The final match. Nabiki had put her entire winnings from the other matches on the two to win. She also added most of Kagura's savings for Ryoga to win. The boy had decimated most of the weapons arena with his absurd strength. What he lacked in skill he made up for in pure stubbornness.
Kon Lon made a few bets of her own.
Kiyone and Ranma bowed respectfully to their opponents. These two had won through skill and honor. There was no shame bearing their backs to show mutual respect to a fellow martial artist. To their surprise, their opponents did the same.
Kiyone and Ranma agreed to leave their Heaven and Earth attack as their ace in the hole.
Fists blurred, kicks were only marked by their passing damage, and above all the two 'girls' worked as a well-oiled machine.
Then everything took an odd turn, as the water attracting curse of Jusenkyo kicked in. One of the pipes above the arenas burst without warning into the doubles ring. The problem was that the water was heated just enough above room temperature to activate the 'reverse' point of the Jusenkyo curse, mostly because of all the heat from the bodies and the broken A/C had heated up the pipes above for the sprinkler system.
Sprinklers generally didn't care about whether the water was cold or not when there was a fire.
Needless to say almost everyone was shocked when Kiyone and Ranma became Kyo and Ranma. Fortunately Kyo had anticipated this, because they had marked their gender as male while signing up and had Kon Lon back them up on the fact they were cursed.
In a martial arts match, it didn't matter whether or not you were a man or woman, all that did matter was if you could fight or not.
"What the hell?"
"Have either of you heard of Jusenkyo in China?"
The man's partner nodded.
"The legendary cursed springs. If you fall into one you end up cursed to turn into whatever drowned there 'X' amount of years ago," he replied.
Kyo hooked a thumb at Ranma then himself, before saying "We fell into the Spring of Drowned Girls nearly a year ago."
"Ah. Does it impact your ability to fight?" asked the man who had cursed.
"Our girl form is faster and more flexible, but our natural form is much stronger and more durable. Outside of that, not really," said Ranma.
"Good to know. Shall we continue or do you want to activate the curse?" asked his partner.
Kyo looked at Ranma, who shrugged.
"Might as well fight anyway. Not like we were going to use our girl forms in the nationals if we won," said Ranma.
The two got back into a stance, and the fight resumed while the announcers explained about Jusenkyo and the fact Kiyone and Ranma were born male.
The change was immediately noticeable. Where they were speed demons as girls, they were powerhouses as men. Their punches were that much more painful.
Their opponents were impressed.
"One last all or nothing attack?" they suggested. Kyo looked at Ranma, who nodded.
Kyo barely managed to get within their defenses to send them into the air, where Ranma used his bent friend as a launch pad to deliver an aerial assault.
They crashed, hard, but managed to get up. It was clear there was still some fight left in them. Kyo met them close up, delivering a vicious uppercut to the older one and a nasty left kick to the younger. His legs were strengthened by all the boulders he regularly dragged behind him on Shigure's estate. It was almost the equivalent of being kicked by a particularly strong draft horse.
"Winner, Kyo Sohma and Ranma Saotome!"
The two boys high-fived. They were gong to the nationals!
They thought the chaos of the fights had ended with the fights and winning their final match. They couldn't be more wrong.
Thankfully this chaos wasn't nearly as migraine-inducing as the fiancees showing up, but it was still nerve wracking.
Ranma's mother had seen the fights, and recognizing her son on the TV had come to find him.
Thank all the kami Kon Lon was there. Ranma might have been in trouble if the old troll wasn't!
Nodoka Saotome was a very traditional martial artist. She had actually made Genma sign a seppuku pledge if her son didn't meet her standards.
Nodoka was no real match for Kon Lon.
"So, Genma has tried to force my son to marry several girls in exchange for...?" she looked to Nabiki.
"From what I understood, most of the time it was too fill his own stomach or to get out of debt."
Nodoka's expression did not look happy. She wanted her son to become a man, not someone her soon-to-be-ex-husband could live off like a leech.
"Might I suggest a simple solution, Saotome-san?" asked Kyo.
"Divorce Genma, and then claim custody of your son. That would void all the contracts he made in Ranma's behalf, barring any that come forward with a written one. It would also give you a chance to see whether or not your son is to your standards, but instead of some seppuku pledge make it so if he doesn't you cast him out of your family," suggested Kyo. "You could legally sue Genma for child abuse, neglect and a host of other things, since he put Ranma through the Neko-ken training."
"A sound, reasonable suggestion that might allow me to keep my honor with our family. The fact Ranma found a way to work with the Amazon law and his own mistake is a point in his favor," said Nodoka.
If Genma was horrified to see Nodoka back in his life, it was nothing to how fast he paled when Nabiki slammed the annulment papers on him, or the ones stating Nodoka was divorcing him and taking his son with her.
And if that wasn't enough, there was also the way Kon Lon hit one of Genma's pressure points paralyzing him long enough for Ranma and Kyo to use their Heaven and Earth attack.
It sent the freeloading jerk halfway to Tomobiki with how hard Ranma kicked him.
If he showed up, Nabiki was going to call the cops and have him arrested.
On the plus side, if things ever went south in Shigure's home Kyo had an open invitation to the home Nodoka had opened up in Nerima. Meaning if someone were looking for him, they wouldn't find him nearly as easy.
Kyo had to chose between going back to the Sohma main house for New Years, or sticking around to keep Tohru company.
The choice was pretty obvious. He would rather keep Tohru company than deal with Akito and the likelihood that he would keep him from attending the nationals.
And with the amount of cash Nabiki had made betting on him with the money he earned at the Cat Cafe every weekend, he could reasonably live off his fighting skills so long as he had a proxy do the betting.
Nabiki promptly offered her services for a flat ten percent rate. She didn't mind acting as Kyo's go-between.
Tohru looked really happy, especially when Kyo explained some of the less violent aspects of martial arts. Specifically shiatsu and how it could be used to heal, rather than harm.
Which he demonstrated when he used his skills to relax her without using needles.
Kyo couldn't believe how bad his luck was. Because he deliberately skipped out on the New Year's Banquet (despite the fact he wasn't allowed to attend in the first place) Akito was planning to drop by the school.
Likely because he heard about what happened at the Regionals, and wanted to see if Kyo was skilled enough to beat Yuki finally. Akito was a dick like that.
Which meant he would have to put on the boy's uniform so Akito didn't find out he had another curse.
All the clan had heard was that Kyo had won the tag-team portion of the regional qualifiers with a friend. Because his showing had been omitted and the fact that the tape was never sent to the main house, no one outside of Kagura and his dad knew about the other curse. The last tag-team battle had been kept from airing because of the showing Ryoga put on.
It wasn't that unheard of.
"Kyo-kun...it's been a while..." said an unfriendly (and sadly familiar) voice. He didn't even have to turn around to know it was Akito.
"I heard that you've become stronger. Strong enough to challenge Yuki and possibly win. Have you forgotten our deal, Kyo-kun?" purred Akito. (Imagine Orochimaru's tone while talking to Sasuke to get an idea of how Akito sounded.)
Kyo fought the urge to run or vomit. There was something about Akito's tone that sent alarms going through Kyo's head. He had a sneaking suspicion about what Akito was really here for.
"I remember. I have to beat Yuki in a fight in order to stay out of that room when I graduate high school," said Kyo.
"If you've gotten so strong, then you should have no problem beating him right now."
Kyo turned to face Akito. The bastard was a childhood nightmare that never seemed to end. He seemed to thrive on being a control freak and making others more miserable than he was.
Showing he had a spine for the first time in his life, Kyo firmly said "Go to hell. I don't need to prove I'm better than Yuki just to satisfy your sadistic need to make our lives your personal game."
Akito's eyes became filled with rage. If not for the amount of witnesses coming through the hallway at that moment, Kyo was absolutely sure that the deranged bastard would have tried to hit him.
As it was, Kyo knew he had better warn Yuki that Akito would be on the warpath and liable to take it out on the members of the Zodiac.
"What do you want Kiyone?" asked Yuki frostily.
"Shut up and listen to me you damn rat. I don't like you, and I can't stand your smug better-than-everyone attitude... but even I'm not cruel enough to let you leave the building without warning you first. Akito was here and he's pissed because Kyo told him to go to hell. Kagura's already warning the others to avoid him, but I felt you should be warned immediately."
Yuki's attitude went from annoyed and irritated to concerned and terrified. Out of those in the Zodiac, there were a select few who got an extra long punishment from the clan head.
Yuki was one of those.
"Are you absolutely sure he was here?"
"The only reason he didn't try to attack Kyo was because there were too many witnesses. But considering you were the one Kyo has to beat in order to avoid that place, he felt you should be warned before you left the safety of the school."
Yuki might dislike Kyo immensely, but for once he had reason to thank the bane of his existence. If he had left the school without knowing Akito was in a really bad mood, he might have been in for a nasty surprise with no way out.
"Kyo said he was willing to walk home from school with you, in case Akito tries something."
"For once I'll gladly accept that offer," said Yuki.
Kyo was waiting by the school gate...and so was Kagura and some random boy Yuki had never seen before.
"The Nerima equivalent of Hatsuharu, except his cursed form is similar to Kagura," said Kyo.
"Akito will be furious if he found out we're casually telling people about..."
"Relax rat boy, Ryoga already has a curse. It's not like it's that rare and if anything happens we could always claim you went to Jusenkyo or something."
"Cursed springs in China. If you get hit with cold or below room temperature water, you turn into whatever spring you fell into. Get hit with hot and it's reversed. And I keep water with me all the time, so I could pretend I hit you with it if you bump into anyone," said Kyo.
Yuki paused and turned to look at Kyo.
"Wait. If there's such a thing as these cursed springs that turn you into something random..."
"Yes, there is a Spring of Cursed Man and Spring of Cursed Girl. Hell, I fell into the girl one about a year ago."
If it wasn't for the possibility of Akito coming after him, Yuki would have beaten the hell out of Kyo right then and there.
"You. You're Kiyone aren't you?"
"No shit Sherlock. It took you that long to figure out I was the one making your day hell just by pretending to get close to you?" said Kyo sarcastically.
"Kyo almost won the regionals in his girl form," said Kagura.
"Yeah, and if it weren't for that busted sprinkler pipe no one would have found out Kiyone and Ranma were actually guys," agreed Ryoga.
Once they were inside Shigure's house (he was out tormenting his editor again) Yuki looked at Kyo.
"What effect do these...cursed springs...have?"
"They confuse our natural curses enough that we can hug people of either gender without transforming. Though it still acts up while we're weak, or in my case the bracelet is removed."
Yuki had evidently picked up on the same thing Kyo had when he first found out.
"You mean you..."
"Yeah. But if I have to I'll erase the memory of the fact from your mind. Until I'm absolutely sure Akito's influence over us is neutralized, he can't find out."
"What are you talking about? If word spread through the clan that there was a cure to the curse..."
"It's not a full cure yet. And how exactly do you think Akito would react if he knew that I had accidentally found something that could potentially end the curse?"
Yuki ran the scenario through his head. The best case was that he would allow it or not care. The worst case...he paled.
"He'd have us killed at worst," said Yuki.
"There's also the fact that I was the one to find it. We both know our clan hates me because I carry the Cat, so they might not take it too well if they found out I found a cure. Which is why I've been training with Kon Lon-sensei every weekend. The stronger I get, the higher the chance I can free us of Akito's influence once and for all."
Yuki looked at Kyo like he had never seen the boy before. This wasn't the hotheaded idiot who attacked him on sight for years.
This was someone who actually used their head to think things through. It was actually mildly impressive.