Just After Ranma 1/2 volume 36:

The dirty, dusty, despondent figure pushed his way through the undergrowth. "Oh man..." he said. "WHERE THE HELL AM I NOOOOOOOOWWWWWW???!!!"

Behind a nearby tree, another figure stood up. "What the... Dad?"

The first figure turned to the second. "Son?" he said. "I've been looking for you EVERYWHERE?"


"Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter from the hill."
 - taken from _Requiem_, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Ranma 1/2: Catalyst
Part One: Homecoming
by Jaelle.

The characters in this story were not created by me and do not belong to me in any way, shape or form. They are the creations of the one and only Rumiko Takahashi. All hail!

Author's Note: While I have refrained from using Japanese in the story, I have continued to use Shampoo's trademark "Nihao"
(after all, they're all speaking Japanese and she isn't in that case). I've also attached honorifics such as -chan and -kun to denote
the various cast relationships where appropriate (although most of them are familiar enough with each other to not need to do
so, not all of them are, and this way I can also indicate when someone is being formal and/or polite).

Six years later:

The familiar figure walked onto the main street just after noon, bearing a heavy pack, a heavy heart, and another even heavier and weary burden. He paused to look around him. *Amazing,* he thought, *It looks exactly the way it did when I left. I can't believe it. It doesn't seem to have changed at all.* He looked around. *Hard to believe it's been six years.*

"What a haul! What a haul!"

The figure started. "Oh NO!!! It couldn't be!" He looked upwards once more. Above him, a wizened old man sailed overhead.

"Oh my silky darlings!"


A horrified expression plastered itself across the newcomer's face.

Ranma Saotome, champion martial artist, part-time cursed girl and heartbreaker sailed overhead in pursuit of the totally perverted master of martial arts - Happosai.

"I can't believe it. Are they _still_ fighting?" gasped the newcomer.

"Ranma, stop him! Hurry up or he'll get away!" Akane Tendo, first fiancee of Ranma ran along behind the duo.

"I'm doing my best Akane! Now why don't you go home before you get hurt!"

"Hey! I'm a martial artist too you know."

"Yeah right."

"Why you!!!"

Sprinting after Happosai, the pair continued to trade insults. Almost overwhelmed with surprise, the newcomer flattened himself against a shop wall just as a horde of angry women in lynch mob formation ran down main street screaming multiple variations on "Get the pervert!"

The newcomer stepped back out into the main street and stared at the departing crowd. "It's _very_ hard to believe that it's been six years."

"Why hello there Ryoga!"

Ryoga Hibiki turned to see Kasumi Tendo standing behind him. "Hello Kasumi. It's been a long time."

"It has been quite a while since we last saw you," said Kasumi. "I was starting to get a little worried."

"A little worried?"

"When you didn't show up again."

Ryoga doubletaked. "You mean... but... didn't you all get my letters?"

Kasumi frowned. "Letters?"

"I sent three letters!"

Kasumi shrugged helplessly. "I'm so sorry Ryoga. They must have been destroyed or lost or something. You know how that happens."

Ryoga stood there, mouth hanging open. "I cannot _believe_ this." A small hand patted at his head. Ryoga looked up at the small boy on his shoulders, who pointed at a nearby shaved ice cart.

"Hungry? Okay, we'll get you some ice."

"What an _adorable_ little boy." said Kasumi admiringly. "He's so cute!"

The little boy stared solemnly at her, big dark eyes almost hidden beneath an unruly mop of hair.

"Hello there," she said. "My name is Kasumi, what's yours?"


"Uh," said Ryoga. "I'd better explain." *Why not?* he thought half-crazily. *After all, if anyone could understand, it would be the Tendo girls!*


Ukyou Kuonji ran down main street, hampered by the crowds of people out seeking lunch. *What a time to run out of cabbage! Argh!* She sprinted a little faster, the bag of cabbages bouncing against her back. Two familiar forms ahead made her pause however. *Good grief, the eternal lost boy was back in town again. Why on earth was he talking to Kasumi Tendo? Probably asking for directions. Like they'd do him any good.*

Ukyou stifled a snicker and smiled, *This is perfect!* she silently exulted. *Have I got plans for him! Ranchan... you're MINE!*

"Ryoga!" she exclaimed in pleasure. "It's been ages! I need to talk to you right away!"

*What the... Ukyou...?* thought Ryoga. "Hi Ukyou, how's it been?"

"Oh, you know sugar, same old same old."

"Yeah, I'm starting to realise that."

*What? Oh never mind. Cute kid. Back to business.* Ukyou grabbed an arm. "Come on you jackass. I need to talk to you!

"But... I can't..." Ryoga dug his feet in. "No!"

*Not like Ryoga to stand up to me. Maybe he's finally grown a backbone.* "Come _on_ Ryoga, it's _important_." Ukyou stressed crossly. "Geez! Half an hour, that's all I ask!"

"Out of the question," said Ryoga. "He's hungry." *On the other hand, Ukyou's likely to know what's happening. But... no.*

"Er, Ryoga-kun, if it's really that important, I could watch him for a while." offered Kasumi. "I'd enjoy it!" A light shone in her eyes.

Ryoga tensed. "I don't think that's such a good i..."

"Thank you Kasumi-chan!" said Ukyou. "I swear I'll return Ryoga to the training hall in an hour, okay? Ryoga!" she glared her 'agree now or die' look at him. Ryoga glared and then slowly assessed Kasumi. "That alright with you?" he addressed the child. In answer, the boy nodded. "Alright," Ryoga said. "One hour. No more. Thank you Kasumi." He reached up and gently lifted the boy off his shoulders and put him down on the ground. The boy immediately offered his hand to Kasumi, who held it and smiled.

"We have an ice machine at home." she said. "And six flavourings! Do you like strawberry?" The boy nodded and they walked off. Ryoga watched them go, eyes glued to the boy like a magnet.

"Come ON Ryoga." said Ukyou. "You can carry the cabbages," she threw in generously.


Hot okonomiyaki sizzled on the grill and Ukyou flipped it expertly and easily into the plate in front of Ryoga.

"... and then while Ranma's busy with me, you can sneak in and get Akane. There's a festival on that night, you can take her there and sweep her off her feet and everyone will be happy. What do you think?"

"Uh huh." said Ryoga. "This is the important thing you wanted to talk to me about?"

"What are you _talking_ about Ryoga. It's the perfect plan! You do still want Akane, don't you?" Ukyou stared at him in amazement. *He's not even interested! What's _wrong_ with him?*

"I can't believe we're still doing this! Plotting to get Akane and Ranma for ourselves." Ryoga looked her directly in the eyes. "I came because I wanted to know how everyone was doing?"

"Huh? Everyone's doing what they always do."


"Still clueless, still chasing both his pigtailed girl and Akane."

"But he's old enough to have finished college!"

"He finishes this year, he got held back a year."

"What for?"

"How would I know? Gross stupidity?"

"What about Shampoo, Cologne and Mousse?"

"Those harpies?" Ukyou frowned. "The Nekohanten is still open for business. Shampoo continues to try and steal my Ranma, and I still won't eat anything that Cologne's been near. Mousse challenged Ranma again last week and got trashed as usual."

"Ah ha! Ranma... he must have changed?" Ryoga asked desperately.

"No," said Ukyou. "He still won't say who he likes better, me or Akane."

"But there must be _something_ different about him!"

Ukyou thought. "Well, we're getting fewer other fiancees showing up these days."

"I don't believe this." said Ryoga. "So you're telling me that _nothing_ has changed since I left here six years ago? _Nothing_?"

Ukyou blinked, "Six years? Has it really been that long. Boy, how time flies huh?"

"And... Akane?"

Ukyou laughed. "Like Akane would ever change! Nothing will ever stop her being a violent, uncute tomboy!"

Ryoga stared at her. She frowned. *What? Do I have something on me?* "So, are you in with the plan or not?"

Ryoga pushed away his plate. "No." he said. "Thanks for thinking of me though."

Ukyou doubletaked. "What do you mean not? I have to have your help on this Ryoga! I _need_ you." she looked at him pleadingly, in the way he'd never been able to resist.

"Not interested." said Ryoga. Ukyou gaped at him.

"How can you not be interested? This is Akane and Ranma we're talking about here. Akane... the love of your life! Wait a second..." she glared at him. "Don't tell me you've gone and fallen for someone else! Cos if you have it's almost certainly going to be Ranma in drag again you know."

Ryoga smiled a small bitter smile. "Ah yes, Ranma's favourite ploy. No Ukyou, that's not it. But I'm still not going to take part."

"I can't believe that you would be so faithless!" Ukyou threw at him. "I thought you were in _love_  with Akane!"

"I've never stopped loving Akane," Ryoga replied calmly. "But I realised six years ago that no matter how much I loved her, and no matter how much she and Ranma fought or how bitterly, she would go on loving him and not me. She never loved me. I was either her friend or her pet. But never her love. And I never would be. And I realised that if I ever managed to win her away from Ranma it would be because she was angry with him, and not true love. And I also knew that if I got her like that she'd be miserable for the rest of her life." he stood up. "Thanks for the meal."

"Coward!" Ukyou accused. "You're just afraid of getting hurt fighting Ranma."

"I have greater concerns these days." Ryoga informed her.

"You mean that kid? Whoever chose _you_ for a babysitter must have been out of their minds," Ukyou jeered. "How long ago should he have gotten back to his parents?"

"I am doing my best for him," said Ryoga.

"What are you, his mother?"


Akane trod through the doorway behind Nabiki, and stopped to replace her shoes with house slippers before entering the house.

"Kasumi! We're home!" she called. Nabiki pulled on her own slippers and followed Akane into the main living room.


"What?" Nabiki asked, peering around Akane. "Oh we have a visitor."

"What a cute little boy!" said Akane. "Hello there!" The boy replaced his spoon in the shaved ice and looked up from the TV. Akane knelt down beside him. "Hi! Is the ice yummy?" In answer the boy pushed it towards her.

"Oh no, this is yours." Akane pushed it back. "I'll get some of my own."

"Even you should be able to manage that." Nabiki murmured unheard. She knelt down on the other side of the boy. "Hey."

"My name is Akane, what's yours?" asked Akane.


"He hasn't spoken since his mother died," said Kasumi, entering the room with three more servings of shaved ice. She set two of them out in front of Akane and Nabiki and knelt, taking the third for herself. "This is Tenjou, Ryoga's son."


"Your... your WHAT???!!!"

"My son." Ryoga turned to face the doorway. "My son Tenjou. He is four years old and I love him more than anything or anyone." he turned back to Ukyou. "And now I would like to get back to him. If you're too busy to lead me to the Tendo's, perhaps I could prevail upon Konatsu to take me there." he quirked an eyebrow at Ukyou's loyal assistant.

"Uh... uh..." Ukyou stared at him, mouth open, totally flabberghasted. "Uh..."

Ryoga waited patiently for a minute, but when Ukyou showed no sign of overcoming her shock anytime soon he looked back at Konatsu meaningfully. Konatsu closed his mouth and took off his apron. "Gladly will I take you to the Tendo dojo Hibiki-san." he said. "This way please... uhhh...

Ryoga smiled. "Thank you."


"_Ryoga's_ son?" repeated Nabiki. "Ryoga _Hibiki_? The legendary lost boy himself? Has a SON? Kasumi... are you _sure_ you heard him right? "

Kasumi nodded, "Oh yes."

Akane sat paralysed in shock, unable to digest this news. Nabiki stared at Tenjou. "Are you _really_ Ryoga's son?" she asked. In response, Tenjou opened his mouth, revealing a perfect set of 'fangs'.

"Yeesh!" said Nabiki. "Well, that is fairly convincing." She sat back on her heels. "I wonder when he got married."

"Why didn't he _tell_ us?" exploded Akane.

"I, uh, sent three letters, but Kasumi tells me they never arrived," replied a deep voice from the doorway. The three Tendo sisters turned to see Ryoga standing nervously in the doorway. He bowed awkwardly. "Hello Akane-san, Nabiki-san, I'm so happy to see you both again." *Well,* he thought mentally, *I'm so happy to see Akane again that I'm almost even happy to see Nabiki.* He entered the room. "I hope Tenjou wasn't any trouble." Behind him, Konatsu poked a curious head around the corner.

"Oh no," said Kasumi. "He's been a perfect little angel." She smiled at Tenjou, who soberly regarded her. She patted his arm and he flashed the briefest smile at her. All three girls were enchanted.

"He's so cute!" said Akane. "Con-congratulations Ryoga-kun. Who's his mother? Akari?" Then she remembered what Kasumi had said earlier and bit her lip.

A shadow crossed Ryoga's face. "No, I realised that things wouldn't really work out between Akari and I. We had... too many philosophical differences." *Like her love of pigs - ugh*. Then memory kicked in and sorrow filled his face. "His mother's name was Keiko. Keiko Asagira." he sat down and held out his arms. Tenjou stood up and walked into them. Ryoga held his son tenderly, eyes closed, pain evident on his face.

Akane wished she could just learn when to keep her mouth shut. Ryoga finally broke the silence. "You never met her." he said. "It was an arranged marriage between our families."

A faint sniffle came from the doorway. Akane looked up to see Konatsu wiping his eyes. "Oh Konatsu," she said. "Won't you come in."

"No no..." said Konatsu. "I just came round here to see the proof... I mean the kid! I have to get back to Ucchan's." he bowed to the assembled group and fled. "Sayonara!" he called back. Ryoga chuckled. "Still the same Konatsu. I see noone has managed to convince him to dress like a guy yet."

"But he makes such a pretty girl!" enthused Kasumi. Sweat drops trickled down the heads of Ryoga, Nabiki and Akane.

"Uh, yeah." said Akane. "And besides, he's half the attraction at Ucchan's."

The conversation sat in an awkward silence.

"Well Ryoga, why don't you tell us what you've been up to in the last couple of years?" said Nabiki at last.

"That... could take a while," said Ryoga.

"Hey, _we're_ not going anywhere," she said, stretching her legs. "Though I think I'll get changed before I hear this." she stood up.

"I don't know," said Ryoga. "I should really get going."

"No!" exclaimed Akane. "You just got here! Where are you going?"

"Well, nowhere actually." Ryoga admitted. "But I don't want to presume..."

"Get serious," Nabiki said. "You're the most interesting thing that's happened in months."

"What about Ranma's fight with Mousse last week?" Ryoga asked, remembering something Ukyou had said.

"Like that's interesting," said Nabiki. "This is _new_. Be back in a bit. Why don't you take a bath or something while we're changing?" She headed off, schoolbag in hand.

"That's a great idea!" said Akane. "I'll get changed too, do you need directions to the bathroom?"

"We can manage thanks," said Ryoga. "But really... we couldn't..."

"But I've already picked up extra snacks!" said Kasumi. "Please?"

Ryoga blinked. "Al-alright then." He watched the girls disperse and felt a sudden sharp prickling at his eyes. He shook his head, blinked rapidly and breathed in deeply.

"Gah! We really _do_ need a bath!"


Ranma jumped over the dojo wall and stomped in the front door.

"Damn sprinklers, I HATE summer." she said. "Argh! This is the fourth time _today_ that one of those things has kicked in around me." She shook some of the water from her hair. "Still, at least I shook Kuno. When is that idiot ever going to get a clue?" still shaking her head and grumbling she walked into the house, kicking off her shoes as she went.

"Hey Kasumi!" she yelled. "Where is everyone?"

"Let's see," said Kasumi. Ranma stood there and assumed an 'I'm _waiting_' expression. "Akane and Nabiki are both getting changed, our fathers are on another training mission..."

"Translation, avoiding Happosai." said Ranma. "Thanks Kasumi."

"And Ryoga..."

"Ryoga?" Ranma started. "Man, I ain't seen HIM in ages." she cracked her knuckles. A smile spread across her face. "Where is he?"

"In the bath."

"What a coincidence." grunted Ranma. "Thanks again." she walked out. Kasumi opened another bag of snacks and poured them into a plate. Then her eyes widened.

"Oh my." she said.


Ranma opened the door to the bathroom, pulled off her tunic top as she walked in and nudged the door shut behind her. "Hey porkboy, you here yet or did you get lost in the water closet again?" No answer. She shrugged and undid her belt, kicking her trousers off. Wearing only her boxers she slid open the bath door... and stopped in shock. A small boy was kneeling on the edge of the steaming bath. Ranma stared as the boy turned to face him. Her eyes followed the hand he'd just pulled out of the water. It was clutching a yellow bandanna with black spots. Ranma looked around at the room. Ryoga's clothes were lying on the floor, soaked with cold water. Absently, Ranma turned off the shower, which was still gushing water up and examined the boy. He was soaked. The boy bared his teeth at Ranma, revealing highly-overdeveloped canines. Ranma gasped in breath.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" she cracked up into helpless laughter. "Waahahahahahahahahahahaha! Don't tell me... you found the spring of drowned _boy_? Whoo!" She collapsed onto the floor, clutching at her sides. "Ahahahahahahahahaha! You've been eating those damn de-aging mushrooms again haven't you? I can't believe you did that again after all the trouble from last time! Oh, you're killing me! I cannot believe this. And you're so CUTE too
porkbun. Oh MAN."

Tenjou stared at the hysterical half-naked female and then narrowed his eyes. He rushed at her.

Ranma easily caught his fists as they launched at her.

"Geez you're rusty!" she said, squeezing his wrists. The boy winced in pain and Ranma frowned. That wasn't like Ryoga. The boy tried to kick her.

"Careful Ryoga," Ranma said. "Or I'll _spank_ you. Wooohahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!"


Ryoga Hibiki stood up in the bath, his green battle aura shining brighter than the sun. Ranma stopped laughing.

"Ranma." Ryoga's voice was calm, collected, quiet. "Let go of my son." Ranma's jaw dropped and she let go of Tenjou, who scooted over to one side.

"Thank you." said Ryoga. Ranma stood, any minute expecting to be shishihokodaned onto the next continent. Ryoga's jaw clenched and he closed his eyes. "No." he muttered quietly. "Not _again_." Slowly, slowly, the battle aura faded. Ranma's eyebrows had almost disappeared into her fringe. Ryoga opened his eyes and stared at her.

"Ryoga... I... whoa..." words failed Ranma. Then the impact hit. "Your _son_?! When did you...?"

Unfortunately, that was as far as she got before Ryoga smashed the wooden bucket over her head.


"Hi there," Ryoga sat down next to his son. "Tenjou, have you behaved?"

"He's been fine," said Ranma, nursing the bruise on his head.

Ryoga ignored him. "I hope you weren't frightened by that." He apologised to him. Tenjou shook his head.

"He may not have been, but I was terrified." admitted Ranma.

"Did Ranma hurt you?" Ryoga asked Tenjou.

"For crying out loud! What sort of a jerk do you think I am anyway? It was a mistake I tell you! I didn't know you had a kid with you. Nobody told me. _You_ never told me either."

"So then you're not hurt?" Ryoga pressed.

"The kid is FINE." Ranma yelled. "It's _you_ we're all worried about. How come you never told me you got married?"

"I sent three letters! It's not my fault everything important around here gets destroyed or mangled." Ryoga snapped. He turned back to his son. "Are you ready to go Tenjou?" His son nodded.

"Go where porkchop?" asked Ranma. "It's going to be dark soon, how do you intend to find your way out of this house?"

"Tenjou, will you please lead me to the front door?" Ryoga said. Tenjou took his fathers hand and began to walk in the right direction.

"Will you sit down?" Ranma exploded. "Geez, you disappear for six years, come back and drop the bomb that you have a kid and just plan to bug out after ten minutes in my company? Sit down dimwit! Stay here tonight!"

Ryoga paused. "Thanks a lot _pal_," he sneered. "I think I can manage."

"I ain't asking for _you_, maybe your kid would like a nice homecooked meal for a change." Ranma snarled back. "And it would be nice to eat dinner with someone who isn't trying to kill or marry me! At least right this moment anyway, I'm presuming you're over that now." He shifted and looked uncomfortable. "You've been away a long time you know. Besides, the girls have all fallen in love with the kid." He rubbed the bump on his head he'd received from Akane's mallet after he'd explained the shower fiasco. It still hurt. "Come on, do me a favour. It'll keep Akane away from me."

Ryoga's lips quirked in a small smile. "Thanks for the invite." He said. "I suppose it would be nice to eat home cooking for a change. Tenjou?"

In answer, the boy walked back to the table and started watching television again. Ranma stared at him. "Quiet isn't he?"

"You have a problem with that?" Ryoga flared.

"No. It's a nice change." Ranma tentatively reached out a hand and ruffled Tenjou's hair, then took a closer look at the boys physique. "You teaching him martial arts?"

"Yeah," said Ryoga. "Just basics. He's got good balance and a fair stance."

"I hope you're not going to teach him the Bakusai Tenketsu anytime soon?"

"Hit my son with boulders? Are you INSANE?!!!" Ryoga stared at Ranma.

"Heh," Ranma laughed. "What does that say about you?" Ryoga reluctantly laughed and rubbed the back of his head. By mutual mental consent they both decided to forget about the incident in the bathroom.

Kasumi walked into the room, carrying some tea. "Tea Ryoga?" She asked. "I have some milk for Tenjou."

"Thank you Kasumi," said Ryoga, accepting the steaming mug. Tenjou stood and received his milk with a small bow. Ranma also took a mug and was sipping at it as Kasumi turned to leave when he remembered.

"Oh Kasumi, I invited Ryoga and Tenjou to dinner, okay?"

"Oh that's WONDERFUL!" said Kasumi, clapping her hands. "What's his favourite food?"

"Chicken," said Ryoga bemusedly.

"Chicken it is. How about some duck with that?"

Ryoga and Ranma threw a look at each other. "Maybe not." They said, thinking of Mousse. "Chicken should be fine."

Kasumi ran out of the room, mentally consigning her original meal to the rubbish bin. Ryoga looked at Ranma. "She seems a bit excited today."

"Women," muttered Ranma. "Who understands them?" He sipped some tea. "So, what's the story? Spill the beans man."

"Not much to tell," said Ryoga. "After it became obvious that I was never going to get Akane..."

"When did that become obvious?"

"Sometime around when I got the invitation to your wedding."

"That didn't exactly go smoothly," Ranma pointed out.

Ryoga smiled, remembering the havoc, and his contribution towards it. "Hey, I had to pay you back _somehow_."

Ranma grunted, "Go on."

"Anyway, I took off, never to return. Got lost in the wilds of Japan." *I think* he added mentally. One never could be entirely sure - most wilds looked the same after a while. Though at least that one had been mercifully free of anacondas. Big snakes that swam underwater and had a habit of squeezing the life out of, and then ingesting small mammals were not normally a problem for your average human. It was the average small black piglet that had the major difficulties with them. Anyways...

"Wandered around for a while, then bumped into someone else - turned out to be my father."

Ranma's eyebrows raised. "Lucky." he commented.

"Yeah, I hadn't seen him for about eight years." said Ryoga. "Just phone messages on the answering machine. Turned out he'd," here he grinned at Ranma, "arranged a marriage for me."

Ranma groaned and put his hands over his face. "Parents!"

"We went to see her," Ryoga continued. "Her name was Keiko." His eyes got a faraway look. "She was pretty. She knew about my navigational problems, but didn't mind. She was an only child, her mother was dead and her father was dying. They didn't have any money and she didn't know any guys and her dad was worried about how she'd manage after he died. He wanted to see her married so that he could be easy at mind. He met my dad, who was passing through, found out about me and decided we'd be a good match."

"Why?" asked Ranma, not seeing the logic in this.

"That way, if we didn't get along that well, she wouldn't have to see me everyday." explained Ryoga. "And also, my Dad had enough money to set us up in our own house, with a healthy sum left over. Her dad figured that at least she wouldn't be homeless. We met, she seemed nice enough so we decided to give it a go." he smiled in memory. "It was fun. I got a cellphone and kept money on me for taxis and stuff. Keiko got a drivers licence and a car. It worked. For a while."

"So what happen? She find out about your curse?" asked Ranma, yawning at this image of domesticity. He realised almost immediately that this had been the wrong thing to ask. He stared at Ryoga's rigid form.

"We were driving home from the doctors. He had just told us that we were going to have another child." Ryoga's voice was the temperature of liquid nitrogen. Every word burned. His eyes were dark lumps of obsidian. "We were hit by a drunk driver. Keiko was killed almost immediately."

Ranma noted the "almost". He also noted the way that Ryoga's battle aura had come to life again and the ferocity with which Tenjou was concentrating on the television, which was currently broadcasting an advertisement for grease solidifiers. For possibly the first time in his life, Ranma Saotome thought before opening his big mouth.

"Hey man, I'm really sorry." he stopped there. Carefully, he reached out a hand and gripped Ryoga's shoulder. Slowly the aura faded. Ryoga looked away. "Thanks." he said quietly.

"And now?" Ranma prompted after some time had passed.

"Now." Ryoga smiled. "Think of me as a ronin. I'm just wandering around. I couldn't stand to stay there anymore." His shoulders shook and he blinked hard. "So, here I am." He finished, a slight strain in his voice. "Wanna fight?"

"Not... right now." said Ranma. "It's nearly dinner time." He eyed Ryoga. There was a strange feeling there. Like... held back emotions. Not like Ryoga. Better leave it for now. Push later. "You'll be okay." he said. "So will the kid."

Ryoga smiled briefly.


End Part One.


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