A Ranma ½ short story
adapted by Larry F
An adaptation of an original story by Paul Villard
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
On a hot, sunny summer’s day, Ranma Saotome sat on the edge of the engawa of the Tendo family home, relaxing in the shade. With everyone but Kasumi gone for the day, he’d found himself in the middle of an unexpected afternoon of peace, the likes of which he'd rarely experienced since before Jusenkyou. He contemplated the yard beside the house, and the koi pond he knew every square inch of intimately… from the inside out. ‘Well, the fish will be getting a break today, thank goodness!’
It had been a busy year since the fiasco of the wedding attempt, and Ranma had gone through a lot of changes. With his mother around, he’d done a lot of growing up. She’d insisted that he get better grades in school, with an eye to passing the college entrance exams, and with her help he’d improved drastically. But that didn’t stop his father from giving him the usual rude awaking every morning, and it didn’t stop rivals, ‘friends’, or the occasional magic prince from showing up to challenge the dojo’s serenity.
As he sat, too bored and lazy to think of anything better to do, Kasumi came into the family room with a tray containing two glasses and a pitcher of iced tea. She walked over to him and sat down, placing the tray between them. "Since today is so hot, I thought you might like something to help you cool off. Would you mind very much if I joined you?"
Ranma smiled at her. "Not at all, Kasumi-san. I was just wondering what to do with myself."
Kasumi poured the tea as she mulled over that idea. "I suppose it must be very boring for you with none of your friends visiting. They’re all so energetic."
Ranma grimaced as he picked up his glass. "I guess you could say that… But it’s not like I want to fight all the time. When me an’ Pops were on the road, I had to practice every day, but sometimes in the afternoon, when it was hot like today, he just wanted to take naps, and I got time to myself with nothing I had to do. I kinda miss that."
"You know, I don’t think you’ve ever told us anything about your travels, Ranma. What was it like to wander all over the country?"
"Well, most of the time, it was okay. There were times when I was tired an’ hungry, and when we didn’t have a place to stay, we had to live out of little pup tents. But there was a lot of places I’m glad that we went to, and there were a lot of people who were really nice to me."
Kasumi perked up a bit. "Could you tell me about them?"
Ranma thought for a moment. "There are too many things to say, and I ain't much for telling stories. But there was one old lady that really stands out from the crowd, even though I never actually met her face to face."
"When I was still six, and we'd only left home a few months before, Pops took me to this little village up in the mountains near Gifu. We stayed in the local dojo for a while, and it had one of the only telephones in the town. It was a real antique, too; one of those kinds that hung on the wall, and had a separate earpiece, while the part you spoke into was on the front of it. I remember thinking how beautiful it looked, with old polished wood and shiny brass bells on the top.
"I was too little to reach the phone without help, but I used to listen when the master of the dojo talked to it. I thought it was magic. Then one day I found out that somewhere inside it there was this amazing person whose name was "Information Please", and there wasn't nothin' she didn’t know. "Information Please" could tell you anybody's phone number or address, or what the time was, or just about anything else.
"My first time talkin' to the lady I thought was like a genie was one day while Pops was out drinking with the dojo master. I was playin' around the tool bench in the shed around the back of the dojo proper, when I whacked my finger with a hammer, hard. The pain was awful, but there didn't seem to be much point in cryin'. Partly, that was because Pops had already begun telling me that only girls cried, but also it was because there wasn't no one there to give me any sympathy. I walked around the place for a time sucking on my hurt finger, before I found myself in front of the phone. That's when it hit me; I could ask the genie what to do.
"I ran and got a stool from the living area, and put it under the phone. Then I climbed up and picked the receiver off the hook and held it to my ear. "Information Please" I yelled into the mouthpiece, which was hangin' just above my head. I heard a couple'a clicks, and then a little voice spoke into my ear.
"Information," was what it said.
"I hurt my finger!" I cried into the phone. The tears came easy now that I had an audience.
"Isn't your mother home?" came the question.
"Nobody's here but me," I blubbered.
"Are you bleeding?" the voice asked.
"No," I replied. "I hit my finger with a hammer an' it hurts!
"Can you open the refrigerator?" she asked. I said I could. "Then get an ice cube and hold it to your finger," said the voice.
"I said 'thank you' an' did what she said, and after a while my finger didn't hurt so much. Bein' young an' all, I thought she was all-knowin' after that. And better yet, she didn't yell at me like Pops.
"After that day, I called "Information Please" for everything. When I started goin' to the local grade school— since we stayed there until after the school year started an' I'd just turned seven, I had'ta go to the first grade— I used'ta ask her for help with geography, and she told me where Nagasaki was, an' she helped me with math, and all the other stuff. One day, when I caught a squirrel in the woods, she was the one who told me that it could eat fruit and nuts.
"Then one day the dojo’s pet canary died. I was really affected by it, because that was the first time I'd ever seen anything die, and I used'ta loved to sit by the cage an' listen to it sing. So I called "Information Please" and told her the about it. She listened, and then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was heartbroken, so I asked her, "Why should birds sing so pretty, if they’re only going to end up dead on the bottom of the cage?"
"Then she told me, "You must remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow, that made me feel a lot better.
"Then there was this one day when I was having trouble with my homework; next thing you know, I was on the phone. "Information Please." "Information," said the familiar voice. "How do you spell ‘fix’?'" I asked. She told me the answer, and I said thanks and went back to the spelling homework I was doin'. It turned out to be the last time I got to call her. Pops decided it was time to move on the next day.
"As we traveled, I found myself missin' my telephone friend a lot. But I never tried to call her again while we were on the road. "Information Please" belonged in that old wooden phone box back in that small village in Gifu prefecture, and I just never thought that she’d be in the shiny new phones I saw in the other towns. Pretty soon, I got occupied with other things, like the n-n-neko-ken trainin', and forgot about callin'.
"But even after I grew up an' became a teenager, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Sometimes when I was confused or depressed about somethin', I would recall the feelin' of security I had back then. These days, I can appreciate how patient, understanding and kind she was to spend so much of her time helpin' a little boy who missed his mother.
"Years later, when me an’ Pops were on our way west to China, we passed that way through Gifu again. The village had gotten bigger, and there were a lot more phones there, more modern ones. I had about an hour to kill while Pops was trying to scare up a meal for himself, so I looked around and found a public phone, and I dialed the town operator and said, "Information Please."
"To my wonder, I heard the same small voice I remembered so well.
"I hadn't planned on it, but I heard myself sayin', "Could you please tell me how to spell ‘fix’?"
"There was a long pause. Then came the answer, "I guess your finger must be healed by now."
"I had to laugh. "So it really is you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me back then?"
"I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children of my own, and I used to look forward to your calls."
"I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and asked if I could call her again when we came back from China. "Please do," she said. "Just ask for Ikuko."
"When we finally came back, it wasn’t quite the way I thought. We’d been chased all over China by Shampoo, and we only lost her when we started the long swim back to Japan. I was still bummed out about the curse, too. But I remembered my promise, even though we landed a lot farther north and wouldn’t be going through Gifu again. On the road to Tokyo, I scraped up enough money for a long-distance call, and asked to be connected to the phone company in that village. But this time, a different voice answered, "Information." I asked for Ikuko-san.
"Are you a friend?" she said.
"Yes, a very old friend," I answered.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this," she said. "Ikuko had been working part time in the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."
"Before I could hang up, she asked, "Wait a minute. Are you Ranma-san?"
"Well, Ikuko-san left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called when she was too sick to work. Let me read it to you."
"The note said, Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean.
"I thanked the girl on the phone, and hung up. An' yes, I knew exactly what the old lady had meant."
When Ranma finished his tale, Kasumi sat as if frozen in place, tears streaming silently down her face. Finally, she dabbed at her eyes with her apron, and then scooted over closer to Ranma. To his great surprise, she hugged him fiercely. "Oh, Ranma. You know, I usually still think of you as that brash, conceited young man who first came to our home two years ago, but now I think I won’t anymore. You just demonstrated past any doubt that there’s more to you than meets the eye. Thank you."
She released him and stood up, taking her empty glass. "I’ll leave the rest of the tea with you. The others should be back soon, and I have to get dinner started. But will you tell me more of your stories later? Please?"
Dazed, Ranma collected his wits. "Um… Sure, Kasumi-san. I’d be glad to."
With a sunny smile, she left him to sort out the welter of feelings she’d raised in him. It took him the rest of that afternoon… and many more besides.
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