddenly pointed his sword at the martial artist.

"Roof. After class. You and me will fight for Akane's honor. I know what kinda freak you are and I'm gonna put an end to you!"

Ranma's expression was momentarily of shock, but it quickly turned into a trained smirk.

"If that's how ya want it, sempai, that's all right with me. I could use a practice bout. See ya there."

Kuno let out a haughty laugh, "Well then, I can hardly wait to wipe the smile off of your face, Saotome." He left, laughing quietly to himself.

Akane looked at Ranma askance, "Are you sure that was a good idea? What did he mean by he 'knows what a freak you are'?"

"Well, Kuno's a big boy, he can handle himself, even if I kick his ass from here til' Tuesday. For the second part, I guess it's cause he finally realized I... wait, what did he realize? What the hell was he talking about?" Ranma scratched his head as Akane looked at him, worried.

That afternoon on the rooftop, the scene looked eerily familiar to Akane's eyes as she sped up to the roof in record time to watch them. There was a crowd of about 20 students circling the two fighters, mostly Kendo Club boys and a few of Ranma and Akane's classmates. Kuno stood, in his Kendo Club gear with his bokken at the ready, while Ranma, in his school uniform, stood there, looking relaxed.

"So you ready to do this Kuno?" Ranma said, stretching.

"Why are you so smug, Saotome? Don't you realize when I destroy you, the world will know the truth about you?"

Ranma nodded and spoke as he performed a few warm up movements to loosen up, "Yeah, I meant to ask, what's this horrible truth you go on and on about?"

Kuno laughed, his right eye twitching, "You fool! Do you not see the precariousness of your plight? I canst believe that even a simpleton such as yourself cannot grasp the gravity of your inevitable downfall!"

"Why are you talking like that?" Ranma stood in a relaxed position in front of Kuno.

"I-I don't know! Nevermind! I'm going to kick your ass, Saotome!" Kuno rushed at Ranma who easily side-stepped the forward strike, but was caught off-guard, rolling out from the horizontal follow-through slash, but only after being hit in the back with the tip of the sword. Ranma let out a yelp in pain.

Akane thought to herself, "Kuno-sempai is better than he let's on. That's an Iaido technique. He might know some Aikido as well. For Ranma's sake, I hope he can't slice air."

Ranma kept dodging, rolling away from and jumping out of Kuno's strikes. The kendo captain began to tire out.

"Fight properly!" Two swings. "You-!" Swing. "You, crossdresser!"

The crowd seem to gasp in unison.

Ranma paused dead in his tracks, dodging and parrying the wooden blade with his forearm. He moved face to face with Kuno, teeth clenched.

"What the fuck are you talking about! Are you high? Did you lose your goddamn mind, you sonuvabitch!"

"I'm stone cold sober and have never seen clearer in my life. If I had not seen you change before my very eyes, I would not believe it. In fact, the first time I witnessed it, I did not even realize there was such a thing possible. Only when we fell into the pool did I know the truth"

Akane looked at Kuno wide-eyed. Ranma was too drunk on rage to respond. He took a deep breath, centering himself.

"Okay, I know you probably take a lot of blows to your head, but I just got here a week and a half ago. The only time we've ever spoken other than this morning was my first day here where I told you that Akane both doesn't want to date you and I'm just friends with her."

"Ha! Hahaha!" Kuno laughed in an erractic, mechanical way, unsettling the students who had already been knocked for a loop. "Now I know that you are a liar as well as a veritable pervert! For I know that you and Akane have been betrothed by your fathers! After all, that's why you live with her, you... rake!" Kuno looked amused before pausing, muttering to himself, "'rake'? Why 'rake'? Why am I talking like this? Weird..."

Ranma ignored Kuno's self-examination as he came in and, with a series of arm strikes and repeated half-shin, half-knee kicks, Ranma honed in on Kuno's solar plexus and stomach, with the precision and ferocity of a trained falcon. Ranma crouched down, lowering his center of gravity. Finally, he pounced on Kuno and, with a collar grab and a soto makikomi, Ranma dropped the beaten kendoist, his bokken rolling out his hands before he passed out.

Ranma stood up and brushed his pants off. He grabbed the bokken, breaking it in half and tossing it in a small trash can usually reserved for cafeteria sandwich wrappers and convenience store bento boxes.

"Well that's that. Let's get outta here, tomboy." He said, self-satisfied as he walked towards the stairs down.

Akane yelled back, "Stop calling me tomboy, you... pervert!"

Ranma stopped and looked back with a cold anger, "You have no right to call me that. One, I've spent the last three years of my life in a Buddhist monastery mastering the Saotome-Ryuu. Two, I remember how you looked at me when you found me there. Calling me a pervert... takes one to know one."

Ranma started walking away as the crowd fell silent, unsure what to make of either the martial artist or the girl who was rapidly closing the distance in between. Ranma sensed the fist as it approached the back of his head, but it was too late to properly defend against. Ranma could only brace for the blackout.

Two hours later, Ranma woke up in the Nurse's room, Akane by his side. She whispered, "Play along."

The nurse, a middle aged woman in a uniform perhaps a size or two too small for her matronly frame said, "oh, is he awake Ms. Tendo?"

"Oh, Yes, Ma'am. I hope he forgives me. We were practicing a certain block in club practice today, and I think I over did it," she laughed, embarrassed.

"Well be careful young lady. You're the captain of the team. You need to set a better example, especially since you're a girl!"

"Yes Ma'am." Akane refrained in a voice that was just apathetic enough to not arouse suspicion.

As the nurse walked away Akane whispered to Ranma, "We need to talk. I thought I was going out of my mind, but after what Kuno said and you said."

Ranma cracked a smile, "Yeah, you remember it too, don't you? I figured Kuno was an idiot, but at least he's smarter in real life than in the dream." he cracked a wry smile.

Akane whispered loudly, "What's going on? Three people don't have the same dream! Especially one so..."

"Titillating?" he smiled, raising an eyebrow.

Akane turned scarlet in rage as she fought to keep her voice below a whisper "Stop it, Ranma! This is serious! You're being obnoxious."

Ranma put his hands up in surrender, "Sorry. I can't help it, I didn't realize how much fun it is to get one up on you. I was bit fed up with you and Kuno calling me a pervert. Especially since the so-called 'perverted' thing I did didn't even really happen!"

Akane fumed a bit while she stared the boy down. She then stood up and said, "All right, whatever. Let's get out of here. Are you going to be okay?"

"Barring the concussion and people knowing about our engagement and thinking I'm a crossdresser? Never been better." Ranma smiled and stood up slowly and stretched his limbs as Akane went to fetch the nurse. As they left the office and Furinkan High, Ranma turned to Akane.

"What happened to Kuno?"

"Oh they suspended him for three days. Something about breaking the gate to the pool while gibbering about a pigtailed goddess and starting a fight with a girl."

Ranma stopped, pointing a thumb at himself, "Huh? But I'm a -"

Akane looked at him with narrow eyes, "Me, idiot. I took the fall, since if it was two boys, they'd suspend the both of you. Just be happy our class likes us as much as the Kendo team hates Kuno."

"You girls can get away with anything, huh?" Ranma remarked. "Says, the person who thinks they're included when someone says 'girl'," Akane teased.

"Hmmph. Well you're such a flat-chested tomboy, it's no wonder I get confused, " Ranma stuck out his tongue and began running towards the Tendo Dojo, Akane following him, fists raised.

About a month in to the school year, Ranma had begun teaching Akane some of the simple training techniques he had picked up in the monastery. Primarily he instructed her in meditation and finding one's center. He had also helped her shore up some of her weakness in balance and agility as well as bolstered her strengths in defensive, harder style rather than the dynamic, offensive styles he favored. The two began to spar in earnest and the two were grateful to be with minimal distractions.

Once the school found out about the engagement rumor, any mention of Ranma's "crossdressing" was quickly dismissed as jealousy and possibly temporary insanity on the part of Tatewaki Kuno. Even then, the buzz had mostly gone away.

One day, after school, Akane was helping to clean up after club practice, when Yuka came up to her. The girl was a slightly shorter than Akane, but quite slight in frame, her dark brown hair in wavy twintails. She had already changed from her gi into a pair of jeans and a hooded jacket. She looked up at Akane, with a earnest glance.

"We need to talk after you finish up, Akane," she bluntly said, immediately walking out of the club room aftwerwards.

Ten minutes later, Akane found Yuka at their usual spot behind the athletics shed near the track. Akane reached out and grabbed Yuka's hand. Yuka let go sharply.

"What's up Yuka?" Akane looked at her, confused.

"Don't 'what's up' me. What are you doing around that... boy all the time now?"

Akane sighed, exasperated, "I told you before. Nothing. Our parents arranged us to be married, but we're just going along till we're twenty and can break it off honorably. He's knows I'm not into boys. You don't have to worry about Ranma."

"Really? Then why did you blow me off every weekend for the last month?"

Akane gulped, "Well, I was busy with class and planning club activities and... I was trying to help Ranma get used to Tokyo again. He hasn't been in civilization since middle school. Look, I'm sorry Yuka."

"Well sorry isn't good enough."

Akane threw her hands out and asked, "How can I make it up to you?"

Yuka looked at her feet. "Stop hanging out with him so much. He gives me the creeps."

Akane's jaw dropped, "What?" she asked, Yuka, who answered with a look of revulsion as she slowly spoke.

"He's... creepy. You can barely hear him as he walks down the hallway. He holds himself so weirdly, like he's relaxed and anxious at the same time. His hair is looks stupid. He's stupid! I don't like him so close to you." Yuka looked away from Akane. She continued, "I know we can't tell our parents about each other, but you don't need to be friends with him. It's not fair, just cause he's a boy."

"You're jealous of Ranma?"

"Well the asshole sees you more than I do."

"I said we're just friends!"

"That's why I said you need to stop being friends! He's just a stupid boy!"

"That's not true! He's more than..." Akane stopped.

"Ranma's a good person if you get to know him and... and if you can't see that," she curled her hands into fists, "I'm sorry Yuka."

Yuka didn't answer her. Akane looked at her, disappointed.

"I'm going home now, Yuka. I'm sorry." She turned away and started walking away."Wait!" Yuka pleaded. Akane turned to face her once more."What do you want?" Akane asked softly.

Yuka slapped Akane hard on her right cheek and walked away, in tears. Akane sighed and kept walking home.

When she arrived at the dojo, Ranma was shadowboxing in the corner of the dojo, throwing punches she recognized as Shotokan karate strikes, followed by an axe-kick straight out of a Tae Kwon Do master's repetoire. Akane, back in her gi, wordlessly walked to the center of the room and began practicing a Wing Chun kata that Ranma had recently taught her in order to improve her movement speed and flexibility.

Ranma kept shadowboxing, only taking a few glances at Akane. He noticed the red mark on her face.

In between a series of punches he asked, between breaths, "Tough day?"

"I don't really want to talk about it."

"You get beat up by the first years?"

"I said I don't want to talk about it, Ranma!"

Ranma stopped sparring alone and turned to look at the girl, who had stopped mid-form, seeming unsure how to proceed. He walked up to her and, with small movements, adjusted Akane's posture and arm positions.

He then stood next to her and took the same position and continued the movement. Akane copied him. They proceeded to the end of the form and Ranma started again, leading from his through the form, Ranma muttered, "was she cute?"

Akane almost stopped moving, but continued shadowing Ranma, "What! How did you know?"

"Cause you look like every guy I ever met with girl trouble, here and China. Only difference is that, cause you're a girl too, you look... I dunno, 'extra mopey' or somethin'? What happened? She turn you down?" He performed a jumping arm strike.

As Akane landed, she continued, "No. It's not like that. We broke up. She couldn't... handle things."

Ranma nodded as he performed a graceful series of upward strikes and a sweeping kick, "Yeah... Keeping things like that a secret must be rough on people like you. Anybody, I guess. Sorry to hear it, Akane."

They both performed the final move, a graceful spinning strike, and ended the kata facing the far side of the dojo. The two, once more, began their movement back across the dojo floor. As Akane performed the form, Ranma moved quickly around her, taking up stances and forms that complimented Akane's own movements, sometimes imitating a defensive ally or an opponent.

Akane opened up as she moved through the form.

"Well, she was upset about that a bit, but I mean, her family doesn't know either. I think what she was really mad about was the engagement."

"But, you told her it's just for show, right?"

"Of course. But Yuka... She's jealous of you."

Ranma stopped his movements and laughed a bit. Akane stopped as well, and glared at Ranma.

"It's not funny! She probably won't even want to speak to me now, Ranma!"

Ranma jumped into a fighting stance. He shrugged.

"Well, what am I supposed to tell you? Maybe she's just insecure if she thinks you're gonna run to me even though you're not interested in boys. It's her problem, not yours." He raised his hands even higher than they were in his stance, motioning Akane to spar him. She stood there, looking distant.

Ranma sighed and moved towards her, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Give her time. Maybe she'll understand after she misses you a bit. I'd put some ice on that, though," Ranma pointed at her face, "I think I can make out the individual fingers ."

Akane turned away from Ranma swiftly as she marched out of the dojo, "Goddamnit, Ranma. Stop being so reasonable. I can't beat you up like this."

Ranma returned to shadowboxing in the same Wing Chun style, adding bits of his personal repertoire to the moves. He thought to himself, "Yuka, huh? She can sure pick 'em, at least."

That night, they dreamed once more.

In the afternoon, Ranma and Akane were leaving Furinkan High when a young man, wearing a yellow and black bandana, a yellow tunic, and brown pants stood at the gates. He was carrying a large rucksack and held a large umbrella in his hands. He had been looking around at the crowd of students leaving school. When he saw Ranma, his face contorted into boiling anger.

"Ranma Saotome! Prepare to die!" The boy pointed the closed umbrella at Ranma's put a hand to his mouth.

"Uh, do I know you?"

"It's me, Ryouga Hibiki. From middle school?"

"Hmm?" Ranma studied the boy intently, looking at his face from different angles. Suddenly his eyes widened and he hit a fist against his other hand,

"Oh, it's 'Bread Guy'!"

" 'Bread Guy'?" Akane and Ryouga asked incredulously.

"Yeah, I always beat him getting the last piece of bread from the cafeteria in our middle school. All boys schools, lemme tell ya, Akane. Freakin'. Harsh."

"You think this is about bread? You ran away from our fight! I chased you throughout China and... and..."

Ranma began to get impatient. "And...?"

Ryouga held the umbrella now like a sword, "You've made my life hell! Die!" With the strength of a raging bull he charged Ranma.

"Oh, crap!" Ranma said as he flipped out of harm's way.

The two began trading blows around the school grounds, umbrella versus bare hands. Ryouga pushed Ranma around the grounds, slowly moving from the athletics shed, to the track, towards the baseball field. Ranma had been backed into a corner since he knew from the first swing that being hit with the umbrella was probably as enjoyable as being hit with a sledgehammer. In a way, he expected that.

Ranma didn't expect, however, the razor sharp bandanas as they whizzed by him, tearing the sleeves of his shirt and, as he turned to avoid the second wave, the front of his shirt as well.

"Dammit! I just got this shirt to replace the last one!"

"Worry about more than your shirt you bastard! You're acting like a girl! When I get through with you, you'll wish it was just your shirt torn asunder."

Ranma feinted a move and jumped over the fence behind home plate. Ryouga quickly followed. Akane ran to try and catch up. Ranma egged Ryouga on.

"Hah, you're too weak to take me down, Ryouga. Just like in the bread line!"

In truth, Ranma was more than impressed by Ryouga's strength, frightened even. He was just grateful he was sorely lacking in technique or even a more basic finesse. Of course, in fighting for his life, Ranma didn't have time to contemplate it much further than that as they neared a park.

Ranma leapt in the air, aiming to land on a nearby live oak to buy some time. Ryouga for his part, opened his umbrella and, using it as a shield, barreled through the fountain at the center. Ranma's trajectory put him right in the middle of the now gushing geyser of water. Falling back towards the ground, Ranma couldn't orient away from the fountain and, with gritted teeth, passed through the column of water and landed on the other side of the fountain, once again lamenting the state of her shirt or, rather, the lack thereof.

Ranma once again readied herself, taking a wide stance, fists raised. Ryouga stood there, flabbergasted.

"You gonna pussy out Ryouga? I ain't done with you yet, you bastard!"

Ryouga just stared, a slight trickle of blood becoming noticeable as as fell onto his upper lip.

"R-Ranma?" Ryouga had a look of concentration, looking very thoughtful.

Ranma stared back wondering what had captivated her opponent until, upon realization, suddenly became embarrassed, "D-Dude! What are you doing! Stop staring and fight!"

"Ranma! For goodness sake, cover yourself already, you pervert!" Akane yelled as she reached the park.

Ranma looked at the other girl incredulously, "Oh yeah Akane, lemme just pull out the shirt I don't have! I know this ain't as much a problem for a tomboy like you, but... tomboy?" Ranma noticed Akane slow down her steps until she stood next to Ryouga and looked at Ranma as though she was doing a creditable impression of the Lost Boy.

Ranma, fed up jumped high in the air and, with an outstretched kick and the heel of her hand, knocked Ryouga out of consciousness. Ranma let out a breath as she stood up. She looked down at Ryouga.

"Jeez, you idiot. I'm a guy, ya know!"

"Coulda fooled me," Akane said in a deadpan tone, though the scarlet in her cheeks told a different story.

Ranma started yelling at Akane again, "Seriously, can I just revoke your 'pervert' calling privileges already Gotta say, you're a lot quieter like this. I should probably be a girl more often. I can live with the drool," Ranma laughed dryly.

Akane shook her head clear and let out a huff, "Fine, I'll get you my gym shirt, you stupid girl-boy!" She ran off back towards school.

Ranma, kneeled down and rummaged through Ryouga's pack until she found a canteen. After filling it from the fountain, she poured the contents over Ryouga.

"Okay, wake up buddy. We got some stuff to... discuss?"

Ranma was not expecting an unconscious black piglet to take Ryouga's place.

"Okay... I think I know why he's pissed."

The next morning, as soon as Akane awoke, she ran to Ranma's room, opened the door suddenly, and punched him awake.

"What the hell is the big deal, you pervert!"

Ranma, slightly dizzy and wondering why his jaw hurt opened his eyes.

"A...ka...ne? Morning. What's up?"

"What's up is that you totally made fun of me, just cause your boo-" Ranma put a hand to he mouth.

Ranma whispered in a panicked voice, "Dream! Dream! It was a dream! I can't control them! You can't be mad at me for being someone who doesn't even exist!"

Akane calmed herself. She stood up."Fine. We'll talk about it later, Ranma." She left the room closing the door behind leaned back on the bed, nursing his jaw. He broke into a smile."Hah! That was totally worth it."

As they walked to class, Ranma was holding his head in his hands, "Hibiki... Hibiki... sounds familar, but I can't place it... Ah! This is stupid! I don't even remember going to an all-boy middle school or a Bread line! Maybe he doesn't exist? Maybe the Kuno thing was a fluke? "

"Wait." Akane said. "Now I remember why the name rings a bell. I know him! He used to fight in the tournaments I go to! I usually don't talk to him, since he fought in the men's division, but I did have a conversation one time in middle school when we both won first prize in the Kanto Middle School Karate Tournament."

"Oh, really. What's he like?"

"I don't really remember. I definitely remember him being really strong for our age. He was really quiet, though. He was kind of... somehow happy and sad at the same time?"

"Well, now that we know I'm not delusional, let's see if we can't look him up."

"Well there's the All-Tokyo Kenpo/Shotokan Tournament at the end of the month. Maybe we can find him then."

On a Sunday a few weeks later, Ranma and Akane found themselves in a crowded middle-school gymnasium as dozens of martial artists prepared themselves for the tournament. Akane herself was competing in the women's division, representing Furinkan High School. Ranma, meanwhile, played detective as he wandered around looking for Ryouga. He didn't see anyone who liked like he did, but asking enough people led Ranma to a tall, wiry-framed boy. After asking him about Ryouga, the tall boy blinked and thought quietly for a while.

"Hibiki, huh? His parents moved to Europe two years ago."

"That so... how nice for the guy," Ranma replied, trying to maintain a casual tone, "Parents get a cushy job somewhere nice?"

"Not exactly. I don't know too much about it, but the rumor was he'd been bullying people in his middle school ever since the second year. I guess there was a kid who kept him in check the first year, but when he moved away, Hibiki just started bullying the other kids, using his bull strength to get his way. I think the cops ended up being called and so the family, to save face, left town."

Ranma gulped, "Wow... that's too bad."

"Not if you asked my cousin Yuichiro. He hated the bastard."

Ranma nodded and walked away. He suddenly felt strongly ill. The train ride back to Nerima was silent, Ranma only speaking to congratulate Akane on her Gold Medal.

AN: I have been working for what seems like ages (really about 10 days or so) making this into a one-shot. I got to about 40 pages in a Google Doc when I realized that it was untenable. The upside to this is that about 80% is already written, with the bulk leftover being in the last fourth of the story. I'm overall unsatisfied with the story, but I hope I'm able to convey the three stories happening here: The mixing of "dream" and "real", the shifting relationships between Ranma and Akane, given these universe's unique circumstances, and Ranma's level of being controlled by and influence on the dreams.

In other news, Hourou Budouka is slowly working, thought Part 2 has been the hardest to write so far. Is there a word for a story where a beginning and ending is written and you're hung on the middle? Balance is slowly chugging along, with the next Chapter being relatively short and a means to get us to part II of the 1st Arc. Expect Amazon drama and Some Ranma/Ryouga heart to heart talks.

The title was originally just the Japanese, but for legibility purposes, I translated the phrase as best I could and inadverdently have something of a polyglot double entendre. The Japanese title literally means "The girl that is not just a dream". The translation I decided on plays on the "dream girl" phrase to quite a nice effect, if you ask me. I hope the second part will elucidate things further.

Anyways, thank you for any feedback/comments you have.

As always,