A Trail a Mile Wide

Chapter One: Ranma Loses his Fiancées

 

Ranma walked into a scene of excitement and chaos. While that in itself wasn't all that unusual, the actual makeup of this scene was and his mouth dropped open as he stared. Soun Tendo sat in a corner and cried. A panda was playing with a ball. Kasumi was standing by the doorway looking out over the yard, ignoring everybody. Nabiki was watching as Akane and Shampoo and Cologne sat together in a small group and talked enthusiastically together. Akane and Shampoo are actually 'talking'? This is weird! There were boxes and packages piled everywhere in the small room. Eventually, Ranma tried asking, "What the heck is going on?"

Everybody looked up and saw him for the first time. Instantly, he was bombarded with pleadings and excited comments and droll remarks. Soun was at his feet crying that it was Ranma's responsibility and he had to take care of it, the Panda doing the same thing with wooden signs. Akane's brown eyes were shining with delight as she tried to talk to Ranma, but couldn't get a word in edgewise through her father. Nabiki finally cut everybody off with a single sarcastic remark, "Well, Ranma. This time you've really been thrown over!"

"Huh?" Ranma edged past the dads and looked at Akane for clarification. This time, her brown eyes also showed a trace of guilt.

But it was Shampoo who spoke first, "Nii-hao, Ranma! Shampoo be going home now – came to say goodbye to ex-husband first."

Ranma's mouth dropped open as he stared at the purple-haired Amazon. Uncertainly, he asked, "Shampoo?"

Shampoo nodded, her eyes sparkling, "It be year-and-day since Ranma defeated Shampoo on Challenge Log. That mean marriage contract now over and Shampoo can go home."

"Marriage contract?"

Nabiki cleared her throat, "Apparently they were pulling our leg with that law book, but the basic thing was still true – since you were an outsider, Shampoo was obligated to marry you for a year and a day when you defeated her. That's why she followed you."

"But…"

A new voice interrupted him, "Hey everybody! She agreed! She said she'll marry me!" Maniacal laughter followed the remark. Mousse came into the room through the back door, accompanied by Kodachi. The young aristocrat was hanging onto Mousse's arm, her eyes turned up to him in adoration.

Ranma stared, "Did I miss something here?"

"Ranma-sama!" Kodachi detached herself from Mousse to hug Ranma tightly before giving him a quick kiss on the cheek and backing off, "Ranma-darling! Mousse-sama has asked me to marry him! And Brother-dearest said I could!"

Ranma looked over to the backyard where Kuno met his eye and nodded while shrugging. "Mousse will be good to my sister, and the Amazons will give her a better home than can be found here."

"But, Mousse – I thought you loved Shampoo!"

The Amazons all grinned, and Mousse went over to Shampoo and gave her a kiss on the cheek, which Shampoo returned. Mousse smiled down at Shampoo, "Of course I love my sister, but I wouldn't ever marry her!"

Ranma fell down. "Si..si.. sister??????"

Cologne chuckled, "Dear Son-in-law, you underestimate an Amazon's sense of humor. My dear grand-daughter saw very quickly that you would be reluctant to fulfill a husband's obligations, but she was still bound to you for the year and a day. So we came to support her in her exile."

Ranma couldn't say anything.

Mousse chuckled, "We're the world's best warriors, but because we're so good, when we play we tend rather to extremes."

"When we play, we leave a trail a mile wide!" Shampoo burst into giggles, "Ex-husband – you need see you face!"

Everybody was laughing at him… All of Ranma's bafflement turned into anger at being the butt of every joke and he furiously strode through the group and outside, bounding up to the roof in an instant.

After some time had gone by, he glanced over at Akane climbing up beside him. She sat down next to him and looked out across the yard. Ranma sulked a bit longer before he asked, "Is it true?"

Akane smiled, "Yes, finally. This time they're not playing around. Well, they're playing, but they're perfectly serious about going back to China. They just came by to say goodbye."

"I bet that makes you happy!" Ranma knew Akane had always been jealous of the beautiful Amazon.

"Umm," Akane squirmed a bit, "Well, I am happy… Ranma," Akane took a deep breath, "I'm going with them."

Ranma face-falled. Stuttering, he slowly sat back up, "You're…"

With a sigh, Akane looked down at the roof tiles, "Ranma, they said that in the Amazon tribe, I can never be forced to marry against my will."

Something within Ranma broke and he stared at her with wide, hurt eyes.

"Oh, Ranma," Akane sighed again, and twiddled her thumbs, "It's not you. Ranma…" Akane looked into his beautiful sapphire eyes and paused for a long time before saying softly, "Ranma, I think I love you."

Ranma was too stunned to move. "But…" He gulped.

"Come on, Ranma – you have to admit you never liked our parents deciding for us either."

"Well, no – I thought it sucked! But, Akane…"

"Ranma," Akane reached a hand out to him.

Hesitantly, Ranma took it, holding the smaller hand within his, noting the calluses on the edge of her palm from the bricks, and strength he felt there. "Akane…" he hesitated a long moment, "I'll marry you."

"That's sweet of you," Akane smiled, "but that's not what I want."

Ranma looked up, astonished, "But, Akane!"

Akane shook her head, holding his hand tightly. "All I've ever wanted is to be left alone." She closed her eyes tiredly, "Ranma, I do love you. I really do. You're the first guy I've ever met who treated me decently, not like a prize to be won, or an object to be worshipped… You spar with me, you fight with me, you talk with me. Ranma – you're the friend I've never had. I didn't think I could be friends with guys until you came along." She smiled as she opened her eyes, "But that doesn't change the fact that I was being forced into this, and so were you."

Ranma swallowed, "I… don't mind, really."

This time, Akane laughed, "Ranma! You're just saying that. Honestly, now – when have you ever wanted to marry me?"

"Uhh…" Ranma looked away, "I like you better than them."

Akane smiled, "That's not an answer. Ranma, I know you like me, but you don't love me. Now, be a man," her mouth quirked in a grin at the phrase, "and stand up to your dad and mine and don't let them force you into any more 'arranged marriages'. Nabiki and Kasumi have already agreed to support you on this, so you don't have to worry about them."

"Are you really leaving with Shampoo?" Ranma still couldn't grasp it.

Akane nodded, "Cologne said I was a good fighter and that I understand techniques well. She said that the tribe will accept me, and she'll train me, and that eventually I can be a teacher there." Brown eyes looked down at the koi pond, "Dad never did understand how much I wanted the dojo…"

"But the Amazons will pound you flat!"

Dropping his hand, Akane stood up, her hands on her hips, "Ranma no Baka! Will you grow up? I may not be as good as you! I may not be as good as Shampoo! That does not make me worthless!!!!!!!!!" She stomped off, jumping down from the roof to the ground.

"Akane!" Ranma rushed after her. How do I always manage to put my foot in my mouth?

At the edge of the pond, she turned and waited for him.

Putting his hands in his pockets, he looked down. Finally, he switched the unspoken subject, "You said they wouldn't force you to marry – but what about Shampoo?"

Akane laughed, "I don't have to participate in the Challenge Log! And in the tribe, the rule is only enforced among outsiders, it helps bring in strong blood."

Ranma's face turned red. And then he blinked, "But I was a girl at the time."

Cologne laughed, landing beside them, balancing on her stick, "Foolish boy – you were with a panda and the Guide. Obviously you had been to Jusenkyo. That wasn't the Kiss of Death – that one is left cheek first – but the Guide isn't familiar with all our customs. It was easier to follow you home."

"Oh," Ranma said faintly.

Turning to Akane, Cologne asked her, "Are you about done?" She glanced up at the sky, "The winds will only be favorable for another hour at the most."

"Almost," Akane looked back at Ranma and smiled, "I just have to talk to him a bit more. I'll be there in a bit."

Cologne nodded and hopped back into the house where it looked like a party was in progress.

"Ranma," Akane studied him for a long serious moment, "Don't let them bully you anymore, promise me."

His eyebrows down in a furious scowl, Ranma started to hotly deny it. The protest died on his lips as he saw the genuine concern in her eyes, and the knowledge. Instead he laughed, a sound with no humor in it, "Akane, don't leave. You know me better than I do. How am I suppose to do anything without you to protect me?"

Akane smiled, "Well, half your problems are going with me."

At the reference to Kodachi and the China group, Ranma smiled bitterly, "I liked sparring with Shampoo and Mousse. They were fun. And Cologne taught me a lot."

"I know." Akane smiled sadly, "Ranma, I have to be free. I've treated you badly – and you never even seem to notice. I could take my anger out on you, and you accepted it as matter of fact. Most of my anger was from being stifled here. I need to be free. And you need to be yourself. And that doesn't mean letting me beat you up every time I'm feeling upset." She glanced across the yard, "Ranma – figure out who you really like, and then stand up for yourself. You're my friend… but your face doesn't light up in happiness and joy when you see me coming." Akane smiled and reached a hand out to trace Ranma's cheekbone, "I have to go, Ranma. Take care of yourself. And…" she hesitated for a moment, "when P-chan comes back, take care of him too. Promise me that, please?"

Wordless, Ranma nodded. And watched silently as she left. As Akane walked out of his life. As Shampoo and Mousse and Cologne and Kodachi left. Left him alone, standing in the yard. Dry-faced as no tears escaped his eyes.

 

 


 Notes to Chapter 1:

This is a first draft, hasn't been revised yet, so it's not as smooth as it could be yet – I'd appreciate knowing what's *not* working with it!

I am rushing things with it a bit, but I don't want it to be mega-huge like some of my others (so I have a problem with 'short'...). The idea that the Amazon group is just having fun is an old one of mine, I introduce it in a lot of stories. Mousse and Kodachi... ;-) Well, she is a heck of a lot of woman! And I figure she'll do better with the Amazons who won't mind her more manic tendencies. And she'll love Mousse well, since he likes her (no man had ever paid her any attention until Ranma caught her – all girls school). And, no, Akane and Shampoo are not paired. Akane was serious about just wanting to be left alone, and all Shampoo cares about is fighting – besides, both of them do love Ranma (in this timeline).

- One credit... (I thought it was appropriate)

"We may be Starfleet's finest

And our record is our pride;

But when we play, we tend to leave

a trail a mile wide!

We're sorry 'bought the wreckage

and the riots and the fuss --

At least we're sure this planet

won't be quick forgetting us!"

-- song lyric from "Banned from Argo"

by Leslie Fish