Title:  Wanderings
Author: Alatri ^..^ alatri@att.net
Fandom: Ranma 1/2
Complete/Updated:  3/15/99
Feedback: Comments, critiques, suggestions, etc, all welcome. ;-)
Disclaimer: Only mine in my dreams. ;-)  This is a work of fiction based upon the manga/anime characters invented by Takahashi Rumiko – she and the publishers hold the copyrights to the Ranma ½ World. This story was written for free entertainment purposes only and may not be reproduced for profit or altered without permission.



            Ryoga sat with the villagers and laughed easily.  He was finally back in his favorite town.  They had been kind to him when he was a child, helped him, taught him… and never once laughed at him or criticized him for the way he’d wander off and get lost.  They’d always been there for him…  Ryoga’s hand was suddenly grabbed by one of the younger children.

            “Nii-san come and play with me now?” The child grinned, showing a mouth with mis-matched teeth.

            Grinning extra-wide at the boy, Ryoga let his fangs show.  The boy squealed and laughed, grinning wider himself.  Ryoga laughed and ruffled the child’s hair, “Not now, Aki-chan – I’m talking with your dad.  Maybe later today.”

            “Pig-play??” The boy demanded for being put off.

            Ryoga sighed internally, “Yes, okay – pig-play.”  The children loved his new curse.  The adults carefully didn’t remark on it.

            Squealing with glee, the child ran off.

            Ryoga and the adults resumed their discussion of the year’s harvest.


            Ryoga was lost.

            He walked though the desert.  There was no desert next to the town.  “Damn you, Ranma Saotome!”  Ryoga almost cried.  He’d spent an hour, barely an hour, with his old friends.  He’d gone with Motoko to go visit her aged grandmother who couldn’t leave their house.  On the way, he’d gotten lost.  Lost.  Again.  And it was all Ranma’s fault.  He could feel it in his bones.  It was Ranma’s fault, and Ranma was going to pay.  “Damn you, Ranma.”


            Ranma ran along the top of the wall, as fast as he could go.  He’s not going to get away!

            “Damn you, Ranma!  Die!”

            What the…?  Ranma, focused on the chase, wasn’t able to react fast enough as a kick slammed into his side, knocking him off the wall and smashing him into ground.  Ow!!  Ryoga hadn’t been holding back.  I don’t have time for this!  “Damn it, Ryoga!  Not now!!” Ranma’s eyes sought out the figure in black that he’d been chasing.  The man was almost out of sight on the wall.  Ranma jumped up to resume the pursuit – and his leg collapsed under him.  Damn it, Ryoga!

            Ryoga, ready to pound Ranma into dust, paused.  I think… He glanced up and saw the figure running away.  Ah, shit.  “You want him captured?”

            “Yes!” Ranma snarled, getting up again, carefully balancing on his good leg.  It was too late now.  The guy was too far away and Ranma would never…  Ranma’s mouth dropped open as Ryoga spun into action.

            First, Ryoga stilled completely for a fraction of a second – and then in the finish of that second, he’d whipped several headbands off and was flinging them out in wide curves.  As the headbands were winging on their way, he touched the wall with his forefinger and then jumped on top of it, letting the explosion propel him into the air and forward.

            The wall continued to shatter in a line towards the figure in black – who had stopped in mid-step to keep from running into the deadly whirls of yellow that were spinning in front of him.  As he focused on the headbands, the wall under him collapsed.  The graceful leap the man made even unprepared confirmed that he was a ninja.  Standing lightly on the ground, a knife gleaming in one hand and shuriken in the other, the man glanced around for the danger.  And didn’t see Ryoga coming down from above.

            Ryoga had pulled off his belt as he flew upwards and spun it in a sweeping motion as he came down, knocking the weapons out of the ninja’s hands.  Recovering instantly, the ninja grabbed the belt and yanked.  Seeing that move coming, Ryoga waited until the ninja committed and then let go.  The ninja’s balance recovery was almost instantaneous.  But that pause gave Ryoga enough time to bounce off the ground and into the air again.  Headbands spun out – this time with more deadly purpose.  Ryoga had taken the measure of his opponent and seen him to be dangerous.

            The ninja contemptuously brushed the bands aside with his dark sleeves.  But Ryoga wasn’t even close to being done.  The headbands were only to give him enough time to grab the laces off his pants’ legs.  He whipped them out to entwine around the ninja, even as the ninja attacked him with nunchuks.  Ryoga let his natural toughness be his defense as the laces wrapped around the ninja until they constricted his every move.  The ninja fell, glaring at Ryoga with hate-filled eyes.

            Ryoga picked up his belt and tied it around his waist again.  Then he glanced up and caught the knife by the hilt as it came down.  The shuriken he dodged.

            Ranma came hobbling up, “Ryoga-man!  That was great!  I didn’t know you could fight like that!!”

            “I never had to,” Ryoga said tightly, staring at the ninja, “What the hell did you get yourself into now?”  He pulled off more headbands and picked up the shurikens, wrapping them tightly.

            Ranma shrugged, “Don’t know – we were having lunch when this guy attacked us.  You know what lunch is like – we weren’t even sure which of us he was after.  Pop and Mr. Tendo were for once in their lives effective and blocked all his attacks before the rest of us could move, and then this fellow took off again.  I chased him to find out what was up.”

            “You should have let him go.”  Ryoga looked into the dead eyes of the ninja, “You will get no answers out of this one – only trouble.”  He shook himself slightly and put the wrapped weapons into an improvised pouch which he gave to Ranma, “Hold on to these.  Was anyone hurt?”

            “No.” Ranma shook his head, “Let’s get him back to the house and then we’ll get some answers one way or another.”  Starting to walk over to pick the securely tied man, he winced at the pain in his leg, “Ryoga, you ass!  What possessed you to attack me right then anyhow?  I’m really getting tired of this, man.  You could at least ask when you want to spar!”

            Ryoga stuffed another headband in the ninja’s mouth and then gagged him before slinging him over his shoulder.  “I’m sorry, Ranma-kun.”  For the first time in a year, Ryoga meant the apology.  His anger had made him careless.  And Ranma had nearly paid for it.  As much as Ryoga hated Ranma, he never wanted to see him hurt.

            Ranma blinked in sheer shock at the apology.  Then he realized that Ryoga was waiting for him to lead the way.  Without another word, he headed off.


            Nabiki glared as Ryoga dumped the ninja down on the porch.  “I don’t want him – take him to Kuno’s.”

            “Excuse me?”  Ranma rubbed at his leg.  It was already feeling better, but still had a way to go for full recovery.

            “I said, take him to Kuno’s – it’s all his fault.”

            Akane came up behind her sister, “Oh!  Hello, Ryoga-kun.”

            Ryoga blushed and stuttered.  Oh no!  I’m here without a gift!  His pack was still in the village.  Ryoga fished around in his pockets until he found a small seashell.  Horribly aware of how inadequate it was, he held it out to her.  “I’m sorry, Akane-san, but…”  He could never explain it.

            “Oh…” Akane picked it gently from his hand and stared at it in wonder.  The little shell was perfectly formed and shaded in opalescent colors.  “Oh, Ryoga!  Thank you!  This is wonderful!”  She meant every word of it, and would have hugged Ryoga except for the tied-up ninja that lay on the porch between them.

            She likes it?  Ryoga blinked – it was nothing at all compared with what he wanted to give her.

            “It’s a stupid shell!” Ranma was steaming as he reached to grab it out of Akane’s hand.

            Akane pulled back, “It’s mine!  Baka!  And it’s not stupid!!”

            Ranma drew back in surprise – Akane was serious.  He looked to Ryoga and saw only red waves of jealousy. 

            The ninja stood up, shaking the laces off of him.  “Tell the Kuno that my Master will get what he wants,” he informed Nabiki, then he swiftly moved until he was standing next to the wall in a shadow, and then they couldn’t see him anymore.

            Ryoga and Ranma had automatically drawn into guard positions in front of the girls as the ninja had moved.  When he disappeared, they glanced at each other and then herded the girls back inside the house while they followed, keeping their guard until they were inside.

            “What the hell do you mean, it’s all Kuno’s fault?” Ranma confronted Nabiki.

            Nabiki wrinkled her nose, “I acquired some stuff on consignment for him.  There was quite a price war for one of the antiques, but the guy didn’t have the resources to win against me.  I guess he decided to use other methods.  And I’d better take the stupid junk over to Kuno – let him deal with the ninjas.”  She looked at the boys, “Unless either of you want to take it for me?”

            Ryoga sighed and nodded.

            “Now that would be a good way to get it away from the ninja!  No telling where it would ever end up!!  Lost forever.”

            Now that was entirely too much.  Ryoga had had a bad day, and he’d admitted his earlier mis-judgment, but he thought he’d made up for it capturing the ninja.  And now to have Ranma accusing him of getting lost…  Ryoga glared at Ranma, “It’s your god-damned fault!”  He swung away, “Goodbye!”

            “What the…” Ranma’s mouth hung open for a second as he watched Ryoga run down the street, then he sprang forward, “Ryoga!  Wait!”

            “Ranma, you idiot!  Why do you keep picking on him?!”  Akane was level with him as they chased after their friend.

            Ranma didn’t bother answering.  They turned the corner… and skidded to a halt before they ran over P-chan.  The water that the old lady was emptying into the street changed Ranma into his girl-form.  Somehow, it completely missed Akane, who held out her hands, “P-chan!  You’re back!  Please come here, P-chan.”

            The black pig sighed as he turned around and slowly walked to Akane.  Akane scooped him up in her arms, holding him close, “Ranma baka – apologize to Ryoga when he comes back.  Every time he comes here, you end up driving him away again.”

            Ranma glared at the pig, “Hey!  He’s the one always attacking me!”

            “Stop picking on him!”

            “I’m suppose to let him pound me without fighting back?”

            “You know what I mean, baka!  He wouldn’t be so angry at you if you didn’t provoke him all the time.”

            “Like hell!  He always just attacks me!”

            As they got back to the house, Nabiki met them with a package, “Here, since you drove my deliver away, you get to take this to Kuno’s.”

            “But I…”  Under the combined stares from Akane and Nabiki, Ranma folded.  “Oh, all right.”  He glared at the black pig, “Moron.”  And then had to pause and look more closely at the pig.  Ryoga wasn’t raspberrying him back.  Wasn’t even looking at him, in fact.  Wasn’t looking at Akane either.  He was slumped down in Akane’s arms, eyes closed, ears folded down.  “Mr. P – hey, you okay?”

            Akane blinked and looked more closely at the pig she held.  “P-chan?  What’s the matter?”  She cuddled him more closely, bringing him up to her chest.  P-chan blinked, opening his eyes.  Then he squirmed away, hopping out of her arms.  “P-chan!”

            “Pig!  Where do you think you’re going!?” Ranma stepped in front of the pig, who just looked up at him tiredly.  Then the pig turned and went back to Akane.

            After she picked him up again, Akane stared at Ranma for a long moment before shrugging slightly and walking down the street.  Ranma blinked and followed her with Nabiki’s package.  As the two of them walked to Kuno’s, they talked with casual stiffness about school, both of them trying hard to ignore the pig held in Akane’s arms.


            After they got back, Ranma and Akane went to the dojo to practice.  They warmed up separately, then with Ranma’s sarcastic help Akane completed a complicated maneuver that she’d been working on and turned with a wide grin to look at the corner where P-chan always watched.  Her grin disappeared as she saw the empty floor.  “P-chan?” she whispered.

            Ranma swung around to look.  He walked out of the dojo and into the house, going straight to the bath.  That had a very furious Nabiki in it.  Ranma backed out, holding his hand to his nose.

            “Have you found P-chan yet?” Akane asked him as she came out of her room, “He’s not anywhere.”

            Ranma took his hand away from his nose, shaking his head.  He glanced out the window, “Lost?”

            “Oh, my poor P-chan…”  Akane bit her lip.  “Ranma – why were you so mad at him?”

            Starting to answer, Ranma abruptly remembered who they were talking about, “Uhhh…”

            Akane rolled her eyes, “Ryoga, I mean.  You’re always mad at P-chan.”  They walked down the hall to her room.

            Oh… Ranma accepted the segue at face-value.  “When I was chasing the ninja, Ryoga came out of nowhere and attacked me.  I would have caught him if it hadn’t’ve been for that moron!”

            “But you two came back with him…”  Came back with the ninja…  Remembering, Akane suddenly recognized the bindings that had tied the ninja.  As Ranma didn’t answer, Akane made the obvious connection, “Ryoga was the one who got him!”  She sat down at her desk and Ranma sat cross-legged on the floor.

            Ranma nodded sheepishly.

            “Well that sounds to me like he was apologizing.”


            “Oh, honestly Ranma – when have you ever been doing anything important before when Ryoga has shown up?”

            “But I never did anything to make him mad!”  Ranma’s sapphire girl-form eyes were wide with innocence.  “How could I?  He hasn’t even been around for days!”

            “Well,…” Akane really couldn’t argue with that.  The last time Ryoga had been there…  Nothing spectacular had happened to make him leave.  One day he’d just walked down the hallway to the dining room and never quite made it there.  She sighed, “There must be something – no one gets mad for no reason at all.”

            Ranma shook his head, “He’s just mentally unstable.”

            Akane threw a book at him.


            Ryoga climbed the mountain, hauling himself up with short little pig legs, stuffing his little hooves into what cracks he could find.  This, he went up another couple of inches, is really, the next crack started to crumble and he hastily found a new one, really, up another inch, irritating.  Finally getting to the top, he walked to the other side.  Up the west over to the east.  Tomorrow, I’ll see the sunrise from here.  And then I’ll leave again.  He sighed and sat down, looking out across the land.  Unfortunately, the clouds around the mountain made that hard to do.  At least there’s no one here.  Alone.  By myself.  Just me and the mountain.  A three-pronged hook nearly skewered him as he leaped back, squealing.

            Climbing the rope attached to the hook, a climber poked his head over the top, “Hey, Taro!  There’s a pig up here!”

            “Really?” the answer could be heard from another climber below, “Well catch him then!  Better than what’s in our pack!”

            Ryoga ran straight off the edge.  He came to a landing quite a long ways down.  For a long time, he just lay there, panting and hurting.  Eventually, his body recovered and he sat up.  Okay, that does it.  Concentrating hard, he eventually managed to get a kettle of water set up over a fire.


            Ranma hovered in Akane’s doorway.  She was turning the little seashell over and over in her hands, looking at it.  Ryoga’s been gone for three days and she still is thinking about him.  Sighing to himself, Ranma turned to leave.

            “Wait, Ranma.”  Akane put the shell carefully down.  “What did you want to talk about?”

            “Uhh…” Ranma swallowed, “Never mind.”  He turned and went downstairs.

            Akane watched him go then sighed and reached for the shell again.  Make up your mind, Ranma.  Make up your mind, and then I might make up mine.  She liked Ranma, she really did.  Once she’d gotten over the initial anger, she and Ranma had been on their way to being good friends.  But…  Okay – right now I don’t really want anything more than friendship from either of them.  But it would be so much easier if all those other girls weren’t after Ranma.  If I don’t put in my claim, I might lose him before either of us grow up enough to decide if we love either.  And Ryoga’s obsessive worship scared her.  But luckily Ryoga never actually said anything about it.  If he ever did, Akane turned the shell over in her hands, I’d have to break his heart.  Right now – all I want is their friendship.  I’ve never had friends like them before – Martial Artists that I can respect and learn from.  In his own way, Kuno had always been the closest thing she’d had to a teacher who was also a friend and a peer.  He used to challenge her daily for a spar.  And she’d always win, somehow.  Now that Akane spared with Ranma, she recognized how she always won – Kuno had always fought just hard enough to draw her out.  And when she got good enough, he found her other sparring partners with that stupid announcement.  Kuno – why the heck didn’t you ever just tell me what you were doing?  I hated all guys because of it.  I was scared of you.  But Kuno had his own rather warped pride.  Watching him challenge Ranma time and again for the stupidest reasons made Akane realize that.  He wanted desperately to have Ranma’s friendship and training – but sparring was the only way he could ask.  We’re all a little crazy, those of us in Martial Arts, aren’t we?  But Ryoga…  Ryoga’s fights with Ranma were different.  Most times, Akane could feel the sheer waves of hatred from him.  At the same time… Ryoga never hurt Ranma.  It had taken Akane a long time to realize that.  He’s obviously Ranma’s friend – but at the same time he hates Ranma.  Akane shook her head.  She didn’t understand it.  And Ranma was as baffled as she – when he bothered to think about it.


            Ryoga stood at the entrance of the cave looking down into the darkness.  “Might as well find out where it leads.”  Not that I’ll actually end up where it really goes… 


            A few days later Akane got the package of crystals in the mail.

            “I wonder where he was,” Ranma picked up an amethyst geode curiously.

            Akane picked up a brilliant quartz and ran a finger down the edge, wiping off the dirt.


            Ranma knocked the chains away, “Mousse, you idiot!  Give it up!”

            “Never!  Until I defeat you, Shampoo won’t look at me!”

            It was as good an excuse for a spar as any.  Ranma jumped up over Mousse’s next wave of external weapons.

            Shampoo and Akane stood next to each other and criticized the guys’ fighting techniques.

            Ryoga wandered by and put down his pack to watch.

            Mid-fight, Ranma sensed…  He deflected Mousse’s blade and glanced around, “Ryoga!”

            Startled, Shampoo and Akane looked over and then quickly sidled away from each other.

            Ryoga blinked, “There’s a hammer about to bash your head in…”

            Ranma kicked behind him without looking and cracked it in two.  “I knew that.  Where have you been?”

            Ryoga shrugged, “When did it ever matter?”  He sighed and picked up his backpack again, walking away.

            “Stop ignoring me!” Mousse screamed.

            “Later, Mousse…  Hey, Ryoga, wait!”  Ranma ran after his friend.

            Akane took a couple of steps towards them, then halted.  After Shampoo had calmed a furious Mousse down, Akane went back with them to the Cat Café.


            “Okay, man – give over – what is it with you?  Last week you were mad as hell.  Now you’re just depressed.  Not that that isn’t your other usual state…”

            Ryoga glanced at the slight youth walking beside him and briefly considered hitting him, but the memory of his last mistake haunted him.  If that ninja had been attacking instead of running away… my interference could have hurt Ranma.  Badly.  “Why are you being so…” he hesitated over the word, and then reworded the whole question, “What do you care?”

            “Come on, Ryoga!  What sort of a question is that?  We’re friends.”

            “Friends?”  Ryoga tasted the word briefly, remembering what had happened to his last friend.  “No.  We’re not.  We never have been and we never will be.  Stop trying to make me one.  Just leave me alone.”  Alone.

            Ranma stopped dead in his tracks.  Ryoga…  His friend was seriously depressed.  Akane, where are you?  Ranma looked around – Akane could always cheer Ryoga up.  But he didn’t see her.  Swallowing, Ranma caught up to Ryoga again.  For awhile, they walked together in silence.


            And then Ranma looked around.  “Ah, shit…”  I knew better than to walk aimlessly anywhere with Ryoga.  I really knew it…  “Where are we?”

            Ryoga paused and glanced at the beach and the ocean, “Okinawa.”

            “Like hell, Ryoga – this is cold.  Okinawa is warm.”

            Ryoga shrugged, “Hokkaido, then.”

            Ranma glanced at him curiously, “You don’t have the foggiest idea, do you?”

            Turning away from Ranma, Ryoga stomped off.

            “Hey!”  Ranma raced after him, “If you leave me here, I’ll never find my way back!”

            After a bit, Ryoga abruptly said, “Izu-Oshima, Northeast off Honshu.”


            “That’s where we are.”

            Ranma looked around, “All right…  how’d you tell that?”

            Ryoga nodded at the volcano, “That’s Mt. Mihara.”

            “I’ve always wanted to meet Godzilla,” Ranma grinned, “Shall we go see?”

            Ryoga started to say something, then stopped.  After a moment he shrugged, “Might as well.”  It’s not like I have anything better to do.

            As they walked on, eventually they came across people and roads.  Ryoga ignored most of them as if they didn’t exist.  Ranma stared in fascination, wide-eyed and curious.  We really are out of Tokyo.  How’d Ryoga do that?  When they passed a call booth, Ranma suddenly remembered something else, “Oh hey, wait up a sec, Ryoga.”


            “Gotta call home.”  He grinned, “Unless you can get us back tonight?”

            A look of pain crossed Ryoga’s face and he turned away from Ranma, walking to the phone and stood waiting next to it, his back to Ranma.

            Ranma sighed, I didn’t mean anything by it!  He fished around in his pockets, “Uhh…”

            “What now?”

            “Got some change?”

            Ryoga handed him a phone card.


            “He’s where????” Akane’s voice went high.

            Kasumi beamed at her, “I think it’s a sweet vacation.  I’ve always wanted to meet Godzilla – he’s so cute.”

            “Cute.  Only my sister…” Nabiki muttered.  “You heard right, Akane.  He said to expect him in a week.”

            Akane rolled her eyes, “And let me guess, that’s when Ryoga clobbered him.”

            “As far as we could tell from the sounds on the phone.”


            The scenery had changed again.  They weren’t heading towards a volcano – they were walking into a town.  Ranma’s eyes were wide.  Ryoga hadn’t even noticed.  Until he heard his name.

            “Hibiki-san!  You’re back!”  A young lady smiled and waved at them.

            Ranma glanced to his friend in time to see a wide grin cross his face.  Ranma blinked at the rather odd sight.  Ryoga’s… happy to see people?  They know him?

            “Nii-san!  Nii-san!”  A horde of small children rushed them.

            Ryoga laughed and started swinging the children around.

            Ranma backed off, “Ryoga… where are we?”  They know him...

            The smile hadn’t left his face, but it became even happier as Ryoga replied, “Home.”


            Ranma sat with the old man and watched the black pig play with the children.  Most of the adults were out in the fields.  They’d all come in briefly to greet Ryoga.  A few at a time.  It wasn’t so obvious that way that it was the whole town.  But Ranma had been watching carefully and counting.  And now…  Now Ryoga was playing with the kids.  In his pig-form.  The form that he hated.  Ranma couldn’t understand it.

            “We first met young Ryo-chan when he was three,” the old man said fondly.

            “Huh?” Ranma blinked.  The old man hadn’t said a word to him since he’d sat down next to Ranma an hour ago.

            “He just wandered into the village square one day.  Crawled in, actually.  His name and a phone number were stitched into every one of his clothes.  We called and his mother said not to let him out of our sight even for a minute and she’d come immediately to fetch him.  It took her three days and a half by railroad, car, and horse.”

            Ranma had already noticed the remoteness of the town.  But he didn’t have the foggiest idea where they really were.

            “Since then, he shows up periodically.  We were disappointed last week when he was only here for an hour.  Didn’t even have time to play with the youngens before he got pulled away again.  It’s good he’s back again so soon.  Unusual for him to bring someone else along, though.  He’s always been alone.”

            Ranma wondered how to answer that implied question.  Finally he said, “Ryoga’s my friend.”  It was true.  It had always been true.

            The old man winced very slightly.  If Ranma hadn’t been watching for a reaction he wouldn’t have seen it.  Ranma frowned, “Why is that bad?”  But the old man had retreated back into the cone of silence and wouldn’t come out again, though he stayed next to Ranma until the adults came back from harvest.


            Ranma was having tea with an old lady when a child ran in, “Obaa-sama!  Motoko says to tell the Attractor that Nii-san is wandering!”

            “Oh dear,” said the old lady with a sigh.  She looked at Ranma, “I guess you better get going than if you want to be with him when he goes.”

            Ranma put down his tea cup.  “Uhh…  You mean Ryoga is about to get lost again?”

            “Wander,” the old lady said firmly.  “He doesn’t get lost.  It’s not his fault.  Now go, before you miss him.”

            Quickly, Ranma followed the boy out – as nice as the town was, Ryoga was his best chance of getting home again.  When he got to the edge of the town, several people were unobtrusively keeping Ryoga walking in circles.  Ranma paused a moment to watch as Ryoga started walking out of town, talking about going to Motoko’s house…  And then a villager would gently take him by the arm and lead him back, casually talking about the harvest.  But as soon as they were back in the town proper, Ryoga would somehow turn to face out again.  It was obvious that Ryoga wasn’t aware of what was happening.  Ranma blinked and walked out to his friend, carrying Ryoga’s backpack.

            When Ryoga saw him – and the backpack – the cheerful face he’d had all day disappeared.  “Damnit.  I thought that since you were with me, I wouldn’t be pulled out.”  Ryoga sighed and glanced to the young woman who was currently with him, “I’m wandering again, aren’t I?”

            The woman pulled him close in a hug, “We’ll be here when you get back, Oto-chan.”

            Ryoga held her for a long moment before letting go.  “Bye, Onee-chan.”  He turned to Ranma, “Come on then.”

            As they walked out, Ranma remarked, “You were here last week…  On the same day you showed up at home.  That’s why you were so mad, wasn’t it?  You’d been… pulled out.”

            Ryoga sighed.  And was silent.  In this case, silence was his assent.

            Ranma thought about it a bit more.  Before he came to any conclusion, he was distracted as Ryoga shoved some goggles at him, “Better put these on.”

            “Huh?”  Ranma glanced up – and was stunned at the desert that lay all around them.  “What the hell?  There are no deserts in Japan!”

            Ryoga sighed, “There are when I’m around.”  He pulled his goggles over his face and the dust mask over his mouth.


            “You’re back!”  Akane pounced on them as they came in.  “Thank goodness.  Ranma – there’s a ghost haunting the Kuno estates and Kuno and Kodachi have disappeared.  We need your help.”

            Ryoga sighed, “Even when it’s not your fault, it’s still your fault.”

            Ranma glanced sourly at him, “Okay, already.”  He glanced back to Akane, “Akane, there are no such things as ghosts.”

            Akane started to get angry and yelled at him.  Ranma yelled back.

            Kasumi walked to the front of the door, “Good morning, Ryoga-kun.  How are you today?”

            Ryoga dug around in his pack and then handed her a packet of papers and seeds for the guest gift.  “Good morning, Kasumi-san.”  It was a perfectly normal day so far.  And it even looked like it would have a fight somewhere in it.  If he didn’t get lost before it started.


            The forests were sweltering in the tropical heat.  Ryoga paused and wiped his forehead.  Ranma…  It wasn’t Ranma’s fault this time.  He gotten lost on his own.  Like he always did.  But this time he’d wanted to stay.  Akane was being nice to him.  So nice.  And Ranma was walking on eggshells.  Ryoga grimaced.  It wasn’t as much fun with Ranma being so cautious.  They hadn’t had a good fight the whole time he was there.  Four whole days.  Four days in one spot before he got pulled out.  To here.  Where ever here was.  He missed Ranma’s curiosity about the places they’d been.  It had actually been fun to see Ranma’s wide eyes as he looked around at the island and the volcano.  Ryoga had seen too many places to care any more.  Eventually, they were all the same.  Just another place he got lost in.  It was just as well Ranma wasn’t with him.


            Ranma lay on the porch and absently flicked the fan as he stared out in the yard.

            Akane came over and put a dish of ice cream next to him as she sat and started to eat her own.  “You never did say – what happened with you and Ryoga?”

            Sitting up, Ranma took a few bites of his ice cream, “Well, I think I figured out why he’s so mad most of the time.”

            “Really?”  Akane put her dish down to stare at him.

            Ranma nodded, “After the island – we never did make it to the volcano – we came to a village where most of the people knew him.  And they were all happy to see him.  And he was happy there.”

            “Ryoga was happy?”  Akane hadn’t thought that was quite possible.

            Again, Ranma nodded, remembering his own surprise.  He called it ‘home’…  “While we were there… he almost left without me, but the people could tell when he was about to,” get lost? “wander, and they fetched me.  And then we ended up back here.”

            Akane blinked, “Just in time, too.  Kodachi would have been a raving lunatic if those ghosts had kept them one more day.”

            “She already is.  And there are no such things as ghosts.  Stop being such a wuss.”

            Akane threw her spoon at him, “And that’s why I wanted Ryoga next to me – at least he protected me from them without kwibbling.”  She paused, “I called him back?  He came back because I needed him?”

            Ranma shrugged, “Both of us.  But yeah.  Apparently Ryoga gets pulled around without his control.  No matter where he is… he doesn’t have any say as to whether he stays or goes.”

            “I can see… how that would make him angry.  Not to be in control.”


            Picking up her ice cream again, Akane snagged Ranma’s spoon to finish eating it.  “But we don’t always need him when he shows up.  Most of the time, it’s just a normal day.”

            “I haven’t figured it all out yet.”


            The package had sap leaking out the edges.  It also shook.  There were breathing holes punched in it.

            “What the heck is this?”  Ranma held it by the edges.

            “It’s got your name on it,” Akane stood back.  Then she stepped closer to look at the label, “Oh!  It’s from Ryoga.”

            “Ryoga?” Ranma walked out to the yard and put it down on the dirt.  “How can you tell?”

            The tip of Akane’s nose turned red, “I recognize the writing.”

            “Oh.”  Ranma wished he hadn’t asked.  Cautiously, he opened the package.  He had only a glimpse of fur and wide eyes before his phobia kicked into over-gear and he fainted.

            When he came to, nobody was paying any attention to him.

            “Oh!  Isn’t it cute!”

            “It’s adorable!”

            “Can I hold it next?”

            “It Shampoo’s turn!”

            “It’s so soft!”

            “Look at that tail!”

            Ranma cautiously got up and didn’t look in the direction of the cat.  Ryoga, you asshole!  He walked to the discarded box and fished around in the bedding of leaves and branches until he found a note.  A sap-encrusted note.   It took some deciphering.

            Ranma:  I’m sending this to you because it needs a home.  It’s colony was destroyed and I can’t seem to get others to adopt it.  Another package with food and instructions is on its way.  Ryoga.

            “Colony?  Cats don’t live in colonies.”  Ranma glared at the note.  Thanks a whole hell of a lot, Ryoga.  That’s all I need.

            “It’s not a cat.” Kasumi read the note over his shoulder.

            “Huh?”  In the glimpse Ranma had had…

            Kasumi whistled and the furry thing leaped out of the group in a single bound, wrapping its arms, legs, and tail around her.

            Ranma backed off until he hit the tree.  And stared.  Kasumi was right – it wasn’t a cat.  Exactly.  But it was furry and had wide eyes and a long tail…  A tail that was wrapped around Kasumi’s wrist.  A very long tail.  And the head was too round.  And the body… was more like a monkey’s.  “What the hell is it?”

            Nabiki came forward, flipping the pages in a book.  She kept going back and forth from a couple of sections.  “I think…  It’s a lemur.”

            “A what?”  Ranma didn’t even want to know.  He ducked around the tree as Kasumi came closer.

            Akane collared him and hauled him back, “It’s not a cat.”

            “Ah yes, here it is,” Nabiki waved a page with a picture on it.  Shampoo leaned in to look, “Yes, that be it.”  Nabiki read from the text, “Ring-tailed lemur.  Nocturnal.  Closest relative is the monkey.  Lives in Madagascar in small colonies.  Endangered species due to lack of habitat.”

            “Well, it’s got the rings.  Akane!  Stop that!”  Ranma broke free of her grip and backed away again.

            “Ranma – are you really freaking, or do you just think you should be freaking?” Akane took the lemur from her sister and brought it closer to Ranma.

            “Aaaaaa!” Ranma fainted again.

            The group of girls looked down at his still body.  Shampoo grinned, “Silly boy.  That not be cat.  Shampoo show him cat when he wake up.”

            “Go right ahead,” Akane rolled her eyes.

            Nabiki took the lemur from Akane and stroked its fur, “This is such a nice fellow.  Remarkably tame for coming straight from the wild.  I wonder why Ryoga sent it to Ranma and not Akane?”

            Shampoo grinned, “Ryo-chan having fun with phobia, but knowing animal be cared for.”

            Akane frowned, “I doubt if Ryoga thought of that – it’s not a cat, and Ryoga’s not usually that sneaky.”

            “Good thought though,” Nabiki grinned, “I wonder how Ranma would react to a chinchilla…”

            “Nabiki!” Akane protested while trying to fight down a giggle.

            Ranma groaned, “I heard that.  Don’t you dare, Nabiki.”

            The lemur hopped down from Nabiki’s arms and sat on Ranma’s chest.  Ranma closed his eyes and stood up carefully, holding the animal as little as possible.  The tail wrapped around his wrist tightly.  Ranma was trembling from head to foot.

            Finally, Kasumi took pity on him.  She whistled again and the lemur leaped into her arms.  “Come, not-neko-chan.  We’ll take you inside and find you a good place to sleep for the day.”

            The others watched her go, the girls with regret and Ranma with relief.


            Ryoga punched the boar in the head and it dropped to the ground.  With a sigh, Ryoga picked up his pack and started walking again.  What is it with the boars and pigs?  Ever since my curse, they either attack me or try to adopt me.  In either form.  He ignored the townspeople that were rushing out to congratulate or thank him.  I don’t care about people and they don’t care about me.  Except for one lovely maiden.  Sweet and perfect, a pure soul and a cheerful smile.  Akane-san…  He needed to see her again, to be held by her again, to be welcomed…



            “P-chan!” Akane held out her arms and the small pig hopped into them.  “You’re back!  I’ve missed you, my sweet P-chan.”  She cuddled him to her.  The pig closed his eyes in sheer bliss.

            Ranma growled, watching them.  And spun his jealousy out into anger.  He reached over and grabbed the pig out of Akane’s arm, “Come here!”

            “Ranma!” Akane tried to snatch the pig back, but Ranma swung him up over her head.

            “You can have him later!  I want to ask the stupid pig a few questions!!”

            “Oh…” Akane hid a smile and stopped trying to get P-chan back.  “Don’t pick on him, you hear?”

            “It won’t be me picking on him!” Ranma stomped off with the pig down the hall to the bath.  He tossed the pig in and waited until Ryoga came sputtering up, “What the hell did you think you were doing!??!!!”

            “Huh?” Ryoga asked eloquently, completely bewildered.  Ranma’s anger was way out of proportion for their usual fights over Akane.

            “That god-damned, friggin, stupid, rotting animal you sent here!”

            “Huh?” Ryoga asked again.

            And then the door was pushed open by a small black hand and a furry body was leaping into Ryoga’s arms, who caught the lemur automatically.  His attention was immediately all for the animal, “Hey, little fellow.  How’ve ya been?”  The lemur reached a paw up to his face and tugged on the hair that fell over Ryoga’s eyes, making little squeaking sounds as it did.

            Ryoga became aware of some other little squeaking sounds.  He looked up to see Ranma plastered on the far side of the room, feet still backpedaling even though there was nowhere to go.  His eyes were wide with fear, his gaze locked on the lemur.  “Huh?” Ryoga asked for the third time.

            When there was no answer, Ryoga got out of the bath, shifting the lemur to his shoulder.  Ranma gave another squeak and bolted out of the room.  Ryoga watched him go, “What the…?”  He glanced to the lemur on his shoulder and it chittered at him happily.  Ryoga shrugged and got dressed with the spare clothes that somehow were always there for him, shifting the lemur as he put his shirt on.  Then he walked out and over to the family room.

            “Oh, Ryoga-kun,” Akane greeted him, “You’re back.  Thank you for sending the lemur – we’ve really enjoyed having Not-Neko-chan here.”

            “Not-Neko-chan???” Ryoga twisted his head to look at the lemur with puzzlement.

            “Come on, Ranma-chan,” Nabiki’s voice cajoled, “It’s not going to eat you.”  She appeared in the doorway, dragging a reluctant Ranma with her.  When Ranma saw the lemur, he started gibbering in fear.

            Ryoga blinked.  And looked at the lemur.  And back at Ranma.  “It’s not a cat.”

            “We know that – tell it to Ranma,” Akane remarked dryly.

            “You’re kidding,” Ryoga said, coaxing the lemur to his arms and petting it.  “It’s not a cat, Ranma.”

            Ranma broke out of Nabiki’s grip and ran out of the room.

            “So you really didn’t think of it?” Nabiki asked.

            “Think of…” Ryoga was still staring after Ranma.

            Akane clarified, “You didn’t know the lemur would set off his phobia?”

            Ryoga blinked, “It’s not a cat.”

            The two sisters looked at each other, grinning.


            “That is so sweet,” Kasumi sighed as she poured tea for her and her sisters as they sat around the table.

            “It’s different, alright.”  Nabiki sipped from her cup and watched the yard.

            Akane ignored both her sisters and the tea as she stared.  He’s… happy.  He’s smiling.  He’s laughing.  I… didn’t think it was possible.  “Ryoga-kun…”

            Out in the yard, Ryoga laughed as he tossed the lemur up in the air.  It caught a branch of the tree with one long arm and swung around the tree, using the momentum to launch itself out in a sweeping arc.  Ryoga caught it by the body as its hands grabbed him and he swung himself and the lemur around in a circle.  He shifted his grip until he was holding one arm and a leg, and the lemur spread its other two out as the air whistled around them.  When Ryoga stopped, it chittered happily and climbed up on his shoulder, wrapping its long tail around his neck.  Ryoga laughed again and caressed its head, scratching behind the ears.  He pulled out some fruit and held a piece up.  With its delicate little hands, the lemur took it and nibbled until it was gone.  Then it begged for more.

            “It’s not a cat?”

            The three girls, totally absorbed in watching the play, blinked and looked over to where Ranma was standing in the doorway, also looking out in the yard, his blue eyes tortured as he watched.  One of his hands clenched and unclenched in involuntary reflex.

            Ryoga walked in, “Hey Kasumi – you have any more…,” his cheerful voice trailed off as he noticed, “Ranma…”

            Kasumi blinked in her thoughtless manner, “Sorry, Ryoga-kun – there’s usually only one Ranma here, but on the other hand I do have more of the fruit.”  She got up to go get it.

            Ryoga blinked a couple of times as he figured out what he’d said, then he grinned in response to Kasumi’s joke.

            Nabiki and Akane were stunned by how handsome that one unthinking grin made him.  No depression, no needing, no caution… just sheer amusement and delight.  Unguarded.

            And then the moment was lost as Ryoga’s attention returned to Ranma.  Or rather, to the ground at his feet.  “Uhh,” Ryoga shifted his weight between his feet, “Uhh…”  He eventually brought his eyes up to meet Ranma’s.  Ranma hadn’t moved, though his eyes were more locked on the lemur than on Ryoga.  “Uhh…  Ranma…”  Ryoga grabbed the lemur off his shoulder and then made a full formal bow, horizontal to the floor.  When he straightened up, the lemur scrambled back up, squeaking angrily at him.  “Sorry,” Ryoga muttered.  And bit his lip.

            Ranma blinked, taking his eyes off the lemur and watching Ryoga curiously, “For what?”

            “Uhh…  For sending you the lemur – I didn’t think it would cause you any problems.”

            “Gosh…” Akane and Nabiki sighed, watching the interaction between the two guys.

            Ranma glared at them.  And then he stiffly walked forward and sat down at the table next to them.  Watching him for a moment, Ryoga finally sat down on the other side.  There was silence for a bit until Kasumi came back in, “Here you are, Ryoga-kun.”

            “Thanks, Kasumi-san.”  Ryoga peeled one of the fruits and fed it to the lemur.  “How’s the food working out, by-the-way?”

            “Oh, just wonderful.  We got the package in the mail a day after Not-Neko-chan showed up, and then another one arrived this morning.”

            “Good.”  Ryoga sighed in relief, “I arranged for one of the guys to send the stuff, but I was worried about the shipping.  You should be getting the fresh stuff every three or four days, and he’ll send new leaves and bedding materials once a month.”

            “How’d you arrange it?” Ranma was curious.

            Ryoga shrugged, “I did them some favors…  They said they’d do it for me.  The usual sort of thing.”

            “That reminds me…”  Nabiki tapped the table with a chopstick.  “How do you speak to the people?”

            Ryoga blinked, “I talk, they reply, I listen, I reply, they talk.  That’s the usual—”

            “I meant the language!”


            Nabiki sighed.

            Akane put her hand out before it went any further, “Ryoga, the lemur comes from Madagascar.  It was shipped to us from Madagascar…”

            Ryoga shrugged, “It seemed like a fairly large island from what I could see of it.  Somewhere off the South West islands, I was guessing.  Do they speak a different dialect there?  I’m afraid I never really pay much attention – if you listen hard enough, you can usually understand people.”

            The three sisters and Ranma all exchanged speaking looks.  Ranma leaned forward, “Madagascar, you moron, is off the coast of Africa.”

            “Africa?”  Ryoga blinked, “Oh, that’s why I didn’t recognize the trees.”

            “Couldn’t see the trees for the forest?” quipped Nabiki, “Or the forest for the trees?”

            Ryoga glared at her, proving that that quote hadn’t gone over his head.

            The lemur hopped to the table and Ranma scuttled backwards.  Ryoga clucked at it and it chittered back at him.  Ryoga shook his head, “You know, Ranma – every time you back off like that, it thinks you’re playing.”


            “You’re part of its colony now – lemurs are very social creatures.  Here.”  Ryoga tossed one of the fruits to Ranma.

            Ranma automatically caught it and then stared, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

            “It’s not a cat.  It’s got hands.  Come on – just try it.”  Ryoga’s face and voice were unreadable as he spoke.

            Ranma looked at his friend… and saw something under the mask that reminded him… of a little puppy, watching the hand approaching its head, not sure if it’s going to be petted or hit.  Ranma blinked.  Ryoga?  And he looked at the fruit in his hand.  Carefully, Ranma took one piece and held it between his thumb and forefinger… then just put it down in the palm of his hand, flattening out the fingers, tucking his thumb under…  And he trembled.  The claws tearing at him, fur rubbing on him, yowls of hungry animals.  Teeth ripping the sausage off him…  He put his hand down on the table and closed his eyes.  Teeth ripping his skin.  Claws tearing him.  The howling in his ears.

            “Ranma – you can look now,” Akane said gently.

            The voice got through his shivers and Ranma opened his eyes.  And looked down with amazement at his empty hand.  And then at the lemur that was nibbling happily on the fruit on the other side of the table.  “I didn’t even feel it,” he said in wonder.  Ranma took another piece of the fruit and held it out.  The lemur looked up and walked over, tail high in air.  Sitting on its haunches near Ranma, the lemur wrapped its tail around its feet and then reached its little tiny hands out.  They are hands.  The small fingers gripped the part of the fruit not held by Ranma and the fruit was tugged gently out of Ranma’s hand.  The lemur never touched Ranma.  Ranma’s eyes were wide as he watched the little creature.  That didn’t hurt.  “It didn’t hurt.”

            The two sisters and Ryoga had been intently watching the scene.  At Ranma’s words, Ryoga winced and looked away.  And then his gaze was caught by something in the yard…  Ryoga stood up, looking out…  It was only a leaf falling to the ground.  Ryoga shook his head.  “I forgot the guest-gift.  Kasumi – where’s my pack?”

            Her voice floated in from the kitchen, “Out on the front porch.”

            “Oh.”  Ryoga went to go get it.

            Ranma glanced up from his fascination with the lemur.  And caught a glimpse of Ryoga’s eyes as he walked out…  “Hey!  Ryoga!” Ranma jumped up and ran into the hall…  and didn’t see his friend anywhere.  “God.  Damn.  It.”  Ranma slammed a fist into the wall and then sat down where he was.  A furry body jumped on to his shoulder and he didn’t react.

            “Ranma – what’s wrong?” Akane walked out, “Where’s Ryoga?”

            “Who knows.  I doubt if he knows.  What the hell is it with that guy?”  Ranma reached his hand up and absently scratched the lemur’s head.

            “Oh, Ranma…  He’s not… gone again?”

            “Yeah.”  Ranma remembered the absent-minded look in Ryoga’s eyes.  Pulled out…  “You know, I think sometimes he can get where he wants – he came back this time to see you.”  And stayed because…  Ranma jerked his hand off the lemur and twisted his head to look at it in sheer shock.  “I just petted…”  He fainted in a heap.  The lemur jumped off his shoulder as he fell, leaping to Akane and chittering anxiously.

            “Honestly, Ranma…”  Akane shook her head.  And then looked down the hall, Ryoga…


            Where am I now?  Ryoga wandered the streets, not really interested in the answer to his question, asking it merely by reflex.  Akane, how could I leave you?  Why do I stray from your side?  Akane-san…  Sweet and caring, looking at P-chan with such open affection, the sparkle in her eyes, bright and shining…

            “Oh, poor Akane!”

            Ryoga hauled up short and glanced around, seeking the voice.

            On the street, two high school girls were walking by, heads bent together.  The shorter one responded, “Oh, I know!  How humiliating.  Even if Ranma is engaged to both of them, to so publicly ask Ukyo for a date…  With Akane standing right there!”

            “Akane said she didn’t care.  I wonder if she meant it?”

            “Ranma was being so sweet, asking Ukyo out.  Her whole face lighted up when he did.”

            “He’s always nice to Ukyo.”

            “Well, yeah, but he’s never asked her out on a date before.”

            “No…  I wish Hiro would ask me on a date like that.”

            “Or Petro, or Sangishan, or…”

            “All right, all right, already.  Come-on, wouldn’t you like to have Sangishan ask you?”

            “Well, of course I would.”

            Ryoga stopped following the two girls, not interested anymore.  He clenched his fist, Ranma…  “Ranma!  You will pay for your insults to Akane!!”  How dare you hurt her?! 


            “Oh geez…” Ranma pinched the bridge of his nose, “Akane, how many times do I have to tell you – Ukyo and I aren’t—”

            Akane interrupted him, shouting furiously, “I don't care!  Does it look like I care?!  You can do whatever you want, Ranma, because it doesn't matter in the least!”

            “Uncute!” Ranma growled, “Akane, will you just listen to me?”

            “Listen to what?”

            “Akane!  Look, the only reason I asked Ukyo out…  was… err…”

            Favoring him with a mocking scorn, Akane turned her back, “I thought so.  Goodbye, Ranma.”

            “Akane!”  Ranma ran after her, brushing past the other highschoolers, “Geez, Akane – you are so uncu—”

            This time, he was interrupted by a fist in the face.  His hands went up in the air, middle fingers down, as he fell backwards.

            “Akane-san,” Ryoga let his fist peel off of Ranma's face, “I heard about this two-timing lout.  I promise you, he will not get away with it!”

            “Ryoga-kun!” Akane blushed, “oh, that's okay, really.  You don't need to worry.  I don't care who he goes out with.”

            “I do,” Ryoga said grimly, “He will not betray you while I am around, Akane-san.”

            “Butt out!” Finally getting up, Ranma launched a kick at Ryoga, “You moron!  What do you know anyhow?!!”

            “Two-timer!” Ryoga leaped over Ranma's kick and pulled off several headbands, “We'll see what you're made of!”  He spun out the headbands in deadly streams of yellow clothe.

            Damnit, Ryoga! Ranma gazed steadily at his rival and stayed absolutely still – one of the hardest things to do when his instincts were telling him to dodge.

            One corner of Ryoga's mouth twitched up as his headbands swirled around Ranma and then fell to the ground, he can still read my moves.  He pulled off the red umbrella off his backpack, “You will pay, Ranma!”

            Only the most observant onlooker could have seen the smile that pulled at Ranma's mouth as he leaped to join the fight.  Finally!  Somebody I can really fight!!  The annoyance and frustration of the last day had been building up inside of him and a fight was just what he needed.

            Akane, seeing the smiles on both the boys' faces, groaned to herself and put her head in her hands.  “Won't they ever grow up?”


Unfinished.  End for now.  

{Not that I actually know where I was going with it… The main idea I wanted to explore was why Ryoga always insists it's Ranma's fault. And this came out. The lemur was a bit of fun on my part -- when I wrote it, my new cat, Lemur, was only a few months old. J )