Ranko , Part 14:
"You're a natural talent"


One sunny Saturday afternoon at the Tendou home. School has ended and Akane and Ranma arrive, sweating from the glaring sun.

Akane: Tadaima!

Kasumi: Welcome home.

Ranma immediately slips out of his top and runs around bare-chested. Akane shakes her head and retires to her room to change into something less hot. Ranma settles in the living room and tiredly watches Genma and Souun cheat each other at shogi. Even Genma is human today, preferring not to wear a fur coat.

~*~

Evening is drawing in when all of the family gathers around the dinner table. Suddenly Souun gasps and chokes. Akane turns to see what upset him and sees Ranko walk in, her breast stark naked. Ranko looks around for a second, then walks over to her discarded shirt and puts it on. She sits down at the table, completely oblivious to Souun's shock and Akane's angry stares.

Akane: Ranko!

Ranko: Huh? What's up, Akane?

Nabiki: You were showing off your complete lack of feminine modesty.

Ranko: Lack of feminine modesty?

Akane: You were running around topless again!

Ranko finally realizes what they are talking about.

Ranko: Hey! I put on my shirt, didn't I?

Akane: You shouldn't have gone without a shirt in the first place.

Ranko: I changed back in the kitchen because that's where the hot water is. My shirt was here. So I forgot to take it with me - So what?

Akane: No, you didn't. You didn't forget it, because the thought of covering yourself when you change back didn't even cross your mind! You've been a boy for too long.

Genma: I hope so.

<WHACK>

A metal pan is now molded to Genma's face. All the food that was in it has dropped down onto his plate. With a <POP> he pulls the cooking implement from his head, looks down to his plate and begins eating unconcernedly.

Kasumi enters the room with a platter of fruit and sets it onto the table. Everybody stops fighting as she smiles at them.

Kasumi: Here is some fresh fruit from the market.

Ranko grabs a lemon, halves it and begins sucking on it. Then she stops in wonderment.

Akane: What's up, Ranko?

Ranko: Kasumi, what kind of fruit is this?

Akane: [before Kasumi can answer] It's a lemon, baka! Everybody can see that.

Ranko: That's what I thought at first, too. But try this...

She hands Akane the second half of the Lemon, and Akane is just as astonished as Ranko is, when she bites down on it.

Akane: It... It's sweet.

Kasumi: The lady I bought them from said they came from Australia.

Akane: [disbelieving] Australia?

Ranko: What kind of lady?

Kasumi: A kawaii young woman in a tight, black jumpsuit. [screws up her face trying to remember] I think she was carrying a katana.

Ranko: Sure, Kasumi. Next you'll tell us she was really a female ninja who's just selling lemons for fun.

Kasumi just shrugs and smiles. She returns to the kitchen.

Ranko: Sweet lemons from Australia! Sometimes I think Kasumi is having us all on.

She shakes her head. Akane, on the other hand, has become serious again and pokes Ranko in the ribs.

Akane: The distraction didn't work, Ranko. What are you going to do about your tomboyish behavior?

Nabiki: [thinks] Her tomboyish behavior?

Ranko: What're you implying? That I don't act like a girl?

Akane: Yes!

Ranko: Well, I was brought up as a boy since I was almost a year old - what's your excuse?

~*~

Kasumi is sweeping up the remains of dinner; Souun is putting away the halves of the once whole, wooden table; Genma is bandaging Ranko's head. Ranko regularly shoots sheepish glances over her shoulder at Akane, but Akane has angrily turned her back to her. Nabiki, who is watching them, finally sighs, gets up and puts her arm around Akane's shoulders.

Nabiki: C'mon, let's get up. No use sitting around here like that.

Reluctantly Akane leaves the room with her sister. Ranko looks after them and sighs. Genma pats her shoulder.

Genma: Don't listen to her. You're the best son a man could wish for.

He smiles hopefully at Ranko, who gives him an annoyed "Who're you trying to fool" look.

~*~

At Akane's door Nabiki gives her sister an encouraging pat.

Nabiki: Aw, don't lose your humour. Making Ranko into a "sweet girl" is too big a challenge to contemplate.

Akane: A challenge? [ponders this] Hmmm... a challenge. Thanks, Nabiki. You just gave me a great idea!

Akane runs back down; Nabiki stares after her.

Nabiki: [thinks] Uh oh! What now?

~*~

In the living room, Akane stands before Ranko and delivers her challenge.

Akane: I challenge you to prove that you can really act like a girl!

Ranko: [unsure] What exactly do you suggest?

Akane: You'll act like a girl is supposed to, for one day. If you can keep it up, you win.

Ranko: [sceptical] And if I lose?

Akane: Then you'll apologize for that little "Tomboy" remark.

Ranko: Hah! And I gather, you'll be the judge of my performance, right?

Akane: Uh...

Ranko: I accept! ...Under one condition: You have to try and understand my side, too.

Akane: What does that mean?

Ranko: While I show you that I can act like you say a girl should, you have to try yourself at being a boy!

Akane: You mean...

Ranko: Like I did for Ryouga.

Akane stares at her.

~*~

The early Sunday morning sun peeks into Akane's room. Akane is standing in front of the mirror door of her wardrobe, regarding her unusual reflection. She is wearing the most "male" clothing she owns, A white shirt, straight-cut trousers and male shoes. Her chest is flat - apparently bound with a cloth - and with her short hair she makes a truly beautiful boy.

Akane: [thinks] Ha! This will make their eyes fall out. That bet is as good as won.

~*~

Akane enters the living room shortly before breakfast. Souun and Genma-panda are already in the middle of a game; Kasumi can be seen through the kitchen door.

Souun: Good morning, daughter.

Genma: [signs] Morning, Akane.

They don't react to Akane's get-up at all. Akane shoots them a look and sits down at the table. Nabiki comes in, still winking the sleep from her eyes.

Nabiki: Mornin', sis.

Akane: [irritably] Good morning!

Kasumi enters and begins to lay out the food on the table. She flashes Akane a bright smile. But then, she always does.

Kasumi: Good morning Akane, Nabiki.

Nabiki: Thanks. Good morning, big sister.

Genma begins to eat, as everybody settles down. Kasumi looks around.

Kasumi: Where is Ranma? Is he missing breakfast?

Ranko: Tee hee...

Everybody turns to Ranko, who is standing in the entrance. The jaws of the fathers drop in unison; Nabiki gives an appreciative whistle; Kasumi smiles.

Akane: "Tee hee"?!?

Ranko is wearing an incredibly cute dress. She's looking so sweet that you could get diabetes just from being near her. The looks that she gets make her blush and look down self-consciously.

Nabiki: See? I told you it'd look good on you.

Akane: "Tee hee"?!

Kasumi: My, you look nice this morning, Ranko.

Akane: Whe- Where did you get that?

Ranko twirls around once, to show all of the beautiful dress.

Ranko: I bought it from Nabiki.

Nabiki: It's the one I offered to you, half a year ago, when I grew out of it. Don't you remember? You didn't want it, so I stored it. Seems like Ranko has more use for it.

Akane: I didn't take it because normal sisters pass on their clothes without requiring payment!

Ranko sits down at the table and begins to eat in a dainty, most ladylike manner. Kasumi nods approvingly at Ranko's sudden change of behavior; The fathers look at each other in despair. Akane just broods.

Akane: [to herself] mumblemumble don't know why everybody notices her change mumblemumble "Tee hee"! mumblemumble

Ranko: If you would be so nice, to pass the soy sauce, please.

Kasumi: Certainly, Ranko. Here you are.

Nabiki: You said something, sis?

Akane: [angry that Nabiki heard her] Yes! Why is everybody so astonished about Ranko's masquerade - and she's overdoing it, too - but nobody pays attention to what I look like this morning.

Nabiki: You? You look just fine. Like always.

Akane looks ready to explode, when Ranko drops the sweet act, lapses back into her normal behavior and elbows Nabiki in the ribs.

Ranko: You're looking great, Akane! Your [raises voice] disguise as a boy is really ingenious.

Nabiki: Uh... Sure! Just like the real thing.

Somehow, Akane does not seem calmed down by this.

~*~

Ranko and Akane are walking down the street. Everybody is turning to look after them. Both of them are aware of this and sweat big. Akane whispers to Ranko from the corner of her mouth.

Akane: Why are they staring at us. Is my disguise that transparent?

Ranko: [whispers back] No idea. Keep smiling and act as if nothing was up. The restaurant is only a few corners from here.

A few paces behind them, a girl turns to her friend.

Girl: Oooh, who is that beautiful boy?

[BTW, What's the Japanese term for that? Was it "bishounen" or am I mixing things up?]

Girl2: I don't know. I guess he's spoken for, though. [points to Ranko] That girl with the pigtail is walking with him.

Girl: Some girls have all the luck.

~*~

Akane and Ranko enter a restaurant. They are still attracting looks from bypassers who spot them through the windows, but hopefully this will stop, as soon as they are sheltered in a booth. They do not notice three of the more persistent girls following them in. The waiter leads the two to an empty booth along the wall of the room. The booths are separated by small wooden walls and are furnished with a table and a bench that goes around the table in an U. He hands them the menu.

Waiter: So, what can I bring for the young couple?

Akane: We're not a couple!

Waiter: My apologies, young sir. I was mistaken, then.

Ranko: Oh, we're just friends going out together. I'll have this seafood dish, please.

She points to an entry on the menu and the waiter writes it down. Akane places her order, too, and he leaves.

Ranko: You're great as a boy. You're a natural talent.

Akane: Why the hell does everybody want us to marry?

~*~

In the next booth, the three girls that came in after the "couple" sit anxiously. One of them is kneeling on the bench along the wooden wall that separates them from their target. She is trying to listen in on them. The girl sitting opposite of her speaks up.

Girl: What're they saying Akiko? What're they saying?

Akiko: I can't make out a lot, the way you keep pestering me! They're talking about marrying, I think.

Girl: Ayaa! We're too late!

The third girl, the oldest of the three, gets a calculating look in her eye.

Girl3: Calm down, Mikari. If he's just proposing to her, perhaps we still have a chance.

Mikari: What can we do, Yoko?

Yoko just grins.

~*~

In the back room of the restaurant, the head waiter is enraged. He is scolding three waitresses.

Waiter: What kind of work ethic is this? Not only are you too late, but you're still not in your work clothes!

Waitress: Please, it's not our fault.

Waitress2: Look, somebody stole our uniforms.

~*~

A figure in a waitress uniform stealthily looks left and right, then heads straight towards Akane and Ranko's booth.

Waitress: Good day, Sir. My name is Mikari - I am your waitress. How may I call you?

Akane is a little thrown off by Mikari's fixed stare and the fact that she leans quite far forward to be near Akane. Mikari hasn't so much as glanced at Ranko.

Akane: Uh, My name is Aka-

Ranko: Kaneda! His name is Kaneda.

Mikari: [without taking her eyes of Akane] Kaneda-san, what can I do for you?

Akane: Well, err, we'd like something to drink before the meal, I think.

Mikari: Something to drink. Thank you, Kaneda-san.

She backs away, never taking her eyes of Akane. When she is finally out of sight, Akane turns to Ranko.

Akane: "Kaneda"?

Ranko: [shrugs] Better 'n letting you blab out your real name.

Akane looks in the direction Mikari disappeared in.

Akane: What a strange girl. She was looking at me this way. And she never even asked, what we wanted to drink.

Ranko: [grinning] She was doing what we sweet little girls call "sending signals." It is known to boys as "I just can't figure out girls."

Akane: Don't give me your "sweet little girl" act!

She looks in Mikari's direction again, worried.

~*~

Mikari is back with her two co-conspirators, both clad in waitress uniforms, too. She is holding her hands clasped across her chest and has her eyes closed.

Mikari: [sighs] Kaneda!

Yoko: Did he say anything else?

Mikari: Yes! He said he wanted something to drink. [sighs]

Akiko: Oooh! My turn, my turn!

~*~

Ranko: Oh, there's another waitress. She's coming here with something to drink.

Akane: I guess they put the first waitress in a straightjacket, so she had to switch duty.

Akiko comes with two glasses. One, filled with rather brackish water, is shoved unceremoniously towards Ranko, the other one she offers to "Kaneda". Akane eyes it suspiciously.

Akane: What is this?

Akiko: Oh, it's our special house brand. You'll love it.

Akane: Uh, yeah, thank you.

Akiko doesn't give any indication that she's about to go. She just stares at Akane, apparently waiting for her to drink. Akane stares back.

Akane: Thank you!

Reluctantly, Akiko backs away. Akane takes the glass and stealthily pours it out over a plant that stands at the corner of the wooden separating wall. However, she spills some of it on the floor.

~*~

In the next booth, there is a woman with a poodle. The poodle notices the spilled fluid and laps it up. Immediately it begins to get amorous with the woman's shoes.

Woman: Ackk! Fifi! Stop that!

~*~

Akiko: He said "Thank you" to me...

Yoko: But he didn't drink it?

Akiko: No.

Mikari: Aww, damn!

Yoko: OK, my turn! [rubs her hands]

~*~

Ranko: There's number three.

Akane: God, what is it with the waitresses in this place? We should have gone to a different restaurant.

Yoko arrives and bows to Akane and, surprisingly, to Ranko.

Yoko: Good day. My name is Yoko, I am head waitress on duty today. I hope the service until now was satisfactory?

Akane: Well, the other waitresses...

Yoko: I must apologize; We are understaffed today, and a lot of changes are bound to occur. I hope it has not spoiled the romantic mood? [thinks] Please say it has! Please!

Ranko: [sarcastically] Why, no! Tomorrow Darling and I will get married and fly back to my home planet, where we'll live together forever.

The second half of her sentence goes unheard, though, because suddenly Mikari and Akiko appear out of thin air, besides Yoko.

Mikari: Aaieeee! You can't!

Akiko: Don't marry that tomboy, Kaneda-sama!

Ranko: [jumps up] Who's a tomboy?!

Mikari throws herself on her knees before the baffled Akane. Yoko makes a grab for her, but Akane evades. Just in that moment, the waiter arrives with the food.

Mikari: We love you! Don't leave us!

Waiter: Here is your order, ...

Yoko: Just grab him; Talk later!

Akiko uses the chaos to grab Ranko's untouched glass and throws it at her perceived rival. The water arcs through the air and hits Ranko straight in the face.

<SPLASH>

Before anyone can react, Ranma has ripped off the table and thrown it, burying the three girls and the waiter. He grabs Akane and takes off at blurring speed.

~*~

A woman comes running from the restroom.

Woman: Pervert! Pervert!

Inside the restroom, Ranma stands before Akane, clad only in panties, And holds the dress towards her.

Akane: [trying not to stare] What are you doing?!

Ranma: Quick! Take the dress and give me your shirt and trousers, before someone comes. The idiots don't have hot water here. [gestures at the frugal restroom sinks] I can't walk home, dressed like this.

Akane: Oh.

~*~

Akane and Ranma come around the corner into the street before the dojo. It's clearly visible that Ranma's plan wasn't perfect. Akane's male clothes are all at least one size too small for him, and the dress, more suited to Ranko's measurements, really doesn't flatter Akane. Before the Dojo they meet Souun and Genma. They seem to be very relieved to see the two.

Souun: Ah! Everything is back to normal.

Genma: We already feared that I visited Jusenkyou with the wrong girl.

Ranma and Akane glow with anger.

~*~

Kasumi bows forward to inspect the bruised, beaten messes on the front porch.

Kasumi: Father? Mr. Saotome? What are you doing here?

Souun: Crying.

-- End of part 14.


Part 15: "What a cute piglet"


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