The Greatest Challenge
Sounds of heavy thumping traveled through the sidewalk as Tendo Akane jogged to school. Despite the fact that this was the first time she was running late for a long time, she couldn't help but give the Nerima district a smile that could have rivaled her sister, Kasumi's. Akane never had a reason to be happier; she was three months into her final year of high school, summer vacation was only a week away, and she was looking forward to this year's trip to the beach. But most of all, this would be the first time she would visit the sea with her new fiancÚ, Ikimono Kohei.
Kohei was instrumental to her recovery from the heartbreak she had suffered after Ranma renounced the original engagement with her that their fathers had arranged. During their adventure to China, which ended a year ago now, Kohei had taught her how to control the anger that practically ruled her actions and broke several trusting relationships. As he trained her and helped her, she began to develop feelings for him and overcome her heartbreak. However, she wasn't able to openly express her feelings until she nearly sacrificed her life shielding him from their foe's enormous Shishi Hokodan. After the battle ended, she spent the next three days in a coma not knowing he was watching over her the whole time until she woke up. When she did wake up and saw him asleep at her side, she realized that he returned those same feelings and was doubly emphasized when he mentioned that he had forfeited an important fight with Ranma to stay by her.
Two more weeks passed before she, Ranma, and Ukyo were to return to Japan, and they convinced Kohei, along with his sister Miki, and best friend Aremi, along with his cousins Shampoo and Mousse (who had ended up living at his village after renouncing their Amazon heritage and wandering China for a full year), to return to Japan with them. The day that they left the coasts of China to cross the sea was the day he openly confessed his love and proposed to her. After accepting both of them, the two of them began to date steadily whenever time would allow. Akane felt a warm feeling run through her as she looked at the golden band, engraved with an intricate dragon, on her left hand.
After the previous school year ended, he surprised everyone by acing the Furinkan High entrance exam and was admitted as a senior.
When Akane asked him what his secret in doing so well in school and balancing his training and working at the Nekohanten, he simply smiled and answered, "Education can easily be seen as a battle in the martial arts. When fighting a new opponent, you have only seconds to read his style and learn ways to counter his attacks. Education fighting against ignorance is the same idea and that is how I fight against failing to learn new concepts."
His explanation made sense to everyone, especially Ranma, who decided to think of school that way and soon his grades began to improve even more than they had already been since he began living with his mother. However, there were some aspects of Furinkan High that still refused to change.
"Halt, Saotome Ranma!" Kuno shouted once she reached earshot of the daily battles that still occurred in the schoolyard. Akane entered the gate in time to see both Ranma and Ukyo facing off against the ex-kendo club captain who had been accepted into college but still awaited one of his rivals every morning.
"How dare you continue to interfere with my desire to date the beautiful Kuonji Ukyo," he declared, "she and Tendo Akane are the only women who have given their hearts to me after the vanishing of the pig-tailed girl."
By this time Ranma had just stopped listening. He turned to his childhood friend and fiancÚ, asking, "Do you want to take him today or should I?"
"Let's get him together, Ranchan," Ukyo grinned as she unsheathed her battle spatula. The two of them striking in harmony, downed Kuno before he even got a chance to raise his bokken to attack.
"I think we need to start taking turns," Ukyo grinned again, "there are too many of us who can beat him for it to be first-come first-serve."
"Hey, you two," Akane greeted as she reached them, "good morning."
"Mornin' Akane," Ranma responded in his normal tone, "if you're looking for Kohei he's already in the building. S'funny, you two don't walk to school together anymore."
"The Karate Club started meeting early in the mornings before school," the short-haired girl explained, "since Kohei was named the captain he had to change the meeting time to fit his schedule. It also fits since the club members are refreshed. But he's been starting even earlier this week to get them ready for the Tokyo High Schools All-Club Tournament."
"It's in the bag for Furinkan in both the karate and kendo divisions," Ukyo smiled proudly, "since Kohei's captain of the first one and Aremi-chan's the new kendo club captain, both teams have gotten much better. But if Ranchan joined the karate club the other teams would all get scared and forfeit."
"I got nothin' to prove," Ranma's pride behind his smile matched hers perfectly, "but let's get inside before Principal Kuno decides to re-introduce that stupid tardiness rule."
The two girls nodded and the three of them headed for their homeroom class. Yes, it was the beginning of a typical school day.
"Big brother!" Ikimono Miki called as she and Aremi met up with Kohei on their way to the girls' locker room after their gym class. Even looking at him from behind they could easily tell it was him due to the long, thin ponytail that reached all the way down his back and was tied in several places to make it look more like a rat tail. The instant he turned to see them, he smiled.
"I see the two of you had your gym class right before me today," he observed as he saw them in their uniforms.
"Mi-chan didn't want it to end," Aremi smiled at her younger, but taller friend, "we played a game called Soccer where you're not allowed to use your hands."
"And Miki prefers to use kicks while fighting rather than punches," he asided, "which is something we still need to work on," then continued, "I can understand why she'd enjoy that game."
"I haven't joined a club yet," Miki looked decisive, "it's down to either the Soccer Club or the Art Club."
"You're a wonderful artist too," Kohei patted her shoulder, "that portrait you painted of our parents is beautiful. I have to return to class but I'll see you both at lunch," then walked away.
As the two girls stepped into their locker room, showered, and changed back into the normal school uniforms, they continued to converse.
"Have you noticed that big brother Kohei doesn't get nervous around the girls in their gym shorts anymore?" Miki asked.
"I have," Aremi answered, "but I don't understand why he would even feel that way after seeing naked girls every day in the springs back in Ryuchiezu."
"That doesn't really matter now that he's beaten it. Which is good because Akane-onee-chan told me that with summer vacation coming, the gym classes would start swimming soon."
"And what would that change?"
Miki carefully chose her words as both a good and bad memory returned, "We won't be wearing our normal gym uniforms, we'll be wearing swimsuits. Remember when I told you what happened when he saw Akane-onee-chan wearing one in the springs?" She knew that at the same night that had happened, Aremi was being held prisoner elsewhere. Miki didn't like making her best friend remember it, despite the fact that she assured her not to worry.
"Yes," the blue-haired one answered.
"Think of how he'll react with dozens of the girls in one."
Aremi's eyes widened as she realized, "He's in trouble."
"The Basketball courts are under repair," the teacher told the boys in the locker room, "meet out at the track. The boys will be jogging while the girls swim today."
"Any idea why the courts are being repaired?" Hiroshi asked the group of four boys.
"Easy," Daisuke answered, "that was Ranma's last battlefield against Principal Kuno."
"I'm tellin' ya," Ranma shouted, "the guy was trying to enforce another stupid hair cutting rule! The only thing he understands is a swift beating!"
"It's almost sad that we have to agree," Kohei sighed, "for a man like him to be the principal it's no small wonder that this school has a poor reputation."
"Hey, at least you haven't had to fight him because he was trying to cut your hair," Ranma defended.
"That's because he's never noticed my hair," Kohei smirked, "I'll meet you outside, I need to warm up," and exited.
"He's right Ranma," Daisuke nodded, "Principal Kuno is so obsessed with trying to cut your pigtail that he's never noticed Kohei's tail."
"And he could easily hide it under the back of his shirt," Hiroshi added.
"Kohei'd never do that," Ranma shook his head as he finished putting his shoes on, "to him hiding his hair would be the same as cutting it on purpose, which would be spitting on the heritage from his mother's side."
"You martial artists really do stick together."
"Of course," Ranma gave a proud smirk and prepared to leave the locker room, but was cut short as the door slammed open into his face and a panic-stricken Kohei rushed back in.
"A-a-a-a-all of them..." he stuttered, "w-w-wearing s-s-s-s..." but couldn't finish.
Oh yeah, Ranma thought as the stars continued to circle his head, he's only seen Akane in a swimsuit and that was too much. Seeing all of the girls in one would probably kill 'im.
After all of the girls had left the building and were out of sight from the running boys did Kohei finally leave the locker room. Ranma then thought that if seeing them in the school-issued one-piece suits brought that kind of reaction, then seeing girls in bikinis at the beach would definitely kill him. At least the fact that he was engaged to Akane disproved some of the sick rumors that had been going around that said he was gay, although anyone who mentioned it soon found themselves incurring the wrath of any one of Ranma, Akane, Ukyo, Miki, or Aremi while Kohei himself hadn't heard it. He wasn't going to let anyone say sick things about his friends. His mind was occupied with this until he saw that someone certain would be jogging with them.
"Akane?" he double-checked upon seeing her, "what are you doing here?"
"I've given up," she sighed, clearly depressed, "I'll never learn how to swim so I just asked the teacher if I could jog with you guys."
Man, and she was in such a good mood this morning, he thought.
Ranma was about to open his mouth and give her a good reprimand and pep talk when Kohei arrived and saw her.
"Aka-chan," he asked, "you're not going to swim with the rest of the girls?"
"No," she faked a smile, but failed, "I can't swim."
"Can't swim?" he blinked, "We've got to fix that."
"Don't bother," she sighed, "a lot of people have tried to teach me but failed every time." She shook her head but looked up when she felt Kohei take her hands.
"You're a healthy young woman, Aka-chan," he assured, "there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to swim. I have seen how excited you are when you talk about traveling to the beach next week and I'm sure your excitement will double when you swim in the ocean."
"Kohei..." she could see the determination in his eyes, "you'll teach me how to swim?"
"Of course," he gave her a reassuring smile, "I promise you that I'll have you swimming freely before this week ends."
"You've got guts," Ranma folded his arms, "most people quit after only an hour trying to teach her."
"That's precisely what's wrong," Kohei turned to him, "such a challenge shuns most people away. Ranma, how long did it take you to master the Hiryuu Shoten Ha?"
"Only a day," he answered proudly, "why do you want to know?"
"Because of your skill and knowledge of fighting when you learned it, you expected to master it right away and did so. It took me two years."
"Two years?" Ranma and Akane exclaimed in unison.
"Yes, I was given opponents much more skilled than myself to lead into the spiral. Most of the time was spent trying to stay on my feet long enough to finish the spiral. But during this, I slowly developed the skills to be able to defeat those opponents otherwise."
"Well if it takes you even half that long to teach the hammer girl how to swim then I'll be impressed," Ranma burst out into boisterous laughter while Akane shot him a glare. He didn't see it as he left to catch up with the rest of the boys.
"Don't let him make you angry, Aka-chan," Kohei watched the group go, "consider it as both a challenge and a goal. I promise I'll not give up until I teach you how to swim."
"Thank you, Kohei," she smiled.
"Let's begin immediately," he returned and, leading her by the hand, dashed back to the pool. However, upon seeing all of the girls in swimsuits who were still there, he dashed at twice the speed back towards the jogging group and soon passed them.
"We'll begin after this class," Kohei quickly corrected himself as he ran.
Akane, whose feet were no longer on the ground, could only laugh.
"You're kidding," Ukyo almost couldn't believe what she'd just heard, "Kohei's going to teach Akane how to swim!"
"Yep," Ranma sat back, "he promised that he'd have her swimming normally before we go to the beach during summer break." The two of them were outside eating lunch.
"Poor guy," she shook her head, "everyone who's ever tried to teach Akane how to swim all gave up on the first day."
"But none of them were my big brother," Miki proudly declared upon reaching them.
"You two really shouldn't laugh at them," Aremi scolded as the two girls sat, "you two don't know Ko-chan like we do."
"And you don't know Akane like we do," Ranma countered.
"Big brother Kohei trained for years to master his Genkaku no Suraisu," Miki continued, "compared to what he put himself through to learn that, this should be simple."
"Sempai," Aremi asked both of her seniors, "where are they now? Weren't they going to eat lunch with us?"
"I don't know," Ukyo answered, "maybe they're mad at Ranchan."
"No, Ko-chan isn't like that."
"They might already be at the pool," Ranma guessed.
"Then let's go watch and give Akane-onee-chan our support!" Miki declared. Ranma and Ukyo, despite their doubt, agreed with the green-haired girl. However, a search of the pool revealed nothing. The four of them spent the entire remaining lunchtime searching the entire school and still couldn't find the couple.
The period right after lunch was a study hall and Ukyo was startled to see Akane enter the classroom carrying a small stack of books. Upon glancing at their titles she immediately concluded that she and Kohei had been in the library looking at books on swimming. This was the first thing that surprised Ukyo on his teaching method. She wasn't there when both Principal Kuno and Hinako-sensei attempted to teach her, but from Ranma's accounts of both incidents, they weren't pretty. But living in Nerima had given her an immunity to being surprised at these things.
"Akane-chan," Ukyo asked as she sat next to her, "why are you reading books on swimming instead of practicing at the pool?"
"I wanted to know that too," she answered, "Kohei took me to the school pool, but he took one look at the water and said, 'This isn't suitable for training. Aka-chan, let's go to the library for now.' When we got there he found these books for me, explaining that I needed to condition my mind along with my body for this training."
"I keep meaning to ask you this. Why does he call you 'Aka-chan?'"
"Same reason Ranma calls you 'Ucchan,'" she replied, "it's a special nickname."
"I guessed that, but where'd it come from?"
"You were running your restaurant during this, but the last time Ranma and Kohei sparred in the vacant lot..."
"KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!!!"
"KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!!!"
The two fighters executed their commonly known special technique hoping to break the other's defense and deliver a hard blow. Kohei was covered with more bruises and scrapes from the hits he took, but that didn't mean Ranma had none. Kohei had only beaten him once, but that had been while in his cursed form. Kohei cured his curse as they left China, giving the explanation that his curse had brought on the events requiring him to travel to Japan and find Ranma. He felt that because he was leaving his homeland, the curse was also to be left behind so it could not bring the same destruction to his new home. After all, Nerima had enough problems to begin with.
In this battle, Kohei's mistake was placing too much focus on countering each of the blinding punches, causing him to not see Ranma shift his weight and deliver a kick to his open ribs. The impact was enough to floor him and declare Ranma the winner.
"Gotcha," he announced, but blinked when Kohei, who stayed on his back looking at the sky, started laughing.
"Ranma," Akane ran in from the sidelines, "did you hit him in the head!"
"I don't think so," he answered, scratching his own.
"Kohei, are you all right?" Akane kneeled next to him.
"I'm impressed that he was able to defeat me that way," Kohei explained, "but I'm fine Aka-" he was about to finish saying her name, but a few particles of dust from the cloud he kicked up upon landing were caught in his nasal cavity, causing him to sneeze.
"What did you just say?" Akane blinked.
"I called you by name," he replied.
"Hmm, it sounded like you added 'chan' after you said that."
"So I called you 'Aka-chan?'"
"That's what it sounded like, yes."
Kohei laughed again, "I like the sound of it. If you don't mind I will call you that from now on."
Akane smiled and slightly blushed as she answered, "I'd like that."
"So he's called me that ever since," Akane finished.
"Aaaah," Ukyo understood, "so you two are getting closer now. That's so sweet."
"Wait a second," Akane was about to begin reading again, but realized something, "with you and Ranma, who gave who your nicknames first?"
"Ranchan did," she answered immediately, "that was one of the things that made me fall in love with him, his calling me 'Ucchan.'"
"Am I? I can't help myself," the brown-haired girl covered her cheeks with her hands, looked away, "I'll let you get back to reading," and left her alone.
After school and receiving permission from Shampoo and Mousse to take time off of work, Kohei walked with Akane to the nearest sports center and the public pool that was there.
"This one will be perfect," Kohei declared upon observing the water.
"What's different about this one?" Akane asked.
"This one has a shallow half," he gestured, "the one at the school does not. We will begin when you are ready."
"Okay, let me get changed," she quickly ran to the locker room and returned a few minutes later in her swimsuit.
It's the same one she wore at the hot springs, he realized and thought, she still has that same unusual aura of beauty in it that she doesn't in all of her other clothing. No, I promised her that I would teach her and now is not the time for those thoughts, then spoke, "The first steps towards finishing is to begin. Go ahead and enter the water." It took all of his willpower not to panic like he did last time.
"Right," she nodded and leapt into the pool from the edge she stood, which was the deepest end. Kohei's eyes widened and he leaned over the edge upon seeing the bubbles rise to the surface from where he was landed. Even he was startled and nearly fell in when he was caught off guard at how quickly she shot up to the surface, floundered her arms wildly for a few seconds, then sank again.
"Aka-chan!" he shouted with concern as he dove in. In his rush to swim under and save her, he forgot that he was wearing his weighted clothes beneath his normal training uniform, thus causing him to sink even faster then she did. That didn't halt his progress as he simply ran along the bottom of the pool towards the shallow end and carried her to safety.
"Aka-chan, are you okay?" he asked once their heads were above the surface.
"I'm used to this," she coughed, "it happens every time I get in the water."
"It was my fault," he confessed, "I didn't specify to have you enter the shallow side. But now that we're here, we can begin."
"Kohei," she pointed, "we can't start until you put me down."
"You're right," he laughed, "I'm sorry," then quickly set her on her feet, thinking, The skin on her legs is so nice to touch. No! Now is not the time! I enjoyed that a little more than I should have.
"All right, sensei," Akane smiled as she put her hands behind her back in the chest-deep waters, "I'm ready."
"Follow me," he led her to the edge, "before you can physically swim, you must learn to breathe properly." Setting his hands on the edge, he took a normal breath, stuck his face in the water, and slowly exhaled within the blue liquid before raising his head and repeating the process. "Just as illustrated in the books I gave you."
"That's nothing!" Akane declared confidently as she saw how easy it was, nothing like the enormous explosion of exhaling she had tried when Hinako-sensei attempted to teach her. She immediately proceeded to repeat the action and Kohei smiled as he saw her copy the process perfectly on the first try.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, "That's so easy! I did it!"
"You're off to a wonderful start, Aka-chan," he praised her, "as long as you do this one step at a time and with patience you will succeed. Let's breathe together until you're ready for the next step.
"Right!" she agreed with full confidence. For the next several minutes the two of them ran through the exercise in unison.
"Hmm," Ranma observed from his vantage point outside of the pool's fence, "she's actually getting it."
"Really?" Miki poked her head out of the same bush and looked over.
"Miki, where'd you come from?" he asked, "I thought you were at work."
"I was on my way back from delivery and saw you here," she explained as she continued to watch the couple, "I don't understand why the people who tried to teach Akane-onee-chan how to swim failed."
"Easy," Ranma explained, "they didn't start with the basics. Their methods weren't exactly normal either; Principal Kuno strapped a boulder to her back and threw her in with a shark and Hinako-sensei only propelled herself across with her ki. I thought Kohei would try the same kind of thing."
"He's not like that," the tall girl affirmed, "but I've got to get back the Nekohanten. Bye, Ranma-onii-sama," then leapt back down onto her bike.
As Ranma continued to watch the two inside the fence he thought, I guess even Akane can learn anything when starting with the basics. I shouldn't've laughed at her.
Because of their busy schedules, Kohei and Akane were only able to practice for an hour or two each day throughout the week. However, by working one step at a time, Akane was able to learn how to breathe, float, kick, tread, learn various strokes, and dive. By the end of the week, she was ready to put them all together.
"Aka-chan," Kohei stood next to her on the edge of the deep end, "you've made excellent progress in such a short time, but we've only been working where it was shallow enough for you to stand back up should you sink. Your final test is to dive into the water from here and swim a full lap without drowning."
"No problem," Akane accepted, her confidence much greater than it had ever been. She took a deep breath, placed her legs and hands together, fell forward into the water and began the forearm stroke to return to the surface and swim. I can do this! she thought repeatedly as she reached the opposite end and turned around. A wave of pure joy washed over her as she overcame the obstacle that had held her back her whole life and caught hold of the edge which she had dove from.
"I did it?" she asked in disbelief, then answered her own question, "I did it!" as the brightness of her smile lit up the entire area. She continued to prove this to herself by diving, swimming along the bottom of the width of the pool, then resurfacing and swimming back on the surface. Her happy laughter drew the attention of the other people who were there (though not as much as Kohei being in his training uniform), but she didn't care. She was swimming!
I can swim! she exclaimed in her mind, then aloud, "I can swim!"
"Congratulations, Aka-chan," Kohei crouched in front of her.
"Thank you, Kohei! Thank you so much!" to express her gratitude, she wrapped her arms around his neck to give him a hug, but the force of her pulling him downward was enough to cause him to lose his balance and fall in with her. Because he didn't expect to enter the water that day, he was again wearing his weighted clothes and caused both to sink to the bottom. Akane refused to let him go as, under the water, she mouthed another, "Thank you," then added, "I love you Kohei, no, Kohibito," as she leaned in to kiss him fully on the lips.
As soon as her air was running low, she released her fiancÚ from the embrace and surfaced. He soon followed a moment later by leaping against the pull of gravity and held to the edge to keep from sinking again.
"As you spend more time swimming under the water, your lung capacity will increase and you can hold your breath for longer periods," he explained, grinning, giving her the message that he wouldn't have minded holding her a little longer.
"I want to know," she giggled, "how did you swim to Japan wearing those weighted clothes?"
"I didn't," his smiled widened, "I left them at home."
Akane just laughed again and spent the rest of their time there swimming back and forth in various ways and even beginning to practice from the diving boards while Kohei stayed where he was, watching her with a smile of complete satisfaction.
He said to her quietly outside of her earshot, "Your grace rivals that of a swan."
"Hey, she did it," Ranma observed her final test, "she's swimming!"
"I knew she could do it," Miki, who was again there, smiled, "my big brother is a great teacher."
"Now if only he can help her learn to cook, he'll live long enough for them to get married."
"I don't understand, big brother Kohei loves Akane-onee-chan's cooking because it tastes just like our mother's, very hot and spicy."
So he's had to put up with that kinda stuff his whole life? Ranma's eyes widened as he thought, Definitely an acquired taste or iron stomach, then spoke, "Guess that's already settled."
"Yes," Miki nodded, "now I can't wait until we go to the beach. Akane-onee-chan and Ukyo-onee-chan are taking Are-chan and me shopping for our swimsuits tomorrow."
"Yeah, it'll be a nice break. But let's leave those two alone for now."
"Bring them to the Nekohanten and we'll celebrate," she turned to face the large group of boys from school who'd also gathered behind her and Ranma to watch, "can I get through here?"
"I don't get it," Ranma admitted to Kohei as the two of them sat on their group's beach towel while the girls got changed. He, Kohei, Ukyo, Akane, Miki, and Aremi had arrived that morning while Shampoo and Mousse would arrive the next day to set up the Nekohanten's summer location. Dr. Tofu and Kasumi would have been there as well if not for an emergency that came up right before the train left. "Every time I saw Akane try to learn to swim, she'd try too hard and fail, even with a life preserver."
His younger friend was staring at the ground and he couldn't tell if he was more uncomfortable in swim trunks or seeing all of the girls in bikinis who were in the area.
Kohei didn't even move his head as he answered, "Upon learning that she couldn't swim, despite her skills as a martial artist and ice skater, I couldn't believe it. I asked her if she tried to learn how to swim during or after she learned how to skate and fight. It's my opinion that at this time, she became overconfident in being able to learn new skills and automatically assumed she would be a great swimmer. You told me that, before we met, her anger was her biggest obstacle, making her refuse to learn from her mistakes. It got so bad that she only exercised to stay in shape, not to learn any new moves. But when I started training her, she was able to learn with patience and understanding. What brought this change of attitude? It's my guess that the heartbreak she experienced after you chose Ukyo-san as your bride was enough to humble her. True, she still hadn't overcome her battle against her anger, but she was still teachable. However, all-in-all, I taught Aka-chan how to swim the way any sane person would, one step at a time."
"So since I renounced our engagement she's had the humility and patience to learn how to do what she couldn't," Ranma mused, "funny how these things work out."
"Yes," he agreed, "we can never know how our decisions will affect others until we see those consequences."
"I've gotta ask one more thing. Why'd you have her read those books?"
"The expression I've heard is, 'Knowledge is power.' After she read the material, her mind had absorbed the contents of those books and prepared her body for the time I taught her."
"I get it. So maybe now you can teach her how to cook," Ranma said this because there were still times when she made lunch for everyone in their group.
Kohei simply chuckled, "If she wants to be taught how to cook, I'll ask Miki to teach her. Not everyone enjoys how spicy I make my food."
Ranma had only opened his mouth to ask about his cooking, but changed his mind.
"So I guess you got used to seeing her in a swimsuit," he said instead.
The green-haired man slowly nodded, "I don't know why I react the way I do, but as I saw her dressed in it more and more, I slowly adjusted."
"Y'know, you've been good for Akane. She was pretty much an uncute tomboy when we met, but you've brought out a little femininity in her. Heck, I even think of her as a cute tomboy now."
"I love her the way she is," he admitted, "she doesn't have to change at all."
A small commotion from nearby caught Ranma's attention and, instead of continuing the conversation, he stood up to see what was going on.
"What's wrong?" Kohei asked, following him.
The two young men pushed through the crowd, noticing that it was all boys, until they could see why they'd gathered. Walking through the center of the congregation was Aremi in her new blue one-piece.
"I can't believe it..." one of the boys in the crowd spoke, "to be blessed with a visit by the goddess Venus herself..."
"I thought Venus was a blonde," a second boy commented.
"No, that's Sailor Venus, she's just an Anime character," the first corrected then looked back towards Aremi, "but she must be the real thing."
Out of the corner of his eye, Ranma caught a glimpse of a blonde girl with a red bow in her hair and sitting with her four friends looking fairly steamed. He set it aside as he noticed that the blue-haired girl saw them. Ranma could then hear the groans...
"How'd he get with a girl like her?"
"What's he got that I haven't got?"
"Ranma-sempai, Ko-chan," Aremi greeted, "it's a little embarrassing to be receiving so much attention like this."
"But it's only natural for you," Miki again seemed to pop up from nowhere, "considering how beautiful you are, Are-chan. Come with me, there's something going on that is perfect for you," then, without warning, began to escort her friend towards one of the buildings on the beach.
"Mi-chan, where are you taking me?" she asked as they walked.
"Just trust me," she grinned and the two men lost sight of both girls as the crowd of boys followed after them. Ranma and Kohei just blinked until two more voices called their names.
"Hey Ucchan, Akane," Ranma greeted, "you two got new swimsuits too, huh?"
"Of course, sugar," Ukyo grinned as she hugged his arm, "it's a girl thing. But what do you think?"
"Cute as always," he returned her grin.
"Kohibito," Akane asked, "is something wrong?"
Ranma easily solved the mystery when he saw how red Kohei's face was and he could swear he could hear the younger man's heart pounding. He had gotten used to seeing Akane in her old swimsuit, but the new one took him completely by surprise. He stammered something for a bit, then ran at full speed towards the water.
"Kohibito!" Akane called, then turned to them, "Doesn't he like it?"
"I think he likes it a little too much," Ukyo chimed.
"Yeah, without a cold shower nearby the ocean is the best way to cool off," Ranma chuckled, then turned serious. "Hey Akane, I wanted to say 'I'm sorry' for laughin' at you when you accepted Kohei's offer to teach you how to swim. You can hit me if you want to."
"Don't worry about it, Ranma," she smiled, "I was about ready to give up for good. And if I did hit you, my sensei would be upset." With that, she waved a quick "Bye" and ran to meet Kohei in the water.
"I still think I deserve a good whack," Ranma dropped his head, still feeling guilty.
"Will this do?"
He raised his head back up just in time to receive a face full of battle spatula.
"Thanks, Ucchan, I needed that."
"Anytime," she giggled and hugged his arm again.
As they walked along the beach, Ranma took notice of a banner and asked, "Hey, are you going to enter this year's Miss Beachside contest?"
"Can't," his cute fiancÚ shook her head, "it's already over," and pointed to the winner's platform where Aremi stood after being declared the champion the moment she arrived to sign up. Ranma turned his head and watched as Kohei and Akane happily splashed each other and swam together for a few minutes before taking a nice long walk with his girl.
-If this story didn't make any sense, go back and read Results!
-The accounts of the Principal and Hinako-sensei teaching Akane how to swim were based on the manga version.
-Remember that Kohei didn't grow up in a modern area, he doesn't know the word for "sexy."
-The nickname that Akane gives Kohei is a pun on his name and the word koibito, meaning "beloved."
-The ending scene is the same one as described in the epilogue of Results.