Wild Destiny

Chapter One: A Different Beginning

          The rain had finally stopped for the day, but the conversation at the Tendou Doujou continued as Soun explained, "Ranma and his father had been on a voyage of training.  Recently, it seems they've crossed into China."
          "What's so great about walking to China?" Akane pouted.
          "Well Akane, there's something you haven't done," Nabiki pointed out.  "But anyway, otou-san, is he cute?!"
          Kasumi began to make an unpleasant face, "Hmm, how old is he, otou-san?  Younger men. . . well, they're just young and boring."
          Nabiki just stared at her older sister, "Way to go, nee-san.  Turn him down with great reasons."  She turned to her father just as Kasumi did, and they simultaneously asked, "What kind of guy IS this Ranma?!"
          Tension built up inside the man as he realized himself that he knew next to nothing about 'this' Ranma, so the only words that left his daring mouth were, "No idea."
          Nabiki's eyes narrowed at him as she slowly repeated his words, "'N-o. . . i-de-a?'"
          "I've never met him."  Soun seemed to be adding more oil to the already burning fire in Nabiki when luck would have it that loud footsteps entered their home.
          Kasumi stood up, wondering, "Oh, we must have a visitor?"
          Nabiki practically leapt for the halls, "Oooh, that must be Ranma!!"  She joined her father, running out the doorway to greet their guests.  Kasumi followed after them and lastly a reluctant Akane, who had no care for such matters dealing with boys.  Just as Akane was halfway down the hall, she saw her father and sisters running back with distressed faces.  She could understand why when the giant panda came marching towards them.
          Kasumi asked, nervously, "Otou-san, THIS is your FRIEND?!!"
          Soun could only reply with a fierce shaking head.  Just when things were going well for him and his family, a giant creature came tumbling into their home.  If it was a joke, his old friend was going to pay dearly for it.
          "So this PANDA just decided to VISIT!" Nabiki blurted out.  "Happens all the time!"
          The panda put down his backpack and stared at Soun.  He opened his mouth, hoping to say something, but only growling noises could be made out.  It was going to take some time to explain things without a human tongue.

          Near a small shoppe, the girl put Usagi on her feet and then tried to wring her red shirt of water.  "Sorry 'bout that," she said to Usagi without looking at her.
          "Oh umm, that's okay."  She smiled, "You did save me, so thanks."  She carefully looked at the new girl from head to toe, seeing she's soaking wet as well as herself.  "We better get into draw clothes before we catch a cold."
          "Huh?"  She blinked at the blonde-haired girl until her mind repeated the sentence in her head.  "Nah, I'm fine."
          "Oh c'mon."  Usagi grabbed the girl's hand and dragged her along, still holding the bad of soggy groceries.  "It's the least I can do for you saving me."  She looked down at the girl, who was just a few inches shorter than her.  "By the way, my name's Tsukino Usagi."
          "Umm, Ranma.  Saotome Ranma."  Eventually Usagi let go of her hand as she knew Ranma was capable of following her on her own.  Ranma finally took noticed of his surroundings and asked, "Tsukino, can you tell me where I am?"
          Usagi stopped and looked back at her with a smile, "Just call me Usagi.  This is Juuban-ku.  Just a little more, we'll be at my house."  The two were quiet again, but the longer the silence, the more questions filled Usagi's head.  For such a petite girl, she really had strength beating up the panda.  Usagi imagined herself fighting like Ranma but then shook it from her mind.  "Did you just move to Tokyo, Ranma?"
          "Uh, I guess you could say that."  Ranma had finally gotten away from the panda, but what was she going to do now?  She had been walking quietly next to Usagi, thinking of what to do since she didn't know anyone in the area.
          "Where did you live before?" she asked, sweetly, hoping to get Ranma talking.  It felt strange to meet such a shy girl.  Usagi would have talked both of their heads off, but she didn't want to be so imposing on her new friend.
          "Well I. . ."  She was hesitant at first, but she glanced at Usagi every now and then and thought she was very nice.  "I was on a training trip in China."
          Usagi was amazed, "A training trip in China?!!  How cool!!"  She put two and two together and came to a conclusion, "No wonder you were so good back there!!"  She continued to praise a blushing Ranma.
          "Aawe, that was nothing."
          For the rest of the walk, Usagi asked many questions about the subject of martial arts while Ranma patiently explained in simple terms.  "Oh here we are!" Usagi announced.  She giggled, "Almost walked pass my own home."  She took the house key from her pocket and unlocked the door.  "My parents are gone for the rest of the day, so don't worry about troubling them," she said as the two went inside.
          Ranma felt uncomfortable as he stepped into the foyer.  She slipped off her shoes and took a seat in the living room.  The house was very spacious and modern.  Usagi walked into the room with two sodas and a plate of cookies.  She handed a soda to Ranma and then scolded herself after seeing Ranma's appearance, "Aah, silly me.  Let's go upstairs and change."
          The red-head was shocked, flushing pink across her face.  She waved her hands in front of herself, "Oh no!  That's okay!  I'm perfectly fine!!  No need to change!!"
          Usagi started to leave, giving her a strange look.  Ranma was probably shy about changing in a stranger's house, she concluded.  "Well I'll get a warm bath started for you then."  She left before Ranma could say anything.
          She stared at the plate of cookies and thought it would be a waste to leave them there, so she ate them.  She drank her soda and then sat back, wondering what she should do next.  "What to do, what to do?  Wonder how pop's doin' with them."  She frowned, "Still, I ain't goin' over there.  No way.  At least not until--"
          "Ranma-chan!" Usagi called, causing her to flinch at the diminutive name calling.  She returned and found the cookies gone and was about to bawl over them but held herself as a good hostess.  "The bath's ready so go dive right in."
          "It's okay," Ranma persisted but was dragged off by Usagi anyway.
          When they reached the bathroom, Usagi gently pushed her inside.  "I'll get you some of my clothes."  She looked at the girl's stature, "Hmm, some of my clothes might be a little too big for you though."  She smiled, "But I'll see what I can do!"  Usagi walked away, leaving a very uncomfortable Ranma.
          She entered the bathroom, hesitantly, and decided to go with it.  She closed the door and took off her shirt and the rest of her semi-dry clothes.  After splashing herself with cold water, she stepped into the ofuro of warm water.  Her muscles relaxed, and she wondered how to explain the situation to Usagi after that.

          Meanwhile at the Tendou Doujou, Soun is sitting quietly with another man, both with happy tears on their faces.  Only the sound of the electric fan filled the room.  Nabiki walked by and stopped.  She looked in and pondered on who the man was.  "Hmm."  She left them and went into the kitchen and asked her sister, "Kasumi, who's that old guy with father?"
          "I haven't a clue," replied older one as she continued to cook.
          Nabiki looked over her shoulders, getting a funny feeling.  "Hmm, strange."

          Back at the Tsukino house, Usagi held some clothes in her arms as she left her room.  "She might fit into my old clothes."  When she passed the staircase, she saw a young boy in the hallway.  "You're home early, Shingo."
          "Can't be helped," he said.  "The rain ruin most of the outdoor activities.  I'm gonna take a bath."  He started up the stairs when his sister stopped him.
          "You can't.  Someone's in there right now."
          "She's a friend I met today.  We both got caught in the rain, so I brought her home."  She pushed Shingo down the stairs, "Be good and wait."
          "Oh, all right!"  He marched into the living room and watched the television, mumbling something about being stuck with girls for the rest of the day.
          Usagi made a pouty face, "Brothers.  They're good for nothing."  She went to the bathroom and opened the door quietly, hoping not to disturb Ranma with her bath.  She put the clothes on the shelf and was about to leave when a voice caught her attention.
          "May as well go out as I am," said a masculine voice.
          She blinked a few times before heading to the screen door and sliding it aside.  "Ranma-chan?"  Her face turned a cherry red as she stared at the young man getting out of the ofuro.  "Omigod!" she squealed and ran from the scene immediately.  Her feet carried her downstairs and into the living room where Shingo was.  "OmigodShingo!  There'sAGuyInTheBathroom!!"
          The boy looked up at his panicky sister, "A guy?  Didn't you say your friend was a girl?"
          "YEAH!" she screamed with her face still red.  "OhNo, IForgotAllAboutRanma-chan!  IfAnythingHappensToRanmaThatPervert'sGonnaPay!"  She was about to run upstairs again but was stop short when the same young man appeared in the doorway.
          "I'm Saotome Ranma," he said, blushing and now completely dressed.  "Sorry 'bout this," 
          Usagi was petrified as stone when she heard the name, "Ra-Ra-an-ma-a?  Yo-you mean. . ."  She still couldn't believe it, although the guy did have a striking resemblance to the girl called Ranma.  Shingo looked at the stranger and then to his sister, having no clue to what was going on.
          "Really, I can explain this," said the outsider.
          Moments later, Usagi and Shingo sat down across from Ranma as he explained, "It happened about two weeks ago in China."
          "You mean on that training trip of yours," inquired a calm and confused Usagi.
          "Yeah, my father took me to this place called Jusenkyou with the legendary 'Training Grounds of Accursed Springs.'"  Ranma clutched his fists tightly as he recalled the tragic incident.  "I fell into the 'Spring of Drowned Girl,' so every time I get hit with cold water, I turn into a girl.  Hot water turns me into a guy again."
          Usagi gasped at such a place, "How horrible!!"
          His fists smashed on top of the table, "THIS IS ALL THE OLD MAN'S FAULT!!"
          Shingo, having doubts about the story, took his soda and poured it onto Ranma, whose form then changed from male to female.  The boy's eyebrows arched up in fascination, "Wow, it is true."
          "Shingo!" Usagi yelled as she stood up.  "I'll boil some water," she said to Ranma.  She left the two boys and went to kitchen.  She felt sorry for Ranma, turning into a girl with just cold water.  Life's been pretty rough on him.
          "That's pretty cool though," Shingo said to an annoyed girl-Ranma.  "But I wouldn't want to turn into a girl though.  Maybe a superhero."  He began to linger in his own thoughts.
          What a great mess she found herself in.  Here she was in someone else's house with these strangers, and having to explain to them of her wretched curse.  Now the whole city would know.  Before she could mope about it more, she felt a burning sensation on top of her head and yelled, "WHAT THE--?!"
          Usagi stopped pouring the hot water onto Ranma and apologized, "Sorry, I didn't know how hot it was supposed to be."
          "HOT water!  Not BOILING water!"
          She put the kettle down and glared at him.  "I said sorry.  You don't need to yell at me, ya know!"  She sat down, offended, "I was just trying to help."
          Ranma calmed down and apologized.  "If you had this curse, you'd feel the same say."
          "So whacha gonna do?" Shingo asked.
          "Don't know."
          Usagi inquired, "What about your father?  Where is he?"
          Ranma looked away with his face even angrier.  "The old man is probably at his friend's place right now.  And no way am I ever going there!"
          "Hmm, why?"
          He looked directly at Usagi, "That panda you saw today.  That was my father.  He fell into the 'Spring of Drowned Panda.'"
          She frowned, "I'm sorry to say this, Ranma, but your father sounds like an idiot."
          "Heh, takes one to know one," Shingo chirped.
          "Shingo!"  Usagi's fist drilled into the boy's head until the latter gave up and promised to be quiet.  She turned her attention to Ranma, "But you still have to face him, Ranma."
          "I know, but that's not really the only problem.  I don't even know why I'm telling you this, it's not like you can do anything about it."
          "Hmmf, well maybe I can!"  Usagi patted herself.  "If you don't tell me, then how do you know I won't be of any help!"  She looked at Ranma seriously, "You can't run away from your troubles or else they'll haunt you for the rest of your life.  You have take action and charge at it with full force!"
          Ranma stared at her, surprised by her determination.  He had never met a girl like Usagi before.  Shingo calmly said, "Don't listen to her.  She's been watching too much Sailor V."
          Usagi grumbled, "Shingo, I was on a roll here."  When she remembered Ranma was there, she turned back to him and smiled sweetly.  "I know this isn't just coincident that we met, so don't be like a stranger.  We're friends, Ranma."  She held out her hand to him.
          He continued to stare at her, noticing her cute smile.  He smiled and accepted her hand shake.  "All right."

          Later that afternoon at the Tendou Doujou, Soun introduced the guest to his daughters, "This is my dear old friend. . ."
          "Saotome Genma," the man finished.
          Nabiki asked the bold question, "So where's Ranma the fiance?"
          Soun and Genma laughed, nervously, but soon stopped when the three girls were not taking the situation lightly.  Genma said, "It's like this. . . As soon as we arrived in Tokyo, we. . . had a misunderstanding and got separated."
          "Oh, so poor Ranma is wandering out there somewhere," Kasumi said, worriedly.  "Shouldn't we look for him then?"
          Ranma's father laughed, "Don't worry.  He'll find his way here."

          "FIANCEE?!!" Usagi screamed.  Ranma and Shingo had to cover their ears from her high-pitched voice.  "What kind of parent prearranges a marriage for their child?!!  I just can't believe this!  I mean it's enough you have your curse, but now you have to marry someone you've never met!!"  She started to roll up her sleeves as if she was about to fight someone, "Your father really needs some sense pounded into him!"
          "How I know that too well," Ranma replied, dully.
          Ignoring his sister's outburst, Shingo asked Ranma, "If you're not gonna go to that doujou place, then what are you gonna do?"
          "I don't know," he shrugged.  "Guess I'll just find some place to crash for the night."
          Usagi piped in, "Hey Ranma, I'm sure you can stay here tonight.  Shingo won't mind sharing a room with ya."
          "Uhh, but your parents. . ."
          "Oh don't worry.  I'm sure they'll let you stay when they hear your story."
          "I don't want lotsa people to know about my curse," Ranma said, thinking that he wasn't going to tell them if he didn't have to.
          Usagi nodded, seeing why he didn't want people to know.  People would think he was some kind of freak, and her parents weren't the type of farfetched people who would understand a boy turning into a girl at the touch of cold water.  "We could say Ranma's a cousin or something."
          "Mom'll never buy that," Shingo said, confidently.  "She *knows* who our relations are."
          "Well we can say he's one of your friend's relatives."
          "Get real, Usagi."
          "Umm," Ranma started, wondering why he had to be related to someone, "can't I just be a friend visiting?"
          Shingo grinned, "As a guy or girl?"
          "Of course, a guy!" the pigtailed boy shouted.
          "Too bad," he said, looking at his sister.  "Dad'll go balistic with you, Usagi."  The girl looked sheepishly away while he told Ranma, "Our dad is quite overprotective when it comes to Usagi and boys."
          "Enough about me," Usagi complained.  She looked at Ranma, "So you'll just have to be a girl for awhile."
          Shaking his head, he replied, "No way!  I'm not bein' a girl!"
          "Well, we sure can't let you spend the night on the streets.  C'mon, Ranma, it's only one night."
          "Yeah," Shingo added, "and he'll be spending the night in *your* room, Usagi."  Usagi and Ranma both turned their heads at the little boy, who tried to look innocent, "What'd I say?"  The two teenagers then looked at each other and blushed.

          Later that evening after dinner, Usagi was clearing the pizza boxes into the kitchen.  She pouted while cleaning up after the three just because it was Shingo's idea to order for pizza.  Her cooking wasn't the best in the world, but it was still edible.  She could have made a decent meal with the wet groceries she had.
          Ranma came into the kitchen with the dirty plates and set them on the counter.  "Sorry 'bout all of this, Usagi."  It felt nice to be with people again instead of the past months traveling with his father.  He'd never thought of staying with strangers the moment he returned to Tokyo.  He was in debt to her and her family now.
          She smiled as she took the plates over to the sink.  "It's okay, Ranma.  You saved me earlier today, remember?"  She turned on the water faucet to the sink.  "I should be the one to apologize," she said, not turning her blushing face to Ranma.
          The boy looked at her, puzzledly, not understanding what she meant.  He scratched his head, "Apologize to me?  Why?"
          Usagi's face turned redder.  "Umm, well," she stuttered, not sure if she should mentioned the bathroom incident since he had forgotten it now.  It was all an accident, but it didn't feel right without apologizing.  If she did mention it, then he would feel embarrassed as well.  It was probably better off as it was.
          Usagi didn't get a chance to say anything else when a voice from the front door announced, "We're home, Usagi!  Shingo!"  At the sound of her mother's voice, she quickly grabbed a glass of cold water from the sink and splashed it onto Ranma.
          Girl-Ranma blinked at what Usagi just did to her.  She didn't expect anything like that coming.  Usagi didn't seem like a girl with quick reflexes, but in moments of panick, anything could happen.
          "Usagi?"  A woman with long, dark hair walked into the kitchen andwas taken back at the sight of a red-headed girl.  "Usagi, this is. . ." Ikuko began.
          "Aah, this is my friend," Usagi said, "Ran. . . Ranko!  Saotome Ranko!  She's staying tonight, if that's okay, mom?"
          Ranma, whose name now was Ranko, bowed, "Hello, Tsukino-san."
          "It's nice to meet you, Ranko," she smiled, warmly.  "Feel free to make our place like your home."
          "Tha-thank you."  Ranko was amazed at how kind and gentle Usagi's mother was, reminding her of her own mother.
          "Thank you so much, mom!" Usagi squealed, giving her mother a big hug.
          "I'd wish you had told me and your father earlier about this," she whispered to her daughter.  Then she said, innocently, "Why didn't you tell me you had more friends, Usagi?
          "Sorry, mom.  It must've slipped my mind with school and stuff."
          "Talking about school, Usagi."  Her tone become more menancing as well as the expression on her face.  "I forgot to ask about your math test yesterday."  The blonde girl began sweating heavily.  "Well?  How did you do, Usagi?"
          "I'dBetterGoGetSomeExtraPillowsAndBlanketsForRanko!  GoodNightMom!"  She grabbed Ranko's hand and ran upstairs.

          "What was that about?" Ranko asked.  She sat at the small table in Usagi's room as the latter pulled out an extra futon for her friend.
          "Mom's like that," Usagi chuckled, nervously.  "She tends to. . . overreact with my test scores."  She had absentmindedly set up the futon near her bed, which caused Ranko to blushed.
          "Err, Usagi?"
          "Yeah, Ranma?"
          "Do you really want me to sleep that close to you?  I mean, I am a guy after all."
          "Omigod!  That's right!"  Usagi pulled the futon a few inches away from her bed, which didn't seem any different.  "There."  Ranko made a strange face--a cross between being unbelievable and puzzled.  "Anyway you're in your girl form, so it's not gonna hurt."
          "Umm, okay."
          Usagi stood up and walked to her closet.  "I'm gonna go change."  She grabbed her pajamas and left the room, leaving Ranko to sit quietly and think.
          The day started out chaotic because of the fight with her father, but after meeting Usagi, things seemed different now.  More normal was it?  Her curse was nothing near normal though, but Usagi treated it as if it was something ordinary.  Ranko had expected insults and a kick out of the house, but here she was, spending the night.  It's too bad she had to be a girl for awhile.
          She stopped thinking about the day and turned her attention to the room she was in.  It was definitely a girl's room--a cute girl's room.  She smirked at the images of bunnies all over the place.
          Usagi returned and closed the door.  She yawned, stretching her arms into the air.  Ranko noticed the girl had undid her odango hairstyle and let flow down her back.  Her long, golden hair was shiny and beautiful.  Ranko was amazed by the sight.  "Good night, Ranma," she yawned again, heading to her bed.
          Ranko tucked herself into the futon, quietly.  "Say, Usagi."
          "Why did you tell your mom my name was 'Ranko?'"
          "I don't know.  I thought I shouldn't use your real name since you were a girl."
          "Oh."  She was silent for a few minutes.  Even if she wanted to say anything else, Usagi had already fallen asleep.  She could hear the girl's soft snoring.  Ranko yawned, feeling tired from the day now, "G'night, Usagi."  She rolled onto her side and quickly fell into slumber.

          Meanwhile somewhere else in Juuban-ku, a girl with long, blonde hair entered her room, where a white cat was apparently waiting for her.  She untied the red bow from her hair and brushed her hand through the sparkling strands.  She laid on her bed, near the cat, and sighed, "It's great to be home again!"
          The cat lifted its head and looked at her, scoldingly.  "Everything is just beginning, Minako."
          She quietly stared at the ceiling for a moment, recalling the first time she donned her new identity.  It was then that she knew she could never be a normal teenager again.  Somehow, she felt it was the right thing to do--like it was her destiny.  She sat up and looked at her companion.  "I know, Artemis," she said with a smile.