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.


To: Gosunkugi Hikaru
From: Personnel Dept.

Dear Mr. Gosunkugi:

We have reviewed your application for employment with the Korogashi corporation. We are pleased to extend to you an invitation for an interview. Please call or E-mail at your earliest convenience to schedule an appointment. We look forward to meeting with you.

Gosunkugi Hikaru saved the message on his computer with the others. The hard drive on his computer was nearly full; he made a note to clear out some old messages before checking mail again.

Being good at computers was paying off. He already had interview requests from Inchiki and Choromakasu, with Kapparau yet to be heard from. After years of being mostly ignored everywhere, these companies were actively pursuing him to work for them. He could still barely believe it.

True, his parents always seemed happy to see him every time he went home for break. But somehow that didn't count. People who were related to you had a built-in obligation to put up with you.

The steady hum of the microwave ended with the ring of the bell. Hikaru stepped across the cramped one-room apartment and removed the TV dinner from the oven, cautiously inspecting the steaming food items. The potatoes felt a bit rubbery and the corn was brownish-colored, but all in all it would be okay with some salt and pepper for flavor. It was a change from instant ramen, anyway.

He carried the dinner over to the computer and began forcing it down. If he took a job with Korogashi, or one of the other companies, he'd be able to afford better food. He'd have a decent-sized apartment in a good neighborhood, a state-of-the-art computer to replace his old, obsolete 99 GHz Quintuple Pentium, and maybe even his own car.

So why was he thinking of throwing it all away?

He'd recently heard that Shan Pu was on her way back from China. She and Kuno were asking Akane, Ranma, and the others to go to her village to protect them from some threat. Hikaru hadn't been able to find out what they were worried about, only that it was something dangerous enough that they might not all survive.

Hikaru knew that his parents didn't want him to have anything to do with Ranma, though they had never said so directly. People get hurt, even killed, in martial arts battles, his mother had told him when he was in high school. Be careful around these sorts of people. After all, you only have one life.

It was a different world that Ranma and the others lived in, where a different set of rules applied. Hikaru had some small tastes of that world back in high school, but he had never really been a part of it.



Gosunkugi Hikaru walked out of the building. A dim haze covered the late afternoon sky. The greens of summer were gone, replaced by the dull brown of dead autumn leaves and the gray of lifeless trees.

Hikaru couldn't remember what the lecture he had just heard had been about. Everything tended to blend together in his mind. It was the second month of his freshman year at Ikasama, and already he was tired of the dull routine, of going to the same rooms at the same times every week, listening to the same people.

There were some pretty girls in his classes, but he never got to meet any of them. They always seemed to be looking away from him, as if they were frightened of him, as if seeing him would be a terrible thing. Maybe to them it was; it meant running the risk of getting to know him, even ending up friends.

No, that didn't seem like it was going to happen. Hikaru had been at Ikasama University for over a month now, and still hadn't met anyone there.

The only people he knew there were Akane and Ranma, and they probably didn't even know that he had ended up at the same school that they had. During his first two weeks he'd taken photos of Akane every day with a telephoto lens. She was his goddess, and this was his way of worshipping. He quit after two weeks because he was afraid she would see him. After that it was Ranma who he followed around with his camera, in hopes of catching him with another woman.

No, no one at the Ikasama knew Hikaru.

"Excuse me, but aren't you from Furinkan?"

He turned. "Uh, yes. My n-name's Gosunkugi Hikaru." He recognized the woman. "You're... you're Akane's friend, aren't you? Sayuka?"

She laughed politely and smiled. "It's just Yuka." Her smile was nearly as cute as Akane's. "It's so nice to see someone else from Furinkan at this university. It's like having an automatic friend."

"Uh, yeah." What did she mean by that? Did it mean that she liked him? "I know what you mean." Was that a good thing to say?

"I'm headed over to my apartment. Want to walk with me?"

"Sure! It- it's on the way!" Stupid! She didn't even say where it was yet!

"Great!" Yuka walked toward the path to the north campus. Hikaru followed. "Did you know that Akane and Ranma go to this university too?"

"Uh, yeah. I heard that they were here."

"How do you like your classes so far, Hikaru?"

"Uh, fine. They're fairly easy." Did that sound like bragging? "Some of them, I mean."

"I have some hard ones. I really get tired by the end of the week. I don't know how Akane keeps up, in her condition."

"Akane? She- she's sick?"

Yuka giggled. "She's having a baby."

"Baby? You- you mean pregnant?" It was a holy event; his goddess giving birth. But Akane pregnant meant... "That- that means Ranma.."

"... is going to be a father!"

Hikaru felt sickened. It was like something out of a horror movie. The Goddess defiled, made to bear a demon-child.

The two arrived at a tall building. Yuka opened the door. A man sat at a desk just inside. "Residents and guests only, ma'am," he said.

"My name is Yuka. I live on the second floor." She showed an ID card.

"Yes, I think I've seen you before." He motioned for her to go in.

Hikaru read the sign near the entrance: Married Student Housing. "You live... here?!"

"That's right." Yuka nodded. "Akane and Ranma do, too. Want to come in? We could sit in the lounge and talk over old times a little while."

"Uh, no. I have, uh, some work to do. See you later!" Hikaru waved back half-heartedly as he walked back toward the other side of campus. Why? Why did she have to be married? Why did this always happen to him?


Ah... life is good, Yuka thought as the tea warmed her from inside.

She took the steaming cup in hand and walked to the bathroom. A short relaxing soak in the tub would be the next step in her nightly routine. It was always something she looked forward to during the day. Still, she would have happily put it off to talk to Hikaru for a little while. She wondered why he had run off so suddenly.

With the bath water running, Yuka headed toward the bedroom for some clean clothes. She was so lucky to get this apartment when they decided to make the extra ones available to single students. It was a much better bargain than anything else available, and Ranma and Akane were in the same building.

Soon Akane would have a child of her own. Yuka felt almost guilty. She always got to have fun with the kids in the building, but didn't have to do the dirty work of taking care of them or making them behave.

She opened her underwear drawer. It was empty.


Hikaru made a mental note to go shopping for more instant ramen. Later. For now, his hunger wouldn't wait; he'd have to blow the rest of his weekly budget on some take-out Chinese food. Maybe he'd get a wrong number and Akane would come out of the mirror to offer him a wish. But probably not. This was real life, not some anime.

It just wasn't fair. Yuka's husband was probably a loudmouthed show-off jerk like Saotome. He probably insulted her, argued with her, maybe even played around with other girls. And Hikaru, who would never do any of those things, couldn't even meet any single women.

He looked into the mirror. A scrawny boy stared out at him through small-pupilled baggy eyes. A face only a mother could love, as the saying went. Was there anyone anywhere who looked less appealing?

Faint noises rustled from a dim corner of the room.

"Who- who's there?" Hikaru called. "Show yourself!"

"Here I am, boy." A figure stepped into view. The old man stood less than a meter tall, covered in wrinkles and capped with balding white hair. "No need for a fuss!"

"Who are you? What do you want?"

"Name's Happosai. And I've been watching you." The old man gestured with a smoking pipe as he spoke, somewhat like one of Hikaru's professors. "I think we ought to have a little talk." A piece of cloth fell out of his robes.

"W-What's that?" Hikaru asked.

"That? Oh, nothing." He picked up the object; it was a pair of women's underpants. "Just a little something I, er, found."

"What did you... want to talk about?"

"I was once a lad of your age myself. You may not believe this, but as a youth I was short, scrawny, with no money or social status-- the kind of guy who pretty ladies would never give a second look to."

"Why wouldn't I believe..."

"So I studied martial arts. Get their attention, I figured. it took years and years of training, but eventually I got to the point where they couldn't ignore me."

"What- what's that got to do with me?"

"I've been watching you. Something about you reminds me of myself, all those years ago."

"Um..." Hikaru didn't know whether or not he was being insulted. "... so?"

"Listen!" Happosai suddenly jumped up onto a table. "I'm a martial arts master. Also an old man. I won't be around forever. My previous two students turned out to be worthless ingrates; and their children are even worse. I need someone I can pass my secret techniques on to. Whaddaya say?"

"M-me? But-- but I'm no good at fighting!"

"Doesn't matter. Some of the best techniques are spiritual, not physical. I can teach you. Of course, it won't be easy. You'll have to work hard, and do exactly what I say."

"I..." Alarms went off in Hikaru's head. The old man was trying to deceive him, he had to be. "I don't..."

"Fine then." Happosai jumped off the table and began pacing the room with his head lowered. "You just go back to your quiet, peaceful life of boredom. But while you're here in your dingy little room, just think about what people like Ranma and Akane might be doing."

"Hey!" Hikaru abruptly rose to his feet. "Leave Akane out of this!"

"You like Akane, do you? Ever spend your time just thinking about what it would be like to be close to her? Those lips, those legs, those huge...."

"Stop it!" Hikaru yelled, wondering if the old man had been reading his mind. "Just shut up!"

Happosai bapped Hikaru on the forehead with his pipe. "Show some respect, boy. So you do like Akane. Think a girl like her would ever notice an insignificant little peon like you?"

"I am not an insignificant little peon! Take- take that back, or... or..."

"Or what? Talk is cheap! If you can't back up what you say, why should anyone listen to you?"

"All right!" Hikaru threw up his hands in resignation. "I'll try your training! But only for a little while!"

"Thought you might see it my way. Let's get started!" Happosai abruptly made a ninety-degree turn. "On second thought, let's see what's in the fridge first." He bounded over to the small refrigerator unit and
peered inside.

This was a mistake, Hikaru thought. But he was desperate. The old man was right, he was a peon. If there was any way he could change that, he had to try it.

The thought of Ranma and Akane... together.... It made his stomach turn to imagine some of the things they might be saying to each other right at the moment....


"Oh Ranma! It's so big...will it fit?"

"Hey, no sweat, Akane. Just move your end down a little." Ranma pulled the refrigerator in through the doorway towards the kitchen, as Akane followed behind holding up the other side.

"Well, it will be nice not having to go shopping so often."

"Yup!" Now if only Akane would learn to cook, Ranma thought. She had improved a lot since the old days, but her food was still only at the level of tolerable. Not that his was all that much better.

Yuka followed them into the kitchen. "Akane, is it safe to be lifting in your condition?"

"Don't worry about it," Akane said. Ranma knew that he'd have probably gotten slugged if he had said something like that. At least he'd managed to stop himself every time he was about to make a joke about her losing her figure. She was sensitive enough about that already; he didn't need to make it worse. Besides, he had heard about "karma" in his philosophy class, and didn't want this kind of thing to rebound back onto him.

"How's your poem for creative writing class coming along, Ranma?" Yuka asked as she plugged the refrigerator's power cord into the socket.

"Still haven't found a good rhyme for 'nostril'. I'm gonna read the school paper for a while." Ranma plopped down on the couch. "Maybe it'll give me an idea or somethin'."

"Ranma, have you forgotten? Yuka needs us to help her!"

Ranma kept his nose buried in the paper. "Oh yeah, her underwear. Look, we all know who took it. The old fart must've followed us to this school. There ain't much we can do except to keep an eye out and grab him when we see him. Hey! The paper says our Chancellor's retiring at the end of the year."

"I don't want to wait! I want to do something about Happosai now! When we came here, I thought we'd gotten away from his sort of craziness. Besides, it's not fair to Yuka that she should be involved."

"Akane, don't worry. I'll go buy some new underwear."

"That's not the point! You shouldn't have to. When I get my hands on Happosai...."

"Chill out, Akane. If there was anything we could do about it right now, we'd be doin' it. Hmm, the new computer center in the engineering building opens next Monday."

"We need some way to figure out where Happosai's going to strike next. Then I'll teach him to pick on defenseless young women."

"He already knows how to do that. Whoa! Some nightclub near campus is having a 'lingerie night' every Saturday! The university administration is trying to get it closed down."

Akane turned toward Ranma. "That's it!"

"That's what?" Ranma lowered the paper. "It's a thing where women get up and the audience cheers for the best dressed one. Meaning the least dressed. The one who gets the most cheers gets a prize." He noticed Akane eyeing him dubiously. "Um, that's what I heard, anyway. Hey, it's not like you'd let me go somewhere like that."

"Not let you go?" A wicked gleam formed in Akane's eye. "Of course I'll let you go, Ranma! After all, to catch Happosai we're going to need some really attractive bait!"

"You mean... no way! I ain't doing it! Get someone else!"

Yuka laughed. "I'm afraid I don't have the body for it."

"Neither do I. Not these days, anyway." Akane stared at Ranma. "You just said that if there were anything you could do about Happosai..."

Ranma sighed to himself in resignation. Why me?


"Did you get them?" Happosai sat idly on the chair, like a king on his throne, eating all of Hikaru's snack food.

"Yes!" Hikaru threw down a cloth sack. It fell open enough for a few bras and panties to peek out. "I almost got caught when I lost my concentration. Fortunately I got away before she got a good look at me... I think."

"Obviously you haven't yet mastered How Not To Be Seen after a week. This calls for more practice. Tomorrow, you'll go over to...."

"No! I'm not stealing any more of these, er, things for you. I This wasn't what I wanted anyway. I hate this technique! I keep having nightmares about not being able to turn it off. I want to be seen!"

"Young people are so impatient. You've got to do what comes from inside, understand? That's the only thing that'll work! It's the same for all of us. You don't see me doing any Love Flower Power Strikes, do you?"

Hikaru couldn't find a reply as he thought this over. Maybe it was true. Maybe training could only make him more of what he already was. It was a depressing thought.

"Look, tell you what." The old man looked Hikaru in the eye. "You want to learn something flashy? I'll teach you a little thing called the Happodaikarin. It's one of my favorite ki attacks. Ranma will never be able to learn it, but I think you can."

"Uh... what's a ki attack?"

"Ki is the power of the soul, or spirit, that we all have inside us. Ki attacks use strong emotions to focus this power into destructive energy. Ranma uses a ki attack based on his self-confidence. That's a relatively common one. Others use different emotions, like hate."

"What emotion does this attack use?"


"Um... horniness is an emotion?"

"Yes!" Happosai struck Hikaru with his pipe again. "A perfectly fine one! One that oh-so-high-and-mighty Saotome Ranma would never admit to. He's always got hordes of gorgeous women chasing him, but does he ever show any interest in them? No. Now are you ready to try it?"

Hikaru nodded as he nursed his new bruise. It sounded too good to be true, again. Something would surely go wrong, but he had to try it. He had to try anything that might help him show the world what a jerk that Saotome was. He only hoped his head would stop hurting before they started.


Akane's head hurt already as she entered the club. The smoky air made her tightly close her mouth and take small breaths through her scrunched-up nose. The deafening music felt like a heavy mallet hitting her over and over between the ears. How could the people talk to each other? Yet they still seemed to manage it.

She found Ranma on one side of the room. He was in his female form, wearing a high-cut, clingy silk dress that would've been at home on Shampoo. His hair hung loose down his back.

He waved. "Hi, Akane!"

"Any sign of him yet?" she shouted at the top of her lungs.

"Who?" she barely heard him reply.

Akane was about to scream when she motioned Ranma toward the women's bathroom instead. There the noise reduced to the level of mere unpleasantness.

"Hey, Akane, check this out!" Ranma opened a bag; inside was a silky black negligee. "Himiko beat me last week, so tonight I'm gonna wear this and win for sure!"

"I don't believe you! Don't you have any modesty? Aren't you embarrassed to have all those drunken boys leering at your body?"

"Um... I dunno. Anyway, this ain't my body. Not really. I'm a guy! It's just... it's good knowing that these people like me. It's an ego boost, ya know?"

Akane just rolled her eyes. Her husband was the last person on Earth who needed an ego boost. Then she had a nasty idea. "Don't tell me...." She tried to suppress a smile. "Don't tell me you like wearing things like this, Ranma."

"No way! Don't be stupid. I told ya, it just makes me feel good. People say things like 'Liang is the hottest babe in the city!'"


"Yeah. I'm using a Chinese name. A lot of people cheer for me because they think Chinese girls are easy."

"Let's hope none of them tries to put that to the test."

"Hey, I can take care of myself! Nobody here better try that stuff with me, or I'll...."

The door opened. A woman entered, one whom Akane recognized instantly. She stood tall, elegant, with an air of superiority, and, as if the rest weren't distinctive enough, pale white hair and skin.

"Ms. Liang? I'm Saginomiya Asuka, the owner of this club."

"Uh, a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

"Likewise. They tell me you've been coming here every week, and that you're pretty popular with the boys. I was wondering if you might be interested in working here regularly?"

"Uh, I don't know, I'll have to check with my wi -- with, how you say, my airen."

Akane stood, fists clenching. She remembered how she and Ranma had met Asuka years ago. Asuka had been in a rivalry with Kodachi over who had the best boyfriend.

"Let me know, then. I need to get back to work now. Come upstairs to my office and talk to me when you reach a decision, all right?" Asuka turned and opened the door without waiting for an answer.

Akane's eyes met with Asuka's for an instant. Does she remember me?

Asuka glared at Akane. "I take it you've never seen an albino before?"

Akane mouthed off some random Chinese syllables. "Zhei ju hua meiyou shenme yisi. Fanyi zhi hui langfei shijian."

"This my friend. She only speak Chinese," Ranma said.

"I'd appreciate it if you'd ask her not to come to this club. Nothing personal, but the people out there have to be kept in a certain mood so that they'll spend their money. A pregnant woman might be the wrong image to be sending them." Asuka strode out the door.

"Ranma, be careful around her," Akane said. "She's even crazier than Kodachi."

"Don't worry, like I said I can take care of myself. And I ain't forgotten about the old freak either. He ain't shown up here yet, but it's gotta be only a matter of time. You think you'll be safe at home? He might go there instead."

"Don't worry, I've set up a special surprise for Happosai if he comes to our apartment. Still... I wonder what he's been up to lately."


The quiet calm of the chilly evening air was interrupted as a sudden explosion shook the sky. The air lit up in a flash of orange and red.

"Yeah!" Hikaru shouted as he leapt into the air. "I did it! I did it!" At that moment he felt as if he could take on Ranma right then and there, and beat him.

Then he came down, landing painfully on his rear end.

"Time enough to celebrate later, boy," Happosai said. "There's work to be done. You've learned the Happodaikarin; now you need some field experience in its use. And give me back the magazine that you used for... inspiration. You can go buy your own."

Hikaru dragged himself off the ground and stood up. "What kind of... experience?"

"Oh, I don't know. We'll go someplace where we can avail ourselves of some pretty underthings that've been worn by nubile young woman, and maybe let them enjoy our attentions a bit."

"I... I, uh, don't know any places like that."

"Do I have to think of everything? Here." Happosai petulantly threw down a piece of paper.

Hikaru read. "'Lingerie night every Saturday?' This is where you want to train?"

"It's not much, but it'll have to do. Be there next Saturday and wait."


"It's that time you've all been waiting for!" a voice blared over the speaker system." The lingerie contest is about to begin! Will all contestants please move over to the stage!" A flood of cheering drowned out the announcer.

Hikaru sat in the corner. A ski mask covered his face. The How Not To Be Seen technique kept anyone from noticing that he was there, but he would still show up on photographs, and he didn't want to take any chances on being recognized.

He began slowly building a Happodaikarin between his hands, just as he had done before, as he watched the crowd.

Women in various stages of undress started assembling on the stage as the crowd cheered. One particularly well-built one waved to the crowd and smiled, drawing chants of "Liang! Liang!"

Nearby, two drunken-looking women started to drag a third toward the stage. "C'mon, Usunoko!" one of them said. "It'll be fun! And you get a free drink out of it!" Usunoko was genuinely pretty, with a touch of innocence in her face. What a waste, Hikaru thought.

Strangely, Hikaru didn't find himself compelled to stare, as he often did at pretty women on campus. He felt more disgusted than anything else; disgusted that all of these girls would bare themselves for a free drink and maybe some money; that the Almighty Yen was more appealing to them than he could ever be.

He imagined what it would be like if a girl like Liang really loved him... her in that negligee, snuggling close to him affectionately as they kissed....

But that wasn't going to happen. Girls like her didn't notice him even when he wasn't using his technique to remain unseen. He was going to end up like Happosai, only able to get women's attention by stealing their underwear.

Hikaru looked at the Happodaikarin in his hands. It had grown to the size of a beach ball.

"Aaaaa!" he cried. It was about to explode and kill him!

Desperately, he drop-kicked the bomb up toward the ceiling.

Liang turned toward him. "Huh?" she shouted, loud enough to be heard through the noise of the club. Hikaru had obviously lost concentration on his technique. "What the heck are...."

"Hi there, sweetie!" Happosai suddenly appeared on stage, grabbing onto Liang and fondling her breasts. The cheers of the audience changed to startled gasps.

"Get offa me!" Liang expertly grabbed Happosai by the torso and smashed him into the stage.

Happosai looked up. "Ranma?"

Suddenly, there was an explosion from above.

The walls started to shake. The crowd stampeded for the door with desperate shouts of "Help!" and "Let's get out of here!" Hikaru flattened himself against a wall and wished desperately that he were somewhere else.

The roof collapsed. Hikaru shielded his head under folded arms as a rain of debris came down.

Then it was over. He pushed away the rubble around him and found that he could stand up.

From nearby, he heard a moan. He looked to see the girl -- Usunoko, they had called her -- digging herself out of the rubble. He staggered over to try to help her.

Usunoko looked at Hikaru, and her eyes recoiled in fear. She backed away from him, slowly at first, then running.

And this wasn't what he wanted. Not at all.

Suddenly, Liang burst out of the debris on the other side of Hikaru. There was another woman with her, with white hair and white skin.

Liang turned and noticed Hikaru. "You stupid jerk! You coulda killed somebody!"

It was Ranma's girl-voice. Liang was Ranma! Hikaru remembered some of the things he had imagined doing with her... him, and felt like vomiting.

Ranma paused to catch a breath. "Want a fight? Come on then!"

Hikaru didn't like Ranma, but he had to admire his courage. He was obviously tired from having the building collapse on him and digging out of the rubble, and he was in his weaker girl form. Even so, he had no hesitation about taking on someone who was a complete unknown to him.

Hikaru turned and ran.

He raced away as fast as his legs would go, Ranma's shouts of "Hey! Come back here!" receding into the distance. He stopped and slumped against a building, gasping for breath, heart pounding.

Ranma was obviously not following. Still, Hikaru admired his courage. He couldn't say much for his own.

He threw the ski mask in a trash can. He was through with Happosai, with ki-blasts and anything else like that.


I oughtta just go home, Ranma thought.

He fidgeted in his chair, glancing around the room, looking one way and then quickly switching to another. No one seemed to be paying any attention to him. The other people just sat there, some of them talking to each other. One woman was arguing with the reception nurse. Ranma couldn't quite figure out what she was upset about, but she seemed to be going on forever.

It probably wasn't a good idea for him to be hanging around, he told himself again. Going home would have been the smart thing. But Asuka getting hurt was probably his fault. He was Saotome Ranma, the human magnet for jerks and nut-cases. Happosai and the guy in the mask probably wouldn't have been there if not for him. So he had to stay just long enough to make sure that Asuka would be all right.

A small narrow-eyed man in a doctor's coat came out. He scanned the room, as if looking for someone. He turned to Ranma. "Excuse me, sir, did you notice where the woman who was sitting here went?"

"Uh..." Ranma had used the hospital's bathroom to change back into his male form and his usual clothes while he was waiting; he had even fixed his hair back into its trademark pigtail. It was no wonder the doctor didn't know he was the same person. "She had to leave. Is Asuka gonna be all right, Doc?"

"She's had a few bruises, but she'll be fine."

Ranma breathed a sigh of relief. He could leave now.

"She'll be out in a moment. Then you can escort her back home."

"Um..." Oh great, Ranma thought, remembering how crazy Asuka had acted the first time he had met her. But there really wasn't any way he could back out of it. "Sure, right." He'd take her home, and then he'd go. She probably wouldn't even recognize him.


"Of course I recognized you." Asuka passed a cup of tea across her dining table to Ranma. "I'm pleased that we've finally met again after all this time."

Ranma studied her face, trying to figure out what her next move was going to be. He was afraid she'd start laughing Kodachi-style and throwing bombs at him or something. But her expression just stayed aloof, superior, like it had been at the club.

"Allow me to apologize for my ill-mannered behavior the first time we met. Ms. Kuno and I do take our rivalry quite seriously. I'm afraid we sometimes get... carried away."

"Uh, don't worry about it, a lot of people I know are like that." Ranma drank. Her tea set was engraved, silver probably; expensive-looking, just like everything else in her house. He wondered what it was like to have so much money that you bought stuff like this just to show off.

Asuka abruptly looked him directly in the eyes. "May I ask you one question, Ranma? You don't have to answer if you'd rather not, but.... You and Kodachi, were you ever... very close?"

"You mean..." Ranma felt revulsion at the thought. "... with a psycho chick like that?! Are you crazy?"

"So you... didn't?"

"Let's put it this way. If there's anybody who did, he probably didn't live to talk about it." Ranma pulled his chair back and started to get up. "Look, I gotta be going. Really. Thanks for the tea and all but...."

Asuka didn't say anything. She just stared at Ranma, as if waiting for something to happen.

"Whud glog onil..." Ranma's reality began to fade into a fuzzy haze.

"Sorry, Ranma." Asuka's voice dimly penetrated Ranma's dying awareness. "But as I told you, I do take my rivalry quite seriously."


"You're home now, Ranma. This is your home."

Asuka led the blank-eyed Ranma through the corridors of her mansion. Thanks to her little concoction, he was accepting whatever suggestions she gave him. He really believed that he was in his own apartment.

She had used a synthetic drug of her own devising, modeled to emulate the effects of sodium pentothal. The dosage had to be precisely determined so as not to impair his... vital functions... too much. Kodachi certainly couldn't have managed it.

Asuka opened a door and led Ranma into the room. "This is your bed. Your nice, warm bed. Lie down in it."

Ranma sighed contentedly as he did what as was told. Then he lifted his head. "Akane..."

"Shh... it's okay..." Asuka slipped into bed next to him, gently caressing his chest as she began to unbutton his shirt. "It's okay. Akane's here."


Gosunkugi Hikaru stood on the lawn as he stared at the dimly-moonlit house, looking from window to window for any sign of activity.

Ranma was inside. Hikaru had seen him walking with that woman, followed them here, and watched them go in the house. He didn't know for sure why they had come here, but he could make a pretty educated guess.

A light came on in one of the upper windows. Hikaru ran around the estate, trying to find a vantage point from which he could see into the window. He caught a glimpse of someone's head, just before the curtains swung shut, their opening narrowing to a crack.

Hikaru looked around. A tree near the window looked like it might be climbable. He would have to try. It was the best chance he had.

He scrambled as high up as he could go. Stretching his right arm as far as it would go, he managed to grab a handhold above. He hung on as the tree wobbled precariously.

It was no good. Even if he did manage to grab on with both hands, he knew that his scrawny arms wouldn't be strong enough to pull himself up to the window. Any moment now he would lose his grip on the tree and crash down to the ground below. Another failure, just like the disaster that he had caused at the club. Gosunkugi Hikaru, the human catastrophe.

But he had to try something. This wasn't about him. It was about Akane. She deserved better than to have to put up with Saotome's unfaithfulness.

Hikaru took the tape recorder from his pocket. Straining to the limit, he planted the recorder's audio pick-ups as far up on the wall as he could, and slipped his headphones on to listen.

Sounds came through the headphones. Hikaru increased the volume to hear two voices, one of them unmistakably Ranma. There were no words, just impassioned grunts and gasping. If there had been any doubt in Hikaru's mind about Ranma's character, there wasn't anymore.

Hikaru slipped off his headphones. He would let the tape record on its own for as long as he could manage to hang on. He didn't have the stomach to listen any further. But tomorrow morning, Akane would listen. He'd make sure of it.


"It's morning. Get up."

"Huh...?" Ranma tried to clear his mind as he struggled back to consciousness. He jumped back with a start as he noticed the strange bed he was lying in. "What the heck is this?"

"It's your clothes." Saginomiya Asuka unceremoniously threw Ranma's Chinese shirt and pants at him. "Put them on and go home."

"Now just wait a...."

"Perhaps you don't understand the idea of a one-night stand," Asuka said impatiently. "It's supposed to last one night. Now, as I said, it's morning. It's time for me to go to work and you to go back to whatever it is you do."

"A one night... what?! You're a liar! We didn't...." But the soreness Ranma felt from below told him that he was the liar. How could this have happened? How?

He dressed as he tried frantically to remember what had happened the night before. How would he be able to explain this? What would he say to Akane?


Nothing. That was the best way to handle it, Ranma decided as he climbed up to his apartment's window. He wouldn't say anything to Akane. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Or him.

He carefully slid the window open. Thankfully, it faced away from the entrance toward the pond, so nobody was likely to see him coming in this way. It was seven-thirty in the morning. Akane didn't usually get up until eight or nine, especially on Sundays. With luck, he'd be able to slip into bed while she was still asleep. Then she'd think that he'd been there all night.

He stepped onto the living room carpet. It abruptly gave way under his feet, and he slipped forward. Something heavy crashed into his head from above. It was the big iron frying pan from the kitchen. He looked up, and quickly raised his hands to shield his head as a hail of pots, cups, and plates rained down on him.

Akane came running into the room. "You old perv--" Her eyes widened as she saw who was there. "Ranma?"

"Uh, hi, Akane." Ranma staggered to his feet and smiled feebly.

"I set that trap for Happosai. Why were you coming in through the window?"

"I, uh, didn't want to wake you." It sounded like a dumb excuse -- probably because it was.

"I haven't slept all night. I've been up worrying about you," Akane said matter-of-factly. "I heard a building collapsed on top of you."

Ouch. "Oh yeah. Well, after that, I had to take Asuka to the hospital to make sure that she was all right, and after that... um, after that, there was... uh, I just decided to crash at Daisuke and Aya's place, because it was late and I was tired."

"I called Daisuke and Aya. They said they hadn't seen you."

Double ouch. "I... uh, that is..."

"What's going on, Ranma? Why can't you tell me the truth? I'm not accusing you of having an affair with Asuka or something like that."

Ranma found himself unable to speak, unable even to lift his head up to meet Akane's stare.

"Wha--" Akane's eyes grew wide in shocked disbelief. "Tell me-- tell me it isn't true!"

Ranma remained paralyzed.

Akane picked up the frying pan and bashed it into the side of Ranma's head. "How could you?!" she screamed. "I trusted you!"

"Akane, I didn't want to!" Ranma found some inner resolve. "She gave me some kinda drug, I think. I thought I was doing it with you!"

"You expect me to believe that?" Akane started throwing the other kitchen utensils at Ranma. "Get out!" she yelled, her voice cracking a bit. "Get out! I-- I never want to see you again!"

Saying nothing, Ranma ducked out the window. The words had hurt a thousand times harder than the fry pan. She couldn't mean that, could she?

Part of him told him to stay and take a beating, because he deserved it; but he just had to get away. She'd calm down later so they could talk. Wouldn't she? Because if not... he didn't want to think about that.


Akane fell onto the living room couch. Her rage melted into tears, she could only sob into a pillow as voices assaulted her mind. Stupid uncute tomboy. You thought he could be satisfied with you? How could you be so dumb?

Tendo Akane. Can't cook, can't fight, you're no good at housework, you're not pretty, and obviously you weren't able to keep him satisfied in the bedroom. Who would want a wife like you? The taunts melded into a tidal wave of despair, washing over Akane, engulfing her, drowning her. Tendo Akane. Can't swim either.

"Ranma," she sobbed, "you stupid, thoughtless, inconsiderate jerk... how could you? I hope you stay away for...." She couldn't bring herself to say it. Why not? He had hurt her so much, so many times... she was better off without him, wasn't she?

Looking down at her belly gave another answer to that question.

The baby. Could she let him grow up without a father? Would it be fair for him to suffer because of something that he had nothing to do with?

But what choice did she have? If she took Ranma back, it would be like license for him to do the same thing over and over again. She couldn't live that way. It hurt too much.

"Damn it, Ranma... if I'm not good enough, why did you marry me anyway? You could have picked Shampoo, or Ukyo, or...."

But he didn't. He chose Akane.

She hung onto that thought like a life preserver. He chose me, over all of them. He decided of his own free will that I was the one he wanted to marry.

Could his story about being drugged have been true? Stranger things had happened. But how could she be sure?

A knock sounded on the door. A voice came from the other side. "Akane? Ranma?"


"Akane, I heard some noise from downstairs. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." Akane got up from the couch, drying her eyes with the sleeve of her blouse. She was Tendo Akane, the fighter. Something within her refused to let anyone see her crying like some vulnerable weakling. Once she was sure that she had regained her composure, she opened the door.

Yuka came in, carrying a steaming pot. "I thought you might like some tea. I always feel better in the morning after a nice hot drink." She opened in the cabinet and found it empty. "Where are your cups?"

"Oh. Sorry," Akane said lifelessly as she walked over to the floor where the cups had landed. "Here, there's two that didn't break."

Yuka poured the tea into the cups. "Did you have another fight with Ranma?" she asked, eyeing the debris on the floor.

"We went a little past fighting," Akane said bitterly. "I-I don't know if he's coming back. I don't know if I'm going to take him back."

"Oh, Akane, I'm sorry."

"I thought that when we got married, this kind of thing would end. I really don't know if I can stand a whole life like this."

"I guess it's hard for me to understand. The kind of life the two of you lead is so different."

There was a barely-audible knocking on the door.


"Come in."

Hikaru entered the apartment hesitantly. Maybe this wasn't a good idea, he thought. Maybe he should just go back to his own apartment and forget the whole thing.

Yuka was there. "Hi, Hikaru," she said brightly.

"Gosunkugi Hikaru?" Akane queried. "From Furinkan?"

"Th- that's right!" Hikaru said joyfully. Akane remembered his name! Trembling, he held out his tape recorder to her.

"What's this?"

"It's -- It's Ranma. From last night."

"How did you get it?" Yuka asked.

"Never mind. I really th-think you should listen to it, Akane." Every muscle in his body wanted to run and hide. Would she hate him for this?

Akane took the headphones and put them on as Hikaru pushed the play button. He stared at her face, watching for any trace of reaction.

Her eyes closed tightly as she listened, her face contorted by pain and embarrassment. Her head jerked from side to side as if she were trying to get away, as if she desperately wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere where she wouldn't have to listen to what she was hearing. It pained Hikaru to watch her torture. But she had to be shown the truth about Ranma.

Suddenly, her eyes flew open wide in disbelief. She snatched the tape player from Hikaru's hands and rewound it to listen again.

Akane removed the headphones and handed the tape player back to Hikaru. She was... smiling?

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Hikaru just stood there, stunned, unable to move or even think. It was the most glorious thing he'd ever experienced in his entire life. The kiss of a goddess.

Akane dialed the telephone. "Daisuke? Is Ranma there? He is? Thought so. Tell him... tell him I'm sorry. Tell him to please come home."


"I gotta say, it's good to be home." Ranma leaned back on the couch. Akane smiled happily as she looked at him, a smile that said it was good to have him back.

Hikaru just sat quietly, feeling like he ought to be somewhere else. He probably shouldn't have come that night. But he couldn't resist a dinner invitation from Akane, even when he knew that Ranma would be there too.

"I'm sorry, Ranma," Akane said. "I should have believed you. It wasn't your fault what happened."

No! Hikaru screamed to himself. Why was she apologizing for what he did?

Ranma looked her straight in the eyes. "Akane, it was my fault."

"Huh?" she said.

"I screwed up. I shoulda listened to you about Asuka. I shoulda called and told you where I was. I swallowed Asuka's drug like an idiot. None of this woulda happened if I'd thought a little bit."


"I guess we're two of a kind, then. Maybe we deserve each other."

"Y'know, in the old days I always thought that if we ever did get married, that would be it; I mean, we wouldn't have this kinda trouble anymore. But being married is as hard as bein' engaged was."

"We'll always have trouble, Ranma." She smiled through moist eyes. "I guess that's just the kind of people we are."

"Yeah, and you know what else?" He took her hand in his. "We'll be able to handle it."

They stared into each other's eyes, the conversation continuing into words unspoken, as Hikaru looked on uncomfortably. He knew that they would have started kissing if he hadn't been there.

"Uh, I've got to be going." He stood and walked toward the door. "Thanks... thanks for the dinner."

"You're welcome!" Akane said. "Hope you can come back soon."

"Hey, Gosunkugi." Ranma moved off the couch and stood near Hikaru. "I dunno what you did, but you probably saved my marriage, man." He gripped Hikaru's hand in a firm handshake. "There's a kid over there who's gonna have two parents instead of one thanks to you. You ever in trouble or need a favor, you just ask."

"Th-thanks, Saotome. It-- it was nothing." Hikaru waved goodbye and slipped out the door.

Hikaru made his way down the stairwell to the lobby, running faster as he neared the exit.

In his mind, in his heart, he finally admitted to himself what he had been denying all along. Ranma loved Akane. Akane loved Ranma. It was the kind of love that he desperately wanted to know himself.

Maybe that was the kind of thing that had made Happosai what he was, knowing that there were feelings like that in the world and that they were denied to him. But Hikaru was no Happosai. He knew that whatever else might become of him, he wouldn't end up like the old pervert. If nothing else, he was strong enough for that.

But he still didn't understand. What was on his tape that had convinced Akane to take Ranma back?

He slipped on his headphones and pushed the play button as he left the building and walked along the dark sidewalks toward his own apartment. The sounds of Ranma and Asuka's passions filled his ears.

Then Ranma began calling out a name. The name of the woman he loved, who he thought he was making love to.



He stood outside the Tendo dojo, hoping his nervousness wouldn't show. The sounds of boisterous conversation carried through the wall. He listened to identify the voices: the two Kuno siblings, Akane, Ranma, some others he couldn't make out.

He thought once again about just going back home. Being here was probably a stupid idea. He wouldn't be very useful in this group, and he might end up getting killed. He remembered once again all the times he had gotten involved with these people, and all the trouble that he had caused, all the things that went wrong.

But whatever else those times had been, he had felt alive. Those times when he had no idea what would happen from one instant to the next, and every moment of life mattered.

It was clear what he had to do.

After all, he only had one life.

He opened the door. The people in the room continued talking, not noticing him. He trembled as he forced his voice to work.

"I-- I'd like to help."

Everyone in the room turned and stared.

"Hikaru? You want to... Are you sure? It'll be dangerous, and you aren't combat trained like the rest of us," Akane said.

"Please! I-- I know what I'm doing!"

Tatewaki approached him. "You understand the risks that all of us are undertaking? That this is the most dire of battles, from which any or all of us might not return?"


"Then you are welcome here, Gosunkugi Hikaru." Tatewaki shook Hikaru's hand. "For you are truly a man of courage."

CHAPTER NOTES: Thanks once again to Ethan Tsai for info on drugs for Asuka to use.