Under the blue sky of Nerima, Tokyo, lies a large, oval building - the public skating rink. Inside, on the ice, many young and a few older people are enjoying themselves on their blades. The building contains not only the rink itself, but also a small restaurant, where the skaters can rest and eat. Ranko is sitting there, eating a bowl of Ramen, watching the people on the ice. Suddenly she hears someone call her name.
Ranko almost jumps up at the frantic, horrified tone in Akane's voice. Her head snaps over to the entrance where Akane's call came from. Akane is already running towards her, tears streaking down her face. Now Ranko jumps up.
Ranko: [worried] Akane, what happened?
Akane: [points back to the rink] It- It's P-chan. He's gone!
Ranko takes Akane in her arms and pats her back soothingly, so she doesn't have to see Ranko's annoyed frown.
Ranko: [thinks] Damn you, Ryouga, you directionless fool. Getting lost and upsetting Akane like this...
Akane backs out of Ranko's arms and looks at her pleadingly.
Akane: Please, Ranko, you must help me find him. The rink is too dangerous for a little piggie. I looked and looked, but I couldn't find him.
Ranko is about to answer, when she sees something that lets her remain silent. She just turns Akane around and points. Akane wonders for a moment until she notices what Ranko has seen. There is a short, energetic brown-haired girl striding into the restaurant, carrying a small, unmoving piglet wearing a yellow and black bandanna.
With a cry of rage Akane storms towards the girl.
Akane: P-chan! What are you doing with P-chan?
The girl turns to keep the pig from Akane, and looks at her indignantly.
Girl: Charlotte belongs to Azusa-chan.
Akane: [angry] This is my pet P-chan. What have you done to him? Why isn't he moving?
Azusa: You're wrong. This is Charlotte.
At that moment, the piglet begins to stir. As soon as it can see clear, it begins to "bwee" loudly and struggle towards Akane. Ranko, seeing this, gets an idea. Swiftly she steps between the two girls, who seem to be about to go into full fledged fighting mode.
Ranko: [outstretched arms] Hey! How about if we let the pig decide? I take the pig, you two sit down opposite of each other, I set the pig free and then we'll see whom it wants to belong to. [thinks] This might work... provided that Ryouga for once in his life gets the directions right.
The pig "bwee"s and nods furiously, but Azusa glomps on to him tightly, making his eyes bug out.
Azusa: No! Charlotte belongs to Azusa and she will not let you take her away.
Akane: [derisively] Her? P-chan is a him. You don't even know which sex he is, but claim that he's yours?
Azusa looks at Akane defiantly, when suddenly a hand reaches over her shoulder and plucks the pig from her grasp. A young man stands behind Azusa and is holding the pig just out of her reach. At his entrance, a collective sigh goes through the female population of the room.
Girl 1: [clasps her heart] Ohh, my dream comes true.
Girl 2: [affects swooning] What a man.
Ranko is the only girl not to react, apart from Akane and Azusa, who are otherwise engaged. She walks back to her seat and sits down, watching. Azusa is jumping and grabbing for the pig.
Azusa: Give Azusa back her little Charlotte!
Boy: [to Akane] I gather this is yours?
Akane: [nods relieved] Yes. It's my pet P-chan.
He hands the happy pig to Akane, who graciously accepts it. Azusa is furious.
Boy: I must apologize for my partner. She has the aberrant habit of collecting thing that she finds cute. She names them and takes them home, paying no attention to whom they belong.
Ranko: [mutters] But it's nothing that a few weeks of Electric Shock Therapy couldn't cure.
Akane: As long as I've got back my P-chan.
The pig squeals happily and nestles in Akane's arms, when suddenly Azusa yells and lunges forward. Before Akane can react she has clamped something around P-chan's neck and laughs triumphantly.
Akane shoves her away and examines her pet: around his neck there is a small necklace with a heart. Akane tries to pull it off, but it won't move. Angrily she looks at Azusa.
Akane: What are you doing? Get this off.
Azusa: [smugly] I won't. I challenge you over the right to be Charlotte's mommy. Until the match is over, I'll keep the key to the lock.
Akane: So you want to fight about him?
Azusa: Fight? How primitive. [sneers] I challenge you to a skating match.
Akane: [hotly] Oh yeah? I accept! We'll see who gets to be P-chan's mommy.
The onlookers are surprised at Akane accepting the outrageous challenge. One girl questions her.
Girl: What are you doing? You could have refused her without losing face - after all, she was the thief. There are such things as wire cutters, you know?
Akane: And back down from a ditz like that?
Girl: Don't you know who they are?
Boy: Perhaps we should introduce ourselves. I am Sanzenin Mikado.
Azusa: And I am Shiratori Azusa.
Mikado: We are Koru Hosei Academy's champions of freestyle pair skating, also called "The Golden Pair".
Mikado finishes with a bow. Although she is thrown off a little by this revelation, Akane sets her jaw.
Akane: So what? P-chan is still mine and I will prove it.
Mikado: I am so sorry that my partner has caused you such problems. Please let me give some restitution.
Akane freezes, as he suddenly lays a hand to her cheek, but unfreezes again, frowning, as he leans forward to her with pointed lips. P-chan "bwee"s furiously and Akane clenches her fist, but Mikado never makes it. Before his lips connect, something lands on his face with a <splat>. He stops and reaches up to remove a sticky, star-shaped fish cake with a decorative swirl. He looks to where the projectile came from, and his eyes light up in recognition, as he spies Ranko sitting at her table, looking into the air as if not in the least concerned with what is going on.
Mikado: Why, Saotome Ranko.
Ranko: [turns to him] Hiya, sex-obsessed neurotic.
Mikado walks over to her and holds up the sticky cake.
Mikado: What a fortunate coincidence this is. This way we can settle our little... matter satisfactorily.
Ranko: We settled it to my satisfaction back then, but if you want a beating - be my guest.
Mikado sets one hand of the table and leans forwards, towering over Ranko, who is completely unimpressed by his theatrics.
Mikado: So you agree to a double match? Me and my partner against you and the lovely owner of that pig?
Ranko: Sure. Whatever you want.
Mikado: [straightens up] The date is one week from now, and the site at the rink of our school, Koru Hosei Academy. I will expect you.
Ranko: We'll be there. [leaves her seat] Come Akane, there is nothing more for us to be here.
She grabs the astonished Akane and leaves Mikado behind to fight off Azusa, who has declared the fish cake to be cute and therefore rightfully hers.
Ranko and Akane are on their way home; Ranko walking on the fence, as usual, still frowning; Akane walking on the ground, absently petting P-chan. After a while, Akane speaks up.
Akane: What the hell did you do that for?
Ranko: [hotly] Hey! I was just trying to protect you.
Akane: Next time, how about asking me if I want your protection?
Ranko jerks, as she hears this.
Ranko: [thinks] Oh no! What have I done? She didn't want me to stop him, and I...
She jumps down from the fence to walk next to Akane. In a very small, apologetic voice she speaks.
Ranko: Um, did.. did you want him to kiss you?
Akane: [stops in her tracks] Nani?! I wanted to break his jaw! But you interfered. [starts walking again] Oh well, it doesn't matter anyway. What I want to know is, from where do you know that Sanzenin guy?
Ranko: [reluctantly] That's a long story.
At home, Akane and Ranko are sitting in the guest room. Ranko looks to the ground, embarrassed, but finally begins to speak.
Ranko: It was a while ago, after I arrived here...
Flashback to a few months back.
Ranko(voiceover): I was at the rink, skating.
On the ice, among the many skaters, is Ranko. Her knees are bent; She is hunched over and is flailing around with her arms to keep her balance. She is obviously very bad at it.
Ranko(voiceover): Well, learning to skate, anyway.
Ranko makes a wrong move and suddenly she is gathering speed - sliding backwards. Her flailing becomes more frantic, but only adds to her predicament.
Suddenly a figure <swish>es by and snatches the helpless girl up. It is Sanzenin Mikado. Thankfully, Ranko relaxes.
Ranko: Phew. You saved me.
Mikado: It is a pleasure for me to help such a beautiful girl in distress. Sanzenin Mikado is always ready to aid.
He shifts his grip on her, so that he now holds her like a dancer holds his partner. Since he is larger than her, her feet do not touch the ice.
Ranko: Well, thanks a lot, Sanzenin. My name Is Saotome Ranko. You can let go of me now.
Mikado: Are you sure you want to go back onto the ice? I could hold you for as long as you like.
Ranko: [getting annoyed] Thank you! Now let me down.
Mikado: Ah, if you must. But allow me - as a parting gift...
Ranko's eyes bug out, as he suddenly leans forward and kisses her on the lips. A few seconds afterwards, he disconnects and smiles at her, as if expecting thanks. Steam comes from Ranko's head and her teeth are clenched in fury.
The light fixtures under the ceiling begin to sway with the force of the explosion down below.
<Whap Bang Pound Wham Bapbapbap Scrrrrunch!>
Steaming with anger, Ranko stomps off, her blades leaving deep gashes in the ice. Behind her a bludgeoned Mikado with his clothes torn in many places feebly tries to extract his head from the hole in the ice that it is lodged in.
Ranko is looking to the ground, still slightly embarrassed; Akane snickers, making Ranko look up angrily.
Akane: I must say... That you would leave yourself open so much, to be kissed so easily.
She shakes her head, smiling. Her smile vanishes with a yelp, as Ranko suddenly reaches out and pushes her shoulder hard. Caught off-balance, Akane teeters over backwards, but before she hits the ground, Ranko is sitting behind her and catches Akane in her arms. Akane goes wide-eyed, as Ranko leans forward and... touches her nose to Akane's.
Akane sweats nervously, as she looks into Ranko's eyes, smelling her warm breath. Ranko sits up again and releases her, smiling; Akane jumps back three feet. She clenches a fist over her furiously thumping heart.
Akane: Wha- wha- What are you..?
Ranko: [grins] I just wanted to show you that you shouldn't condemn me so lightly - seeing, how easily you could have been kissed.
Akane: That- That's not fair! You only caught me off guard because I never expected you to do something like that!
Ranko: That's my point. I never expected Sanzenin to do that. The lesson in this is "always expect the unexpected".
Akane: Well. From now on I'll be ready, if you ever want to kiss me.
Ranko: [sweats, hand behind her head] Err, heh heh heh heh heh...
Akane: A-ha ha ha ha ha...
Ranko: Um. Well, we'd better train from now on; practice some fighting moves on skates.
Akane: What? You want to fight with them during the match?
Ranko: [surprised] Sure. Sanzenin and Shiratori are champions of Martial Arts Skating; didn't you know? If this was just normal skating, I'd never have agreed - we would have lost before we even began. But since it's Martial Arts Skating, there's no problem.
Akane: [incredulous] You think we can beat them at it?
Ranko: [flatly] As long as it's got Martial Arts in the title, we can win in everything. The Saotome and Tendou schools of interdisciplinary fighting are made for this, after all.
Akane: [sarcastically] Oh yeah, and we've got a whole week to master this new fighting technique.
Ranko: [happily] There you go. Now you're beginning to see it positively.
-- End of Part 30
Part 31: "Akane is my best friend"
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