Ranma 1/2 manga fanfiction
by Gary Kleppe

The characters of Ranma 1/2 are the creation of and rightful property of Rumiko Takahashi. They are used here without permission. This story may be freely redistributed, but it should not be altered substantially or used for profit in any way.


"You want more, Yoiko?"

"Uh huh!" The four year old nodded eagerly. Her father, Hibiki Ryoga, scooped another spoonful of rice onto her plate. She moved forward in her chair as she started to shape the rice into the form of a pyramid.

"Sit back in your chair, Yoiko-chan," Ryoga said. "You don't want to fall and hurt yourself." Though Yoiko seemed like the world's most durable child, her parents weren't about to put her to the test if they could avoid it.

Ryoga's wife came over with a fresh pot of tea and poured it. "Did you see the picture Yoiko drew today, honey?" She showed him a piece of paper with mostly illegible crayon scribble. "She's going to be a great artist someday. Just look at this cute little piggy!"

"Not a piggy, Mommy! A kitty!" Yoiko continued to form her rice into some unidentifiable shape.

Ryoga finished his food and set his empty plate on the table. "There was another call from Kuno Tatewaki today, Akari-chan." He wiped his face with his napkin. "He's asking everyone to meet tomorrow evening at the Tendo dojo."

"Are you planning on going?" Akari asked.

"I think so... though I hate to leave you two here all by yourselves."

"Don't worry about it, honey. I've been handling farm animals for a long time." She smiled playfully at little Yoiko as the rice structure she had built collapsed onto her plate, part of it spilling onto the table. "Though *some* animals are more trouble than others."

Yoiko looked up at her father. "Daddy going away?"

"It looks that way, kiddo," Ryoga said. "Some friends of mine are in trouble and I need to go help them."

"Aunt Akane? And Aunt Ranma?"

"Ranma's an uncle, honey." Ryoga resisted the urge to chuckle. "No, it's not them. They're going with Daddy to help our other friends. Mommy will have to take care of everything here until I get back. You'll need to be a good girl for her. 'Kay?"

"'Kay, Daddy. Can we watch Barney dubs now?"

"Nope." Akari picked Yoiko up in her arms. "Five times a day is the limit, remember? It's bath time for you, while your Daddy cleans up here."

The little girl giggled as Ryoga playfully mussed her hair. Her mother carried her out of the room.

Ryoga started cleaning off the dining table. He hoped his wife and daughter would be all right while he was gone.

He and Akari had built their farm up into a pretty good business over the last several years. They bred pigs, both for food and as sumo wrestlers. Their pork couldn't compete pricewise with the big agribusiness companies, but it was much better in terms of quality and taste. They sold a lot to upscale restaurants and gourmet food stores.

Ryoga never imagined that he'd be living this kind of life. He thought back to those old days. Most of the time he had wandered the countryside aimlessly, only occasionally seeing a familiar face...


"Why, hello, Ryoga! Goodness, we haven't seen you in such a long time! Won't you come in?"

"Uh, hi, Kasumi. I just stopped by to say hello to Akane." Actually it had been pure chance, or perhaps fate, that had led Ryoga to the Tendo home. After Ranma's wedding fiasco he had simply set out walking. Now, weeks later, he was back in the same place.

"Oh dear, I'm afraid she's still at school. She'll be back soon, though. Make yourself at home, and I'll get you some tea."

Ryoga dragged himself into the Tendo family room as Kasumi went to the kitchen. He unceremoniously plopped his weary body down onto the floor mat.

He wondered what it would be like to be Kasumi. The life she led was so different from his -- always taking care of the household and her family, rarely even leaving the house. He, on the other hand, hardly ever managed to stay in the same place for more than a day or so.

Make himself at home, she had said. He would do that for now. While he could.


Ryoga turned to see Mr. Tendo, with Ranma's father right behind him. "Hello, sir."

"We need to talk, son." Mr. Tendo's voice had a nervous edge to it, the kind that told Ryoga that the conversation they were going to have wasn't going to be pleasant.

"Er... okay."

"I don't know how to put this kindly, so I'll just come right out with it. I want you to stop sleeping with my daughter."

"Huh? I... er... What..."

"I know all about what you've been doing, son. I've seen you change back from pig to human several times in our bathroom. Saotome here saw it happen in Jusenkyo. We let you go on with it in hopes that it would make Ranma jealous enough to admit his feelings for Akane. Now that they're getting married, I have to say that enough is enough. If I see P-chan around here any more, I'm afraid I'll have to expose you."

"Try to do the honorable thing, son," Genma said. "A true martial artist doesn't hide himself inside the form of an animal."

Ryoga stood. Part of him wanted to pound the two men into the floor. How dare they? He had already given up on Akane after their last trip to China. All he wanted here was the chance to relax a little.

But there was nothing he could do. Lashing out at Mr. Tendo would only make Akane feel bad. Besides, they were right. Pretending to be Akane's pet was a despicable thing to do. He had known that all along. Why had he just kept on doing it?

This was it, then. It had been nice while it lasted. Sometimes he had almost felt as if he actually belonged here.

Kasumi came out bearing a steaming kettle as Ryoga reached the front door. "Oh my, don't you want your tea?"

"I have to go." He slid open the door, stepping one of his feet outside. "Tell Akane I'm sorry I missed her. Tell her I'm sorry... for everything."


The world was a blur as Ryoga trudged down the streets. He didn't care where he would end up; he just had to keep moving, though it didn't seem to help. No matter which direction he went, he couldn't get away from the terrible truth. He couldn't be with Akane any more. Not even as a friend. When it came down to it, he didn't really have any friends anywhere.

He remembered having felt like this once before, a long time ago.

As a child, Ryoga's grandmother had taken him to school every day. She was always waiting outside when school was over, to take him home.

One day he came out and she wasn't there.

Looking for his grandmother, the six year-old Ryoga noticed a crowd of grown-ups gathered down the block. There was an ambulance. He tried to listen to the voices in the crowd, peering around the people's legs to see who they were looking at.

All at once, he knew where his grandmother was.

The official report would list the cause of death as a heart attack. Hibiki Kodama, deceased at seventy-eight years of age. Ryoga, at the time, didn't understand any of this. All he knew was that he needed Grandma to take him home, and they were carrying her into the back of the big car, and he couldn't get to her because there were so many people.

The ambulance's doors swung shut, and it pulled away from the scene. Ryoga ran after it. He had to catch up to them and get his grandmother back! He ran until he was too exhausted to keep going, but the ambulance was nowhere to be seen.

He stopped and looked around. He didn't know where he was, or which way he needed to go to get home. Grandmother had always taken him wherever he needed to go. All the roads, all the buildings looked exactly alike.

Ryoga wandered around for hours and hours. The sky darkened, His legs hurt, and home was still nowhere in sight. He sat himself down on the sidewalk with his back against a fence, crying as he thought of how he would have to stay by himself out on the street forever and it would turn freezing cold and he'd never see his mother or father again.

Then he heard a familiar noise. "Arowf! Arowf!"


The half-black, half-white dog ran down the sidewalk, tongue flapping, tail wagging. It jumped joyfully into the air as it reached Ryoga. The boy hugged the dog as it licked his face. He was rescued! Kuroshiro could take him home!

The boy eagerly followed the dog down block after block, until they reached a familiar house. It was his house! He was home! "Mom! Dad!" he cried as he ran inside. Now that he was with his family, everything would be all right.

Ryoga found no one inside the house. The telephone rang as he came into the family room.


"Ryoga? Is that you, son?"


"Son, your mother and I don't know where we are right now. We'll be home to see you as soon as we can. Just a few days, son... we hope. Tell your grandmother."

Ryoga had gotten lost regularly ever since then. His parents never came to help him. They were as lost as he was. It was up to him to find his way. Nobody was going to come looking for him...

"Hey, Ryoga. So there you are."

"Ranma!" Ryoga shouted as he turned, tensed for battle. "What do you want?!"

"Take it easy," Ranma said. "I ain't lookin' for a fight. Your girlfriend's been lookin' for you, y'know. I thought I'd help you get to her place."

Ryoga steamed with rage at this taunt. "You know very well that Akane is not my girlfriend!" Ranma had won her, and now he was rubbing it in his former rival's face.

"Huh? That's not...."

Ryoga stretched his arms out in front of him, his palms facing outward. "Shishi hokodan!" He dug into the black depths of his pain and depression, pushing forward until they coalesced into a solid mass. The energy erupted toward the pig-tailed boy, driving into a tree with hurricane force.

Ranma stood, dusting himself off. "I'm talking about Akari, idiot! She's been looking for you."

"Akari... wants to see me?" It had been weeks, maybe months, since Ryoga had seen her. He had naturally assumed that she'd given up on him.

"Of course! She really likes you, y'know. Wanna go see her, or should I just leave you here?"


Ranma leapt down the road towards Akari's farm, with Ryoga following close behind. Now that Pop and Mr. Tendo were threatening to blow the whistle on P-chan, bandanna boy was going to need something to keep him occupied. Hopefully, Akari would be just the thing.

Akari had come to Furinkan a couple of weeks earlier, hoping to find Ryoga; her "big pig", as she sometimes called him. If anyone else had said that, it would've been an insult.

Akane tried to tell Akari that Ryoga would be back as soon as he could. She was looking for P-chan, her little pig, who she hadn't seen recently. Ranma watched with Hiroshi and Daisuke as the women talked. He prayed to any deities that might be listening for Akari not to spill the beans about Ryoga's curse.

"It's my fault he hasn't come to see me, I know it is. I must have said something that offended him." Akari wiped her teary eyes. "I miss darling Ryoga so much! He's just so perfect! Every time I hear the word 'pig' it reminds me of him."

"Hey, he's probably just lost again." Ranma hoped Akane wouldn't ask why Ryoga should be associated with that word. But with Akari, it probably made sense even without the curse. "He'll come back eventually. I'd bet my pig-tail on it."

Akari started to cry.

"C'mon, Akari. Ryoga likes you. He's a good guy, even if he can be kinda pig-headed sometimes."

Akari cried harder. Ranma didn't understand why.

"Ranma!" Akane said irritatedly. "You just have a gift for saying the wrong thing, don't you?"

"Huh? What'd I do?"

"Stop saying... you know."

"Stop saying what? I don't get it!"

"Don't say..." Akane rolled her eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. "Ont-day ay-say ig-pay! Understand? Ont-day ay-say ig-pay!"

Akari gave a wail worthy of Tendo Soun as she ran out of the schoolyard.

"Huh? What was that for?" Akane asked.

"It might've been the way you were talking," Daisuke said.

"Oh yeah," Hiroshi said. "You know, 'pig latin'?"

Realization crossed Akane's face. "Oops."

"Umb-day, Akan-e," Ranma sniggered. Then he moved away in a hurry, to avoid the pounding he was about to get.

Now he was approaching the Unryu farm with Ryoga.

He hoped he was doing the right thing. He had made some pretty big screw-ups lately. Ucchan might never want to talk with him again because of the boneheaded way he had handled that situation. Kodachi... well, it remained to be seen whether she'd be back, and what would happen then. And Kuno... he ran off to Jusenkyo. Ranma didn't see how that one could be called his fault -- he hadn't exactly been in good enough mental condition at the time to do anything about it -- but he still wished it hadn't happened.

Now he was trying to fix up Ryoga with Akari. She had a lot going for her; she was cute, spunky, and definitely seemed like the loyal type. On the other hand, she was obsessive enough to qualify as a Kuno and then some. There was no way to tell what could go wrong with the two of them together. Whatever it was, Ranma was sure that he'd get blamed for it, even if it wasn't his fault. Ryoga just wasn't the family type, that's all. The day he'd settle down and raise kids would be the day that pigs flew.

It had been so much easier before. In the old days, nothing Ranma did seemed to matter all that much. Things hardly ever changed, and when they did it wasn't usually because of anything he did. Now things he said and did suddenly mattered. He had to learn to be careful, and that was hard to do.

"We're here." Ranma knocked on the door. Moments later, it opened.

Akari came out onto her porch. She saw Ryoga and got a look in her eyes, like she was starving and Ryoga was the main course. Ranma recognized it as the look Shampoo used to give him. He decided it would be best to exit quietly.


"You're really pigging out, Ryoga-sama. Feeling good?" Akari asked.

"Are you kidding?" He had just spent hours being stuffed with tasty food by a beautiful, adoring woman. "I'm in hog heaven." He thought she'd appreciate the expression.

"Me too. Although..." Akari gave a naughty smile with a touch of embarrassment. "... I like you better as a pig than a hog, honey."

Ryoga didn't understand. "Er... is there a difference? Do you get better pork from one of them?" This seemed to embarrass her even more for some reason. "Anyway, everything was delicious. You'll make someone a great wife." The way she looked at him after he said that almost made his nose start bleeding. "Uh... that is to say..."

Akari took Ryoga's hand. "I have to come right out and say it. I want to be your wife, Ryoga-sama. I want to be the mother of your piglets."

"Akari, I... can't. I'm sorry."

Akari turned away dejectedly. "It's my fault. I guess I just had the wrong idea. That's okay."

"No! It's not you, it's me! Do you understand? Me!" Ryoga leaned over so that Akari would be looking at him. "Do you know why I haven't been to see you in so long?"

"I figured it was because you had somewhere better to go."

"No! It was because I couldn't find you! I have the world's worst sense of direction, Akari. I've been known to need days to get across the street. I was once lost for two days inside a grocery store!"

"Ryoga... you don't have to..."

"Akari, you're a wonderful person. I'd be happy to marry you if you'll have me. Really. But I won't raise any children. Not when I won't be able to be there for them when they need me."


The next morning, as if to prove his point, Ryoga was lost again.

He wasn't sure how it had happened. He hadn't even intended to leave the house. Akari was gone when he had gotten up from her guest bedroom. There was a note that said that she was taking care of some errand and would be back soon. Ryoga went looking for the bathroom, and before he knew it he was on the road again.

Fortunately, he hadn't gone too far yet, and he had Akari's phone number written down. All he had to do was find somewhere from which he could call.

For Ryoga, who had never had a woman really like him before, Akari was nothing short of miraculous. She seemed to be crazy about him. But that was also a little frightening. She put him up on a pedestal. What would happen when she discovered the person he really was? Would she accuse him of having deceived her? Would she be right?

At least he knew one thing, that Akari wasn't really Ranma in disguise. He could just imagine Akari taking off a wig and revealing his nemesis. Ha! You thought there was someone who loved you? You dope! He had been fooled that way too many times.

No, Ryoga had seen the two of them together more than once. Akari was real. The question now was what kind of disguise she saw him in, and how she would react when she saw who was really underneath.

Of course, the way Akari saw Ryoga probably wasn't much different than the way he saw Akane. In his mind he knew that he was idealizing her, but he couldn't stop from seeing her as a beautiful angel in his heart.

Then there was Ranma. He had been the one on whom Ryoga had blamed everything bad in his life. That seemed pretty pointless now. Akane was going to marry Ranma. That was settled. Beating up on him would only make her sad. No matter what he'd done, it was time to forget him and move on.

Ryoga walked up to the front door of a house. Hopefully they would let him call Akari and wait for her here. Strangely enough, though he spent a lot of time just walking, he rarely found himself using any of that time to think, as he just had. He ought to do it more often, he decided.

The door opened. Ryoga was greeted by a splash of water.


Akari walked through the temple, finding the room she had been directed to. "Excuse me... are you Priestess Kaede?"

"Yes. Please come in." She was an old woman in plain brown robes, with the trim body of a younger person. Her face was wrinkled, but her gaze firm. "How can I help you?"

"I have this... friend." Though the room looked ordinary enough, Akari entered with trepidation. She had heard stories of people who dabbled in mysticism and met terrible fates. Still, she had to do anything she could to help Ryoga. "I think he might be under a curse or something. They said you might be the one to help."

"I do know a little about the ancient ways. Not many people do these days. Sorcery is fast becoming a dying art. But you didn't come here to listen to an old woman ramble. Please, tell me about your friend."

"His name's Ryoga. He's the most wonderful man I've ever met. He's strong like a pig, brave like a pig, smart like..."

Kaede nodded, indicating that she got the idea. "I once knew a man who I felt like that about. A long time ago. Go on, please."

Akari sat down on the floor, feeling a bit more relaxed. "Ryoga even turns into an adorable little pig, because of some spring he fell in at a place in China called Jusenkyo."

"Interesting. I've heard stories of the cursed springs, but never met anyone who'd actually been transformed by one of them. A little pig, eh? To be honest, I'm not sure whether anything can be done. I'd need to do a little research to find out if there's any way to remove your friend's Jusenkyo curse."

"No! Er, I'm sorry, but that's not what I mean."

"Then what...."

"Ryoga has a problem with directions. According to what he said, he can't find his way anywhere without getting lost. Apparently it's hereditary."

"Hmm... it does sound like it might be a curse of some kind. Hereditary, you say? Mother's side, or father's?"

"Both. Do you think you can help?"

"Perhaps." Kaede moved back in her chair. "My particular school teaches that all physical objects are inhabited by spirits. Usually they can't be seen or otherwise perceived, but under the right conditions they can have noticeable effects. It may be that some such spirits haunting your friend's family line are responsible for his troubles. If that's the case, I might be able to exorcise them. I'll have to examine him. Then we'll see what can be done."

"Oh, thank you. I'll go back home and get him. He should be waiting there." I hope, she added mentally.


"What is it, Grandma?" the cute teenage girl asked, as Ryoga shook the water off his pig body.

"Goodness, it looks like some sort of animal," the little old woman said. "I'm afraid I hit it with my dishwater and got it wet. We ought to find out who owns it."

"Look at these old clothes it's wrapped in. Somebody left it here for us to, like, take care of. I've read these stories in school where people did that with babies."

"You'd better talk to your mother if you want to keep it, Keiko. And if the owner comes looking for it, you'll have to give it back. In the meantime, I'm going to go wash these clothes."

"'Kay, Grandma." Keiko scooped Ryoga up in her arms and took him into the house. "Now, what should I call you?"


"Hamlet. That's what I'm calling him. Get it?" Keiko spoke into the phone. From what Ryoga had been able to gather, some girlfriend of hers from school was on the other end. "It's like this play that we're reading in class next week."

Ryoga sat next to her as she scratched him behind the ear. It was deja vu. Same situation, different place. Maybe this was a second chance; another chance for the only kind of life he could have. Maybe he had just been kidding himself about being able to marry someone like Akari and being able to live as a man.

"Yoshi? I'm not going out with him any more. Not after the way he insulted me. That jerk better not come around here anymore. Not now that I've got my Hamlet to protect me." The girl giggled.

Ryoga could picture Yoshi in his mind. Why were so many men like that? How could anyone treat a lovely girl like Keiko so badly? Yes, he would be her protector. He'd make this Yoshi treat her with respect if he had to beat it into him.

Then he realized what he was thinking, the choice he was making. To be a man or to be a housepet. This was a road that he'd been down before, and if he went any farther he might not be able to return.

A second chance. That's exactly what it was.

Keiko hung up the phone in surprise as her pig bolted for the door and ran out of the room. He headed up the stairs and, miraculously, ended up in the bathroom. His small appendages turned the hot water faucet as the girl followed him into the room.

Keiko gaped at what she saw next. Ryoga stood in the bath, in human form, wearing only his bandanna, his hands held low.

"Er-- may I please use your phone?" he asked, unable to think of anything better to say. "And could I have my clothes back please?"


Ryoga sat behind Akari, riding on her champion sumo pig.

"I'm so glad you're all right," she said. "I was so worried when I got home and you weren't there."

"Akari, I want to marry you. But I need you to understand what you're getting into. Do you really want a husband who'll be gone most of the time because he can't find his own house?"

She beamed with a carefree smile. "It's not such a bad trade-off for a husband who's kind, and honest, and courageous, and..."

"Damn it, I'm not those things! At least not always!" This was it. Akari had to be told who she was marrying. "You don't know some of the things I've done!"

"I'm sure whatever you've done wasn't so bad."

"Oh yeah? How about masquerading as a girl's housepet? How's that for honesty and courageousness?"

"You already told me about Keiko."

Ryoga took a deep breath, trying to summon all the courage he had. "That's not what I'm talking about..."


Akari dismounted from the giant pig as it stopped at her front door. "So... you were Akane's pet P-chan?"

"Yeah." Ryoga slid off the pig, letting gravity carry him down until his feet hit the ground. He had told the whole story quickly, trying not to think about what Akari might think of him. Now he was about to find out.

Akari said nothing as she stared at Ryoga. Her eyes held nothing for him, no love, no recognition. She was seeing a stranger in his clothes.

"I guess... I'll be going now." He slung his pack over his shoulder, and started to trudge down the road.


Ryoga paused, tentatively turning his head back towards Akari.

"Okay. Maybe I haven't been seeing the real you. Maybe I'm like the man in the ancient Greek legend who sculpted a statue and fell in love with it. I created an image in my mind of a perfect man and tried to make you into it. That's not what you are. But I still think you're pretty special. I'd like to get to know the real Hibiki Ryoga."

Ryoga glanced behind him. The open road stretched out towards the horizon, beckoning him to follow. It offered no promises, no false hopes or chance of rejection. He could walk away from here and start over. A fresh beginning, with no Akane and no Akari.

But he was so tired of walking....

"Okay." He lowered his pack onto his lower arm. "I'll stay for a little while. Just until you want me to leave."

"That might be more than a little while, honey." She grinned as she took him by the hand and led him indoors.

"I didn't know you knew any ancient Greek mythology, Akari."

"Well, I don't know too much. But that story's one I always liked. Pig-malion."


Ranma and Akane paused in their training session as Kasumi entered the dojo. "We have some visitors!" she said brightly, as Ryoga and Akari stepped in behind her. It had been two weeks since they had been seen.

Akari's face shone with a Kasumi-like smile. "Ranma! Akane! We have wonderful news! We're getting married!"

"That's great!" Akane exclaimed. "I'm happy for the two of you!"

"Ranma, we want you to be the bridesmaid." Ryoga laughed. "Just kidding, it's going to be a Shinto wedding. But we'd like both of you to come."

"Wouldn't miss it, buddy," Ranma said. Ryoga was acting friendly toward him for a change; he hoped it would stay that way.

"We've got another surprise for you, Akane," Akari said. "Close your eyes."

Akane did so, and Akari placed something small and black in her outstretched arms. "P-Chan!" she cried as she opened her eyes. "How-- how did you find him?!"

"It wasn't easy," Ryoga said.

It was pretty obvious to Ranma what they had really done. They found a real pig that looked like Ryoga's cursed form. He could tell from its expression and the way it moved that it was a real animal.

As Akane looked more closely at the pig cradled in her arms, a sudden trace of disappointment came over her face. It disappeared as quickly as it had come. "This is so sweet of you two. Even if it's not
really my P-chan."

"Not... what?" Ryoga stammered.

"You know how much time I've spent with P-chan. Don't you think I can recognize him when I'm looking right at him?"

Ryoga paused for a moment, then gave a loud nervous laugh.

Ranma remembered a time when he had suspected that Akane had known the truth about P-chan all along. He dismissed the thought now, just as he had back then. It didn't really matter anyway.

"Giving me this new pet was a lovely thing to do, Ryoga." Akane kissed him on the cheek. "I'll love my new pet and look after him like the old one. Better, I hope. I'll try to make sure I don't let this one wander off and get lost. I just hope the old P-chan will be all right. It's sad, you know. Like this little, vulnerable creature was depending on me and I failed him. I hope that he found a new home. A good home where he'll get what he needs."

"He did, Akane." Ryoga glanced quickly at Akari, and smiled. "I'm sure of it."

"I guess we should be going." Akari took Ryoga by the arm. "I'm trying to scrape up enough money so that we can honeymoon in Hawaii. I've got an uncle who's really crazy about the place, and he says he can get us cheap tickets. I'm sorry for trying to fool you, Akane, and I'm so glad you like your new pet."

"Catch ya later, Akari." Ranma shook her hand and grinned. "I guess you're really happy now that you've found your perfect man."

"Not perfect." Akari smiled back at Ryoga. "But that's okay."

The couple exited, leaving Ranma and Akane to continue their training session. They had barely time to strike combat stances when Genma and Soun burst in.

Soun raised a kettle over the piglet. "I'm sorry you had to see this, Akane, but enough is enough."

Steaming water trickled down onto the pig. It sounded an irritated "bwee" and shook itself.

"Dad! Stop it! What am I supposed to be seeing, anyway?"

"Er... uh...." Soun grinned feebly. "The importance of good pet hygiene!"

Ranma chuckled a bit, thinking about Ryoga. So he was finally settling down to a stable family life. Maybe pigs did fly after all.

Of course, he might still have a few problems to solve....


Akari knocked lightly on the door to her guest room. It was the morning of her wedding day, the last day that Ryoga would have to sleep in that room. She shook with nervous excitement, like a schoolgirl.

The past few weeks with Ryoga had been the most wonderful time of her life. Finding out about his secret life as P-chan, once she had understood why he had done it, only made her feel closer to him. He was a strong man, but he had his weaknesses. Maybe he would need her more because of them.

"Ryoga?" she called. "Are you awake, honey?" Akari was still a bit sleepy herself. She had just gotten up from a few hours sleep, after having stayed awake with Priestess Kaede much of the previous night. But if the little surprise they had come up with did what it was supposed to.... "I want to give you my wedding present."

Akari thought back to her conversation with Kaede the previous night.

"I've examined your fiance's aura," the aged priestess said. "I don't know if I can do anything to help him. It could indeed be a family curse that causes his problems with directions, but if it is then it's so tightly embedded into his self that I don't think I can remove it."

Akari sighed in resigned disappointment. Ryoga had seemed happy with her the past few days, but he had had to stay inside the house most of the time, with her keeping a close watch on him every time he had gone outdoors. As long as Ryoga had his problem with directions, she would have to treat him like the housepet he had pretended to be for Akane. That wasn't the kind of married life Akari had dreamed of, though she would put up with it if she had to.

"Tell me," Kaede continued, "does Ryoga harbor a lot of negative emotions? Hate, anger, that sort of thing?"

"Well, I'm not sure...." Akari still didn't want to think about her fiance's possible faults. Maybe that meant she was buying a pig in a poke, but that was her chance to take. "I guess I have heard him talk that way about Ranma sometimes."

"I suspected so. Those kinds of emotions can be an anchor for curse spirits. Perhaps in the future if Ryoga lets go of some of his anger, his problem might be curable, but I don't think it is now."

"So there's nothing we can do?"

"I didn't say that, young lady. There is a way you might be able to help. It may be dangerous. It involves extracting a small piece of your own essence, and bonding it to something your fiance carries. Are you willing to give up part of yourself for Ryoga?"

Akari smiled. "I already have."

Back in the present, Akari's reverie was interrupted as Ryoga's head popped out through the guest bedroom door.

"Er... good morning!" he said sleepily. "Is it time to get ready for the ceremony?"

"Almost. I brought you a gift, dear." She held out a small wrapped box, about the size one might use for a necktie or handkerchief.

Ryoga tore open the wrapping and pulled out a bandanna. "Um... isn't this..." He felt his forehead and found it bare. "Isn't this my bandanna? The same one I always wear?"

Akari just smiled, nodded yes, and giggled coyly. Ryoga stood confused for several moments, then started laughing. He obviously didn't understand what was going on. Soon he would.


Ryoga came out of the guest room, dressed in the formal wedding kimono that they had obtained for the occasion. He still wore the bandanna, as Akari had insisted he do. To his surprise, he saw neither her nor anyone else in the house.

He saw a note on the table: "Ryoga-sama: We've set up outside, in the area just behind the house. Join us as soon as you're dressed. Love, Akari."

"Nooo!" Ryoga cried. Why would she do such a thing? She had to know that he'd never be able to get there with his sense of direction! Was this her way of getting rid of him? Maybe she really didn't want to marry him at all, and everything she did had just been a joke.

Or maybe it was a test. A test to see whether he was really worthy of being her husband. That made sense. Okay, he thought, he would try. He would step outside and find his way to the wedding party!

About ten minutes later, Ryoga could see neither the wedding party, nor the house, nor anything that looked like any part of Akari's pig farm.

He stopped and sat at the side of the road, just as he had done as a child so many years ago. He closed his eyes and hung his head in frustration, ready to cry, or to lash out with a shishi hokodan. If he was being tested, he had unquestionably failed. Whom had he been kidding? Someone like him could never lead a normal life.

Abruptly, Ryoga felt some sort of strange sensation prickling at the corners of his mind. There was something there that he couldn't see, couldn't focus on. It was a feeling vaguely similar to his breaking point technique; an awareness beyond the senses.

He kept his eyes shut and tried to concentrate on it. It was a brilliant white light that shone through the bandanna that he wore, emanating from a point some distance away in a particular direction. A direction! He could follow the light and it would lead him somewhere!

Ryoga walked briskly along over rolling hills. His pace picked up as he sensed that he was getting closer to whatever it was. It was just over the next ridge. He could hear voices coming from there.

"It's a great wedding, ain't it. All it needs is a groom, and someone to officiate. Ryoga's probably halfway to Sapporo by now."

"Ranma! Couldn't you have just a little sensitivity?!"

"It's all right, Akane. He's actually quite near. He should be here right about...."

Ryoga looked to see his wedding entourage. They looked surprised to see him, all except for his bride-to-be, who just smiled at him. "Like your present, darling?"

"Present?" The bandanna. More than just a bandanna. It was a home. It was a future, a life filled with more than just aimless wandering.

"It's beautiful." Ryoga gazed at Akari. She wasn't the woman whose name sounded a little like hers, the one who he had adored for many months. It didn't matter. In her own way, she was every bit as wonderful. "Really beautiful."


Priestess Kaede walked up. "Sorry I'm late. A man and a woman stopped me just over the last hill, asking me how to get to Tokyo. They were pretty confused, but I think I straightened them out. Shall we begin the ceremony?"

Ryoga's eyes widened in amazement. "A man and a woman? Asking for directions?"

"Yes, they looked to be in their forties or fifties."

It couldn't be, Ryoga thought. He leapt up toward the direction from which Kaede had come, running over hills and valleys. It took only moments before he spotted them.

The couple turned. "Ryoga?"

"Mom? Dad?!"

That's how the Hibiki sense of direction worked. Or maybe it was just fate.


The pig trudged down the road, toward the Tendo dojo, with Ryoga, Akari, and Yoiko on board. "Wheee!!!" Yoiko shouted. She always loved riding on Katsunishiki.

Ryoga leaned over toward his daughter. "Yoiko-chan, I'm counting on you to look after your Mommy while I'm gone."

"'Kay, Daddy." Yoiko tweaked her father's nose.

Akari picked up the little girl into her arms. "Your Daddy will be back, honey. As soon as he helps his friends, he'll come straight back to us."

Ryoga smiled. He'd be able to come back to his family. That was the most beautiful thing about the gift.


STORY NOTES: The version of Shinto portrayed here is not meant to represent "real" Shinto (by which I mean anyone's real beliefs about Shinto). It is simply something which works for this story, and fits more or less into Ranmaverse lore.

Kuroshiro is the mother of Shirokuro, the dog who is seen in the Ranma manga.

Kaede the priestess is (sort of) based on a character of the same name from Inu-Yasha. We'll get to know her better as this series progresses.