Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 6: Timeless

"Well, at least the robe works!" said Ryoga, backing from the angry blue-haired woman advancing on him.

"Why did you not warn me about that puddle!?" Robo demanded. She was wearing a loose white robe, now soggy up to her knees. Robo took a moment to tighten the cord around her waist, fitting the robe more closely to her body.

"I didn't think it was going to be that deep! Besides, why didn't you see it?"

"Because I was looking at the map! You were supposed to be watching where we were going." She grabbed Ryoga by the neck and began to shake him, "AND NOW WE ARE OUT OF HOT WATER BECAUSE SOME PIG, WHOSE NAME I WILL NOT MENTION, USED THE REST OF IT UP!!!"

"Ack!" acked Ryoga, eyes bulging. His face began to turn purple.

Robo threw him to the ground in disgust. "You could have told me, you know. I could have doused you without spilling the rest on the ground."

Ryoga rubbed his neck. "Look, we've been through this. I don't like people to know about my curse! I'm sorry that I lost the rest of the water, but it was an accident."

Robo said nothing. She looked at the map again, and started walking down the road, ignoring him. Guiltily, Ryoga followed. After walking for an hour or so, Ryoga risked an attempt at communication. "It's not really that bad, is it? I mean, at least you're pretty."

Robo gave him a sardonic look, and he wished that he hadn't spoken. "You do not know how relieved I am to hear that," she said ironically. Then her voice returned to its regular calm, betrayed only by the look of hopeless anger on her face. "I hate this body, Ryoga. Changing from a human to a pig is nothing compared to what I go through. This body is so disorganized, both mentally and physically. Whenever I experience something, there is no guarantee that I will remember it. The emotions I feel in this body are ten times what I feel normally. I can actually lose control, like I did when I grabbed you by the neck." She looked at her hands. "The sensations that I feel...touch...taste...sight...are similar to what I felt as a machine, but confused. When I smell the air, I cannot tell what it is made of. Only that it smells sweet, or unpleasant, without knowing why. I do not even want to know what is keeping me balanced, since I obviously have no internal gyros." She stopped and turned to Ryoga with tears in her eyes. "Every minute I am in this body, I am on the brink of terror. I am always afraid that something will go wrong, and that I will have no idea how to fix myself. Do you see now why being 'pretty' brings me so little comfort?"

Ryoga nodded miserably, uncertain as to how to comfort the woman. "Worst of all," continued Robo bitterly, "is the knowledge that humans live such a short lifetime. In this body, I can expect no more than about eighty more years of life."

"That seems like a long time," suggested Ryoga.

"For you, perhaps," smiled Robo without mirth. "But for me, it is next to nothing."

"How old are you?" asked Ryoga, curiously.

"I was active for four hundred years from the time Lucca reawakened me, and though my memory was damaged, I believe that I had experienced at least another two centuries of life before that."

Ryoga's jaw dropped. "You're over 600 years old? That's older than Cologne!"

"As a robot, I could expect several thousand more years of life, with regular maintenance, before my memory circuits deteriorated beyond the point of recovery. Every day I spend in this body, I am losing years of my life."

Then Ryoga finally saw a way that he could console his despondent companion. He put his hand on her shoulder. "It doesn't work that way, Robo. Your cursed form ages at the same rate as your regular form, not vice-versa. I've spent a lot of time as a pig, but I've aged normally, despite the fact that pigs don't live as long. Even if you stay a girl the rest of your life, you should still live to be several thousand years old."

Robo looked relieved. "Well, that is something, at least. Still, I would not relish the thought of spending thousands of years like this. I intend to return to my normal form as soon as possible." She looked at the map. "Which should be soon. According to the map, we are approaching the outskirts of Nerima."

"Really?" said Ryoga eagerly. Now that he thought about it, the area did look kind of familiar. He began to run.

"Wait!" called Robo. "You had better stay with me! It would not do for you to get lost again after coming this far!"

Grudgingly, Ryoga halted and waited for Robo to catch up. The two of them walked a distance, and finally Nerima came into view. As they entered the town, Robo's map became useless. It was a road map, and provided few details about individual towns. In addition, Robo came to realize that Ryoga would have as little luck finding his way around in town as he had had in finding the town at all. So, in spite of Ryoga's grumbling about wasting time, Robo entered a public phone booth and looked up the Tendo home. She exited the booth with the address firmly in mind, and began to follow street signs. Soon, the Tendo property came into view, and Ryoga, confident that he could find his way to a place that he could see, broke into a run again, this time with Robo in tow.

He burst through the front gates, forgetting to open them first, and into the Tendo yard. To his joy, the first person he saw was Akane. "Akane!" he yelled happily. "I'm so glad that you're all right!"

"Oh, hello, Ryoga," Akane answered, not looking up. She seemed very glum.

"What's the matter? Is it Ranma? I'll kill him for you, if you want," he offered hopefully, brushing splinters of shattered gate off of his shoulders.

Akane smiled at this. "No, it's not Ranma. It's kind of a long story." She finally looked at him and noticed his partner. "Who's your friend?"

"My name is Robo," Robo responded. "Ryoga has told me much about you."

"Nothing bad, I hope," Akane smiled. "Robo, huh? That's an interesting name,"

"So I have been told," answered Robo with a smirk. "Actually, this is not my true form. I have been cursed by the waters of Jusenkyo, just like Ry-"

"Just like Ranma," Ryoga interrupted.

"Hmmm, I see. I'll get some hot water for you then. I'll be back in a sec!" Akane walked inside.

"Please," hissed Ryoga, "I don't want anyone to know about my curse, Akane least of all!"

"My apologies. I had forgotten your desire for secrecy. Still, I have found that it is always for the best to be honest with those you care about. Should you not tell Akane, if you love her as much as you claim?"

Ryoga looked miserable. "I want to, but I can't. If I tell her then I'll lose her for sure."

"I do not understand. If she loves you as well, then she should be tolerant of your curse."

"It's not that simple. You see, for a while now, Akane has had a pet pig. Me. Every night that I'm here, I've slept with Akane as her little P-Chan. If I told her now, then she would be furious with me."

Robo nodded, a bit slowly. "Though I am, as yet, not entirely familiar with human codes of conduct, it would seem that you face a dilemma. Nevertheless, the longer you wait to tell her, the worse the outcome will be when she finally finds out."

"I know!" groaned Ryoga in emotional agony. "But I just can't."

Robo changed the subject. "Who, other than myself, knows of your curse?"

"Well, Shampoo and her great-grandmother have seen me change, and Mr. Tendo has, too, but I'm not sure that he believed his eyes," answered Ryoga. Then Ryoga's eyes narrowed, and his fists clenched in anger. "And there's the one responsible for my curse, Ranma."

"Ranma?" repeated Robo. "The sadistic, arrogant fellow whom you have told me has made it his mission to keep you and Akane apart? If he knows, why does he not tell Akane himself?"

"He's responsible for my curse, and by his warrior's code, he has to keep my secret. Bastard that he is, he still has a sense of honor about some things."

At that moment, the dojo door slid open and Frog and Ranma emerged. Frog was deep in conversation with Ranma. "An excellent match, Sir Ranma. Yet thou art still vulnerable to mine Slurp Cut."

Defensively, Ranma said, "I'm just not used to an opponent trying to grab me with their tongue. I'll learn soon enough."

"Frog!" yelled Robo joyfully, and ran over to the knight. She grabbed him in a hug. "I am so glad to see you!"

Strangling in Robo's enthusiastic hug, Robo croaked out, "Please desist! Thou art squeezing th' very breath from me!" Robo put him down. "Now, who might thou be? And how knowest thou mine name?"

"Frog, it's me, Robo!"

Frog's bulging eyes bulged even more. "Surely dost thou jest, madame?"

"No, it really is me. Remember when you, Ayla, and I defeated Dalton on the Epoch, after he had tried to steal it? Remember how we worked together with Crono to set Cyrus's sprit to rest?"

"Robo, 'tis you indeed! But thou hast been transformed! And into a fair maiden at that! What hath transpired?"

Ryoga and Ranma walked over to the two reunited friends. After glaring at each other a moment, they turned and began to grill the two. "So, who's this?" Ryoga asked Robo, indicating Frog, and Ranma asked Frog, indicating Robo.

"Indeed, introductions are in order," said Frog. He addressed Robo, "By your leave?"

"Certainly, Frog. You have always been better at introductions than I."

"Sir Ranma, I wouldst that thou meet mine comrade in arms, Robo. Though she may not seem it now, she is a great warrior, and a boon in any battle. On our world, she hailed from the far future, 2300 A.D., to be precise. Robo, allow me to introduce Ranma. He is a fighter of great skill, and a man of honor. He hath done much to help me learn the ways of this world we have found ourselves in. I have been staying with him, his fiancee, and their families for several days now. He is afflicted with a curse that causeth him to assume a feminine form when splashed with cold water." Robo shook Ranma's hand. Certainly Frog painted a better picture of Ranma than Ryoga did. And it seemed that Ranma had the same curse she did. Robo wondered why Ryoga had failed to mention this.

Then Frog's words hit home. "Our world? What do you mean, Frog?"

Frog sighed. "Lucca couldst better explain. Suffice it to say, that we have traveled not only to another time, but to another world, one not unlike our own, but different in many ways."

"That would explain why so little seems familiar to me." Robo then realized that it was his turn for introductions. "Ryoga, this is Frog. He is a knight in his own time, that is, 600 A.D. He was transformed into a frog-man by a powerful sorcerer, but the transformation did not make him any less a valiant swordsman. He has been a good friend and ally. Frog, this is Ryoga. I have been traveling with him for many days. He is a strong, kind person, and he was willing to help me in my hour of need." Ryoga shook Frog's gauntleted hand.

At that moment, Akane came outside, carrying a teapot of hot water. "Ah, I see that you've met Frog," she said.

"We have had a previous acquaintance," said Robo with a wry grin.

"Robo is another companion from our world of origin," Frog explained.

"And she's already had an encounter with Jusenkyo? What bad luck. Well, here's that water."

"One moment, please," requested Robo. She loosened the cord around her waist. "Proceed."

Akane poured the water on her, and she returned to her normal form. Needless to say, Akane and Ranma were surprised to see a large robot dressed in a white robe standing where the blue-haired girl had been. "Much better!" Robo exclaimed.

"You're not human!" Akane and Ranma accused in chorus. Ryoga, Robo, and Frog sighed, and explained.

"Weird," commented Ranma, a rather bold statement from one who had experienced as many things as he had.

Then Ryoga turned and looked at Frog with pity. "So you're stuck like that forever?" he asked.

Frog smiled slightly. "Not forever. Only 'til the death of Magus, he who enchanted me."

"Then why don't you find him and kill him?" asked Ryoga.

"Thou art a bloodthirsy one, in truth," Frog laughed. Then he sobered, "But I must confess: 'Twas once my intention to kill Magus at any cost. But, in time, it became necessary to forge an alliance with the fellow, and as we fought together 'gainst a greater evil, I came to realize that I had misjudged the man. He was arrogant and ruthless, true, but also was he courageous, and even honorable, in his own right. I came to learn of his past, and the events that had turned him onto the path that he walked, and my hatred turned to respect, and to pity. I would not kill him now if I had the chance--and he would, I dare say, judge me a fool for my sentimentality."

Ryoga was impressed. He slapped his fist into his palm and said, "I don't see how you can say that. If someone had put a curse on me like that-" he abruptly threw Ranma a withering glance, "-I wouldn't rest until I had my revenge." Ranma scowled back at him, but said nothing.

"Rest easy, I do not like the man," Frog responded. "Magus hath taken great pains to remain unlikable. I do still find myself wishing, from time to time, that he had not so vilely enchanted me. But when I think such thoughts, I am reminded of the advantages that this body has over my old--and these advantages are many. The disadvantages I have learned to cope with. I once thought myself an outcast, but 'twas I who had cast myself out. When I overcame my self-pity, I came to realize that I was not an object of fear and loathing, as I had once thought. I was welcome among the people with whom I had formerly lived as a man, and my Queen once again welcomed my protection. I am happy now, despite my condition. Vengeance be a pointless, and self-destructive gesture when the cause becometh acceptable."

Ryoga didn't respond. His mind whirled with Frog's words. Could he ever find himself forgiving Ranma? 'Never!' he instantly answered himself. 'But Ranma had also known what it was to be cursed,' his mind argued back. 'Yeah, but turning into a girl is nothing compared to turning into a pig!' Then he remembered Robo's similar words, "Changing from a human to a pig is nothing compared to what I go through." 'It could be worse...' Ryoga thought. 'No! The curse is still his fault. Even aside from the curse, Ranma still torments Akane, and that's also his fault. And it's his fault that I'm stuck as Akane's pet instead of her husband. Everything's his fault, and he must pay!'

Ranma watched with amusement as Ryoga's face changed from anger to confusion and back again. He considered taunting him, but, in a rare bout of good judgement, decided to withhold any derogatory remarks until they were alone.

Ryoga changed the subject. "You still haven't told me what's wrong, Akane. You looked very unhappy when we arrived."

Akane frowned. "Nabiki's gone. She's been missing for days."

Ryoga had never cared much for Akane's opportunistic sister, but he still felt concern on Akane's behalf. "Do you have any idea what might have happened to her?" he asked.

"We first thought that she might have left with Crono, Marle, and Lucca in their time machine," she responded, "but none of them ever came back."

Robo broke in, "You mean that there were four of them traveling in the same time machine?" he asked. "If so, then they are all in deep trouble. Traveling with more than three people at a time is very dangerous. It puts a great strain on the space-time continuum, and probably also on the workings of the Epoch. I hope that they are all right."

Robo's dire statements made Akane even more glum, and even Ranma, who had been trying to hide the worry he had been feeling, began to look upset. "Is there anything we can do?" Ranma asked.

Robo shook his head. "We can only wait, and hope for the best."

The sky began to darken. Thunder boomed ominously. "We'd better get inside," noted Ranma.

"Would you like to stay for dinner, Ryoga?" invited Akane, to Ranma's irritation. Ryoga nodded gratefully.

As soon as they had entered the house, rain began to fall. All of those with Jusenkyo curses, Ryoga in particular, breathed a sigh of relief. "I hate rain," said Ranma.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to put you somewhere while you are staying," said Akane to Robo. "Um, do you...er...sleep?" she fumbled.

"I do require an occasional period of dormancy, for purposes of extensive self-diagnostic, and memory storage and reorganization. Generally about three hours a day." Then his glowing green eyes darkened slightly, "Unless, of course, I am in my human form. Then I require sleep in the same manner as you."

"Do you need a bed?" Akane asked bluntly.

"No, my dormancy period can be accomplished in any position, standing or lying down. I do not need any sort of cushioning."

"We'll put you in Ranma's room, then," decided Akane.

"Hey, I've already got Frog and Dad," Ranma protested. "Why can't he stay in your room?"

"Well, he's a he." She answered. Then she looked uncertain. "Aren't you?" she asked the robot.

"I do think of myself as such," Robo responded.

"Well, there you go," said Akane triumphantly. "You can just set him in a corner or something, Ranma. I'm sure he won't be any trouble."

Ranma sighed. "C'mon, Robo. I'll show you to my room."

Ranma and Robo climbed the stairs to the guest bedroom Ranma shared with his father and Frog. The amphibious knight himself followed closely, wishing to share private words with his mechanical ally. Robo looked around the room for a few moments, and found an unoccupied corner. "This will do nicely," he announced.

"Fine, fine," said Ranma, not really caring. Ranma left the room, leaving Robo and Frog alone.

Robo sat down and sighed a mechanical sigh. "What happened, Frog? What are we doing here?"

"I know not, mine metal friend. As thou hast said, we can but wait, and hope for the best. Perhaps when our friends return, we will find the answers." Then he looked concerned. "How art thou coping with thine own curse? I know from experience the difficulty in becoming used to a form not thine own."

Robo nodded. "It is very unpleasant. How can humans stand being so...awkward?"

"I daresay we get used to it," Frog responded drily. "I also would imagine that thou wouldst as well, if thou spent time enough in thine human form."

"Now there is an unpleasant prospect," Robo said.

"I speak in earnest!" insisted Frog. "Thou knowest not how long thou shalt be cursed, and so long as thou art, thou couldst become human at any time! Thou shouldst become used to thine other form, in case something amiss should transpire."

"I will think about it," Robo muttered.

Frog was about to continue the argument, when they heard Akane's voice calling them for dinner. In his robot form, Robo had no need to eat, but he decided to join them for their company. The two of them returned downstairs and made their way to the dining room table. Ranma and Genma were already there, of course, but Soun and Kasumi soon joined them. Robo was introduced to those he hadn't previously met.

Then Ranma's face took a haunted expression. "Where's Akane?" he asked.

"She's cooking dinner," Kasumi cheerfully replied.

Jaws dropped. Ranma shouted, "WHAT"

Kasumi nodded. "Nabiki had scheduled to cook tonight as a project for her Home Economics class. But since she's not here, Akane volunteered to cook in her place."

Thinking quickly, Genma grabbed a glass of water and doused himself with it. The panda then held up a sign reading, [Oops, guess I'll be eating bamboo tonight.]

Looking like a hunted animal, Ranma stood and prepared to flee. "RANMA!" shouted Akane's voice. Ranma stiffened, and reluctantly sat down. Akane was standing in the doorway, holding several plates of food. The odor was pleasant, but Ranma knew better than that.

"Ahh, so thou art a cook as well?" asked Frog. "I look forward to sampling thy work."

"No!" shouted Ranma, panicked. "You'll die!"

Frog looked at him oddly. Akane glared at him and said, "Shut up, you idiot. Just because you have no sense of taste doesn't mean you need to ruin it for the rest of us!" She placed the deceptively delicious looking meals onto the table, and began serving portions.

"Yeah, Ranma!" agreed Ryoga smugly. "That's no way to talk about Akane's cooking."

"Then why don't you eat it!" snapped Ranma.

"Er," faltered Ryoga, eyeing the food in front of him.

"Oh, Ryoga! I knew you had better manners than Ranma," beamed Akane.

"Er," said Ryoga again. He tentatively took a portion of the food.

Suddenly, an alarm began to ring. Robo slapped the food out of Ryoga's hand onto the floor. "DANGER! DANGER!" Robo announced. "Sensors indicate that this food is poison! Toxicity measures off the scale!"

"What?" asked a startled Akane. "Poison? But this food hasn't been out of my sight."

"My sensors do not lie," insisted Robo. "I can detect trace elements of a large number of neurotoxins and complex biocidal proteins! Fortunately, the dosages are only enough to cause severe nausea, but-"

"There you go, Akane," mocked Ranma, "scientific proof that you can't cook!"

"RANMA YOU IDIOT!" screamed a furious Akane, kicking Ranma through the wall.

"Ooh, that's gonna leave a mark," said Soun. Genma shuffled outside to drag the unconscious, and now female, Ranma in from the rain.

Robo was talking to a cooling Akane. "So you really just cooked this?" he asked. Akane nodded miserably. "I am sorry that I ruined your meal. But this food really is poisoned! It is incredible that you managed to come up with this virulent a collection of poisons just by accident! Well, one bad meal is only a setback."

"But they're all like this," said Akane, tearfully.

Robo was surprised. For a moment, he didn't know what to say. "B-but, that is illogical! No one should be able to regularly cook like this without trying!" Then, he regained his composure. "Akane, you need to find help." he said seriously. "Find someone to teach you how to cook without poisoning your own meals."

Akane merely nodded. She and Robo carefully gathered the remaining food, and carried it to the kitchen to throw away. Kasumi proceeded to order some takeout, while Frog began to converse with Soun about the weather. Unbeknownst to them all, foreign ears had been privy to the goings on at the Tendo home. Dressed in a camouflage leotard, Kodachi Kunou had been listening at the back door to the house.

This is perfect! she thought to herself. Finally, I know why Ranma prefers that tramp Akane over me. Though it's hard to imagine, Akane is even better at making poisons than I am! She does it without even trying! Once I learn her secrets, Ranma will be able to escape her clutches, and he will be mine. Mine!

Carefully, Kodachi made her way around the side of the house to see if Ranma was all right. She was surprised to see a panda carrying the redheaded girl she had come to hate back into the house. She couldn't see her Ranma anywhere. I wonder why Akane trashed that annoying redhead, she thought in confusion. Not that I wouldn't have loved to do the same. But no matter. Neither she or Akane will stop me from getting what is mine!

Kodachi laughed an evil laugh, and vaulted out of the yard, leaving a trail of fluttering black rose petals behind her. Inside the house, the residents shivered at the piercing, unpleasant sound. "What was that?" asked Akane. No one answered.

Genma deposited Ranma on a couch. "Too bad Marle isn't here to heal her," Kasumi mentioned with pity.

"I will heal her," said Robo. "Cure Beam." He emitted a beam of purple light, which bathed Ranma in its glow. Her minor cuts sealed, and her bruises faded to healthy skin. "I also slice, dice, and make french fries in sixty different ways," Robo remarked.

"Incredible," remarked Soun. "French fries!"

[I love french fries!] said Genma's sign. Soun nodded. The two of them walked to the kitchen to see if they had any potatoes.

Afterword:

I found myself faced with two dilemmas while writing this chapter. First, who, exactly, does know of Ryoga's curse? Ranma, of course. And Soun? In episodes 11 and (I think) 12 of the anime, P-Chan jumps right into the bathtub with Soun, transforms, and walks out. However, knowing Soun, he still might not get the picture. As for Shampoo and Cologne, I believe that they discovered the curse in the episode where Ryoga learned the 'Bakusai-Ten-Ketsu', or 'Breaking Point' technique. Are there any others who know Ryoga's secret?

Second, for some reason, I thought that Ranma spent the first season of the anime sleeping in the Dojo proper (the training hall) with his father. Due to the friendly and competent assistance of various members of the Fanfic Mailing List, I learned that this was a misconception, and that the two of them did not, in fact, ever sleep in the training hall, but spent the length of the anime and most of the manga as well sleeping in the Tendo's guest bedroom, which really makes a lot more sense. Isn't it funny, some of the weird ideas one can pick up from reading fanfiction?

Chrono Trigger Tip #6:

Hey, I just thought of something. In Chapter 1 of this amazing, incredible, awesome fanfic-

Please, you're too kind.

-sorry, I just can't help myself. Anyway, in Chapter 1, Crono fights Ranma with a mop.

Yes? What of it?

Well, can he do that in the game?

Of course not. Ranma isn't in the game.

No, I mean, can he fight with a mop?

Why would Crono attack a mop?

NO!! Can he WIELD a mop while fighting?

Fighting someone other than Ranma, you mean?

YES! FORGET RANMA! I WANT A FRAGGIN' MOP!!!

Well, you're in luck! As it turns out, the Mop is a weapon that you can find in the game. It's absolutely the most worthless Katana-class weapon that you can find, even less powerful than the Wooden Sword that Crono begins the game with, but it does exist. There's only one way to get it, however. You need to use Ayla's 'Charm' Tech, while fighting a Nu. If the Tech is successful, you'll steal a Mop from the Nu. (There are three places that you can find a Nu to fight: In one of Belthasar's secret room in Enhasa in 12,000 B.C. you fight six of them. In 65,000,000 B.C., you can find a Nu when it rains in the Hunting Range. And in 600 A.D., you can occasionally find one in the hidden forest area where Frog was sulking, but only after you have convinced Frog to join you; however, the only way to attack this Nu is to join battle with another enemy nearby it.) Once you finally have a Mop, you'll probably never use it, since it's such a terrible weapon. However, it is amusing to set Crono, armed only with the Mop, one on one against Lavos and win. Of course, this is difficult to pull off before the fourth or fifth time through the game, so, most likely, only the Mindlessly Obsessive will ever try it.

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