The early morning breeze and clear sky made Nerima district blossom with life in the late summer, but Tendo Akane's heart ached and felt heavy as she slowly walked to school. She still had not overcome the sudden and shocking change that had occurred in her life nearly a year ago, now. Until that time, she would have often been running late to school, and above her, running along the fence, would have been her fiancÚ whom their parents had arranged for them to marry. Every day as they would run to school, an argument would inevitably break out and they would be mad at each other for at least until classes started, not to mention all the fights and spats that occurred throughout the rest of the day. Even so, there were several times that Akane could recall when they would get along very well and draw closer to one another. But in the end, her arranged fiancÚ realized that he was in love with another.
"Ranma no baka," she whispered upon thinking about him. He had never taken her feelings into consideration when he returned from a journey, suddenly renounced their engagement and announced that he was going to marry Kuonji Ukyo, his childhood friend who he had unknowingly abandoned more than ten years before. Ranma never fully explained his reasons for choosing Ukyo, he only said he chose her because he wanted to. The two of them had always been close and got along as friends, so despite the pain it gave her, Akane did not object because of her own feelings for Ranma, the feelings she could never admit to until it was too late. Not long after that incident, Ranma had approached her and thanked her for everything she had done for him, and, much to her surprise even apologized for breaking her heart. She also thanked him and said that they should stay as friends, nonetheless. Even so, the void she felt still has not been refilled.
Akane's life wasn't the only one that had changed that day. It seemed that all of Nerima was turned upside-down. The perverted martial arts master and founder of the Anything-Goes Style, Happosai, had vanished without a trace, leaving all of the women in the city feeling safe. The only one who was enraged about Happosai's disappearance was Pantyhose Taro, who cursed the old lech for not changing his name before he vanished. However, it didn't take long to convince him that with Happosai gone, he could change his name on his own.
The Amazons from China: Shampoo, Cologne, and Mousse, also left the city leaving no word as to where they went, or why. The ramen shop that they had run, the Nekohanten, still stood in it's spot. No one had wanted to buy the property because they all hoped that someday, the people who gave them such excellent food would return. But without the constant and necessary repairs being made, the building was slowly beginning to deteriorate.
Ranma was the third to move out of Nerima to return to his home and live with his mother, Nodoka. However, he still travels to Nerima every day to continue attending Furinkan High School. He claimed that his reason was to prevent Principal Kuno from ever fulfilling his desire to shave all the students' heads. But Akane knew better; he just wanted to be with Ukyo. Saotome Genma, Ranma's father, was still living at the Tendo dojo. After his wife had divorced him because of all that he had done to Ranma during their 10-year training journey, Genma no longer had a home to return to. So out of the goodness of his heart, Akane's father, Soun, invited him to live with them on the condition that he could earn his own living.
Not long after that, Akane soon lost another part of her life, her P-chan. It had been difficult for Hibiki Ryoga to approach her and finally confess to her that he too had fallen into one of the springs in Jusenkyo and turned into a pig. Even though she was angry at first because she hadn't known, Akane was able to forgive him and wished him a happy life with Unryuu Akari. Ryoga thanked her for all the times she had been nice to him and also admitted that while he had loved her ever since they had met, he realized that his human side could never have made her as happy as his pig side did. He and Akari have been dating steadily for the prior six months, and everyone who knew them expected they'd be married soon.
Perhaps the biggest change in Nerima, as far as Akane was concerned, was that her oldest sister, Kasumi, had moved out of the house immediately after her wedding to Dr. Tofu. The young chiropractor had finally mustered up the courage to confess his love for her after recovering from a car accident that would have killed him had Ranma not given him some of his blood. Because Dr. Tofu became a blood-brother to Ranma, Nodoka welcomed him into the Saotome family and the promise that a Saotome would marry a Tendo was finally fulfilled, allowing Ranma to cast the enormous burden off of his shoulders. It took a while, but Dr. Tofu eventually began to act like himself as he and Kasumi spent more time together. Akane could only smile whenever someone would mention to her about how envious he was over how Tofu had been the lucky guy to marry Kasumi and how close the two of them were. Kasumi's marriage and leaving the home did have its downside as nobody else in the family could cook as well as she could. It's taken a full year, but Akane was beginning to improve her skills.
Speak of the devil, Akane thought and smiled as she approached Dr. Tofu's clinic in time to see her older sister leaving.
"Onee-chan!" she called and ran to catch up with her. Just seeing her made her spirits brighten.
"Akane, good morning," Kasumi smiled as Akane fell in step with her then immediately asked, "how is everything at home?"
"Things are a little messy," she replied, "but it's nothing we can't handle."
"Really? Maybe I could stop by later and help clean up."
Akane stifled a giggle, this wasn't the first time this has happened. "Onee-chan, you don't have to worry about us. We can get by just fine. You enjoy your new life with Tofu-sensei."
"No 'buts,' you're a wife now."
"Yes, you're right. I was just on my way out to buy some more tea for the clinic. Tofu-sensei does like to serve his patients." She still called him "sensei" out of habit when they weren't together. Kasumi continued, "Shouldn't you hurry on to school? You've only started your second year of high school and I remember it being much more demanding than the first. And with Nabiki graduating this year, you'll soon be the only one there."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Akane broke into a jog and briefly turned around to wave good-bye.
"Have a good day!" Kasumi called after her.
Kasumi-onee-chan is always smiling, Akane thought, thanks to her, I think today will be a good day, I can just feel it.
"Ranchan!" Ukyo half-asked/half-called as she looked around the bushes and into the trees in the schoolyard, "I brought your hot water!" A quick gust of wind prompted her to hold down her skirt and keep it from flapping. Ever since Ranma has asked her to marry him, she decided that it was time to return to being a girl, so her uniform and most of her casual attire followed suit. She did have to admit, though, that a bra was far more comfortable than those itchy breast bindings.
"Ranchan?" she asked again before trying another one of Ranma's usual hiding places. He had met her at her restaurant and as they made their way to school, as typically happened at the worst times, he was splashed with water and turned into a girl.
"Thanks, Ucchan," Ranma-chan said as she reached her arm out of the bushes to take the kettle from Ukyo, "I'm really not in the mood to put up with Kuno groping me this morning."
"Ranma, you're getting soft," Akane, who suddenly appeared next to them, taunted playfully, "you must be sick if you don't want to fight anyone."
"Akane..." Ranma emerged from the bush and forgot to take the kettle, "why are you in such a good mood?"
"I don't know," Akane grinned as she answered, "maybe my sister's influence rubbed off on me this morning."
It's nice to see them getting along as friends should, Ukyo thought and smiled, but scowled when she heard a thundering rumble that sounded louder as it approached the three girls. None of them had to turn around to see who it was to know who was coming.
"Oh, the beautiful Tendo Akane, the pig-tailed girl, and the latest vision of loveliness, Kuonji Ukyo all gathered together to await my arrival!" Kuno Tatewaki exclaimed as he ran towards them, arms outstretched. Ukyo silently growled as she turned around and drew her combat spatula. Her only regret in switching to the girls' uniform was that Kuno began chasing after her, too. Ranma and Akane joined her in preparing to send him flying, but Ranma spoke up.
"Hey, Kuno! Watch where you're going!"
Kuno didn't listen as his focus towards them blinded his vision in front of him, failing to allow him to see a young man in a Chinese uniform and thus collided with him.
"Are you a blind man?" the guy said angrily as he regained his balance. Ukyo was surprised that the blow didn't knock him over. "Couldn't you see that I was right there?" She couldn't see his face but could see a long, thin ponytail of green hair fall down his back.
"Silence!" Kuno declared, "Apologize for interrupting my reunion with those three beautiful women!"
"Why should I be the one to apologize when you ran into me? And do those girls want you to be with them? They don't look happy to see you."
"That guy's smart," Akane whispered.
"Yeah, but he's gotta be new here if he doesn't know about Kuno," Ranma whispered back.
"Ranchan?" Ukyo asked, "Don't you think it's strange that his clothes are Chinese, like yours?"
Before Ranma could answer, Kuno continued, "No lady ever denies my presence. I do not know who you are but I am the rising star of the high-school kendo world. The undefeated captain of the Furinkan High School Kendo Club-"
"Liar!" the three girls shouted when he had said "undefeated." Everyone knew that Kuno lost in a kendo match the year before. He denied it simply because it was a junior-high student who defeated him.
The captain continued, "Kuno Tatewaki, the Blue Thunder!" As if on cue, there was a crack of thunder heard behind Kuno, even though it was a clear day. He turned around, "Well done, Sasuke!" The ninja simply gave a "peace" sign from the bush he was hiding in.
The young man entered a fighting stance, "I'll interpret your blow-harded introduction as a challenge. I am Ikimono Kohei from the village of Ryuchiezu near the Bayankala mountain range in the Qinghai province of China, and I accept!"
"Wait a minute," Ranma spoke up, "that's near Jusenkyo!"
"What would he be doing here?" Ukyo asked.
"But I must warn you," Kohei stated, "that you are making a terrible mistake in fighting me right now."
"Kuno makes no mistakes," he rebutted, "have at you!"
Ukyo watched as Kuno charged the stranger from China, bringing his bokken down towards the space between his eyes.
"Look out!" Akane yelled, "He's very good!" The young man didn't move.
"Too slow," Kohei taunted as with blinding speed, he simply caught the wooden sword with one hand, used it to flip the shocked kendoist over his head, then kicked him with enough force to send him flying into the wall and leave a large dent, and finally throw the bokken into the wall to pin him to it. He had done all of this in one smooth motion. "Much too slow."
"Wow!" Akane was the first to recover from what they'd just witnessed, "That took only a second!"
"Ranchan," Ukyo teased, "maybe you should challenge him just to see if you can last longer than that."
"Aww, give me a break, Ucchan," Ranma sighed, "Kuno's a wimp anyway."
None of them noticed, but Kohei had approached them by this time.
"Excuse me," his voice came from behind Ranma. Ukyo got a good look at his face and indeed saw that his eyes were narrow like a Chinese person's and they were an almost mesmerizing shade of steel blue.
"Oh, hello there!" Ranma chimed as she turned around and fell into her "cutesy-girl" routine, "Thank you for saving us from that bad man!" Ukyo detected a bit of nervousness in her fiancÚ's voice. Could she have been afraid of him?
"Ranma, give it a rest," Akane sulked as she rested her forehead against her hand.
"It was nothing," Kohei answered, then his eyebrows lifted, showing that something had clicked in his mind, "Ranma? Saotome Ranma? The one who defeated Saffron?"
Before Ranma could come up with a good enough lie, Ukyo proudly announced, "Yes he is! Ranchan's the one!"
"'He?'" Kohei blinked, then nodded, "I understand. You fell into Nyaniichuan, didn't you?"
Ranma dropped her eyes and nodded. "What do you want?" she asked.
Kohei opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the first bell. "It will take a while to explain, so we should wait until after school is over. But for right now, can you douse me with some of that hot water?"
Akane and Ranma gasped while Ukyo nearly dropped the kettle.