Air Ranma (Part #2)
She was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she almost missed her sister's sudden question.
"Who is the new guy, Nabiki?"
"Which new guy?"
An annoyed expression on her face now, Akane said, "The tall one. The REALLY tall one. Someone said that you were talking to him during lunch."
"Oh, you mean Ranma."
"Saotome Ranma, age sixteen, class C-1." A grin graced her face as she added, "Why, have an interest?"
"No! I was... just wondering."
The next morning Ranma arrived almost late to school, having been up the night before despairing over the homework that he had been given, and barely made it to class at last bell. By the time lunch came, mental exhaustion was already starting to claw at him.
So it was with a little relief when he heard a familiar voice ask, "They drowning you in homework?"
In hindsight he thought the groan was a very appropriate reply.
Gazing down at the pile of papers spread out in front of him Nabiki said, "Actually, it doesn't look that bad. They're just wanting to make sure you've got the background for the current material."
Yanking on his pigtail in frustration he replied, "That's easy for you to say. I don't even know what half this stuff means! Arg... I think I'm just stupid."
"How well did you do at your last school?"
"Er... which one?"
Nabiki looked at his oddly a moment before she asked, "How many schools have you been in?"
"Eight, I think. Mom is still trying to hunt down all the paperwork."
Now with an almost careful look on her face Nabiki asked, "Trouble at school?"
"Huh? Oh, ya, all the teachers just kept doing this to me, it's so stupid. Pop and I used to constantly move to all these weird places for martial arts training, so I never really spent much time in school. Pop-"
It was then that he noticed the hard time breathing... and the blurry vision. Quickly standing he ran for the nearest bathroom and locked himself in one of the stalls. Hands clenched he forced himself to take deep breaths as he wiped at the tears over and over again. Stupid pop, and his stupid ideas, and....
The first bell had already rung when they finally stopped, and when he made it back to the tree he found that Nabiki had already left. Not surprising really. After all, who'd want to be around some guy acting like an idiot.
It was weird finding all his papers and books packed up like that though.
The timing wasn't too hard, just wait long enough that Akane had started her homework, but before Kasumi had returned with the shopping.
"Daddy, can I ask you a question?"
Lowering his paper, her Father looked at her with a smile while saying, "Of course."
Taking a seat next to him she organized her thoughts before asking, "I was wondering, did anyone else ever train in Anything Goes? I mean, besides yourself and Akane?"
Shaking his head he answered, "I doubt it, Nabiki. The art of Anything Goes was a very exclusive school, and only Genma and I were ever trained in it under H-" and suddenly he stopped. Bemused, she watched as he carefully glanced around before finally continuing, though it in a lower tone. "...under The Master."
She got as far as "Who was-" when her father suddenly jumped to his feet and in cutting her off exclaimed, "Of course, Genma!" before rushing off into his room. Following at a more sedated pace she caught only snippets of his mutterings: "...nearly of age..." "...solemn vow..." "...future of the..." "...where is that..."
It was the final bit, however, that she was waiting to hear, and with a knowing smile Nabiki returned to her room.
"...oh Saotome, how I've missed you!"
Wednesday, the halfway marker for the week and a goal that Akane had come to enjoy, if only because it meant that the weekend was that much closer. As usual Nabiki had left home before her to do whatever it was that she did with her acquaintances, something that occasionally worried Akane because of all the rumors she heard. For now, however, she just had to survive the morning, and thus when she spotted the school gates ahead in the distance she began to prepare herself.
It was almost scary how easy the mental litany came to her now, but that in itself was a sort of comfort, and she knew she needed it. There was a rhythm there, a flow that she had discovered on the third morning after Kuno's crazy declaration, and on the rare occasions that she could reach it, grasp it, and use it, it made everything easier.
I hate boys.
She picked up her pace as her balance shifted into something more centered.
I hate boys.
Switching her book bag to her left hand she clenched the right tightly.
I HATE boys.
Lowering her head she then put out a burst of last-minute speed while angling for the tightly packed bunch.
"I HATE BOYS!"
And then she crashed into them, her whole body transforming into a flailing machine with the power of a wrecking ball.
There was no thinking, no contemplation. Instead there was just a feeling of motion, of moving from one strike to the next in a non-stop twirl, and she embraced it. Never stopping, a punch turned into a block as her book bag swatted aside a shinai while her foot took someone's legs out from beneath them with a kick to the shins. Half a second later it all changed into the grab of a baseball bat as her book bag smashed face-first into another while a mule kick to the groin dropped someone behind her.
"I HATE BOYS!"
She connected with a short jab just below the armpit while her book bag deflected a soccer ball into another's face as she side-kicked a third in the gut. And she had to keep moving. She knew that if she ever stopped, ever allowed them to regroup, they might get lucky.
Like they almost had the very first time.
Then out of the corner of her eye she spotted him, stepping out from behind a tree to make his flowery speech before also attacking her, but not today. Today she was riding the motion, at this moment she had the unthinking power of a whirling dervish, and so while whipping her book bag into a passing face she took three almost dance-like steps and suddenly ducked into a momentary crouch.
"AND I HATE YOU!"
The uppercut started from clear down at her knees, building power as it traveled in an almost perfect line straight toward the sky with only his jaw in the way to try and stop it. Twirling in place she brought up her leg for a spin kick and... there was nobody there.
It was over.
Twenty-two unconscious boys were sprawled out about her, including Kuno who lay in a boneless heap two meters away. Taking deep breaths she stood there, eyes clenched shut as she took all of her anger and nervous energy and chained it away once more. Some days it was harder to do then others, but again, today it proved to be easy.
Then with a final sigh, Tendo Akane straightened her clothes and left for her first class.
As expected, she found him in his now usual spot, trying to eat and groan at the same time while sorting through even larger stacks of homework. She had spent all morning answering questions about him, for a small fee of course, but her inside information had been quickly devoured leaving only a number of requests for more. Now a woman on a mission, she wandered on over.
"Your third day in school, and I hear that you've already made Suzuki-sensei's short list. What happened?"
Glancing at her a moment, Ranma scowled before digging into his book bag a moment and handing her a paper, then proceeded to shovel large portions of his bento into his mouth.
The paper showed a classic example of Suzuki-sensei's crazy physics questions, Nabiki herself having taken his class last year. The teacher had a habit of having single question quizzes and tests... that were usually so hard it took the entire class period to figure them out. If you were smart.
"Couldn't figure it out?"
Swallowing down his mouthful Ranma finally said, "No, I got the stupid answer right." Pointing at one corner he then added, "You just hit this ball in that direction, really hard, and everything will eventually settle where it's supposed to."
"How long did that take you to figure out?"
"Er... I don't know, a couple seconds? I mean, it was pretty obvious." Setting aside his lunch he then said, "I don't know why he got so upset about it. Kept going on about proofs and theorems and all this other junk." She could almost hear his teeth grind as he finally added, "And then he said that I was cheating."
She stared at him a moment before asking, "How did you figure it out so fast?"
Letting out another growl of frustration Ranma said, "Now you're starting to sound like him! I don't know, it's just the way you do it, okay?!" Slowly nodding she returned the paper before sitting down across from him and dragging out her own bento.
The silence dragged out for a couple of minutes as they both ate, while Nabiki added this latest bit of info to her growing profile of the tall boy.
"Hey Nabiki, why you hanging out with me anyway? Uh, what I mean is... er, not that I mind or anything, right? I was just wondering is all."
Putting on her best mystery smile Nabiki airily said, "Oh, I don't know. Because you're new... and there are other tidbits that people are wanting to know about you. Or, maybe it's just that it's quiet here." Shrugging her shoulders cutely she added, "You know, the usual reasons."
Nodoka sighed as she heard the front door open. While still trying to adjust to the craziness that composed her son's life, she privately admitted that it was nice having someone around again. Besides, with all of his curses and... other issues, she found that she could no longer complain of being bored.
Frowning at the odd tone she poked her head into the hallway and said, "Welcome home son... or daughter in today's case." Pointing to the coat rack she then said, "I'm keeping a towel there for you, so we don't have to mop as much. What happened this time?"
Watching as he began to strip off his outer layers she heard him mumble, "-what is it with people and their stupid wash water?" and she shook her head. She wouldn't have believed it herself... if she hadn't seen it demonstrated so many times before her own eyes in the last four weeks.
"Well, once you've cleaned up and... changed, why don't you join me in the kitchen." Carefully keeping a straight face she added, "I've been baking cookies, and I think some taste testing is in order."
Watching her child's face light up she smiled.
Yes, craziness and all, it was nice having a family again.