Akane had run without thinking and her legs followed a familiar path until she found herself at the canal. Realizing where she had ended up, she slowed and walked to the edge, before lowering herself slowly; although she didn't know why she was being so careful. She felt pretty numb all over. A Love Potion… I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It must have happened when Ryoga came over and we had been standing by the tree… Mousse had said they had been sprayed and she remembered feeling an odd mist before suddenly realizing how handsome Ryoga was… But- that was fake. It was all FAKE. She was so tired of always being manipulated. All of Ranma's other suitors had used her to get to Ranma, or Ranma's rivals to try to defeat him by capturing and threatening her. But at least Ranma had never really tried to use me, not there had been some small instances, but they were easy to overlook after all the times he had saved her.
Akane picked up a rock and threw it, watching the splash with little relish. She still cared about Ranma, but she had grown tired of his constant rejection of her. She had set him free… to… pursue… his other…. Fiancés. It hurt, but not as much as his constant and blatant refusal, especially after she could have sworn he had finally told her he loved her. And now she finally realized that Ryoga had actually loved her all along. He had just had a hard time telling her because he was shy. That was something she could understand. She was never able to admit her feelings… NOT THAT SHE HAD ANY! With a deep, frustrated sigh, she hefted another rock and threw it into the canal with an almost satisfying splash. The warm feeling in her chest and the twisting sensation in her stomach when it came to Ryoga were the result of a love potion, of course! She threw another rock, feeling confused and sorry for herself.
Ranma had hopped across roofs, looking for Akane when he found her at the canal they often sat at, staring into the water, and occasionally throwing a rock into the slowly moving stream. She seemed to be deep in thought and he knew from experience that startling her suddenly usually was dangerous to his health. He leapt from the fence to the grass below, allowing himself to make some noise as he landed instead of the normal silent stealth that came naturally. He scuffed his feet in the dirt as he slowly made his way closer, feeling hesitant.
"'Kane?" He cleared his throat. "Hey, Akane?"
She had seen him jump down and heard him approach her. She took a deep breath to calm herself. She turned to acknowledge his presence.
Ranma came closer but stopped a respectful distance away and began fidgeting nervously. He never was capable of holding still, she thought as she watched him fondly.
"Er, uh, you left before the Old Ghoul told us 'bout a cure."
Akane closed her eyes, feeling relief wash over her. "There's a cure?" She asked, blinking at him.
Ranma stuttered, entranced as her chocolate brown eyes fluttered in the most attractive way. "Ya… Yeah there's a-" he cleared his throat "a way ta fix this." Ranma took another step closer and offered her his calloused hand to help her from her spot on the grass. Ranma could feel himself warm as she took his hand and he gently pulled her to her feet. "There's a few ingredients we need, and a teapot, and ya gotta read what's on the teapot and drink the tea, but then no more curse!" He pulled a scroll from the red Chinese silk top he favored. "I've got a map an everything! We can leave tomorrow!"
"Is it just the two of us going on this adventure?" She hated asking, but she wanted to know if Ryoga would be joining them. She despised that she wanted to be near him, even as she knew it was all a lie.
Ranma's mouth pulled into a frown for a moment. "Mousse and Ryoga are comin' too."
Akane blushed and let her head lower as she nodded. Ranma's frown deepened, and he took a chance and took a deep breath before twining his fingers through hers. Akane blushed again as she looked up and met Ranma's steely blue gaze as he smiled down at her. "Lemme walk ya home."
"That would be nice." They began to walk towards the Tendo residence and Akane leaned her head against his arm as they slowly took the old familiar route home. "Thanks Ranma. For everything."
They were on a train and headed to Inoshishi Island and Akane had a window seat and across from her, so did Ryoga. Ranma sat next to his ex-fiancé with his arms crossed as he watched Akane alternate from staring out the window and sneaking peaks at Ryoga from under her lashes before blushing and turning back to the window till her face cooled again. Ryoga had been staring at Akane, until he could feel the glare from Ranma and began sweating nervously before turning to quickly look out the window once again instead.
Mousse was thrilled to be sitting next to Ryoga and would creep closer until they were touching, at which point Ryoga would give him a hardy shove sending Mousse into the armrest near the aisle with an "oof!" and left him to readjust his glasses and grimacing before trying again.
The train ride was long and tense, so the teens were eager to leave and begin their search for the purple hyacinth, the first ingredient for the tea. Everyone shouldered a heavy pack, dressed in preparation for a long hike and began making their way into the small town. According to the map, this town, Inosouta was the little ocean front town that was the closest to the small Inoshishi island. Now they just had to make their way down to the docks and barter passage to the island. Locals watched curiously as their little band of martial artists passed through the streets, making their way to the docks.
There were several men pacing the docks hauling rope, nets, fish and working on boats of varying sizes. Ranma turned to the others with his usual confident smirk.
"I got this." He approached the nearest man, deeply tanned and balding, standing aboard his boat, untangling a net. "Hey you!" He shouted casually with a wave. "I was wonderin' if my friends and I can get a lift to Inoshishi island."
The man looked the four of them over, dropped his net and let out a deep, belly laugh. Ranma looked behind him to the other three with a confused expression to be met with similar baffled expressions.
"I'll try the next one." Ryoga said confidently striding past Ranma to an older man with thick white hair a little further down the dock on the other side. "Excuse me sir!" Ryoga hailed politely. When the man looked up to see Ryoga addressing him, Ryoga continued. "Would it be possible for us to get a ride to Inoshishi island?"
The old man jumped, seeming completely startled as his eyes widened. "No! Why would ya wanna go there?! You's a dang fool!" He quickly boarded his boat and went below deck, stoutly ignoring them.
Ryoga stood blinking at where the man disappeared while behind him Mousse muttered, "Well, that was awkward…"
Mousse patted Ryoga's shoulder in sympathetic reassurance and walked further down the dock, looking at a young boy helping his father with more nets and dismissing them as the boy watched their group curiously. Mousse approached a heavy set, middle aged man sorting fish from nets. He bowed respectfully, "Good day. What would it take to book passage to Inoshishi island?"
The heavy man narrowed his eyes at their rag-tag group, eyeing them appraisingly. "More than you have boy." He grunted, returning to his fish.
"Why is that?" Mousse asked, growing frustrated.
"If you don't know, then you definitely have no business on that island." He scoffed and continued his work, but with his back to them in clear dismissal. Mousse massaged his brow in frustration.
Akane looked to the young boy that was helping his father and saw that the kid was currently alone on deck. Akane approached slowly, noticing the boy was still watching their group curiously. Akane gave him a charming smile as she came alongside the boat. "Hi, my name is Akane, what's yours?"
"Kounjai." He replied, gaining confidence.
"Is this you and your dad's boat Kounjai?"
"Yes! This is what we catch our fish on!"
Akane nodded, looking over the boat appreciatively before smiling at the young boy again. "It looks like a very nice boat. Have you and your dad lived here long?"
He nodded vigorously, gaining the enthusiasm of a young boy with the attention of an older person. "My whole life!"
Akane nodded along. "So I'm sure you know all about this town and the surrounding area?"
Akane bit her lip and worried her hands. In a low voice, she asked, "Why does no one want to go to Inoshishi island?"
The young boy's eyes shined, eager to know something an adult didn't. "No one goes there because it's too dangerous." He lowered his voice dramatically.
Akane widened her eyes and leaned forward, trying to appear eager. "Why is it so dangerous?"
"The island is filled with huge, scary, wild boars!" He shouted and threw his arms in the air.
Before Akane could respond, Ranma snorted, walking up behind Akane from where he had been eavesdropping with Ryoga and Mousse. "Pft! Wild boars? That's what everyone's so afraid of?"
The young boy looked offended. "These aren't just any boars. The boars of Inoshishi island are especially big and they're meaner than normal boars!"
"Oh yeah?" Ranma challenged. "Well I'm a martial artist" he jerked a thumb at himself. "Not just any martial artist, probably the best martial artist in Japan!" Akane, Mousse and Ryoga all managed to roll their eyes at the same time at Ranma's boasting. "And my friends here are pretty good too." Ranma said, gesturing to Akane in front of him and the two martial artists behind him. "Now listen kid, there's somethin' on that island that we really need!"
A large, burly man emerged from below deck and calmly scanned his eyes over his son, Ranma and his friends. "And what is it that you need so badly from an island infested with stark raving beasts like that?" Clearly, Kounjai's father had been listening from below deck.
Ranma smoothed the surprise off his face and donned his typical self-assured grin. "I'm told Inoshishi is the only place I can get a specific purple flower."
"It's a hyacinth…" Ryoga muttered, folding his arms across his chest, glaring at the back of Ranma's head.
"A flower?" the burly boatman sneered.
Ranma opened his mouth to reply with something snarky, but snapped it shut and stared wide eyed at his hand which was now clutched in Akane's, and she gave it a hard squeeze as she quickly cut in. "It's an important ingredient we need to make a medicine for his grandmother." Akane said with a nod towards Mousse who looked startled but nodded at the near truth as the sailor turned his eyes on the spectacled boy. Akane stared earnestly up at the man as his gaze swung back to her determined face and he let out a loud sigh.
"We have an old rowboat tied at the end of the dock you can use. I'd really like it back… if you survive." Kounjai's father added with a thick brow raised at Ranma in a final warning.
Ranma turned to look back at Mousse and Ryoga who exchanged a look and then nodded, then gave Akane's fingers still twined in his a gentle squeeze, looking down into the soft brown eyes peering up at him. She smiled and Ranma turned to the man and nodded.
"Thank you." Ranma gave a small bow.
"You're going to need these," he said reaching out of sight and producing a pair of oars before offering them to Ranma.
Ranma gave the man a cocky grin. "We'll get these and the boat back to you before the end of the day."
Ranma gave Akane's hand a tug, leading her further down the dock, refusing to relinquish her hand as they passed Mousse and Ryoga who also turned to follow them to the small rowboat that had seen better days. Mousse hopped in, testing to see if the boat would hold his weight. Ryoga had hesitated, waiting for Mousse to try it first, casting nervous eyes at Akane as Ranma kept hold of her hand. Once he saw that it didn't collapse under Mousse, he hopped in and reached up to help Akane down.
Ranma helped lower Akane from the dock into the gently rocking rowboat, frowning as Ryoga caught her hips and easily lowered her to the boat. Akane's cheeks heated as her gaze fluttered away from Ryoga's and Ranma landed lightly beside them and quickly shuffled Akane to the bow to sit and shoved the oars into Ryoga's chest. Taking the clue as Ranma sat heavily between Akane and Ryoga, all the while glaring at the fanged martial artist, Ryoga settled on the middle bench, hooking the oars into the rowlock. Mousse was happy to settle at the back of the boat with an excellent view of Ryoga rowing them, with frequent corrections in direction from Mousse who was wearing his glasses, towards the small island in the distance.
Sarahplainntall here! Thanks for following along, I hope you are enjoying the story so far. I hope I'm staying at least mostly true to character. Let me know what you think and I am open to suggestions (or even criticisms, but please be nice :] ). Special shout out to my reviewers from the previous chapter: Sweetpeaxx- I'm glad you're enjoying the ever-bizarre antics of Ranma and friends. Hope this and future chapters live up to expectations. CuteClau- I'm glad your enjoying all the unexpected twists, drama and fear for our beloved couple. Adventure is most definitely coming. Your comments made my day, thank you. Nikichan-Thanks for the inspiration, I think it worked. : ) Allimtry-I'm very pleased that you felt so connected to the characters! It is one of the greatest compliments I've gotten. Flameraven- Glad you're enjoying the ridiculousness, I'm having fun writing it. Sikkiwo- Glad you're liking it so far