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A Ranma ½ Alternate Universe Story
By Larry F

(based on an original story by
Gregg Sharp (metroanime@mindspring.com))

Chapter One
Chapter Two

Introduction: This is a rework of a short story written by Gregg Sharp. I liked the idea, so I asked for permission to put my own twist to it. There were a number of interesting ideas in Gregg's version that I wanted to adopt, and others that I chose to leave out because they had no real effect on the plot. (One idea was that Ranma's mother was a Chinese Amazon, rather than Nodoka; I decided to drop that because the new mother was just a throw-away character.) I plan to add new material and pad out the existing scenes, as well as rewrite the dialog to suit my own taste.

This is an Alternate History story. It is not intended to resemble the canon story very much, so don't expect the characters to conform to the usual standards except as it pleases me.

I will gladly listen to any comment or criticism offered in the spirit of helpfulness, either on the FFML or privately.  After all, that's what we post this stuff for.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. I do not own the rights to the characters from Ranma ½ or Tenchi Muyo, they belong to Rumiko Takahashi and Hitoshi Okuda respectively. The American rights to the characters belongs to Viz Communications. I do not intend to make any money from the use of the characters.

Prologue: In Which The Tale Is Introduced
('The Bet' segment)

An eerie individual, whose head was completely out of proportion to his tiny body, was gazing into Toltiir's scrying pool. Summoning the image of a human male into the placid waters with a wave of his hand, he intoned solemnly: "I am Uatu, known to some as the Watcher."

A small demon that was standing off to one side of the pool blinked at this. "No, you're not. You're Toltiir, using a magical puppet you got from the special effects department."

The Uatu puppet paused, then pulled the end of a bow-tied rope attached to a wall of the chamber. A huge cartoon anvil fell down directly on top of the demon's head.

An arm poked out from underneath the anvil and waggled one finger in the air. "And they did it better on that Star Trek episode 'The Corbomite Maneuver', too."

Another anvil was released, driving the first anvil (and the unfortunate demon) several inches into the ground.

The Uatu puppet settled back into its role. "Ahem. I am Uatu, the Watcher of Worlds."

"Among the myriad time lines, there are many where a man named Genma Saotome, in his quest for the ultimate martial arts training, repeatedly sold his only son for food. That he always kidnapped the boy back did little to excuse his crime; if anything, it made it worse. Genma sold him to gypsies and thieves, kind-hearted people who saw a chance to help an unfortunate child, and lonely souls who had no children of their own. Genma’s price for his son was often ludicrous. At one time he went so far as to sell his son in exchange for two paltry fish."

"And a pickle," exclaimed the demon from underneath his anvils.

The Uatu puppet shot the anvil pile a dirty glance. "Genma never seemed to care who he sold his son to. In one infamous incident, he even sold him to the Nymphomaniac Yak Riders of Planet Playtex."

Toltiir, who was manipulating the puppet from beneath the rim of the pool, blinked at that line and pulled a cue card out of nothingness. Having confirmed that this was indeed what the script said, he sighed and tossed the card out of the chamber window, where it sliced through the air and into the engine of a Sopwith Camel that was flying nearby. As the venerable aircraft, trailing smoke, sputtered erratically off into the sunset, the pilot shook his fist at the tower. In enraged beagle speak, he cried: "Curse you, Red Baron!"

Toltiir puzzled over the doggy growls drifting through the window for a moment, then with as close to a shrug as a cat could manage, he turned back to manipulating his puppet. Toltiir wasn't very good at foreign languages.

"And yet, things could have been different. Originally, Genma Saotome was as virtuous as any man could claim to be. His scruples and moral fiber were destroyed when he was apprenticed with his childhood friend Soun Tendo to the slave-driving Master Happosai."

"…Now I am the Master, Genma!" said a little black-armored Happosai marionette hanging from the Watcher's right hand.

"Only a Master of Panties!" a robed Genma marionette countered, hanging from the left hand.

"Well, I do have my priorities," admitted Happosai before the two figures were banished back to stuffspace.

From underneath his anvils, the demon sneered, "Would you just bloody well get on with it? After all, Rumiko Takahashi owns the Ranma ½ concepts, Marvel Comics owns the Watcher and the 'What If' title, and the anvils are on loan from Warner Brothers. Since you're ripping all this stuff off, the least you could do is come up with a different take on it!"

A third, even larger anvil dropped down with a mighty clang, landing atop the other two and causing all three anvils and the demon to be buried even deeper in the ground.

Toltiir rose from behind the pool, casting aside the Uatu puppet. "So "What If" Genma, instead of becoming an amoral, lying, thieving, stinking, misbegotten bastard of an excuse for a rotten father, rebelled against the depravity of his master? What if he chose instead to become as UNLIKE Happosai as he possibly could?"

There is nothing quite as strange to see as an ersatz cat cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Chapter One: In Which Genma Breaks Free

Genma Saotome stood in a remote mountain district, before the altar of a Shinto Shrine. He tugged on the rope, and was answered with the clattering of bells hung from the rafter. In an age-old custom, he clapped his hands to attract the attention of the Shrine spirits before bowing to show his respect to them.

"Hear me, O Spirits. Today I stole food from a village. This wasn't the first time that I've stolen food, but today was different. This time, something happened that makes me wonder if perhaps… "

Genma stopped in mid-prayer. He didn't really believe that any spirits were listening. He was just using the prayer as a way of sorting his thoughts, and this was a difficult idea for him to follow to its conclusion.

"I was running out of the village with a bag full of food over my shoulder, and one of the villagers yelled out that he recognized me. He told the others that I was Happosai, the infamous thief and pervert. We needed the food! Soun and I were starving!  But to think that I could possibly be mistaken for the Master… it shames me. Have I followed his ways so long that I'm no different from him?"

—[In one twist of reality, the one thought of as the true historical path, Genma brushed off the notion as absurd before getting even that far in his self-appraisal, and walked back to his camp to rejoin his lifelong friend, Soun Tendo.

They got drunk and the next morning they went on learning the techniques of Happosai’s School of Anything Goes martial arts. When they eventually parted company after sealing Happosai in a cave, Genma met and married Nodoka (whose idea of a manly man was not dissimilar to Happosai’s) and raised their only son in a rather… bizarre manner.

It all went back to that moment of decision at the Shrine. That was when he sealed his fate for all time.

But what if he'd made another choice?]—

…Caught up in anguish, Genma sank to his knees in remorse. After a few minutes of bitter contemplation about what a shambles his life had become, he raised his face to the altar again.

"I want to make up for my behavior! I want to change my ways! If there really are any spirits, if my ancestors really can hear me, then witness this solemn vow: I refuse to be anything like the Master! Instead, I promise to surpass him in every way save his perversity.  I vow on my very soul that the Anything Goes style will come to stand for something besides debauchery and panty raids!"

Lightning crackled through the clear sky and a stiff wind blew, although the air had been still a moment before. The last few rays of the sun seemed to focus on and spotlight the centuries-old cabinet behind the altar.

Suddenly, a gruff voice spoke from behind him. "A fine oath."

Genma jumped to his feet, startled in spite of himself. Someone had managed to sneak up on him!

There was an old Shinto priest standing just a few feet away.  He wore a severe expression, and behind his old-fashioned eyeglasses, piercing eyes stared at Genma, seeming to look straight into his heart.  By the priest's expression, he obviously found much there that he disliked.

Still, Genma was certain that a new flame was burning in his heart now, one that held promise for the future. Surely it showed!

The priest spoke again. "As I said, a fine oath. If you can keep that vow, you will always be welcome at the Masaki Shrine."

"It is my intention to do so." Genma stared at the ground for a moment. "The method by which I am to fulfill my promise is the difficult part. The training I've received at the hands of my Master has not been conducive to a path of virtue."  Genma wasn't sure why he was speaking so formally, but it seemed natural to talk that way in the temple, even though he was surprised that he even knew some of the words that were flowing so effortlessly from his lips.

A ghost of a smile played across the priest's face. "Well then, perhaps you and your friend can stay here at the Shrine for a time. There are many things we might speak of."

Genma was startled again. How had the old man known that his friend Soun was waiting at the camp? It took a moment for him to get his mind back on the discussion. "Many things?"

"Yes. We might, for instance, speak of virtue and honor, and the difference between heroism and vainglory. We might even speak of the code of Bushido. There are many ways a man might achieve rebirth and salvation."

Genma nodded his agreement. At the very least, it would get them indoors out of the cold and away from the Master for a while. And who knew? Maybe the priest's ramblings would give him an idea of how to proceed with his new resolution.

As Genma started back to the campsite, he muttered under his breath as he began plotting how he would get himself and Soun away from the Master.

Katsuhito Masaki watched him walk away. Ever since Funaho (the Space Tree that had once been the heart and brain of his spaceship) had detected Happosai in the vicinity, he'd kept a close watch on the aging pervert and his two companions. 'Happosai can be a formidable opponent when opposed.  In the hundred years I have known him, he has always shown much low cunning.  It might be wise to follow after this young man and see that he comes to no harm.'

Stepping back into the Shrine briefly, the priest emerged carrying a bokken.  With an agility surprising in one of his apparent years, he leapt into the branches of a nearby tree and was quickly gone from view.

"…Or we might be able to ambush the Master and beat him up until he lets us go?"

Genma thought that plan over for a second, then tossed into the mental trash heap with the other ideas he'd come up with.  The Master was lecherous and slothful, but he was still many times the martial artist Genma was.  If it came to a fight, Happosai could defeat both Soun and him in less time than it took to say so.  The Master's knowledge of arcane and esoteric techniques was awe inspiring.  Genma had personal experience with the way Happosai could put an opponent down for the count with one tap of his long-stemmed pipe.

There was no possible way to win against him unless Genma were to resurrect the Umisenken and Yamasenken techniques he'd created. That was something he would not do. However much his honor had faded under Happosai’s tutelage, he was not so far gone as to bring THOSE techniques back into the light of day. To do so would have been to lose the last of his self respect, since they were based on the actions of different kinds of burglars.  Besides, there was something even worse to think about.  The gods only knew what the old lecher would do if he discovered one of his students had created such powerful techniques.  Genma had no illusions about being able to keep them a secret if the old man knew what to dig for.

That left guile as the only other way…

Genma liked to think that he was an imaginative plotter. They might just be able to trick the Master if they came up with a clever plan. "And I think I have it.  If we pretend to celebrate the haul of food taken from the village, we can get the Master drunk.  Then we'll run away before he wakes up.  If we brush our tracks out behind us, he won't be able to find out where we went. That always works in those Italian movies about American cowboys!"

Much taken with what he imagined was the brilliance and elegant simplicity of his plan, Genma continued on with a lighter heart.

Later that night, all seemed to be going well.  Genma had shared his idea with Soun, who could think of no way to improve on it.  They had groveled before Happosai in their most ingratiating way, and spent hours entertaining him with singing and traditional odori dancing, all the while urging him to drink bottle after bottle of sake.  It was long after darkness had fallen that Happosai finally drifted into a drunken stupor. The two boys stood triumphantly over the body of their Master, who was snoring loudly in a wine-sodden heap.

Soun whispered, "This is our chance, Saotome.  Let's make a break for it!"

Picking up their packs and some leafy branches set aside earlier that evening, they backed out of the campsite, sweeping energetically at the ground behind them as they walked.  So caught up were they in the task, it did not occur to them that they were sweeping a clearly defined pathway with each and every stroke.

As they faded from view among the trees, Happosai cracked open his eyelids to check on their progress.  So they thought they could catch him unaware? It had been plain from the start that they were up to something. Much as he hated to waste good sake, it had been easy to dump most of it on the ground next to him as the boys capered about trying to amuse him. He'd even spilled a little on his clothes so that he would smell strongly of it. He thought he deserved an Oscar for his performance; the boys were convinced that he had passed out, when he'd really only drunk enough for a pleasant buzz.

So it was another escape attempt? It was amazing that they still thought it would be that easy to walk away from him, when every other plan they'd tried had failed. It would be a pleasure to disabuse them of the notion once again.  However, there was no need to rush; the fools were leaving a trail a blind man could follow. Their despair would be greater if he allowed them to think they had succeeded this time.

A brief chuckle shook him. "Those two clowns are a hundred years too young to trick me!" *

He settled down more comfortably and began to stoke his pipe, looking forward to the coming hunt.

A half hour later, Happosai finished smoking his pipe and decided to pick up the trail of his wayward students.  Because they were putting so much effort in the attempt to disguise their footprints, Happosai knew they couldn't have gotten far.  Leaving his pack and blankets to await his return, he began trotting steadily along the path the boys had so carefully swept clean of debris.  Happosai thought it was extraordinarily funny: in trying to wipe out their tracks, they had only succeeded in brushing aside the stones and twigs that might have made his progress more difficult.  It really was a joke. All that work and they just made themselves easier to capture. How obvious it was that they were only suited to be servants!

When he'd taken them on as apprentices, he'd actually hoped that one of them would be good enough to be his successor. That hope had been quickly dashed; their level of incompetence boggled his imagination. It wasn't that they were bad as martial artists; the fighting skills they'd already possessed when he met them would have been a credit to any other school. They just did not have what it took to keep up with him. Far from standing up and behaving like real men, they crumpled at his feet as soon as the training got tough. They were also seemingly incapable of appreciating the fine points of women's lingerie, or enjoying the pleasure that came from groping a lovely wench.

He was totally unable to comprehend how anyone who called himself a man could not want to join him in his innocent little hobbies. How could any man not want to experience the thrill of giving a pretty girl a squeeze? After all, if one girl protested too much, there was always the next. Besides, the Anything Goes style had originated from avoiding those women who inexplicably chased him, blood in their eyes, when he was out on his forays to add to his lingerie collection. Happosai strongly believed that if one truly wished to master the style, one had to start at the beginning: dodging buckets, brooms, rolling pins, etc…

And then there was the deepest of his secrets.  When Happosai had been a young man, and first coming into his prime, he'd learned a terrible technique from a scroll so old that it crumbled from any but the most gentle of handling.  By shiatsu points and certain exercises used over time, the practitioner could alter a person's metabolism in radical ways.

Happosai had recognized the possibilities immediately.  He'd used the techniques on himself with no hesitation.  The result was a power that was tailor-made for his chosen lifestyle; whenever he groped comely young lasses, or frolicked with his collection of lingerie, the endorphin rush triggered his altered metabolism and gave him a boost in strength, energy, and in his rate of healing.  It made him almost unbeatable as a martial artist.

The fearfulness of his chosen apprentices was too great for him to waste the techniques on them.  Genma was an outright coward, who wouldn't do anything that might result in pain unless forced to, and Soun had proven to have a fragile ego that was unable to handle the stress of a life on the run.  Happosai had been forced to come up with plan 'B'. He'd keep tight rein on them, and when they got married, he would raise up a successor from among their sons. That was why he couldn't let them just walk off whenever they wanted to; close supervision was required, if his plan was to succeed.

Besides, children were much more malleable and easy to enlist in his games.  For example, there was that Hinako girl he'd met while raid— er… exploring the nurses' lockers at that hospital years ago.  Now that had been a fulfilling apprenticeship.  The secret techniques had actually helped her health, and she'd been a big help with handling those naughty nurses who insisted on trying to chase him out of the building.  Too bad she was a girl; she would have been a worthy disciple had it not been for her gender.  Still, he would always remember the weeks he'd spent there fondly… each and every time he got to that part of his collection.

He had only traveled a few hundred yards when a figure in the traditional robes of a Shinto priest stepped from behind a tree, blocking the way. "Why, hello again.  It's been a long time, hasn't it?"

Happosai stared in shock at the man before him. "Katsuhito Masaki!  Of all the misbegotten fools I had to run into… what do you want?"

The priest adjusted his glasses, and smiled gently. "What do I want?  Nothing at all.  My own needs are simple, and well-satisfied by the frugal life I lead.  My only desire is to see that others are as content as I am.  It seems plain to me that you wish a chance to spar this evening… That is why you are following the youngsters who passed this way earlier, is it not?  I thought perhaps I might make myself available as your opponent.  Wouldn't I be a more suitable challenge?"

The old priest's smile broadened as he took up a ready position with his wooden sword.

Happosai calmed himself with a visible effort. In all of their previous encounters, he had been defeated by that damned unusual style of swordplay Masaki used. This was going to be different. It was time to show the old fart that he hadn't been sitting around picking his nose since they last fought.

He shifted his stance to improve his footing, then suddenly launched himself into the air at a nearby sapling. Bouncing off the trunk, he used the springiness to catapult himself even faster at another tree. This was his new "three cushion bank shot" attack, which was designed to build speed and to confuse the opponent as to where the strike would come from. He hit the third tree perfectly and was propelled feet first at the priest's back, almost too fast for the eye to follow.

Katsuhito was caught completely by surprise. This was a move he hadn't seen the last time he'd fought Happi, and the velocity was astonishing. However, his well-honed reflexes allowed him to turn and get his bokken up into blocking position, just as Happi landed his kick.

The result was extremely painful for both combatants; Happi hit the priest squarely in stomach, driving him to the ground with the wind knocked out of him, but the raised bokken struck Happosai in the one place covered neither by his guard nor his health insurance policy. Both men lay still for several minutes, clutching the appropriate portions of their anatomy and groaning in harmony.

As soon as he got enough of his breath back, Katsuhito gave his nemesis a strained smile. "I must admit, you've gotten much better, but that was a move for a much younger man. I think it may have cost you more than it was worth. However, I can't deny that it was effective." He winced in rueful appreciation. "Even just a few decades ago, I would have been able to avoid that… Perhaps we are both getting a little too old for this."

Happosai would have laughed, if he'd been able to stop grimacing. "Speak for yourself, Masaki. You were ancient back when I first met you, and that was a century ago! I've got a few good years left." A thoughtful look crossed his features. "You know, I don't even remember why I hate you so much. This could have been fun, to meet up and fight again after all this time… if you weren't interfering with my business. Those boys are mine. They signed a written contract with me, and you don't have the right to come between us."

The priest raised an eyebrow at that. "The question is how they came to sign it. You didn't happen to get them drunk first, did you?"

Happosai tried his best "innocent old man" look as he pointed a questioning finger at himself. "Who, me?  Whatever would make you think that? Do you really believe I'd do anything so underhanded?"

The priest stared Happosai straight in the eye. "Without any hesitation. You've never been one to let scruples stop you from getting what you wanted. This time you are going to have to stop. I have decided to give those boys sanctuary, and you know that the Shrine is off limits to you."

Happosai snorted in disgust. "I don't know how you ever got those wards against demonic intrusion to work against me, but one day I'll figure out the trick, and then we'll see about a lot of things, won't we?" He sighed. "But you win this time. I'll go, but don't think this is the end. They can't stay with you forever, and I can be very patient when it comes to getting revenge."

He stood up gingerly, with an awkward bowlegged stance. Without a backward glance, he began hobbling back to his campsite.

The priest nodded to himself. "I was right. There was no way that those young men could have escaped on their own." He pressed his fingers gingerly to his stomach, appraising his injury. "I should never try to take on someone like Happi again without the Master Key, as necessary as it is where I have it. I certainly could have used the ability to shield myself this time! Still, those youngsters will be safe from him until they are ready to stand on their own."

He had to chuckle a bit about the "wards" that kept Happosai away from the Shrine. Happi was so caught up in his studies of classic mysticism that it never occurred to him that there might be another reason he couldn't get near the place. In reality, the ward papers posted around the edge of the Shrine property simply marked the farthest range of a force field that Funaho could raise in time of need. It wasn't a very strong field and Funaho could only raise it for short periods, but so far it had sufficed.

Funaho, like all the Space Trees, did not do well taking root in any soil other than Jurai's. Since being transplanted on Earth, she'd been weakened, and her "will" had faded.  She was unable to power anything that required large amounts of energy, and mainly preferred to spend her days in slumber. It was almost all that she could do just to maintain his vitality, even drawing on the power of the gems in the Master Key. Still, he couldn't complain. It was thanks to her that his appearance as an old man was just that: an appearance that could be dropped if the need ever arose. In his real form, he could have passed as a man of twenty.

Consequently, the force field used to hold Happi off only had enough power to give him a nasty shock when he touched it. It was Happi's own belief in the supernatural that supplied the rest of the deterrent. One look at the wards had convinced him that the shock was a warning of imminent destruction. Thankfully, he'd been too frightened to test it further, because Funaho would have had to drop it after only a few minutes.

Katsuhito began walking back along a shortcut to the Shrine. The boys were making remarkably slow progress, so even as battered as he was, he'd have plenty of time to get home, clean up, and be ready when they arrived.

Genma and Soun were slapping each other on the back in congratulations on a plan well conceived and executed when they arrived at the Shrine.  The old priest was waiting for them with tea, ready to be poured.

As they sipped their drinks, the priest watched the boys with a neutral expression. When they had finished the first cup and been given refills, he broke the silence. "So, you have decided to take me up on my offer. Very well, we will begin your first lesson now. Spend the hours before bedtime tonight in contemplation.  I want you to answer this question for me in the morning: what is the meaning of your lives?"

Soun and Genma looked at the priest in confusion, then at each other. It was Soun who finally spoke up. "What is the meaning of our lives? I don't understand… we're martial artists; our lives are devoted to carrying on the traditions of our school, and passing on those traditions to the next generation. Is there supposed to be something more?"

The priest gave them a mysterious half-smile. "That is a very deep question, isn't it? The answer can be found within yourselves if you search your hearts honestly.  Reflect on it, and I will see you in the morning."

The next morning dawned upon the two boys as they stared at each other with bloodshot eyes.  They'd sat up all night long trying to do as the old man had asked, but no matter how hard they had thought about it, or how much they talked it over, they couldn't seem to reach any sort of epiphany.  They were despairing; if they didn't pass this first test from their new master, surely he'd throw them out, and they'd have to face Happosai again.

When Katsuhiko came out to find them, he saw the condition they were in and had to suppress a smile.  He remembered the days after he'd been marooned on Earth and had decided to learn the Shinto faith from his young bride's father.  He too had spent many a sleepless night puzzling over some seemingly simple question his father-in-law had posed to him.  He was convinced that the questions had no purpose but to put the candidate off balance, and make him more receptive to new ideas, just as the puzzles of the Buddhists did.

It was time to let the boys off the hook.

"Good morning, gentlemen.  I see that you decided to devote the entire night to contemplation.  That is most commendable.  Have you arrived at a conclusion?"

Soun was unable to raise his eyes to meet the priest's.  "No, master.  No matter how I search my heart, I can find nothing that would make my life any more meaningful than any other man's."

Genma was similarly depressed.  "We tried and tried, but if there is anything about us that truly matters, then we don't know what it is."

Katsuhito did smile at those words.  "Well, well!  If you can say that, then there is hope for you yet.  The first stirrings of wisdom come when a man realizes that he is but one among many.  It is the fool who says to himself 'I am more important than any other'.  The humble man who seeks to make his life more meaningful is the one who achieves true greatness."  Bowing with formality to the two boys, he continued,  "I am satisfied with your attitude.  Welcome to the Masaki shrine."

Watching the pair babble their thanks, he had to suppress a chuckle.  It was always so fun to pull mystic mumbo-jumbo and psyche out new acolytes!

Over the course of the following days, Katsuhito struggled to teach the boys how to ask things about themselves that they had never thought to question before. The process was a rude awakening for them. Almost everything they'd learned from Happosai turned out to be petty, frivolous, or in many cases criminal.  Katsuhito came to realize that Happosai had never intended to teach them seriously.  However, he was unable to figure out why Happosai was keeping them around.  Happosai was a master at insuring his own well-being, so there was no reason to believe that he needed them to take care of him.

Of course, it would have been easier on the boys if Katsuhito had told them outright what he wanted them to learn, but he preferred to hide the real lessons in mysterious parables and seemingly pointless exercises.  He felt the boys learned more effectively when the idea that he wanted them to grasp suddenly leaped into focus for them.  Even more importantly, teaching that way was the most fun he'd had in years.  It was even better than teaching his own daughters; they knew his tricks, and wouldn't stand for the games he was playing with the naive Soun and Genma.

However, that didn't detract from the seriousness of his task.  The boys had some deadly faults that had to be corrected before they would be able to grow.

Soun had grown up in a traditional martial arts family, one that had run a dojo in the Nerima area since the days when Tokyo had been know as Edo. He'd grown up accepting certain things, like the idea that the Sensei was to be obeyed without question, but he took passiveness to the extreme. Learning to think for himself was far more difficult than any physical exercise, yet he would have to if he was to ever reopen his family's dojo. Ever since his parents had died in a train wreck, he'd been relying on other people to make his decisions for him, be it Genma, Happosai, or anyone else that appeared able to give him direction. Having to make his own choices was more than a little frightening to him.

Genma had to face up to the fact that he was a moral coward. He always took the easy way out of any situation, without stopping to consider what the consequences might be. That was a trait that had led him into many troubles. Worse yet, because Soun followed his lead, he often dragged his friend into the problems with him. It had been Genma's decision to talk with Happosai, who'd promised to make them wealthy and respected, that had resulted in that damnable contract. His fear of standing up to Happosai after that day had resulted in years of misery for both boys. Learning to take responsibility for the decisions he was so quick to make was his hardest trial.

Both had suffered massive damage to their sense of morality at the hands of Happosai, and had been brainwashed to the point that they thought theft and arousing public outrage were valid training methods.

It wasn't going to be easy, either.  They had a lot of bad habits.  It wasn't more than a day before Genma began searching the shrine for sake.  When the boys couldn't find anything stronger than tea to drink, the young fools actually tried to sneak away for a night on the town.  Funaho put a stop to that by projecting a holograph of Happosai on the path ahead of them, sending them scurrying back to the shrine.  They both would goof off whenever they thought Katsuhito wasn't around, and tried to sneak food from the kitchen.

While Katsuhito was convinced that he could make something worthwhile of them, the clay he had to work with looked to be very rough indeed.  Teaching them to be upstanding young men looked like it would take years…

After a few weeks of cajoling the boys into doing the basic chores necessary for the upkeep of the shrine, he began teaching them some of the forms of the Masaki style of swordplay, ones that were aids to meditation. The boys were required to spend their mornings caring for the Shrine, and each afternoon they practiced martial arts styles and sparred with each other. Evenings were for meditation, and after dinner they talked about their lessons.

As the months passed, Katsuhito began to teach them more advanced techniques, ones that could be adapted to the styles they favored. Soun in particular made rapid progress in blending Kempo, Anything Goes, and Masaki Kendo techniques into his own unique blend, supplementing his family's weaponry techniques. He gained more confidence in himself, and the conviction that a future as the Sensei of his family's dojo was his true calling.

Genma, on the other hand, took well to the athletic leaps and dodging that the priest taught them, and much of his style began to hinge on aerial strikes and kicks. He came to believe that reliance on any given technique was a weakness.  Instead, he believed that a good martial artist should be able to use any style that suited the fight he was in, be it a weapon style or hand-to-hand.

The sparring matches began to take on the look of a hawk fighting a badger. Soun would hold his ground and doggedly face the flowing attack and defense Genma developed to complement his leaping style. It was hard to say which was the better fighter; Soun used strength and endurance to gain victory, while Genma used speed and agility, but they were remarkably evenly matched.

Of course, when they got too full of themselves, Katsuhito would challenge both at once with his bokken and remind them that they had a long way to go.

More than a year would pass before Soun and Genma finally left the Shrine, splitting up to follow their separate destinies. Soun had decided that it was time to teach others in the enlightened ways he'd learned at the hands of the old priest, while Genma felt that he needed to atone for his past crimes and learn much more before he could finally settle in one place and make a home.

Although they were parting ways for the first time since boyhood, they were not alone on their journeys.  Each was accompanied by a new bride, having wooed and won the affections of two girls; Nodoka Masaki, a promising kendoist and the priest's grandniece, and Kimiko Hachibara, a classmate of Nodoka's who had come to the Shrine to learn kendo from the old priest. As they parted at the crossroads leading away from the Shrine, the two men made a promise.

"When we finally have children, we pledge that our two families will be united in marriage; this in honor of the years we spent together in adversity. The eldest son born to either family will marry a daughter of the other house, whichever way the spirits may bless us."

Nodoka and Kimiko, being fondly tolerant of their husband's foibles, did not point out that there was no provision in case both families had all boys or all girls.

After Genma left the Masaki Shrine, he spent long years on the road with his wife. One day, he and Nodoka (who was faithfully carrying the heirloom Katana of her husband's clan, which she considered a sacred duty) came to the Bayankala Mountains of China. Genma was following an elusive trail of hints that had eventually led them to a remote village of warrior women. He felt that it was necessary for him to consult with the village Elders to further his spiritual growth. As they trudged up the final stretch of trail that would take them to the valley of the Amazons, they were brought to a halt by the sudden appearance of a small group of well armed and armored women.

"What do you seek here so far from your homeland, foreign scum?" A tough looking, heavily scarred woman faced them, apparently unaware of an old woman that blinked owlishly close by, balanced atop her walking staff.

Genma squared his shoulders and tried to look the woman in the eyes. "I seek the wisdom of your Elders."

The woman looked Genma up and down in disgust, as if viewing him for the first time and seeing something best buried in the name of public health. "Speak when spoken to, MAN. I was addressing your master." She turned her attention back to Nodoka. "At least you have the guts to carry a warrior's weapon. For that reason alone, I ask you again: why should we allow passage to Japanese scum?"

The scarred woman, who obviously remembered the old animosity between the Chinese and the Japanese that dated back to the Second World War, suddenly snapped to a posture of attention. The old woman had hopped forward on her staff to where she could be seen by the Amazons. A simple glare was sufficient to stop the scarred woman from speaking further. In fact, from what Genma could tell, it looked as if the she were trying hard not to breathe. A sergeant, Genma guessed from the reaction, who had just discovered the general's eye was on her.

"You forget the ways of foreigners. This man is the one who has lead them here." The old woman regarded Genma briefly. "You may call me Cologne. I am a village Elder. What do you seek among the Joketsuzoku? And how do you propose to pay for it?"

Genma frowned slightly. He knew that money was NOT a form of payment that would be accepted in this situation, even if he had any to offer. The villagers would demand a service of some kind, but what would it be? Still, the time had come to lay his cards on the table. "I am one who strives to put the horrors of my past behind me. I, who once walked the path of self-indulgence, seek now to walk a path of virtue and enlightenment. I am searching for knowledge of how to improve myself and become a worthy warrior, despite my former Master's misguided teachings."

He drew a deep breath. This was the risky part. "I shall pay any reasonable price you name."

Cologne blinked and translated this for the women who did not understand Japanese. Finally she regarded Genma again. "You ask much of us, who would not normally teach such things to any man. We of the village counsel will have to discuss this among ourselves. The two of you will be taken to a house where you must wait for our decision. You will be sent for when we have reached an agreement."

Another four years passed before Genma and Nodoka left the village of the Joketsuzoku. Genma had worked like a slave in the rice fields during the daylight hours, and trained each evening under brutal conditions, watched closely by the Amazon elders. At first, the Amazons had thought that the harsh treatment would drive him away, but his determination to succeed had only grown more dogged with each new task laid on him. Far from discouraging him, the regimen had toned him to a wiry toughness that made him almost impossible to beat.

Nodoka had made a place of her own with the villagers. Her martial skills with the sword and the unusual style of her family impressed the warrior women, and they opened up their hearts to her in a way Genma could never hope to achieve. She spent many a happy hour learning the sword techniques of her new friends, and sparring in the common area set aside for the purpose.

When the Elders finally admitted that they had nothing more to teach them, they knew it was time to move on. This time, however, they were not alone on their journey. Nodoka proudly bore a second bundle beside the heirloom sword; she also carried the heir who would one day wield it.

Chapter Two: In Which We Meet Young Ranma

Genma, Nodoka and the baby Ranma wandered the back roads of China for a time, trading techniques with Chinese martial arts masters when they could. Genma supported his family by odd jobs and the charity of the schools they visited. The family did not stay in China for very long, however. Avoiding the attention of the Chinese authorities could be tricky. That they had no travel permits meant always living in fear of deportation. Genma was steering their steps towards Tibet as their eventual goal, intending to study Buddhist philosophy under the famed monks of that country.

When finally they reached that sad country, it was to find that the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet (during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's) had devastated the Tibetan religious heritage. Genma had hoped to learn spiritual balance there to offset the warrior skills he had learned from the Amazons, but the monasteries Tibet was so famed for were, for the most part, gone. Even those that remained were closely guarded by the Chinese, so it would be almost impossible for a foreigner to study there in peace.

They had tried visiting three major monasteries as they traveled through the country: Ganden, famed home of four thousand monks, had been leveled to the ground. The local people had just begun the process of rebuilding it, one stone at a time. Drepung had been depopulated and the monks sent to slave labor camps to be "re-educated". Only a few hundred remained, under Chinese supervision. Tashi-Lhumpo, the seat of the Panchen Lama, was suffering an even greater indignity; "monks" (who were little more than actors hired to provide atmosphere to the place) acted out rituals so that Chinese tourists and soldiers could see the "quaint native superstitions".

Although they were shocked to discover how badly those monasteries had fared, they knew better than to even try going to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Jokhang Temple was still the site of occasional protest rallies, and was watched night and day by armed Chinese soldiers.

Disappointed, and heartsick for the suffering of a gentle people, Genma and Nodoka decided to cross into India and seek the exiled government of the Dalai Lama. The best way to go was a mountain route, crossing the border into Nepal, through the Nepalese capital Katmandu and from there to India. The trail was a long one through the stark beauty of the Himalayan mountains, and many times they were forced to sleep hungry, but all roads one day reach their destination.

When they crossed the border into Nepal, it was as if they had entered a new world. Genma was able to get food for them by working odd jobs in farming villages, and they could walk the roads without hiding every time another traveler appeared. In Tibet, they had always been apprehensive of someone catching them and finding out that they had no permission to be in the country. Before the crossing into India, Nodoka was able to call her family in Japan and arrange for passports to be sent to them by the Japanese Embassy. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from their shoulders.

When they reached Dharamsala in India, the city in which the Tibetan government in exile lived, they found the monks whom they had thought to find in Tibet. The monks proved to be more than sympathetic with Genma’s desire for enlightenment. Hospitable to a fault, they made arrangements to allow the family an extended stay as guests of the Tibetan people. Genma found that the procedure to become a monk was simple, and that there was no pressure placed on anyone to stay longer than they felt called to. He spent many happy years as a Buddhist monk, balancing his growth as a person with his growth in the martial arts. Nodoka found instructors in the local sword techniques, and was able to continue her learning in her own art as well. Both of them doted on their son, who grew like the proverbial weed.

When Ranma was three years of age, they began training him to follow in their footsteps. In the following years, he was sent to a daycare center in the morning and attended classes at the local monastery in the afternoon, learning as much philosophy as a child could grasp along with several languages. It was always amusing to his parents to hear him, when he made a mistake, "expressing" himself in Mandarin, Hindi, Tibetan, English and Japanese simultaneously. Even when washing his mouth out with soap, it was hard for them to hide their smiles. In the evening, his parents taught him elements of both their arts. On one day, he might be taught the sword, on another the basic forms of the Anything Goes style.

For all three, it was the happiest time of their lives.

When Ranma celebrated his sixth birthday, it was decided that the time had come to return to Japan. The boy had grown up in foreign lands all his young life, and needed to learn about his own people. Also, it wasn't a good idea for him to continue school outside the Japanese system; Japanese children who were raised away from the homeland were often considered outsiders by those raised entirely within the system, and treated cruelly.

The offices of the Dalai Lama were able to obtain Chinese travel permits for them (by methods best not examined too closely), so they were able to return to visit the village of the Joketsuzoku openly on the way home.

When they arrived in the Bayankalas, the reception they got was very different from the first time Genma and Nodoka had arrived there. Nodoka was greeted like a returning sister, and even Genma found that the warriors guarding the way gave him grudging respect. They had arrived in time for the yearly battle contest, and Nodoka was permitted to participate. Although she was no match for the best of the Amazons, her showing was by no means poor, and at the end she held the twenty-third place overall. At the end of the festival, just before the feast celebrating the winner, Nodoka was awarded an honorary citizenship in the village. The Elder Cologne, in a rare display of open affection, even adopted Nodoka into her own clan.

After the feast, Ranma wandered away from his parents to play with some children his own age. When he approached a group of girls who were sparring just outside the village, one of the them ran up to him. "<Nihao! My name is Shampoo! You're Ranma, right? Great grandma made your mama part of our clan, so we're kind of like cousins now, aren't we? Do you want to play? I like to spar, both with and without weapons. I bet you I can kick your butt!>"

Ranma greeted that declaration with an eager grin. "<You're on!>"

The resulting duel had aspects of both ballet and brawl, and ranged over half the village. Sticks and poles were snatched up to serve as impromptu swords and staffs, unlucky pottery made temporary shields before being shattered, and the hand-to-hand aspects often reached inspired levels. When the dust settled, both children were dirty and their feast day clothing was shredded. Shampoo would have problems sitting for days afterward (having paid the price for her "butt kicking" boast), and Ranma sported a shiner on his left eye that he bore like a badge of honor. The older children regarded them in awe, and the adults radiated indulgent approval. The display the two had put on was viewed by all as an entirely appropriate and auspicious ending to the day's events.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

The way that Ranma and Shampoo hit it off (yes, it's a pun. Sue me.) was duly noted by another boy. Mousse had decided that he wanted Shampoo all to himself years before, although she repeatedly rebuffed him. She had easily decked him when they were only three years old, and nothing had changed since. Shampoo, like many Amazon girls, wanted to be a warrior when she grew up, and warriors were only supposed to like boys who were strong. In her six year old opinion, Mousse didn't make the cut.

What Mousse didn't like was the way Shampoo stayed close to her "cousin" all evening. He didn't like it one bit.

The next morning Ranma's parents met with Cologne to discuss the ramifications of induction into her clan. While they were talking over tea, Ranma went outside to play. As he practiced his balance on the Challenge Log suspended in the village commons, a boy he had not yet met walked up to him. "<You. Your name is Saotome, right?>"

Ranma could clearly hear the anger in the boy's voice. He turned to face the stranger warily. The boy was wearing traditional Chinese clothing, consisting of a long coat with wide sleeves, split up the sides to the waist, over baggy black pants. "<That's right. Who wants to know?>"

"<My name is Mousse. I am the one destined to marry Shampoo. If you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from her!>"

Ranma had not been raised to back away from a confrontation. "<Nobody tells me who I can be friends with. I don't know what your problem is, and I don't care. If Shampoo wants t' be friends, then that's her choice, isn't it?>"

Mousse lowered his head slightly, and the morning light glinted on his glasses. "<You can't say I didn't give you fair warning. Now you pay for your insults!>"

Ranma was caught completely off guard when weighted chains suddenly streamed out of the sleeves of Mousse's coat. Hit squarely, he was knocked off the log to land in the dirt below. Years of training with his parents had honed his reactions, so he reflexively rolled with the fall and avoided the follow-up strike Mousse had aimed to intercept him on the ground. Back on his feet, he felt his ribs where the weighted ends had hit him. It hurt a lot, more than anything had ever hurt before. He suspected that at least one of his ribs was cracked, or at least badly bruised.

Whoever this new kid was, this was serious.

—> Ranma/ Mousse fight to be added later <—

When the family arrived in Japan, their first stop was the Kansai prefecture. Nodoka's parents lived in Kyoto, and they felt it was high time that they were introduced to their grandson. Although Nodoka wrote to them as often as she could, and had sent them pictures of Ranma on each of his birthdays, they were understandably dissatisfied at the long distance relationship. When Nodoka had written of their imminent return to Japan, her mother had sent a lengthy reply to the Amazon village. The message could be summed up as a dire promise of dismemberment if they were not top priority on the Saotome's travel agenda.

Her mother's exact words were: "You aren't the only one with an ancient family sword, you know. If we don't get a visit from you and your husband the very hour you set foot in Japan, I'll hunt you down like a rabid dog and draw and quarter you both."

Most of Nodoka's extreme views about honor were handed down from her mother, so she didn't regard the statement as an idle threat.

To Ranma, Japan was an eye-opening experience. He had never seen so much electrically operated equipment in his life as could be found in his grandmother's kitchen, and negotiating traffic was a new and unsettling hazard. On the plus side, for the very first time ever he got an allowance of his own (500 Yen a week!) and there were all sorts of vending machines everywhere he went that sold a bewildering variety of treasures. On the mainland, soda pop was a luxury reserved for special occasions; now all he had to do was put a few coins in a slot, and a can of the stuff was his for the taking. They even sold bags of rice from the vending machines! Back in the Amazon village, you had to work hard in the fields to get rice. To have it magically appear in the tray at the bottom of a machine was a wonder to boggle the imagination.

Although it made Nodoka nervous, Ranma was allowed to wander around the neighborhood as he pleased. He would not grow up to be manly if she coddled and protected him the way she really wanted to. As long as he did not go more than a block or two away, he was permitted to do as he wished. School was in summer vacation, so except for tutoring to get ready for the upcoming semester, his continuing spiritual training, his kendo lessons, his martial arts training, the obligatory time letting his grandparents fuss over him and a crash course he had to take on living in a modern, industrialized country, his time was his own.

He was out exploring one Sunday morning when he ran across something fascinating. A man was standing next to a big two wheeled cart cooking something that smelled wonderful, and a kid Ranma's age was giving away pieces of paper to the passers-by. The kid was dressed up in the same kind of clothing as the man, but had delicate features and long hair tied back with a white bow. He looked kind of like a sissy to Ranma.

When the kid from the cart noticed him, Ranma asked: "Hey, are you selling the food from that cart?"

The kid looked at him scornfully. "Of course we are, jackass. You think I'm doin' this for my health?"

Ranma was a little taken aback at the rudeness, but the food smelled REALLY good… "Um, how much does it cost?"

He was handed one of the papers. The food was called "okonomiyaki", and there were many different kinds of it. The problem was the prices. Three hundred to seven hundred Yen. He only had a hundred Yen left of the week's allowance, and he wouldn't get more until the next day. Crestfallen, he gave the paper back. "Oh. I guess I can't afford any."

The kid from the cart looked at him speculatively. Carefully noted were the telltale callouses on Ranma's hands and elbows, and the poise that spoke of long practice. "You know how to fight, don't ya? Tell you what, I don't get enough sparring time in to keep my edge, so I could use a match. If you win, you can have anything you want for free. If I win, you gotta help me sell okonomiyaki for my dad. Okay?"

Ranma brightened up immediately. "You bet! My name's Ranma Saotome of the Anything Goes school of martial arts! I accept your challenge!"

"Okay, sugar. I'm Ukyou. Prepare to get your block knocked off!"

'Ukyou, huh?' Ranma thought to himself. 'That's a guy's name. He looks kinda like a sissy, but he sure doesn't sound like one. This could be fun!'

The battle that followed, fist versus spatula, was epic. Ranma won his first okonomiyaki ever, and over the following months many more would follow. Thus was born his second lifelong friendship.

When school began that year, Ranma was fascinated. There were so many new things to learn that he didn't know where to start. It took a month for him to be disappointed by the lack of personal attention. Ranma was used to having monks as teachers, who had always seemed interested in his progress, and who had always had the time to explore his subjects with him in depth. The teachers at the public school just stood in front of the class and lectured or read from a book, and didn't seem to care if the students were really learning anything as long as they could recite the lessons. After the care people had taken in his education up until then, rote learning was a real letdown, and Ranma found himself bored almost to the point of tears. The side effect of this was that he got a reputation as a problem student, because it was hard for him to pay attention.

On the plus side, school was a wonderful opportunity to interact with kids his own age. One was a young boy named Ryouga Hibiki, with whom Ranma developed a rivalry. Ranma hadn't planned it that way; it was just that whenever Ranma was trying to get lunch in the daily scramble in the school cafeteria, Ryouga, as often as not, just happened to be between Ranma and the food. But although Ranma didn't mean anything by it, Ryouga was understandably upset that his lunch usually consisted of a mouthful of Ranma's shoe leather.

This was a situation that lasted all of the school year, and near the end of the final semester, Ryouga decided that he'd had enough. "Saotome! Thanks to you, this year has been hell for me! I intend to have revenge for the way you've abused me. Meet me in the abandoned lot near my house tomorrow, and don't you dare try to weasel out of it!"

Ryouga is famed throughout the multiverse for his lack of direction sense, and required guidance to get from one place to another. On the day of the duel, however, he decided to go to the abandoned lot by himself.

The rest is history in any universe.

When Ryouga finally found the abandoned lot four days later, Ranma was nowhere to be seen. Ryouga was furious; how dare that coward run out on a fight? As he began the lengthy journey to find his own home, which was around the corner from the lot, Ryouga swore that no matter where Ranma was hiding, he would find him and take his vengeance.

A few days later, and long before Ryouga made it home, Genma packed up his family and moved on.

This is the original story that I am rewriting. I delete the parts that have been done.


/An okonomiyaki cart, where an engagement is refused. A tale of a dead mother and a dying father, leaving a child alone and unloved is sufficient that cart and child are quickly adopted. Two children and their father, traveling across Japan and China./ An eleven year old boy, challenging the Elders for his birthright as an Amazon. Three Trials that he succeeds at. Acceptance into the tribe, though he could not stay./A cousin of sorts, curious from her half Japanese relative's tales of adventure, sneaks away to join the group./

<cue: '60s Batman theme>

/A masked martial artist, tall and strong, biffs and bams his way through a crowd of Faceless Minions. At his sides, doing the same, is a young masked boy, a masked girl who has substituted her spatula with a bo staff, and a masked girl with long purple hair./ A scarred man, holding a hand over one eye, swearing vengeance against the two whose masks have become dislodged during the fight (Genma & Ranma). Genma shaking hands with Detective Lee of the Hong Kong Harbor Police. He and the detective sweatdrop as the three kids behind them go into a "sentai group pose."/

<cue: James Bond music>

/ In snow covered mountains, with a blonde girl about the same age as the others. All four parachuting down, with black parachutes, into some installation with an odd radar dish./ Shampoo, Ukyou, Melissa, and Ranma looking alarmed at Genma, who has just pushed a button on the wall. All five begin running as a really big round rock begins rolling down the corridor at them./

<cue: Star Wars music>

/Genma leaving Shampoo and Ukyou at the Amazon Village, before Ranma & his father leave alone again./At the controls of the plane, while the pilot watches with amusement as Ranma starts studying the controls and instruments./Joining a noble cause and opposing a tyrant, just because it is the right thing to do, surrounded by partisans./A small crowd of soldiers in a mountain top villa, preparing to execute the last group of the rebels and a dark haired girl, being interrupted as an attack helicopter sweeps up from behind the mountain. A grinning Ranma is shown behind the controls./Victory, with a much smaller group of partisans, their arms raised in victory in a blasted out villa that freedom was at last theirs. A dark haired girl seems to be hanging close to Ranma./

The rain came down in a drizzle as they entered the village. Genma separated from Ranma almost instantly. Even though he had lived here, even though Ranma was now accepted, Genma was still considered an outsider by most. Not all, as many accepted him. In fact, one reason Genma had to make himself scarce in the village was that he kept getting challenged. Genma was strong, well known as a gentle and virtuous soul, and had a reputation as a strong martial artist. If he didn't make himself scarce, he'd find himself married again before long. The first thing Ranma did, of course, was try to look up his old friends.


"<Who? Oh, it's you, Mousse. Have you seen Ucchan or Shamchan?>"

"<For Shampoo's hand, I challenge you to a duel!>"

"<Are you nuts or somethin'? Shampoo's my second cousin, sorta.>" Actually Ranma wasn't sure what a translation of the relationship was. Cousin was the usual term used. "<Shouldn't you be challenging her, or her legal guardian at least?>"

"<Enough! Are you a man or aren't you?>"

"<Geez, Mousse, what flew up your butt? I know we've never gotten along, but still…>"

"<You'll meet me at the Cursed Springs in a half hour, or you'll never see your friend Ucchan or my Shampoo again.>"

"YOU?!" Ranma stared at Mousse's ally and tried to picture how this could have happened. He'd only been twelve when their paths had crossed the last time.

"You and your father have caused me considerable problems, boy." The middle aged man flicked a cigarette stub away. "This is where you get paid back in full."

"Where's Ucchan and Shampoo?" Ranma's eyes swept the area, not spotting them anywhere nearby. There was only the small hut where they could have been held out of the late evening chill.

"Your sister and cousin are safe, for the moment, boy." Scarumanga sneered at the boy before him. In the deepening shadows, the tsuba tied as an eye patch was an dark blob on the pale face. "Do you know how much embarrassment you caused me, boy? The oyabun was not pleased. However, if I bring you in front of him as a new pet, he may relent and restore me to my previous position."

"It was your own doing," Ranma pointed out.

"Me and Pop were hired by one of the parents of the missing girls. Pachinko, minor gambling, the occasional robbery are all tolerated by the police from the Yakuza. Going off on your own initiative with a slave ring, that pushed the boundaries."

"Enough talk, get up there and fight."

Scarumanga pointed to where Mousse rested easily on one of the poles.

"How do I know Shampoo and Ucchan are okay?"

Scarumanga whistled. A movement on a cliff top brought Ranma's attention to it. Two figures, surrounded by four others.

"Don't worry, they're alive. Just drugged."

Ranma nodded, probably the same stuff that had been used on the girls that Scarumanga had been involved with earlier. He didn't even glance at the pocket of his vest that had the transceiver. "Okay, now get them back away from the edge of the cliff, whatever you're planning doesn't concern them."

"No profit in hurting them, true." Scarumanga whistled twice and the figures disappeared. "Now, get your a$$ up there, little boy."

Grumbling slightly, Ranma removed his shoes before leaping to the top of one of the bamboo poles. "So, I'm supposed to fight Mousse like this? This ain't so bad, I've seen similar setups in Thailand and Okinawa."

Scarumanga grinned. "Why do you think they call it the 'Cursed Springs'?"

Ranma shrugged, paying less attention to Scarumanga than to Mousse who was taking a 'Crane' stance. Mousse had some fair strength and speed, but it had been a few years since Ranma had faced him in combat. Mousse had always resented this overachieving youth to be so friendly with 'his Shampoo' and apparently time had not made the heart grow fonder.

Mousse leapt to the attack, using his long legs to good effect with a series of kicks. Ranma dodged and flipped, noting that the uneven spacing of the poles made judging distances a little difficult. Mousse continued to press the attack until Ranma was on a particular pole. "Now, Saotome, our rivalry is OVER!" From the right sleeve of his robe erupted the expected stream of chains. From the left came a submachine gun spitting a hail of bullets.

It had been a long day. Ranma had been hiking, running along mountain trails, and had desperately wanted nothing more than catching up on old times with his friends and relaxing in a hot bath. He would have anticipated spears or chains from Mousse. Guns, which would have been unthinkable for Mousse a few years ago, were completely beyond what Ranma would have expected.

Caught by surprise, Ranma still nearly made it to another pole. His hand clawed the air within an inch of salvation. Another moment and he'd have been able to get out of the field of fire, another inch and he'd have had that moment. A bullet slammed into his chest instead.

Oddly enough, his thought as he fell was not of himself or how much this would hurt. He was instead apologizing to Shampoo and Ukyou for failing them.

Mousse smiled in triumph. Shampoo and that sister of his were always going on about how wonderful or how special Ranma was. Mousse had even snuck into Shampoo's room once to find that HIS future bride had a scrapbook of Saotome's adventures and photographs! Now Shampoo would be his!

"<…Shampoo will be mine at last.>"

Shampoo kept her eyes closed as she slowly regained consciousness. It took all her will not to react when she realized that she had just been handed to Mousse and that he had cupped one of her breasts as he took her from these drug users. No doubt by accident, though he _had_ been getting awfully pushy lately.

"What about this Ranma, boss?" A gruff voice speaking in Ranma's native language. Shampoo had picked some of it up from his sister Ukyou.

"Little Miss Saotome will be no problem. Make sure that she's paralyzed but conscious, then 'play' with her a bit. In fact, you've all done so well, why don't you pass her around a couple times?"

"Gee, thanks boss."

"You dirty bastards, if I could get loose…"

"Look, Saotome, see that pan over there? You and your dad are into experiments, ain't ya? Well, I've thought about this ever since I heard about these 'Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo.' You fell into Spring of Drowned Girl, so now cold water turns you from an annoying boy to a pretty young girl. Hot water turns you back. Since the Spring you fell into was a cold one, it might be reasonably assumed that this is why it is cold water that activates the curse, right?"

"Yeah, I get it. So you're heating up some of the Girl water so that you can lock me into this form. Cheez, don't you ever tire of this crap, Scarumanga? What is it with you and the slave trader routine?"

"It's a highly lucrative business, girl. Carries plenty of side benefits, and the finished product is in high demand in a number of locations. Even 'as is' you could be sold to a Thai brothel or cage bar, where you'd be strung out on so many drugs even you wouldn't know your own name. The really high prices go to the 'trained' models, though. If the oyabun doesn't want you, hell, I may have my friends put you through their training regimen and then keep you myself."

"Go to Hell, Scarumanga."

Scarumanga smiled a cruel little smile.

"You'll be there far ahead of me, girl."

Shampoo finished figuring out the opposition and the situation. Two men with guns, one near her, one further away. Three without guns. Mousse was setting her down on the ground. Ukyou was silent, probably still unconscious. Ranma was over there, bound from the sound of it. Her cousin was now a girl and about to become permanently a member of the warrior gender. Shampoo waited until she could be sure of when to move. She had other plans for cousin Ranma that required that he remain a he at least part time. So did his "sister" but that could be settled later.

"Hey boss, this Cursed Spring water stuff?"

"Yeah, Tiny?"

"If it hits you on the outside, your outside changes, right? This boy got turned into a girl, but he still THINKS like a boy so his insides ain't changed, right?"

"Yes, Tiny," Scarumanga sounded weary.

"So if you got this Cursed Water stuff INSIDE 'em, would it change them inside as well as out?"

There was a sudden pause going through the group.

"Hmmm," Scarumanga hmmed. "Tiny, for a moron, you're a genius."

"Gee, thanks, boss. I think…"

"Let's try this out, first. Drill?"

The unsavory type with the leer nodded, uncapped a small flask, then turned on Mousse and threw it. A moment later Mousse found herself lifted and pinned by Tiny.

"What the hell are you doing?! We had a deal!"

"C'mon, kid, we've got to try this idea out, and you ain't going to be able to rejoin your village with the girl there. I promised you a place in our organization, remember? Well…" Scarumanga chuckled. "The Red Lantern district has some openings. Hey, kid, we're VILLAINS. You make a deal with the devil, you better expect the contract to undergo renovation halfway through the job."

Heated Curse water was poured over Mousse's head. That she remained a she was duly noted by everyone watching.

"Well, that's one theory. I wonder how your girlfriend feels about same sex pairings."

Scarumanga nodded to a subordinate.

"Damnit, stop this right now, or…" Mousse learned the hard way that trying to yell meant that you had to open your mouth, and this was not the smartest thing to be doing at the moment. She spit and choked but Yag held Mousse's nose while forcing a bottle into her mouth.

Shampoo chanced opening her eyes a slit, noticed the gun wielders weren't paying attention and did what came natural. The ones with the guns were the most dangerous, so they were the target of choice.

"Hiyaaaah!" Her foot imbedded itself into Drill's solar plexus, compressing that area by nearly inch. A gun started swinging up to cover her, but a spear ended that attempt. The lack of attention of those with guns had been duly noted by other eyes. The Amazons descended in force, having been listening to Genma’s transceiver.

During the fight, Scarumanga fled using a smoke bomb to cover his exit.

Tiny proved that while he was an idiot, he wasn't completely hopeless, and he surrendered after being surrounded by a lot of women with very sharp objects. He ended up being a slave farmer, and though often verbally abused and struck by the women (at least at first) - it was still better than he was used to.

Yag, on the other hand, tried to use butterfly knives to cut his way to freedom. He met with Spring Of Drowned Pigeon a few moments later. Yag later discovered that a number of Amazons practiced the ancient art of falconry.

Mousse was still coughing up water, but the looks she was being given were enough to indicate that the girl was going to have a very hard time in front of the Elders later.

A week later, Ranma found himself back in Japan. It was drizzling again, however the umbrella was quite sufficient for the task. "Are you sure about this, father? The Guide says that it only takes a year for the Curse to stabilize enough for me to use the 'Spring Of Drowned Man' and change back for good."

Genma nodded, but was proud of how Ranma took the curse more-or-less in stride. Even now, with quite obvious reservations about the task in front of them, he reasoned calmly and clearly. He had done well in raising his son. Happosai could never have managed such a feat.

"This is it," Genma winced as a car went by and water flew everywhere. A quick glance revealed his daughter sighing, eyes closed, and allowing herself a quick grumble about the only car in sight and of course it would have to splash her.

"Well, I'm sure they'll have hot water at least."

The knocking door brought a girl with short hair in a kimono out. "Oooo. Are you Ranma?"

"Yeah, kinda. Sorry, but I just got splashed. Got any hot water? Please?"

"Saotome, my old friend. You look well."

"Soun, you're looking fairly well yourself."

Genma motioned. "May we? The weather keeps turning chilly and this drizzle is most uncomfortable."

"This is Ranma!" Soun grabbed the short boy.

"Oh, at last, you've come! It's so good to finally meet you! I…"

"Hot water, please," repeated Ranma as Soun Tendo let him go.

"What? What? You…" Soun backed away with a shocked expression.

Nabiki frowned and gave one of the odd bulges in Ranma's shirt a squeeze.

"I'd *really* appreciate some hot water. Please?" Ranma closed her eyes. "And can you please not do that."

Nabiki squeezed and checked the shape and firmness. Confirming what she thought that was. She flicked along the top. "'He' is a girl." No bra either.

Soun fainted.

"I told you we should have waited. Would *someone* please get me some hot water?"

"There's hot water in the furo," said Nabiki, upset by all this. Why did this girl keep talking about getting hot water? Why did Daddy arrange one of his girls to marry another girl?

"Actually, I can explain." Genma sighed. This was not going nearly how he planned it.

"Well, at least THAT nonsense is over with," another girl said. "I'd better go show that girl where the bath things are."

"Oh my, father must be so disappointed."

"HE'S disappointed! Some fiancé that was!"

"As I said, I can explain…"

"This is all your fault, Daddy, you should have made sure!"

"But Saotome said he had a son!"

"I DO have a son. Let me explain, you see…"

"Some son, she's a D cup!"

"It's quite simple, really…"

"aaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" The youngest girl ran by, grabbed a table, and prepared to run back the way she came.

"What NOW, Akane?" Nabiki rubbed her head. What a horrible day this was turning out to be.

"I was going to wash off while I was in there, but there's a pervert in the bathtub!"

"So, shouldn't you have just beaten him up?"

"I got scared, okay?!"

"Uhm, excuse me." Ranma stepped forward, bowing slightly in apology. "I'm really sorry about…"

There was an opening. Akane was a trained martial artist. She took the opening. The table impacted the young man rather suddenly and brutally.

Genma sighed. Well, there were still other possibilities. Shampoo had declared her interest. Ukyou was quite obviously not satisfied with her relationship to Ranma as a sister. He had gotten along well with Ami over in Juuban when they'd gone to the same juku. There was Melissa in London, Sasha of the Norwegian Amazons, and a few others that Ranma had seemed to hit it off with. There was even that young woman who was now at the Palace, a girl of the rebels that had fought alongside Ranma during that year with the partisans. If the Tendo arrangement was unworkable, then he was sure that Ranma could find someone he could be happy with. It would at least satisfy some of these problems if Ranma were already married or at least seriously engaged, and if his son could have a happy marriage, well - that would make Genma happy as well.

Genma started explaining the curse to the three girls and their father. How Ranma had been trying to save a friend's life when he'd gotten cursed. How in a year, there was a chance that he could enter the waters of another spring and be cured of his curse.

Seeing some disbelief, Genma demonstrated on the unconscious Ranma then got directions to the kitchen so that he could fix some hot water.

"Ungh. Why me?" Ranma began to stir. "Oh crap, I'm a girl again? When did that happen?"

"You were cursed while you were trying to save your friends?" Kasumi felt some sympathy, this never happened in her romance manga. Well, hardly ever.

"Yeah, my cousin and my sister." Ranma groaned as she moved to a sitting position. "Oh man, what hit me?"

Genma walked in with a kettle and quickly returned his daughter to being his son.

"Cold water turns you into a girl, but hot water restores you?" Soun nodded. "Well, that's not so bad. The life of a martial artist is fraught with peril."

"Tell me about it," murmured Genma and Ranma in eerie unison.

Soun motioned towards where all three girls were standing and looking dubiously at the new boy. "My daughter Kasumi, she's nineteen. My daughter Nabiki, she's seventeen. My daughter Akane, she's sixteen. Pick the one you want, she'll be your new fiancee."

"Akane seems the wisest choice," Kasumi said. Momentary panic at the thought of being engaged to someone who spent even part of the same time as the same gender caused Kasumi to say something she'd later regret.

"Couldn't agree more," said Nabiki as she got behind her youngest sister.

"ME?! Why should I!"

"Uhm, you needn't act like I'm a leper, y'know," Ranma mumbled. "It's not contagious."

"Because you hate boys, Akane." Nabiki nodded and continued with the pressure, shoving Akane towards Ranma. Akane wasn't having anything to do with it and was digging her feet in.

"Well, you're in luck, Akane. Ranma is half girl."

"You know, this does wonders for my self esteem," Ranma said softly to his father. "This was almost as good an idea as that 'I wonder what *this* button does' crap."

"Me? Marry that pervert? NO WAY!"

"EXCUSE ME!" Ranma began to raise his voice. Being polite was obviously not being considered by anyone else at the moment. "Would you care to explain that pervert crack?"

"You looked at me in the nude, you lech!"

Feeling at least a little satisfaction that he wasn't being ignored, Ranma continued trying to be reasonable. "If you would recall, I clearly placed the Occupied sign out and my clothes were left in the changing room. Since you walked in on me, wouldn't that indicate…"

"It's different when a girl sees a boy! PERVERT! PEEPING TOM!"

"They're already a perfect couple," laughed Soun Tendo.

Ranma stared at Mister Tendo, wondering exactly where this perfect couple was.

"Well…" Genma winced. It sounded like Soun was really set on this idea after all.

"Father, this obviously will not work out. Since the limo's in the area anyway, I'll just give them a call and we can be done with this."

Ranma half turned to his father. "This girl hates me already, and for inadequate reason. The other two quite obviously want nothing to do with me. I can go back to college tomorrow anyway."

"Limo," repeated Nabiki. She stopped pushing Akane forward.

"College?" Kasumi looked up and blinked.

"Leaving?" Soun blinked.

"Good riddance! Pervert!" Akane was furious. They were going to engage her to this shape changing pervert! And he wouldn't even look at her when she had come in!

"Yes, well, Ranma," Genma sighed. "Soun and I made this pledge while we were serving under a horrible Master, to join the two houses. It was a dream that kept us going through some dark times."

"That's right, the houses MUST be joined. It is a matter of honor."

"Is it honor to inflict a lifetime of misery upon your daughters?" Ranma shrugged. "Besides, Father, there are other claims at least the equal of that."

"WHAT?! Genma, what is the meaning of this?"

"Political alliances, rich & powerful, that sort of thing," Genma sighed. Life used to be so simple.

"Limo?" Nabiki repeated again, wanting confirmation. "Rich? Powerful? Political alliances?"

"You needn't worry, Miss Tendo. I'll have the driver pull up in front of the house and we can leave, and with any luck we'll never darken your door again. We only walked because I really didn't want to waste their resources on something so… mundane."

"Excuse me?" Nabiki watched as Ranma pulled out a flip style cellular phone. Nabiki noted that it was one of those watertight shockproof models with a GPS display. A counter with a yen sign started to flash numbers up over her head.

"Reginald? Ranma. Can you bring the limo by? We won't be staying after all." Ranma sounded vaguely surprised at the other's answer. "You're *that* close? No wonder you were so valuable to Her Majesty's Service, you must be psychic."

Kasumi excused herself to go see this.

"What about our pledge?!" Soun started to bawl.

"Well, there are others with claims too. And some have more ramifications than just two families, as I said." Genma looked uncomfortable.

"Since none of your daughters are willing, we'll just have to go to the next claim."

"Oh my, such a big car."

Ranma shrugged and looked a little embarrassed. "Wasn't my idea. After all, the money could be better invested in a wide variety of ways."

"Money?" Nabiki blinked, scooting in front of Akane to ask of Ranma's back as he left the house. Any attempt to foist this boy-turning-into-a-girl thing off on her sister was quickly being relegated to the Really Bad Ideas stack. "What kind of money are we talking about?"

Akane opened her mouth to protest this engagement further (fully expecting that if it came to a choice, she'd be chosen, after all neither Nabiki nor Kasumi could get a date whereas she had to fight her way through hormone crazed idiots every morning) when she realized she was alone in the house. Shrugging, she happily went back to the bathroom. At least she'd gotten out of this engagement thing.

"But the pledge…" Soun bawled, a river of tears forming.

"It isn't that big a car, Kasumi, though it *is* a Mercedes." The numbers on the Yen counter were now whirling around at high speed and Nabiki didn't want to look at it. She took a good look at the boy instead and *really* started to regret trying to palm him off on Akane. Tall, nicely muscled, looked like he had a really good diet while growing up, his little leather vest with all the pockets looked good over his embroidered Chinese shirt and matched his pants quite well.

"Even then, it's the property of the Embassy. Still, you'd think something more economical would be more prudent." Ranma sighed at the waste of so many resources. "If we go straight to the airport, I can start the pre-flight inspection on our jet immediately and we can be in New England by tomorrow, and I can register at M.I.T. before it gets much later."

"Economical? Prudent? *EMBASSY?*" Nabiki frowned, she felt like she was a page behind in the script. "You have your own jet? M.I.T.?!" The Yen counter's speed was a blur.

"Saotome? How did you get wealthy?"

"Oh, we helped some rebel forces put down a tyrannical despot, managed to save one of the Royal Family, discovered that there were mineral deposits that nobody had correctly identified."

Ranma snorted, and some people had thought that his geology courses had been wasted. They didn't think that now, of course.

"Rebels. Waitaminute, not?!" Nabiki felt faint, she'd read about this. A small mountain nation where a battle had taken place and the vastly outnumbered rebel forces (that should have been wiped out without even being a historical footnote) had somehow succeeded in retaking their country from some organization called Shadowlaw. The nation had changed its name, there was one of the war heroes designated as the next Heir, and *diamonds* had been discovered on this relatively worthless rock by that same war hero. She licked suddenly dry lips. "Would that be The Grand Duchy Of Fenwick?"

"You've heard of us?" Genma looked embarrassed. "I told them, no reward was necessary, but I suppose the symbolism was good for the people."

Ranma paused at the door of the limo, looking embarrassed. Talking about his problems was just so self-indulgent, he hated being the center of attention like this. "And I keep tellin' 'em, invest in the infrastructure and bring the standard of living up, but they keep pulling stuff like this. Like anybody listens to the Heir anyway, it's just a damn figurehead position."

Nabiki paused, finger up. A little voice started going over the economic projections she'd seen for the Grand Duchy of Fenwick (more yen than the Bank of Tokyo) and the counter came crashing down over her head at the end, now reading "*and you blew it, you dummy!*"

Kasumi caught Nabiki before her little sister hit the ground. "Oh my."

"Well, father?" Ranma looked askance at Genma as they settled into the back seat and the chauffeur headed towards their plane.

"I *had* hopes, but as you pointed out, his daughters just would not be happy with an arranged marriage. Too bad." Genma sulked a bit. After their little adventure, they couldn't set foot in the Amazon Village again. Not because they were unwelcome, quite the opposite in fact. They'd narrowly escaped having a large number of Amazons splitting up and piling over the two. "Well, maybe something will turn up."

"You're such an optimist, father." Ranma smirked and leaned back. He wasn't entirely unhappy with the situation. After all, now he could concentrate on important things. Like college.

Nabiki blinked, raised her head, saw the limo disappearing down the street, and screamed.


"That's the way, Nabiki!" Soun called encouragement to the daughter vanishing down the street, running after the Saotomes. "Go fetch your fiancé!"

"Oh my." Kasumi smiled. "I don't think I've ever seen Nabiki run that quickly before." And in a kimono too. Kasumi thought for a moment about English style castles, large and elaborate kitchens, and what it would be like to live in such a large home. Well, if he were in college, he wasn't *that* young. Probably headed to Narita, so…

Kasumi went into the house and calmly called a cab. She had not been a proper hostess and she could insist on the two giving her a second chance.



"What is this, another Bet fic?" Akane snorted as she looked through the script. "So what is it this time? Do I pull out a gun and shoot the pervert in the tub?"

"Well, if it's a Bet fic, at least I get to say something besides 'Oh my' and act like my brain was shut down from the cleaning fumes." Kasumi reached for another chocolate stick. "Because some writers base on the end of the manga instead of the beginning, the only thing left of Nabiki or my personalities is the most outstanding traits-turned-caricature. You know what would happen if the same thing were applied to you, Akane. The 'psycho-b*tch effect'."

"I'd get to be interested a few things in addition to money, and it's nice to be able to stretch your role some. Just a moment, Akane. Ah, let's see." Nabiki adjusted her glasses. "WHAT IF Genma, after having been put through Hell by Happosai’s training, had decided to become as unlike Happosai as he could?"

"Well, admittedly, THAT would be different," Shampoo shrugged and sat back as she looked over her script. "Oh hell, I show up only briefly, and that's as a 'damsel in distress'?"

"Better you than me," retorted Akane. "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Why can't I be the one to be the knight come charging in to do the rescue?"

"Out of character," answered Ukyou, Nabiki, and Shampoo simultaneously.

"There was that once you saved him from Kodachi," Kasumi reminded Akane, frowning as she read her script. Maybe she ought to pencil in a few changes … "Besides, that was your role in that 'Off Your Noodle' story, which was dropped because of initial response to the idea of Kaori Daikokuji winning that race." Kasumi stirred her coffee with her chocolate stick absently as she read through. "Oh my. Ukyou is Ranma's sister?"

"Gak!" Ukyou spit beer as she took in her own scene. "Oh, sorry, Akane. I never even wake up during the one scene I appear?! Excepting the montage scene? Phooey."

"He's rich, intelligent, not that great a fighter, built better, and going to college." Kasumi flipped through to the end. "And it's *not* a 'Kasumi gets Ranma' story? Pity, I'd at least get some good lines."

Everyone flicked back to the last page.

"I think it should be a 'Nabiki gets Ranma' story, after all, he's rich here and knows the value of money. Just imagine how well I could manage a newly wealthy nation's money." Nabiki smirked and regarded the group over the tops of her glasses.

"I think it should be a 'Shampoo gets Ranma' story. See here, he's been accepted into the Joketsuzoku." Shampoo pointed to a page. "Though I _do_ want to protest the continuing use of the term Amazon. 'Without breasts' indeed! What do they think *these* are?"

"What?" Ukyou looked up with a puzzled expression.

"The Greek phrase 'Amazon' references the practice of the nomad matriarchal tribe that Homer wrote of as removing one of their breasts to be better archers," Kasumi said without looking up. "Not something the Joketsuzoku would normally consider."

"Why do I only get Ranma (not that I want him) when he's an arrogant egotistical jerk?"

Everyone else decided to ignore Akane's outburst, rather than get caught up in this argument again.

"I think it should be an 'Ukyou gets Ranma' story, after all maybe his sister could bunk with him at his new college!"

"At least it isn't like that 'Calvin & Hobbes' crossover," sighed Kasumi.

"I don't know, Genma falling into Spring of Drowned Bad Little Boy With Overactive Imagination seemed kind of fitting," Ukyou flipped around in the script. She had to have a spoken line SOMEWHERE! "And the idea of Ranma falling in Spring Of Anthropomorphic Somewhat Wise But Mainly Affectionate & Playful Tiger has *some* appeal."

"You didn't have Ranma going into Hobbes mode every time he got splashed," Kasumi rubbed her forehead. "I kept getting pounced on by an overly affectionate tiger begging for cookies."

"I kept getting pounced on by an overly affectionate tiger who thought I needed to loosen up and play more." Nabiki sighed and studied at a section of her script. She smiled a little, remembering the tickle wars in that story.

Akane smirked. "Hey, after I beat the stuffing out of him, he *stopped* pouncing on me and trying to get all perverted. I came out ahead in that one."

"Well, I wouldn't have minded getting pounced on a few times," grumbled Ukyou. "It certainly would have been a change of pace."

Ranma-Hobbes pounced from his position in the shadows. The Tickle Wars were about to resume.



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