Author's Note: A fair warning to those about to read this story: It is a crossover. However, as I disagree with how fanfiction net currently works their crossover section, limiting the exposure this story might otherwise get, I will label it only under one of the two worlds it blends. I do hope that you still intend to read the story despite it not being limited to the world of Ranma ½. As such, there are going to be OOC moments as well as different backgrounds/histories for some of the characters. Not everyone will be their original Ranma ½ counterparts here, so don't expect it. Considering the fact that this is a crossover with Persona, a series that FOCUSES on character growth as much as Ranma tended to avoid it completely for the sake of comedy, characters here will grow and change as the story goes on. I'd also like to add that this story is mainly here for practice. I'm quite a bit rusty when it comes to writing, so please, give me useful reviews, critiques and the like to help me regain and improve my skill.

Chapter 1: Velvet Arrival

The first thought that came to one Ranma Saotome's mind after regaining consciousness was that of pain, a dull throbbing that came from the back of his skull, probably from the underhanded sneak attack done by his father. He should have honestly expected as such, as his martial arts school was that of 'Anything Goes' which of course included underhanded tactics, but the young teen still felt it made one less of a man to use such dirty moves and subvert any skill that could have been shown when your opponent was aware and focused. The second thought, though, was one that struck him as odd. With the way his body was moving and the smell that was in the air, Ranma could tell that he was on a boat.

The old man's too cheap to even consider getting a ticket for a boat, much less two. The pigtailed male thought, remembering how he had found that out after the last ship he and his father had been on discovered them as stowaways and promptly tossed them overboard. The crew probably wouldn't have reacted so badly had they not eaten so much food, or if his father had actually tried to pay for his crimes instead of creating more. But then, why am I…

"Ah, it seems our young guest has finally awakened!" the voice before the young martial artist called out, the tone like that of a man taking pride in his work. Opening his eyes, Ranma looked about, seeing that he did appear to be on a cabin of a boat of some kind. Outside the slanted windows, he could barely make out the waves of water splashing about against the sides of the ship. He could feel the actual swaying back and forth, the up and down movements in the water and was glad that he wasn't the kind of guy to get seasick.

Focusing now on the owner of the voice, Ranma had to blink again to see if his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. Sitting before him, behind a table, was a man who looked near ancient in age with big, bloodshot eyes, a long nose that seemed to take up a good chunk of his face and an almost eerie grin that wasn't completely hidden by his hands crossed before them. Dressed in a dark suit, he reminded the martial artist very much of an undertaker of sorts. The odd man chuckled, his grin growing even wider as he spoke. "Welcome, my dear boy, to the Velvet Room."

Velvet Room? Ranma thought, confused, the pain in his mind still washing over him. Why was he here? Did it have something to do with his father? Or was it a different circumstance completely? Nothing at all made sense…

"My name," The long nose man said, seemingly ignoring Ranma's plight, "is Igor. I am delighted to make your acquaintance."

Ranma could only blink again, though both his eyes and mind were becoming more focused now, but was calming down from the sincere tone of voice that Igor seemed to use. Even if the martial artist wasn't the best judge of character, he just couldn't sense any malice coming from the man. Still, the young Saotome had enough experiences to know just how deceiving that an appearance could be.

"This place," Igor continued, his smile still wide, "exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. It is a room that those who are chosen can enter. It seems to be that you have quite a fate awaiting you in the near future." The man paused, as if to let Ranma absorb his words. "Now then, why don't you introduce yourself?"

"Uh… Ranma… Ranma Saotome..." the young fighter answered, as if a part of him feeling almost compelled to respond to Igor's question despite his confusion. Just how could this guy know so much about what kind of 'fate' awaited him in the future if he didn't even know his name? Even if this old man was there to explain things, there was just too much that was being left vague that in the end just made the young man feel muddled even more.

"A fine name!" Igor proclaimed, spreading his hands out and giving Ranma the first full view of his smiling mouth. If Ranma felt that the simple smile of Igor was more than a little creepy, a full, teeth showing grin made the pigtailed boy feel like he was gazing at a mad man. He was quite grateful when the man took notice of this and covered his smile once again with his crossed fingers. "Now then, as you may have deduced, those chosen to enter the Velvet room are often faced with trails in the near future. As such, it is my job to provide assistance to our guests, to ensure they succeed. Though at times the future may look dark and hopeless, remember that there are those who will help you and to never give up."

"R-right…" Ranma responded, unable to help himself from smiling now. Though the young man loathed to admitting the possibility of him losing at anything, Ranma did know that there were others who simply out did him by skill and experience alone. The thought of someone willing to help him, with no ties or strings attached made him feel a lot more at ease around Igor then before.

"Ah! I've neglected to introduce my assistant to you!" Igor exclaimed, moving a single hand over to the side of the rocking ship, bringing Ranma's attention to a woman that he had, till now, not even noticed. She was an older woman, not quite as old as Igor but still clearly an adult, with striking blond hair done up in a bun. Glasses bridged her nose, behind them striking golden eyes that seemed to stare into his very soul. Clad in a velvet suit that matched the rest of the room around them, she seemed very much like a secretary in every sense of the word. "This is Caroline. She is a resident of this place, such as myself."

Caroline nodded at Ranma as she was introduced to him, a professional smile on her face that seemed to be lacking warmth. Ranma returned the nod, at least wishing to keep the woman neutral with him for the time being. A small hum from Igor brought the martial artists attention back to the older man. "It seems we've taken up as much time as we've can, so we shall attend to our details at a later date. Until then, farewell…"

Wait, what?! Was all Ranma was able to think before he could feel his vision start to darken again, the Velvet Room being swallowed up as he blacked out.

~oOo~

"Daddy, she's waking up!" called out the voice, female this time, from the edge of Ranma's consciousness. For an ill moment, the young martial artist wondered if this was how it was going to be from now on; to have someone talking about him as he slowly started to get to the waking world. Then the exact words of the voice hit him. She?

At that Ranma groaned, memories flashing back to what had happened. The trip to China with his father, the cursed pools of Jusenkyo, the fact that said curses were now on him and his father. It made the now female martial artist clench her teeth, straightening up from her prone position on the floor, trying her best to ignore the feeling of two lumps on her chest that she hadn't had previously.

Eyes clearing much faster than they had in the Velvet Room, something Ranma was still trying to figure out, the young red-headed woman found herself surrounded by four unfamiliar faces. One belonging to an older man about her father's age with dark hair, a small mustache, and a rather dreary look about him, while the other three belonged to young women all about her age, each one sharing features with the man and probably his daughters.

"Good to see you're alright, my dear, you gave us quite a scare." The man said, smiling softly. "We were afraid that you weren't going to wake up when we saw you slung over that Panda's shoulder."

"Panda?" Ranma repeated, the memory of his father's cursed form coming into mind, the large panda more than capable of knocking her out when her back was turned. That's right; it was raining outside before we got into Nerima district, so it figures the old man would be transformed too. "What happened to it?" she asked, gazing up at the man.

"Those nice gentlemen from Animal Control stopped by after I called them. They said that they would likely take it to the zoo after making sure it was healthy." The eldest of the three girls said, all with an air that made it seem like nothing could faze her at all. She smiled sweetly, tilting her head just a little as she did so, her pony-tailed hair slung over one shoulder.

It took all of Ranma's self-control to prevent herself from laughing out loud at the thought of her Father getting stuck at the zoo in panda form. It would serve the old bastard right to go through some personal hell of his own after all the stuff he had put the young martial artist through. Smiling at the family and standing, Ranma nodded. "Well, thanks for your help, Mr…" she left off, realizing introductions were never made.

"Ah! How rude of me!" the man chuckled, a bit embarrassed that he had forgotten to introduce himself to the young woman they had helped. "I'm Soun Tendo, and these are my daughters, Kasumi, Nabiki, and Akane." The man said, nodding to each of his three daughters in turn, not noticing the slight stiffening from Ranma as he did so.

Tendo? This is the guy that Pop wanted to unite the schools with? Ranma thought, the memory of her father's announcement about the engagement surging to the front of her mind. While the red head was still entirely against the idea, Soun and his daughters seemed to be good people, with him taking care of her when he thought her hurt and in trouble. Most likely, they were taken in by her father just like all the others.

Not to mention that entire Velvet Room business that she now had to worry about. That was way too real for it to be a simple dream, not with the way the water moved and smelled, not with how it felt in there, and not with how she could recall every detail so clearly. Those who enter the contract are often faced with trails in the future... Ranma repeated to herself, recalling Igor's words. Just what did he mean about that?

"Miss? Are you sure you're alright?" Soun interrupted Ranma's thoughts, bringing her attention once more to the man, his face frowning in worry. "You seem to keep drifting off there."

Ranma couldn't help but blush this time, rubbing the back of her head habitually. "Sorry... just trying to absorb all this in." Soun nodded to this, smiling once more and putting the young fighter at a bit more ease. "That said, I think I should be leaving."

"Leaving? But you just woke up!" the youngest daughter, Akane, spoke up her face filled a bit with worry. "You shouldn't even be getting up after what you've been through, much less thinking of leaving!"

"I agree," The eldest daughter, Kasumi, added. "you should stay with us for a little while, at least until you're recovered. It would be cruel to send you out alone."

"But I..." Ranma started, a little put off by the generosity of these girls. She was used to much rougher responses from others, most of the time because her father had stolen or cheated them. "I can't stay here, I need to get back on the road..." she finished lamely, unsure of what else to say. As it stood, she didn't feel all that comfortable with doing the exact same thing her father had done for years. And with the thought of what Igor said... she couldn't just let anyone else involved in whatever was going to come up from that.

"Back on the road?" Nabiki, the middle daughter spoke up, raising a delicate eyebrow. "It figures that you were doing something like that, with how worn your clothing and shoes were. We were expecting visitors to stay with us anyway, even though they never showed up."

Ranma winced at that, knowing the truth of the situation. She was thankful then at the sudden explosion of tears and wailing coming from the father of the girls that prevented her from answering further, the man crying out. "I don't understand! Saotome said he would have been coming today!"

"There there, father, I'm certain something just came up with your friend." Kasumi said, doing her best to soothe her father down from his crying. Ranma could see Nabiki roll her eyes at the display while Akane huffed in annoyance, clearly thinking it beneath the old man to act so childish. "But what about this young lady? We can't just let her go back to traveling after all this."

"Well... you may be right, Kasumi..." Soun said, calming down lightly. "And it's quite expensive to travel about these days. You probably wouldn't get far without sufficient funds. So, if it's quite alright miss, you're welcome to stay here until you've completely recovered from the events and until you have the money to go... ah, where is it you said you were going to?"

"I didn't..." Ranma said, sighing lightly. These people were all too nice... too willing to help. It just made Ranma all that more confident that her father was in this all to probably cheat out Soun and his daughters and that this entire engagement thing was probably just a trick. She honestly wouldn't put it past the old fart.

Shaking her head, and knowing what she had to do, she looked over at the girls. "Would one of you mind getting me a kettle of warm water? I've got some explaining to do..."

~oOo~

Several transformations later, and Ranma was fairly certain he had covered just about everything. He had gone over his curse and how it happened, how he was told that there was no cure, at least in China if the guide was to be believed, and how he got separated from his father after leaving China. This last part was of course a lie, but more so then anything else, Ranma wanted to protect the Tendos from his father. Even if they didn't want anything to do with him after explaining all this, it was better then having them be taken in by Genma Saotome.

"But... you are still capable of uniting the schools, right?" Soun said hopefully after Ranma had finished with his tale, a bright look on his face. This was immediately responded by a loud "DADDY!" from Akane, who clearly didn't like the situation at all.

"While I am capable..." Ranma started, wincing as he earned a sharp glare from Akane, "I don't think it should be fulfilled, Mr. Tendo. Like I said before, my father tended to cheat or steal from nearly everyone we ever came across and always did the least amount of work he could get away with. I honestly don't want to go along with any of his schemes." Ranma relaxed as Akane lessened her glare, nodding in agreement with him. Apparently, she had been angry at the thought of Ranma still going through with the whole 'arranged marriage' idea.

"Besides, Father, what sort of man was your friend that he would get his own son cursed and then desert him in the middle of China?" Kasumi asked, her tone cool, the first real show of emotion outside of the sweet friendly one that Ranma had seen as of yet.

"True... It does sound like my old friend is following the path that our old master had gone, doing what was good for him at the expense of others..." Soun said with a frown, rubbing his chin, eyes glancing at Ranma. "Are you absolutely sure you won't?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Tendo, but it just doesn't feel right..." Ranma replied, looking down at the ground, not knowing what else to say. He wasn't exactly keen on the whole idea, and it was clear that the three sisters weren't all that happy with it either. It might have been a bit different, had Ranma a different father, one not so willing to lie and cheat his way to everything in life, but then there probably wouldn't even be an arranged marriage. Pulling one leg up to a crouch, the young martial artist prepared to stand. "Anyway, I won't take up your time any longer, so I'll see myself out."

"See yourself out? Why?" Kasumi asked.

Ranma stopped dead in his tracks, blinking up at the eldest Tendo daughter. "Um... so I can continue to look for a cure? I mean, if there's no set up marriage, there's no reason for me to stay here."

"Are you kidding?" Akane said, the tone and look of her face from the first time Ranma said he would leave still there. "You've been through hell because of your dad! You've been on the road for weeks if not longer! By all rights, you should be in bed!"

"Why, Akane, it sounds like you want him to stay. Does little miss 'I hate boys' actually care for one?" Nabiki said with a teasing grin on her face, glancing over at her sister.

"It's not like that at all." the youngest sister responded with a turn of her face away from Nabiki. "I just don't think it's right to put Ranma out and have him continue traveling about, on foot no less, because of all the stuff his father did! Besides, he still got hurt from that Panda, remember?"

Between this tit for tat, Ranma stayed motionless in his half standing position. Even after telling them about his curse, the girls were still wanting to have him stay in the house with them? Not just wanting it, they were expecting it! Why were they so nice? "Um... are you sure?" he finally got out, bringing the attention of the entire Tendo household back onto him.

"Well, as I said before, you'll need some money on your travels, so you could stay with us until you get enough. And should you reconsider on the engagement..." Soun laughed waving down the angry looks from his children at that. "I'm only saying if he does... Well, we'll get to that if it comes, but regardless, we would gladly welcome you to stay with us, if you wish, Ranma."

Ranma couldn't help but gaze at the four of them, all of them, even the silent Nabiki who had mostly been giving the martial artist calculating looks, were all willing to accept him into their home and allow him to live with them. Such acts of kindness were far and few between in the young martial artists memory. Ranma smiled gratefully, nodding at them all. "Thank you..."

~oOo~

"School?" Ranma repeated, looking at Soun Tendo as if he had grown a second head in the last minute.

"Yes, Ranma, School." Soun responded, slowly taking a sip of his tea, placing it back onto the table that both he and the young Saotome were seated at. "If what you've told me about my old friend is true, he has grown to be more like our old master and has ignored the importance of a good education. While it might not exactly be considered important to the martial arts, it's always better to have a proper balance, isn't it not?"

"I guess..." Ranma nodded. The thought of learning something that didn't directly relate to the art felt a little weird to the young Saotome. There simply wasn't all that much he could benefit from school like he did the art, as you couldn't use math or literature to win a fight. With martial arts, he had become stronger, faster, more resilient, more capable them most of guys of his age and many that were his senior. He also learned the Neko-ken... was separated from some of the few friends he had made over the years... got his curse... Now that he thought about it, maybe it was a better idea to go to school.

"Besides," Nabiki said, from behind him, dressed in a light blue uniform with a skirt that hung down below her knees. "You'll be going to the same school as Akane and myself, so you won't be entirely alone. I'm heading out early, so Akane will walk you there." The middle sister apparently ignored the sudden shout from her younger sibling, leaving the youngest Tendo daughter to help Ranma. The two teens glanced at each other for a few moments longer before Akane made the motion for the male to hurry up so they could leave.

"So, why do you do that?" Akane asked while the pair made their way to school, looking up at the pigtailed martial artist now walking on the thin railing of the steel fence. She had nearly had a heart attack when he had leapt up onto it, and was surprised by the fact that he not only kept his balance on it, but was easily capable of walking on it as if it were sidewalk. To have such balance to do it without even thinking about it...

"Training." Ranma responded easily. "Pop was kinda insane with it, never letting a day go by without it. Hell, even meal times were all about training for the art, and there were nights where I would go hungry if I didn't protect my food well enough from the old man. Honestly, I think he did that more to stuff his face with what little food we had rather then train me." Ranma made a face at that last sentence, the thought of even his training being something that was corrupted by his father's greed leaving a bad taste in his mouth.

"Was he really all that bad?" Akane questioned, curious to learn about Ranma a bit more, as well as developing a strong dislike for his father.

"Well... It's not so much that he was a bad guy, Akane. More like he just didn't give a rat's ass about anyone but himself when it came to getting things and pushing me beyond my limits when it came to martial arts." Ranma sighed, looking up at the sky a bit. "Did ya know the reason we even went to those cursed springs in China was because he had read it in a book that they were good training grounds? A book that was entirely in Chinese and when translated warned people not to go there? It just didn't matter to Pop. If it would get him ahead or had to do with 'martial arts', he'd simply do it."

"But you clearly are skilled, far beyond most if what you're doing now is any evidence." Akane pointed out. "Isn't that worth something?"

"Yeah, it is. I am a martial artist after all. I guess it's more just looking back at all the crap my Pop did that upsets me more then anything." Ranma jumped down from the fence, seeing Akane turn away from it to go down a right turn. He followed, his focus still on Akane and about to speak again when a splash of cold water hit him, triggering the transformation.

"Shouldn't you have been able to dodge that if you're such a good martial artist?" the youngest Tendo daughter asked, raising an eyebrow at the cursed girl beside her, seeing the source of the water being a little old woman.

"My focus was somewhere else." Saotome responded lamely, trying to fight a blush on her face. With a sigh, the now female martial artist looked down at herself. "Looks like I might as well go home and take a bath, then."

"But you'll be late for school then!" Akane argued, frowning at the red-head. "If you're not wanting to start the school day as a girl, or reveal it to our classmates, all we need is hot water right?" Getting a small nod as an answer, the midnight-haired girl moved to a small clinic that was along side the road they had turned down.

What a way to start a day... Ranma thought bitterly, kicking at a loose stone on the ground in her annoyance. Not even half an hour out of the house and she'd already been transformed. What's more, she felt a little sick now, like she was about to get a headache. She was wondering what else was going to happen that day when she felt the cold, bony fingers grip onto her shoulder which, in turn, belonged to a skeleton. "Oh, Pardon me!" said a man Ranma only just now noticed holding the skeleton, a bit after she had jumped out of her shoes and up against the brick wall that surrounded the clinic. "Ah, there's nothing to worry about, this is just my skeleton, Betty."

Ranma could only gape for a moment, unsure of what even to think. She was saved having to do so, though, by Akane returning with a kettle full of hot water. "Ranma, I have your... Oh! Doctor!" the midnight-haired girl gasped, interrupting herself in mid sentence. Ranma blinked, sliding down from her perch as she watched the youngest Tendo blush and bow to the skeleton man, absentmindedly handing the martial artist the kettle.

~oOo~

"So, who was that?" Ranma asked, once again male and now running along side Akane, the two much later then they had intended to get to school.

"That's Dr. Tofu, he's the local chiropractor and the owner of the clinic." the youngest Tendo responded, not losing her breath at all in the high speed run, something that Ranma noticed along with how she ran. She clearly had a lot of stamina, more then enough to put to good training. Maybe I should try and spar with her later today, see how she measures up to me.

"He's also a martial artist master?" Ranma said, more thinking aloud then anything, recalling how the man had surprised him. Erasing your presence entirely from others, particularly a trained martial artist, was among the hardest things to do in the art. The fact that this doctor had done it to him so simply struck an odd cord with Saotome.

"He's a martial artist, but I'm not sure about him being a master." Akane replied, gazing over at the pigtailed boy, curious at the questions. "I do know that he's very good, though."

The raven haired boy nodded, agreeing at least with that. Maybe it was time for Ranma to start taking his own training a bit more seriously if that was the case. It was as the old saying goes: no matter how good you are, there's always someone else out there that's better. "Isn't he a guy though? Thought your sister... Nabiki said something about you hating guys."

At that, the youngest Tendo went silent for a few moments, gazing down at the ground as if someone had scolded her. When Ranma was able to see her face again, it had contorted into a mask of anger, of someone greatly wronged. "That's right!" she growled, speeding up, forcing Ranma to do the same to keep up with her. "I despise boys!"

It was with that battle cry that the school of Furikan appeared into view before the running pair, and it was then that Ranma noticed a massive throng of male students all running at near the same speed as they were. But instead of heading towards the school, seeing as they could very well be as late as Ranma and Akane were, they were charging at the pair. It seemed like nearly all the male body was there, from near every facet of the school to boot. Football players, soccer players, boxers, chess players, even a few in martial arts gis were all charging at them.

"Get out of my way!" Akane shouted above the cries of 'Akane', 'They're all trying to beat you', and 'I'll beat you before they do', leaping over the closest trio of male students that had tried to attack her. Even as she had cleared those three, several more charged up, one in boxing gloves striking out from behind, which was retaliated with a duck from Tendo and a kick upward. At the same time, the young woman's fist had found the gut of another guy. He had looked normal in comparison to the others who wore their gear and equipment to fight Akane, but he had the same look in his eyes as the rest.

The youngest Tendo growled, turning to fight another one of the boys only to find Ranma there already, giving a sharp uppercut to the jaw of one of the football players, laying him flat. "Ranma! This is my fight!" Akane scolded, jumping to dodge a swipe from a guy who had brought a chair of all things to attack her with, the girl spinning in the air to give her a foe a swift kick away.

"It's still all of them against ya, Akane!" Ranma shouted back, grappling one of the martial artists there and tossing him to the side in a judo throw, reading himself for the next opponent. "I can't just let ya fight them all on your own!"

Akane opened her mouth to respond to that, and nearly got it filled with the fist of one of the many males left standing. Growling, the young woman continued her assault on the horde, using the annoyance at Ranma to further her own attacks. Within minutes, the last of the males fell to the ground with a thud, Ranma and Akane standing in the middle of the defeated army.

"I told you that this was my fight!" Akane spat, turning to Ranma with a furious look on her face. The Pigtailed martial artist flinched back at the glare, having seen its ilk before from the discussion last night about marriages.

"I couldn't just let ya fight all alone, Akane..." the raven haired teen responded, frowning. He shuffled a bit on his feet, trying to think of the best way to put his words. "It isn't right to gang up in such numbers against another, especially with such overwhelming odds. I couldn't just stand by and let ya get swarmed."

Akane's look softened, if only a little, before giving him a hard serious look. "Alright, Ranma, but please, let me fight alone next time. I go through this every morning and I don't need help from anyone!" the young woman said, almost shouting those last words. Despite himself and the urge to argue against that, Ranma just nodded in agreement, wanting to pacify the youngest Tendo daughter. He'd rather not upset her if he could avoid it, not after how she and her sisters had accepted him last night.

"Such a boorish lot." Came a voice from beyond the fallen bodies of the male student body. Both teens turned to find a slightly older male, dressed in a kendoists outfit with short, black hair standing before them. He held a black rose in one hand, smelling it, while in the other was a long bokken "Evidently each of these fools intended to ask you out, dear Akane, on the dawn that he finally defeats you." the newcomer said, tossing the rose to the female.

"Only because that's exactly what you told them they had to do, Kuno." she growled, tossing the flower to the ground and stomping on it. "Now out of my way, I'm late for class as is and I'm in no mood to deal with you today."

"It's that fiery temper that so many find so attractive about you, my dear Akane." Kuno said, ignoring the destruction of his gift, raising his bokken towards her. "But we haven't had our dance quite yet, and I wouldn't want to deny you the pleasure of dating me."

Ranma gazed at scene before him, unable to help but tilt his head to see if there was some illusion to what he was seeing and hearing. This guy basically told every guy in school that if they wanted to date Akane, they'd have to defeat her in a fight? And they believed him? Suddenly Nabiki's comment about Akane hating boys made a lot more sense. "Hey, Akane..." Ranma started, a hint of a growl in his voice. The thought of someone forcing the girl through that didn't sit well with the pigtailed martial artist, memories of his own trails flooding his mind.

"Back off, Ranma." the youngest Tendo hissed, turning her head just enough to give a glare at the male out of the corner of her eye. "I told you already this is my fight, not yours. Just stay out of it."

Ranma frowned, opened his mouth, thought better of it, and closed it again. Part of him wanted to just ignore what Akane said, to help vent some of his distaste at Kuno's actions. The other part of him, though, could see the amount of pride that the young woman had before him which probably matched his own. Ranma knew all too well had their situations been reversed, he would have probably told her the same thing. Kuno, noticing the interaction between the two, raised his bokken at Ranma, giving the pigtailed teen a scowl. "And just who are you, being so familiar with Akane? I will not stand for anyone to associate with her unless they have defeated her!"

"Ignore him, Kuno! If you're wanting to fight me, let's do it now and get it over with." Akane shouted, drawing the kendoists attention back to her, tossing her bag to Ranma before bringing up her hands into fists before her. The older teen smirked, brandishing his weapon towards the female and nodding, clearly ready for the fight just as a rumble of thunder sounded off from above. Ranma took that as a cue to move to a dry spot near the entrance of the building, having already changed once today and wasn't wanting to go through it again, especially at the school.

~oOo~

Had it not been for the fact that, by now, Akane knew that she would be late for class thanks to Kuno, the youngest Tendo daughter would have smiled at Ranma moving off to the side to watch the fight, even if it was clearly a reluctant maneuver on his part. The midnight-haired girl couldn't blame him either. She had been furious when she had discovered that Kuno had declared to one and all that should they want to date her, they'd have to defeat her in a fight. It was a small favor to use the 'Hentai Horde' as she had come to dub it as a wonderful source of stress relief on most days.

Kuno himself had always waited until after everyone else had been beaten into the ground before challenging her himself. Akane was almost certain that the junior year student thought he was being chivalrous. She believed that he was doing it just to wait until she was worn down by fighting the other students, leaving her less then at her best in fighting him. Even with that said, Akane had taken the kendoist down every single time, and today wasn't going to be any different.

With the sight of lightning splitting the sky, the kendoist let out a battle cry, charging towards Akane at full speed. His first slash at the girl was a near hit, the youngest Tendo ducking under the attack and bolting forward, her leg snapping out to trip her foe. Her foot found his ankle, nearly sending Kuno sprawling onto the ground.

He righted himself at the last moment, giving another shout as if it were to empower his attack, bringing it down in an arch from above his head. It cut deep into the wall that had been where Akane stood just moments earlier, the woman darting in and giving the dark-haired teen a quick one-two punch to his right side. The kendoist's grunt of pain brought a smile to her face as the youngest Tendo immediately rolled back and away, dodging out of yet another swipe.

"Skilled, as ever! I thirst to make you mine!" Kuno said, an almost lecherous grin on his face, even as he held his bruised side. If there was one thing Akane excelled at it, it was brute strength. Shrugging off the pain, the junior student thrust out his wooden blade, seeking as if to skewer the girl he sought. This was what Akane had been waiting for, her hand thrusting upward as the weapon neared, knocking it clear out of the upperclassmen's grasp. She knew well that the air pressure that Kuno's bokken normally projected when he sliced or slashed wasn't as strong when he thrust forward. Without that threatening cut, it was much safer for her to retaliate with her bare hands.

Weaponless, the upperclassmen growled, trying to charge at Akane and grapple her with his own hands. All his efforts ended up getting him was a fierce kick in the gut with all of the strength that the young Tendo girl could muster behind it. The young girl watched as her powerful attack knocked her opponent head over heals, spiraling backwards until he hit a tree in the schoolyard with a heavy thud, the kendoist gazing up at her for just a moment longer before falling over in a faint. As if on cue to that, the rain that had been gathering in the clouds above started to fall.

"You go through that every day?" Ranma asked, watching the youngest Tendo sister walk to the doors, only getting the lightest bit wet from the now pouring rain. Akane nodded at him, sighing a bit as she took her bag back from the martial artist and whipped her forehead free of sweat. Kuno had attacked a bit more vigorously today, probably because the upperclassmen was trying to show off his power toward Ranma to discourage having anything to do with her. Akane honestly wouldn't put it past the kendoist.

With the rain falling down in a harsh torrent now, the pair of students entered into the school together, hoping that the rest of the day wasn't anywhere near as insane as the start of it.

~oOo~

A young woman sighed to herself in annoyance as she watched Kuno lay prone in the rain, defeated once again by Akane Tendo. He was too far gone, she knew. Too far into that state of mind that even nothing, not even the proclamation of hate would make the kenodist realize that he wasn't wanted. Though to be fair, it wasn't his fault in the end. She looked up, shivering as she saw them again at the edges of the school grounds... the Shadows.

Tatewaki had ignored them, pretended they didn't exist, and in the end that just made the Shadows go after him more. They had thrown everything at him, terrors beyond thought, illusions of the world, disguises and even more. They couldn't touch him, not in the real world, but it was more then enough to drive him insane... with her only able to watch in the background as he fell. And when they had finished with him, they turned to her, his sister, to do the same as the only one in this area who could see the creatures.

Kodachi hadn't ignored them, and it was because of that, because of her trying to learn about these Shadows that she felt was the only reason she remained sane. That wasn't to say she wasn't affected by these things. She knew that if it were not for the Shadows, she wouldn't have become the Black Rose she was today. But she fought it... fought to remain in the world around her, to not fall like her brother, like her father... like her mother...

"Class," Came the voice of the teacher, breaking Kodachi out of her thoughts and bringing her attention to the front desk. "I'd like to introduce our newest student. Ranma Saotome here has come recently from China." The teacher went on, continuing to introduce this new boy, but for Kodachi, all else had stopped. This newcomer, this Ranma... was bright! He was giving off a literal glow that she could see, could almost feel! Never before had she seen something like this.

It was with that the Black Rose also noticed the lack of Shadows, how they had not crept into the room like they had before, to try and play their games and tricks on the young woman. Did they fear that glow that Ranma had brought with him, that he embodied? Did this boy have something that drove them away? Kodachi had to prevent herself from yelling out as the teacher sent both the boy of light and Akane out into the hall for being late. The moment the doors closed, she could feel the darkness, and even see it at the edges of the classroom, the incorporeal shadows once again appearing to her eyes.

That light... The woman thought, her gaze locked to the door. Just what is it, and how does it drive the Shadows away? I must know more... for my sake and the sakes of others.