This year you get you early gift... well, early. Enjoy another chapter and I will look forward to seeing you here for the next one. Happy holiday season everyone.
Anima and animus
"They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me."
The corridors smelled of disinfectant and the hospital was full of people going every which way. Seeing the crammed elevators, Ranma decided to take the stairs. It was much better this way, and he would at least stretch his legs a bit.
The hospital environment was something he hoped to never get used to. You could even say Ranma hated hospitals. They all looked the same, pasty white people and pasty white walls. They all smelled the same too. Hospitals, that is. It was much less crowded and more orderly, but he couldn't help but be reminded of the things that happened back then. Back when the machines struck. He could remember Ami's lifeless body. The looks of horror on the faces of his friends and the hospital personnel, knowing that the same look was present on his. He gripped the side rail of the staircase and closed his eyes. He could swear he was back there. He could feel the sting of the bullet and the breeze of the air rushing past his bare legs as the skirt switched around. The look on her face. The unnatural angle of her head. He felt a tear roll down his face, which he quickly wiped off his face. Crying was for girls and yet, he cried once more and for no reason but a memory.
After arriving at the correct floor, he looked over the layout, scratching his head. 'Should have asked Akane or Minako to come with me.' He thought looking over the plan feeling every bit like Ryoga reading a map. 'That Idiot!' He thought back to the pale and battered shadow of Ryoga as he attacked him at the destroyed Tendo house. The embarrassment of revealing his part time job to his rival was immense. Ranma was glad that the events of the lost timeline never happened. Still, it gave him a slight glimpse into the psychology of others.
Finally, finding the correct waiting room, he checked the name of the doctor on the door. Sure enough. This was the place. 'I guess it doesn't hurt to try.' Thoughts running through his head, he turned around and sat down.
The waiting room was quite a bit different from the ones he was used to. Particularly the one of Tofu Ono's clinic. This waiting room was designed to look homey and comfort the patients. The pictures on the walls were calming and introspective. One picture in particular caught Ranma's eye.
The martial artist stood up and walked closer to it, trying to pinpoint what it was that caught his eye. It was a picture of a forest cabin. He reached out toward the picture, his hand shaking like a leaf in the wind. There was something about the setting that provoked deeply rooted emotion.
'What! Why? What is wrong with me?!' He thought, reaching towards a tear that escaped his eye once more. 'There is really something wrong with me!' He wiped the tear, irritated and disgusted at the emotion trying to boil to the surface.
"Mister Saotome?" Asked the nurse who just walked out of the exam room door.
Ranma wiped the tear more thoroughly and tried to sound normal. "Yeah." He said, glancing briefly back at the picture as if to try and remember a long forgotten dream.
The nurse eyed the young man with a curious eye, gesturing for him to take a seat in front of her desk. She had seen a lot of people on the verge of mental breakdown in her career, and this young man seemed to be another. The way he moved and acted… "Mister Saotome, your…" She looked into her notes and raised her eyebrow. "... wife called you in last week." She took a clean form and started filling it in for Ranma. "Any relation to Nodoka by any chance?"
"Yeah, she is my mom." Ranma replied, his eyes darting around the room.
"You are lucky, kid. She is a wonderful woman, if a bit old fashioned." The nurse looked again at Ranma who for the first time really felt like coming here was a mistake. " Could you please lend me your ID? I need to fill in a few details."
Ranma fumbled around his pockets for a bit for the ID, accidentally fishing out the ID for his girl side. He quickly pocketed it back and finally found the correct one.
The nurse felt her eyebrow would need to be manually pulled down after the visit of this peculiar young man. She clearly read Ranko Saotome next to the picture of the redhead wearing the Juban high uniform. Deciding not to question the young man about it, she made a small question note for the doctor on the sibling's line. "This will do."
After what felt to Ranma like ages, the nurse closed the folder and knocked on the door where Ranma assumed was the actual office.
"Please send mister Saotome in Sachiko."
She gestured for Ranma to enter. She handed him the folder and closed the door. 'Yeah, definitely bad Idea.' Were Ranma's thoughts while looking over the office. The soft lights made the room look warm and inviting. To Ranma it was anything but.
"Let me have a look at you." She said, turning in her chair from the window towards her new patient. "So you are the famous Ranma. Your mother speaks very highly of you."
Ranma gulped, freezing in place. He really wanted to be anywhere else. This was a major mistake. The woman seemed nice, but she was going to try and get into his head. The lady herself was a well dressed, middle aged woman with long brown hair with highlights of blond revealed by the sun.
She could see Ranma's hesitance. "Please have a seat, Ranma. May I call you Ranma?" She gestured towards a soft armchair in front of her table.
Ranma nodded and after shaking the extended hand did as he was asked, feeling the stranger watching him intently.
The doctor was indeed examining Ranma already. The little useful info Nodoka passed on was not sufficient to measure this teen. The physical build of this young man was something to behold… If only she was younger. Physique like this was to be expected from a martial artist. A soft and purposeful gait pointed towards great physical skill and spatial awareness, with some extreme anxiety mixed in. There was something more in the way this boy carried himself, though.
The strong yet gentle grip as she shook his hand revealed exceptional muscle control. The thing that surprised her most were his eyes. A smile could not hide the enormous amount of pain the crystal blue orbs clearly showed. Those eyes were older than they had any right to be. Something was there. Something she would have to fight tooth and nail to get to. This was a long road walk, but she would do so. Not only was it a challenge, but something in those eyes begged for help.
"My name is Noriko Murata. Welcome to my humble office."
Ranma tried to smile. "Ranma Saotome the heir to the Saotome school of martial arts." He replied in kind.
"Your mother's or father's style?" She asked curious.
"Mostly father's. Mom started teaching me just a while ago, but I don't like swords too much."
Noriko nodded and decided to drop the subject. She instead observed the young man sitting down. Seeing what he was wearing puzzled her. At this time of the day, most of the students wore a school uniform. This told Noriko that either Ranma wasn't in school today or he was not too keen to wear a uniform, or adhere to code for that matter. The chalk smudge on the side of his pants told her the latter was true.
The hairstyle was unusual for a Japanese boy. For a martial artist, not so much. What caught her attention were the holes in Ranma's earlobes. Not only that, but those neatly trimmed eyebrows hinted at something more too. The very faint reddening of the skin was curious, more so the slightly pale stripe around his neck and V shape over his forehead. "Thirsty?" She asked, pouring a glass of water on the table.
Ranma flinched at the sound of pouring water. More precisely, cold water. 'Does she know?!' Ranma asked himself. "Not really." He managed to croak out.
Noriko noticed the panic in the boy's eyes when she poured the water into the glass. 'Curious. This never happened before.' She nodded.
If only Noriko knew the true reason why Ranma panicked.
Ranma now observed the doctor with suspicion. He measured her with the stare he used on his opponents to discern if they were a threat and what they might be hiding. "So you know my mother?" He asked.
She nodded. "Yeah, she came to me pained by your absence in her life. We discussed a great many things. You, among many others." The doctor eyed Ranma and the body language was clear as day. Guilt. This kid had a lot of baggage.
Ranma watched the doctor, deciding that the water incident was just a coincidence. He could however feel the doctor watching him consciously ever since he walked into the office. Just a year ago, he might have been oblivious to the little details, but now… well, he was different. That was for sure. Observation is after all a huge part of scientific method. Angwyn was convinced of that.
The martial artist eyed the table the doctor sat behind. It was western style and, by the looks of it, very expensive. He has only seen furniture like this in the château Chardin. The doctor's looks betrayed some foreigner genes. He suddenly noticed the framed photo on the table. It was most likely a picture of her medical class. He could see her there standing next to someone… "Tofu?" He whispered.
The doctor smiled briefly hearing the name and glanced at the picture. "Ohh, you mean this?" She took the picture and looked at it closely. She then turned it towards Ranma pointing at the tall matchstick imitation of man. A fellow medical student. "You know Tofu?" She asked, amused.
Ranma nodded. "He is… he has a practice in Nerima. I lived there for a while." Ranma stated matter of factly.
"How is he doing these days? Last I saw him was at a conference a year or so back." The doctor put the frame back where it was before.
"He is doing fine, actually. People like him, and he saved my hide a number of times." Ranma massaged the back of his head in embarrassment.
"Glad to hear that. He seemed a bit weird last time I saw him. He asked around about some weird stuff. Some strange pressure points and curses even. I hope he didn't fell for mysticism or anything." She nodded, looking at the martial artist. "Anyway. I heard that you have trouble sleeping. Are you on any medication? Have you asked Tofu for sleeping pills?"
Ranma gulped. "No, I don't like meds. I.. they never helped me."
"I see." The doctor scribbled a note onto her pad. "What do you think keeps you from a good night's sleep? Is it the lack of need to sleep, or perhaps something wakes you up?" Noriko already knew that Ranma had nightmares, the question was… would he talk about them?
"I…" Ranma gulped. "I… it is stupid…" Ranma prepared to leave, standing up and turning around. He really didn't want anyone to meddle in this. He would be ok soon enough, wouldn't he?
Noriko just shook her head. "Ranma, there is no shame in having nightmares or talking about it with someone else. To talk about your feelings... that is not a sign of weakness. You wouldn't believe how people reacted to those giant lizards that attacked Tokyo a while back. " She watched as the martial artist froze. "I have seen experienced military men that had seen the horrors of war weep like little children after they were reminded of the events of that day. Many have nightmares to this day."
Ranma froze. He thought that leaving would be easy, but as the doctor continued, he could hear in her voice that she indeed was sincerely speaking the truth. He decided to at least hear what she had to say, so he turned back to face her.
"You would never have guessed that, huh? Strong grown men and they crumbled like a house of cards. Perhaps that is the reason why you can't sleep. Some trauma?" The doctor continued.
Ranma slowly sat back in the chair silent, eyeing the doctor with suspicion.
"Then there were those sailor senshi. I honestly don't know how they keep it together. Fighting such monsters day in and day out while keeping a smile on their faces for the media." She sighed. "I would love to get one in my chair to ask her how they do it."
A bead of sweat poured down the martial artist's neck, hearing the doctor speak. 'Maybe today is your lucky day doc.' Ranma gulped, his mouth suddenly dry. Stubbornly, he refused to even touch the water. "Still, they let those things rampage all over the city. They let people get hurt… die even."
"That is a bit unfair. Imagine what would've happened if they weren't there. I even heard that afterwards they went to the local hospital and healed those they could." She sipped her tea. "I had a few JSDF soldiers in my care that they helped to save. All of them spoke very highly of those girls." The doctor objected. "But, I digress. The point is. Your lack of sleep might have a deeper reason.
"Look doc… I think that this will pass. It is nothing serious. If it wasn't for my mom insisting on me coming here..." The martial artist was interrupted, however.
The doctor shook her head, scribbling in the notebook. "Fair enough." She said, closing the notebook, seeing the patient was not going to budge at this session. There were other methods. "Let's make a deal." She pulled a paper out of the printer and signed it.
"What kind of deal?" His eyes followed the pen.
"If you manage to sleep soundly today, you don't have to ever see me again, and we drop this. If however, you are not able to, you drop by the clinic and let Ono run some tests." She handed him the sheet of paper. "Just to rule out anything physical."
Ranma nodded, folding the paper to stash it inside his shirt. "Nice talking to ya doc." He bowed. "Goodbye." He turned to leave.
"See you around, Ranma." The doctor called after the retreating martial artist, who almost broke his stride.
Akane put her schoolbag on the sofa and turned back to the kitchen. "You know, I should really be going to pick up Ranma." She said, unsure.
"Nonsense. Ranma will need some space. I know I did after my first appointment when I lost my parents." Makoto said, putting a plate filled with cookies on the table. "Besides, you weren't there when Setsu spilled."
Akane eyed the brunette quizzically. "What do you mean?"
Makoto smiled a sad smile and looked the cobalt haired girl to the eyes. "Most likely, we all need some sort of counseling, one way or the other. Just look at what happened so far. Before you arrived, we were fighting the Negaverse for quite a while. Negaverse, Dark Moon Clan, Pharaoh 90… what a mess." Akane nibbled on the cookie as Makoto continued.
"Akane, has Ranma ever talked to you about her past life?"
Akane shook her head. "No, she always dodged the question."
"As expected..." Makoto nodded. "I shouldn't be the one telling you this, but someone has to. You have to ask her for the details, of course, but I will tell you what I know. Still, I don't know as much as Mina. She is the one that knows her the best. They were best friends back in the day. I was a bit too much focussed on my duties back then. I only dealt with her a few times when I delivered the metallic hydrogen to the station. To be honest, I didn't like her very much. I could see the barely contained rage under the facade of control." Makoto shook her head, chuckling a bit. "The universe has a strange sense of humor indeed."
Akane gave the brunette a puzzled look. "What do you mean?"
"She was an orphan back in the day. Her parents were killed in very brutal fashion by joined forces of the Negaverse. Now that I lost my parents too, I can understand her pain and rage. Still, I can't imagine what it is like to have a focus for all that pain like she did back then." She paused thinking. "Back when we fought the machines. I could see that rage reignite. When she held Kasumi and lost her mother and father back on Earth. The look in her eyes for that brief moment was the same as back then. Barely controlled rage that would burn planets given a chance."
"I see…" Akane looked down in thought. "You really do have a lot of memories of your past, don't you?" She spoke softly.
"We all do. All the senshi of old have a lifetime of experience. Not all good. I can't remember it all, and I don't know if I want to. It is curious. Sometimes it is the little things that trigger a memory. A smell, pattern in tea leaves, or sound." She blew a rising steam from her tea and had a small sip. "I don't know what it has to be like for Ranma. I can't imagine living as a boy for nearly two decades and then this. She used to be a girl, you know. That is how we knew her. That is why we were so surprised. Until that mess with Jadeite, we only knew her as a girl. First impressions and all that..."
Akane looked at Makoto and sighed. "And I keep pestering her about her past life…" Akane paused. "You know… I never knew Ranma without the so-called curse."
"Makoto raised her sight from the cup of tea she was nursing. "Really?"
"Yeah, one day they just showed up with her father. The soaking wet redhead with her pet panda, or so I thought. That redhead..." Akane gulped. "The moment I saw her, something in me just wanted to hug her. When I discovered she was actually a boy… or so I thought at the time."
"What do you mean?" Makoto raised an eyebrow.
"It's a bit complicated. Despite Ranma's frequent claims to be a man…" She grabbed the sofa. "I could never see her that way. All I could ever see was this lovely, lonely redhead barging into my home. Utterly beating me at my own game and flashing me in the bathroom. Still, she was so desperate and helpless."
"Sounds like love at first sight." Makoto giggled, clicking the teapot against the plate.
Akane blushed. "Don't put it like that!" She protested.
Makoto put down the tea and smiled. "How should I put it? Love knows no bounds, Akane. Just look at Michiru and Haruka."
"That's different!" Akane protested.
"How so?" Makoto smiled, which made Akane blush some more.
"Look at me. Still so stupid. I guess it is because I was called names for so long…"
"I can understand that. I was accused of things myself. I think you know by now that labels are bad."
"You should tell Ranma how you feel about her. She might be more open to talk about things than."
"Thanks." Akane hugged Makoto.
A bit distracted, a martial artist strolled through the streets of Juban district after exiting the metro station. It was amazing to see it repaired in such a short time after it got trashed. His steps carried him to the new restaurant. The okonomiaki restaurant that was run by none other...
The efforts to rebuild were in full swing and the restaurant originally sold by the owner in trashed state was now up and running. The place was in a premium spot, but Ukyo and Konatsu still attended the high school, not to mention having other more... otherworldly duties nowadays. This meant the restaurant was open mainly on weekends or on some afternoons. It was popular enough that the irregular working hours actually made it a more sought after place. Whenever Ukyo opened, it was packed within an hour.
Ranma smiled, seeing the sign at the entrance, "Ninjutsu Okonomiyaki." Rei's impeccable skill in calligraphy was something to admire. She could totally wipe the floor with the calligraphy master Ranma faced ohh so long ago. The sign also served a second purpose. A dojo sign. Ukyo accepted challenges as any dojo would. All in all. Juban became a sprawling district again in a short time.
"Hey Uchan!" Ranma called waving at the busy chef.
"Ohh, Hi Ranchan. What brings you here, sugar?"
"Ohh, just passing by, I thought I could relax a bit and loosen up. Today was a bit... crap."
"Tell me about it. I barely managed to drop my school bag upstairs and the customers were lining up." She eyed Ranma with a measuring glance. "You know, I hate to ask this…" she was interrupted by Ranma's raised finger.
"Want some help, right?" Ranma asked, taking the upturned empty glass out of the tray.
"Would you? Just an hour or so. Until the rush goes down." Ukyo applied the puppy eyed look she learned from Usagi.
"Sure. Anything for a friend."
"Your clean kimono is in the back." She called after Ranma.
"Yeah yah… Like I don't help you out on a regular basis." Ranma weaved her hand in dismissal.
The dressing room at the back of the restaurant was clean and organized. No doubt thanks to the OCD of Konatsu at play. The redhead sighed. Sometimes she kind of envied the now female ninja. "At least she could make the radical cut and didn't have to worry about either hot or cold water, unlike me." The redhead mumbled, looking at the waitress uniform Ukyo had reserved for her.
Taking off her ill fitting clothes, she reached for the hanger and took off the uniform as the still lingering scent of the perfume assaulted her senses. 'Well, if I fail high school, at least I can cut it as a waitress.' She giggled at the thought, slipping into the underwear she had stashed in the locker.
"Aren't you a little miss sunshine today…" Konatsu stated. The ninja still managed to sneak up on Ranma. Even her enhanced senses were not enough.
"Hey Ko-Chan." Ranma smiled, slipping into the kimono style uniform.
"Want me to do your makeup?"
"Naah, hold the fort, I will be right there."
"Alright Ranma. Glad you dropped by." Konatsu smiled at the redhead.
"Don't be so formal, Natsu." Ranma smiled, grabbing the makeup kit.
"Well see you on the floor. I will leave you the front Ranchan." Konatsu left to catch up with the crowd.
Ranma put on light makeup, something she would never do willingly before this all started. She sighed and reached for the string holding her long hair in a ponytail. The fiery hair sprawled all over her back. To tame it, she gathered it into a clip-on hairpin adorned with roses. She looked to the mirror feeling strangely at peace when just half an hour before she was emotionally drained.
Ranma finally sat at the grill of the restaurant, exhausted and sweaty, but strangely happy. "This took longer than expected." She mused as a piping hot okonomiaki landed before her.
"Here you go, sugar." Ukyo announced finishing a few more of the Japanese pizza pancakes. "And something for the rest of you at home. You really helped us out today." The chef prepared boxes for the takeaway.
"Naah, it was nuthin…" Ranma tried to say as she munched on the seafood special.
Ukyo looked at Konatsu cleaning the tables after the last customers. "You know, we could use you here regularly." The chef sighed.
Ranma licked the remnants of the sauce from the last piece of the pancake off her fingers. "You know I can't Uchan. Still, I will drop by whenever I can. It… it is kind of relaxing, actually."
Ukyo paused in contemplation. "Now that you reminded me. You seemed a bit down when you came here, but yeah, you seem a lot better. Care to talk about it?"
"Maybe some other time. I need to run. It is pretty late…" Ranma smiled devilishly. "Natsu, can you pull those blinds?"
The ninja nodded and swiftly closed the restaurant's blinds.
Ranma grinned and briefly transformed to sailor Sun.
"Show off." Ukyo said smiling. "You know it's going to be dark soon, right?
Ranma put a hand on her hip. "You got it, you flaunt it, right?" She grabbed the boxes and beamed away.
"Tadaima." Called Akane entering the Saotome residence. No response was given. She put her shoes away and noted that the rest were still missing.
Walking into the kitchen to get something to drink, she noticed a redhead dozing off in the chair. Her senshi redhead to be exact. She had a slice of okonomiaki stuffed in her mouth. This made the bluenette chuckle. She pulled a piece of the pancake out of the box for herself and poured herself some cold water. She was a bit hungry. Accept the cookies at mako-chan's place, she had just her school bento.
She shook her head while looking at the snoring redhead. 'Leave it to Ranma to give the phrase "comfort food" a new meaning.' She thought while munching on the still warm food. 'At least she kept her knees together.' the girl giggled.
"Tadaima." Sounded from the entrance as the Saotome matriarch arrived home.
"Okaeri" Akane called back.
In a short while, Nodoka entered the kitchen, smiling. "Hello daughter…s" She spotted Ranma and shook her head in disbelief. "How long…"
"Not long." Akane interrupted Nodoka. "I guess she had a rough day."
"I am afraid it's not going to get easier." Nodoka sighed.
Akane's interest peaked. "What do you mean, mom?"
"I would rather both of you hear this. Could you please warm up the miso?" Nodoka asked, heading out of the room.
The aroma of the soup being warmed woke up the sleeping redhead, who quickly wolfed down the slice she was nursing.
"Honestly, you should learn some manners, Ranma!" Akane complained.
Ranma blinked as her mother entered the room. "Akane is right, and you will get your chance to learn."
The redhead blinked some more, this time looking puzzled at her mother. "What do you mean?" She asked, still chewing on the Japanese pizza.
"When you were away on your little trip, I got a call from my sister. You know, the one that visited us some time ago?" Nodoka checked the temperature of the soup which was just right and gestured for Akane to get the bowls."
"It means that father somehow caught wind of what she was trying to do and is interested in meeting his grandDAUGHTER." Nodoka looked at Akane. "Both of them."
Ranma was now wide awake. "I have grandpa?"
"I guess you do. Still, it is up to you to decide if you want to see him." Nodoka frowned. "He can be quite persistent at times, though."
"What do you mean, mom?" Akane asked.
"It is a long story, Akane." Nodoka put a bowl of miso soup in front of each martial artist and turned to pour one for herself. "One that I am going to tell you today."
"I have grandfather… alive…" Ranma mumbled.
"Grandmother too." Nodoka glanced back, concerned.
Ranma was now glowing. "How come you never said anything!" She spat angry. "How come pops never did?"
"Now, what did I say about manners?" Nodoka sat with a bowl of soup. Calm but threatening.
"Perhaps you should transform back for this. We don't want our house burned down, right?" Akane grabbed Ranma's arm as she cooled down and closed her eyes, transforming back.
"Helping out Ukyo again?" Akane ask amused.
"Ohh, yeah, that." Ranma looked down at the kimono.
Nodoka giggled, but then her expression turned serious. "Ranma, my parents, your grandparents, are not ordinary people." She sipped some soup out of the spoon. "They are noble. My name wasn't always Saotome."
"Huh?" Akane glanced at the matriarch. "Ranma is of noble blood?" She laughed, to the redhead's dismay.
"Can you be serious for a moment?" She scowled at Akane. "How come you never said anything?" She asked her mother.
"That is because when I married Genma, they disowned me, and I was no longer welcomed." Nodoka replied, a bit dismayed. "Still, that is in the past. I expected this day to come one day, but thought that maybe… they might not get a chance to see their grandchild."
Ranma was stunned. Grandparents, disowned. "How could they!" She hissed once again, anger showing.
"There are simply different rules and customs to uphold in a higher society. I refused. I followed my heart and chose Genma, however flawed he might be. I still stand by my decision, god knows I shouldn't, but I do."
Ranma gripped the table, all appetite leaving her. "I don't care about meeting those people. What they did… that is just wrong! They hurt you, they hurt me."
Akane looked at Ranma puzzled. She wanted to object and tell Ranma to think about it more, but decided against that. Her wife was stubborn about things like that.
"The final decision is yours Ranma, however, I would like you to at least give them a chance and hear them out. Perhaps they will show you the kindness my father denied me." Nodoka smiled. "Your grandmother would love to see you, I often talked to her when she managed to escape the attention of grandfather. She never supported his decision to disown me. Sometimes I wonder if they weren't right about Genma. Then again, I would not have you, my child, and that makes it all right for me." Nodoka sighed. "One day you might find that women, in our society, don't have the easy life you seem to think."
Ranma rolled her eyes. "Gee, mom, don't I know it." She looked at Nodoka sipping some of the miso soup from the bowl, her appetite mysteriously returning. "I guess I will give them a chance."
Akane eyed the redhead, surprised and a bit disgusted.
"If Akane comes with me." Ranma raised a finger.
The eager tomboy nodded furiously herself, never knowing her own grandparents. "Sure Ranma."
"One more thing…" Nodoka raised her finger. "Nabiki arranged some paperwork, so you can get your second ID. You are to drop by at Furrinkan tomorrow."
"Moooom!" Ranma whined, which caused a raised eyebrow from Nodoka and a facepalm from Akane. " We have Volleyball practice. I need to go to school as a girl tomorrow. Can it wait?" the redhead pleaded.
"Why should that be a problem? Girls have it easy, right?" Akane taunted.
Nodoka chuckled. "I am afraid that it can't wait."
Akane smirked at Ranma. "Come on, don't you want to see how jealous the other girls are of your new uniform?" The tomboy teased, which prompted a quiet growl from the redhead.
Ranma stood under the tree leaning on the wall near to the entrance of the Furinkan high. The day was going all too well, unlike the night before, well at least to this moment. She loved the teamwork of the volleyball team and how it felt to be part of it. Unlike back here at Furinkan where every boy competed for his own prestige, the girl team worked as one. It reminded Ranma of the feeling of being a senshi. She hated to be back at Furinkan, but she needed the folder from Nabiki as soon as possible. She even skipped the last class of the day to catch her. It was unlikely for the graduate to be caught around the premises again when not on business here, and she still needed to pick up the forgotten note from Miss Murata. The Doctor was right and as much as Ranma hated to lose, honoring the deal was stronger motivation.
The shadow of the tree felt nice and the wind playing with her hair and skirt felt refreshing. She watched as the students filed out of the school building. Some of them gave her the odd look since she didn't exactly fit in. She could hear the students talking about her as they passed. They were mostly confused by the fact that someone from Juban was here to visit, and some even complimented the look of the uniform with envy. This made Ranma remember the comment Akane made yesterday, and a slight pinkish hue colored her face. She really hoped Kuno graduated as well. Meeting him here would be fatal. Fatal to him of course.
"Hey! Is that you Ranma?" She heard a male voice she struggled to place for a while. "What's with the getup? "Asked the second person." Now, Ranma managed to place the voices. She cringed a bit at the getup part. It made her strangely irritated. This uniform… was it really that she was proud of it, as Akane implied?
"Hey guys. Long time no see." She weaved to them with a fake smile. "How are you doing?" She froze as she registered THE LOOK. She kind of developed a sixth sense for it. Every time someone checked her out, hair on the back of her neck stood up. She really didn't need this right now. Not from those two.
"So you are playing for the other team now?" Daisuke joked as the two stopped in front of the unamused redhead.
"What does that suppose to mean, huh?" She rolled her eyes and unconsciously pouted.
Hiroshi and Daisuke exchanged confused looks. "You gave up the man act?" Hiroshi asked, mocking the redhead.
"And here I thought that after you married Akane…" Daisuke was interrupted by cracking knuckles.
"First one is free, for the others you have to pay." Ranma sneered.
Both teens stepped backwards, bumping into someone.
"You finally learned something, Ranma." Said Nabiki as Hiroshi bumped into her, instantly backing off at the sound of her voice and sight of cold stare.
"Do you have it?" Ranma asked as the two boys scrambled and fled in fear of the ice queen.
Nabiki looked puzzled for a while. "Ohh, that… Sorry Ranma. I arranged it for you, but you need to drop by personally." She eyed the redhead. "You are late, by the way."
"I had a team practice."
"Good, I would hate for Juban to lose. Remember that."
"Great now I have to go and talk to the coconutjob myself." Ranma crossed her arms.
"You'll live, you big crybaby." Nabiki tried to defend herself by poking Ranma.
Ranma shook her head disbelievingly. "One day Nabiki… one day."
"Yeah that will be the day Ranchan." She turned to walk home. "That will be the day." She called as she was leaving.
Ranma was livid but kept a lid on it.
Checking out her hair in the lavatory mirror, Ranma eyed the folder that rested on the book bag. "That guy is nuts!" She hissed, inspecting the hair. She could almost swear the hair was trimmed of split ends to make it neater. As much as she tried to avoid the shears, she did so just barely, or did she really? Something seemed amiss and Ranma couldn't tell what it was. Was he holding back all this time?
Ranma just finished washing her hands when the sound of someone walking to the restroom startled her.
"Is that you Ranma?" said Yuka who just entered with Sayuri in tow. Most likely they stayed to clean the classroom.
Realizing where exactly she actually was, Ranma tried to back up to create more space between them, just in case. "Hey you guys…" She gulped. "I guess I took the wrong door." The redhead babbled, fearing retribution.
Sayuri sighed. "Think so? I would say you just got the correct one after a long time." She emptied the bucket in the sink, otherwise not minding the redhead.
"Relax, will you! It's not like we're strangers." Yuka said inspecting the uniform. "Ohh how I wish I got to attend Juban academy with you guys.
"Yeah, how is Akane doing?" Sayuri asked, putting the bucket away. "Want to hang out sometime?"
"What an excellent Idea." Yuka nodded. Ranma was in full panic mode. It was like alternate reality thing...
"Say what." Yuka slammed her hand on top of the folder resting on the book bag, unknowingly cutting off Ranma's escape route. "We can get some Ice cream you are so fond of… let's say tomorrow at the usual place."
Sayuri nodded. "Exceptional idea. And don't forget, that means both of you."
Ranma sighed and nodded. "I'll tell Akane." She conceded.
"Good girl." Yuka patted Ranma on the shoulder, letting go of the folder. "Now, if you don't mind." She eyed the door.
Ranma realized she was played and performed the Saotome ultimate technique. Hasty Retreat.
"See you tomorrow." Sayuri called as the two giggled.
The day was getting weirder by the minute, and it began so nice, too. Ranma sighed again, as she had many times already today. She walked through the clinic door to see what seemed like the last patient leaving, judging by the clock on the wall.
'Just great! I'm late!' Ranma sighed, ready to turn back.
"Ohh is it you Ranma?" Called the young doctor adjusting his glasses. "I barely recognized you. Come on in.
Ranma blushed but nodded and followed the doctor to the office. "Good to see you doc. Long time no see."
"Indeed it was. How are you doing? I heard you might drop by." He sat at the table. "I was quite surprised when Noriko called."
Ranma goggled at the doctor, eyes about to pop. "I… did she really?" The redhead handed Tofu the note.
"Indeed. Please sit." Said the good doctor as he read the paper. "Yes, yes. That will do, I guess." Tofu eyed the redhead and then stood up to heat up the kettle. "I will have to ask you to put on the robe in the changing room. Ranma."
"Why? It's just a bit of blood, right?" The redhead was puzzled.
"Your blood chemistry is quite a bit different when you are a girl." The redhead's eyebrow rose.
"Just great, another thing to add to the list." The redhead muttered, turning around, heading to the change room.
A few moments later she or rather he at the moment sat on the exam table with the robe pulled down to his waist. "How much do you need?"
"Just two vials." The doctor said popping one and switching it for the second.
With the blood draw over, Ranma prepared to dress again. "Actually, I will give you a physical, since you are already here." Tofu smiled, placing the vials to the holding stand. "It was a long time and as I know you, there could be some minor things like pulled muscle here and there."
Ranma grimaced as the doctor inspected the teen.
A frown appeared on Tofu's forehead. Not only that the young man appeared in even better condition than before, but it appeared… "Ranma! This should be impossible." He said tracing the scar he knew Ranma had because he treated the injury. There was no more scar now. More accurate would be to say there were no scars at all.
The martial artist started sweating, the good doctor was most likely onto him.
"New techniques?" The doctor shook his head. "Lay down on the table, I better take a reading of your chi."
Ranma did as asked and faced the doctor by the back.
When done, the doctor seemed kind of out of it but otherwise seemed fine. "You can go and dress now."
Ranma pulled on the robe. A few scars wouldn't be such a big deal to the doctor, but he seemed somewhat serious.
"It's your chi Ranma, If you are wondering. It seems to be in some kind of flux." Tofu frowned, clearing his eyes under the glasses. "It was always in flux, actually, but it seems that it is more turbulent nowadays somehow."
Ranma stopped. The doctor had him worried.
"I guess that is just part of the coming of age." The doctor tried to calm down the stressed looking teen.
"If you say so." Ranma replied, not convinced, but taking a glass of water to the changing room. Moments later, a redhead emerged to find Tofu behind the table with two cups of what appeared to be green tea. "Have a seat, Ranma." He gestured to the teen.
"I was looking for the cure for your curse and dabbled with magic a little. Nothing serious, mind you." the doctor coughed into his fist. "Perhaps it is the side effect of your curse. It might be mixing with your chi. Any problems lately? Have you encountered any other kind of magic? A failed cure, perhaps?" Tofu saw a small flinch from the redhead.
Ranma bit her lower lip. She didn't want to lie, but others were quite serious about the senshi secrets. "Not really." She shook her head.
The redhead looked deep in thought, gently sipping her green tea. It was an image Tofu had never seen.
"Actually… I don't care about a cure anymore." Ranma said quietly.
Tofu almost coughed on the tea but managed to save the situation. "I see." He nodded. "That is very mature of you Ranma. Have you decided to live as a woman?" Tofu gestured towards the teen, pointing out the redhead's attire and current gender.
"What? No!" Ranma yelled and then stopped, realizing she was making a scene. "I just… the curse is a part of me, I realized it always was. I don't know if I would be able to live without it anymore. It probably doesn't make sense."
Tofu smiled at Ranma. "On the contrary. It is very mature of you." His expression faltered a bit. "I am sorry I implied…"
"It's ok." Ranma interrupted, not wanting the doctor to talk about it anymore. "How are you and Kasumi doing?"
"K..K...Kasumi?" Tofu babbled.
Ranma smiled, she had the doctor on the ropes now. "I heard that you are taking her out to dinner Friday."
Tofu breathed, calming a bit. "Yeah, it is a bit formal, but I could book a reservation for you and Akane too if you would like to join us."
"Black tie?" Ranma grimaced and Tofu nodded.
"I think I'll pass." Ranma blanched and then glanced at the clock. "Anyway, I gotta run, doc." She finished her tea and bowed.
After Ranma left, Tofu stared at the empty chair, his eyes clouding a bit with a gray haze. 'That redhead seems like she is hiding something.' He opened the cabinet behind him to reveal a purple marbled ball on a jade stand. It glowed in his eyes in a unnatural way. 'Could she be the one?' He looked at the vials of blood and pondered the issue. The memories of the doctor were useful. The entity was glad that she decided to use the more subtle approach of possessing the man instead of total takeover. 'The chi felt female, but the doctor knew the martial artist was male and the chi used to be male too, even if laced with female aspects. "What is it you are hiding, Ranma Saotome?" The doctor mumbled.
'I wonder what was that additional magical signature the redhead exhibited.' It was beyond anything a mortal should be capable of. The curse was insignificant against this new signature. It felt ancient and quite divine in nature. 'This deserves further investigation.'
Kasumi was cleaning the living room when she was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a ringing phone. "Moshi Moshi! Tendo residence." She answered the persistent phone.
The response was kind of hesitant. "Hello my name is Tomoko Tenou, would it be possible to speak with mister Tendo? A middle aged woman's voice asked.
"Father, there is someone on the phone who wants to speak with you." Called the eldest Tendo daughter after covering the phone with her hand. "He will be here shortly."
Soun was observing the backyard of the house sitting cross legged on the porch. It was healing quite nicely after all those sparring sessions of their guests. It was kind of funny. The fish seemed to miss the presence of Ranma as much as he did. Not to mention the absence of his youngest. His serene meditation was interrupted by Kasumi calling him to the phone.
Walking briskly towards the phone, Soun accepted the receiver. "Soun Tendo speaking, how may I help you?"
The woman on the phone sounded glad and just a bit unsure. "Hello mister Tendo. We have meet in a restaurant few days back, My name is…"
"Ohh yes, miss Tomoko am I right?" Soun remembered the woman quickly. The voice was slightly different but still very recognizable. "How are you doing? I hope everything is alright?"
"Yes, thank you for asking, it is thanks to you." Tomoko paused. "I was wondering if that offer you made back then still stands? My daughter and I, we would love to attend your self defense classes."
Soun had to grab the wooden table. Kasumi saw what happened and turned her attention from dusting off the lamp shade to her father. "Yes, the offer is still valid. Do you still have the address?" Soun asked with tears in his eyes."
"Yes, your handwriting is very meticulous." She laughed a little. "Anyway, when would be the best time for us to arrive?"
Soun grabbed his chin in contemplation. "Whenever it is convenient for you. The dojo is quite free and if you happen to arrive at one of the rare times Ranma is teaching a lesson, I am sure there would be no problem joining in."
"Perfect, let's say Friday at 4PM?"
"That would be perfect. I will look forward to teaching you both. I hope you never need to use this art, however it doesn't hurt to be prepared."
"Thank you, mister Tendo. Have a nice day." The woman hung up the phone and Soun lingered for a while, still absorbing the information. He would have new students! What a happy day it was.
"Is there something wrong, Father?" Kasumi asked, duster in hand.
"Quite the contrary, dear Kasumi. It seems that I found myself new students." He said looking into the empty space still in shock.
"Ohh my, I better clean up the dojo then?" She said with a hand over her open mouth.
"No, I will take care of that. Please find my old Gi and one for a woman slightly shorter than me and one approximately… actually make that two. I doubt Ranma's old Kougouhai Gi would fit her. She is a good head taller than that. Still, prepare the Kougouhai Gi for Ranma if she drops by. I would like to employ her as a sparring partner to show the techniques."
Kasumi observed her father who was full of passion once more with a serene smile. The last time when he was like that… she was still a little kid back then, but it was really nice to see that side of him once more.