The Surprise (Day 7)
"So, why the Hell da I have ta be that one ta take ya back home, again?" Ranma complained as she walked. Despite her words, the redhead was in a good mood. A nice (dreamless) night's sleep made the presence of the Lost Boy walking beside her much less distracting than it had been the day before. Ranma wasn't sure if the lack of dreams were due to her meditating, or just luck, but she was glad either way.
"Don't look at me," Ryoga grumbled, "It was Nabiki's idea." That morning, Akane had offered to walk him home, only for Nabiki to point out that she should be home to greet their aunt when she arrived, forcing Ryoga to go with her suggestion from the night before about Ranma.
The two shared a rare moment of peace, as they walked down the street. Seeing his companion's cheerful expression, Ryoga asked, "So, I guess you're not feeling sick anymore?"
"Huh?" Ranma said in confusion, before remembering the excuse she used the previous night. "Oh! Uh, yeah. Guess I was just having an off day yesterday. Anyway, we're almost there." Looking ahead at her words, Ryoga saw his family's house coming into view. However, there was something very unusual about it.
The lights were on.
"Uh, Ranma, are you sure you brought me to the right house?" Ryoga asked.
"I'm pretty sure," Ranma replied with a shrug. "Only one way ta find out."
Ryoga pulled ahead of Ranma and reached for the door. "It's unlocked," he said in surprise, as he pulled it open. Sending a glance at his companion, who simply shrugged back, they headed inside.
Almost immediately, they heard singing coming from further inside, as Ryoga's face lit up. "That's my mom's voice!" He cried happily, before darting further into the house.
Following behind at a slower pace, Ranma peeked into the kitchen to see Ryoga hugging a woman she had never seen before. Judging by the way she got over her momentary shock and began to hug Ryoga back, Ranma could only assume Ryoga had been right about who she was.
Not wanting to interrupt their moment, Ranma took a moment to examine her rival's mother. Of average height for a Japanese woman, she was only little taller than her own son, and had the same black hair he did. However, when she smiled, it revealed that she lacked the pronounced canines her son had, and her eyes were darker, almost black.
"It's so good to see you, Ryoga," his mother said softly. Pulling back from the hug, she looked Ryoga up and down. "Oh my, you've grown so much since I last saw you!"
"It's good to see you too, Mom!" Ryoga replied with a genuinely happy tone, something Ranma rarely heard in his voice.
However, while Ranma stayed silent, someone else didn't. A cry suddenly rang out, distracting the Hibiki matron from her reunion with her son. "Oh dear," she said, as she turned around. "It sounds like someone woke up." Moving over to a nearby cradle that neither of the teens had noticed before, she leaned down and lifted up the crying babe within. "Hush now, Yoiko-chan. What's the matter, are you hungry?"
As she walked over to the bottle she had been preparing before her son entered the room, Ranma and Ryoga could only stand in wide-eyed surprise at the child's name. The baby quickly grew quiet, in favor of its meal, allowing Ryoga to ask, "Mom… is that…?"
Turning to give her son a better look, she said, "Ryoga, meet your baby sister, Yoiko!"
"Yoiko, huh?" Ranma said with a grin. "How'd ya come up with that name?"
"It was my husband's idea. Apparently he heard the name somewhere, and liked it." Mrs. Hibiki replied, only to pause a moment later when she realized there was another person there. "Er, I'm sorry, but who are you, again?"
Rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly at the realization that she hadn't introduced herself yet, the redhead said, "I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry 'bout this."
"…Is that so?" Ryoga's mother replied slowly, as she cast a sly look at her son, drawing a puzzled expression from him. Turning back to see Ranma's equally confused face, she explained. "You know, I've been wondering for a while what could possess my son to chase someone all the way to China and back, but with a body like that, I suppose it makes sense."
Silence reigned for a moment as the two teens processed what she said, before they both pointed at each other and shouted at the same time. "It's not like that! There's no way I'd be interested in him!" When they realized they had said the same thing, they settled for glaring at each other instead.
Ryoga's mother blinked in surprise before laughing, and saying, "I had just been teasing, but after hearing THAT..."
"M-Mom!" Ryoga cried in embarrassment. It was one thing to hear something so ridiculous from Kuno, but hearing it from his own mother somehow seemed to make it more… real. And that was not something Ryoga wanted to dwell on.
"We're just Rivals! That's all!" Ranma protested, feeling rather similar to the Lost Boy in that moment. "Ryoga's the only guy around her decent enough ta actually train marital arts with."
At that three things happened almost in unison. Ranma's eyes widened and her face lit up, as she realized her slip of the tongue. Ryoga had a similar reaction, as he was filled with twin emotions of embarrassment that Ranma had said that in front of his mother, and anger at the redhead for the same reason, thinking she was trying to pull a prank on him. Lastly, Mrs. Hibiki gasped in surprise, giving a cry of, "Oh my!"
"MARTIAL Arts!" Ranma quickly corrected herself. "I meant Martial Arts!" With an embarrassed groan, Ranma quickly retreated from the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "I-I'm just gonna wait out here for you two ta finish talking…"
Ryoga could not suppress a growl of genuine anger. 'Dammit, Ranma! Why'd you have to be here?' He thought. 'This is the first time I've seen any family in years, and you have to ruin it!' He turned to apologize to his mother, but paused when he saw tears streaming down her face.
Of course, the smile on her face showed that they were hardly tears of sadness. Sweeping her son up into a one-armed hug, Yoiko supported with the other, she cried out, "Oh, my baby boy's growing up! I'm so happy I was here to see this! I was so afraid I would never get to see you in a normal relationship!"
Ryoga was tempted to point out that none of his relationships could really be called 'normal', but decided that seeing his usually worrying mother so happy was worth a little extra embarrassment. After a moment, his mother pulled away and composed herself, saying, "Oh dear, I never properly introduced myself to your girlfr- oh, right, 'rival'." Ryoga had to suppress a groan, as his mother giggled at her 'slip of the tongue'.
Sweeping out into the living room, Ryoga's mother saw the redhead meditating on the couch. "Excuse me, Ranma," she said politely. Seeing Ranma look up, she went on. "I never introduced myself. I'm Ryoga's mother, Hana Hibiki."
'Hana? Where have I heard that name before?' Ranma thought, before replying, "Uh, it's a pleasure ta meet ya."
"Normally I would offer to let you stay for dinner, but I'm afraid I was just about to head out myself." Hana said apologetically. "I arranged to meet someone, and am already a day late."
"How about we help you get there, then?" Ryoga offered.
"You're gonna give directions?" Ranma teased
"I said 'WE'." Ryoga said through gritted teeth, as he glared at his rival.
"Oh, there's no need to worry about it, I have a map!" Hana said cheerfully, before admitting, "Although, I did always have trouble keeping track of where I am on these things…"
'Well, I'd feel bad if she got lost while trying ta take care of a baby,' Ranma thought, already deciding to help. "Well, I suppose I can help," she said aloud. "Besides, I probably know the area better, anyway."
"Well, alright then," Hana relented, before handing Ranma the map.
The map looked a couple decades (at least) out of date, but Ranma could still make out the general route. As Mrs. Hibiki went to gather her travel pack, Ranma turned to Ryoga and said, "This route'll take us back ta Nerima. Looks like whoever your mom's visiting is pretty close ta the Dojo."
Grinning, Ryoga said happily, "That means I can visit her while she's in town!"
Before more could be said, Hana returned, obviously having gotten used to being reading to travel in a hurry. "Thank you for the help, Ranma," she said with a smile. Gesturing to the map, she added, "It's been almost eighteen years since I was last there."
Leaving the house, Ranma took the lead, carefully following the outdated map best she could. As the Hibikis followed, Hana whispered to her son, "You know, I was starting to get worried about you." Seeing her son look towards her in confusion, she went on. "Well, with our family's sense of direction, it's hard to make friends, or build relationships. I'm just glad you've managed to overcome that, and with such a pretty girl, too."
"Mom, Ranma and I aren't-" Ryoga started, only to get cut off.
"Hey, it's this way, you two!" Ranma cried out, as the two Hibikis started to walk past a turn they needed to take.
With Ranma staying closer now, to make sure not to lose them, Hana looked down at her now sleeping daughter, and asked, "If you don't mind me asking, Ranma, why did you seem so surprised by Yoiko's name?"
Ranma could not suppress grin at the groan that came from Ryoga, upon being reminded of that event. To her rival's mother, she said, "That's a pretty funny story, actually…"
The conversation continued, Ranma and Ryoga each competing with embarrassing stories about the other. Suddenly, Ranma realized they had come to the end of the route laid out on the map. Only something seemed wrong.
They were standing in front of the Tendo Dojo.
Scratching her neck awkwardly, Ranma thought, 'Dammit, I must have gotten too distracted, and taken a wrong turn somewhere.'
Just as the redhead was about to say something about it, Hana swept past with a smile, saying, "Oh my, it's been so long since I've been back here!" Ranma and Ryoga exchanged confused glances before following her through the front gate.
Inside, Kasumi was sweeping the front walk, but looked up as they entered. With a smile she said, "Auntie Hana! It's so good to see you again!"
"Is that you Kasumi? My, you've grown so much! And you're the splitting image of your mother, too." Hana said with a smile, as the two began to chat.
Meanwhile, Ranma and Ryoga both stood stunned for a moment, as they realized what was going on. However, as the full implications of that started to sink in, they cried out in unison.
Are you enjoying my ongoing story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, MaltrazzWrite a Review