Subject: [PMFFML] [FFML-R] [Fanfic][Ranma][Alt] A Fresh Start (Chapter Three)
From: Kent Rodney Hyam
Date: 3/18/2001, 11:25 PM
To: "ffml2@listbot.com" <ffml2@listbot.com>, FFML-R <FFMLRefuge@listbot.com>

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Thankfully this is coming out not to long after the side story I posted,
so it looks like i'm getting back on track.  Previous chapters are
hosted at http://members.tripod.com/Ymerej/ranma/hosted.html .  As
always, any comments are welcome and I would be grateful for any offers
to preread.

Disclaimer: Ranma1/2 is created and owned by Rumiko Takahashi.  Rights
in North America held by Viz Communications.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter Three

     I had to admit that I'd be glad when Ranma started working here.  I
can handle the work myself, but an extra set of hands when closing time
comes around would be nice.  As things stood, it was well after sunset
by the time I finished the clean up. although it was hard to tell,
thanks to the persistent rain outside.

     Just before I locked the door I saw something outside hat mad me
blink in surprise.  A small black pig was pulling a red bamboo umbrella
down the street.  After hesitating for a moment I flung the door open
and darted out into the rain to snatch the pig up by the bandana it wore
around its neck.  A moment later, I was back inside and only slightly
damp.

     "I bet you're someone's pet, aren't you?" I asked, smiling at the
piglet.  It paused momentarily in its efforts to twist free of my grasp,
to shake its head in what appeared to be denial.

     "If you say so.  Relax, I'll just dry you off and we'll find your
owner tomorrow."  I felt sort of silly talking to an animal, but it did
seem to calm it down a bit.

     Ten minutes later the pig was dry and seemed at least resigned to
my company.  "I almost wish I could keep you, but a macho guy like me
couldn't have such a cute pet."  Sighing, I pulled off the top of my
okonomiyaki seller's outfit and loosened my chest bindings.  "I just
can't believe Ranma was such an idiot."

     Glancing over at the pig, I would almost swear that it was
blushing.  I hoped that didn't mean it had a fever or something.

=================

     "Hi, Akane."  It was more pleasant than I wanted to admit to find
Akane waiting outside the gates of Furinkan high for me.  She was the
first real friend I'd had in ten years, even if there were some things
she didn't know about me.

     "Hello, Ukyo.  Is that a pig you're holding?"  That would have been
a strange question, except for one thing.  I'd brought last night's
unexpected guest with me.

     "Yes.  I found him wandering around outside my restaurant, last
night.  I was wondering if you could look after him until I find his
owner."

     "I think you're right.  He doesn't look like a wild animal," Akane
said.  "I think I'll call him P-chan.  P for pig and chan for cute."

     "If you want to."  That wasn't a name that I would have expected a
tomboy like Akane to pick out, but I was hardly in a position to
complain.  P-chan didn't really look thrilled by his new name though.

     "Isn't it a bit soon in your relationship to be giving gifts like
that?"

     "It's not... I mean...  How long have you been here?"  Calming
myself I glared at Akane's older sister.  For some reason, Nabiki and I
hadn't gotten off to a good start and being caught off guard didn't make
me feel any warmer to her.

     "Only a couple of minutes," the shorthaired girl said smiling
dryly.  It was the smile that betrayed the truth.  Nabiki had known
perfectly well what was happening from the start.

     "Come on you two.  If we don't hurry we'll be late."  Snatching
P-chan from me, Akane stuffed him into her book bag and began to run
towards the school.

=================

     Fortunately, the rest of the school day passed without incident.  I
had a feeling that getting my new help settled in would be a lot harder,
if he ever got here.  Ranma was supposed to have arrived five minutes
ago.

    I didn't have to wait any longer though, the door swung open and
Ranma stepped inside.  However, the torn shirt and the livid bruise
marking his right cheek didn't provide a good impression for his day at
a new job.

     "Some guy from the junior high I attended showed up and started a
fight," Ranma explained, seeing my curious gaze.  "Then that gorilla
tomboy got mad at us for scaring that stupid pig off."  Ranma's words
raised questions about just who had been responsible for the bruise.

     "All right, I don't need to hear about it.  Time for you to get
ready to go to work."  I was probably going to enjoy this too much, but
Ranma really shouldn't talk about Akane like that.  All the same, I was
careful not to smile too widely as I handed Ranma his uniform.

     "This is a waitress's outfit."  Ranma's words were a simple
statement of fact, without the emotion I expected.

     "Perceptive as ever.  You see I have everything set up here so I
can run it myself.  You're saving me a bit of work, but I'm really not
making any money on this.  So..."

     "I get it."  I could see by the look on Ranma's face that he did.

     "You can get changed in the back."  It might be petty, but I had
spent ten years pretending to be a guy, so Ranma could waitress for a
few weeks.  Ranma took it better than I thought.  With no more than a
small scowl, he moved past me towards the rear of the restaurant.

     A few moments later, Ranma had returned and I appraised her
appearance carefully.  Cute was definitely the right word.  Considering
that she was wearing a white and pink-striped waitress outfit complete
with an apron and a large bow in back it was almost inevitable.  The
high heels were probably a bit much and the skirt stand to be a couple
of centimeters longer, but otherwise it was perfect.

     "Like what you see."  The dry note in Ranma's voice conveyed an
equal blend of anger and amusement.

     "Sorry, you're not my type."  At least he wasn't at the moment, but
I didn't feel like explaining that.  "It's time to open anyway."

=================

     "Why don't you start cleaning up, Ranma?  Akane's going to be here
for her cooking lesson soon and I want to get ready for her."

     By the time I'd made sure there wasn't anything poisonous,
combustible or breakable in the area I'd set aside for Akane's cooking
lesson, Ranma had made considerable progress at cleaning the counter.  I
was still wondering what other precautions I could take, when Akane
walked through the door.

     "Hello, Ukyou, Ranma."  Akane smiled cheerily as she spoke, and I
felt an answering smile on my own face.

     "You're eager to get started I see."

     "Yes, this time I'm sure I'll get it right."  Akane walked
confidently through the restaurant, her head held high.

     "I'll help you get started and then I have to help Ranma with the
clean up."  Akane's confidence was admirable, but I still wasn't sure
what she was doing wrong.  Before I'd started teaching her, I thought
the only mistakes you could make with rice were to under or over cook
it.  I knew better now.

     I'm afraid I wasn't too much help to Ranma, since I had to watch
Akane carefully, to make sure she was leaving the rice alone while it
cooked.  Thankfully, Ranma managed to restrain himself

     "It's done," a cheery voice announced.  As Akane lifted the lid of
the pot, I hurried over to inspect the results.  Peering inside, I
blinked in confusion

     "Ranma, can you come over here?" I asked, prodding the mass with a
spoon.

     "Sure.  What do you want?"  The petite girl walked over,
unselfconsciously brushing a piece of lint off his chest.

     I shook my head angrily.  There was something disturbing about
that.  "Just open your mouth."

     "Wha-?"  Seizing the opportunity, I quickly shoveled a spoonful of
Akane's cooking into his mouth.

     Ranma swallowed reflexively and then took a deep breath.  "What was
that?"

     "It seems to be edible.  I don't know why it turned purple
though."  A sudden indrawn breath caught my attention.  Taking a closer
look at Ranma's complexion, I reached a decision.  "Maybe you'd better
sit down for a while, Ranma.  You're looking a bit pale and I can finish
up myself."

     "You might be right."  After glaring slit eyed at Akane for a
moment, Ranma shuffled over to sit at the counter.

     "I guess I haven't gotten it right yet," Akane muttered, clasping
her hands.

     "Don't worry.  You've definitely improved a lot.  I'll make a chef
out of you in no time."  Watching her downcast expression turn into a
smile was like watching the sun emerge from behind a cloud.  Suddenly, I
felt the need to say something.  "Ranma took things a lot better than I
thought he would."

     "Well, Nabiki told him he'd be a waitress yesterday evening.  I
guess he's had time to get used to the idea."

     "That could be it."  I never really knew what to think of Akane's
sister.  Occasionally she really seemed to care about Ranma, at least a
bit.

=================

     Smiling softly, I stared up at the sky.  It was fall, but the
weather was pleasant enough that I wasn't the only person who'd decided
to eat lunch outside  "So, this old friend of Ranma's hasn't shown up
yet?"  It was more than a little puzzling.  Ranma had received a
challenge letter but the date set had passed four days ago.

     "No, but according to Ranma, Ryouga has a very poor sense of
direction," Akane replied.  Settling on the ground beside me, just
outside of arms reach, she continued, "According to him, Ryouga was late
to a duel at the lot behind his own house.

     "You're joke-  Hey!"  I had to abruptly jerk myself to the side in
order to avoid being trampled by a sudden rush of students.  Akane
snatched her bento from the ground in order to preserve it.

     "I think it's a fight.  Come on."  Not sparing me a backwards
glance, Akane hurried towards the commotion.  Picking up my fighting
spatula I climbed to my feet and followed at a more reasonable pace.

     By the time I arrived a circle of spectators had formed, but I
didn't have nay trouble pushing through to join Akane.  I wasn't
surprised to find Ranma at the center of the circle, opposite a stocky
boy wearing dusty black pants along with a bandana and a shirt of
indeterminate color.  The strange part was that he was holding a bright
red bamboo umbrella in one hand.

     "You think you can buy off with these?" Ranma's antagonist snarled,
throwing several objects to the ground.

     "Sure.  This is a bread duel isn't it?"

     "Hah!  When I followed you to China I went through hell, but this
isn't about me.  I won't forgive someone who destroys the happiness of a
beautiful girl."

     "What are you talking about, Ryouga?" Ranma asked, his face a study
of puzzled innocence.  I would have given a lot to know what Ryouga
meant, as well.

     "Pretending you don't know won't save you, Saotome.  Prepare to
die!"   His face contorted in a snarl, Ryouga charged, swinging his
umbrella in an overhand smash that Ranma sidestepped, creating a sizable
trench in the earth.

     Spinning, Ryouga recovered quickly, driving Ranma backwards with a
series of controlled thrusts from his umbrella.  The fight wouldn't last
long I decided, Ryouga was skilled, but Ranma was simply much faster.
Ranma seemed to confirm my suspicions as he bent backwards, allowing
Ryouga's thrust to pass over him and then kicked the umbrella out of his
opponent's hand.

     "I hope Ranma's careful."  I looked over at Akane in surprise.
That was hardly the attitude I expected from her.  "Ryouga's..."

     Akane didn't finish her sentence but she didn't need to, as
Ryouga's umbrella buried half it's length in the dirt by our feat.  If
Ryouga could swing that with one hand the fight would be a lot closer
than I thought.

     Meanwhile, at the center of the circle, Ranma had decided to take
the offensive.  Caught off guard, Ryouga was sent flying through the air
by a roundhouse kick.  The stocky boy regained his feet just in time to
avoid a flying kick from Ranma.  He didn't seem discouraged though, the
instant Ranma landed, the two martial artists leapt forward to meet one
another in midair.  In seconds, the battle was transformed into a
running fight that completely outdistanced the spectators.

     Akane and I were the first to run after them, catching up just in
time to see Ryouga pull what seemed to be dozens of bandanas off his
head and send them whirling through the air like buzz saws.  Ranma
avoided the attack with what seemed to be effortless grace.
Regrettably, he and Ryouga didn't seem to notice they weren't alone.
Gathering myself, I prepared to jump out of the way, when I noticed
Akane stumble and crash to her knees.  Reflexively, I changed my plan
and slammed into Akane, forcing her to the ground just as the spinning
weapons passed over us.

     "Watch it you idiots!" I shouted, angrily jumping to my feet.
Unslinging my spatula, I began to storm towards Ranma and Ryouga, when a
soft gasp from behind me caught my attention.  "What is it?"

     "Ukyou... your hair."  At first I didn't realize what Akane meant,
but then it hit me.  Raising a trembling hand to the back of my neck, I
ran it over the bare skin that should have been covered by my ponytail.
Closing my eyes, I mentally composed myself.

     "I'm sorry."  Startled by the quiet voice, I jerked my head up to
look into the dark eyes of Ranma's opponent.  He seemed strangely
transformed from his behavior just moments earlier, almost nervous.
Standing, two paces away from him, Ranma's confident grin was a sharp
contrast.

     "Ah, it's not a big deal.  A guy doesn't need long hair."

     For a second I though Ryouga was going to start the fight again,
but then he bared his teeth in what might have been a smile.  "You're
right, Ranma, a guy doesn't need long hair."

     In a parody of my action a moment before, Ranma's hand jerked
upwards towards his pigtail.  "Are you saying I ain't-?"

     "Shut up!  Ukyou could have been killed." Akane bellowed, shaking
with anger.

     "I am sorry."  Without turning, Ryouga started to walk off, pausing
only to say, "This isn't over, Ranma."

=================

     "I don't know, Ucch... Ukyou.  Ryouga and I used to be pretty good
friends, I mean we sparred all the time and kidded around.  I guess I
can sorta understand him being mad at me, but I don't know anything
about a girl."

     I wearily rubbed my brow with one hand.  Asking Ranma had been a
gamble; since I knew from experience he wasn't perceptive when dealing
with women.  "That's okay.  If it really matters, you can ask Ryouga the
next time you see him."

     "No telling when that will be."  With a shrug, Ranma bounced off to
the back of the restaurant to get some sauce.  I momentarily debated
getting him to where a bra while he worked, but dismissed the idea as
not being worth the trouble.  Ranma could be stubborn about the
strangest things.  There was no time to worry about that though.  It was
time to open for business.

=================

     With a practiced flip of my wrist I sent a pair of okonomiyaki,
sailing onto the plates in front of Akane and Nabiki.  "There you go,
ladies.  On the house."

     "Great!  You know that new hairstyle looks great.  I bet the girls
will love it.  Right Akane?"  Displaying her usual sly grin, Nabiki
began to consume her okonomiyaki with methodical haste.

     I wasn't sure what to make of that.  I was fairly sure that Nabiki
at least suspected Akane and I weren't really a couple, but suspicions
didn't matter.  The sound of the door opening and someone stepping
inside distracted me from that train of thought.  Paying customers were
always welcome.

    "Ryouga!"  Ranma had said there was no telling when he'd turn up,
but I'd hardly expected this.

     "Uh, hi."  Coming to a halt, Ryouga smiled nervously and rubbed the
back of his neck.

     I felt a little sorry for him.  It couldn't be easy dealing with
someone you nearly accidentally killed, especially when you'd already
gotten the apology out of the way.

     "I should probably leave."  Ryouga took a step backwards and
half-turned to leave before I reached a decision.

     "Don't bother.  I'm a martial artist too, so it wasn't a big deal.
Besides, I wanted to talk to you.  Why don't you have a seat at the
counter and order something to eat?"

     Ryouga frowned dubiously, but he took his seat without protest and
began to examine a menu.

     "By the way, I'm Ukyou Kuonji, these two girls are Akane and Nabiki
Tendou and..."  Stumbling to a halt, I realized that I couldn't use
Ranma's real name.

     "The waitress is our cousin Arisa Tendou," Nabiki said, smoothly
filling the silence.  Since she was looking at Ryouga, the grateful
smile Ranma sent her went unnoticed.

     "Ryouga Hibiki.  I'll have a regular seafood okonomiyaki."  Despite
his brusque words, he didn't seem unfriendly.

     "Coming right up.  Now what I want to know about is what you meant
about Ranma ruining a girls happiness."

     Nabiki and Ranma both inched surreptitiously closer in order to
hear his answer, but Ryouga was already so nervous he didn't seem to
notice.  "I, ah, I don't think I should say.  It was something I found
out by accident while following Ranma."  His face a dull red, Ryouga did
his best to bury himself in his meal.

     "Fair enough.  But are you sure Ranma new what he was doing.  He
can be pretty thoughtless at times."

     "He takes after his father that way," Nabiki commented.

     Akane snorted in amusement and crossed her arms.  "I haven't
noticed that he needs any help to be a jerk."

     Ryouga frowned once more.  "Maybe, but if he's always hurting
people because he doesn't think about anyone else, that isn't an
excuse."

     "If it's all right I'll quit early.  Is that okay, Ukyou?"

     "Sure, Ra- Arisa.  It's slow today so I can handle it."

     Almost before I finished, Ranma was out the door, although she
didn't seem to hurry.  We really shouldn't have been talking about him
like he wasn't there.  At least Ryouga had an excuse.

End Chapter Three


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