By Joseph Palmer
Akane was already half awake when she heard the door slide closed and footsteps from the adjoining room heading down the hall. Judging from the sound, or more the lack of sound, it was most likely Ranma. This early in the morning her father usually bumped into things, and Ranma’s dad had gone to sleep as a panda, so the floor would surely have made more noise if it were him.
The sun wasn’t quite up yet, but the light through the window was almost red. Akane got up and looked out the window. The sky in the east was dotted with high clouds and a gentle breeze was blowing in off the sea. She looked down at her sisters sleeping on futons on the floor.
Kasumi looked like an angel. She lay under her blanket with her head centered on her pillow, and her hair in a ribbon pulled over her left shoulder. There was not the slightest wrinkle in the blanket, as if it had been pulled out flat just seconds ago, rather than last night. She had a hint of a coy smile on her face. She looked so perfectly peaceful.
Nabiki looked noticeably less than angelic, she had kicked her covers off in the night and had worked herself half out of her night shirt. The look on her face was... mischievous. As Akane watched, she rolled over again into another even more provocative position. She wondered how much Kuno would pay for a couple of pictures of her like this, and how much Nabiki would pay to keep them from him.
Her attention was diverted by the sounds of someone walking back down the passage way. It’s Ranma coming back, she thought. She waited for the door to slide again, but instead came the sound of feet on the steps that led down to the sand. From the window she saw Ranma crossing the beach towards the water. She silently dressed and slid the door to the other room. Her father and the panda were snoring softly amongst the remains of last nights revelings. She picked up her sand shoes and slid the door to the deck. She crossed the sand silently, avoiding looking at or thinking about Ranma on the way. It was a trick that Tofu had taught her about erasing her presence from others.
“If you do not bring your subject into your own thoughts, it is easier to remain hidden from theirs” Tofu had said.
She used it to sneak up on Ranma from time to time, usually with comic results, and to slip past Kuno from time to time. It only worked when Kuno was thinking about his “Osage no Onna”, which was often enough. She reached his side and stood next to him looking off to where the sun would soon rise.
“Ohayo, Akane” he said.
“Ohayo, Ranma.” her trick had not worked.
“It’s going to be a beautiful sunrise, I’m glad you’re here to see it.” Akane was not too disappointed that her trick had failed. He had to have have been thinking about her in order to have felt her approach.
“Do you want to walk along the beach aways?” he asked.
They walked along the beach passing the other economy vacation rooms and a few big hotels. They stopped to watch an old man doing Tai-chi in the damp sand at the edge of the water. Ranma was entranced by the fluid motions. The old man finished his routine and then bowed deeply towards the ocean. He turned and walked straight towards Ranma and Akane. He stopped before Ranma and laid a gnarled hand on his shoulder.
“The sea is a good teacher.” he said. He smiled at them both and walked off down the beach.
“What does he mean by that?” Akane asked.
“I don’t know, but I think he wants us to think about it.”
They walked on until they came to a breakwater that jutted out into the waves. Ranma bounded up and reached down to help Akane climb onto the rocks. They found a spot where they could sit comfortably together. Presently the edge of the sun burst over the horizon and the light broke through the clouds casting beams of light across the sky.
Akane held her breath, this was a sight you might see only once in a lifetime. She fumbled to hold Ranma’s hand, her eyes riveted on the sky.
Ranma’s heart pounded in his chest. Before him was an ancient symbol of Japan, stretched from horizon to horizon. He felt a part of it, proud to be carrying on the ancient traditions of martial arts in this day of business deals and salary men. He knew in that instant his place in this world. He was to practice and teach musabetsu kakuto, the unlimited martial arts, passed on from generation to generation, from father to...
“It’s... it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” Akane said.
He turned to her. Her face glowed in the warm sunlight, her hair waving gently in the warming breeze.
“Beautiful.” He said. He could see the sunrise reflected in her eyes, now somehow fierce but yet calm.
Maybe... Maybe I should kiss her, he thought. Here we are, all alone, watching a beautiful sunrise. This must be a good time. Ranma’s heart began to pound. He squeezed Akane’s hand, she looked at him.
Akane looked into Ranma’s eyes, she saw his pride and something else. Her heart skipped a beat, Thank goodness, he’s finally going to do it! He’s really going to kiss me! She smiled and turned her head up to him.
She really wants me to kiss her, he thought. He closed his eyes and moved to her lips. In that instant he relived their entire engagement, from the first moment he first saw her through the events of the previous night.
As was typical of their seaside vacations, they ate dinner in their room, Soun and Genma drinking tall beers with their meals, followed by endless games of shogi, which were accompanied by endless rounds of sake. Nabiki and Kasumi retired early while Akane was demonstrating the finer points of Poker to Ranma. She beat him as usual, and the loser had to set up the futons for their now snoring parents. While she had straightened up the worst of the bottles and cups, he half dragged, half carried their fathers to bed.
“I’m going to go out for some air before I turn in.” he said. He sat on the top step gazing at the moon low on the horizon. The sound of the surf was somehow muffled and mixed with the cries of some restless birds and sounds of human activities from somewhere down the beach. The air was tart and slightly cool on his arms and bare legs.
Akane came out dressed in one of the the dark blue robes from the the room, another draped over her left arm. She carried a small round tray. “Here” she said, handing Ranma the robe.
He wasn’t that cold, well not yet anyway. He took the robe from Akane and stood to put it on. On her tray were two tiny cups and a small sake decanter. They sat on the top step with the tray between them Ranma selecting a cup and Akane pouring the warm sake into it. He took the decanter and filled her cup.
They held their cups up and Akane whispered “Banzai!”
Ranma held the cup to his lips. He’d had sake a couple of times before but never calmly sitting like this. They both sipped the warm sake. Akane stifled a cough.
“You O.K.?” Ranma asked.
“Mmm. it just surprised me a little.”
“I think you have to get used to it.”
Akane sipped again tentatively. “Tastes strange doesn’t it?” She held the cup out at arms length in front of her and peered over it at a freighter passing on the horizon.
“So, ah... what brought this on?” Ranma asked, holding his cup out, also sighting over it.
“Some of my friends have tried it, well... all of my friends have tried it, and I wanted to see what it was like. I brought you some because...” She paused and flipped her hair dramatically. ‘A girl shouldn’t drink alone!’ She brought the cup to her lips and cautiously sipped the rest.
Ranma refilled her cup, wondering how she will act after drinking. They finished he small bottle quietly, each pouring for the other. The sounds of activity from the other rooms on the beach subsided, the wind picked up a little and Ranma was grateful for the the robe.
“So, what do you think?” Ranma asked.
“My head feels funny, my tummy is a little upset, and my face feels hot.” She patted her cheeks with the palm of her hands. “Here, feel.” She took Ranma’s hand and held it to her forehead.
“You’re a little bit pink too.”
“I got an idea! let’s go down to the water.” Akane got up and took the four steps down to the sand. She turned, giggled and pointed at the steps. “Careful, that’s harder than it looks!”
They walked out across the beach to where the waves were rolling up the sand. Akane took off her sandals and walked out to let the waves wash over her feet. Ranma sat on the dry sand.
“Come on in, it feels really warm!”
“No way. I don’t think it’s warm enough for me.”
“Chicken.” Akane giggled and kicked some water in Ranma’s direction. It fell safely short of its target. She was winding up for another kick but was chased up the beach by a larger wave and sat down next to Ranma.
“Oh! I feel dizzy.” she said.
“It’s just the sake.”
“I’m not sure I like it.”
“There’s no hurry, anyway we really shouldn’t be drinking for another three years. I shouldn’t really anyway because of my martial arts training.”
“That never seems to stop our dads, does it?”
“No, that’s true.”
They sat quietly watching the waves. Akane scooped sand up in her hand and slowly poured it over Ranma’s feet.
“What are you doing?” he asked
“Don’t move. I’m going to bury you in the sand!”
“At that rate we’ll be here all night.”
“So? would that be so bad?”
“Ah...” Ranma’s response caught in his throat. She couldn’t be serious, could she?
He watched her a while, so intent on digging hand fulls of sand, and pouring them grain by grain over his toes. She caught him watching and beamed him a smile that nearly stopped his heart.
She can be really cute sometimes, he thought. So this is what sake does to her. The next load of sand began to pour into his hair.
“What are you doing?!?” Ranma shouted. He shook the sand from his hair.
“I thought I’d work on the other end for while, your feet are done.”
“So.” he paused, considering his options. “Maybe you’d better keep working from that end.” He pointed at his toes, now somewhat exposed from his shaking.
“I told you to sit still.” She said in mock anger. “Now I have to start all over.”
So this too, is what sake does to her. She’s just like she always is, only more so.
“Ne, Ranma, come walk with me in the surf for a while.”
“But,” he stood, “I’ll turn into girl.”
“So? What’s wrong with being a girl?”
“Nothing, nothing, it’s just...”
Akane looked at him, he was poking his fingertips together and looking very shy.
“Aha! I get it..! she said.”
“Why you want to stay a boy.”
“Oh yea? Why?”
“You want to kiss me.”
“B- baka! Why would I ...” He stopped and poked his fingers again.
“Heh heh, I knew it.” She paused. “O.K.”
“O.K.?” Ranma asked incredulously.
“I said O.K.” She reached up. “Give me a hand.”
Ranma helped Akane to her feet. She stood before him, her eyes quivering.
“Ranma...” She said sweetly. “I... I...” She fell into his arms.
“Akane! Akane!” he shook her gently. She must have passed out from the sake, he thought. He turned and lifted her onto his back. They took an indirect path back across the beach. Akane woke and locked her hands around Ranma.
“Ranma, I’m sorry, It must be the sake.”
“It’s O.K.. Can you walk?”
“Mmm, But not yet, O.K.?” She lay her head on his shoulder.
They slowly made their way back to the steps. He turned and set her on the bottom step. When he turned back she was smiling brightly at him.
“But you were... the sake...” He stammered.
“I’m fine. I just got up too fast.”
“Ranma!” She glowered at him, then smiled. “Thanks for the ride.” She turned and skipped up the steps, pausing to pick up the tray and empty cups.
“—ne” Ranma weakly finished.
He opened his eyes. Akane had closed her eyes and was waiting for him. He took a breath, and lifted her chin with his hand. He closed his eyes again and felt a chill rush from his head to his feet. He tingled all over. He moved closer.
He opened his eyes and found Akane dripping wet.
“Ranma, not now, we’re both girls!” She said.
He looked down to discover he was now a she. “What happened?” She asked.
“Rogue wave I suppose.” Akane began to laugh, the she sighed. “Oh well, let’s go back and dry off, at least we can walk in the surf together.”
As they walked back down through the waves, Ranma stopped and looked out at the horizon.
“Ne, Ranma what’s wrong?”
“I was just thinking about what the old man said about the ocean being a good teacher.”
“I’m not sure about that, but it does sometimes remind me of my father.”
September 3, 1995
“Summer” 1995 Joseph Palmer
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Thanks for reading, this is the third of a series of four works, placing Ranma and Akane in each of the seasons, Winter, Spring, Summer, and coming in a couple months, Autumn.
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