Chapter 1 : If I Could Turn Back Time

The Nerima District of Tokyo, Japan -- Two Years, 1 week later (Present Day)

     As the cool, autumn weather of Mid-September began to settle in across Nerima, teenagers of all ages trudged their way-- almost reluctantly-- back to Furinken High School. Saotome Ranma and Tendou Akane walked together, quite leisurely, to school that brisk September morning.
     "Can you believe it, Ranma?" Akane asked rather casually, swinging her arms a little as she walked.
     "Believe what?" Ranma asked the girl walking with him in return.
     "That this is the first day of our Senior year."
     "Yeah.. Time goes by really fast, huh? Even if I am spending it with a kawaiikune tomboy like you." Akane raised an eyebrow at Ranma's last remark, and punched him in the arm. "Itai!" He muttered, rubbing the now-sore spot near his shoulder. He and Akane looked at each other for a moment, and Akane began smiling brightly.
     "You deserved it, baka." She told Ranma playfully, both her tone of voice and expression rather cheerful.
     "Yeah, I s'pose you're right." Ranma sighed, unable to resist smiling back.

     Carefully, so that no one would notice, Ranma slipped his hand around Akane's, and they entered the schoolyard together. This, of course, was a normal action for most ordinary couples. However, those who knew Akane and Ranma knew that they were, indeed, not an ordinary couple.
     The two were not blocked or stopped as they made their way into the school, as they might have been a few years ago. Akane recalled, wistfully, how she would have to pummel guy after guy just to get to the doors of Furinken. She was glad that that part of her life was long over. Even though there had been an occasional battle or two, the skirmishes seemed to cease altogether once Ranma and Akane declared that they would, indeed, wed after they graduated.
     As Ranma and Akane entered into the main hall of Furinken, they were greeted by Kuonji Ukyou and, not too far behind her, Hibiki Ryouga. Ryouga had decided that he wanted to graduate from high school, and so he had taken a placement test and was, miraculously, placed in the highest grade level.
     Ukyou was cheery, as always, waving to Ranma and Akane as they entered the building. "Ranchan! Akane-chan!" The couple smiled back, and made their way over to where Ukyou and Ryouga were standing.

     "Hey you two! I'm glad I caught sight of you! Ryouga and I were hoping we would, right Ryouga?" Ryouga, who has his back turned towards the others, said nothing in reply to Ukyou's query. Ukyou laughed off his silence. "Don't mind him, he's just a little nervous about coming to school! So, what rooms are you in this year? I'm in 4125 and Ryouga's in 4330."
     Akane looked down at her room assignment and smiled. "Great, Ucchan! I have room 4125, too!" Ukyou smiled at Akane, but on the inside she felt like she was ready to snap into two. She was taking Ranma and Akane's commitment to one another better than Ranma's other suitors, but she was still quite upset that Ranma had picked Akane over her. And now, to hear the girl who had stolen Ranchan from her call her by his special nickname for her; it was devastating.
     "Well, Akane! I guess I'll see you there in a little while, after I walk Ryouga to class."
     Ranma and Akane looked at each other, then back to Ukyou. "Walk him to class?" They asked the Okonomiyaki chef, in unison.
     "So I don't get lost, Okay!?" Ryouga roared, obviously brooding over some unknown fact. Ranma put a hand on Ukyou's shoulder.
     "Ucchan, don't you worry about Ryouga. You and Akane go on ahead. I got the same class room as Ryouga, so I'll walk with him." He told his childhood friend, grinning. Ukyou smiled back, and thanked him, and she and Akane were on their way.

     "I don't need your help, you know, Saotome." Ryouga barked at his arch-nemesis. "I can get to class fine on my own!" With that, he began to head in the wrong direction.
     "C'mon, Ryouga!" Ranma called after him, following the other boy, and grabbing his arm to stop him. "You're already going the wrong way," to that remark, Ryouga snarled, "and besides that, I'm tired of fighting with you. We used to be friends when we were kids, why can't we be like that again?"
     Ryouga fumed for a moment, then hung his head. Ranma didn't want to fight him anymore. Without the prospect of winning over Akane, and with an arch-nemesis who wanted to be friends, Ryouga no longer had anything to live for. He hoped sincerely that this year would go by quickly. If it lasted any longer, he might have the urge to point his fingers at his chest and scream 'Shishi Houkodan' at the top of his lungs.
     "Ryouga..?" Ryouga looked at Ranma for a long, silent moment, then nodded slightly. Letting out a relieved sigh, Ranma tugged on his former rival's arm. "Come on, then! We're gonna be late!"


     Although this day was monumental for those children who were returning to school, it was just another day at the Nekohanten. The restaurant had picked up business as summer began to come to a close, and Cologne suspected that business would increase as the weather became colder and the demand for a hot bowl of ramen to warm the stomach increased. So, keeping that in mind, the old woman had decided to hire help.
     Unfortunately, at first, there were few responses to the sign she posted in the window. The few people who did inquire seemed to be very insulted by how little Cologne wanted to pay them for their services. Although Shampoo protested, claiming that she could service all customers without the help of any others, the sign remained up.

     Midway through August, the sign came down. A young and very pretty, albeit a bit unkempt, girl had wandered into the restaurant. She looked almost as if she were in a daze, but as soon as she had wandered into the Nekohanten, she asked immediately of the help wanted sign.
     "Sign is mistake." Shampoo told her, as she was the first to encounter the girl. "You go now, okay?"
     "Oh, I am so terribly sorry.." The girl apologized, her ebony hair cascading forward as she bowed. "It was wrong of me to assume that you were hiring. I merely saw the sign and--"
"Shampoo!" Cologne yelled in a scolding tone, hopping over on her stick. "Stand up straight, girl. Let me get a good look at you."
     As she straightened herself, a smile formed on her lips. "You must be the owner of this wonderful place." She said lightly to Cologne, her green eyes twinkling. "My name is Mujouken Aikou. I'm very honored to meet you."
     Cologne looked over the girl. She would make a good waitress, but not in the condition she was in. "Do you have a home anywhere, girl?" She asked. Aikou responded in the negative by shaking her head. "Very well. We will give you shelter, but it will take away from your salary." Shampoo frowned slightly.
     "Hi-bachan, where she stay?" She asked. There were, after all, only enough rooms above the restaurant for her, Cologne, and Mousse.
     "You can make the attic into a room for her." Cologne instructed. Shampoo was a bit surprised that her great-grandmother had instructed her to do the task, but she sighed and headed off to do what she was told. "Now, come, Aikou. Let's get you into a hot bath, and into some nice clothes." Cologne told Aikou as she began to hop away on her stick.
     "Thank you very much for your kindness, Ojousan." Aikou chirped happily, following the old woman. Now, for sure, she thought, I'll be able to find Ryouga-sama.

     Presently, over a month later, Aikou had indeed turned out to be a great help to the Nekohanten. Although Shampoo saw her as nothing but a nuisance, both Cologne and Mousse found it quite nice to have her working with them. Aikou was cute, Cologne mused, almost as much as Shampoo was. She was also extremely polite. That aspect of her attitude reminded Cologne of the Tendou's eldest daughter.
    Nekohanten o okoshiyasu! Please, may I show you to a table?"
Cologne chuckled, as the new customer nodded dumbly in reply to Aikou's greeting, and followed her to a table. She could almost see the drool start to slide down his mouth. Although the fact that male customers responded to Aikou in this way made Shampoo a tad jealous, in the month that Aikou had been working, business had almost doubled.

     "Shampoo! I love you!" For once, in quite a while, Mousse had picked the right target, and was now attached to Shampoo, who growled at him.
     "Stupid Mousse!" She screeched, dumping a glass of ice water over his head.
     "Oh, dear.." Aikou murmured, watching, then turned back to the man she had seated. "Please excuse me, sir. I shall be back to take your order in a moment." She bowed, then turned, making her way across the room to Shampoo and Mousse. Once she had learned of Mousse's strange predicament, she had begun carrying a small flask of hot water in her apron. She pulled it out and began to pour it over Mousse as Shampoo continued to yell.
     "Mousse is dummy! Shampoo no is love Mousse! Shampoo love Ranma!" As Shampoo finished yelling, Aikou's eyes widened, and she dropped the flask, hitting Mousse with it.
     "Ra... Ranma? Did you say Ranma? Saotome Ranma?" Shampoo nodded.
     "Shampoo was marry Ranma, but stupid girl Akane steal him from Shampoo." the Amazon explained.
     Aikou hadn't really heard a thing that Shampoo had said, she was so stunned. "Ca... Can you take me to Saotome-kun? He's a childhood friend of mine." She asked of the other girl. Shampoo glared at her, then turned away, folding her arms.
     "Ranma live at Tendou Dojou. But Shampoo no show stupid girl like you! You find on own!" She told Aikou, before marching off to serve the man who had just recently walked in.
     Aikou frowned, sighing. She looked down at Mousse, who was no longer a duck, but was sitting on the ground, almost in a daze. "Mousse-san, do you know where the Tendou Dojou is?" The boy pushed his glasses up, snapping out of his daze, and immediately gave Aikou instructions on where to find Ranma's home. "Please tell Cologne that I'm very sorry to leave without permission, but I must see Saotome-kun!" Before Mousse could either agree or protest, Aikou rushed out of the restaurant.


     "Well, that wasn't too bad for a first day, huh Akane?" Ranma mused as they walked into the Tendou's home. As they entered, Ranma dropped his bag to the ground, took Akane's, and set it down next to his. Akane promptly headed to her bedroom to change, and Ranma decided to head towards the kitchen, to see if he could persuade Kasumi to feed him lunch. After all, now that they were Seniors at Furinken, they only had half a day of school.
     "Hey Kasumi--" As Ranma rounded the corner to the dining room, he was a bit surprised to see everyone gathered at the table. Kasumi smiled at Ranma as he entered into the dining area. That's odd.. Ranma thought as he looked at everyone. There was a girl sitting at the table, with her back to Ranma. Kasumi's here, Akane's upstairs, but who's that other girl? It can't be Nabiki, she would still be at the University right now.
     "Ranma, my boy," Genma said, standing up, "it seems as though you have a visitor. It's been ages since we've seen her, so mind your manners! You got that, boy?"
     Ranma raised an eyebrow at his father. "Okay. Whatever."
     "Go on now," Genma told the girl, and she stood, turning to Ranma. Ranma stared at her for a long time, trying to figure out who she was. She looked very familiar, but at the same time.... He couldn't quite make out who she was. He found himself imagining her with short hair, and about six years younger. Now, he was almost positive he knew who it was, but how could he be sure.
     "Good afternoon, Saotome-kun. It's been a very long time since we last saw each other." The girl greeted Ranma, rather politely. It is her! Ranma thought. There had only been one person to ever refer to him as 'Saotome-kun.'
     "Aikou?" He asked, just to be safe. She nodded, a smile spreading across her face. "Aikou! Man, it's been like six or seven years! How've you been?!"
     "I've been well, Saotome-kun, but I was wondering if you could tell me--"
     "That's great! --Hey, Akane. Come here. I want you to meet a childhood friend of mine. Akane, this is Aikou. Aikou, this is Akane. My iinazuke."

     Akane smiled a bit awkwardly, having been thrown into something unexpected, and Aikou bowed politely to Akane. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Saotome-kun, I've just come to ask you if you could tell me where I ca--" Once again, Aikou was interrupted by her childhood friend.
     "This is great! Because Akane and I invited a few of our friends over to lunch, and I have a feeling that you'll remember at least one of them!" Ranma was grinning from ear to ear. "They should be here any moment..."

     As if on cue, a voice called from the door, "Ranchan! We're here!"
     "Ucchan! I'm in the dining room!"
     Ukyou and Ryouga soon appeared in the doorway, next to Ranma. "Hey, Ryouga! Look who's here!" He said, indicating Aikou. "Do you remember her?"
     Aikou's jaw dropped, and she lifted her hand to cover her mouth. "Ryouga-sama.." She whispered in shock. Ryouga looked at her, a look of surprise mounted on his features. Of course he remembered this girl. She was a girl he had known since she was born, a few months after himself. Their mothers were best friends, so they had been playmates through their younger years. He had even stayed with her family when his parents became lost and didn't come home for long periods of time.
     Here, standing before Ryouga, was a girl who led him to school every day, and when he had been put into an all-boy's middle school, she had cut her hair off and dressed as a boy so that she could continue to do so. She was the first girl who had ever shown him warmth and kindness, and here she was, standing before him six years after he had left to chase down Ranma.
     "Aikou." He stated, at a loss of any other words.


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Chapter 2 -- Omoide ga Ippai