For the most part Ranma's first day at school had been pretty uneventful. Not that he had any complaints, he was too worried about anyone seeing his wings or tail to care about if he was bored or not. Most of the students gave him some space, as if trying to learn about him before they decided if he was worth approaching or not.
At the end of the day however one person decided to make it eventful. Needless to say, that person was Kuno.
Kuno immediately reminded Ranma of his intention to fight the pigtailed martial artist, and never one to back down from a challenge, Ranma followed him to Furinkan's usual sparring field. Several students came to watch, including Akane and Nabiki. For once Nabiki refused to set up a betting pool, saying that Ranma was too much of an unknown for her to give reasonable odds.
Kuno and Ranma stood apart, sizing each other up. Kuno had his bokken at his waist instead of in his hands, and of the two he looked the most dedicated to this fight. Ranma on the other hand looked like he didn't care, but wasn't comfortable with refusing.
"Before we begin Ranma Saotome, I have some questions for you I'd like answered." Kuno started. Ranma offered no objection. "First, what is the nature of your relationship with Akane Tendo?"
Relationship? I just met her a couple of days ago. What relationship could there possibly be at this point?" Ranma replied.
"So how exactly did you come to meet her?" Kuno added.
"Not that it's any of your business, but her dad is friends with mine and he's giving us a place to stay since we have no home."
Kuno furrowed his brow. 'I disapprove of the idea of someone else being allowed to live with Akane, but so far it appears he has no designs in stock for her. However, surely with time he will grow to pursue her since Nabiki is without appeal and the oldest sister is simply untouchable. I better ensure he learns that I am the only one who can claim Akane.'
"If you don't mind pal, I've got a few questions for you too." Ranma cut in, preventing Kuno from vocalizing his thoughts. "I heard from Akane what you tried to do. My one real question is are you stupid?"
Kuno arched an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"You claim to like a girl, yet you try to make every boy in the school attack her? What if one of them had hurt her? What if one of them had decided to attack her off the school grounds where she wouldn't expect it? You came close to making Akane a target for rapists and molesters, and for what? Why? What were you thinking?"
Akane gasped in horror and even Nabiki's eyes widened considerably at the implication, as did most of the onlookers. Kuno's claim in the assembly had basically told all the men in the school that they needed to basically beat Akane into submission in order to be with her. But he never said exactly when they had to do it. Kuno obviously intended for such attempts to happen in the morning when Akane arrived at school, but what if some of the potential partakers had a different idea in mind? Like attacking her on her way to school or on her way home when she was alone and vulnerable?
'Nobody listened to Kuno when he said that, but if someone had... I could have been drugged and dragged into an alley for all we know, all because this guy basically gave every sick-minded guy here permission to.' Akane realized.
Nabiki then frowned at her classmate. 'Kuno-baby, I thought your idea was bad enough already, but now that I've heard this... unless you react the right way I'm going to make you see Hell.'
Kuno himself looked more surprised than anything else by Ranma's claim. "Surely no one would have done that."
"And why is that?"
"Because I said that for anyone to be permitted to date Akane Tendo they had to defeat her in combat." Kuno replied.
"Okay, ignoring the permit part, was that all you said?" Ranma asked. "Did you ever say there were specific times or places these fights had to take place in to be official?"
"It was implied here at school in the morning." Kuno responded.
"It was implied but not established?" Ranma repeated.
That was true. Most of the students who could have gone with the set-up Kuno tried may have just been going with their hormones, but they proved themselves smarter by not listening to Kuno on his announcement. Neither were they idiotic enough to commit a crime like that, which assaulting a student repeatedly clearly was. But now Ranma was effortlessly proving how wrong the decision otherwise could have been had they desired otherwise.
'Kuno's just digging his grave deeper and deeper.' Nabiki thought as she heard his explanation. Nabiki may have been willing to sell pictures of Akane, but she wasn't planning on selling her out to the point of prostitution. She felt a ping of conscience at the thought that her own actions might need to the same result, but she ignored it for now. Right now Kuno was the issue, not her.
"Where would be the honor in any other approach?" Kuno asked.
"Maybe some people here don't care about honor, only results. That's why cheating exists in the first place Kuno." Ranma declared, remembering one of his father's lessons on honor. "Some people care more about if they win than how they win, and if you only said that they had to beat her in a fight but nothing else, then you're basically telling others they're allowed to rape Akane. And you expect her to love you for that? If I were a girl, I'd want to turn your privates inside-out for even thinking of this asinine idea."
Akane smiled, grateful that Ranma was sticking up for her like this. Nabiki grinned, more amused by his threat and wondering if she could use it against Kuno herself.
Kuno himself frowned. "Who do you think you are to criticize my wisdom? Have at thee!" With that he charged in, bokken armed and ready to strike.
Ranma bent backwards to avoid the strike, and while he was in that position he placed one hand on the ground and lifted his legs to give his opponent a kick to his abs. Surprised by the impact Kuno lost his balance and Ranma flipped backwards and landed on his feet.
"And now you attack me with a weapon while I'm unarmed? Obviously you don't believe in the concept of a fair fight." Granted Ranma fought better without a weapon, but the point was nonetheless valid.
"You dare accuse the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High of being honorless?" Kuno challenged, following up with a quick succession of attacks. Ranma was lucky to avoid it, but one of the stone pillars on the field hadn't been and had been reduced to rubble.
'Wow, to do that with a bokken and air pressure. Clearly this guy has some skills to back up his image.' Ranma noted.
"Ranma's fast." Nabiki commented to her sister who nodded. "I just hope he's fast enough." At Akane's confused look, Nabiki pointed up, revealing brewing storm clouds. It had rained a bit that morning and it looked like it might do so again today.
'Oh no, Ranma hurry up or else the whole school will know your secret tomorrow.' Akane thought nervously.
Too busy to notice the potential rain, Ranma charged in at Kuno catching the kendoist by surprise. Kuno tried a broad swipe attack that Ranma jumped over. Kuno turned around before Ranma landed and tried a follow-up attack, one that Ranma was able to avoid by grabbing the bokken itself.
Ranma then used Kuno's momentum against him by ducking down with the bokken still in hand. Kuno therefore kept going forward and gave Ranma another opportunity to kick him in the abs, this time with more force. Combined with the earlier momentum Kuno went up in the air but Ranma kept ahold of the bokken.
He then took the wooden weapon and snapped it in half. "There, let's see how good you are without your little stick doing the hitting for you."
Kuno once he landed was aghast, no one had before dared to offend him by damaging his weapon. Sure it was easily replaceable and he had several spares, but the principle of the matter remained.
Back on his feet, Kuno cocked his fists. "A samurai's life, honor, and soul is his blade. To damage it is the gravest insult you can make."
"Oh please. You're no samurai and that was just a piece of carved wood."
Furious, Kuno rushed in, settling for bare-fisted fighting, not his strong suit but not something he was a complete stranger to. Ranma could see this in the way he held himself, and rather than duck or dodge went in to respond.
Right then rain began to fall, much to the dismay of Ranma, Akane, and Nabiki. Fortunately rain was a slow trigger for Ranma's curse so he didn't change immediately, but he had to use that time to get away lest everyone see the change right then and there.
Before Ranma could figure out how, something else came charging right at him. Everyone had just enough time to see a panda running on two legs come right at the fighting duo before it grabbed Ranma and carried him off before the rain got heavier.
"Was that a panda?" A couple of students were asking.
"This fight isn't over yet Saotome!" Kuno yelled, trying to chase down the panda.
Akane and Nabiki looked at each other. "You go find Ranma, I'll see if I can distract Kuno." Nabiki offered. Akane nodded and the two sisters parted.
"Great, almost blew my secret. Or one of them anyway." Ranma said to herself while she stood against a tree wringing out her wet clothes on the other side of the school where no one currently was. "How much did he see?"
*If we're lucky nothing* Genma's sign read.
"Why were you here anyway? Not that I don't appreciate the quick save." Ranma asked.
*Just making sure you weren't fighting with the girls* Genma's side said on it's other side.
"Hey Ranma," Akane called out once she saw the aquatransexual. "Unless you plan on waiting out the rain, you might want to leave before someone else finds you."
"You expect me to just abandon a fight before it's finished?" Ranma chided.
Akane shrugged. "Would you rather show everyone what happens to you when you get wet?"
Ranma sighed in defeat. "Fine. But I didn't lose."
"Didn't say you did. Geez Ranma it's just a spar, you don't need to win everything every time."
Kuno then showed up, Nabiki having failed in distracting him. "Ah Akane, have you seen that coward anywhere? I see the panda but not Saotome. Has he realized how obviously outmatched he is in standing up to me and chose to run rather than humiliate himself further by challenging me further?"
Ranma frowned. "You were the one losing bub!"
Kuno noticed the strange new redhead. "Who are you? I don't believe I've seen you here at school before."
'So he doesn't know.' Both Ranma and Akane thought.
"Doesn't matter, you were losing." Ranma added.
Kuno scoffed. "I was not. That fiend used underhanded techniques and then ran off before the fight could be won with honor. He's a pathetic waste of flesh calling himself a man to behave as such."
While Ranma could take most insults, not all but most, this one got to her because it was Kuno doing the insulting. Kuno, who in Ranma's eyes had already proven himself to be devoid of honor and wisdom despite the older boy's claim of otherwise, was calling Ranma lower than himself. If there was one kind of insult Ranma did not tolerate, it was the pot calling the kettle black.
"You think you're so tough?" Ranma asked as she charged in. Caught by surprise, since he didn't expect a girl other than Akane to fight him, he was unprepared for a kick to his face. Kuno fell and Ranma followed with a quick series of jabs to his forehead, spelling out the word 'loser' on him. "Guess without your stick you're just a blowhard. And you actually thought someone like Akane would be attracted to someone who merely pretends to be a martial artist? Oh please. Ranma Saotome was completely right about you, and he's even stronger than me." She added to complete the ruse of her being someone else.
With that she turned away. "Let's go home Akane." The youngest Tendo girl nodded and left Kuno in the dirt.
The next day at school Kuno left Ranma and Akane alone, but after school Nabiki brought him a note.
"To the redhead girl?" Ranma read.
"Yeah it's for your female self. I think Kuno believes you're two separate people. He might be a bit off-kilter, but he's not going to believe you're cursed to turn into a girl that easily. Even if your girl form wears the same clothes and her hair the same way." Nabiki commented.
Ranma just looked at the note. "Meet me at Furinkan's field this Saturday morning. Come alone." He rolled his eyes. "Yeah right, like I'm going to go meet a guy who almost got Akane raped by myself as a girl?"
"Afraid he's going to try the same to you?" Nabiki asked.
"Would you be eager to give money to a thief?" Ranma asked.
"Good analogy." Nabiki responded. "So what are you going to do?"
Ranma in female form was waiting at the field on Saturday morning as requested, as on guard as ever. 'What does this buffoon want?'
Hiding in the bushes by the fence was Akane, there in case Kuno displayed some ulterior motive. 'Try anything Kuno and it's your funeral.'
Kuno showed up, sans bokken this time, and faced Ranma with an expression the gender bender couldn't decipher. "So you came."
Ranma nodded. "I see you didn't bring your fake sword."
"I don't need it for what I'm here for." Kuno said then sighed. "I admit I don't know you, but what you said and did back there left an imprint on me. Not only that, but you remind me of someone, so that encouraged me to make this decision."
Ranma got ready to fight, but Kuno did nothing.
"I am not here to fight, just deliver a message."
That sure caught Ranma by surprise. "Huh?"
"I hate you."
Ranma did not know how to react, then Kuno started walking away. "Wait, you mean you called me out here just to say that?"
'Who the hell does he think he is?' Akane asked herself, bothered that Kuno would go to so much trouble just to say three words.
Kuno chose to ignore the redhead, as if to say she wasn't significant enough to respond to, and went home. Ranma and Akane did too, feeling like they had just wasted their time.