Soun Tendo hummed to himself as he looked down at the old Shogi board, frowning in disappointment. He and Genma had loved to play the game when they had the spare time back in the days when they trained underneath their master, Happosai. It was often one of the few escapes they had when faced with some of the more 'extensive' training that the man had made them go through. He had even gone to the extent of fishing out the old board from storage in celebration of the Saotome family finally arriving at the dojo after all these years. It pained the man to be without his friend, even with all the things that Ranma had said about his father. Soun believed a great deal of them likely true with memories of how little work Genma liked to do when it came to both hard labor and martial arts.

"Father?" Kasumi's voice came, drawing the man out of his locked gaze with the worn game board and bringing up to the face of his eldest daughter. "There's a call for you. It sounds to be one of the city council members."

"Ah, thank you, Kasumi." Soun said with a smile, nodding at his daughter as he stood up from the board. She returned his response with the same before returning to the kitchen, humming to herself as she prepared a meal for later on in the day. It made the head of the Tendo family's heart ache as he saw a bit of his wife in Kasumi, from her gentle nature to her graceful movements. He knew that she, out of all his daughters, would probably the best traditional wife. Though as all the children had been quick to point out every time, they were still much too young for such a thing. Still, he did hope that all of his girls would find that someone special for them, a small part of himself hoping that for one of them it would be Ranma. Making his way to the hall, Soun picked up the phone. "Hello? This is Soun." He called into it.

"Ah! Soun, it's Torikiri." the voice on the other end of the line responded, identifying him as one of the younger members of the city council. Though not quite a friend of the family, Torikiri was on good terms with Soun and was oft the one called upon to talk to the martial artist when matters of of the more violent nature needed to be discussed. He was also fairly open minded, more then willing to believe some of the more weirder events that had happened in the martial artists lifetime.

"Yes, what is it, Torikiri?" Soun asked, a little curious. The next meeting wasn't going to be for another week and a half, and even then, Tendo was often only invited if something requiring martial art prowess was needed. The inquisitive tone in his voice must have shown, as the man on the other line laughed slightly.

"Don't worry, Tendo, it's nothing really. I was just wanting to check up on you after that rogue panda appeared in your area." the councilman responded. "It's not every day that an animal like that is found around in the middle of Tokyo."

"Too true. In fact, I received word earlier this morning after my children left of school that the beast not only seems to be extraordinary healthy, but apparently is domesticated to boot. The zoo keeper is still quite amazed that it prefers more human style food such as noodles and the like to that of bambo." Soun couldn't help but chuckle at the image of the larger-then-life bear sitting at a table and eating noodles like that of a man.

"Well, weirder things have happened!" Torikiri said with a chuckle, before clearing his throat. "By the way, Captain Kurosawa said he would like to meet you sometime. Something about wanting to ask you a few questions about that disappearance of Mr. Ryokou that happened last week."

"The foreign actor?" Soun responded, confused. Xian 'China' Ryokou was one of his favorite foreign actors in the world, but that alone wouldn't qualify him enough to actually be brought onto a case of a policeman. "Just what would he need of me? I know nothing of the case and I don't think any of my skills as a martial artist would help any."

"I think that's just it. Kurosawa believes that someone of sufficient skill as a fighter that might be involved with it, said something about jumping several stories high. Not many people on the force will believe some of the crazier stories without a lot of proof. Kurosawa, though, apparently has been exposed to enough things to at least give it a chance and wants your word on it, since you're the most established Martial artist in the area and a respected member of the community."

"I see," Soun said with a frown, nodding to himself as he did. "It's certainly possible. Tell the officer he's welcome to the Dojo at anytime to discuss the case and that I'll do anything in my power to help solve it."

"I will, Tendo. See you at the next meeting."


"I can't believe I have to be in the hall." A grumpy Akane complained, rolling her shoulder a bit to try and lessen the strain of holding up the buckets of water her and Ranma had to carry. The teachers knew about what she had to deal with every morning, dang it, and they still sent her out into the hall should she be late. It made a dark part of the young woman glad that Kuno had to be sent to the nurse's office after the fight, just desserts for making her go through all this.

"Can't help but feel I'm a bit responsible, Akane." Ranma spoke up to her side, seemingly not bothered at all about their situation. "If I hadn't transformed on the way to school, we wouldn't have had to stop to get some hot water for me to change back. Then we probably could have avoided that entire mess."

"Maybe..." Akane admitted, feeling her temper flare a bit at the boy next to her. She didn't snap at him, though, knowing it wasn't Ranma's fault that he had been cursed and it was certainly not his fault that she got attacked every morning by the Hentai Horde. "I honestly blame Kuno more though. I probably wouldn't have to leave as early as I do every day if I didn't have to deal with him and the rest of those boys."

"Don't get why they're all after you like that just because of what that idiot said." Ranma mentioned with frown on his face.

"What does that mean?" Akane demanded, giving the pig-tailed martial artist a glare. "You think I'm not good enough or something?"

"Eh?" Ranma responded intelligently, before waving his hands before his face, the buckets of water sloshing about as he did so. "No, no, that's not what I meant at all, Akane. I may not know a lot about relationships, but even I know enough that you don't beat up a girl you like to go out on a date with her. Especially if some random guy said that's what you had to do."

Akane cooled a bit at Ranma's explanation, nodding at him. She honestly didn't understand herself why they did it, and had just come to live with it after it had started. At the very least she had shown, time and again, that she was capable of living up to that 'standard' that Kuno had placed onto her. Not once had she ever been beaten by anyone, despite coming in absurd numbers.

"So..." Ranma started, clearly searching for a change of subject of which Akane was grateful for. "Think after school's all done today, we could go and spar a bit back at the dojo?"

"A spar?" Akane parroted, her earlier anger completely forgotten now. What she had gone through this morning was usually the extent of what exercise she went through on a normal day, usually only working in her gi on the weekends or when she was in an exceptionally bad mood. It mainly stemmed from having no one to fight against on her level and no one beyond that to teach her.

"Yeah." Ranma responded with a nod. "I'm wanting to see how you compared to me, and I need to practice in my girl form anyway."

"Why won't you fight me as a guy? And what do you mean you need to practice as a girl?" Akane demanded, feeling her anger start to swell once more. She knew that Ranma had claimed to be a skilled Martial artist and she had seen hints of it when he walked among the railings of the fence as well as when he fought along side her against the Hentai horde. That said, she still didn't like anyone, especially a guy, flaunting that he was 'better' then she was.

"I don't like fighting girls as is, Akane." Ranma retorted honestly, looking at her directly in the eyes. "It's easier for me ta fight a girl if I'm one myself. As for the training, well..." He blushed, now looking away from her. "You've seen how developed my female form is. It's a lot different to fight with two heavy lumps added to your chest, as well as the wider hips. Let's not even mention the fact that I'm a good head shorter then I am now as well."

Akane nodded, even if she didn't like it. Truthfully, Ranma's female form was probably the most developed girl in the entire school, had the pig-tailed martial artist come in his cursed form. It was also a fact that the midnight haired girl knew that one had to fight differently with a woman's assets than with a man's, but did it really effect his abilities that much? "Well, just don't go to easy on me, Ranma." She finally said, coolly looking at him.

Ranma, surprisingly, just grinned at her. "If it's just a spar," he stated plainly, "Then there's no reason to go all out. After all, we push ourselves too much, those perverts might get a leg up tomorrow."

The youngest Tendo was simply taken aback by the response, no words issuing from her slightly opened mouth. Damn if she couldn't agree with what he said, enough so that she grinned despite herself in return to her fellow martial artist. Besides, wasn't it better to make friends then enemies? "Just a friendly spar then."


Kodachi Kuno couldn't have been more grateful to whatever Gods may have existed in the world when the male of Light returned to the classroom, banishing the Shadows once more. The black beings may not be strong enough to make themselves tangible in this world, but they were strong enough to alter her perception. Words couldn't be trusted, actions of student and teacher alike had to be suspect, even her very food could have been altered by the interference of the darkness.

But the Black Rose wasn't her brother. Unlike Tatewaki, she had observed these creatures, learned about their habits, the clues they left behind. Most of the time, she could tell when she was being tricked, when the world around her was lying. Piercing their veils didn't deter the Shadows, though, and they always returned with new ways to manipulate the young woman. She had feared when she, too, fell to the madness her family had come to embody thanks to the shades. But now... this light... this Ranma Saotome had come.

Just what about this Ranma had spurred away the monsters with nothing but his mere presence? He appeared ignorant of the Shadows, just as most were in the world were, incapable of hearing them, and immune to their dangerous powers. Only once before had she seen anyone with the power to push away the darkness, and it was clear that Ranma was unlike that at all. He had strength, yes, that was immediately apparent but it was unlike that of the one who had repelled the Shadows before.

I must know more... Kodachi thought to herself, keeping her gazed locked with the pig-tailed man that sat roughly half the class away from her, next to the girl Akane that her brother was so infatuated with. She would follow them after class had ended, though she knew she couldn't be seen, not with the inability to explain herself or the situation. Let's just hope that something can be done with this boy's light.


Ranma felt himself to be extremely lucky by the time class had ended for the day, students about him all packing their things. He had only transformed once into his female form, in the bathroom during lunchtime thanks to a faulty faucet. As luck would have it no one else was using the restroom at the time allowing the young martial artist to change back, keeping his secret. Otherwise, all of class had been remarkably quiet, the only other thing to note being a few of the boys coming up to Ranma to ask questions about his familiarity with Akane, of which the pig-tailed boy retorted with 'It's none of your business'.

Thinking of the young dark haired girl, Ranma turned his attention to her, finding Akane talking with two other female students. One of the girls gave Ranma a wide grin before tapping the other on the shoulder, interrupting her friends chat with the Tendo girl to draw attention to the Saotome. The two giggled and waved goodbye to the sputtering Akane, who then turned to give him a dark look.

"Let me guess," Ranma said as he walked up to her. "They think something's going on between us like the boys do, right?"

"Yeah, though you honestly can't blame them." Akane said with a scowl on her face, shoving things into her bag with little gentleness. "They find it weird that I have any guy friends at all. And if it's not that, it's some stupid little rumors!"

"Rumors?" Ranma asked, blinking. It was more the likely some form of girl gossip that Ranma really didn't care about, but he had stumbled upon more then one interesting things in his life thanks to following rumors that no body else would.

"Yeah, something about these weird patches of dark shadows or something like that." Akane said, finishing her packing and standing beside the pig-tailed martial artist. "They said that this guy in one of the other class rooms claims that he saw into this other world by poking his head into this shadowy spot over by the train station. Weird, huh?"

"Any weirder then a guy falling into a spring and changing into a girl?" Ranma said with a grin, even while keeping his voice low. The rumor was probably just that, but the teen just had to point out that there was living proof of the odd and weird things that could happen in the world right in front of her.

Despite herself, Akane couldn't help but let out a giggle and nodding in return to Ranma. "Good point, that is a bit out there. But patches of darkness that lead to other worlds? It sounds more like something out of a fantasy novel rather that could happen in reality, even considering your transformations."

Ranma nodded, having to agree to that at least.

The pair made their way home after that, thankfully without any further interruption from other students, be they friends curious about the pair or the Hentai horde wishing to strike at them. Ranma took to the railing of the fence again, though this time he made sure to keep an eye out for the little ladle lady, to make sure he didn't get splashed once again.

"Think you could teach me how to do that?" Akane asked him as they continued down the path homeward, drawing the pig-tailed martial artists gaze to her.

"Probably, Akane, it actually ain't that hard." He said with a grin back to her. "It's really all about balance, and once you've got that down this is easy. We'll see how your balance is once we get to the dojo and get changed."

The young woman nodded at that, and even picked up her pace. She was eager, he could tell, to test herself against him. To be fair, Ranma was as well. He had seen Akane's power, her strength, and knew at the very least she had some measure of skill. Maybe he might find an equal in the youngest Tendo, one whom he could train with on his level.


When Akane had entered the Dojo proper, Ranma could already tell the distinct differences between herself and the midnight haired girl. The first, and most obvious was their gis. While the Tendo girl's was fairly well kept and clean, Saotome's own was frayed, dirty, and patched up from heavy use over the years. It showed quite clearly their different experiences and it made the pig-tailed martial artist wonder if the young woman had ever been on a trip outside of the dojo at all to train. The second big thing Ranma noticed was how Akane was stepping. The redhead hadn't payed all that much attention to it before, but now with shoes off and on the wooden floor, she noticed how firmly Akane placed her foot, almost rooted to the ground. It was quite different to Ranma's own steps, which were light and tended to leave the floor as often as they met it.

"You ready, Ranma?" Akane asked, smirking at the female across from her, the midnight haired girl in a basic karate stance, hands curled into fists before her. Saotome nodded in response, her own stance lax, arms at either side of her body, not wanting to put up a proper one just yet.

With a small intake of air, Tendo charged, throwing a solid right punch forward towards her sparing partner. It was a miss, Ranma ducking to the left faster than she had expected, surprise evident in Akane's eyes. She didn't let the dodge throw her off, though, the midnight haired girl continuing the offensive with a round house kick towards the girls side.

Ranma dodged that too, though the pig-tailed martial artists eyes widened when she did. Had the cursed female not been trained for speed and agility, she would have surely been hit by the attack. As it was, she had only just barely dodged, her rather hefty bosom being a scant few inches away from the kick. A small part of Ranma's mind made note that she would have to be sure to compensate for her new assets by moving a bit faster in the future, if only to ensure her breasts wouldn't be caught in some future attack.

She could also see that Akane was starting to get a little frustrated with the constant dodging and, curious about just how much strength the young woman had, decided to block the next blow instead of avoiding it as Ranma normally did.

Said blow was a back kick, the young Tendo using the momentum of her missed roundhouse to do a complete three-sixty turn, striking out with the leg she had been standing on a moment before. In response, Ranma thrust down her hands to catch it, the cursed female wincing a bit as the attack landed. While she had certainly felt stronger attacks before, Akane's strength was nothing to be mocked and it was taking all of Saotome's strength to keep from being pushed back. Or was it just that her female form wasn't as strong as her male?

With a grunt of effort, Ranma lifted her sparing partners foot high into the air, her own foot lashing out to trip Akane. The maneuver struck and soon the youngest Tendo was airborne, though she was turning in the air, too fast for it to have been completely been a result from Ranma's attack. With an extra spin, the young woman landed with both feet firmly back on the ground.

"Nice recovery." Ranma said with a small gasp, grinning at her. Akane returned it, nodding with her own smiling face.

The spar continued on, Ranma continuing to try and gauge his partners skill level as the two girls clashed again and again. After learning of the power that Akane could put into attacks, Ranma opted back for evasion when ever she could, settling for deflection when it failed. And while Akane lacked the speed and accuracy, she was learning from Ranma's moves, predicting when the cursed martial artist would dodge and trying to strike at that new location instead, more then once forcing the Saotome Heir to block the powerful strikes.

She was also noticing the differences between her current form to her true male state. She was more agile as a girl, able to react and move faster then she thought possible. That plus her smaller frame made her harder to hit, which actually suited her style of fighting well enough that Ranma didn't mind the reduced strength. The shorter reach, however, would take some getting used to. Not grabbing or punching at the right areas could leave her completely open to counter attack, or even hurt herself. That would take some extra training to iron out, to commit it all to instinct.

Ranma called for the spar to end when, after a leap over her partner, Akane's fist went straight through the wall of the dojo with a loud crunch. It was a testament to the Tendo's girls strength that she didn't even wince when she had withdrawn her hand from the broken wood.

"You're pretty good, Akane." Saotome said with a small gasp, chest heaving a bit as she sought to catch her breath. "Though I think ya need to work a little bit on control there. A punch like that could kill someone if you're not careful."

"Sorry, I was getting kinda frustrated with your dodging there." the dark haired girl responded, her face flushing a little bit from both exertion and embarrassment. "I've just never really fought someone as fast as you, so I was trying to make every hit count."

"If you hit that hard when you're angry, it's not a surprise that Kuno was still out cold when we left school." The red head commented, unable to help herself but smirk just a little bit at the thought of the upperclassman getting smacked around that badly. "That said, I do think ya need to work on your speed a little, or if not that, your accuracy. Hitting hard is a good way to win a fight, but it won't help at all if you can't hit the target you're fighting."

"Yeah, I realized that about the twelfth time you avoided my attacks." Akane responded with a slightly annoyed tone. Ranma gave her an easy smile, to try and keep her calm. Even though the pigtailed girl was a better martial artist, she wasn't going to rub it into her face, not like she might do with some other fighters. It didn't pay to annoy one of the few people in the world who actually willingly allowed you into their home after seeing your darker secrets.

"Well, you were already compensating for your lack of speed pretty well in the end, Akane." Ranma said. "Trust me when I say training will just make ya better, though I do think your old man needs to stress a bit less on brute strength."

"Daddy hasn't trained me in years..." Akane said softly, her smile souring as she turned away from Ranma to gaze at the floor. "He just hasn't had the heart for it since Mommy died."

"Sorry, Akane." the red head apologized with a wince. She didn't mean to bring up such a sad memory, and the cursed girl felt now like she should have realized the lack of teaching in Akane's fighting style, how her movements were powerful, but unrefined. The fact that Tendo girl was that powerful without any formal training was a testament to just how strong she could become with just the proper master to guide her way.

"You couldn't have known, Ranma, so don't be something that isn't your fault." She said with a small grin, looking back at the pig-tailed girl.

Ranma nodded, placing her hands on her hips. "Well, at the very least, let me make it up to ya by helping ya out a little. I might not be a master, and I won't exactly put you through the same shit that my old man made me do, but at the very least, I'll teach ya what I know and train ya up a bit more." Ranma grinned widely, wondering just what Akane would be capable of with a proper bit of training under her belt. "We'll make it so that ya can beat the horde with one hand tied behind your back in half the time! What do ya say?"

The youngest Tendo blinked owlishly at her red-headed partner, before a slow, but wide eager grin crossed her face. "When do we start?"


Following the pair had been easier than Kodachi had thought it would be, all things considered. The shadows, even outside the school, feared the light that Ranma gave off, some of the weaker ones even falling over themselves to try and escape his radiance. Had this been any other occasion, the Black Rose might have delighted in their scattering. She couldn't lose track of what she came here to do, though.

Watching the pair enter the dojo, Kodachi bit her lip. She couldn't just walk in right behind them, not without a proper explanation as to why she had followed them home. The Black Rose wouldn't be able to stay outside for very long either. Without Saotome's light, the shadows' courage had returned, and already she could feel their powers tugging at her vision and mind. As luck would have it, though, she found a window to the dojo in the back, the young woman proving stealthy enough get there without most of the shadows noticing her.

Peeking inside, the gymnast was confused as she saw Akane train, not with Ranma, but with a red haired girl. Said girl had a bust that in Kodachi's own modest opinion didn't belong such a lithe girl, particularly one clearly skilled in the martial arts. What confused the Black rose even more was the fact that this girl was bright, just as much as Ranma was! How could it be that there were two people with the same light and power that Kodachi had never seen before? Saotome made sense, at least. He had only just recently arrived from China. But this new girl? Had she somehow recently come into the brightness? Or was it by some force that the shadows had somehow covered the redhead's light from Kodachi's gaze until she stood right before her, fighting away their influence? Either idea left a bad taste in her mouth.

After the Tendo girl put her fist through the wall, which made Kodachi wonder if she had held back at all against her brother or if Tatewaki was a great deal more durable then she gave him credit for, the two talked for a little. The pair were too far away for her to hear even muffled conversation. It seemed to make the midnight blue haired girl happy, though, as she grinned liked the cat that had eaten the canary before she left the dojo, the red headed girl in tow.

Kodachi could feel her body shiver without that comforting light, part of her mind wondered if she was becoming addicted to it. For all her effort in learning about the shadows that plagued her family minds, the moment she found a way to escape their terrors and tricks, she became as weak as her brother, clinging to it like he did to the idea that Akane actually wanted to date him. Focusing her mind, she turned away from the Tendo household, narrowing her eyes as she saw a beast before her with large fangs, claws, and a hulking form. The only thing that gave away it's true nature was the bright yellow eyes that it glared down at her, drool dripping from it's maw. Knowing it could not harm her, could not touch her, the Kuno woman walked past the beast, knowing it to be another weaker shadow. She would have to prepare for the return of the stronger ones, now that Ranma's purifying light was no longer near.


Training with Ranma started the very next day. Up an hour before Akane's normal time for her morning work out, the heir to the Saotome school had pulled the slightly crabby Tendo girl out of her warm bed. When she had thought to complain to her cursed sparing partner, giving the redhead one of her trademark glares, Saotome had pointed out that she had wanted this. "I know I wanted this, but this is so early!" the youngest tendo had pointed out in response, pulling her protesting body from under the covers.

"Pop got me up earlier, and he usually did it with a bucket of cold water to make sure I would fight him, even if it was in anger. I could always do that instead if you want me too." Ranma said, a large grin on her face, an easy sign to see that she would do it willingly, if only to see someone else in the same situation she had been in for years. With one last gripe about the early time, Akane got up and into her training gi.

At first, the young Tendo had thought that maybe they were going to do the fence walking first, but that was quickly pointed out to be a bad idea by Ranma. "You've got balance, Akane." she had pointed out. "But not to the point where you'd be able to walk on that easily or quickly. It would be better to do that once we've got it to the point where you can walk on it as easily as if it were sidewalk."

The pace that they ended up with was a good deal beyond what the youngest Tendo was used to. Compared to her rather normal jog around the block a few times, Ranma had them go all the way to the school and back at a full run, not even stopping at Furinkan before turning right around for home. More then once, the heir to the Saotome school had to slow her own speed and urge her along, the readhead's breath heavy, but steady in comparison to the dark haired girl's own labored breath. In any other situation, Akane would have snapped at him not to baby her. As it stood, the young Tendo girl simply pushed past her exhaustion.

Her performance during the spar when they returned to the dojo was pitiful, the pain of tired legs leaving her stance a great deal weaker, her slowed punches incapable of keeping up with Ranma's lightning fast reflexes. It was obvious, even to the midnight-haired girl, that her partner didn't even need to pay attention to her attacks to avoid them. "We've definitely going to have to work on your stamina, Akane." The red head commented, finally finishing the spar by settling back into a standing position. "Above all else, you need to have the energy when you're wanting to be a martial artist. Speed, Strength, Special attacks. None of it matters unless you've got the energy to back it up and last long enough to put it to good use." The midnight haired girl nodded in agreement between gulps of air, too drained to think of any other response.

Never had the furo look so appealing to Akane then after all the training had finished for the morning. The Saotome Heir had hinted that there would be more training even later, but she wouldn't push the youngest of the Tendos too hard. The cursed girl said she knew how easily it would be to harm a body that wasn't used to her extent for training. And to get ahead of any arguments Akane might have had about it, Ranma mentioned that if redhead was her father, the Tendo girl would still be training now, likely with added insults from the strict Anything Goes Master.

Breakfast helped rejuvenate some of Akane's strength, and not for the first time did the youngest Tendo suspect that Kasumi payed more attention then anyone knew, as she not only had made Akane's favorite for breakfast, but also gave Ranma a thermos filled with hot water. She simply smiled at Ranma's questioning look and said "It's better to be prepared then not, isn't it?" before leaving to continue her work about the house. The look on his face, a cross between looking grateful to Kasumi for the idea and angry at the fact that he hadn't thought of it himself, was enough to have Akane bite back her urge to laugh all the way to school.


The pair of martial artists were surprised when they got to school, the Hentai Horde absent from their usual grand standing before the high school gates. When Ranma had asked about it to another student, he had said that the horde had unanimously decided to give Akane a day or so to cool off. The reasoning became obvious when the pair discovered that Kuno was still recovering from their battle of the previous day, the upper classman injured to such an extent that he wouldn't even be in class for at least another three days. Ranma didn't even need to turn to look at Akane to know that she was likely remembering what he had told her the day before about control. Hopefully seeing the effect of her actions would serve as a better lesson then Saotome's words.

Class itself was still as boring as ever to Ranma, the droning of this particular teacher making it difficult to stay awake. Why was he going on about weird magic in what was supposed to be a math class anyway? Glancing around the room, the martial artist noticed he wasn't the only one, with at least a handful of other students already passed out against their desks. Even Akane seemed to be fighting against her drooping eyelids, her head dipping once or twice, making Saotome feel a little better about his own lack of attention. With the teacher continuing to go on about gods and other oddities, Ranma continued to let his focus wander about the class room, only for it to come to a dead stop upon a student in the back of the room.

She had black hair, tied up in a ponytail that was pushed to one side of her head instead of behind. Her features were angular, sharp, giving her a distinctly predatory look that was further defined by those piercing, unblinking eyes. It was those eyes that had stopped Ranma, not for their beauty or their color which was a shocking light grey-blue, but by whom those eyes were locked to... namely himself. The girl didn't even break her gaze once she noticed Ranma staring back, instead opting to synchronize her eyes with his. For a brief moment, the Martial artist felt trapped, like he wouldn't be able to break the stare if he wanted to. It was only by one of his classmates moving in front of him, signaling the end of the class, that freed Ranma. Once they had passed, the girl had vanished, no longer sitting across the room.

"Ranma, are you alright?" Akane asked, startling the martial artist a bit. "You've looked like you've just seen a ghost."

"I'm... not sure, Akane..." Ranma said uneasily, looking up at the youngest Tendo before returning to the empty seat of the sharped eye girl, wondering for just a moment if he had just been imagining things. A rather sharp chill that went down his spine seemed to tell him that he wasn't.

"Well, I'm heading out on break with my friends, want to join us?" the midnight-haired girl questioned, tearing the young martial artist once more from his gaze at the empty desk. The Saotome heir nodded, deciding that for now, it was best to put such things out of his mind as he grabbed his backpack, joining the girl to enjoy the warm day outside of the stuffy school. Perhaps the fresh air would ease his frazzled nerves.

Author's Notes: One of the first things that I've heard from reviewers when this story was originally posted is how Ranma's fairly out of character. While yes he's acting different then he would in the manga, you've got two major things to consider about why that is. The lack of Genma Saotome and the acceptance of the Tendos. Without Genma to enforce things or to force his son to go along with his own plans, Ranma is more then able to stick to his own honor, something that he shows quite often in the earlier bits of the Manga. He first tries to leave the Tendos, trying to spare them from his families involvement all together and then tries to show them what's happened to him, again with goal in mind to leave them be. Ranma knows some of what lengths Genma's willing to do to get ahead at this point in the Manga and is more then willing to spare a family he sees as kind from having to deal with it.

Then we get the fact that Akane and her sisters are willing to still have him in their house, knowing both what Genma's plans were AND his curse, and we've now got our cursed martial artist who feels indebted to them all for their actions. Few people have ever willingly gone out of their way for Ranma like that and it's one of the reasons Ranma's walking around Eggshells with Akane, especially after seeing how quick she is to anger. Between these major differences and the actions of the shadows we'll see in later chapters, I think Ranma would hold much more to honor then he does in the Manga.