Chapter 4: Life, Tatewaki and Everything

                     C&A Productions Presents

A Work of Ranma 1/2 Fanfiction

The Ties That Bind

Part 4: Life, Tatewaki and Everything

Written by Chris McNeil

Original Concept Provided by Robert Morrison

Ranma and Panma stared at Akane for a long moment.  Then they both burst
out laughing.  "You're not serious!" Panma gasped.  "He got up there...and TOLD
them that if anybody wanted to date you..."
Akane felt her face redden.  "It's not -my- fault Kunou is such an idiot,"
she snapped.  "You think I WANTED all those boys after me every morning?"
"Some girls might take it as a compliment," grinned Ranma.  "Then again,
-some- girls don't try to be more macho than...hey, what was that for?" he
growled at his brother, who had jabbed an elbow in his side.  Panma met his gaze
cooly, and then Ranma seemed to remember something and looked away, muttering
under his breath.
"So what do you do about it?" asked Panma in the uncomfortable silence that
followed.  Akane shrugged with irritation.
"What I have to...pound the heck out of them every morning.  And Kunou,
too.  He's always last."
Panma raised an eyebrow.  "You've beaten Kunou?"
"Yeah," said Akane defensively, "so what?"
"I guess even -you- might stand a chance against him," Ranma agreed.  Panma
shook his head in pure disgust as Akane glared at her supposed fiancee.  "What?"
Panma quickly stood up.  "C'mon, bro, let's grab some food before it's all
gone."  Ranma, whose eyes had lit up at the mention of 'food', quickly followed.
Akane heard Panma say something to his brother about not making any psycho
enemies this time, but was too angry to figure out quite what that meant.  So
what if she wasn't so fast or fancy as either of them?  She was a martial artist
too, and if she had traveled all over the place and gotten in HALF as many
fights as those two, she could probably have kicked them both all the way back
to China.
Akane stood up to get her own lunch, a small smile on her face.  If
Nabiki's plan worked half as well as it was supposed to, that might be the last
smart-aleck comment she got out of either of them.

********

In another part of the lunchroom, a conference of war was taking place.  "I
didn't have time to get pictures yet," Nabiki said in an outwardly
conversational yet still quiet voice, "but there he is over there.  See the one
in the bread line, the one without a uniform?"
"The one with four pieces in his arms and six in his mouth?"
"No, that one can wait.  The one over there, giving him a disgusted look."
The red-haired girl studied him for a moment.  "Got it.  With those weird
clothes he'll be easy to pick out."
"Make sure everybody knows him, then.  I want this all to go off after
first class this afternoon."
"I'll make sure they all know about him."  The girl hesitated.
"Umm...Nabiki, some people have been wondering...some of those instructions are
kinda weird..."
Nabiki smiled, a slow, malicious smile.  "Tell them not to worry about it.
But I wouldn't suggest being too close to anyone in that guy's clothes when this
goes down..."

********

Upperclassman Tatewaki Kunou, rising star of the high school fencing world
and Furinkan High School's mightiest warrior, was irritated.  The scowl of rage
on his face would normally be enough to send lesser men - and was that not
everybody? - scurrying for cover, which was only sensible, for Kunou's divine
wrath was quite near at these times, and liable to fall on the incautious
in the form of his mighty bokken.
Indeed, even now the glower upon his visage would probably have caused his
fellow students to clear before him, if it weren't for the fact that the halls
were empty on account of the fact that most students were in class.  So
preoccupied was Kunou with his righteous indignation and inflamed thoughts,
however, that even his razor-keen senses failed to acknowledge this.
That was not truly a surprise, given the news he had received.  After a
short period of surprise in the aftermath of the morning's fiasco, he had -
correctly, of course - reasoned that his trusted bokken had obviously been
fatally flawed. Thus he was compelled to fetch a new one, as well as lodging a
protest over the shoddy workmanship (in the form of dire threats and a rather
lengthy lecture on the proper way to do business) of the last.  Returning during
the noon repast, he had been bent on searching out the impudent Saotome whelp
and giving him the thrashing he had unjustly escaped that morning...when ill
tidings had been revealed to him by the personage of one Nabiki Tendo.
"Fiancee..."  His lip curled around the very words.  It was indeed a stroke
of fortune, however, that Nabiki had informed him so quickly.  She was an odd
mental gifts, and besides which, surely she would not wish to see her beloved
sister subjected to such a monstrosity.
His mind settled on that point, Kunou tightened his grip on his new bokken.
He could almost feel the satisfying impact as it slammed into the cur's
worthless carcass...

********

Panma-chan stared at the sink, fists clenched, trembling with fury.  It was
-not- turning out to be a good day.  The morning hadn't been too bad...sure,
there was that Kunou freak, but he wasn't all that good, and at any rate would
get fixated on beating Ranma if anything. Next there were classes, which looked
to be incredibly boring...but that was to be expected, and at least he thought
he could catch up fairly easily.  And then, of course, there was the
embarrassment of Akane and Ranma giving each other dirty looks and tossing
insulting notes back and forth like pre-schoolers, but at least they got caught
and sent out into the hall, providing some much-appreciated peace.  So while
the morning hadn't been great, it wasn't much worse than he had expected either.
No, the problems had started after lunch, when some practical joker had
left a bucket of water on the lunchroom doorway.  Panma would normally have
looked for, found and pounded the hell out of the freak, but was immediately
preoccupied with getting out of sight before anyone could notice that he had
become a she.  She had been fairly sure that she hadn't been seen, but a new
complication had sprung up shortly afterwards...the hot water was labeled as not
working in the bathroom.  Three bathrooms later, she had rushed in this, a boy's
bathroom, with a rapidly sinking feeling, and had her fears confirmed.  The
whole hot water system must have been out of order or something.
With a snarled curse, she smashed her fist into the wall, sending a cloud
of plaster and dust flying and leaving a fair-sized hole.  "I -hate- this damned
body!" she growled, then turned on her heel and stalked out.  She'd have to go
home, there was nothing to do for it.
As soon as the door closed behind the blonde girl, two heads poked out from
the bathroom stall, where they had been forced to hide after hastily - and
tardily - affixing their signs to the sink.
"-I- certainly don't hate her body," one, a boy with sandy hair and a
rather lecherous grin said.  His companion, a dark-haired boy with a more
serious expression, almost seemed ready to nod in agreement, but then frowned.
"No time for that, Hiroshi.  We'd better get to class...and we'd better
think up a good excuse for Kishi-sensei while we're at it."
Swallowing, Daisuke nodded agreement and started to follow his friend to
the door.  Just before the reached it, however, they heard something which
forced them to stay inside a little longer...

********

Kunou had been mentally preparing a list of the unpleasant things he
planned to do to Ranma, but this enjoyable and useful endeavor was cut short as
a door crashed open before him, nearly striking him.  He swiftly prepared to
smite the insolent dog who would dare do such a thing to the great Tatewaki
Kunou, but was caught short as he realized the gender of the person who had done
so.
"Get that stick outta my face before I shove it up your...oh, it's -you-."
Kunou wracked his brain for where he had seen this girl before, for she
seemed rather familiar.  Finally, the memory struck him, of an identically-
clothed person who had apparently - for some sick reason - been accompanying the
wretched Saotome that morning.  Oddly, he could have sworn that person had been
male, but the contradiction was in front of him.  Surely no other person would
be wearing such outlandish garb.  He smiled - charmingly, of course - and
quickly formulated his next words, mentally congratulating himself for the
presence of the mind to correctly discern and take advantage of this most
fortuituous situation.
"Tell me, young lady, do you know the whereabouts of one Ranma Saotome?"
The girl rolled her eyes, obviously overwhelmed by the pleasure of being
addressed by such an august personage.  Kunou made a mental note to see what her
connection was with Saotome.  While somewhat boyish in looks, there was
something of a healthy glow about her, and Kunou would not put it past scum like
Saotome to take advantage of such a naive and innocent child.
"Listen pal," the girl said with an endearingly good - if somewhat improper
- attempt at disrespect.  A lesser man than the great Tatewaki Kunou would no
doubt be fooled by this show of being hard to get.  "Forget about him," the girl
continued. "Take my advice and find some other guy to attack before you get
hurt."
Kunou laughed at the poor girl's naive manner.  Obviously she had not
closely observed the fight Kunou had so effectively dominated this morning -
before the unfortunate failure of his equipment, of course.  "Fear not for
-mine- health, dear girl. Instead, you would do well to fear for the cretinous
Saotome, who is destined to meet his end upon my blade."
The girl laughed, her fears obviously calmed.  Kunou smiled in return,
mentally congratulating himself for aiding such a charming young girl.  After
all, did not the code of the samurai advocate helping those in distress,
particularly those of the fairer sex?
The girl finally stopped chortling.  "You still don't get it, do you?" she
Saotome gone even further in his dark acts than he had imagined?  "I'm not sure
if you're delusional or just terminally stupid - or both - but get this through
your thick skull.  You can't beat Ranma.  You're not even in his league.  You're
not in MY league, even when I'm in this...well, never mind about that.  The
point is, you're outclassed, Kunou.  Do yourself a favour and go bug somebody
else."
It all hit Kunou with startling clarity.  Though obviously terrified of
retribution, the girl had slipped him the crucial clue he needed.  The foul
Saotome had not been satisfied with his dishonourable enslavement of the fair
Akane.  No, he had also dug his despicable claws into the fair creature before
him as well.  No doubt they prayed for release, but were too frightened of
their horrible master to seek help.  Well, now Tatewaki Kunou had uncovered the
whole vile plot.
"Fear not," he said, favouring her with a kind smile.  "I have deduced the
source of your distress.  Soon, the accursed Saotome shall be no threat to
anyone."
She gaped at him, obviously terrified at the retribution that would arise
for revealing the clues that Kunou's razor sharp mind had put together.
Finally, she shook her head and stepped back, drawing into a fighting stance.
"I have no idea what the heck you're talking about, moron, but I guess words
aren't going to convince you to get lost.  Fine with me; I could use the
workout."
With a sigh at the extent that Saotome's evil had taken hold of this
innocent girl, Kunou raised his own bokken as well.  He would make this as swift
and painless as possible, for it was not this poor creature's fault that she
could not resist her master.  "Very well, my fair one.  You leave me little
choice, but I beseech you not to fret.  Your master is no match for me."
"Will you shut up and fight already?" she growled, shifting her stance.
Sighing once more, Kunou leveled his bokken at her.  "I understand.  Take
heart, and strive even in your dark cause.  Should your fiery spirit arise and
overcome me, I shall allow you to date me!"
And even as the blonde female's jaw dropped in shock, Kunou charged.

********

Meanwhile, from their hideout in the bathroom, Hiroshi and Daisuke listened
in deepening horror to the conversation occuring just outside the doors.  As it
culminated in Kunou's pronouncement and subsequent charge, they exchanged
worried glances.
"Hiroshi, we can't just let this go on."
"But what can -we- do?  That's KUNOU out there!"
Both winced as there was a cry from outside, followed by a loud crash.
Daisuke stood up, fists clenched, a determined expression on his face.  "It
doesn't matter who it is," he declared.  "How can we call ourselves men if we
just stand aside and let this poor, defenceless woman fight alone?"
Hiroshi looked dubious for a moment, then suddenly his face firmed and he
stood as well. "You're right.  It's our duty."
"Besides, she'll be grateful."
Hiroshi nodded enthusiastically.  "VERY grateful."
"Well then, what are we waiting for?"  The two rushed over to the door and
then stopped, hesitating.  As another crash rang out, Daisuke swallowed, reached
out, and flung the door open.  They rushed out, mouths open to protest, fists
clenched, muscles coiled to spring...and stopped dead.
The mysterious girl in the outlandish clothing, apparently unhurt and with
an arrogant smirk plastered on her face, calmly reached down and yanked Kunou's
limp form out of the wall where she had apparently just placed him.  Absently
kicking his dropped bokken out of the way, she grabbed the front of his robe and
jerked the dazed kendoist to his feet as easily as lifting a rag doll.
"And guess what, Kunou?" she sneered.  "Ranma Saotome's almost as good as
me."  With that, she pulled back and then reintroduced Kunou to the wall, head
first.  Patting her hands with satisfaction, she turned to go and noticed the
gaping duo.  "You two got a problem?" she asked in a decidedly...less than
friendly tone.
"Uhhh...no, not at all!" Daisuke said hastily, pulling out of her way.
With a snort, the girl strode past them, turned a corner and was gone.  For a
moment, the two simply stared at the destruction.  Finally, Hiroshi turned, and
the two met disbelieving eyes.
"So...defenceless, huh?"
"Oh shut up."

********

"Oh my.  Panma, what are you doing home so early?"
Panma-chan started to growl something, then checked herself.  It seemed
almost blasphemous to be rude to someone as unspeakably polite and nice as
Kasumi.  For this reason, she had resolved to avoid the eldest Tendo sister as
much as possible, since the selfsame unspeakable niceness and politeness tended
to drive her nuts after a few minutes of exposure.  Sometimes Panma wondered
if the girl even saw the same world around her that everyone else did.
"Nothing much.  But I got accidentally splashed and all the hot water at
the school was broken, so I didn't have much choice but to come home."
"I see.  Would you like a nice piece of watermelon?"
Graciously accepting, Panma-chan took the prooffered piece of fruit and
headed toward the bath, mentally revising her earlier thoughts.  Kasumi might be
annoyingly cheerful, but she was definitely nice to have around at times, and at
least she was always understanding and polite, unlike...
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HOME!?"
Casually, Panma-chan slammed a punch into Genma's gut and flipped over him
while he doubled over in surprise.  "Give it a rest, oyaji," she said, not
bothering to look back.  "The hot water was broken, and I didn't exactly want to
suddenly show up as a girl for my next class."
Genma started to articulate another protest, or possibly a comment on how
weak her punches were, but Panma-chan cut him off by sliding the door shut in
his face.  Striding into the bathroom, Panma-chan began to fill the bath.
Turning away, she walked over to the hamper and tossed her still-damp clothes
off, grimacing as she was forced to look at her feminine attributes.
"I -despise- this," she muttered.  Walking over to the sink for cold water
to wash with, she glanced into the large mirror and flinched at the blonde hair
and...other things clearly visible.  Then, with a growl, she forced herself to
coldly stare into the mirror, examining her new body.
She was attractive, she noted grudgingly.  Her features may have been
more...masculine than those of her original form, but in all honesty that didn't
make them any less feminine than that of your average girl.  Her body was well-
much of a good thing -that- was was up for debate.
With a snarl, Panma-chan looked away and filled the bucket with cold water.
She hated this curse, this body that her worthless father had trapped her in.
She hated the fact that it was attractive, she hated how obvious this became
when wearing her usual outfit.  It had been less than two months since the
fateful trip to Jyusenkyou, but to Panma-chan, it was like a lifetime.  She
couldn't understand how Ranma - though he certainly wasn't fond of his curse
either - could spend large amounts of time in it without too much difficulty.
Every time Panma-chan noticed some appreciative male staring, or heard whispered
comments, her stomach churned.  She was torn between wanting to run away in
shame and wanting to beat the miserable perverts to a pulp.
Of course, it hadn't been Ranma that had decided to come back to Japan, but
Genma had wanted to, and Panma had a very good reason for leaving.  Now, though,
she wasn't so sure it had been the right decision.  As she poured the cold water
over herself and picked up a cloth, she scowled.  It would not be long now, she
silently vowed.  Her father be damned, engagement be damned, family honour be
damned, Panma Saotome was not staying here much longer, even if she had to head
back to China alone.

********

Kunou groaned as he returned to consciousness, his eyelids fluttering open.
Nabiki walked over to the bedside as he sat up, gazing blearily around the
clinic.
"Took you long enough, Kunou-chan," she cooly commented.  His eyes fell on
her and narrowed suspiciously.  Affecting a look of concern, she continued, "I
heard you had a nasty run-in with the new girl."
"Yes, she was...formidable," he said slowly.  "I must admit she somewhat
took me by surprise."  His mind flew back to those last few moments...the girl
ducking beneath his thrust, so fast she seemed to disappear, then the impact of
a hard kick to the gut and the immediately following impact of the wall.  Then,
as he picked himself up, momentarily groggy, her lunge, fists pulled back, just
before everything faded into a rather interesting display of colours...while
Kunou would need some more time to analyse her strengths exactly, he felt safe
in saying that in a real match, she might present a considerable challenge even
to his peerless skills.  In fact, he wondered how such a pitiful opponent as
Saotome could ever hold such a lovely and skilled girl captive.  Perhaps dark
sorcery of some sort, or...
"Yo, Kunou-chan, you listening?"
His thoughts interrupted, Kunou affixed the bothersome girl with a cold
stare.  "Were you to perhaps speak in a manner clear enough for any man to
comprehend, I would better understand your words."
Nabiki smiled condescendingly.  She recognized the look in Kunou's eyes.
Now, it simply had to be carefully funneled in the right direction...  "I'm
sorry, Kunou-chan.  What I said was that I thought you may want to find this
girl again."
Kunou arched an eyebrow.  "You know her?"
"Actually, she's staying at my house, along with Ranma, his brother and
father."
"Ah, all makes sense now.  The accursed Sao..." Kunou did a double take,
his eyes widening.  "One moment.  Nabiki Tendo, have mine ears deceived me, or
didst thou make mention of a -brother- to accursed Saotome?"
"Yep, the other accursed Saotome.  His name is Panma.  I'm surprised you
didn't see him earlier; that girl you ran into is always around him."
"Always around him, you say..." Kunou's brow furrowed in thought.  After a
moment, he looked up.  "Nabiki Tendo, you say you know this blonde girl.  Would
you be so kind as to deliver a message to her?"
"Why of course, Kunou-chan," she said, affecting surprise.  "I'm sure
she'll be pleasantly surprised to hear from you."  Kunou nodded curtly and began
looking for ink and paper.  As he turned away, Nabiki smiled.  Phase two was
almost complete.

********

As Ranma strode into the dojo, he found Panma already there, flowing
gracefully through a series of intricate katas.  Instead of walking all the way
in, he simply stopped and stared for a moment, entranced by the almost hypnotic
rhythm of his brother's fluid movements.  Finally he shook his head and grinned
ruefully, walking over to set up one of the training dummies leaning against the
wall.
As Ranma began to launch strikes at the dummy, Panma, from the midst of his
kata, glanced over at him.  Most of Ranma's strikes hit glancing blows or non-
vital areas such as the limbs.  A casual observer may have chalked this up to
sloppiness, but Panma knew better.  Ranma consciously did this, for he knew that
if a single full power punch or kick struck the dummy, it would be blown into
stuffing.  Panma's eyes narrowed and he returned to his kata with added vigour,
finishing the routine with a series of vicious kicks.  Slowing to a stop, he
commented, "So, how was afternoon classes?"
Ranma stopped as well, absently tossing the dummy aside.  "Not bad.
Boring, mostly.  What happened to you?"
"Didn't you know?  The hot water was busted, so I had to come home."
Ranma's brow furrowed.  Though his brother wouldn't bother to lie to him -
and wasn't the type to cut classes anyway - he distinctly remembered visiting
the washroom during the after-school cleaning, and there was no indication of
the hot water being down.  In fact, he had washed his hands in it, so he KNEW
"So, bro, you feel up to trying for three-two-eight-six today?"
Dismissing the water mystery from his mind, Ranma grinned confidently and
fell back into a combat stance.  "I'm -always- ready, bro.  The question is, do
YOU feel up to it?"
"Naturally.  I simply didn't want my victory to be too easy."
"Funny, that's just what I was thinking."
"Shall we, then?"
"Let's."
With a cry, the two brothers charged at each other, fists raised for the
opening blows...then skidded to a halt as the door opened.
"Excuse me, boys," said Nabiki.  "Did I interrupt anything important?"
Panma chuckled.  "Well, if it isn't my erstwhile fiancee.  Nah, just saved
Ranma a beating, but I can make up for that later.  What's up?"
Nabiki's eyes narrowed slightly at the off-hand 'fiancee' comment, but
whatever was annoying her didn't show in her voice as she smiled and stepped
into the dojo, continuing, "Well, I've got a delivery for you."
Panma blinked in surprise. "Who from?"
"Kunou," came the reply.  "To your girl half.  He hasn't figured out you're
one and the same, apparently."
"Good," grunted Panma, taking the message.  "That's -all- I need is to have
that spread around..."  Quickly scanning the message, he sighed and rolled his
eyes.  "Should've guessed.  Some people never learn."
Ranma walked over to look.  "What's it say, bro?"
"What else?" sighed Panma, tossing it over.  "A challenge.  I beat the snot
out of him earlier, but I guess he didn't get the point."
"Huh."  Opening up the letter, Ranma read, "'To the fiery blonde one...be
so good as to meet me at the ninth hour of this evening.'  Yeah, seems like it."
Nabiki looked concerned.  "Maybe you shouldn't go, Panma.  Kunou-chan HATES
to lose.  This time he might be out for blood."
Panma snorted.  "He could be out to carve his name on my intestines, but
unless he's gotten about twenty times better, he's not anything I have to worry
"Yeah," Ranma nodded, "I doubt he'd give even -you- much trouble."
"Thanks," replied Panma drily.  "Well, no big deal.  Let's go check if
"Hey, fine with me!"  The two brothers rushed out, towards the kitchen and
Kasumi.  As they passed out of sight, Nabiki smiled.  "Phase three," she
whispered triumphantly.  Then she strolled at a leisurely pace after them,
chuckling softly to herself.

To be continued...

Author's notes: Those of you who have borne with me note that
this series is getting steadily distanced from the manga...well
trust me, that kicks into HIGH gear as of next chapter.  Hope you
enjoy.  Oh, and for those among my prereaders who have commented
on my apparently-unneccessary footnotes...well, I'm hoping to
drag in newbies and those without extensive knowledge of Japanese
language or culture as well.  In a series in which Pantyhose
Tarou (or something resembling him) is a star, is that possible?
Well, I try. ^_^;;; Besides, it's better to have some redundant
information than have any readers not understand crucial stuff,

Kunou-chan: This was generally translated as "Kunou baby" in the
Viz translations, which is actually fairly accurate to the
meaning.  Basically, "-chan" is a Japanese honourific (a word,
meaningless in itself, which when following a name gives a
certain slant/emphasis to it) which is normally only used between
very close friends or when talking to social inferiors.  Thus,
for Nabiki to call Kunou "Kunou-chan" is rather demeaning to him,
since he is her social superior; in other words, it's very
condescending, like she's talking to a little baby.

Ah well.  Until next time, commentary should be sent to
kumonryuu@hotmail.com, SVP.  Thanks!