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A Ranma 1/2 fan fiction story
by Corwin

Disclaimer: Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty and Viz Communications own Ranma 1/2.


I train every waking hour; I simply can't afford otherwise nowadays. It hadn't always been like that, of course. My old man might not have been a saint — heh, that's an understatement — but he never pushed me that far; as far as I'm pushing myself.

I still miss him, even after weeks of adapting. As much as anyone can adapt, while on the run. I've learned a lot, too. Like how difficult it is to keep yourself fed. I can't even get a job, since I have to stay on the run all the time, so money is scarce. And pick-pocketing isn't as easy as it sounds. Either those Chinese are really used to that sort of thing, or I suck. Guess that's what I get for letting my foraging skills get rusty. Have to hand it to the old man — he knew what he was talking about when he was still training me.

I can't help but think… think, is it? Hell, I know this. That I'm not getting good enough, fast enough. Good enough to take her on; fast enough to be able to do it before she corners me some day.

But that's not really important, now that I think about it. Jusenkyo was hell, but it wasn't really pop's fault. That dumbass guide could've warned us before we actually jumped on the damn poles. But no, that would've been helpful, now would it? And the bastard had signs ready for the pools we fell in, and probably for a whole lot more we've missed. Spoil his fun by warning us ahead? Perish the thought!

So we were pissed, of course. Majorly pissed. And I blamed the old man, like I should have. I was only gonna fume for a week or so…. But I hadn't known what would happen, hadn't known he would be gone in three days, hadn't known about the forest fire….

Our backpacks are gone now, of course. Have been for over three weeks. All the old man's possessions, all of our money and food… at least I don't have to carry all that weight again. Actually, without the backpack weighing me down, the training I'm doing while traveling probably doesn't help me as much as it would have otherwise.

Man, I don't want to say that the world's a dark and lonely place, but—

Anyway! It's not all hopeless! All I have to do is get to the Tendos — my old man's friends — and they'd help me. This Tendo guy was pop's training buddy, so he should be pretty powerful. And if he has a son or two, they'd be useful, too. Not as much as me, probably, but I'd take any help I can. Anything but facing it all alone. Anything.


Anything…. I remember thinking that I couldn't be more alone than in the wilderness of China, hunted, hungry and dirty. I remember thinking that anything would be better than that loneliness. I remember it just as clearly as I see it for the lie that it had been.

"It's mine, dammit! Stop using my name!"

Ranma Saotome? I'm Ranma Saotome! I don't have no brother, never mind with the same first name. And to find another me here… it's too much of a coincidence. Suddenly, a chilling thought enters my mind, disturbing me even more than this whole situation was already making me. Could he be a plant? Did they reach even here? Three thousand years of history, battles against emperors, hands going faster than the eye can see… is it really impossible?

"Did the old woman send you?" I ask suspiciously, glaring at the imposters. Imposter. Unless they all were? An ambush? I tense, and shift myself slightly to present the smallest surface area to the hostiles. Damn, and to think I gullibly went here, hoping for a safe haven. Hoping for food.

Why are they looking at me that way? It's not my fault I couldn't find a place to clean myself today! It's not like there were lakes or rivers on my way, and I doubt they'd appreciate me taking a dive into their koi pond. Though why would imposters care about fish that are not their own?

"I'm not kidding! Tell me who the hell you are!"

That kid snorts at me, and makes a show of putting his hands in the pockets of his khaki jeans. Fuck! He's enjoying it! But I won't go down without a fight!


Ugh. It was an ambush after all. If I wasn't sure about it then, I am now. A clever ambush, too. They knew everything. How? Did something from the backpacks survive after all? Maybe, they set the fire, trying to kill the two of them, but switched to this contingency plan when it didn't do him in?

They yelled, I remember now. Yelled at me, with their angry faces and upset frowns. Two of them even tried to intervene, to help that imposter, but I knew they wouldn't make it in time. Was that pop's old friend and his prodigy student? Damn, what was I thinking, getting my hopes all up? They wouldn't last a minute against… her.

But the guy masquerading as me is good; so good, that he must be with them. Damn it all! It's not enough that they're better, but they have to cheat, too?! He yelled, distracting me, and then the blows came. Not giving me a chance to regroup, he disappeared from sight — freakin' disappeared! — and more blows came; harsher blows. There was no time for defense, no time for anything. I know I would've had a fighting chance otherwise, so the flashy bastard just had to rob me of that to.

How humiliating. And no sense of honor, for what it's worth. I may have attacked without warning, but I wasn't the one to keep hitting someone who was down and lost consciousness. I know my body well enough to know its limits, and there's no way I could've been standing for him to hit the shiatsu points on my upper back.

They are whispering, the Tendos and the false me. And they side with the imposter, going as far as to call me crazy. I think what hurts the most, even more than my pride as a martial artist and my crushed hopes for comrades, is that I've even lost my name. This… this…. He is Ranma Saotome in their eyes, not me. Not the real one. If I'm no longer Ranma Saotome, then who am I? What do I have left?

I'm no longer the best martial artist I thought I was — spending time without my old man and sensei and running for my life helped drive that point home. There's no help coming from a family who even denies me my rightful name, the one I was given at birth by my parents—

Oh, they've noticed I've regained consciousness. A girl about my age comes up to where I lie, squatting beside me. She looks down at me with that disinterested stare, nibbling on a candy bar. The girl in the cut-off jeans shorts and pageboy haircut doesn't try to sweeten the verdict for me, and I find myself grateful for her brutal honesty. There's been too much deceit today for me to take. I'm being kicked out, but they're nice enough to give me a day's supply of food and water. Apparently, her older sister offered to let me use their bath to clean myself up, but she was voted down by the youngest and her fiancé.

Fiancé? Ranma Saotome, of course. Something about a pledge between the two fathers, uniting the schools… the two martial artists were chosen for the task. Quite logical, if you ask me. Besides, who wouldn't want to be engaged to such a nice, well-mannered boy, who is also a world-class martial artist?


They waved me off, the fake me smirking, still in that annoying, mocking pose of his, as I limp away. And that fiancée of his is just as obvious about her feelings, not even trying to conceal her scowl as she stands by his side; close enough to invade his personal space, yet not touching any part of his body, to remain proper enough in public. She would have been mine, I think to myself, until a shocking, frightening revelation hits me with a thunderous impact. What if she wasn't meant for me after all?

What if the old man had another son? Ridiculous, true, but the guy did call the few attacks I remember of the Saotome School. Damn, I can't think straight. Wasn't that an ambush? Did I just attack my brother?

If it's a brother, then was he pop's favorite son? He got the fiancée. He got the fancy schools, light years ahead of anything I know. They bear the Saotome name, while all I have is the general style. Was it even the old man's? He used it, but he knew many styles. What if he got saddled with me, and hated it all the while? Maybe he sent his favorite son to various martial arts masters, while touring Japan and China with me? I was a failure, after all, not able to learn even the simplest techniques I had been taught as a kid, so maybe I didn't deserve to be taught the advanced Saotome School of martial arts?

Maybe I was even despised that much, that my brother got the name our father always wanted his true heir to have? But that couldn't be! My father wouldn't waste so many years training me, hoping something good out would come out of it… would he? How much did I really know about Genma Saotome?

I hadn't known about the fiancée. I had been told about Soun Tendo over a decade ago — there was plenty of time to mention the bit about the daughters that guy had.

Unless they weren't meant for me, of course.


I sit on a bench, too exhausted to do anything but look at the sunset. We've seen many sunsets together, pop and I. Those were happy times….

A lady stops by, taking a sit beside me. She makes a satisfied grunt that only my heightened hearing can notice, and shuffles her feet under that kimono of hers, stretching them. The auburn-haired woman notices my gaze on her, and turns towards me, smiling pleasantly.

I return the smile in a half-hearted way, and it shows. But I bet the frown which had appeared on her face has more to do with my overall state rather than with my rather poor manners at the moment. It hasn't rained ever since I left the Tendo Dojo, which is a blessing and a curse. I'm male, and I savor every minute of being in my true form. I also haven't washed in quite some time, and my recent meeting with the ground hadn't helped my cleanness any.

"Hello," I say politely, and incline my head in her direction. That seems to mollify her, and she smiles once more.

I politely inquire about her health, and the ice is broken. She talks of her newfound happiness, barely able to conceal her excitement. Reunited with her child after spending many years apart, and having him be everything she ever wanted for in a son. I find myself envying the guy, even though it's petty. Even if I'm not strong enough to take on the warrior tribe after my life, just having someone who understands… hell, just someone who's there for you…. It'd help. A lot. If I were this lady's beloved, manly son, I'd be willing to take on the whole world and win. Not that winning is everything, as I've learned this past month. No, if winning is the goal; if it's the future… it's probably all about the present, the now. That's what really counts. The past is dead, and you can never go back to it. And while you head towards the future, you miss the present, and the joy in life. I've heard the saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees, but this is the first time I actually connect with it.

Without thinking first, I tell her that. She stops mid-sentence, surprise written over her features, and then she smiles at me, as I've noticed her do often in the short time we've been sitting together on this bench in an unnamed park in Nerima, Tokyo. What a nice man I am, she says. She's being polite, of course — I'm a kid, just like her son, not an equal. Her eyes get slightly misty and nostalgic, and she confides in me that her late husband lived by the same rules. Seize the day, he would say. She chuckles sadly, recalling that it often caused him grief as problems just kept following him, refusing to stay in the past where they belong, as he would say angrily.

I nod. I feel her pain, I share it. My pop's memory is still vivid, and I can imagine what the woman must be going through. Her voice breaks when she says that her husband must be in a better place now, and I kick myself for making her relieve that grief, however inadvertently. I shouldn't force my problems and rotten mood on others. Besides, she has a reason to be happy!

I return the subject of the conversation to her son, and she brightens up immediately. Any other day I'd be unnerved by the transition, but as I am now, I'm just content that she's not feeling bad anymore. I don't know why, but something in my heart goes out for this woman. Maybe it's because she comes off as so nice and motherly.

It's… unnaturally pleasant to chat with this beautiful middle-aged woman….


She has to go. I really can't say I blame her — that kid of hers must be a more pleasant person to converse with. She picks up her carefully wrapped-up bundle, and stands up delicately, adjusting the folds of her kimono. I prepare to say goodbye, when I realize that I've forgotten to introduce myself.

Asking for her name first would probably be more respectful, I figure. Wouldn't introducing myself out of the blue be arrogant?

My gamble pays off. She smiles, as she seems to do often, in the time I've spent with her, and—

My heart stops. The shock I'm feeling can probably be seen clearly on my face, because she asks me what's wrong, leaning closer to me in concern. I can't speak, can't think straight… I try to open my mouth, but no sound would come out besides the strange choking noise my throat makes.

Just barely managing to compose myself, I ask her for her son's name. The trembling in my voice must be noticeable, because she still has that look of concern etched on her features. She responds, though, and my fears are confirmed. They are not my worst fears, however, so I must stupidly ask her more. What the hell am I thinking of?!

But my mouth works on autopilot. This is— I— I just have to know.

"Does he have any siblings?"


So, she's found me at last, sitting on that same bench in an unnamed park in Nerima, Tokyo. I've been sitting here ever since parting with that nice lady who was Ranma Saotome's mother. Nodoka-san. That's her first name. I wonder if pop knew she was alive.

She wanted to know my name, but my name was not my name. I just told her that I was nobody, and she gave me a sad look but didn't press on. It got awkward from that point on, and she quickly excused herself, no doubt going to visit her son, Ranma Saotome. She'd probably forget all about me by the time she gets there.

And why should she remember someone who is about to became the past?

"Hello, Shampoo," I say with a wave that lacks any energy. "Looking for girl-type Ranma?"

She's looking at her, she says. Yes, she replies to the shocked look on my face — as little capacity for showing it as it had retained. She's known about the curse for quite some time, apparently.

Figures. That's why she'd been able to track me down so easily, isn't it? Though if she's calling me Ranma, does that mean the Ranma at the Tendos is a plant after all? Strangely enough, that brings little more than apathy out of me. I only worry that the nice lady he's lying to about being her son won't get hurt — she has to be the real thing, 'cause she wouldn't have lied. She's the only one who wouldn't.

The girl, Shampoo, is saying something. I can't quite make out the words… might be contusion. That nasty kick to the chin, hiding in the opening blow, must've rattled my brain more seriously than I thought. Moko Kaimon Ha, huh…. Pop really was a master, to have invented something like that.

Shampoo — what a strange name for a girl, I think for some reason — is looking down on me. I must've fallen down. Her face taking up most of my field of vision. She seems sad… maybe she's reluctant to kill me? I might even be her first victim.

"Don't be sad," I tell her, trying to comfort her. And why shouldn't I? Ranma Saotome is not me, and I am not Ranma Saotome. I don't have a reason to live, but she has a reason to kill. The act might as well be pleasant to both of us. "No one would miss me." I try to give her a reassuring smile, and add, "Even I won't miss me."

My sight is getting blurry. If she doesn't hurry, I might just die on my own before she gets to do it. I wonder whether her quest would be satisfied, in that case. It bothers me, for some reason. My entire life has been pointless, but if my death could have a meaning for even one person on this Earth, maybe it wasn't all for nothing after all.

A hot liquid falls on my lips. It's salty. Actually, since I can taste it, I'm probably still alive. All's not lost, then. I wonder whether Shampoo would use the maces she seemed to favor back in China or that broadsword I've seen her with. Something brushes my hair gently, and I struggle to feel wind on my face again. My efforts are futile, so I reason the purple-haired girl's sleeve probably touched against my forehead accidentally. I hope it didn't get too dirty — her sleeveless dress is pretty, and it'd be a shame to see it ruined.

There's something else, some movement to the side of me, but my body gives out.


"Shan Pu."

My great-grandmother is calling me, and I know I am required to answer, but— but—

I hear her sigh, and echo it. Great-grandmother really does understand. She's such a nice person. She's a person… Ranma would have loved knowing while growing up, I'm sure.

"Is this your decision?"

I nod sadly to myself, looking down at my hands, folded in my lap on both sides of a still pigtailed boy's head. I just can't seem to get them to rest, and I silently thank great-grandmother for pretending not to notice. It's obvious that she does, as nothing gets past her. Nothing… with one exception.

"I really do understand, great-granddaughter," she says, and I hear a great weariness in her voice. "Never in my many years have I made a mistake so grave, so terrible."

Tears gather at the corners of my eyes, and she wipes them with a handy cloth. "There's no reason for you to cry, child. You only followed our ancient laws; laws which are long overdue for a change. The burden of responsibility rests on my shoulders, in full."

My head jerks in defiance. "But his father! And the friend, and even the mother—"

"An accident, the fault of a reckless hunter who had too much to drink at his camp. And series of misunderstandings, caused by a lie. A mistake, that shall be corrected with swiftness according to our laws." Smiling grimly, great-grandmother whispers, "The just ones."

"It would have been so much easier if Ranma simply appeared in his true form on the day of the tournament," I protest, but there's no heat in my words; as there should be, since there is no one I can be angry at for that. Except the gods, of course, had I held any faith towards them. Resorting to speaking to them only when you need them, even if simply as an outlet for your anger, seems hypocritical to me, so I've made an oath not to do that when I was a child.

"If you want someone to blame that badly," my great-grandmother says, as if reading my mind at that moment, "then lay your blame on me. I was the one who went to seek you after hearing of the boy's true gender from the guide, and trying to force him to marry you."

The sorrow in great-grandmother's voice makes me shiver, and I quickly admonish her, "You could not know that he and his father would misunderstand! The came from Jusenkyo, and it is only described in Chinese training guides! There was no way for you to know—"

"I'll make a deal with you, dear child," she responds, cutting me off. "I'll stop blaming myself for past mistakes, if you do the same." She pauses for several long moments, and I respect her silence by keeping it. "Besides," she eventually says so quietly that I have to strain to hear her, as she looks at Ranma's sleeping form, "you must not have any doubts in your mind for the task you've chosen for yourself. I've healed his physical wounds, but I fear that it is the limit of my usefulness to the boy. The rest—"

"—is up to me, I know!" I complete her sentence, my voice full of determination. This is the path I've chosen for myself, and it shall be my atonement. I'll first undo the damages I've caused, and then set out to help him in any way I can. And if, at some point in time, he would recover and still like me to stay by his side—

"The future is not written," I hear great-grandmother say. "But instead of living in hope of the riches it will bring, live in the present and be happy."

I once again think that perhaps my wise and kind great-grandmother can read my mind. Her final advice to me, an outcast from our tribe, shall be with me forever. I'll always treasure it, I think, stroking Ranma's left cheek absent-mindedly. He murmurs something unintelligible, and I can't help but smile at his sleeping face.

 

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