Sad Times, Happy Endings

By: James Thomas

 

Prologue

 

             Hotaru slowly found herself coming back to the conscious world.  The final strike by that last monster had sent her flying out of the Juuban district at deadly speeds.  It was only the fact that she had poured the last of her remaining strength into her silence wall to take the impact that she was alive right now, albeit a little worse for wear.  She had aches in places that she didn’t even know she had before.

 

             She slowly got up and tried to work out a few of her muscles.  She was back in one of her common wear deep purple jumpers with a dark plaid shirt.  She ran a hand through her wet hair.  Wet?  She looked up and through the numbness she was feeling she realized that she was standing in an alley in the cold rain.  She swore silently and reached for her communicator.   After close examination, she realized that it had been damaged beyond repair.  Somewhere between the last battle, her impromptu flight, and hard landing it had been smashed.  She swore silently again as she threw the useless piece of metal into a nearby trashcan.  Michiru-Mama had told her it wasn’t ladylike to swear, but Haruka-Papa swore all the time (she was a racecar driver after all), so she compromised by swearing in silence. 

 

Silence was something she was adept at; after all she was the Senshi of Silence.  She lived mostly in silence, she swore in silence, and she even suffered in silence.  She took a moment in quiet reflection.  She was fifteen years old, she was the most powerful being on the Earth, and she was still bullied by the boys at school.  She couldn’t use her powers on them, but she was too ashamed to tell her parents it was still happening.  They saw her a freak since she was so small for her years, and they had seen her heal a bird that had broken its wings.  They all called her freak and excluded her from any activity. 

 

She sighed as she carefully started walking out of the alley.  She’d have to find someone nice enough to let her use their phone to call her guardians.  She didn’t have any money for a pay phone, and she could only hope that they had gone home after the battle and were not still searching Juuban for her.  A lot depended on that.  If they never returned home, she’d never get in touch with them.  The other alternative was that she had to find somewhere to rest so she could transform and teleport back home.

 

             A sharp stabbing pain in her side told her she’d need a lot of rest.

 

             Little by little she made her way to the mouth of the alley.  She looked out and saw all the people walking along like it was a normal rainy day.  A part of her wondered what it would be like to live in a normal district like this one, a place where people ate, slept, and worked without worrying that their energies would be drained or that they wouldn’t face sudden death at the hands of another deadly monster.

 

             Just to prove that nothing was truly normal, a young buxom redhead came skidding across into the main thoroughfare among all the people who looked on in amazement.  She was a small girl (only slightly larger than herself) dressed in a red sleeveless Chinese shirt with gold embroidery and wooden ties and loose black pants.  Her hair was done up in a peculiar pigtail.  Hotaru was slightly amazed that the small girl could stay upright after sliding across the wet pavement like that.

 

             The redhead turned and faced the direction she had come.  “C’mon!”

 

             Hotaru was shocked when a giant panda walked out of the alley and took up a fighting stance, which was matched by the redhead.  A monster!  I’ve got to save that girl!

 

             She quickly ate her words when she saw the girl easily dodge the paw strikes of the fierce beast. 

 

The redhead didn’t seem to be frightened in the least; in fact she just scowled at the large animal.  “I told you all along, I’m not interested!”  She dodged a few more blows and then caught the final one.  She turned and used her low center of gravity to send the panda flying into a street sign right in front of Hotaru, which promptly broke under the beast’s weight.  “Picking my fiancée for me like that!”  The redhead puffed a little from the exertion as she picked up what looked like a traveler’s pack.  “I’m going back to China!  Stay like that forever, for all I care!”  She turned and started walking down the street.

 

Hotaru’s eyes got wide when the panda stood back up and grabbed the sign it had toppled over.  She saw the monster bring the sign up ready for an attack.  The Senshi of Silence quickly uttered her power phrase and launched her attack.  “Silence Glaive Surprise!”

 

 

 

Ranma spun around when he heard the shout.  He was kind of surprised that his father had such a high voice in his panda form, and figured that that was probably why he had never used it before.  He spun in time to see his pandafied father hit by an energy blast from the dark alley beside him.  “Pops!”  He ran quickly to get between whatever threat was in the alley and his father.  He couldn’t let his father die; after all there were still a lot of techniques his father hadn’t shown him.

 

He took stock of the attacker.  It was a small girl with black hair in a pageboy cut wearing what looked like a black school uniform with an obscenely short skirt.  He would have laughed at her if she hadn’t just hit his father with a power blast and was currently holding a wicked looking polearm.  He tensed up.  “What’dya do that for?!”  The girl gave him a startled look.  In the blink of an eye, her outfit changed into a more conservative outfit, the weapon disappeared into thin air, and she passed out where she stood.

 

Ranma scratched the back of his head and shrugged.  “Wow, didn’t expect it to be that easy.”  He turned to check on his father.  There was nothing really wrong with him; he had just been knocked out.

 

Little did he know how lucky Genma Saotome had been.  Sailor Saturn spent a great deal of her diminutive restored energy reserves transforming, and had precious little left for a real attack.  The elder Saotome had just been hit with enough to render him unconscious.

 

Ranma sighed in relief and looked at his father’s right hand, which still held the sigh in a ready position for striking.  That dirty fighting old man was going to strike me from behind!  He wasn’t even going to use his fists!  Realization dawned on him as he looked back to the small girl passed out in the alley.  Ah, man.  She was just trying to help me.  Now I feel bad for yelling at her.  He looked back at his father.  Stupid old man!  Your dumb idea of hitching me to one of your friend’s daughters is going to have to wait...all my life if I have anything to say about it.  Just for spite, he kicked Genma back into the alley they had just come from.

 

He walked over and checked on the girl.  She seemed really weak, in fact it looked like she was deathly low on ki.  He quickly scooped her up in his arms and carried her out of the alley.  Balancing the slightly smaller girl skillfully he managed to don his pack.  He wondered why he was having trouble holding both burdens, but then he hit one of his breasts with the pack strap and remembered his curse and swore, “stupid old man, and his stupid training trip!”

 

He turned to one of the gaping bystanders.  “Hey, can you tell me where a Doctor is?”

 

The man recovered when he saw the unconscious girl.  “Dr Tofu’s clinic is down the street and to the left.”  He pointed the direction.  “You can’t miss it.”

 

Ranma nodded and gave the man thanks before running at a dead heat toward the clinic.  He skidded to a halt right in front of the gate and ran inside without much fanfare.  As soon as he burst in the door he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Is there a doctor in the house?”  His voice still sounded weird to him in his cursed form.

 

A young man in a dark blue gi walked into the front room.  He was an older man (well, older than Ranma) with brown hair tied into a short ponytail and glasses.  “I’m Doctor Tofu Ono, can I help you miss?”

 

Ranma bristled slightly, but let it slide in consideration for the girl in his arms that needed attention.  “This girl’s ki is really low!  I don’t know what to do with her!”

 

Tofu’s eyes went wide for a moment when the redheaded girl had quite accurately diagnosed the girl in his arms.  Tofu had felt the same thing immediately when he came in and failed to sense the second girl.  There was a story here, and he was sure he wanted to hear it.  “Bring her in.  She just needs some rest.”

 

The redhead carried the raven-haired girl into the examination room.  And laid her on one of the empty cots.  The girl quickly started soaking the cot.

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “We’re going to have to remove those wet clothes or she’ll catch cold.”  He saw Ranma become stiff as a board.  “Is that a problem?”

 

“I should probably wait outside.”  Ranma turned to leave, but Tofu’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.

 

“What’s the problem, you’re both girls, right?”  He asked with a confused voice.

 

“I’m a GUY!”  Ranma ranted as he tore Tofu’s hand off his shoulder.

 

The good doctor was really confused now.  “There is definitely a story here, but never the less, you look like a girl to me, and I’m going to need help taking off this girl’s clothes.  She’s got the same body parts you do.”

 

“But I’m not a doctor!  I shouldn’t be allowed to see that!”  The redhead continued to protest.

 

“You have great potential to be one.”  Tofu answered rebutted.  “You diagnosed her correctly, and if you’d had some more training you would have been able to treat her without my help.”

 

Unbeknownst to Dr. Tofu, he had spoken the magic word to sway Ranma’s opinion:  Training.  Ranma slowly nodded his agreement and helped remove the other girl’s clothing, dry her off, and move her to a dry cot where Tofu placed a warm blanket over her.  Ranma was quietly impressed by the professionalism that the doctor showed in the whole procedure.  Not once did he do anything inappropriate to the girl, nor did his eyes linger more on any part of her body than was truly necessary.  Ranma was slightly ashamed to admit to himself that he had snuck a few peaks at her and had liked what he had seen.  She wasn’t a stacked as his cursed form, but she seemed…nice.

 

Once the girl was bedded down the Doctor turned his smile to Ranma.  “Now it’s your turn.  You need to get out of those wet clothes before you catch a cold.”

 

“I’m fine.  Really!”  Ranma tried to protest, but the sneezed that her mouth emitted betrayed the lie.

 

The doctor laughed.  “Don’t worry, I’ll go over behind that screen and start some hot water for some tea.  Just change clothes and wrap one of the blankets around yourself.  I’ll put her and your clothes in the dryer so you both can have something warm and dry to wear while you wait here for the rain to stop.”  He turned and walked behind the partition.

 

Ranma quickly stripped, dried himself, and wrapped himself in a blanket.  He walked over and took a seat where he could watch the raven-haired girl and Dr Tofu at the same time.

 

The Doctor turned and regarded the redhead.  “Well, you already know my name, so what’s yours?”

 

“Oh, sorry.”  The redhead bowed slightly in her chair.  “I’m Ranma Saotome.”

 

“Wow, you even have a guys name.  You father must have really wanted a son!”  Dr. Tofu teased.

 

“HEY!  I AM A GUY!!!  Give me some of that hot water and I’ll prove it!”  The redhead was furious.

 

The Dr sat down on a stool opposite the redhead, the smile still on his face.  “This has got to be a good story.  Care to tell me about yourself?”

 

Ranma sighed.  “It’s a long story…”

 

“I’ve got time.”  The doctor smiled again.  “Besides, we have to do something until the water boils.”

 

The redhead released a resigned breath.  “Well it all started ten years ago when I began my training journey with pops…”

 

 

 

Hotaru awoke to the sound of a teakettle whistle.  She quickly realized that she was naked in a strange room wrapped in a warm blanket.  She decided not to make any sudden movements or anything that would indicate that she had awoken just yet.  She had to decide whether it was safe or not.  After a brief glance over the room she realized that she was in a doctors office.  She looked over and saw the redhead she had saved sitting on a stool wrapped in a blanket talking to a kindly looking man who went for the steaming kettle.  Voices started to filter into her hearing.

 

“And then just a couple months ago, pops took me to China and we went to the cursed springs training ground, Jusenkyo.”  The redhead spoke. 

 

“Cursed?”  The kindly doctor asked.  “Cursed in what way?”

 

“Whoever falls into the spring takes on the body of the last things that drowned in it.  We didn’t listen to the guide until it was too late and we fell into the pools.”  The redhead reddened slightly in disgust.

 

“So, which pools did you and your father fall into?”  The doctor brought the kettle and over and poured the hot water over the tea leaves and spices in the cups on the table.

 

The redhead hesitated a moment before answering.  “I fell into the spring of drown young girl and pops fell into the spring of drowned panda.”

 

Hotaru’s eyes went wide.  That was his father?

 

Dr. Tofu gave the redhead an incredulous stare.  “That’s a pretty far fetched story.”

 

“Well, seeing is believing.”  Saying that, the redhead released the blanket and it fell from her shoulders, revealing her ample bosom.  Before the doctor could say anything, she picked up the kettle and doused herself with it.  Hotaru’s sharp intake of breath was masked only by the doctor’s own shocked inhale.  They both watched as the ample breasts sucked in and firmed up into hard pectorals, red hair became black, and the girl now boy grew a few inches up and out at the shoulders.  “Well doc, now do you believe me?”  The voice was more deep and commanding than before.

 

“Wow.”  Was all the doctor and Hotaru could say.  The doctor’s voice was aloud and was in astonishment.  Hotaru’s was muted and filled with admiration.

 

The doctor quickly covered his bewilderment with a sip of tea.  “So what brought you to Nerima, Ranma?”

 

Ranma?  Hotaru ran the name repeatedly in her mind, each time it sounded more precious than the last.

 

The pigtailed boy growled a bit.  “Stupid old man engaged me to a girl I never even met!  He didn’t even bother to tell me that that was why we were here until we were well within the district limits!”

 

The Doctor gave him a considering look.  “It can’t be that bad, you said yourself that you haven’t met this girl.  You don’t know, she could be the love of your life.”

 

Ranma gave him a withering glare.  “Who would want a freak like me?”

 

Hotaru had to stop herself from raising her hand.

 

The older man reached out and laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder.  “Ranma, I can already tell that you’ve got a big heart.  Eventually, you’re going to have something to fill it with, but to fill it, you have to let someone in.”  He noticed Ranma become uneasy.  “What’s wrong?”

 

Sweat was starting to bead up on the boy’s head.  “Uh, well…isn’t this kinda unmanly to talk about?”

 

The doctor nearly dropped his tea.  “What ever gave you that idea?”

 

Ranma shifted uneasily in his seat.  “Pops always told me I shouldn’t talk about feelings and stuff.  He told me I had to put all emotion out of my life if I was going to be a great martial artist and a man among men.  For some reason that last part was always emphasized more than the rest.”

 

The older man shook his head and breathed out slowly.  “Ranma, I’m sorry to be the one to point this out, but that’s not what makes a man.  In fact, if you don’t listen to your heart or open up, you’ll never find love.”

 

“Why would I want love?”  The boy asked confused.

 

“You ARE getting married after all…”  The doctor gave him a knowing smirk.  The boy gave his forehead a high five.  “Just take my word for it.  You’ll find life more fulfilling if you listen to your heart and let it lead you.  Also, go ahead and give the girl a chance.  You might find that she doesn’t care about your curse and you could find someone you could truly be happy with.”

 

The boy had a wry expression on his face.  “Or she calls me a freak and hates me forever.”

 

The doctor gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.  “Then she calls off the engagement and you’re free to go and find someone who loves you anyway.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me.”

 

Ranma gave him another withering look.  “Why do I get the feeling that you’d be able to see the bright side of being buried in manure?”

 

The older man chuckled.  “If it’s a cold day, and you were freezing to death, it could save your life.”  They both shared a laugh.  “Anyway, did your father tell you what family you were going to marry into?  I probably know them if they live in Nerima.”

 

Ranma scratched his head.  “He told me once, but I was a little upset at the time, so I kinda forgot.”

 

“Well, what did it sound like?”  The doctor urged him on.

 

“I dunno.  It was one of pop’s training buddies.”  He looked like he was about to pop a blood vessel thinking about it.  “Something like…Tenoh?”

 

This time there was nothing to cover the sharp inhale that came from the cot where Hotaru was lying.

 

 

 

Ranma quickly turned to the bed that held the raven-haired girl and walked over to the side of the bed.  “Hey, you awake?” obviously a rhetorical question.

 

The girl nodded her head slowly as she opened her eyes to drink in the sight of the man leaning over her.  She thought, Haruka-papa never mentioned an engagement.  He never even mentioned that there was someone that she trained with!  Buuuut…I could think of worse fates than being married to such a hunk!  She smiled shyly.  “Hi.”  She gave him a bashful smile.

 

Ranma was slightly taken aback by the smile that creased her lips.  It seemed to light up the room as it beamed up at him.  His had to quickly control his breathing to keep his heart from beating out of his chest.  He cleared his throat.  “I noticed that you were surprised by the family name.  Do you know anything about an engagement?”

 

She pulled the blankets around herself and sat up in the bed.  “I - I don’t know  anything about an engagement, but my papa’s family name is Tenoh.”

 

“So what’s your name?”  The kindly doctor asked.  He could already see the obvious attraction that this girl had for this boy.   “I’m Dr. Tofu Ono, and this is Ranma Saotome.”  He indicated the pigtailed boy.

 

Ranma Saotome…  Started to repeat in her head, but after a bit it changed to Hotaru Saotome…  She finally shook her head to clear the daze and answered the Doctor.  “I’m Hotaru Tomoe.  Pleased to meet you both!”

 

Ranma was set off-guard once more by her winning smile.  He thought her small smile illuminated the room, but her full smile made the sun dim in comparison.  He shook his head to clear those thoughts.  She’ll only run when she finds out about my curse.

 

The doctor nodded his head when he noted Ranma’s reaction.  “I think you two have some things to discuss.  There is some food in the mini-fridge in the corner and there’s still plenty of water for tea.  She needs some food and more rest before I can release her with a good conscious.  Take good care of her, Ranma.  I’ll be right outside in the reception area if you need anything.”

 

“Hey!”  Ranma yelled after the retreating man.  “I’m not a doctor!”

 

Tofu laughed without turning around.  “Just consider it training.”  He chuckled some more as he left the room.

 

Ranma nervously turned back to the girl on the cot.  “Uh, so you want some food?”

 

She nodded her head.  “Yes, please.” 

 

He went over to the fridge and listed its contents to her.  She asked for something that sounded filling and he laid it out on a plate for her with some chopsticks on the side.  He walked back over and handed it to her.  She started eating and he started to back away.  “I’ll just wait outside.”

 

She gave him another smile.  “Please stay and talk with me.”

 

Ranma found it hard to resist her smile, but still tried.  “B-but you’re naked under those sheets!”

 

“So are you, but I don’t mind.”  She rebutted.  “In fact you’re showing more skin than I am.”  She had a cheeky grin on her face as she stared at his hard chest.

 

             A faint tint of red came over Ranma’s face.  “Uh, well just let me grab a chair.”

 

             Hotaru continued to smile as she moved over on the cot.  She patted the space beside her.  “Just sit here.  I won’t bite.”

 

             Unable to resist her anymore, he sat by her side as she slowly ate the food.  He didn’t say a word as she finished up the meal.  He went to reach for the empty plate, but she sat it on the table beside the cot on the opposite side of Ranma.

 

             She gave him another smile, as she knew she had him for the duration.  She just had to be careful about mentioning everything about herself.  “So your father said we’re supposed to get married?”

 

             He choked slightly before answering.  “Unless you’ve got some other sisters?”

 

             She shook her head.  “Nope I’m an only child.”  She noticed his expression cloud up.  “What’s the matter?”

 

             “What did you hit my pops with?  I saw you change clothes and make a polearm almost as long as you are tall disappear into thin air.”

 

             She swallowed hard.  “It’s really hard to explain, but I’m sorry I hit your father.  I hope he was okay.  I just thought it was a monster trying to attack you.”

 

             He chuckled a bit.  “Don’t worry about pops.  He was fine.  I kicked him into the alley for good measure though.”  He hesitated a moment as his expression became apologetic.  “I’m sorry I yelled at’cha.  I didn’t realize he was trying to sucker hit me until after you had passed out.”

 

             She smiled up at him.  “Don’t worry about it.”  She leaned over onto him.  “Now, about this engagement…”

 

             He stiffened.  “Uh, Hotaru…You’re cute and all, but I don’t think it will work out…”  His voice trailed off.

 

             Her expression turned sad.  “You think I’m a freak don’t you!  Because I’m a magical girl!”  She sat up away from him and crossed her arms.

 

             “No! No! No!”  He waved his hands in warding gestures.  “I’m the freak!  You see I got this curse that turns me into a girl when I doused with cold water…”

 

             “I know.”  She said as he rambled.

 

             “…and I don’t think you’d want to marry…”  He trailed off.  “Did you just say, ‘I know’?”  She nodded her head yes.  “And you don’t mind?”  She shook her head no.

 

             She put her arms around him and leaned into his chest.  “I would love to marry you.”  She buried her face into his pecs to hide her blush.

 

             He slowly put his arms around her.  “Well, if that don’t beat all…the doc was right.”

 

             She looked up at him.  “About?”

 

             “He said that I could probably find a girl that didn’t care about my curse and that I could be happy with.”  He smiled down at her.

 

             She blushed as she hugged him closer.  “I could be happy with you.”

 

             He blushed slightly as well.  “I – I think I could too.”

 

             She snuggled up to him and yawned.  “Just stay like this for a little while.  I still need some sleep.”

 

             He nodded his head and held her close.  He marveled at the feel of her in his arms a while before he at last fell asleep as well.

 

 

 

             A little while passed before the door burst open to reveal one Genma Saotome.  He took in the scene before him and was filled with righteous anger.  “RANMA!  You bring shame to your family!”

 

             Ranma and Hotaru were quickly startled out of their slumber, both very aware of their nudity.  Ranma suddenly became very defensive.  “What’s your problem?!  You said that I was going to marry a Tenoh!  I thought you be happy to see us getting along!”

 

             Genma stormed over to the boy and hauled him out of the bed, leaving the blankets behind.  Hotaru was turning red when she saw her fiancé’s ‘assets’.  The elder Saotome held Ranma close to his face.  “Fool boy!  It was TENDO!  One of the daughters of TENDO!!!  Now you’ve soiled the family honor with the wrong girl!  She doesn’t even look like a martial artist!  How in the world could you have made such a mistake?!”

 

             He wanted to tell his father that she had been the one to knock him out, but instead something else come out of his mouth.  “We didn’t do nothin’!  Lemme down!”

 

             Genma gave the boy a level stare and turned to the girl sitting on the cot with the blanket wrapped tightly around her.  “Is that true girl?”  He demanded.  She nodded in the affirmative.  The man nodded his head as if coming to a decision.  “Very well, then all is not lost then.  Come boy, we’ve kept the Tendos waiting too long.”  He turned to leave the room.

 

             Ranma, for his part, fought his hardest to break the grip his father had on him, all for naught.  He reached out toward the girl.  “Hotaru!”

 

             She reached out from her cot with tears in her eyes.  “Ranma!”  She jumped to her feet, pulled the sheet around her, and ran to follow the elder Saotome.  Just as she was about to reach the doorway, the door slammed on her face, knocking her backward.  She was still too weak to get back to her feet after such a blow.

 

             She listened as Ranma and his father left the clinic.  She was weeping freely now, soaking the blanket she was using for clothing.  At last, Tofu opened the door, knelt in front of her, set her now dry clothes aside, and hugged the girl close.  “I’m so sorry.”  He apologized to her.

 

             She wept into his shoulder until she could cry no more.  At last she pushed away from him.  “Could you please call my parents?  There is nothing for me here.”