Insert standard disclaimers here. Completely for non-profit. All characters except the ones I create are owned by Takahashi-sama and Co.
The sun was setting on Nerima, casting long shadows across the city. Ranma looked up to watch his shadow lengthen on the koi pond, the image rippling and shifting on the surface. His mind belied the calmness of his surroundings; it was running around and around like a dog chasing its tail. In a few week’s time he and Akane would be graduating from high school. Those that knew him might be shocked to find he actually did any type of introspection or soul searching, but at the moment, his mind was running a marathon back through the past three years since he and Genma came to the Tendo’s, three years since his curse in Jusenkyo. Ranma was so wrapped up in its reminisces that he didn’t hear Akane walk up behind him.
"Beautiful, isn’t it?" Akane asked softly
"Nani? Oh, yeah, it is." Ranma answered while looked at Akane, the setting sun lighting a fiery nimbus aglow around her head. She was wearing a little floral print sun-dress, fitting snugly on her bodice to her waist, then flaring into a short, pleated skirt. He noticed she wasn’t looking at him but rather across the rooftops of the city. Her shadow was calm and still on the koi pond.
Still looking across the rooftops, she asked, "Are you ready to graduate? Can you believe were graduating and getting out of Furinkan?" She finally looked up at Ranma.
Ranma smiled, his eyes looking where Akane’s had just been. "Yeah, I know. It’s so weird to think we’re not going to see those weirdos anymore. No more Kuno or Gosunkugi or Hinako-sensei. Are you still planning on attending university this fall?"
Their eyes finally met when he asked this question, both thinking similar thoughts. Wow, she really has gotten cuter in the past couple years, Ranma thought. He’s gotten more handsome, Akane thought. They stared at each other for a few more moments before Akane answered. "Hai," she whispered. Simultaneously, as if of one mind, their hands reached out and grasped the other.
Life since Jusendo was both more simple and more complex. It was also easier and less stressful, but at times more lonely. Akane felt it most acutely at home. Ranma was now living with Nodoka and Genma in her home. Even though they saw each other every day at school, there was an emptiness they both felt. Ranma was no longer sitting next to her at every meal and there were times she walked to school alone. He wasn’t there all the time at the dojo practicing. She didn’t realize how much she enjoyed watching him work out until he left. There were no more constant fights or crazy Amazons crashing through walls. In short, life at home was quiet and boring. And Ranma felt very much the same. Nodoka had him and Genma on a short leash at home and there were times that he felt he actually missed the training trips with his father. Now it was all table manners, diction and grammar, and rules of etiquette. He and his father weren’t even allowed to spar in the house. That particular rule forced them both Ranma and Genma to find refuge, and a release, at the Tendo dojo.
The time they spent there was good for Ranma. At the behest of Nodoka, Soun and Genma stopped the constant harassment about marriage, but still managed to connive and manipulate to get Ranma and Akane alone, which neither really minded anymore. Nothing was ever said tacitly, but Ranma and Akane knew that they couldn’t play the old games anymore. Ranma knew, in his heart, even if his brain couldn’t admit it, that he loved Akane. Nearly losing her had brought that into sharp relief. Akane, always more open with her emotions (but also more stubborn), had known long ago knew she was in love with Ranma. But since he never said anything, except at Jusendo, and since she couldn’t be positive about it (and since he still so often acted like an insensitive jackass) she would never say. But slowly, almost as slowly as a glacier moves, Ranma and Akane the two had stopped fighting constantly and developed a more comfortable friendship, and perhaps a little more. Neither froze or nor overreacted anymore when the other touched them one touched the other. There were times when they actually held hands and would even give each other friendly hugs. It was rare, but did happen. There were even times when they went out together, "NOT on a date", they would both yell, but as friends. They had still yet still had yet to kiss, at least while Ranma wasn’t in Neko-ken, but all in all it was a comfortable, if strange, situation. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
"Ranma, what are you going to do now? I know Daddy wants you to run the dojo."
"Yeah, I think I will. I don’t think university is the right place for me. I’m sick of studying."
Akane giggled, "No, you were never very good at school."
Ranma turned, "What’s that supposed to mean? Just ‘cos I don’t get as good grades as you doesn’t mean I’m stupid!" Ranma snatched his hand away from Akane’s and glared at her defensively with his arms folded against his chest.
"Baka! I didn’t say you were stupid, I just. . . "
"You always call me baka! What the hell am I supposed to think?"
"You always call me kawaikune, do you really think that too?"
Ranma spoke before he could stop himself, "Well I call you that, don’t I?"
"Why you. . . " *SPLASH* "Baka," Akane growled and as she stomped off into the house, ignoring a wet onna-Ranma.
"Kawaikune tomboy," she Ranma muttered, and dragged dragging herself out of the pond. She took to the roofs heading for home. The sun had slipped behind the earth by then.
And some things simply don’t change.
Nodoka walked in the main room, looked at Ranma and shook her head. "Go and change, dear." She stopped and looked closely at Ranma. "Did you and Akane get into a fight again? You two haven’t fought in a long time. Would you like to talk about it?"
"No, not really. I’ll be right back." Onna-Ranma left for the bathroom and came back to the main room. His mother had tea waiting for him. He brought out his math homework to do at the table. Nodoka liked having him do his homework before dinner while she could keep an eye on him. She knew he didn’t like school, and she figured that a little prodding couldn’t hurt. Indeed, it hadn’t; Ranma’s grades went had gone up significantly since he moved to her house. He had even considered going to college. Now, Ranma was sitting at the kitchen table chewing on his pencil, wondering what the hell calculus had to do with teaching martial arts. Nodoka looked fondly at her son, thinking of all the years they were separated. He has grown into a fine young man. With all the troubles Genma has caused him, it is only right that his mother helps him become happy. "Ranma, are you happy?" Nodoka asked.
"Huh?" Ranma’s head shot up from his books, "I dunno, yeah, I guess. Never really thought about it."
His answer disturbed her. She thought it very unhealthy that one would not think about their happiness. "Do you love Akane?" she asked.
"Nani?!" Ranma’s face matched his shirt. "L-l-l…love Aka..Ak…that kawaikune tomboy? Who could lo-l-love a macho chick like Aka…Ak…that tomboy?"
Nodoka smiled gently, "I’ll take that as a yes." Her smiled warmed as Ranma’s face turned even redder than his shirt. She laughed gently, her eyes going suddenly foggy as if seeing something that wasn’t there. "In some ways, you and your father are very much alike. Genma was very shy himself when he was young, at least around women, especially me." Nodoka giggled like a schoolgirl. "As unlady-like as it was, I asked Genma out on our first date because I knew he never would."
"Me like oyaji? No way. And I ain’t shy," Ranma retorted.
Nodoka’s features became stern. "A man is respectful to their elders, Ranma, and they use proper grammar," she chided. Though her voice was gentle, it was as strong as steel.
Ranma looked contrite. "Gomen nasai mom," he said and bowed his head. "Did you really ask oyaji out?" he asked.
Nodoka smiled. "Hai. I decided I needed to when another girl was trying to get his affections. We could talk, but if it was anything romantic, he would just fumble for words then run off."
"He’s good at that," Ranma mumbled under his breath. Nodoka chose not to hear his comment and instead continued with her story.
"I was the one that asked him to marry me."
Ranma’s eyes went wide, "No way!" He couldn’t believe his proper, lady-like mother had bent tradition and been so forward.
Nodoka smiled. "It wasn’t quite like that. I knew he wanted to marry me. A girlfriend of mine’s parents owned a jewelry store. She told me that he bought a ring immediately after he left, and that night he me took out to a nice restaurant. Genma was so nervous he could barely eat."
"Wow, never heard of oyaji losing his appetite."
"That tells you how nervous he was. We went for a walk and he stopped at a particularly beautiful section of the city. He started mumbling so I led him with the right questions. He mostly repeated what I said."
"Jeesh, oyaji was a coward even back then."
"My son," Nodoka reprimanded sternly, "your father was very brave and manly. I came from a very well-off family; your father had nothing but his martial arts skills. My family is very traditional and they did not want Genma as a son-in-law. Simply, they didn’t like him. So, for a poor boy attempting to ask a woman so above his station takes much courage. Furthermore Ranma, your father was man enough to accept his feelings for me. A man does not run away from his feelings, but accepts them and understands. This is why I married him, and also because I loved him. So, you see, you and your father are similar in some ways."
Ranma nodded slowly and thought about his fight with Akane earlier. If only she was more like mom instead of a violent tomboy. "I suppose we are," he acquiesced.
"Ranma, I promised myself that I would not meddle in your life the way your father did. But here I will make a small exception. Akane loves you very much. And I believe you love her. But Akane is not me, she is too stubborn and I do not believe she will ever do what I did with Genma. In this case, you must be a man, Ranma, or I fear you will lose her."
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