The sun’s first rays had touched the Tendo’s home and the first stirrings of the people within could be heard. Kasumi appeared at the kitchen window. She mixed various ingredients for the family’s breakfast. As usual, a wonderfully rich smell rose into the early morning air. Next to stir was Akane Tendo. She left her room and headed to the bath for her morning clean up. Sounds could be heard from the other rooms as Nabiki, Mr. Tendo and the Saotomes awoke. As usual, Ranma and Genma started their morning exercises. Today they managed not to damage anything and to stay dry. A very untypical day for them -- they did not yet know just how untypical.
Kasumi called for everyone to come to the table. With a bit of bustle they got seated and the food was passed out and quickly consumed, faster by some than others. Before a battle could break out over the last of the biscuits Mr. Tendo spoke. “Well children, what do you have planned on this lovely spring day?”
“Business,” smiled Nabiki at Ranma who smiled back weakly.
“I thought I’d go shopping with friends today.” Akane answered with a happy smile. She was holding P-chan in her lap, feeding him bits of veggies from the table.
“Whatcha ya goina do, buy a new collar for P-chan?’ Ranma teased while poking at the little black pig. He pulled back a finger with P-chan attached. He started to shake him off as Akane prepared to hit him with her mallet. Their argument escalated and ended as usual with Ranma landing in the pool. As she got out, Ranma-chan noticed the girl who had been sitting patiently at the side of the pool. “Hello there. Who are . .?”
Before she could finish the girl stood up and spoke in a quiet voice. “I am looking for Genma Saotome. Can you tell me if he is here?” She bowed slightly. Her Japanese was good but contained a faint accent. Ranma bowed back and called over his shoulder.
“Hey Pop! There’s a girl back here who wants to see you!”
Genma and Kasumi came out the door into the backyard. Genma looked curious for a moment, then a bit sick. Kasumi walked over to Ranma with a pot of hot water. Ranma took the pot , and poured it over his head, thanking Kasumi. Ranma returned to his normal shape. The strange girl did not react to the transformation, her eyes glued to the older Saotome.
Genma swallowed and with a strong feeling of foreboding, spoke. “Hello, I am Genma Saotome. Can I help you?”
The girl took a few steps forward. Out of nowhere she pulled a carved staff and took a guard stance. “I challenge you in the name of Atsuko Fukushuu for the dishonor done to her seventeen years ago.” Genma’s eyes widened as he took in what the girl had just said. Everyone in the household looked first at Genma, then at the young woman. After a few seconds every head turned from the young woman toward Ranma and back again. Nabiki was the first to speak.
“Ranma,” she paused for a moment.
Ranma tore his eyes from the girl and turned to Nabiki. “What?”
“Does she remind you of anyone?”
“What,” he repeated, a bit confused. He turned back to the girl for a longer look, still puzzled. Nabiki snorted and splashed him. After Ranma-chan changed, everyone else caught on. The girl was a dead ringer for Ranma in girl form. The only difference was, the girl had black hair and green eyes. Ranma now turned to her father. “Pop, what’s going on here?”
Genma started to answer. “Ranma, I...”
“Answer my challenge, you philanderer!” Without waiting the girl moved in with lightning speed and landed a dozen or so blows with her staff before Genma could move. She stepped back and Genma looked dazed. After a moment he slowly sunk to his knees and fell face down on the ground.
“Pop!” Ranma rushed over to check her father. Genma was bruised and dazed but that was all. Ranma looked up at the young woman. “Why?”
“Ask your father,” she said, making the word sound like an insult. She looked down at Genma with contempt and started to turn away. Ranma jumped up, reaching out to stop her. Before she could, the girl spun about, blocking Ranma’s hand with the staff.
“DO NOT TOUCH ME!” She began to glow a deep gold. Ranma stepped back at the contained anger in those four words. Even Akane could not have sounded that deadly.
Akane stepped toward the girl and asked the question on every mind in the yard. “Who are you?”
Green eyes met hers for a moment and the girl spoke her name. “Suteko Saotome.” She then leapt to the top of the wall and said one last thing before she leapt away. “Tell my father, I will return tomorrow at dawn to finish this.” Then she was gone. Ranma and Akane tried to follow but the girl had disappeared before they could get to the top of the wall. They continued over and searched for a few blocks. After several minutes they gave up and headed back to the Dojo. As they walked back, the began to talk.
“Ranma, what did she mean by ‘my father’? I thought you were an only child.”
“I am,” answered Ranma, puzzled. She remembered no sister. She kind of remembered the name the girl had challenged her father with. She just couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something from when her dad had been young.
Genma lay staring up at the sky. After a few minutes, he started to mumble. Soun bent down to listen. “Atsuko Fukushuu. It can’t be. It was only once. Wasn’t it? She said nothing happened. What will I tell Nodoka?” Still mumbling he got up and wandered off toward the house. Soun stepped quickly to his side and guided his old friend into the Dojo.
“Kasumi, I think we’ll need something stronger than tea here. Bring out the blue bottle please.” Soun called over his shoulder to his eldest daughter. For once he was acting like a man of his age. The state his friend was in had surprised him. This girl seemed to be no threat to his family. Definitely no rival for Akane, like the other girls who had shown up out of the past. After he settled Genma down on the couch, he thanked Kasumi for the small bottle and cup she had handed him. He poured a small amount into the cup and placed it into Genma’s hands. Genma stopped mumbling for a moment and lifted the cup to his lips. Taking a quick swallow he closed his eyes. The drink burned its way past the confusion and cleared his mind. He took a deep breath. “Thank you, Tendo. I needed that.”
“Genma, what was that all about?”
“I’m not sure Tendo. I have to think for a few minutes.” Genma stood up and started toward the house. “Can you send Ranma to me when he gets back?” He wandered off, less dazed but with nothing forthcoming. Soun looked after his friend with his confusion clear in his face.
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