Love blooms in the strangest of situations, and Saotome Ranma's life is proof of that. A year before thirteen-year-old Ranma's fated trip to China, his father had to leave him behind for a time. This is the story of his experience in that time, the people he met, the life he saved and his brief experience with love.
My Love's Flame
A Ranma 1/2 & Sailor Moon Fanfiction
by Ryan Erik
Part One: Home
With his shoulders slumped and his eyes downcast, the teenager followed his father's lead. His brow was covered with sweat on that hot Tuesday afternoon, having hiked across Tokyo since the break of dawn. His shoulders ached from the weight of the pack slung over his back. His father had been constantly berating him for tugging along so many things, but they were all his earthly possessions, including most of their cooking gear and supplies. A glare upon the lighter pack over his father's shoulders showed his contempt for the man's lack of sensibility. Training was what the old man called it.
"Training my ass," Saotome Ranma muttered under his breath, adjusting the knot on his black belt.
"What was that, boy?" Saotome Genma asked, still leading their way through the Tokyo streets.
A full day of breathing traffic exhaust was really beginning to make Ranma a little nauseous, but he would never admit his weakness or risk a berating in the hands of his father. The boy did not understand why his father persisted in dragging him across all of Japan, when there were plenty of nice places they could train without all of the noise and smog.
"I asked where we were headed, Pops," Ranma replied to his father.
The old man snorted and sped up his pace. When he turned down a busy street, he stopped and waited for Ranma to catch up.
"Now listen up, Ranma," Genma insisted, putting his hands on his son's shoulders.
"Huh? What's here?" Looking around, Ranma only saw a line of boutiques and other shops. Traffic was blocked on either side of the road, allowing pedestrians to freely travel about the many establishments. The majority of the customers consisted of girls still dressed in their school uniforms, carrying bags of clothes and other recently purchased items.
"Shut up and pay attention," he growled, staring at his son seriously. Under his breath, he whispered to Ranma, "It's time for some stealth training, boy!"
Motioning with his arms to the crowd behind him, he grinned at his son. "You know what to do. Here, give me your backpack." Releasing Ranma's shoulders, the old man crossed his arms.
Confused, Ranma began to slip the said pack off his shoulders. As he was removing the strap from his right arm, he suddenly glared at his father. "What do you mean, stealth training? You better not mean stealing!"
Snatching the heavy backpack from Ranma, Genma slapped his free hand to his son's mouth. "Hush, boy, you'll draw attention to us." Wryly staring at his father, Ranma only shook his head and took the hand off his mouth.
"I don't think so, Pops," Ranma said, standing his ground. "What happened to the money you borrowed from your old friend...what's his name?"
Taking a step back, Genma faked a toothy smile and waved his hand. "It was...Asukai-san! Yes, Asukai. My good friend Asukai could not lend as much as I had told you he did, so we need to compensate!" Genma looked around and regained his ground. "You do want to eat tonight, don't you, boy?"
Gritting his teeth, Ranma closed his eyes. "You said it was 'Kitamura-san' two days ago, pop! You didn't borrow money from anyone, did you?"
The look Genma gave his son easily read, 'Who, me?'
"And what did you do with the money, father?" Ranma demanded, stressing his proper vocabulary. "Gamble it away, again?"
"Heh heh," the man nervously laughed. Beginning to hold the pack between himself and his son, Genma shook his head vigorously. "Of course not! We did eat well the past few days, didn't we? I spoil you too much as it is, but I felt you deserved it after all your hard training."
"Whatever," Ranma dismissed, used to the routine, but sick of having to bail the two of them out with such means as his father suggested. "I'm still not going to go and pick some stranger's pockets because of your dirty habits."
Fuming at his son's refusal, Genma narrowed his eyes. "You will get us some money now, or you will regret it, boy!" Putting Ranma between himself and the pedestrians on the busy street, he used his son's backpack as a weapon, shoving him headlong into the people.
Disoriented for a second at the speed of his father's surprise attack, Ranma fell backwards in an attempt to regain his balance. Fortunately, he struck something, enabling him to do just that. Unfortunately, that something was a person.
A girl cried out in surprise as Ranma inadvertently sent her sprawling onto the sidewalk.
Ranma turned to see a teenage girl with long dark hair, spread-eagle on the ground, her bags and their contents scattered over the concrete. Luckily for the girl's sake, the skirt had fallen forward, protecting her modesty. She wore a white school seifuku with beige miniskirt and trim, and a red kerchief tied in a bow over the neckline. Ranma did not recognize her uniform, which was not terribly surprising as he didn't even know which district of Tokyo he was in at the moment. She could not have been any older than him, but he really did not know for certain.
"I'm so sorry," he told her. The expression of surprise faded from the girl's face as Ranma bowed in apology, quickly transforming into anger. When Ranma offered his hand to help her up, she brushed it aside and pushed herself to her feet, taking a moment to fix her ruffled, long raven-black hair.
He knelt and gathered her bags, while the girl calmed down. Luckily the books that had spilled from one of her bags were encased in plastic, and the clothes from the other still appeared clean. He carefully placed the items into the proper bags as neatly as he could, and then offered them to the girl, who quickly snatched them from his hand.
"I really am sorry," Ranma told her again, keeping his head bowed.
"Yeah, I bet," she said, checking her bags. "You really should be more careful."
Ranma looked up and half-smiled in embarrassment, noticing that she was staring at him. Though she still scowled, the tilt of her eyebrows and the pout of her red lips made her more inquisitive than upset. It was then he noticed just how lovely she was. Swaying in the cool breeze, the tips of her pretty, black hair dangled past the hem of her skirt. However, it was her eyes that caught his attention the most, though. She stared back at him perplexed, as if she was trying to solve some math problem that might have been written on his forehead.
"I will be," he assured her, shoving his hands in his pockets nervously. His concentration wandered, and he turned his head, looking over his shoulder in an attempt to locate his father. The old man was nowhere to be seen. Frowning, he turned back to the girl.
"Is something the matter?" she asked, taking a tiny step forward.
"No, nothing," he said, faintly distracted. Trying to remember just where he had agreed to meet his father should they become separated, Ranma hummed in thought.
They stood before each other in a moment of uneasy silence. She stared at the sidewalk, while he struggled to think of something to say. Of course, nothing came to mind.
"Well, I'd better get going, so I'll see ya later," he told her, flashing a smile. He missed her look as he turned, taking off in the other direction. Standing too near her made it really hard for him to think, for some reason.
Doing a quick scan for his father, Ranma scowled. Genma had officially ditched him, having disappeared down one street or another. Ranma figured that if he wandered enough, he would eventually remember their meeting place.
Ranma turned. The girl had run after him, waving her free hand now that both of her bags were in her other one. He scratched the back of his head nervously. He had no idea what to expect from her. A slap? A kiss? No, way. He felt a bit flushed as she caught up. Girls were aliens to him.
"It's rude to bump into someone, and then run away like that." She pushed her long black hair behind her ears with her free hand. He noticed her bright red nails matched her lipstick.
"Sorry?" he half-apologized and half-asked. He bowed his head. "Are there some kind of rules about this stuff?"
"No, of course not," she snapped, her brow furrowed and her tone more annoyed than angry as she had been earlier. "But because of you I missed my bus."
He stared at her blankly. There are definitely rules I'm missing here, he thought. "I see."
"So you have to make it up to me," she told him, matter-of-factly.
"Buy me lunch," she said confidently, her violet eyes daring him to say no.
"Wait, it can't be that long till the next bus," he replied, suddenly defensive now that his dwindling supply of yen was at stake.
"It doesn't matter, I'll be late now, and I'll have to do double the amount of chores because of you."
"Oh," the boy said, resigned.
Ranma checked his pockets. Lint, a pocket knife, and two five hundred yen coins were the entirety of their contents. The coins were all he could squirrel away before his pops had took the cash he'd saved for new clothes.
So much for my savings, he thought, as he fully felt obligated to make it up to her.
"I'm Hino Rei," she said, introducing herself with a bow. Her long hair escaped her ears like a caged bird, its wings suddenly freed to flutter in the wind.
"Saotome Ranma," he replied, synchronously late, as he had been distracted by the shiny, raven black hair. "I really am sorry 'bout getting you in trouble."
"Good," she said. "Follow me, I know a good place."
Five minutes later, the girl stopped in front of an outdoor cafe. There were high school kids eating there, giving him hope that it was reasonably priced. They sat across from each other at a table in the shade of a large umbrella. Only when she was finally still, her hair back in place behind her ears, did he noticed the color of her pretty violet eyes in the soft light.
"Do you live around here?" she asked him, her indifference thick in her voice, despite the urge to introduce herself and drag him to a cafe.
Ranma shook his head. "Just passin' through."
"Oh," she said, almost sounding disappointed. She kept her pretty violet eyes on him even when a waiter handed her a menu. "Where are you from, then?"
Ranma waved off a menu from the waiter, who rolled his eyes and shrugged. Ranma ignored him and responded to her. He propped his elbows on the table to hold up his chin. "Here and there. Nowhere in particular. Me and pops are on a training journey."
"Not going to eat?" she asked.
"Not hungry," he replied. His stomach growled at that lie, but she didn't seem to hear as she only nodded.
When the waiter returned, she only ordered melon bread and water. The man muttered something about cheap teenagers, in response to which Rei scowled. Ranma hid a grin behind his hands. She was amusing, if a bit dangerous.
"Talking to you is like talking to a wall," she complained.
"Except walls don't knock you over and buy you lunch," he quipped. "I could always go." He began to rise.
"No!" she nearly yelled, suddenly standing and startling him and nearly everyone sitting near them. She looked around, embarrassment stained red across her face. She sat quickly.
Girls are crazy, Ranma thought, completely mystified by her sudden outburst.
"Sorry," she apologized, bowing her head. "I didn't mean to yell at you, but you keep trying to leave so suddenly."
The waiter arrived with her bread. From the delicious aroma drifting from it, it was still warm from the oven. Ranma felt a flush of hunger from the smell.
As if aware of his plight, the girl tore loaf in half, giving him the larger side.
"I'm not that hungry," she told him, as if he was doing his duty by taking it.
He took a huge bite, the sweet flavor of the melon bread hitting the spot. He reined in his hunger as after watching her pull dainty pieces from her half, eating them slowly.
"I live with my grandfather up on Cherry Hill," Rei told him after a minute of quiet chewing. "Do you know it?"
Ranma shook his head. "That kinda sounds familiar, but I've only been around a few days. Pops doesn't like staying in one place too long before we pack up and move on."
He finished his bread and before he realized it, he had grabbed her water and taken a drink from it. "Oh, sorry." He offered it back.
She looked surprised, but shook her head. "It's okay." She put her hand out. "You keep it."
He shrugged, and then gulped it down. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was until then.
"So what are you training for?" Rei asked.
"To be the best fighter in the world," Ranma told her confidently. "I'm already better than most people older than me. Pops is better, though. He says that one day I'll be the best if I train hard enough. Considering that's pretty much all I do anyway, it's bound to happen."
Her eyes were narrow as she stared at him.
"What? Do I have bread on my face?" Ranma patted his cheeks for food, but felt nothing.
"You're serious?" Her hair broke free again on the left side falling forward across her cheek. She didn't seem to notice.
"Yeah, we train in the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū, the Anything-Goes Style of Martial Arts. It adapts to all other styles, but it especially powerful in the air. Anytime it's beaten, it adapts."
She said nothing, blinking at him, her eyes widening. "Are you trying to be some kind of manga character?"
"Manga character? No, what are you talking about?"
She pulled out one of her books from her shopping bag. "You know, manga. Like this one." The title read, Blood Brothers Vol 2 and featured two identical-looking pretty boys clenching their hands. They wore red Chinese shirts and baggy black trousers.
"They look like they're going to kiss," Ranma told her, fidgeting in his chair. This lunch had gone on long enough, and he was getting restless. Pops would be pissed if he could see him now, ready to pay a bill at a cafe selling overpriced melon bread.
Rei turned the book around to look at the cover. "Don't be stupid. They're just shaking hands in victory." Her words sounded defensive. "But seriously, the best fighter in the world? Who are you trying to be, Ryū?"
"Who?" Ranma was just confused by this whole line of dialog. He paid the bill with one of his two coins when the waiter brought it, obviously not fond of their small purchase enough to give them a hint to leave.
Rei's eyes grew wide again. "Seriously? Street Fighter's Ryū? You've never heard of him?
Ranma remembered seeing that arcade game before, but he had never played it. "No, sorry. Hey look, I really need to get going. My pops is going to kill me if I don't meet up with him soon."
Before she could even respond, he bowed deeply. "Good luck with your gramps, Hino-san."
He was gone a second later, leaving her speechless in his wake.
In his entire short thirteen-year life so far, Ranma has traveled all across Japan in his training trip with his father, but something is different about Juuban that will change his life forever. He walks across the city to find his designated meeting point with his father, but he has no inclining of the future that lies before him. Will he continue on his merry way, to his eventual ill-begotten trip to China and the cursed grounds of Jusenkyo, or his fate changed?
Please keep reading to discover that answer for yourself.