Disclaimer: We do not own Ranma. Boring, ain't it?
Shadou: I realize everyone's probably still looking for my next chapter of Millennial panic, and I promise it's on its way, very soon. This is a collaboration I've been working on with Weebee for some time, and we're finally up to the point we decided that we should either publish it, or not. Against our collective better judgements, we decided to go ahead and publish it. Enjoy.
Weebee: Hello everyone, and welcome to 'The True Meaning of Pervert.' This is what happens when a beta gets too involved in tossing ideas back and forth. A collaboration between Shadou Fireborn, the author you came here for, and Weebee, a rather prolific and obsessed hack Ranma crossover writer. Before all two of Weebee's fans get up in arms about that statement, it should be noted that he wrote most of this note.
Shadou: Wait, I thought I was writing the author's notes.
Weebee: ...News to me.
Shadou: Well, apparently someone missed a memo...
Weebee: Then... excuse us, technical difficulties, someone cut to the footage!
Chapter 1: Here's the Pervert
Shampoo gazed mournfully at where Ranma had vanished before her eyes. Some part of her had hoped, or wished, that the scroll would fail, but his disappearance had brutally quelled that hope. Ranma was gone, forever, and it had been her doing.
Of course, that was what the tribe's laws dictated. Ever since she had delivered the kiss of death, she had been duty-bound to kill Ranma Saotome. The only other option she had once had was marrying him, but she had been reminded not one week ago that this was no longer an option for her.
She wanted to curse Akane Tendo, curse Ranma for choosing the 'Uncute Tomboy' over the obviously superior Amazon, but by this point she wasn't sure if she'd have been able to win him over, even without the Kitchen Destroyer's interference.
The idea of killing the red-haired outsider had also seemed ridiculous, especially after the battle with Saffron had concluded. Then again, the elder had always told her that if she was incapable of defeating an opponent in a fair fight, she needed to change the rules. What she had done was definitely not fair. On the plus side, though, she was relatively sure that Ranma was still alive... wherever he was.
Turning, and wishing her former Airen good luck, she slowly walked down the quiet Neriman side street towards the Neko-Hanten.
"You did WHAT?!"
Shampoo started to stammer out a repeat of what she had just said, but Cologne held up her hand. "Silence girl. I heard what you said. What I want to know is WHY you thought doing such a stupid thing was a good idea."
"Shampoo had to fulfill kisses," the younger Amazon replied, her voice becoming somewhat stronger. "Is important, tribal law must be obeyed."
"The kisses were no longer even an issue! You just banished son-in-law for no reason, you idiotic..." Cologne bit back the rest of her statement, taking a few moments to calm herself. "That boy defeated Saffron. No matter his gender or status, he would have been welcomed into the tribe as a full Amazon warrior! Anything would have been permitted to gain such a skilled young fighter for the tribe!"
Shampoo reeled back. The kisses, no longer an issue? "W... why..." she stammered, finally switching to Mandarin to articulate herself. "Why didn't you tell me?! Why did you go on letting me think that I still had to either kill or marry him?"
The elder grimaced. "It's only been a week and a half since Saffron's defeat. It took time for this decision to be made official by the council, and I didn't want you to do anything stupid in the meantime."
Shampoo looked like she had been slapped. "But I only wanted..." she started, falling to her knees. "I just..." she tried again, but still couldn't construct a coherent sentence. She thought about what she had done, both a half hour ago and a week previous at the failed wedding. How could it have all been for nothing? As her emotions started to overwhelm her, she found one way to articulate what she was feeling.
She brought her hands to her face, and started to cry.
Cologne sighed disgustedly at her protégée. She turned, and glanced out a window, her thoughts on the boy she had had such high hopes for. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer for the boy, wishing him well... wherever he had ended up.
Meanwhile, wherever Ranma had ended up
Ranma had been having a rather typical morning. Well, Akane had been a bit quieter than usual, and he couldn't figure out if that was a good thing or not. However, breakfast had been good, and he had been looking forward to a rather quiet sunday of practicing the art. That, of course, was before Happosai had shown up.
Happosai had been keeping his distance from the Dojo ever since he'd guzzled an entire barrel of drowned man water. When he came back, he proceeded to pretend that nothing had happened, and insisted that he had no idea why both Ranma and Genma were trying to glare holes in him. The old freak then declared that Ranma's problem was that he had to loosen up, tossing a bucket of water in his face and embedding himself into the aquatranssexual's suddenly ample cleavage.
She really should have known better than to try and knock him into next week with an easily tracked haymaker, but she'd been so annoyed at the time that she hadn't been thinking, and the inevitable pipe counter sent her straight through the roof and on a long arc across the district.
She'd only just picked herself up from the ground when Shampoo suddenly appeared before her, slapping an ofuda onto her forehead. Her eyes crossed as she tried to focus on the intricately scribed chinese characters and was forced to blink as the paper flashed brightly. When her vision cleared, Shampoo was gone and the paper was dissolving into the air.
She frowned. That had looked a lot like magic, and one of the biggest rules in her life was that random magic never did anything good. She quickly took stock of herself. Her surroundings looked about the same, though she hadn't had much time to get a look at them before Shampoo hit her. She felt normal, but that didn't really mean she still was, as the incident with the Koi rod a few months ago proved. She shuddered at that thought, resolving to keep away from Ryoga until she was sure nothing weird was going on. The final thing she could think of right off the bat was that the ward had somehow locked her curse... again. Deciding that this was the easiest possibility to check on, she tried to determine where she was, in order to seek out the nearest easily obtainable source of hot water.
That turned out to be The Neko-Hanten, only about two blocks away. As she walked, her irritation grew. She thought about the various ploys the amazons had employed to coerce her to go willingly back to China. Those stupid dumplings, the Reversal Jewel, the instant water... she was sure that this was no different. Cologne would likely be able to explain what, if anything, had been done and what she would have to do to reverse it. For a moment she wondered if she was jumping to the wrong conclusion and being overly paranoid, but then she recalled that it wasn't paranoia if they really were out to get you.
Throwing the front door open, and hearing the familiar tinkling chime of the bell, Ranma yelled, "Ol' ghoul, get out here!" She was immediately answered by a solid blow to the back of the head, but when she looked over to glare at the gnome-like Amazon matriarch, all she saw was the shiny metal handle of a push-broom.
Peering around, Ranma realized that the interior of the Neko-Hanten looked much different than she expected. For one, rather than an open front area full of tables, there were shelves loaded down with a bunch of random items. Behind the counter that separated the dining area from the kitchens was a middle-aged black haired woman, looking at her irritably. "Old ghoul?" she asked, sounding rather miffed. "That isn't a very nice way to talk to your elders, young lady."
"Oh, erm," the pigtailed martial artist said, reaching up to scratch at the back of her neck. "This isn't the Neko-Hanten, is it? Sorry, wrong store." She contemplated asking for some hot water, but decided against it, as the woman was still looking at her irritably. Propping up the broom and stepping out the door, closing it much more gently than she opened it, she looked up and down the street in confusion.
The place she'd just exited definitely wasn't the Neko-Hanten, but it was also definitely in the right place. For starters, the book store across the street was still in the same place, and she knew exactly where that place was, due to her several week stint as the Neko-Hanten's waitress and door greeter. At least now she knew that something really was wrong. Either the restaurant had vanished, or she'd started acting like Ryoga.
"Ah, Ranko!" A familiar voice interrupted her musings. She turned to see Nabiki walking towards her, a big smile on her face, and Hiroshi trailing behind her. "I have a date for you toni-..." She stopped mid-sentence as she took in Ranma's appearance.. "What did you do to your hair, and what are you wearing?"
Ranma looked down at her red Chinese shirt, checking that the ties were straight, before pulling the end of her pigtail around to squint at it. "Something wrong? I always wear this, and my hair looks fine."
"Not while I've ever been around, you haven't... but that's not important, I suppose. I have a date for you tonight. You should dress up."
"You have..." Ranma blinked at her. "Why would you set up a date for me?" She then looked over at the boy standing next to the brown haired mercernary. "Hiro, you know what she's talking about?"
"This is what I do, Ranko. You know that." Nabiki narrowed her eyes at the redhead. Something wasn't quite right here...
Ranma narrowed her eyes right back at Nabiki. "Oh, I get it. You dress me up, send me on a date with some guy, and take off some of my 'debt'. Then you get some pictures for later blackmail, right? Who's the guy?"
Hiroshi cleared his throat. "I don't get it, doesn't she do this willingly?"
"Wait... Hiroshi?" Ranma asked, the dots finally connecting in her brain. "You can't be serious. You're constantly making passes at me in my girl form, and the only reason I don't pound you for it is because we both know it's not going to work. Now you've got Nabiki on your side? What possessed you to think this was a good idea?"
Nabiki regarded the girl before her. "Ranko isn't forced into it," she said. "But this isn't Ranko, is it? Who are you?"
"Um, should I be going now?" Hiroshi asked, uncertainly, his eyes flickering between the two girls giving each other suspicious looks.
"Sorry Hiroshi. We'll have to reschedule your date, this looks like a Kuno-class problem," Nabiki said, with an apologetic look toward the unfortunate high-schooler.
Ranma nodded, picking up on what the code phrase meant. Someone had obviously gone insane. "Yeah. For starters, my name's not Ranko, it's Ranma... though I've called myself Ranko before."
"Hmm," Nabiki replied. "So you're some sort of imposter?"
"Well, if I am it's news to me," Ranma replied. "Last I knew, I'm the only me there was."
For a moment, Nabiki's eyes crossed, as though she were in pain. "Right. Hmm... Can't be the mirror. That duplicate was smarter than you."
"Hey!" Ranma exclaimed indignantly. "You can't be confusing me with that boy-crazy duplicate."
"That's the problem here, the original's boy-crazy. You're the duplicate," Nabiki pointed out.
"The original's..." Ranma turned a little green, before bursting out with "But I'm a guy!"
"... Right, that rules the mirror out completely. The duplicate wasn't that oblivious."
"What do you mean by that?" Ranma demanded, irritated by the second time Nabiki had insulted her intelligence in less than two minutes. The middle Tendo didn't respond, merely jabbing one finger into the redhead's left breast... hard. "Ouch! Why do you keep doin' that?!"
"Well, those aren't fake, so that rules out you being a convincing cross-dresser," Nabiki noted.
Ranma sighed irritably. Of course Nabiki didn't know about the curse. For some reason, she thought she was a girl who'd be willing to date Hiroshi. "Come on, I need to show you something." She said, hoping that her earlier fear that the curse had been locked was unfounded, given the other weird crap that had happened since.
Five minutes later, Nabiki was getting irritated. "So, you need to find some hot water for some reason, and decided to go to this 'Ucchan's' place that doesn't even exist. You realize this only proves my point about you being too stupid to be a mirror duplicate."
Standing in front of the boarded-up storefront, Ranma just gave the brown haired girl a sidelong glare before approaching a street cart that was selling noodles. "Hey, can I get a cup of hot water?" She asked, holding out a hundred yen coin. The proprietor readily obliged, and the martial artist poured the styrofoam cup over her head without a second thought.
As he shifted back to his normal form, he smirked, relieved that he could change back. "See, I'm a guy, and you really should know this already.."
"Because shapeshifters are perfectly normal," Nabiki deadpanned, attempting to conceal her surprise.
"Around here?" Ranma shrugged. "Yeah, pretty much."
Nabiki brought her hands to her head, rubbing her temples. She could feel a migraine coming on. "You're immune to sarcasm, aren't you?" she asked.
Ranma stopped for a moment, and thought about all the wierd stuff that had happened. The Neko-Hanten and Ucchan's missing, and who Nabiki had thought he was at first. "No," he said, "but I'm starting to get the feeling that your definition of 'around here' is different from mine."
Nabiki looked up at him. "Right... I don't think you're in Kansas anymore, Toto."
"Hey, why am I the dog?" Ranma shook his head. "I didn't know it was possible, but I think you're even more sarcastic than I'm used to."
"Just to clarify," Nabiki started, mentally upgrading this problem from Kuno grade to Box Demon grade. "Your last name is Saotome, right? And you know all of us?"
"Ranma Saotome, of the Saotome school of anything-goes martial arts," he said, feeling rather awkward re-introducing himself to Nabiki. "My old man decided to engage me to Akane, so we could join the schools."
"Oh, Akane is just going to LOVE that," Nabiki replied. "I did hear Daddy crying with Mr. Saotome about not being able to join the schools a few times, though, so it does sort of fit."
Ranma facepalmed. "Figures. That's all those two even really care about, so I'm not really surprised."
Nabiki grunted noncommittally. The boy's story had checked out so far, and he'd said a few things that led her to believe that he did know at least some things about their family. "Why don't you come back to the Dojo with me?" She asked, deciding that having him close by would probably be a better idea than having him wandering around the district, and Akane and Kasumi could get a look at him.
"Given what you've told me, I'm not sure I wanna see the Dojo right now," Ranma grumbled, "But I guess I don't have anywhere else to go."
"We're home!" Kasumi looked up from the book she was reading at the dining table as she heard her younger sister's voice.
"Welcome home!" She called back, and then blinked. She'd been pretty sure that Nabiki had left the Dojo by herself, and everyone else was accounted for save the fathers who were making their nightly bar rounds.
Curious, the eldest Tendo sister put down her book, stood, and headed to the front hall, where she saw Nabiki and a boy she didn't know exchanging their shoes for house slippers. "Oh, we have a guest!" Kasumi said, smiling. "Who's your friend, Nabiki?"
"He's a code Box Demon. It'll be easier to explain if everyone were here to hear this. Are Akane and Ranko around?"
"Ah, I see. Akane and Ranko are in the Dojo." Kasumi suppressed a giggle at her younger sister's cute little code words. She wasn't entirely sure about what Box Demon meant, though she hoped it didn't mean that this boy would be very embarrassing for her, as that incident had been.
Nabiki's face formed into a rather disconcerting grin, and she called across the walkway to the dojo, "Akane! Your fiancé is here!"
There was a loud thud (quite so if she could hear it from the house) and the sound of running feet just before Akane came charging in, her face furious. "Nabiki, I've told you a dozen times now. I don't want ANYTHING to do with your 'compensated dating service'!"
Nabiki smirked. "Little sis, if I were going to engage you to someone for money, you'd be hitched to Kuno by now."
Auntie Nodoka entered the room from the direction of the Kitchen, an oven mitt on her left hand and her face a mask of disapproval. "It's not very ladylike to engage in those kind of activities, Nabiki. Haven't I told you before that you should stop?"
Nabiki laughed somewhat nervously, shooting a glare at Akane out of the corner of her eye. "Yes, Auntie," She said contritely, lowering her eyes from the older woman's.
"Awww, don't be like that, Mother," Ranko's voice came from the Dojo entrance as she walked in, running a towel over her face to get rid of the sweat from her sparring against Akane. "Nabiki was probably just trying to find Akane a boyfriend. After all, she really needs one."
"And what do you mean by that?" Akane asked, turning a harsh glare on the redhead. Ranko responded by leaning up to the taller girl's ear and whispering into it. "Pervert!" Akane immediately fired back, shoving the other girl away. Ranko only smiled back innocently.
Kasumi noticed their houseguest relaxing somewhat. Was that... relief on his face? "Oh, that's right, Nabiki, you really should introduce the poor boy," she said, recalling that he'd been standing there listening to all of this, and she didn't even know his name yet. She looked around. Where had Nabiki disappeared to?
Having his presence addressed snapped the boy out of whatever thoughts he had been engaged in. "Ah, right, I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry about this."
Kasumi blinked. Another Saotome? Was he a cousin of Ranko's? She could believe it; the way he reached up to scratch the back of his neck was, motion for motion, the same gesture Ranko had a tendency to use when she was embarrassed.
"You're sorry?" Akane asked. "What are you sorry for?"
"I'm sure something will come up, sooner or later," Ranma replied.
"That's not very manly," said the Saotome Matriarch, and Kasumi assumed she was disapproving of the boy apologizing for something he had not yet done. "I don't recall anyone by that name on the family register. Are you a relative of Genma's that I haven't met yet?"
The boy winced. Apparently he'd taken Auntie's rebuke to heart, but before he could speak, Nabiki returned, holding a glass of water. With another unsettling grin, she flicked its contents over their guest. "Anyone recognize her?" she asked.
"Damnit Nabiki, what'd ya do that for?" their guest said irritably, in a noticeably higher pitched voice.
Kasumi gasped. The clothes were wrong, and the pigtail just didn't fit, but their guest had transformed into the spitting image of Ranko. Similar looks of shock adorned the faces of the rest of the family, sans Nabiki.
"Well, it is the easiest way to demonstrate," Nabiki justified. "Besides, I wanted to see it again, and see if I was right about the trigger."
"Wait, so you threw water into my face without knowing it'd do anything?" The Ranko duplicate asked, indignantly.
"Um, what exactly... did it do?" Nodoka asked, tilting her head inquisitively.
"It made another duplicate of me," Ranko grumbled.
"Hey, I'm not a duplicate!" Ranma shot back.
"She claims she hasn't even heard of you, but knows the rest of us and has used Ranko as an alias before," Nabiki explained. "She knows just enough for me to say she's not faking, but got a bunch of things wrong, too."
"What did she get wrong?" Ranko asked.
"Well, she actually thinks that you're... I mean she's..." Nabiki quickly looked between Ranko and her mother, before continuing, "Never mind."
Ranko blinked, trying to figure out what Nabiki was going to say. "Hey, you can't just leave off without finishing a statement like that! What did she think?"
"Well, you remember the Mirror? She's kinda like that," Nabiki finished, though it was obviously not exactly what she was originally going to say.
Ranko facepalmed. "Not another me-prude..."
"You thought that thing was a prude?" Ranma cut in. "It tried to flirt with half the guys in town! And that's AFTER I taught it to do that, so it wouldn't just jump them!"
Nabiki smirked. "Only half? She's got a long way to go to catch up, then."
"Nabiki," Nodoka said warningly., "I really wish that you and Akane-chan would stop saying such things about my daughter."
"She doesn't seem that bad, to me," Ranma responded, studying the other redhead and noting her long, loose hair and workout clothes. "Just sorta me, but a girl."
Akane finally broke out of her loop of looking back and forth between the two Rankos. "You should see her when she's trolling for guys. She's shameless," she said, seeming to have given up on figuring it out.
Nodoka huffed, and seemed to be opening her mouth to issue another rebuke, before Ranko herself cut in.
"Jeez, Akane, you just need to loosen up. Besides, if you've got it, you've got to flaunt it, and it gets me free ice cream sometimes," she said
Ranma nodded. "Free ice cream's always good," she agreed happily.
Kasumi noted the look Nabiki levelled at the duplicate Ranko, one that even she could tell was indicating the girl had completely missed the point. "Aren't you a guy?" her middle sister asked.
Everyone but Ranma and the previous speaker looked surprised. "Yeah, but it's not my fault if the counter guys fall for a cute girl flirting... even if they don't have a chance."
"So, you're actually a man?" Kasumi asked, curiously.
Their guest nodded. "Yeah. I picked up an ancient Chinese curse on a training trip with Pops, so now I turn into a girl when hit with cold water. I'm guessing no one here's got anything like that, given how Nabiki reacted the first time she saw me change."
"So why do you turn into me?" Ranko asked.
"I think it might be that me and you are supposed to be the same person, but if stuff happened differently," Ranma said, slowly. "I woulda just figured that there was another clone running around, those happen a lot, but Ucchan's and the Neko-Hanten are completely gone, so I've got no idea what Shampoo did."
"This was caused by a hair care product?" Nabiki asked.
Ranma opened her mouth to say something, but closed it as she reconsidered. She shook her head. "Nah, this don't have nothing to do with formula 110. At least, I don't think it does," she said, with a sidelong glance at her counterpart. "I mean, I wouldn't put it past the old ghoul to try to replace me in my own family, but then she'd at least be here to collect me."
"This is making less sense than usual," Akane complained. "Could someone please explain what exactly is going on here?"
"We have another Ranko, with a different set of memories, who thinks she's supposed to be male and turns into a man." Kasumi summed up, succinctly.
"There's no 'thinks' about it," Ranma declared adamantly. "Don't suppose anyone's got any hot water?"
"I'll get some!" chirped Nabiki as she rushed to the kitchen, being strangely helpful.
"Yes, well," Auntie said, clearing her throat softly. "Whoever she..." She was cut off, as Nabiki returned, and immediately tossed a glass of water into the Ranko duplicate's face.
Ranma sputtered as he tried to clear the water from his eyes. "Nabiki, you don't have to throw it in my face every time, you know. Just pouring it on me works."
Auntie cleared her throat again, louder this time. "Whoever HE is," She threw the middle Tendo an unreadable look, "It seems that he has some connection with the Dojo." She turned to the dark haired boy. "I apologize, but would you mind staying here until we find out what exactly is going on?"
"Um, yeah, that's fine," Ranma said, obviously somewhat nervous and confused.
"Wonderful!" Auntie smiled. "We have a spare futon in Akane's room. You wouldn't mind spending the nights in your female form, would you?"
The boy blinked. "You... want me to sleep as a girl?"
"Well, it would hardly be proper for a young man to be spending a night with my daughter and her best friend," Auntie explained, patiently.
Ranma now looked very nervous. "Y-yeah, I guess that makes sense, if Akane and... Ranko don't mind."
Ranko smiled brightly. "Of course I don't mind!" She chirped. "You don't even have to change, if you don't want to."
"That's considerate, dear," Auntie interjected. "But I'm afraid he will definitely have to change," she said in a tone that would allow no argument.
"Auntie's right, he should probably stay female while we sleep, but otherwise I don't really have a problem with it." Akane's statement prompted a betrayed look from her best friend. Said friend quickly whispered something in Akane's ear, prompting her to shove the other girl away. "Pervert!".
Auntie nodded. "Then that's settled. Now I've really got to get back to the cooking, so please excuse me." She bowed, and Ranma somewhat mechanically bowed back, before she turned and left the entrance.
"Akane, Ranko, would you mind showing Ranma where he... she is going to be sleeping, and help her roll out the futon?" Kasumi asked, glad to have the confusion at least somewhat sorted out.
"He probably already knows where it is, sis," Nabiki reminded.
"Sure. Come on, I'll show you where it is," Akane said, ignoring Nabiki's interjection and stepping slightly closer to the boy. "Is something wrong?"
"Mom... wants me to sleep as a girl? Akane agreed to it..." He said, quietly.
"Wait, so there's two of him, and THAT'S what shocks him?" Nabiki asked, confused.
"Mirror clones, doppelgangers, that stuff I can handle just fine. Mom and Akane are just acting weird," Ranma responded.
"Hey!" Akane said indignantly.
"Well, it's true," Ranma said, defensively. "Last time you agreed to sleep in the same room with me, it was 'cuz a bird woman had turned into a double of you and was trying to kill me!"
"Hmm..." said Nabiki, filing that little tidbit of information away for later consideration. "You do remember you're not in Kansas anymore, right?"
"Arf," he muttered, sourly. Nabiki laughed.
If one were to look into the room shared by Akane Tendo and Ranko Saotome that night, they might not think anything unusual was going on. Two girls were sleeping on beds on either side of the room, while a third girl lay on a futon between them. If one were to ask the girl on the futon, however, the situation was anything but normal.
Ranma lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. The circumstance she found herself in was one straight out of her nightmares - including, strangely enough, the overly large mallet that was resting on top of the bookshelf.
She recalled Kodachi Kuno using said instrument to virtually cut Akane's bed in half years earlier, and horrible visions of the same thing happening to her skull when Akane woke up and realized what was going on danced through her mind. Actually, since she thought of it, why did this Akane still have Kodachi's giant mallet?
'Can't sleep, the mallet will kill me. Can't sleep, the mallet will kill me.' she thought to herself. Any moment now, she expected a cry of 'Pervert!' and, if not the mallet, any number of other possible instruments of blunt trauma would rain down on her.
Yes, she thought, she was definitely not getting any sleep tonight.