Subject: [FFML] The Traveller: Prologue
From: Louise McCrowe
Date: 11/30/2002, 3:07 AM
To: ffml@anifics.com


Prologue

Ryouga sighed dejectedly.  This wasn't particularly unusual, since it was 
around two o'clock, and he was already three dejected sighs behind that 
day.  He gave the straps of his backpack a tug, tightening them, and kept 
on walking.  He wasn't particularly sure where, or why, but it was always 
better to be moving instead of standing still, he reasoned.  Sooner or 
later, he'd get to where he wanted to be.  He just cursed that it had to 
always be later instead of sooner.  Much, much later than what most people 
would have called 'very late', 'incredibly late', 'ridiculously late', and 
'boy, you so late yo momma's so fat!'  He never really understood that last 
one, but decided that he really didn't care.

It had been over a week since Akane and Ranma's little wedding fiasco and a 
little over three days since he last saw them.  He didn't feel guilty for 
what happened at the wedding, and with good reason.  First, he sincerely, 
honest to God, thought that he was in Okinawa, about to crash into a zoo 
keeper's office.  Second, from what he learned afterward, it hadn't even 
been a 'real' wedding, considering they knocked Ranma out to get him to 
agree.  That coward didn't even that the guts to marry Akane 
correctly.  Damn him.  Third, he didn't do anything. He now knew that Ranma 
and Akane were meant to be together, and as much as it galled him that 
Akane should settle for a womanizing half-man intent on humiliating him for 
the rest of his natural life, he'd come to terms with it.  He wouldn't have 
fought Ranma over Akane's hand.  Over other crap, hey, sure.  He knew that 
all he had to do was hang around Ranma enough until he said or did 
something that demanded righteous retribution.

Still, the wedding had been ruined before his arrival, and all he did was 
go after the Nannichuan water.  Everybody else did it, and Ryouga'd be 
damned if he'd let the cure (to something that was Ranma's fault, of 
course) get away from him simply because he had to be polite.

"Oh, no, please, Mousse, I insist.  Take the water for yourself," he said, 
to himself, gesturing a bit in exaggerated motions, "Ah, Mr. Saotome, how 
could I ever take away your need for a cure? Please, you must take precedence."

Most people walking past the boy talking to himself gave him a wide berth, 
allowing him to be as crazy as he thought he had to be.  No reason to 
shatter the poor kid's heart, they told themselves, by telling him that 
there was no one else with him.

Ryouga kept on walking, albeit without any physical manifestation of his 
thoughts.  He wanted to be so many different places at the same time.  He 
wanted to be home, to store some of the things on his backpack and maybe, 
just maybe, talk to his parents face to face.  He wanted to be at the 
Unryuu farm, so that he could talk to Akari, let her know that she really 
was the only one for her, that the red-haired pigtailed girl meant nothing, 
really.  He wanted to be at the Tendo Dojo, to challenge Ranma on the 
grounds of being a crummy groom.  He wanted to be in Hokkaido, since 
somehow, he seemed to have a ticket for a sold-out concert two days from 
then, and he'd heard that it would kick ass.  Not that he knew who '3 Doors 
Down' were, but if he had the ticket, might as well try to show up.  He 
wanted to be anywhere in Japan that he'd be able to recognize.

Instead, Ryouga saw a tall Caucasian with long black hair and a pair of 
spectacles suddenly run out of a store and slam the door behind him, 
panting heavily.  After a few breaths, he turned, cracked the door open, 
and peeked inside.  He gave a small wave inside, along with a sheepish smile.

"Sorry," he said, in English.  He then opened the door fully.

Ryouga, at first staring curiously at the westerner, suddenly felt very 
ill.  He could not be in England again.  If Ranma learned about this, he'd 
have a field day.  Get in one or two cargo ships by mistake, end up in 
Russia, Mexico a few times, and suddenly Ranma wouldn't let him hear the 
end of it.  Ryouga looked around.  Everything was in Japanese, which was a 
good sign.  He'd assume that the man was a gaijin in Japan instead of him 
being in a Japanese block of some city.  It would seem an obvious 
assumption, had Ryouga not been in so many situations where such 
assumptions failed him.

"Hello," the foreigner said, addressing Ryouga, still in English.

"Heh-roh," Ryouga replied.

Hearing Ryouga speak seemed to trigger something in the man.  He looked 
around a bit, and seemed to be taking in his surroundings.  Ryouga took the 
time to evaluate the man.  He was sharply dressed, wearing a red shirt that 
looked to Ryouga that might be Chinese silk, gray vest, pleated gray pants, 
and a pair of white Italian shoes that matched his belt.  He was wearing 
also a very heavy trenchcoat, currently opened, and a red wool scarf, 
hanging around his neck like a towel.

"I'm in Japan, aren't I?" he finally said, still in English.

"Yes," Ryouga ventured, hoping that he wasn't making the man lost in his 
own continent.

"What is day today?" he said in Japanese.  Not bad, in Ryouga's opinion.

"Saturday," Ryouga said.

"The date?" the man specified.  Ryouga told him.

"How many world wars have there been?" He continued, an anxious look 
growing on his face.

"Uh, two. Listen, why are you asking these questions?" Ryouga said, looking 
slightly uncomfortable.  Was this man a truant officer?  He hated those; 
hard to explain why he didn't attend school.

"Just..." the man had a pained expression on his face, "just a few more 
questions, OK?  It won't take long.  Has Japan won both of them?"

"Lost in WWII.  But I guess you could consider that a trick 
question.  Japan was the last power in the axis to fall, and the surrender 
was mostly to save the lives of soldiers that wouldn't have, had the US not 
employed a pair of atomic bombs, given up.  Since their defeat in 1945, the 
Japanese people have managed to become an economic power, their imposed 
lack of military notwithstanding, demonstrating this success didn't come 
from the bullying of weaker nations."

"Are towels easy to buy?"

Ryouga was befuddled by this man, but felt that he had no right to refuse 
him.  He'd needed help with directions more than once, and this man looked 
just as lost as he was.  Maybe he'd knock him out after the questions and 
send him to some sort of mental hospital, as a favor.  "Yes.  Very 
easy.  You can buy one in just about any large department store."

"Is print illegal?"

"Huh?"

"Is print illegal?  Is it illegal to carry, own, or create printed 
materials such as books, posters, leaflets, porn? Especially porn."

"No," Ryouga pointed at a bookstore nearby, "if you want travel guides, 
those places usually carry quite a large selection, actually."

"Have aliens ever descended upon Earth, wreaking havoc and mayhem?" The 
seriousness with which he asked this particular question took Ryouga back.

"No, never.  Listen, is this going to go on for very long?  It's getting 
kinda late," he pointed at the sun directly above them, "and I really have 
to be home before dark."

"Just one more question: Have you ever heard of the name Harold P. Orlitz?"

"Can't say it rings any bells, sorry," Ryouga started to leave, hoping that 
was the last question.

"Wait," the man grabbed the youth by the shoulders, "Are you sure?  Howard 
Orlitz? Hal Owlitz?  Anything like that?  Overlord of the Americas and 
doombringer of the new era?"

"Nope," Ryouga said, slightly annoyed at being grabbed, and thinking 
whether or not to hurt him when he broke the grip, "I've heard of a Bill 
Gates, but..."

He let go of him.  "Yeah, yeah, I'm not interested in any upstarts," he 
said, with a dismissive wave.  Then, he relaxed visibly.  He took some deep 
breaths and pounded his chest twice.  He raised his right fist in front of 
him, and cried, "Finally figured you out, you bastard.  No Orlitz, no 
aliens, no WW VI, I can buy porn and a towel!" He let out a cry of joy, and 
then, in a much lower voice, "This is paradise."

The man turned to Ryouga, who had decided to stay and see this to the end 
anyway.  "Thanks kid.  Sorry for taking your time," he said, and bowed.

"Sure, no problem," Ryouga replied, a little uncomfortable.

The man turned on his heel and started walking away.  As he passed a trash 
can, he paused, seemed to struggle with something, and threw something that 
looked like a keychain to Ryouga, but he was too far away to make it out 
clearly.  Deciding he had spent way too much time cavorting with lunatics, 
he set out in a different direction, intent on finding the Tendo Dojo.  As 
he was walking away, he passed a trashcan, where something metallic nearby 
caught his eye.  It seemed to be jewelry of some sort, and Ryouga crouched 
and picked it up.

It looked like three rings connected together to a smaller fourth ring.  He 
didn't know what it was supposed to be, but it was pretty in an elegant, 
simplistic sort of way.  He could give it to Akari, even.  Ryouga paused in 
his thoughts for a moment, and decided that it was best to find out what it 
was first and then have it appraised.  He didn't want to give Akari a piece 
of junk, or something utterly worthless.  She deserved more than that.

He put the three larger rings on his index finger, and twirled the object 
absently.  Maybe women liked linking multiple rings to one finger 
nowadays?  He was so behind on female fashion, he didn't want to embarrass 
himself, presenting it as a bracelet sort of thing when it probably would 
end up being a really weird earring.  He stopped the spinning, and put it 
in his pocket.  He'd have to see a jeweler later, and he had other presents 
with him to give.  One of the advantages of traveling the world.

Quickly forgetting about the strange man and the object that he threw away, 
he set out once more into the cold and unforgiving world.



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