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Rursus Iterum Chapter One
Stones on the Precipice
Disclaimer: Takahashi and provided us with the paint, property of her
and Viz video, and additional colors borrowed from Soeishinsha Co., Ltd.
and U.S. Manga Corps., this time around. I'm simply a peasant with an
Notes: Something of an alt for both, with changes becoming evident as
appropriate. Assume that Ranma is as canon, with the exception of his
memories, and keep in mind that the events in Project: A-ko part one
have not yet happened (with the exception of Shiko arriving, which
happened about 16 years ago). And a little tweaking to move the Eiko
timeline back about thirty years to be even with Ranma's. The intro was
just the setup -- the actual divergence for Ranma takes place in volume
11. So here it is!
"Okay, Megami-san, smile for the camera!"
Eiko blinked, then smiled brightly, looking at the photographer.
"Great!" he enthused, snapping a few quick shots of her and her parents.
"I think we'll use the picture of you and your family for the article."
He lowered the camera and began fiddling with it and nodding absently,
while Eiko's parents traded a concerned glance.
Eiko shrugged it off, glancing around the grassy lawn surrounding the
civic center. "Don't worry, Mom," she said. "If they don't use our
picture, I'm not worried. There's lots of other families moving to
Graviton City with us, right?" As she watched, another family group that
had gathered on the lawn to listen to the press releases about the new
city began to drift away, undoubtedly towards their home.
Her mother nodded, relaxing slightly and adjusting her spectacles. Of
course, her parents had decided to move to Graviton City some time ago.
They just hadn't gotten around to moving, yet. "That's true, dear... Oh,
isn't that your friend, Shiko?"
The redhead smiled slightly at that, looking over to where her friend
was jumping up and down excitedly, generally making a nuisance of
herself. Exasperated, the photographer snapped a few shots of the blonde
girl, then ran away while Shiko came skipping back towards Eiko. Shiko
had come from nearby Graviton City herself, originally, so it wasn't a
big deal to be moving back.
Eiko turned to look at her father for a moment, his own glasses glinting
in the sunlight. "Yeah, that's her. Hey, Dad?"
He blinked, turning to look at his daughter in surprise. "Yes, dear?"
They had lived in Atsuga, which was something of a staging area for the
construction of Graviton City, before they had moved to Sasebo for her
Eiko glanced back at the quickly approaching Shiko. "Ah... It's
nothing." It had been a long time since she had seriously thought about
Ranma, and she was leaving Sasebo... and, perhaps, the memories of Ranma
behind... With Shiko around, it was always easier to have fun and let
herself relax. Maybe the old wounds were healing after all...
Ranma stood in the living room of the Tendo house, trying to restrain
his anger. He had to defeat Happosai; the only cure for the weakness
moxibustion was the chart that Happosai had stolen all those years ago.
The pigtailed martial artist took a deep breath, attempting to regain
his self-control, as his eyes wildly searched for something to calm him.
Happosai, sorting through his boxes of old possessions, and chatting
with Kasumi idly. Kasumi, asking the old man if he had anything that he
wanted to burn. And there, on the table, Mr. Tendo's discarded newspaper
from earlier that morning.
Taking another breath, he focused on the paper, collecting himself,
preparing to -- Eiko.
He staggered forward a half step, stunned by the picture. <No! It's not
Eiko, it's a picture of you, you fool!> he screamed to himself. <It must
be you! Pay attention to the old man! Ignore that! Your strength is the
most valuable thing you have, and you --_have_ to get it back!>
But he couldn't tear his eyes away from the black-and-white picture of
the girl on the page of newsprint in front of him. And it wasn't his
girl-side, it was _her_. It was Eiko, because Ranma knew that he had
never posed with her parents in cursed form. He hadn't even _been_
cursed when he knew her.
Happosai's voice shattered his trance. "Well, if I don't even
remember..." the old man mumbled, folding a piece of paper into an
airplane. "... I must not need it." So saying, the grizzled master of
the Anything Goes school tossed the paper airplane towards the small
fire that Kasumi was tending in the backyard.
Galvanized, Ranma leapt after it, his mind carefully recording what he
had seen of the newspaper before he moved into action and storing it for
later consideration. He bounced off the old man's head, eliciting a
grumble, and snatched the folded chart out of the air, unable to hold in
a cry of joy at his success. "Ha! I got it!"
Happosai blinked, then frowned, from his position across the fire. "Got
Ranma unfolded the paper carefully, making doubly sure it was the
moxibustion chart, then shook his head, turning away. "Nothing
important, old man."
Not fooled by Ranma's attempt to cover up his find, the old man leapt,
deftly flinging Ranma into a nearby tree with his pipe, and taking the
chart. "Oh ho!" he exclaimed, looking it over again. "This is the
chart..." he trailed off, eyeing the boy in front of him speculatively.
"So... you want this, eh? Okay, boy. Fight me seriously this time. Let's
Ranma seethed, furious at himself for making such a mistake, and
growled, "I'll give you everything I got, you old lecher!" Taking an
offensive stance, Ranma scowled in determination. He was going to give
this fight his _all_.
Happosai narrowed his eyes, and smiled wanly. "So be it..."
Ukyou and Akane rushed onto the scene, fresh from the temple where they
had learned of the chart in the first place, and arrived in time to hear
the last exchange. They traded a nervous glance, while Kasumi stood
behind them, looking concerned. Shaking her head, Akane exclaimed,
"Poor, weak Ranma doesn't stand a chance!"
The okonomiyaki chef at her side grumbled, "Not much for fairness, is
Then the fight was on.
Ranma led in with a quick jab towards Happosai's chest, following it
with a trio of lightning fast punches towards the old man's face, and
complimenting that with a quick side kick to the his legs. The kick
wouldn't do much but throw the old man off balance, but it would give
him time to prepare another attack if --
The old man stood there, unblinking, as all of Ranma's blows merely
nudged him ineffectually. Then he grinned, and whacked Ranma over the
head with a lazy overhand blow, knocking him to the ground with a single
swing of the pipe.
The boy staggered to his knees, not willing to give up, and the old man
knocked him down again, then began to rain blows of his own, which Ranma
was powerless to block or deflect.
White-hot points of pain blossomed all over Ranma's body, as the
perverted master continued to beat him, while Ranma's own defenses were
easily shoved aside. Finally his body gave out, and he collapsed to the
ground in a bruised heap.
The old man nonchalantly walked to stand next to the fire, while Ranma
weakly pushed himself off the ground. "Not... gonna give up," he
wheezed, his bruised ribs giving him aching pains.
The girls behind him took a half-step back, stunned and frightened of
his tenacity. "I ain't..." he gasped, rising to a kneeling position.
Then he froze, staring at the old man.
What could he do? The old man had him beaten, plain and simple. There
was no way Ranma could beat him like this, unless... Smiling grimly, he
climbed to his feet laboriously, his metabolism already working on
restoring his body, and retrieved a bucket of water. All he had to do
He froze, staring at the bucket in his hands, and suddenly remembering
the newspaper he had seen on the table. His eyes tracked across the
yard, seeing the paper still there, missed by Kasumi. The three girls in
the backyard stared at him expectantly.
Could he do it? Could he splash himself, turn in to her and use her body
to distract the old man? It was bad enough and disrespectful when he had
thought that she was dead, but to do it when she was alive? What if
someone got pictures of him in his girl form, and they somehow got back
Happosai snorted, dangling the paper over the fire. "All you have to do
is spend a night in my arms, my lovely little Ranma-chan!"
The quiet, hidden doubts that he had suppressed before attempting to
grab the chart returned full force, and he dropped the bucket, staring
at the ground and falling to his knees in dismay. In a hoarse voice he
whispered, "I lost. I... lost..."
Happosai smiled bemusedly. "Nonsense, boy! I'll give it to you if you
just splash yourself, and let me..." he trailed off, as Ranma shook his
"No..." the boy rasped. He couldn't. Not even for that. "I can't...
Anything else, but..."
Ukyou fought back a smile. There was no way Akane would accept Ranma
now, since he was too weak to inherit the dojo -- she was sure to get
The youngest Tendo raised a hand to her mouth worriedly, unsure of what
to do or say -- and confused as to why Ranma had given up when it looked
like he had had a plan.
Unnoticed by the two still capable martial artists, Happosai dropped the
moxibustion chart into the fire. There was a sudden loud 'crack!' and a
flash of bright red, followed by an intense wind, and the paper was
gone. Ranma's face bore a shocked expression, as he reached a hand out
towards the fire -- but it was too late. Too late. "No..." he whispered
The girls snapped their heads around to look, all of them surprised as
Happosai frowned at the fire, then shrugged and walked away. Ukyou
spared a moment to look at Ranma, concern etched on her face.
"Ranchan..." she breathed, pained to see him so distraught. She then
regained her presence of mind, and drew her battle spatula, glaring at
Akane snarled, saying nothing and rolling up her sleeves. Happosai had
only enough time to blink in surprise before they reached him.
By the time Ukyou and Akane had regained the presence of mind to stop
beating Happosai into a thin paste, Ranma was already gone.
Strolled the streets of Nerima pointlessly, too dejected to even walk on
the fence. A casual observer would have noted that his head was bowed
and that his pigtail drooped. His normally upright posture was replaced
with a slumped and defeated demeanor. He was the very picture of
dejection. He couldn't very well have tried to use his girl side's
appearances. If it were _his_ body, then he could have, but... it wasn't
his body. It was Eiko's. And then... there was the other very obvious
problem that he needed to see Eiko again.
He changed direction, wandering aimlessly.
Why did he need to see Eiko? He could just stay... somehow... There
might be another way to remove the moxibustion, but... but... Frowning,
he raised his hands, and stared at them, coming to a sudden halt on the
side of the road. There had to be some kind of cure somewhere... and
he'd find it. And Eiko.
His strength, he could feel it inside him, like his entire body was
tensed, constantly ready to lash out with his full power. He could
_feel_ it, just below his reach, and he was unable to touch it. But...
Shouting, he unleashed a 'kiyah!' and smashed his fist into a nearby
wall as forcefully as he could.
The air cracked around his fist with the speed of his punch, the force
and the power easily enough to shatter the stone wall -- then stopped
suddenly, as his body spontaneously worked against him. It softened his
blow and blunted his ki so that his fist took the brunt of the blow.
He screwed his eyes shut, as pain shot through his fist; unwilling to
look, or move his hand. The strike had hurt his hand, and his arms ached
with the involuntary muscle force it had taken to fight against him. It
hurt his shoulder, and more than that, the failure to break the stone
wounded him deeply where it counted. His pride.
Ranma felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up wearily, fighting back
the moisture building at the corners of his eyes. "What?" he snapped,
not recognizing the figure through the distortion of unshed tears.
He heard a soft sigh. "Ranma... are you alright?"
The pigtailed boy nodded, looking at his fist as it rested against the
wall, the hand already throbbing with dull pain. Dropping his hand from
the surface before him, he wiped at his eyes briefly with his free hand
before reassessing his benefactor. Comprehension dawned on him suddenly.
"Oh... Hey, Tofu-sensei. What's up?"
The doctor shrugged, unusually somber. "Not much," he said after a
short, uncomfortable pause. "Why don't you come in and have some tea?
You should probably have that hand looked at, anyway."
Blinking, Ranma looked at his hand, still trying to ignore the pain. The
entire ridge of his knuckles were going to be one massive bruise, and he
had managed to split open two of them in his futile attempt at using
Glancing at the wall revealed only a small splatter of blood, and no
damage to the stone. Dropping his hands to his sides listlessly, he
nodded. "Yeah... I guess... what are you doing here, anyway?"
Tofu shook his head, leading Ranma around the wall. "It's my clinic," he
said with a slight shrug. "I heard you shout and came out to see what
was going on... I guess this means that you weren't able to find the
The martial artist drooped visibly, seeming even more depressed.
"Yeah... that too," he whispered.
Remaining quiet until Ranma entered the clinic and was seated, holding a
cup of tea in his left hand, the doctor asked, "What do you mean, 'that
too'?" While waiting for an answer, he retrieved some disinfectant and a
bandage, deftly cleaning the small gouges of torn skin, then quickly
wrapping the boy's knuckles in gauze.
Sighing, Ranma glanced around the clinic, noting an assortment of mostly
empty cardboard boxes scattered about. "You... I dunno... maybe you can
help me." The doctor looked up questioningly, then took a seat across
from Ranma, dropping the bandaged hand. The boy rubbed the bandage a few
times, then managed a wan smile. "Thanks, Tofu-sensei... um... I got
this problem..." he trailed off, unsure of how to continue.
Tofu shrugged, asking, "So... what's the problem?"
Ranma stared moodily at one of the cardboard boxes, then took a sip from
his teacup. "Um... I knew this girl..."
Tofu smirked, relaxing slightly. "Ah. Girl trouble."
The martial artist scowled, then shook his head. "No, it's not like
that. You see... I knew this girl before I met Akane..." he trailed off
again, struggling to explain what he hadn't talked to anyone about,
anyone at all, in more than a year. He took a slow breath, then sipped
at his tea to calm himself. "I knew this girl before I met Akane... and
we... I guess... we were kind of dating."
Adjusting his glasses, Tofu nodded, assuming a more somber expression.
"Ah... you didn't part on good terms?"
The boy scowled, trebling with barely restrained anger. "Pops told me
she died," he spat, not noticing that he would have crushed his teacup
had it not been for the strength sapping moxibustion. "But she didn't...
and she... I have to find her..."
Tofu blinked at Ranma's admission, stunned. What kind of parent could do
that to their child? He swallowed suddenly, feeling something in his
stomach churn unpleasantly at just how much Ranma had already suffered
under Genma's 'care.' Perhaps simply firing him after finding out about
the neko-ken training wasn't enough. "Oh..." he said softly, wondering
what he really _could_ to help Ranma, that wouldn't offend the young
man's pride. "That's... that's horrible. I'm sorry."
Ranma nodded absently, digging into his shirt for the folded newspaper
article he had stowed there earlier. "This paper says... says that she's
moving to Graviton City, and... I think I gotta go find her. Because if
Pops told me that she's dead, then she probably thinks I ran out on her,
and... and..." He sighed, tracing a finger across the picture of her and
her parents. Eiko's parents seemed to look at the camera nervously,
while she was smiling at the camera radiantly. Even in black and white,
it wasn't hard to imagine her moving to greet him, the smile she had
just for him, even more sweet than the one recorded on paper before
He smiled back forlornly, tracing his finger lower, to the actual body
of the article. "I might have thought it was just someone who looked
like her," he said. "But then I saw... I mean, she's got the same name
in the article, and I think her father's name was 'Clark', so that
matches." He looked up at Tofu, fierce determination burning in his
eyes. "I'm gonna find her again, and figure out what's going on... I
don't... I don't know what to do about my strength, though."
Tofu stared at Ranma for a long moment, then sighed, drooping slightly,
and matching Ranma's earlier demeanor. "I don't know, Ranma... But what
are you going to do about... well... Akane?"
Ranma worked his jaw, his mouth opening and closing a few times, but no
words emerging, before he groaned, "I... I don't know. I... I want to
see Eiko... and if she... well, she's smiling in her picture, so she's
probably over me. I guess... I just want to see her to apologize, and
maybe say goodbye. I'll... I can't inherit the dojo until I get my
strength back, so Akane doesn't matter right now anyway."
The doctor said nothing for a long moment, simply staring at the floor.
He doubted Ranma truly wanted this other girl to be over him, but then,
who was he to judge? Ranma squinted, but Tofu's eyes were concealed by
glare from the light against his glasses, making his expression
unreadable. "Well," the doctor said thoughtfully. "I... I'm going to be
leaving Nerima... you probably noticed the boxes."
Ranma nodded, glancing at them again.
Sighing, the doctor grimaced, and rubbed at his temples. "Truth of the
matter is that I don't make a lot of money here... And rent is a lot
cheaper in newer cities than Tokyo."
Frowning, Ranma looked at the doctor, who had not yet raised his head.
"So... you can't afford to keep the clinic?" he asked, confusion evident
in his voice.
"Well, I can afford it for another month or so, but... I don't get a lot
of business, really..." He sighed. "And even though I do get business, I
can't... I can't find it in my heart to charge as much as I'd need to in
order to make ends meet for much longer."
Ranma set his empty teacup down, his frown deepening.
Tofu continued, unperturbed, "And then there's... there are other
factors, too." Ranma winced, thinking of Kasumi. "So I'm packing up my
things and moving them into storage for a few months, and... well, I
figured I'd just wander around until I found a nice place to settle down
that could use a chiropractor."
Ranma snorted, "Don't sell your self short, Tofu-sensei. You're a pretty
damn good doctor."
Tofu raised his head at that, and returned Ranma's own weak smile. "You
think so?" he asked.
Rolling his eyes, Ranma nodded. "Of course. Well..." he trailed off,
deciding Kasumi was a topic best not mentioned at the present. "Yeah, I
really think so."
Tofu smiled, removing his glasses and cleaning them on the sleeves of
his gi. "I guess... That's very kind of you, Ranma."
There was a moment of companionable silence between the two for a long
moment before reality began to seep back in. "Anyway," Ranma said,
shaking his head. "I guess... thanks, Tofu-sensei. It's good to talk
with you. I... I should go back to the Tendos to get my stuff, and then
Tofu coughed, frowning slightly again. "If you wish, Ranma... but..."
Ranma raised an eyebrow inquisitively, as Tofu hedged uncertainly. The
doctor sighed, "Ah, well. What I was thinking was... rent in Graviton
City is probably fairly cheap, since it's a very new city, and... I was
thinking of going there."
Ranma blinked a few times, not sure he had heard that correctly.
Collecting himself, he asked, "Huh?"
Tofu grinned, and scratched the back of his head. "I was thinking about
it a little before, not very seriously... but walking is the cheapest
way to travel, and traveling with a friend is always the best way to
move around... maybe Graviton City won't be the place for me, but... I'd
like to travel with you if that's where you're going." He shrugged, then
admitted, "And all things considered, you shouldn't be traveling alone."
The pigtailed martial artist stared, a slow grin forming on his face
despite the admonishment that he would need protection. "That... that
would be great, I don't think I even want to look at my pop right now,
and... Hell, I can get rid of this moxibustion faster with you along...
so that sounds great, Tofu-sensei!"
Extending his hand for a western style handshake, the older martial
artist resisted the urge to laugh like he hadn't since his college days.
"Okay then. Partners?"
Ranma shook Tofu's hand heartily. As heartily as he could, given his
body's refusal to use any real strength. Grinning idiotically, he
nodded, saying, "Partners, Tofu-sensei. When do you want to leave?"
The doctor considered briefly, then glanced around. "Well," he began
thoughtfully. "If you help me pack everything into boxes... I can leave
tomorrow morning. But it's 'Tofu,' not 'Tofu-sensei.'"
The boy nodded, grinning again. "Okay... Tofu. I'll help you as much as
I can... there's the problem of dealing with things if they happen to be
heavy..." he trailed off, expression darkening.
Clicking his tongue, Tofu said, "It shouldn't be a problem. Most of what
I haven't packed is papers, and if they're heavy then you can move small
amounts of them really quickly, can't you?"
Ranma nodded quickly, and set to work under the doctor's instruction.
"Okay, Ranma... I think we're done. I'm going to call the storage
people, and tell them they can let themselves in tomorrow morning. I
expect... you want to be gone before it gets to be too early?" The
doctor looked at Ranma expectantly.
Ranma nodded quickly. "Yeah... I'll go to the Tendo's and... grab my
stuff. You mind if I stay here tonight?"
The doctor shrugged, glancing around. "That would work for me, actually.
Yeah, why don't go ahead and do that? You'll be back soon, right?"
Ranma turned away, and stepped out of the door, slowing uncertainly
after a moment. He drew to a halt, then winced, turning around. "Um... I
don't know if I can carry all my stuff..."
Tofu frowned to consider that. "Oh... that's a good point. I'll make the
call and join you, then." The two blinked at each other, then the doctor
flushed. "Right. Bad idea. I guess you'll just have to take a few trips
to move all your stuff..." He scratched the back of his head nervously.
Ranma frowned, considering that, and nodded. "Um... I guess I'll only
take what I can carry, then."
The doctor shook his head. "No, bring everything. What we don't take
with us can be put into storage. I have an empty box or two."
The boy brightened at that. "Good idea, Tofu. I'll be back in a few
minutes... a couple of times, I guess."
Smirking, Tofu closed the door and moved to the phone. "I haven't felt
this good in a long time," he commented to himself. "A training trip is
just the thing..." Trapping the phone between his shoulder and his ear
awkwardly, he shuffled through the box of items he had chosen to take
with him, his eyes lingering briefly on an old shiatsu manual. He
dropped the phone in surprise, and picked up the book, considering.
"Well now... That might work..."
Smiling to himself, he added the book to the stack of things he had
decided to take with him, then picked up the phone again.
Genma considered his options briefly, then came to one conclusion. Ranma
would have to be cured, somehow.
Maybe a harsh training regimen, or a journey to China for an ancient
moxibustion expert, or even another wishing sword like the one that Kuno
had found. There had to be some answer, and he was... he was... he was
going to wonder why his son's possessions were all missing.
The man stared for a moment unhappily, wondering where the boy had gone.
He had to have gone somewhere... but where? He crossed his arms over his
chest to contemplate.
Grimacing, he gathered his own possessions together, then slipped out.
There were only a few places that Ranma could go. He was confident that
he'd find Ranma quickly enough.
"Father! Come quick! Ranma and Saotome-san, they're--"
On his feet in an instant, Soun dashed upstairs, throwing open the door
to the guest bedroom as though he had some hope that Kasumi was somehow
wrong, already knowing what she was going to say. His eyes widened,
seeing the empty room. "Gone!" he exclaimed, shocked.
Kasumi nervously drew in on herself, then sighed, "They must have packed
up and slipped out last night."
Nabiki nodded, frowning. "It was probably too awkward for them to
The eldest Tendo sister returned Nabiki's nod solemnly. "Yes, with Ranma
being too weak to take over the dojo and all..."
Soun wept unashamedly, sobbing, "All my dreams!" Nabiki said nothing,
simply closing her eyes and tightening her grip on her drink container.
Trust her father to not take Akane's feelings into account. She frowned
at that, wondering how Akane would react. Nabiki peered at Akane out of
the corners of her eyes, curious.
The youngest sister trembled with barely restrained emotion, then shook
her head in defiance of the situation. "No..." she whispered. With more
force in her voice, she added, "He wouldn't do that! He..." She cut off
suddenly, remembering Ranma's expression as he stared at the fire where
the chart had disappeared. Would he?
Two travelers wandered down a largely deserted road along a rice-paddy,
nodding at the occasional farmer as they passed.
Tofu wore a good-natured smile, despite the fact that he was carrying
all of his own equipment, and most of Ranma's. "It's good to be on the
road again, isn't it?"
Ranma nodded, his eyes focused on a slim wooden pole he was carrying,
practicing spinning it around in one hand, and catching it in the other.
Grumbling, he slung the pole over one shoulder, annoyed that he could
carry so little. "Yeah, actually... it is good. Thanks, Tofu. I just
know that things are going to get better from here... which way you
wanna go to get there?"
The doctor pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Hmm... well, Graviton City is
in Hokkaido... we can either take the coast, or a more inland route...
which would you prefer?"
Ranma hedged uncertainly for a moment, then nodded. "Inland. Coast would
probably be faster, but the sights are more interesting inland. Yeah..."
Tofu halted briefly, dropping his pack and removing a well-worn travel
map from it. "Okay," he said, pretending not to notice as he dropped his
shiatsu manual. "I'd have thought you'd be in a hurry, though. Let's
look at our choices for routes."
Ranma wordlessly picked up the book, his eyes skimming across the title
before turning to look at the map. Juggling the shiatsu manual in one
hand absently, he replied, "Yeah... it would be faster, but there's more
training grounds inland, and I'm more familiar with the area." He raised
a finger to stab at the map, then paused and looked down to the book he
was idly tossing. Tofu watched a smile blossom on Ranma's face, as
realization dawned on the boy. "Hey..." he said. "Do you think I could
learn some of this?"
Tofu nodded approval. "Oh, yeah, that's simple stuff. You can learn that
easily. I guess this means you aren't giving up the Anything Goes
The pigtailed boy slumped. "Well... I'll take what I can get, Tofu...
it's not like I _can_ do much." He shook his head abruptly. "I've never
really given up. I just need to find a way to get my strength back, or
something else I can do..." Shrugging, he added, "Besides, the school
specializes in adapting. Just gonna have to do a lot more of that..."
Folding up the map for the moment, Tofu pointed to a nearby tree, easily
ten meters away and twenty meters tall. "Do you think you can jump up
onto that tree?"
Ranma blinked, and shook his head sadly, staring at the knotted pine
tree. "Maybe before I got hit with the ultimate weakness-"
Tofu cut him off, shouting, "CAT!"
When Ranma came to his senses, the doctor was on the road, nineteen
meters below him, collapsed to his knees on the road with laughter.
"Hey!" Ranma yelled. "What did you do that for!?"
Collecting himself slightly, Tofu explained, "Look! You just jumped up
there, didn't you? The moxibustion doesn't make you weak -- it just
affects how you use your strength. You can't carry a lot of weight, but
you can move yourself easily, can't you?"
Ranma scowled, then hopped down from the tree, blinking in surprise.
"You're right!" he said, realization sinking in. "And I'm still tough --
I could stand to be hit just as much as I used to..." He trailed off,
frowning. "But I can't block as well as I used to..."
Tofu waved a hand dismissively. "Details, Ranma. Details. I'm sure you
can learn how to fight. But rather than simply search for a cure for the
moxibustion, shouldn't you be looking for a way to cope?"
Ranma bowed his head, considering the man's words. After a moment, he
nodded. "You're right. Until I can cure it, I should be looking for a
way to work around it. And I'm guessing by the way you tossed this
shiatsu book out for me, you've got a few ideas, don't you?"
Laughing slightly, Tofu nodded, moving over to lean against the tree,
and setting his pack down. "You caught me; I do. Let's stop her for a
quick lunch. We've got a few things we can talk about, and we still need
to pick out the route we're going to use."
Akane picked at her bento halfheartedly, trying to ignore the part of
her mind that was worried about Ranma. Someone stood before her,
blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow across her. She looked up,
frowning slightly. "Ukyou?"
The okonomiyaki chef nodded, looking around slowly. Crouching to bring
herself closer to a level with the seated Akane, she said, "Hey, Akane.
What's up with Ranchan? I haven't seen him around today."
Grumbling, Akane set her bento on the ground near her, tossing her
chopsticks after it and crossing her arms over her chest. Finding her
eyes suddenly moist, she raised her chin slightly. "He..." she began,
before a sudden thickness in her voice cut off her explanations.
Ukyou blinked at that, confused. "What?" she asked, worry evident in her
Akane glanced at the taller girl sharply, and snapped out, "I don't
know! He's gone!"
The okonomiyaki chef was so stunned that her feet shot out from beneath
her, depositing her from her crouching position to a sudden halt on her
backside. "Ow..." she murmured, eyes glazing. "I... see... Well... See
you around, Akane..." Shaking her head, Ukyou climbed to her feet again,
and wandered away, frowning intently.
Akane sighed deeply, torn between worry and anger. Where was Ranma? Was
he okay? And what did he think he was doing, leaving without saying
She regained her feet wearily, trudging back to her class. "I know," she
mumbled. "I'll visit with Tofu-sensei after class... He's always got
Cologne paced impatiently. Shampoo would be back in two weeks, but in
the meantime, there was a worrisome claim from Mousse that the nearly
blind hidden-weapons master had actually defeated Ranma in combat.
This worried her greatly, as she did not want Ranma to be anything less
than a desirable mate for her great-granddaughter. She knew better than
to expect Ranma to actually come to her for help if there was a problem;
she had given him no reason to trust her.
But at the same time... It wouldn't hurt to encourage a little seed of
trust. If he was in trouble, she could teach him a new technique, or
help him some other way. Something to foster the boy's attention, and
maybe to a small degree, respect. She nodded decisively, <Right. I'll
find out where the boy's gone off to, and then find out what's going
She glanced out to the dining area, where Mousse was sullenly wiping
down an empty table. "Mr. Part-Time!" she snapped.
His head whipped around quickly, and he glared at a nearby light fixture
with undisguised malice. "What?" he responded, managing to soften his
tone just enough to avoid the elder's cane.
Cologne rolled her eyes. "I'm closing the restaurant for a few days,"
she explained. "Keep the shop closed, and do whatever you feel like with
your time." She waved a finger at him in warning. "I expect you to
behave yourself, though."
With that, she pogoed up the stairs to gather a few things, leaving
Mousse to boggle at the same light fixture in confusion.
Ukyou shadowed Akane carefully. She had thought that Ranma would realize
that his best choice was to go to her, but there was no sign of him at
the restaurant, and she was afraid that he might have done something...
So she shadowed the youngest Tendo, suspecting that Akane might have
somehow hidden Ranma somewhere. <Okay,> she reasoned to herself. <That's
not too likely. But she might know more about what's really going on.>
Akane perked up slightly after school let out, taking a slight detour
from the route to the Tendo home, to visit a nearby clinic. Ukyou
frowned at that. Was Ranma in trouble?
She hopped into the branches of a nearby tree to observe, noting a large
truck and a pair of men moving boxes out of the clinic. She frowned,
seeing Akane gape at the men, and lean against a nearby utility pole for
After a few minutes, one of the men took a last crate out of the
building, and shut the door behind him. He said something in a quiet
voice that Ukyou couldn't quite make out, to Akane, then smiled as she
murmured a response.
The two men finished packing the truck and it lurched to a start
jerkily, the engine stalling once before the embarrassed driver went
easier on the clutch. Akane watched it roll slowly out of sight,
navigating the narrow and seldom used streets of the district before
turning her attention back to the clinic.
Hesitantly, she stepped forward, her hand brushing aside the 'This
building for rent! Call Bosabosa Kyoutaku for details!' sign, and
testing the door. The movers had left it unlatched, and she opened it,
stepping inside gingerly.
Heaving an agitated sigh, Ukyou dropped any pretences of being sneaky,
and hopped down from the tree, trotting quickly across the once again
quiet street to the clinic's entrance. She wasn't sure what was going on
here, but it looked like Akane was just as much in the dark as she was.
The Tendo girl was staring around the empty interior of the building,
seeming slightly dazed. Ukyou cleared her throat, and Akane's slack and
confused expression shifted to annoyance as she spun to face the other
girl, coming to rest in a defensive posture. "What are you doing here?"
she demanded of the okonomiyaki chef.
Ukyou took a half-step back, raising her hand in a warding gesture.
"Whoa," she said. "Calm down there, Akane. I was just going to ask you
if you had found anything out about Ranchan yet."
The girl wilted visibly, dropping to a more relaxed stance and shrugging
helplessly. "Nope... I don't know anything at all, and Tofu-sensei...
apparently he left today. No forwarding address, or anything..." she
trailed off miserably, staring at the floor.
Ukyou looked around, seeing that the clinic had been largely stripped
bare. "I don't know... do you think his leaving had anything to do with
Akane lost some of her depression, devoting her attention to thinking
about things clearly. "Well..." she said slowly. "Mr. Saotome lost his
job with Tofu-sensei after the cat-fist training, but... I know that
Tofu-sensei thinks highly of Ranma, but... Wait... you think he left
Ukyou paled suddenly, and pointed to a discarded newspaper. "He might
have..." she murmured.
Akane picked it up, her eyes widening in surprise. "It's Ranma!" she
exclaimed, quickly scanning through the article. "Tofu must really
_have_ left with Ranma! The article doesn't say anything about him,
though... just some girl and her family moving to Graviton... City..."
She slumped, letting the paper drift to the floor. "It's even circled in
red ink... Oh... how the heck am I going to get to Hokkaido, anyway?"
Ukyou blinked at that, then frowned thoughtfully. "Hm... looks like I'm
going to have to be moving, then... Sorry, Akane. I have to get back to
my shop and close up."
Akane did not mistake the finality of Ukyou's meaning of 'close.' She
called out as Ukyou turned towards the door, "Wait!"
The okonomiyaki chef turned around for a minute, surprised. "Yeah?"
Licking her lips, Akane asked, "Are you going to chase after him?"
Ukyou gave a dazzling smile, one that she had been saving for Ranma, and
responded, "You betcha!" Winking at Akane, the girl spun around again
and disappeared out the door.
Akane frowned, then studied the paper again. "Daddy's not going to like
this... but if _she's_ going, then I'm _certainly_ following him...
someone has to keep him out of trouble..." She marched towards the
doorway after collecting the scrap of newspaper, pausing as a sudden
thought struck her. "Did Tofu-sensei follow him to keep him out of
She shrugged to herself, then began jogging home, not noticing as a few
black rose petals drifted across the seemingly deserted road behind her.
Scratching his scalp in irritation, Rounoutou Sohai pushed back his
straw hat, allowing a little more light to spill across the photographs
before him. He shook his head, then blinked, brushing an unruly clump of
brown hair out of his eyes. "Yeah. Seen that girl there, the redhead.
She was with some guy, and they were talking about training or
something. They looked a little roughed up. I heard there's some
hooligans 'round the way back you and they all come up from, so they
must have tangled together. Why? They relations of yours?"
Genma shook his head, taking back the pictures. "What did the man look
like?" he asked, ignoring the farmer's question.
The farmer shook his head again, shrugging widely, scratching a tattered
corner of his work clothes. "Don't remember. About so tall, dark hair.
Had a pair of glasses too, I think. 'Bout all I can remember." After a
moment, he added, "Dressed like us, not like the China girl, there."
Heaving a sigh of relief, Genma sketched a quick bow to the farmer, and
trotted off down the road. Sohai grumbled as the man stomped his way
down the road. "Not so much as a 'thank you.' Oh well." He turned back
to walking the perimeter of the rice paddy, largely dismissing the
Akane explained the situation to her father. "Ranma's gone to Hokkaido;
I'm going after him."
Soun frowned, trying to maintain a level head. Crying wouldn't do
anything, since it seemed to have a lot more impact on Ranma than it
ever had on his daughters. "I see... how are you going to get there?"
Shrugging offhandedly, Akane sank to a seat across from her father,
where he was idly fingering the shogi board. "I have some money saved
up... I'll take the train. But... I'm going to find him. And find out
what's going on. I'm sure I'll get this figured out, somehow."
The Tendo patriarch frowned unhappily, displeased with the prospect of
his youngest daughter traveling so far away on her own. He objected
quickly, "Akane! I can't let you go off on your own like that, it's too
Akane scowled, then shook her head. "Daddy, I'm going after him. He's
going to some place called Graviton City... And I'm going to find out
why he left."
Soun grimaced, knowing that his daughter was not in a mood to be argued
with. "Akane..." he pleaded. "Who's going to take care of you when
you're out traveling? What if something happens?"
A new voice made itself known. "I'll take care of her, Tendo-san."
Blinking, Soun turned to face the newcomer, leaning against the
doorjamb. His eyes took in Ryouga's clothing, and the dirt of several
days of hard travel. "Er..." he managed uneasily, remembering Ryouga's
Akane took advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself.
"Look, Daddy, Ryouga will come with me and help me find Ranma. What
could possibly go wrong?"
Soun bit his tongue, then nodded. "Very well, then..."
Cologne had devious ways of collecting information, and was not afraid
to employ them.
Looking furtively down the street to check for anyone who might have
observed her coming, she smiled slowly. Seeing no one to be wary of, she
strolled forwards, checking the 'wa' of the house as she approached.
Everything was in balance. <Good,> she thought to herself. <This should
be easy.> She paused for a moment, making sure that the bowls of ramen
she was carrying were still intact, then knocked on the door.
Kasumi answered a moment later, seeming completely unfazed by Amazon
matriarch's arrival. "Hello! Can I help you?"
Cologne smiled pleasantly -- a mean feat, all things considered -- and
nodded. "Certainly," she said in her most soothing and tranquil tone.
<Amazon information gathering technique!> "I just thought it would be
nice to stop by and have another chat with you. It's been so long since
we've talked about all the children."
Never mind the fact that comparable to Cologne, Kasumi was still a child
herself -- Cologne was setting her above them and asking to speak to her
on the level. That had to count for a lot. Kasumi smiled brightly,
gesturing the older woman inside. "Please, come and have a seat, then.
I'll make up some of that tea you left for us last time!"
Cologne nodded again and paced inside, setting the bowls of soup on the
table while Kasumi padded noiselessly into the kitchen. <Home-makers
gossip technique!> Kasumi thought to herself while carefully preparing
the tea service. "It's been a long while since you've come by to chat.
How is your great-granddaughter doing?"
The old woman, already lulled into thinking she had won, scrambled to
the defensive, realizing that her opponent was more skilled than she had
It was going to be a long and vicious battle.
Winded, tired, and victorious, Cologne gathered up the ramen bowls,
bowed politely to Kasumi, and then bolted for her restaurant. The most
unnerving thing about the situation was the nagging feeling that Kasumi
had _let_ her win the information she had recovered.
<Regardless,> she thought to herself. <Son-in-law has been affected by
the ultimate weakness moxibustion.> She scowled at that, taking to the
rooftops without conscious thought. <I'd better find him before he gives
into despair or manages to get hurt... Hokkaido, hmm?>
She lit upon the street before the Nekohanten, flowing inside and
hopping up to an empty table as she paused to consider. Mousse was
already gone, doubtless on some fools errand or another, but... <I
should probably get to Graviton City... Now, to alert Shampoo while
leaving Mousse in the dark.>
Nodding decisively, she hopped off the table and behind to restaurant to
her room, where she swiftly began to pack. <I'll find you, Son-in-law.
Heavens know that you're going to need help staying out of trouble as
Happosai was a problem to be dealt with later. Cologne was not pleased
that the chart containing the cure for the moxibustion point was
destroyed, but it just made finding and taking care of Ranma that much
It had taken nearly two weeks to get everything in order, but it had
been done, and thus, the majority of the problems in traveling had been
Ukyou frowned, eyeing her fellow passengers dubiously. The fact that one
of them was a girl of about her own age, wearing a slightly too large
'Fairy Princess Minky Momo' T-shirt, holding a small pig wearing an
interesting tiger-striped yellow bandanna as a collar, and muttering
dire imprecations about a certain pigtailed martial artists was enough
to irk her somewhat. Clearing her throat noisily, Ukyou managed to get
Akane's attention. "So," she began. "Chasing after Ranchan?"
Akane blushed at that, and her face colored angrily. "Ukyou! I- I'm not
looking after that... jerk," she said, her voice not carrying half the
conviction she was searching for. "I'm just... Just want to make sure
he's okay. That's all."
Ukyou shook her head slowly, eyeing the suspiciously happy piglet with
distaste. "So... coincidence that we end up on the same train, right?"
Akane nodded, then sighed. "I wish Ryouga hadn't gotten lost before we
The okonomiyaki chef raised an eyebrow. "Oh?" She had stayed up too late
the previous night mothballing the Ucchan's, on the off chance that she
would be returning instead of moving to Graviton City. The end result
was that she was too tired to capitalize on the situation and ask if
Akane were dating Ryouga.
The youngest Tendo girl nodded, then sighed. "What do you suppose
Ranma's doing right now?"
Ukyou shrugged, confessing, "No clue. Hopefully thinking of me..." <Then
again... why didn't he try and talk to me before he disappeared?"
She closed her eyes and settled back into her seat, not noticing as
Akane frowned at her.
Tofu lay back against his bedroll, staring up at the dazzling array of
stars as they glittered above him. The fire was banked, and he could
sense Ranma lying on the opposite side of its ebbing glow. "Hey, Ranma?"
After a moment, Ranma responded, his voice tired, "Yeah, Tofu?"
"Just wondering... what are you going to do once you find this girl?"
"Eiko." Ranma's voice was more alert, though Tofu could sense that the
boy hadn't moved. "I... I'm going to apologize for making her think that
I left her. I don't know... I'll... I'll see after that."
Tofu sighed, closing his eyes and relaxing in the cool night air. "Okay.
What are you going to do in Graviton City?"
"What do you mean?" Ranma's sounded confused.
"Well..." Tofu began hesitantly, still staring upwards. "What are you
going to do for a place to live once you get there? What are you going
to do for food and money?"
After a hesitant moment, Ranma responded. "I... can get a job as a
waiter somewhere, I'm sure. I've done it before. Rent should be cheaper
there than in Tokyo, and if it's not... I can camp somewhere until I've
got enough money saved up."
As he noted that the boy had not included the doctor in his plans,
Tofu's respect for Ranma increased a notch. <He's really planning on
doing something, regardless of whether or not anyone's going to help
him... but I can't just abandon him. Even if he is fairly mature, he's
just a boy.>
He mulled that over for a long moment, considering. <But should I take
care of him on my own? It's a lot of responsibility for someone who can
barely survive in Tokyo as it is, and I'm not even sure I _want_ to
settle in Graviton City...> He thought about that, as a realization
struck him. <And does he really _want_ my help?>
Frowning, he pondered for a long while before finally lapsing into
Genma leaned against the railing on the upper deck of the ferry as it
passed towards Hokkaido. <The boy has to be near,> he thought. <I know
I'm getting closer.>
On the deck immediately beneath him, concealed by a hanging life-raft,
Akane drummed her fingers against another railing, looking towards
Hokkaido in the distance, as it ever so slowly drew nearer. <Ranma...
I'll find you...>
Behind her, leaning against the wall of the passenger compartments
unconcernedly, Ukyou plotted. <First things first. Since Akane's coming,
too... I have to claim Ranchan as soon as I see him.> She nodded to
herself, smiling slightly and firming her resolve. <Soon as I see him,
I'll let him know who really loves him.>
Further down the deck, unbeknownst to either of them, Ryouga watched
Akane raptly, noting the way the sea breeze ruffled her hair, and the
sunlight reflecting off of the sea gave her an almost unearthly beauty.
He stepped forward hesitantly, then bolstered his courage. <I'm going to
tell her. Ranma doesn't have a chance now that he's abandoned her, and
he's too weak to inherit the dojo anyway. I'm going to say it.> He took
another step towards the girls, then opened his mouth, and for once, the
words came without any trouble, "Bweee!"
The two girls turned to look, while P-chan could only look stupefied.
Akane rolled her eyes, and picked up Ryouga's sea-soaked clothing, then
grabbed up the piglet himself. "Honestly," she grumbled. "You'd think
that P-chan would know better than to drag Ryouga's clothes out here all
Ukyou frowned at that, then shrugged. "Maybe. You seem to like the guy,
While the two girls talked, another observed the approaching landmass
from the opposite side of the ship, contemplating her own future. <My
dearest Ranma-sama will have to realize that only I am loyal enough to
follow him this far. Then he will take me away to live in wedded
And below all of them, in the ballast compartment, an older man
snickered to his young friend, "You were right Ranma, this is kind of
The boy crouching near him in the darkness snorted, "Just 'cause we can
swim to China doesn't mean that we have to do it again. It's not as fast
this way, but it's really tiring."
Tofu blinked at that. "Not as fast? We?"
"Sure!" Ranma chirped. "Me and Pops got from Jusenkyou to Nerima in only
The doctor reeled, stunned. He had known that Ranma was capable of some
impressive things before, but... "Wow..."
And at the very top of the ship, seated comfortably just below the
radar, an old woman frowned. <I sense that something very odd is
Ranma carefully modulated his ki and his focus, mimicking the doctor's
'you don't need to notice me' trick. Tofu would have nodded in approval,
had he not been so busy not being important. The two stood near each
other in the press of passengers waiting to disembark, too wrapped up in
their own unimportant-ness to notice the trio of teenagers that were
likewise not noticing them.
There was no practical reason to be using the trick beyond the fact that
they didn't have tickets, but that was as good a reason as any.
Cologne slipped out above them, bounding off a mooring line and off to
the docks without being seen, though she was vaguely aware that someone
was behind her, and hiding. Still, she didn't have time to worry about
that, as she needed to take the train from Tomokomai towards Atsuga, and
hence, Graviton City.
Once clear of the stream of passengers, Ranma dropped the trick, sensing
a headache forming. Tofu had shadowed him, and the older man smirked.
"Good job, Ranma... Didn't think you'd be able to pick it up that fast."
Ranma grinned cockily, boasting, "I can learn darn near anything I set
my mind to, Tofu. Tell ya what, though. As much as I'd like to hurry,
let's find some place to pick up something to eat 'fore we go. It's
probably gonna be cheaper than getting food on the train."
Tofu nodded, pulling a schedule out of his pocket, then examining it.
"Right, then... we've got about an hour and twenty minutes before the
train we're going to want to take, since the next one leaves in... ten
minutes, and it'll probably take us longer to find something decent."
Frowning slightly, Ranma nodded, already sniffing the air for something
to pique his interest.
Ukyou grumbled, then finally gave up. "Look, much as I'd like to help
you two out, I've got to take the next train. I'll see you later, but
the next train's not for more than another hour, so you'd better hurry."
Akane grumbled, hiding her glower towards Ryouga. "We'd be at the train
station much faster if you didn't keep getting lost."
Flushing and realizing that this, at least, was not something he could
blame Ranma for, Ryouga bowed his head. "I'm sorry," he mumbled.
Akane shook her head and turned away, trotting after the retreating form
of Ukyou as she moved towards the train station, passing a small yattai
where a pair of traveling martial artists on their way to Graviton City
patiently waited for their meals.
Forty minutes later, after Ranma had generously dipped into his own
meager savings to pay for the both of them, "The least I can do after
all you've done for me," the younger martial artist had insisted, Tofu
patted his stomach contentedly.
Turning towards Ranma as he leisurely strolled in the direction of the
train station, Tofu asked, "So... you still have enough for the train?"
Ranma waved a hand dismissively, explaining, "I do... barely. But that's
not a big deal. See... Pops would steal or sneak from pretty much
anyone. I don't like to do that at all, but if I gotta do it, I'll make
sure it hurts as few people as possible."
Tofu nodded, a glimmering of understanding forming. "So... you're not
hurting anyone by sneaking onto a ferry like the one we used, but you
might hurt someone by stealing from their personal yattai?"
Ranma fidgeted for a moment, his cocky demeanor failing him. "Well..."
he began. "It's... it's a karma thing, you know? And when we were on a
ship, normally I try and find a way to help out... it's harder now that
I don't have my strength, but..." he trailed off, frowning.
The doctor smirked. "I think I understand, though. It's wrong, but if
you have to do wrong, make it the smallest wrong that you can?"
Ranma deflated at that, muttering, "Yeah... but it's still wrong."
Tofu patted Ranma on the shoulder companionably. "I left some money in
the suggestion box on board the ship anyway."
Coloring brightly, Ranma scratched at the back of his head. "Oh," he
said in a small voice.
Waving a hand dismissively, Tofu turned towards the train. "I think of
it as training. And it's kind of fun. So, where's the ballast
compartment on the train?"
Ranma regained some of his excitement. "Well, it's more dangerous than
the ship, but it's pretty fun, if you're brave."
"How's that work?" Tofu asked, a small knot of worry forming in his gut.
Ranma's cocky grin resurfaced, giving the doctor cause to worry about
the odds of keeping his lunch down. "We jump on the roof as it's
Tofu swallowed nervously. "Oh," he said, adopting the small voice Ranma
had used earlier. "I thought that might be it."
Eiko groaned, settling into another hot shower. A bath would have been
nice, but for whatever reason, her parents thought that showers were
Grumbling to herself, she reflected on the latest indignity of her life
-- something called the 'spinner machine.' The stupid machine had
transformed, but then the poor girl who was piloting it couldn’t reach
any of the controls! It was ridiculous, and Eiko let her feelings show
by disabling it with a single sweep-kick, knocking the contraption down
and _still_ managing to show up to class late.
Why couldn't Biiko just leave her alone?
It was annoying enough when Biiko finally noticed that someone had
managed to teach her skill to compliment her strength, but that was just
opening old wounds, and hadn't put her anymore in the mood to deal with
the nasty-tempered girl.
She sighed, trying to lose herself in a moment of warmth and happiness;
to forget. Again.
Her hands tightened into fists, and she schooled herself to calmness.
<Don't overreact, Eiko. You don't have your bracers on. Calm. Be calm.
Once more she thought about trying to talk about it with her mother, but
again, she pushed the thought away. Her mother had some odd ideas about
Turning off the shower with exaggerated care, she stepped out and began
toweling herself off. <I have a bad feeling that something even worse is
going to happen tomorrow. I just know it.>
Pre-reader draft completed 03/20/01
Revised on 03/23/01
Polishing/revision on 03/27/01
Thanks to Corwin for pre-reading for me, and we'll see where we go from
Skip-able details: Unimportant stuff that provides some extra info. The
majority of the stuff is actually folded into the fic, but if you're
curious, I've placed Graviton City on Hokkaido, a few miles west roughly
west of Atsuga. Actually that would be in the sea... northwest, then.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Japanese geography, Tokyo's on
the south side of the middle of the main island, and Hokkaido's the next
really big island to the northeast. Sasebo's a middling to large city on
the southwest side of Honshu. Honshu being the big island. They never
explored it in the manga, but that seemed like a good place for Ranma
and Genma to swim to China from. This is only important because Eiko
happens to live in Sasebo, and Shiko lives... well... wherever Eiko is,
if she can help it.
Enough nattering. I'd just like to take a moment to curse whatever gods
saw fit to drive me to strive for accuracy in a crossover between a
parody and a comedy. Okay. That's enough out of me.
Haiku of my lament:
Forgive my spelling,
my U.S. education,
is the source of blame.
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