#3: Bent Desires
It was the quietest day that Ranma could remember since moving to the Tendo household. He woke up refreshed in his own futon, his father having moved back home since the Saotome house had been repaired. Soun was probably over there by this point in the day, never straying too far from a smoke, a drink, and a game of shogi with his best friend.
Nabiki had gone out, either to ply her trade of information dealing or possibly, enjoying a day off on some poor guy's dime. Kasumi had gone out of town to visit an old highschool friend who had moved up to Aomori and was expecting her first child. Akane had tried to wake Ranma to go do something, but gave up, telling the half-asleep boy she would be at Yuka's, studying for entrance exams.
The Amazons were temporarily called back to China for some political business, some sort of "family reunion" that happens every five years or something, according to Shampoo. Ukyou was back home, visiting her parents and, if the rumors were true, probably convincing them that she wasn't 'that way' after introducing Konatsu to the family. Ranma chuckled at the thought as he slowly opened his eyes.
Sitting up, the depth of silence finally sank in.
Today was the day. The day he'd been waiting for what seemed like ages. This day was nothing less than receiving the gift of being who he was on the inside.
Slowly standing, he put away his futon and bedding in the linen closet and took a bath. He felt a bit off-kilter skipping his workout, but he wanted to savor as much of this alone time as possible. He couldn't really show anyone, even Akane, this side of himself. He knew they'd be shocked, horrified, or, worst of all, disgusted with him. They would call him 'unnatural' and 'deviant'.
Ranma didn't care, though. As long as he had chances like these, rare as they may be, he could be happy. It would be enough, as much as it pained him to keep it all bottled up.
A lifetime ago, a 9 year old Ranma and his father passed through a small seaside resort north of Fukuoka in Kyushu. It was early July, just after the start of summer vacation. There was a café, its windows open to let in what little breezed passed through the seaside town. Ranma peered inside to see a group of old men gathered around a television set.
"And it's a rousing match today between West Germany and Argentina..."
A young woman in a flowing light-blue sundress serving beers occasionally. Peering closer to the tableau, he became enamored by what he saw. The grace, the smiles, the simple pleasures of movement were encapsulated by what was in front of him. Like magic, the young Ranma was drawn to look closer, but was quickly pulled back by his father.
"No time for your antics, boy. We're close to the dojo we'll be staying at until September."
"But I wanna look, Pop."
"At what, that?" Genma sneered, "real men like us have no need for such frippery."
Genma jerked Ranma along. The young boy looked back plaintively, the brief experience having changed him. He asked the other children at the dojo once or twice about what he saw, but Genma quickly chastised him, forced him to train even harder, and once withheld dinner from his son for being "too curious about matters which don't concern you."
Leaving the furo, he took a deep breath and turned the shower head on cold, prompting the change. Ranma noted mentally, "Step one. Complete."
Returning to her bedroom, Ranma opened her closet. Fiddling with a small dial against the wall behind the bunny girl and nurse outfits, he heard a click and opened a hidden panel. There, the materials needed were in place: the outfit in question, the props, and a polaroid camera.
The outfit was a thing of beauty. Ranma never understood how clothing could move anyone emotionally until she had come across this outfit. Its beauty, the quality of its make and the bright red color spoke to her in a way few things did. She fiddled in her "girl stuff" drawer, pulling out a black sports bra and underwear. Ranma had been, at best, ambivalent about undergarments in general, but it was necessary and, in this case, a welcome addition to the ensemble. That done, she put on the red top, the short sleeves billowing of her slender, toned arms. She stepped into the bottoms of the outfit, the white contrasting with the red. Finally the white knee-length socks and accessories were put on, one leg at a time.
Ranma went up the the small mirror she kept in her room. She undid her trademark pigtail, putting her hair up in a high ponytail and keeping her bangs held back with a white headband. Reaching into her small collection of makeup, usually used for playing practical jokes on Ryouga or those days when food seemed to be nowhere in sight, she applied a light tough of color to her cheeks. Turning her head left and right, Ranma was satisfied with her look. It felt right to her. This was who she was deep inside, where no one else could gaze into. This was the real Ranma.
Picking up the camera, the special shoes, and the props needed, she stealthily exited the house towards the dojo.
Inside the empty room, Ranma sighed in joy. She had never felt so free as she was this very moment. She thought back to her childhood, remembering, with stolen glances at the objects of desire, of the life she wanted to live openly, but was stymied time and again from doing so.
A thirteen year-old Ranma Saotome sat on top of the bed in the small bedroom of his best friend, Ryouga Hibiki. He tugged on his ponytail as Ryouga searched through his belongings before retrieving a video tape.
He spoke as he turned on his television and put the tape in the VCR, "I recorded this a whole back. You talked about them and I remember I had it on tape."
For the next hour, Ranma was awed. He saw the same motion, grace, and, he was afraid to admit, beauty he had seen in the café a few years prior. It was an art form he was witnessing, every bit as skillful and heartfelt as his own. Unconsciously he started moving along with the swaying of hips and the turning of heads.
"Hey Ryouga..." Ranma asked.
"Ya don't think it's weird that I like this kinda thing? Pops said it wasn't really manly and..."
"I don't mind... In fact, I kinda like it too. I think about doing it sometimes, too."
Ranma nodded, awed slightly by the short-haired boy's admission. They spent the afternoon playing around, inspired by the people they had seen.
When Ranma came home that evening, he was immediately accosted by his father.
"You were experimenting again with that Hibiki boy, weren't you!?" Genma suspected.
Nervously, Ranma gulped. "N-naw, Pops. We were just talkin' about... Tae Kwon Do moves, is all."
Genma shook his head. "Don't try to fool me, boy! I know what you did." He threw his hands up. "I'm appalled at you! It's sick, boy. Sick!"
"But why? Is it so wrong ta want to be a-" Ranma was stopped by Genma's fist as his father hit him across the cheek.
"I don't ever want to hear that kind of talk from you again! You are a martial artist and a man, not... not one of them."
Ranma quietly cried himself to sleep that evening, asking himself why the world was so unfair.
Ranma jerked back from her memories, now looking at herself in the mirror. In small steps over the next four years, she came far from that painful day. She smiled to herself, thinking about how Jusenkyo had played such a pivotal role in all of this. If it wasn't for that fateful day, she would have never...
Ranma was running after her father the day after the mayhem that was the Amazon tournament. She had lost track of her sometimes Ailuropode parent and was shivering from the cold. The rain washed over her and her oversized gi, soaking her to the bone.
She had barely made it to Xining, the provincial capital, with little money, and even less food. She sighed to herself. The full nature of the curse was starting to sink in and a heaviness, aside from the newfound one caused by her breasts, weighed down on her chest.
"Xiǎo jiĕ!" An older man called out. Ranma looked up quizzically.
"Uh, um.. Japanese only. Uh, Wǒ... uh... damn" Ranma said haltingly, kicking herself for being even dumber than her Chinese illiterate father.
"Japanese, huh?" the man said in passable Japanese, "You look terrible! My wife and I help you!"
"Oh, nono. No need ta go through any trouble on my account... I'm just lookin' for my Pop. He musta... " Ranma tried explaining but was practically dragged to a small house on the outskirts of town. Inside was a middle-aged woman, who smiled and gave Ranma a cup of tea.
Ranma lifted the mug almost pouring the contents in her head, but a shiver ran down her spine and she decided that she was better off drinking the contents rather than explain herself.
"I'm Bi Shaoyu. My wife is Shulian."
"Saotome Ranma. Thanks mister"
"You look for your father? Where did you and he come from?"
"West of here. Bayankala Mountains. Trainin' in Martial Arts"
"Bayankala! Dangerous place for a young lady."
"Hey, watch it, bub! I ain't a girl! I'm a guy!"
"Tā kàn qǐlái bìng bù xiàng yīgè nánhái" The middle aged woman said, prompting her and her husband to laugh softly.
"What so funny?" Ranma asked, put off slightly.
"My wife say you look like a healthy girl."
"Stupid Jusenkyo," Ranma thought, "Uh, yeah. I guess," she said.
"Shàoyù. Ràng tā liàng yīfú," Shulian said.
Shaoyu nodded to his wife, "My wife says she wants to give you some dry clothes."
"You don't gotta, I mean I got stuff in my pack..." Ranma turned back to see her backpack was dripping even moreso than her clothes. "Uh, Okay. Thanks, uh... but nothin' girly or nothin. I ain't like that."
Shaoyu raised an eyebrow, but rummaged through a chest. "Aha!" he exclaimed to himself as he produced some clothes.
"These are some clothes from when my wife and I were younger."
Ranma looked at the pants and nodded. Black silk. Almost like his favorite pair. The top however... its blue and white color brought back old memories. Ranma could feel her eyes moisten as the thoughts and feelings of that time returned to her.
"Wow... Can, can I really have this?" Ranma asked holding it up.
"Haha," Shaoyu warmly smiled, "my wife wore that all over town when she first bought it. We very young then. I don't think she mind."
"Ó, nà lǎo Chènshān ma?" Shulian asked before turning to Ranma and speaking slowly, "Look good. You pretty girl."
Ranma's cheek twitched as her instincts to defend her masculinity were blunted by the sight in front of her. She just laughed nervously and weighed her options. She never thought she'd want anything like the clothes they were offering her. Yet, she also never thought she'd ever get the chance to decide for herself if she could wear something like it.
Ranma stood and bowed to them. "Thank you very much." Ranma ducked into the small bathroom and changed clothes.
"Oh! Look good," Shulian remarked, "But, um..." she turned to her husband, "Tā de rǔfáng dōu guàle!"
"Huh?" Ranma asked.
My wife says you need a bra or covering. You can see... " Shaoyu blushed and pointed her Ranma's chest.
Ranma looked down and shrugged. She didn't see what the big deal was but replied, "I guess I can wear a T-shirt or somethin' under it."
Shaoyu nodded and threw Ranma a small white t-shirt.
"Well, them the breaks, huh?" Ranma said quietly to herself. She had worn the top given to her to death. Literally, the day before she reunited with her father, she had almost been run through by a vindictive Shampoo, leaving a spear shaped hole through the side of the shirt. it had only been the grace of girl Ranma's small waist and loose fit of the garment that saved her life. Still, she was sad to see it go and that feeling of loss was finally replaced a year ago when she found a new outfit, though in the red that suited her better.
"Yeah, I look damn good if I say so myself," Ranma remarked. She looked down at the camera and muttered, "now how am I gonna... damn. Knew I shoulda taken one'a Nabiki's tripods. Ah hell, I'll figure something out."
'Something' turned out to be three bo staffs tied together with twine from the utility shed. It was a bit rickety, but it did the job. Ranma set the camera delay and began taking photos. She played with the prop in question, teasing the camera with her adroitness at handling the object. She also smiled plenty at the camera as she showed off the outfit, both the front and back.
Akane wandered back home, weary from hours of math and english practice exams. She entered the house and heard no noise"
"Anyone home? Nabiki? Dad? Ranma?"
Looking up the staircase and seeing a similar lack of activity, she walked out of the back of the house. a light in the dojo and chuckled to herself.
"Dummy's been there all day training, I bet"
As Akane near the dojo, she heard faint giggling.
"Ranma are you in here train- Oh my!"
Ranma dropped the ball. Literally. "Oh shit!"
Akane slowly approached her fiancée."You... you..."
Ranma shook her hands rapidly, as though she could waved her recriminations away."I can explain! It's-."
"You jackass!" She began crying.
Ranma slumped to the ground next to her, unsure whether it was okay to hold her or not. "I'm sorry, tomboy. I shoulda said somethin'. But... "
Akane looked up and wiped her face "I never realized how strongly you felt about it. You've always denied you were anything other than..."
Ranma nodded, too embarrassed to look Akane in the eye. "I know. I tried denyin' it, but I can't contain how I truly feel anymore."
Akane snorted, "Not in that outfit. You've made it pretty obvious."
Ranma nodded as she slowly stood up. "Yeah, I ain't the man ya thought I was! I'm... I'm... "
Ranma screwed her face and balled her hands into fists as she shouted it to the heavens.
"I'm a soccer fan! Are you happy now, tomboy? You dragged it outta me! I love soccer! English Premier League, Champions Leauge, World Cup, you name it! Ever since I caught a glimpse the 1990 World Cup, I was in love with the game."
She walked over and kicked up the ball she had dropped into her hands. She walked back and sat next to Akane. "But I had to hide that part of myself. Pops n' Mr. Tendo wouldn't approve. They'd call me sick... Unnatural."
Akane grimaced. "Yeah, our fathers are really close-minded. Even I... I never thought you'd be like that."
"Does it change the way ya feel about me. I mean, I really l-l-like ya a lot, Akane and I-" Akane put a finger to Ranma's mouth, quieting her.
"Ranma... I can accept you as a soccer fan," Akane said in a soft, reassuring voice. She blushed and quickly added, "I, I like soccer too, sometimes."
"Ya do?" Ranma asked, blushing herself.
"Yeah. I mean, baseball's okay too, but if you're a soccer fan..." Akane smiled, "I can live with that. The uniforms are cuter, anyway."
"Yeah, definitely," Ranma added as she scooped the slightly larger girl in her arms and kissed.
Suddenly, the dojo opened. Genma, Soun, and Nabiki peered at the couple, their eyes wide. Ranma paled at the sight of one of his deepest nightmares, but Akane held her tightly in affirmation.
"Boy? What are you doing!?" Genma screamed. Manly tears began flowing as Genma slumped to his knees. "I never wanted this for you! A real man has no need for that sport! Why did you have to be a soccer fan?"
Soun fell to his knees similarly to Genma. He implored to Ranma, "You could have at least been a fan of Real Madrid, son!" The declaration caused Genma to turn towards his friend in horror.
Ranma stood up, summoning all of her nerve. "Never! I'll always be faithful to Manchester United." She turned around, showing her replica David Beckham Number 10 jersey from the 1996/97 English Premier League Season
As the two men kept moaning over Ranma's lifestyle choices, Nabiki, always a cool head walked up to Ranma. She looked at her little sister, who had one arm wrapped around Ranma's waist and the other around a soccer ball.
"That's all... well and good, but why are you in your girl form?" Nabiki asked.
Ranma blinked "Huh? Oh, that. Here." Ranma pulled out a weathered copy of last week's Soccer Weekly from her back pocket.
"There's a fan photo contest I saw in this magazine," she began explaining. "First prize is 20,000 yen! Figured I had a better chance as the redhead, ya know?"
Nabiki nodded, "Not with this crappy lighting rig. Why don't we step into my office and discuss a partnership..." She wrapped an arm around Ranma's shoulder's and began to lead him back to the house.
"Nabiki..." Akane growled.
"Oh don't worry. I won't do anything, little sister," she said behind her. "Even if I am a Chelsea fan. It's too short notice to get the hooligans together... for now."
Ranma blinked and began to gulp, wondering if living as her true self was such a good idea after all
Pursuit of Higher Education is now a separate story, to be done sometime in the future when I actually have time after Pinch Hitter and the myriad other things I need to finish. Next story in this series is tentatively named "Time Bomb". Ranma discovers Akane's true potential. Now, he needs to figure out how to stop it, before she literally destroys Tokyo.
My original title for this was "Bend it Like Beckham (or an Equal, but Cheaper Facsimile)". This is as much a parody of my work as it is a general parody of certain dramatic Ranma-chan fic tropes.
It's obviously parody. I mean, Manchester United? Sheesh.
Barça all the way!