Ranko , Part 13:
"You're not cute"


At the Tendou Dojo Akane sits in her room and stares out of the window at nothing. She ponders the freak accident that cut off her hair today and the events that led her to let it grow.

Flashback to a scene before Dr. Toufuu's clinic. Akane is years younger - a child of 12 perhaps, probably younger. She is dressed even more tomboyish than she is usually now and her hair is short. She has patch of band-aids on her cheek and smiles at a young Dr. Toufuu's antics with Betty-chan the skeleton.

Dr. Toufuu: That should do it, Akane. Take care of yourself

Voice: Oh, Akane.

Akane: [turns] Ah, Hi, Kasumi.

Kasumi, also, is younger. She is a girl approaching the age Akane has now and is dressed in the same school uniform. Already she is very sweet-looking and has an obvious effect on Toufuu-sensei. He freezes up while the skeleton in his hands begins to rattle and fidget.

Kasumi: Were you fighting again? [to Dr. Toufuu] I really must apologize for my sister again, Dr. Toufuu.

Dr. Toufuu: Oh, yes, um, well, really, it's uh, nothing.

Little Akane is saddened by Toufuu-sensei's reaction to Kasumi's appearance.

Akane: [thinks] Oh, sensei.

Kasumi takes little Akane by the hand and leaves.

Kasumi: Akane, you're acting just like a boy. If you don't learn to act like a girl, Toufuu-sensei will come to dislike you.

Akane: [thinks] Perhaps he'll like me like Kasumi if I let my hair grow like hers.

Flashback ends.

Akane is snapped out of her reverie into the present by the sound of knocking on the glass. She looks up and sees an upside down Ranko looking in at her with a concerned expression. She shifts open the window and leans out to her. Ranko is hanging from a roof beam outside the house by her feet.

Ranko: Um, Akane? Are you still angry with me?

Akane: I wasn't really angry with you. [pauses] But you deserved that hit just for going and fighting with Ryouga like that. You don't have to cheer me up - I'm not crying my eyes out, you know?

She closes the window and leaves the room. Ranko keeps hanging and looks after her.

~*~

Kasumi is preparing dinner in the kitchen, tasting from the pots here and there.

Kasumi: Hmmm, delicious.

Akane enters the room and Kasumi turns with a pan in her hand, continuing to stir.

Kasumi: Oh, Akane, you're ba...

Kasumi freezes. The smile on her face remains, but the pan begins to drop from her hand. Ranko zooms into the room and catches it before it hits the ground and spills.

Kasumi: What happened to your hair?

Ranko: Err, It's sorta my fau...

Akane: [interrupts] I just felt like a change. Will you cut it in shape for me, sis?

~*~

Ranko is sitting on the roof of the Dojo, thinking about Akane's seeming indifference.

Akane (remembered): I'm not crying my eyes out, you know.

Akane (remembered): I just felt like a change.

Ranko: [thinks] That's strange. She seemed devastated at first. I'll try to talk to her again.

~*~

But Ranko finds only Kasumi still in the house.

Kasumi: Akane went to the Chiropractor. She said she hurt her ankle. Did that happen at school?

~*~

Ranko runs along the fence again. She spies a figure in school uniform a little down the road and overtakes her. But the girl looks unfamiliar at a quick glance.

Ranko: Sorry, my mistake. [begins to turn]

Girl: Looking for somebody?

Ranko does a double take.

Ranko: [incredulously] Akane?!?

Akane: What's with the astonished face? [fingers her new haircut] It looks better now, thanks to Kasumi, doesn't it?

And it does look better. Not only better than the cut she received from Ryouga's rotating belt, but even better that her former long hairstyle. The short hair shows off her face and gives her a certain boyish charm that so suits her behavior. Ranko is silent for a moment.

Ranko: I-I'm sorry for what happened.

Akane: You don't have to keep apologizing. [she continues on her way] I wasn't lying when I said I felt like a change. I did think of getting it cut. Just not that abruptly and in such a manner.

Ranko: What about your ankle? Should I help you?

Akane: It just hurts sometimes when I put my foot down. I'll let the doctor have a look, that's all.

~*~

Entering Dr. Toufuu's clinic they are greeted by Genma in panda form and the doctor himself.

Dr. Toufuu: Why, hello Akane. Ranko.

Akane: Good afternoon Doctor. Today I'm the patient for a change. [smiles]

Dr. Toufuu: Not the only change. You cut it short again?

Akane: Yes.

Ranko: [thinks] Again?

The doctor examines Akane's foot while she is sitting on the edge of a stretcher.

Dr. Toufuu: It's just a light sprain, apparently.

Akane: Sensei?

Dr. Toufuu: [looks up] Hmm?

Akane: [fondles her hair] Do... Do you think it suits me?

Dr. Toufuu: Oh, yes, it's cute! Short hair is a lot more like you. [looks down at her foot again] I didn't want to say it then, but I always wondered why you let it grow.

He works silently for a moment. Suddenly a drop falls onto Akane's foot and he looks up at her face. He is astonished to see that, although she is smiling at him, tears run down her face.

Dr. Toufuu: Did that hurt? I'm sorry...

Akane: No... it's... I'm sorry, It's not that. I can't seem to stop...

The Doctor sits down next to her on the stretcher and lays a sympathetic arm around her shoulder. She looks at him, looking down at her with a fatherly smile.

Dr. Toufuu: What's wrong, Akane-chan?

Akane's lips quiver. Suddenly she lets go of herself.

Akane: Oh, sensei!

She grabs his shirt and leans her head against his chest, letting her tears flow freely. Silently Ranko forces her father to leave the room with her. She glances back over her shoulder at the puzzled Dr. Toufuu who is holding the sobbing Akane close.

~*~

It is already evening and the shadows are long as Ranko and Akane walk home. Akane's eyes are still slightly red and swollen. Ranko is silent, unsure of what to say. Akane takes a deep breath of the evening air.

Akane: [sighs] It's true - It does you good to cry.

She notices Ranko's uneasiness and turns. Ranko is sitting on top of a garden wall.

Akane: What is it?

Ranko: I dunno, I'm confused. He finally said you're cute. I thought you'd like that, but...

Akane: Oh. I'm sorry, but it all just came together for me in that moment.

They begin to walk again - Ranko on the walls and fences, Akane on the ground. Akane seems somehow relieved.

Akane: I mean, how he liked Kasumi better than me, and how I let my hair grow to be more like Kasumi and everything. I realized all that some time ago now, but I didn't feel it until today. It's OK now. I guess that was necessary to get over it all. And over him.

She smiles a wistful little smile. Ranko is sitting crouched on the canal fence.

Ranko: You know, it was a lie, anyway.

Akane: What?

Ranko: That you look cute.

Akane frowns and begins to look angry. Ranko grins down at her.

Ranko: It's true. You're not cute - you're beautiful.

Akane looks stunned. She just stands and stares at Ranko. Suddenly she reaches out and tips her over into the water canal. Ranma surfaces coughing and spitting water.

Ranma: Hey! Whaddaya doin' that for?

Akane grins down at him.

Akane: We-e-ell, I thought, If I'm getting a compliment, it may just as well come from a boy.

Ranma: [grins] O-hoo! You just got over him and already you are looking for boys to flirt with you?

Akane: I thought I'd better start small and begin with a half-boy.

Ranma: [shaking a finger at her] What do you think will happen when this half-boy gets his fingers on you?

Akane: [playing sweet] I guess I'll have to listen to our parents and marry him!

Ranma makes that funky Takahashi shock gesture with his index and little fingers extended and takes a step back in mock horror. But he's grinning, inwardly relieved that Akane now takes that stupid engagement less seriously.

Ranma: Erk! I'll have to make sure that I don't catch you, then.

He jumps out of the canal and over the fence. Akane has already started running. She calls back over her shoulder.

Akane: Ha! As if you ever could!

Ranma: Ha ha! Just you wait!

Laughing and running they make their way home in the orange light of the setting sun.

-- End of part 13.


Part 14: "You're a natural talent"


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