Ranko , Part 16:
"You won't betray her trust"


The wind is howling around the Tendou Dojo, now that the rain has stopped. The sound can be heard loudly in the bathroom. Ryouga is kneeling naked in the bathtub, shooting a look of pure hatred at Ranko, who is still leaning against the wall. She walks up to him and kneels down to his level.

Ryouga: Ranma... [lunges at her] You're dead!

Ranko hurriedly blocks his punch with the nearby soap bucket.

Ranko: Whoah! Hold your horses. So you did go to Jusenkyou, the ground of accursed springs.

Ryouga: [growls at her] After you ran out on our duel-

Ranko: Which I did not.

Ryouga: [continues] -I followed you all the way through China...

~*~

Flashback to Ryouga's days in China. He is wearing an elastic sweatband instead of his bandanna and the look on his face is one of anger, not one of hatred and fury as it is these days.

He is walking along a path through the mountains, muttering to himself.

Ryouga: Ranma! I'll get you, yet. Running out on our duel...

Ryouga (voiceover): Following your trail, until one day...

He clears the ridge of a mountain pass and below him stretch the Jusenkyou plains. As he is making his way down the winding, serpentine path, suddenly something shoots up in the opposite direction. A strange boy is chasing a big panda up the path. The panda takes up a good three quarters of the width of the path, and when he brushes past, Ryouga is pushed teetering towards the edge.

He waves his arms, his eyes wide open, but is unable to regain his balance. Just when he is about to plunge down towards the pools far below, the strange boy arrives, grabs him by the front of his shirt and hauls him to safety in passing.

Boy: [without looking back] Sorry 'bout this. [shouts] Hold still, pop! I won't hurt you! I'll kill you quick and painless, how's that?

~*~

Interrupt flashback. Ranko and Ryouga stare at each other for a few seconds. Then they speak simultaneously.

Both: That was you?!

Ranko: But... How did you get cursed then?

Ryouga is still astonished, but he continues his tale with a lot less snarling and gnashing of teeth.

~*~

Flashback continues. Ryouga is continuing down the path, visibly shaken. At the foot of the mountain he looks across the plain and its pools, but cannot see Ranma and Genma anywhere. He scratches his head and pushes on, meandering left and right, forwards and backwards between the springs. The Chinese guide has seen him and is approaching him, but he has a hard time meeting Ryouga, since it is almost impossible to predict where he is going to turn next. Finally he reaches the boy.

Guide: Ah, welcome, honourable visitor, to ancient and dangerous training ground of Jusenkyou: Ground of accursed springs.

Ryouga: I am looking for someone.

Guide: There is nobody here, but the honourable customer and my own self.

He sweeps his arms around, indicating the vast empty plain of Jusenkyou. There are few places where anyone could hide.

Ryouga: They must have passed through already. How do I get through this field?

Guide: There is a way through the training ground. Is very easy to follow and also harmless. Honourable customer just walk over there and follow broad path to other side. Ah, honourable customer, where you looking? Way is over there. No, there! Honourable customer, be careful where you wal- Ayaaa!

<SPLASH>

Flashback ends.

~*~

Ranko is looking at Ryouga in the bathtub with disbelief.

Ranko: And all this time you were blaming me?!

Ryouga grunts angrily, but doesn't look her in the eye.

Ranko: [thinks] He isn't screaming or destroying anything. For him that's as good as an apology. [out loud] Well. That's a little harder to hide than just changing sex. But if you try to keep away from cold water, you stand a chance that nobody notices.

Ryouga: What? You mean you won't tell?

Ranko slaps him across the head lightly.

Ranko: Of course not! It's the warriors' code.

Ryouga: [to himself] Then Akane will never know...

Ranko: [grinning] You like her, eh?

Ryouga: What, I... No. I mean yes, but...

Ranko: Akane is a really nice girl, you know? I'm sure she'd love to hear that you like her.

Ryouga: [pales] You wouldn't...

Ranko: [whacks him again] Idiot! I mean she would be happy to hear you say it!

Ryouga is shaking all over. All of a sudden he jumps out of the tub and clear over Ranko. He turns on the shower, and cold water sprays all over both of them.

Ryouga: Bweeeeeeeeeee....

His squeal fades, as his little piggy legs take him out the door and down the hall. Ranma sits in the puddle on the floor, all wet and male, and stares after Ryouga.

Ranma: What the hell did he do that for? [thinks] I'm beginning to doubt that he is stable enough to make a good boyfriend for Akane.

~*~

It is late the following morning, when Ranko finally comes walking into the living room, yawning loudly. Akane is sitting there playing with her new pet.

Akane: Good morning, Ranko. Look, isn't P-chan cute?

Ranko: [thinks] Ryouga... [out loud] P-chan?

Akane: Yes, P for "Pig". That's English for buta.

Ranko: Uh huh. How nice. You didn't see Ryouga around, did you?

Akane: No, but he can't be far. His backpack and stuff are still here.

Ranko: [looks at P-chan] I guess he'll know where to find it. [thinks] He hasn't changed back yet?

Ranko frowns, wondering. Akane pets and cuddles P-chan.

Akane: He must have been someone's pet before. He's got this cute bandanna and he's not shy at all. When I woke up this morning he was lying in my bed under the covers, all snuggled up.

Ranko's eyes narrow. She picks up Ryouga's clothes.

Ranko: Can I play with him, too?

Akane: Oh, sure. I've got something to do anyway. [to P-chan] Be good, you hear me?

She hands the animal to Ranko, who wanders off with him in the direction of the practice hall, still carrying Ryouga's clothes.

~*~

<SPLISH>

A stream of hot water splatters over the little black pig. The figure of Ryouga shoots up. He blushes and covers himself with his hands. His clothes <Thud> into his face. He puts them on hurriedly.

Ranko: So. That's what you were up to, last night. Creeping into her bed to get near her while she sleeps.

Ryouga waves his hand in denial, but he is blushing again.

Ryouga: Id was berfegtly harbless. I dint do a thig.

Ranko: [coldly] Ryouga... why are you pinching your nose shut?

Ryouga: Err... Ooomph!

An unstoppable punch to his stomach knocks all the wind out of him. He staggers back against the wall. Ranko, burning with anger, is standing before him.

Ranko: And I thought I had found a boy who could be Akane's friend. Imagine my surprise when said boy turns out to be too coward to go near her as a human. He'd rather take the shortcut and be her pet, so he can get all the cuddling and touching and petting right away. Defend yourself!

Ryouga swerves to the right to avoid her head punch, but it still hits his left shoulder. He leaps away from the wall into the room and assumes a ready position, but he is obviously upset by Ranko's accusations, and he has already taken a hit. Intent on taking Ranko out before she can take advantage of this, he jumps at her in a flying kick.

Ranko ducks and rolls through, underneath his arc. Without breaking the flow of her motion she brings up both her legs and slams them into his back, sending him careering into the wall. She walks up to him, allowing him to stand up, before she attacks again.

This continues for the next ten minutes. Ranko systematically keeps her opponent off-balance, wearing him down despite his enormous strength and stamina. Finally, she slams a bruised and bloodied Ryouga up against the wall, her hand upon his throat in a strangle hold.

Ranko: [hisses] I may not be a real boy, but I know this: If a girl trusts you, and you have a single shred of honour in your body, you don't betray that trust. Akane trusts P-chan. Now, taking advantage of this to gain access to her body would be an ugly thing to do. You won't betray her trust. Do you understand me? Nod once for 'yes', turn blue and die for 'no'.

She increases the pressure to Ryouga's throat to emphasize her point. As white as the wall he is leaning against, The boy nods hastily. Ranko lets go of him at once, and Ryouga gasps for air.

Ranko: Akane is my best friend and she has had too many bad experiences with boys, already. I won't let her be hurt. Not by you, nor by anyone else. Keep that in mind.

She leaves Ryouga to stare after her.

~*~

That night in Akane's room, Akane is kneeling on the bed.

Akane: P-chan. What's up with you?

The pig is backing into a corner of the room, terrified. Akane is trying to entice it out of there, but it won't budge.

Akane: Why don't you want to sleep on mommy's pillow? You did that, last night.

P-chan: [sweating] Bweeeee...

-- End of part 16.


Part 17: "Akane, Korosu!"


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