The pillowy white clouds fell apart as Japan Airlines Flight 4560 pierced through the sky. The sunlight beamed on Ranma Saotome's jagged Japanese complexion. He clenched his fists tightly, focusing on the sense of pressure and energy that he felt with his hands.
Beside him, Akane's soft black hair was now against his shoulder. Her brown eyes were now closed. She was sleeping peacefully, quietly breathing. The airline's tan colored blanket was now up to her shoulder. Ranma liked moments when Akane was just so fragile that she looked like she could fall apart without him. Like a porcelain doll.
But Ranma could not sleep. Even though his sister Ranko told him to make sure that he got some rest to counter American jet lag, he refused to sleep. He focused on the airplane's air conditioner whirring quietly over their heads. All he could think about was Ryoga. The sound of the air conditioner whirred like two young men chasing each other. What was it like when you were sitting here on this plane? Ranma thought. He tried to connect with Ryoga mentally but the past seemed so distant and his vision was clouded by memories of Ryoga's pain and suffering.
Ranma took one final look out of the window. The ocean was gone. Large clumps of small rectangular shapes took formation. A highway looked like a thin piece of licorice with small metallic ants crawling all over it. The San Francisco Bay almost looked solid, like warm tar. The Golden Gate Bridge looked like a plastic toy version of itself, so small that a car could not fit through. Now they flew over large and vast gray plains where minature planes rested.
Ranma's piercing black eyes remained wide open. They had arrived.
Ranko Saotome was over the speed limit again. Her dark red Honda Civic zipped across the speedway at 75-miles-per-hour.
“You are gonna kill us both!” Bret MacNamara yelled at his fiancé. Bret was a 35-year-old blonde man who somehow retained his boyish looks. He had soft golden hair, a bowl-shaped jaw and piercing blue eyes. But right now, those eyes were large with fright because of Ranko’s reckless driving record. “I knew I should have driven,” he muttered as he wrapped himself tighter in his puffy blue jacket.
“Apparently you knew that the Volkswagon Jetta can’t really carry anything in its trunk,” Ranko said. She looked like a calm and professional driver as she wore her Chanel sunglasses and a pink scarf around her neck over her large brown Burbury coat. “And you still chose to buy it. Well, since my car has more room then I guess we had to use—“
“You’re going to miss the exit!” Bret shouted.
Correction. They did miss the exit.
After making several U-turns back towards San Francisco International Airport. Bret and Ranko found themselves out of breath and running towards the Japan Airlines ticket counter. And there was Ryan in his official pressed SFO uniform of black slacks and a blue suit. He also wore a dark blue tie with subtle rainbow stripes on it.
Ryan looked up surprisingly as he saw Ranko dash up to him.“Busy day?” Ranko asked.
“Shaddup,” Ryan muttered as he was fumbling with the ticket counter computer. “There was a mix-up in Japan Airlines and United Airlines tickets to Tokyo. I never saw so many upset Japanese people in one group.” Ryan sighed as he continued typing. “By the way, speaking of upset Japanese people, your pal Riki screwed me over pretty well too.”
“You are so overworked,” Ranko told Ryan as she avoided the Riki-situation, “perhaps you should quit this weekend job and take a break for yourself.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Yeah and the house could pay itself for too right?” he muttered. “Of course, I’d like to take a break. I’d like to take a trip to Walt Disney World to celebrate their anniversary.” Ryan flailed his arms in all directions, very similar to the way Martin would. “Or you know what, I’d like to have a boyfriend who does not exploit me for capital resources next time!”
Ranko knew that Ryan was now in bitchy-whiny mode. Bret was giving Ranko a panicked expression. “Anyways,” Ranko said hurriedly. “We need to check on flight JAL 4560.” Ryan, still cranky, entered the data into his computer. The plane had arrived “What’s the rush?” he asked.
“My little brother Ranma is on that flight with his wife Akane,” Ranko said. “They’re arriving early to help me out with the wedding.”
“Ranma,” Ryan said quietly, “where have I heard that name before?” Unfortunately the drama of his life had clouded his memory, especially the memory of Ryoga saying his name so many times as he clenched his fists with fury.
“Don’t worry about it,” Ranko replied quickly. “He’s just my estranged brother and that’s all you really need to know.”
Ryan looked into the computer. "Yeah," he said, "that plane arrived twelve minutes ago and immigration is surprisingly going pretty quickly. They're arriving at Gate 40A."
Ranko smiled with some relief. "Thank you!" and then she pulled Bret and dashed off. Ryan looked back at the young couple as their shadows faded into the distance.
Someone had lost their luggage at terminal B, the San Francisco International Airport male voice announcer said over the background of sonic booms and swerving planes hovering over the crystal glass ceiling. After remaining quiet since they had landed, Ranma and Akane now walked towards the exit. Akane clenched her red purse tightly. Ranma clenched their luggage cart tightly.
A woman walked up past Akane and Ranma. She was African American, with a short cropped black haircut. She was wearing a green cotton tanktop and she had a henna tattoo on her muscular left arm. Ranma's third eye made him realize that Akane was looking at her.
"She looks like your type," Ranma snapped at Akane. The butch woman turned around. Akane suddenly grabbed the cart and started pushing it faster.
"Do you want to get me into trouble?" Akane grumbled as they speedily headed towards the exit. Ranma smiled and nodded. Akane gave him a very cold stare.
The great and fresh San Francisco air whizzed into the arrival gate. Gate 40A was swarming with human beings. Ranma tried not to look because he knew that his older sister was the redheaded Japanese girl waving frantically the words "Saotome" on a card in Japanese.
"Remember," she said, "we're a bleeping happy couple, and Ranko knows nothing about us."
"Yeah, yeah," Ranma shrugged, "husband and wife, together forever and all that bullshit."
"Just smile and shut up," Akane mumbled. "And hi, Ranko!" Akane's neurotic attitude quickly transformed into wary perkiness. Ranko greeted her with a smile on her face. Akane and Ranko hugged each other while Bret and Ranma looked awkwardly on.
Ranko pulled back. “You look so great,” she said. Akane smiled and nodded. “Hiya Ranma,” she looked up at her little brother.
“Hey sis,” Ranma smiled back. “It’s good to see you so happy.”
Ranko then pushed Bret into the front. "This is Bret McNamara," Ranko said jovially, "my fiancé."
Bret reached out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Ranko's brother." And then Ranma bowed quite low and grabbed that hand with quite a firm grip.
"I am honored to meet the fiancée of my onee-chan," he said politely. Bret winced a little bit.
"Oh Ranma-chan," Akane said. "You are so polite. I forgot to bow as well." She bowed low towards Ranma's face and scowled at him.
"Your English is qujte amazing," Bret said bashfully. Ranko rolled her eyes. English is one of the languages that Japanese students learn in high school. Ranma and Akane got up.
"Look honey," Bret replied almost on reflex, "they have such cute customs!"
"I'm Japanese too," Ranko replied as she grabbed Akane's suitcase off the conveyor belt and put it in its lace with the Saotomes' several other pieces of luggage. Ranko put her arm around Bret's shoulder and they proceeded to pull Ranma and Akane's luggage cart with them.
"You never bowed when my father asked you to," Akane muttered under her teeth. Ranma and Akane started walking faster towards the car.
"That's becuase your father never respected or took care of anyone," Ranma muttered back.
After a thirty-minute car ride from San Francisco International Airport, which actually would have taken forty minutes if Ranko had not decided to break every single speed record in California, they arrived to a tall four-bedroom house located in the lush terraces of St. Francis Circle. Bret and Ranko lived in a two-story cottage with red brick walls and ivy vines. The white windowpanes echoed memories of colonial Williamsburg.
"Nice digs," Ranma said, almost flabbergasted.
"It's Bret's parents' place," Ranko said as she unlocked the wooden framed door. "I moved in after going out with Bret for three years but before we got engaged."
The inside was equally as impressive. The guests entered through a wooden door frame with tiered marble columns and more ivy leaves decoratively crawling. They entered into a small hallway with a swirling black iron staircase on one side.The guest room that Ranko led her brother and his wife into had a dark-green hue, a walk-in closet, a small bathroom equipped with shower stall and marble bathtub, a polished wooden Victorian dresser with a small blue vase of orchids and a medium sized television set...
And one bed. The bed itself had a wooden frame, silky green sheets and two pre-fluffed white pillows.
Ranko noticed the shocked expression on Ranma's face. "Is there anything wrong?" she asked. " I could always grab a few futons from the cupboards if you aren't comfortable with the way it looks right now."
"We'll manage," Akane said quickly before Ranma could say anything.
The ambience of the classy Vietnamese crustacean restaurant Thanh Long was almost mystical. Soft candles led to soft dark hues as the sticky and steaming smells of roasted San Francisco crab and buttery garlic noodles created a comforting, mysterious and sensual atmosphere. Bret wanted to take them all to the Cliff House but Ranko insisted that it would be too stereo- typically American. That and she would get the opportunity to see her younger brother in his hideous white bib.
As the two couples jovially split two steaming crabs and a large plate of garlic noodles, Ranko and Bret elated about the start of their relationship. They also completed each others’ sentences in the only way that two twin souls can speak of each other. On the other hand, Ranma cracked the blood-red crabs with the silver tongs with eager and Akane just stared as inquisitively as she possibly could at the happy couple.
"So it turned out that the dashingly attractive and supposedly homosexual man that my friend Ryan was into was actually meterosexual," Ranko laughed. "Ryan was so embarrassed about drunkenly making out with him that he promised him that he would introduce him to a wonderful woman He told Bret that I was the girl version of him."
"Then this Ryan must be a pretty strong man," Ranma said, acknowledging his sister's endurance and strength.
"And that was my first and last heteroflexible experience," Bret smiled as he sipped his iced water with a lemon. "It was also quite ironic that the girl my friend Ryan connected me to just happened to work five blocks from my office building!"
"Bret is an architectural engineer for Goldheimer and Associates," Ranko smiled as he put her arm around his shoulder. "They're famous for the Golden Gate Bridge restoration project." Ranko cracked another crab leg with silvery tongs and started sucking out the succulent white meat from within it. “So anyways, after having to put up with me several years, Bret decides to propose to me in the most amazing way possible.” Bret beamed with pride.
"Oh do tell," Akane sipped her mai tai as she tried to feign interest. Ranma looked down as he tried to keep cracking the crab legs. Taking the signal, Ranko started to tell her tale.
“It was like it was out of the movies,” Ranko said dreamily. “Bret and I were walking from Powell Street Station during my lunchbreak munching hot dogs and diet cokes when he pointed to one of the large billboards over the Virgin Megastore. It turned out that he had hired the construction workers to change the billboard specifically for me.”
"Ranko will you marry me? was what it was supposed to say," Bret laughed at the memories. "But someone goofed and it said Ranky instead of Ranko and Ranko was quite furious."
"And quite embarrassed," Ranko concluded. "I was like, 'who the hell is Ranky?' and then I realized that this billboard was right in the middle of Market Street and everyone I knew at the Chronicle could see it. And Ryan had to do the story on it!"
Ranko laughed. "I certainly could not get involved with it because that would have been biased. The billboard shocked everyone so much that the cable car had stopped midway uphill just so people could look at it."
"Who knew that our love has created such chaos," Bret added.
"And then I had no choice but to say yes," Ranko said. "Not only because I am so in love with Bret but all of San Francisco citizens would have been so completely upset if 'Panko' rejected him." She took this moment to flash the 12-carat diamond gold-band engagement ring that Bret bought for her.
“Bret’s parents will be arriving next week to help us with the preparation of the wedding,” Ranko said. "They are flying in from Connecticut to attend the wedding and personally booked Grace Cathedral, one of the largest churches in San Francisco to host the ceremony." Ranko said this with a small sense of emptiness.
“So what is married life like?” Ranko asked inquisitively.
Ranma paused and then nudged to Akane. “Why don’t you answer that question for them?” he grinned to Akane. She hid her snide expression in another superficial smile.
“Well,” Akane started saying as-a-matter-of-factly, “Marriage is like living with the same person for the rest of your life.” She emphasized the last four words like it was a prison sentence. Ranma
An awkward pause ensued. Ranko and Bret both looked at Akane, who felt like sinking into her chair and then they started to laugh hysterically. Ranma fudged a smile while Akane looked a little bit shocked at their reaction.
“We do that already,” Bret said behind laughs and he held Ranko tighter.
“Yeah, we’re practically roommates!” Ranko chortled. “We’ve lived with each other for two years so we’ve been able to deal with our own roommate issues and bad habits. Like for example, I’ve gotten used to Bret’s habit of walking around the kitchen in his boxers when he gets his midnight snacks.”
“Oh definitely,” Bret replied playfully, “and I’m especially getting used to Ranko’s snoring.” Ranko looked at him and laughed happily, almost sadistically. Ranma and Akane looked at each other with a little bit of shock. That was way too much information for that night. Akane chugged the rest of her lime tasting mai tai down.
“So what about you two?” Bret asked politely. “Ranko hasn’t really told me about your side of the family.”
“Well,” Ranma started with a grin, “it’s quite simple. Our parents wanted to join their martial arts schools together and they used their children as collateral. And that’s how we came to be.” Ranko looked sharply at Ranma and he just continued to grin sadistically.
“Yes,” Akane said as she put down one of her crab legs. “Even though it wasn’t really our choice, we’re working really hard.” She looked at Ranma with a smile. Akane reached her soft hand to Ranma’s rough hands and attempted to grab it. They both looked up at Ranko and Bret smiling.
“To make it work.” That’ll distract them for now.
“That’s very sweet of you,” Ranko sipped her iced water with lemon. “I guess father appreciates all the work that you are doing. And what about children? Bret and I are going to have children as soon as we get married.”
Both Akane and Ranma stopped holding hands. “We haven’t thought about it yet,” Akane said. “We’re far too busy in our careers to worry about children right now.”
"I've heard that children definitely complete you," Ranko smiled.
"Oh really?" Ranma said inquisitively. "Well, I'm going to have to wait for Akane to decide that because she has a lot of other things that complete her."
Underneath the table, Akane shouldered Ranma while surprisingly maintaining a lucid stare back at Ranko. Ranma winced a little bit in pain. Ranko perked her eyes up.
"Are you alright?" she asked with worry.
"Oh no," Ranma groaned. "I'm fine. This crab leg is so tough it almost cracked my teeth. What a bitch." He directed the last word towards Akane who now turned away from Ranma in semi-embarrassment. Bret and Ranko looked at each other, semi-puzzled.
That night, Ranma and Akane lay down on the small guest bed in Ranko's room. Akane was furious and Ranma felt guilty. They both looked up at Ranko’s pale white ceiling. The clock ticked painfully slow in the background.
They could hear Bret and Ranko entering their bedroom. They heard the door close. Some mumbled speech. And then, they heard several extremely loud squeaks coming from upstairs.
"Are they...?" Akane started to snicker. Ranma was shocked.
Ranma and Akane focused on the sounds above their heads. The squeaking got faster and faster. And then finally it stopped. Then a few faint squeaks, each one weaker and weaker.
Ranma laughed. "That was pretty fast. I bet she didn’t orgasm."
“Gross!” Akane playfully punched Ranma’s shoulder.
Ranma laughed and then turned to Akane, his wife. She had the most piercing purple eyes and she did look cute when she smiled. “Was I ever that fast?” he asked Akane. “Like, was I too fast that you didn’t get to come?”
"Nope," Akane grinned. "You weren't.” She paused. “But Ukyou was a lot better."
Ranma frowned for a second and then he tried to smile again. He had not seen Akane happy for quite a while and that's all he wanted for now.
"Well," Akane looked at Ranma and kissed his cheek lightly. "Good night."
"You too," Ranma said. Akane rolled to the side to sleep. Ranma stayed awake for quite some time, with the ticking clock to keep him company.
Okay, this is where the novel is going to get structurally confusing. So far, there are three major storylines- Ranko/Ranma, Ryoga and his boys and Shampoo and her girls. But Ranma is going to visit Ryoga so this means that his storyline is going to merge and Ranko is going to have her own storyline. It’s nice to know that I’m putting the heterosexual characters in as much drama as the gay characters.
For non-Ranma ½ fans, Ranko and Ranma are brother and sister. Ranma ½ fans can choose to imagine the twist in the novel. I am starting to see how the anime really complicates and screws up the realities that I’m trying to create for these characters.