Title: Tanbo (1/4)

Author: Matthias (Solarsenshi@gmx.de)

Beta: Ayrki (probably)

Status: Alpha

Category: Action/Adventure, Romance, AU

Rating: PG-13 to R

Pairings: Ranma/Xian Pu (for those of you who don't get it, that's Shampoo)

Timeline: Heavily AU, just prior to Cannon Ranma, Prelude story to a Ranma/SM-Crossover (in progress)

Summary: The tale of two lonely souls and how one of Genma's little mistakes could have greatly impacted on the course of his son's life, this time for good though, or is it?

Distribution: Ranma and SailorMoon Crossover Challenge & Archive (), MSD (www.catstrio.de), Rakhal (www.rakhal.com), ff.net (www.fanfiction.net), Mediaminer (www.mediaminer.org), Shoujo Ai archive (www.shoujoai.com), others might follow. If you want to post it, just tell me where and I would be more than pleased.

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ belongs to Rumiko Takahashi, Ranko Saotome (though not the name but the character) belongs to me as does my imagination, the plot for this story etc.

Story Disclaimer: Fated To Be©2003 by Matthias Engel

Foreword

Well, Maia (my muse) bothered me with that again after I started this some time ago. It was originally meant as short story. But the lack of a sufficient Ranma fiction in my collection probably was enough motivation to do more.

Tanbo is meant as a Prelude Story and will be divided into four parts most likely. It is set in the same continuum as my BSSM short story "A Second Chance". Both are setting the stage for a crossover I'm working on but which won't be released anywhere until it is finished since it's meant as a challenge entry for the Ranma and SailorMoon Crossover Challenge & Archive. However, all three stories can be read separately.

Now on with the story.

Joketsuzoku, China. About ten years prior

The young girl of barely five was crying and struggling in the elders grip. Not wanting to believe, not believing AT ALL. Why would father want to go away and leave her with Great-grandmother. He couldn't leave, not like mother did. She would be all alone. She didn't like Great-grandmother. The Elder was always so strict and all-knowing. The girl wanted to stay with her father, who always treated her good and let her do mostly what she wanted. The Elder would only want to make her heir like mother. That was why mother left, wasn't it. That's what they told her.

Kicking and screaming she watched on as the form of her father became smaller and smaller in the distance and the undeniable truth less and less deniable.

Tanbo

Part 1: A Different Path – Overshadowed Dawn Meets Comforting Dusk

A Ranma ½ Alterverse Fic

Loosely based on the work of Rumiko Takahashi

Concept by Matthias Engel

(Xian Pu)

I blinked my eyes, trying to shake off the sudden memory. Must have dozed off again. Not good, not on the day of the tournament. Emotions in battle could be both a strength and a weakness. Those memories didn't do my concentration and mood any good. Getting up I went out into the back and began my morning routine. First slow and lazy before the katas began to flow into each other quicker and more precise.

However, I couldn't help it. The dreams had come a few days ago. That was a regular occurrence ever since my parents went away. After mother left early, father had sunken into a depression. Mother had been a wonderful person, kind, sometimes a little strict from what the broken pieces in the mind of a four year-old could tell me. Great-grandmother had wanted her to become her heir since her own daughter had sought a different path. Mother, although a very talented Martial Artist, did not possess the passion of a fighter and the mindset for a lethal Amazon warrior. Caring for other people had been one of her greatest gifts like father had always said – or one of her curses that lead to her downfall according to Cologne. She wanted to be a healer which naturally didn't please the Elder. One day mother was gone, just like that. The Amazons searched for days but came up empty. Elder Kho Lon believed that she had fled from her responsibilities. I didn't believe her. Mother wouldn't have left me and father alone.

The vacuum mother left finally became too much for father to bear. Knowing that as a man he would not have much say in my upbringing and that I would be alright with Great-grandmother, he decided to leave the village alone, following his passion for his own personal art. Of course I hadn't understood it back then. My mind and heart had loather at the man I had loved dearly as a father for many years which obviously only helped fuel the focus for my training. I finally agreed to Great-grandmother training me as her heir. I wanted to show them all that not everyone in my family was weak.

Ending the complex kata with a reverse spin kick that split a training pole in half, I panted hard for awhile from the intensity. Yes, I noted to my satisfaction, I was ready for today. Taking another deep breath I jumped on the roof of the house. Sitting down lotus-style I proceeded to clear my mind from the conflicting emotions, focusing on my center. The procedure was simple and easy. Effective as ever, my raging nerves calmed down immediately, yet something was terrible amiss today. I couldn't get the feeling out of my head that…

I stood up and stepped up to the edge of the roof, looking out over the village and the mountain range  Further down lay the valley of Jusenkyo, the cursed springs unbeknownst to the rest of the world within. A cold shower ran down my spine and I shivered. A strong gust of wind brushed over bare skin and pulled at my hair.

A change was about to occur. I should better speak to Great-grandmother.

(Ranma)

Morning came over Jusenkyo Valley as we finally arrived at our destination. We had broken up camp at dawn and quickly crossed the rest of the way. Father was SO excited about this that he couldn't wait. I, on the other hand was pretty sure that was another bad idea of the old fool. Okay, all his ideas were bad, that was the norm. I couldn't shake of the feeling this would fall into the category of the Neko-ken disaster. Only thinking back on this ignited a shudder and I scanned the area instinctively for any felines. Nope, none there but the feeling wasn't gone though.

Arriving on the pass to the valley we stopped admiring the view for a moment. Alright, Jusenkyo did look beautiful with all the springs and the thin morning mist in the air. At the same time it was somewhat creepy too. Ah, get a grip, boy. You are a man and that is nothing but a few poles in a few pools of water. Nothing to worry about there. I would go kick Oyaji's butt all over the place and then we maybe could go home. Finally. I loved travelling but I was frantic to see another face than the old man's every day.

The blabbering guide said something about cursed springs which momentarily got my attention but father was already in full training mode and soon we were up the poles completely ignoring the pesky man's frantic calls. I should have listened but who had ever heard about cursed springs? I wouldn't have believed it. The following minutes deeply rattled my stubborn belief forever.

Launching into a flying kick, I met father in mid-air, flipped around and used the opposite pole as a springboard. Father had been taunting again and was caught by surprise. His balance shattered he proceeded to fall into the spring beneath him with a giant splash.

Peering down with clear distaste written over my face, I shouted down: "Hey, Oyaji! That's the best you can do? I thought we were training!" The next second a giant panda broke through the surface and rushed at me with speed and determination that would fit my father… Wait, that had been the spring father fell in and he should have come out by now. What was going on? My mind was a blur and so I just stood there goggling like an idiot when the panda leapt at me. Which proofed to be fatal.

(…)

Stupid, dumb, idiotic, irresponsible, lazy, life-wrecking, fat excuse of a father! Stupid old man! Pitiful creature! Impending doom on my sanity! Fat… Damn, that wasn't changing anything – not that it prevented me from muttering curses like this all the way up to mountains, towards the village that was the only hope for salvation left. How could one person just be so unbelievable stupid? No human being should have such a small brain really… But Saotome Genma, a man I was ashamed more and more to call my father was the perfect example that humanity wasn't so great as it proclaimed.

"Oh, Sir, you fell into Nyannichuuan, Spring of Drowned Girl, very tragic story…" I was too shocked at that moment to unleash my own anger at the guide or more probably my father. I had found myself emerging from the pool father had pushed me into and I had still been confused from father emerging as a giant panda but that… that… THAT was disgusting! A sheer perverse twist of the natural order. Okay, turning into an animal might be bad but becoming the complete opposite from what you had been trained for your whole life up to this point… An unbelievable thought and yet so real.

Imagine father dragging us here although he didn't speak one word Chinese. Although… that was Oyaji for you. He reads the words "training ground" and "famous", draws a connection and everything else is forgotten or ignored. That the training ground might be actual cursed, that it isn't recommended to go there, that's totally unimportant. As much as it had been unimportant to read the second page to the manual for the Neko-ken.

At least the curse was only temporary. Hot water would reverse the condition until the next splashing. That is… if father hadn't been even dumber as humanly allowed and pushed me into the Spring a second time, the moment he fully realized what had happened. Typical Oyaji too, not waiting for the guide to explain the curse.

I was stuck now. A born, proud boy in a female body without a chance of ever changing back. Even the opposite spring, if I had been able to even locate it, would have no effect on the so-called "double curse". I was locked, permanently, no water would be able to change me back. For these past ten years I had went through hell with father's training but I had endured it all for "the sake of the Art". He had done a lot of stupid things, a lot of even more stupid things, yet I had waited with dread for the day when he really managed to destroy my life. And now it happened. The only thing that mattered more to me than the Art, my manliness, my gender and more important my identity. Gone. With one stupid act of immaturity from a man who was supposed to have years of experience.

By now I was sure Genma would be trying to accuse me for being so foolish and careless but he had kept quiet the whole walk up here – and I didn't think that being a panda would have hold him from giving his own responsibility to others, usually me. No, it surely wasn't the curse that prevented him from doing so, more likely the faint but still visible aura of sickly green and black.

I was still far away from any techniques of chi manipulation but I could read auras to a degree and without being able to look at myself, I knew exactly how mine was at the moment. And if there was one thing that father could do better than eating and sleeping than it was surviving. He knew for sure that one wrong word or… whatever sound panda's make anyway could become the first nail to his coffin.

(Xian Pu)

Bringing my bonbori around I caught my opponent in the side, following through with a quick series of kicks and finishing with a spinning one. My opponent barely kept her balance, falling back into a wavering defensive stance. Not long now. I felt my body tiring from the constant strain since the beginning of the tournament. The assignments had not been kind to me and I had to work my way through at least three opponents up to my level until entering the final round. Ti Gre was an extraordinary fighter but she did not stand up to my class. Luck had benefited her greatly to come so far. And now she was obviously counting on a mistake I might make due to my exhaustion. I wasn't about to give her that pleasure though.

Feinting low I suddenly came in with a knee smashing right into the other Amazon's stomach. She evaded a thrust to the head but the other bonbori caught her under the chin. Ti staggered back, her hand reached up in reflex and so she left herself wide-open for a split second. A perfectly placed kick knocked the spear out of her hand and I thrust forward with both bonboris. As expected the bait was taken and I immediately flipped forward, making sure not to miss the wooden log and kicked back and up while rolling under my opponent. Ti shrieked and tried desperately to avoid the unorthodox leg sweep in midair. She did manage to avoid it. Just to receive another when her feet touched the log again. One quick jab with my bonbori did the rest and the already off balance Amazon went sailing down the challenge log.

I wanted to give into temptation and just collapse there and then but my honor demanded from me to stay tall and proud, showing the whole village who still was their champion. At least the prize would be mine and as drained as I was food was very welcome right… now…

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING DOING? I mentally screamed. There was a giant panda in the audience, next to him some redheaded girl, a visitor to the village I assumed since I did not recognize her. But that thing was eating my well and hard-earned prize!

Annoyance mixed with anger as I jumped down from the challenge log and stalked over to the strangers. How dare they insult the Amazons like that. Hmm, that panda would make a nice meal after all. I grinned at the animal with a glint in my eye that would make every living being run in fear. I blinked seeing more than just plump half-intelligence stare back at me. This thing knew exactly what it was doing. Maybe it was a pet panda, trained by the girl. Didn't matter because either way it was already as good as meat. I think I had enough energy left to slice up that thing quite nicely. And that was what I was about to do.

"Ah, sorry about this. Oyaji just always thinks with his stomach. Can't we, um… solve that peacefully?" the girl tried to avert in Japanese. I barely spoke the language. Great-grandmother had taught me some basic things but I had been slacking off in this area and hadn't thought that I needed it so soon… or ever. It was enough though that I understood the basic message… which only helped to further infuriate me.

"Pet panda ate winner prize. Going to eat panda now. Will be very delicious." I licked my lips to underline the statement. The redhead glared at the panda and then sighed. There was something about her stance that stroke me as plain… wrong. And her aura was. I couldn't quite put my finger on it and was too mad to focus properly. "See," the redhead said, stepping forward. "If there's no other way I'll challenge you for that prize."

Again I blinked perplexed. Challenge me? This girl must have hit her head or something. There was no way that petite redhead could even come close to beating anyone in this village. In the back of my mind I could literally FEEL Elder Kho Lon banging me with her cane but at that moment I ignored it. "Fine. But if lose, panda end up dinner." The redhead nodded almost as if she wouldn't mind that. "Sure, no problem." The panda grunted loudly in protest.

(…)

A few moments later we were both back up at the challenge log. I had to give it to the stranger, she at least knew how to move as a fighter and keep her balance. Otherwise her stance was cocky and confident in a way that it became annoyingly taunting. That, combined with the anger at being denied my rightful prize burned away the fatigue I felt after fighting my way through several hard rounds of combat. That little tramp would be easy, a real piece of cake compared to the others.

On an unspoken signal I charged, deciding to execute the beginning of my revenge swiftly. One bonbori came up in a quick jab, with the other held back for a follow-up strike if necessary. The redhead seemed to simply wave around the first attack and the second ended with the same result. I hadn't seen someone move this quick other than Great-grandmother and some of the other elders.

By the time I realized that I would have to be a bit more cautious it was already too late. I had barely seen my opponent move and before I knew it one of my bonbori was knocked away and I found myself ducking under a spin kick. The stranger came around with a jab at my wrist and the second weapon went flying. Trying desperately to get some distance between myself and my opponent, I almost lost my balance and a moment later felt my legs swept away.

Beaten by my own tactic, how embarrassing, I thought as I fell down. Surprisingly the slight push the redhead had given me wasn't that hard and so I was able to make a more or less soft landing. It still hurt though. Emotional mostly. Embarrassment and shame began to well up and fueling the flame of anger as the reality of the situation set in with the stunned silence of the crowd. I, the acknowledged Tribal Champion had lost to a mere outsider girl. The law left only one option to ever redeem my honor. And I was not about to let the day that was supposed to be one of glory for me and my clan to end in shame.

As my opponent jumped down and had the guts to ask me if I was alright as if I was just some weak male I prepared for the only thing that could be expected from me in this situation.

(Ranma)

With a thud the Amazon followed her weapons to the ground. The girl was good, I had to give her that, but nowhere near our level. I didn't want to humiliate her and her talent but also wanted to quickly end this. Jumping down from the challenge log, I landed effortlessly next to my fallen opponent and knelt beside her. From her fall I surmised that she wasn't winded at all but I wanted to make sure. I would have hated it to accidentally hurt the girl. "Hey, you okay?" I asked in some broken Chinese. That was probably about one of the only things I could manage though I really wished I would have learned some more in light of Jusenkyo.

The Amazon shook her head to clear the dizziness and slowly started to rise. I offered her a hand but was mildly surprised that it was swatted away. Yet, that didn't give me a reason to be concerned. After all I was… had been pretty prideful myself and despite my efforts she must feel very humiliated right now. Struggling to her feet, she slowly looked up to me and I froze at the look I received. There was anger, shame, self-loathing and a determination of the kind that could really scare you, if you were on the receiving end. Before I could react, the Amazon had grabbed my face and in one graceful and swift motion placed a kiss right on my lips. It was more a peck than anything else but for someone who didn't have any ideas about those things, the action was enough to threaten my brain with short-circuit.

I was still paralyzed on the spot when the guide yelled something and I felt father moving towards me. "Oh, very bad, sir. She gave kiss of death to you, will hunt you down now until she kill you." I blinked in confusion. The Amazon girl had stepped back and picked up her weapons again. I could tell her stance was for one purpose only, strike fast and swift. I didn't really sense father coming up from behind me and proceeding to grab me in an intent to run but I was beyond caring. Idly I evaded his charge and as the consequences of what happened really began to register, my anger briefly flared into a bright red and green tinged aura. One solid punch sent the cursed panda right into the support pillar of the log, the impact was enough to rattle the stone and make the log shake.

For a moment the Amazon paused and looked back at my cursed father, then slowly turned back. I didn't move. Under other circumstances, I would have run but what good would it do? My life was over, my identity now crushed once and for all. As if it hadn't been bad enough to get me into this state, now he had messed up the only chance for a cure. And for what? For his FAT STOMACH! I was an enemy of the tribe now, I could not expect help here. So, what was left running for? Nothing. All my life I had trained for the Art, all my life I had been proud to be a man, that was all gone. Better to let it end now. I wouldn't have to live the shameful life, the pity from others, being a girl for the rest of my days. No, it was better that way.

By now I had closed my eyes and my head hung low, patiently waiting for the killing strike. I had never before given up like that but this was simply a fight, I could not win. The seconds passed by, the moment of salvation failed to occur but I didn't dare to open my eyes and look up. Surely she was just basking in the glory of my quick surrender. I could not blame the girl. I had to look very pitiful. But at least I would die with some honor left. I would not submit to a life like this and lose my manliness in the process.

Against my reluctance my eyes fluttered open as I felt soft fingers lift my chin abruptly. Slowly I met the crimson eyes of the Amazon and I could not help but shiver. Her eyes… were full of loneliness. The sound of metal hitting the ground registered somewhere in my brain when the mace that had been held high over the warrior's head clattered to the ground. Her fingers were trembling and it was clear that she was debating with herself what to do next. I stood still, wondering what was happening, why she had stopped. I had been prepared for the finish, I had been more than ready. Was life so cruel that even that wasn't granted?

A single tear glistered in the Amazon's eye but before it could fall she quickly closed her eyes and leaned forward. Like the previous time I was unprepared for the contact when her lips met mine and I could only stand paralyzed as the kiss went on for some time, much deeper and purposeful than the last one. It didn't take a genius to understand that this didn't have anything to do with killing. The Amazon pulled back and managed to softly whisper but still reaching a lot of the watching crowd:

"Wo ai ni. Wo da Airen."

(Genma)

What the…?!?

I stood there at the base of the log trying to figure out what exactly had just happened. That punch  and the following impact had HURT. Of course I knew the boy was formidable and would once become a great Martial Artist but I also knew for certain that his chi manipulation was nothing more than minimal. What I taught him up to that point was simply to enhance his overall speed, reflexes and motions. That outburst had been above anything that he had ever managed.

I wasn't quite sure if I had seen correctly what transpired afterwards. My survival instincts had kicked in when I heard a death threat, finely honed by years of training under Happosai, however, nothing like that had happened. Still numb from the impact – thankfully this form was harder to damage – I witnessed the angry Amazon first threatening my boy-turned-girl, who had shamefully refused to react, and then suddenly changed her mind.

All that I was able to proceed up to this point was that some girl had kissed my son in front of the whole village and that allowed only one possible reaction to this. The joining of the school was in terrible danger! Right now the Amazon was dragging the irritated redhead after her through the many witness… Kuso, many witnesses. It would be hard to get out of this one if whatever I saw was in any way binding by local law. But nothing was too much for the joining of the schools, Ranma would come to see that too and had to damn well act on it. That was his responsibility after all.

That clarified I moved forward, mind set on beating some sense into this ungrateful excuse of a child but found my way suddenly blocked by someone. Looking down I saw a gnome of a shriveled, old woman with a piercing gaze that told enough about her that you instantly were cautious. This one wasn't easily tricked and for a mere moment I found her image overlaid by that of my old master. I shuddered. That was nonsense though. It was just an old woman, perched atop a staff. Nothing to be frightened about.

"Where do you think you are going," she asked in surprisingly fluent Japanese. I made some grunting noises, wishing that I had some hot water, and tried to force my way past her but found it blocked by her staff. Annoyed I tried to gesticulate at the woman. I had to go and keep my son in check or he and this Amazon might do something that would really endanger the union. In response to my antics, the woman produced to my complete and utter shock a steaming kettle out of nowhere. Reflexes took over as I tried to lung at the object that to me looked like the Holy Grail at the moment.

Then I moved to grab it though the woman wasn't there anymore and a second later I felt the sensation of hot water touching my fur and before the rippling sensation of the change completely ceased a tap against the back of my head. Alright, maybe I wasn't that far off comparing the old woman with Happosai. I had not even seen her moving…

"As I thought. You were behaving just too human for a trained animal." Err, well… It was not as if I had much experience yet. I glanced at the woman warily, not quite sure anymore what to expect. Maybe bailing was a good option for the moment. I could use the Yamasenken to sneak in at night and get Ranma… "Don't even think about running, male. I temporally blocked your ability to do that and I would like to speak to you about your… daughter, I assume." I nodded numbly, not wanting to give away much more. I had the suspicion the old woman knew already but… Everyone who could move that fast and strike shiatsu points with such an efficiency should be approached carefully.

The old woman turned on her staff. "Come, we have much to discuss about my great-granddaughter's new wife." Uh huh… WHAT? New wife? Great, just great. Could that insolent boy not even once stay out of trouble? Even worse. Just a few hours a girl and already married to another. Seeing no sense in trying my luck with the possibility that the woman had bluffed about the shiatsu point, I followed her, grumbling curses all the way.

(Xian Pu)

Up to this moment I was not really sure what had possessed me that instant to change my mind. I was ready to deal out my revenge, do as law demanded from me but I simply could not. I had simply been puzzled at first. Usually they always ran. Not running was a proof for the worthiness of the outsider in which case they could be adopted in the tribe. Yet, the stance of the outsider had not actually spoken of worthiness, more of a defeat without a fight. And that after she had so easily defeated me with great skill and agility. That had managed to cut through the haze of shame and anger.

I had merely wanted to satisfy my curiosity when I made her look at me but those blue eyes, clear like the sky yet at the same time clouded by sadness like on a day that was about to witness a terrible rainstorm. It had been like looking into a mirror and at the same time even so much more. I had seen the signs of a childhood without a parental figure to idealize and receive care from, I had seen the tiredness that constant training often left you with, the pain of past trials and not forgotten experience. However, there had also been a misery, a truly defeated look in those eyes. This outsider girl who had beaten me so easily moments ago had WANTED to die… Maybe even more so than I had wanted in those lone hours when memories about my absent parents overwhelmed me.

So that had left me with only one choice. The adopting option was there, sure. Yet, I doubted for some reason that this would be enough. It was not unheard of for Amazon's to mate. But openly declaring something as a binding marriage custom as the tribal champion with an outsider girl had to my knowledge never happened as of yet. And still I had done just that thing.

Taking charge of the situation I pushed the stunned redhead onwards through the crowd that parted before us. The whispers and looks from my tribal sisters were not lost on me. I knew I had just given my envy status extra credit. As I said Amazon's had less inhibitions about such trivial things as gender and the redhead by far was not a poor catch. Of course there were always those who would try make a scandal out of this…

I looked sideways, sensing Great-grandmother's eyes on me… us. After all this time I was still far from understanding what the Elder was thinking. Her gaze was intense but otherwise unreadable. Elder Kho Lon might be a hard teacher, however, she was also the Matriarch and cared for her clan greatly. I knew that I could trust on her to divert the rumors and uproars for the moment, at least until I had a chance to explain my new Airen what was going on. I really had not expected this day to turn out like this.

Finally we reached the for our medieval village rather spacious house and I ushered the distraught and bewildered girl inside. Allowing myself a small sigh of relief I turned back to the redhead. Now that some of the pressure in the air emitting from my tribal sisters was gone I had time to admire my new Airen. There before had been a bit envy at her figure and skill I now allowed myself to see the true beauty of the outsider girl. A beauty that was as much strikingly natural as it was timeless. Something about this once again struck me as completely wrong but I could not quite put my finger on it.

The redhead appeared to be lost in thoughts as I slowly approached her. No, not only lost in thoughts. More like lost in the truest sense of the world. Standing in the middle of the room, her whole stance was so unlike what her almost idle fighting style back at the tournament grounds promised. Shoulders slumped and in all likelihood it appeared that she was actually depressed that I hadn't gone through with the Kiss of Death. This alone was a truly startling and unsettling thought. What if my new Airen would end up committing suicide one day. After Mother and Father left our family had already taken damage, THIS could very well stain our bloodline beyond repair.

Stop that, I chided myself and hardened my resolve as I hesitantly reached out for the redhead. It wasn't a mere coincidence that you let your feelings decide on this. I did believe that moment that she desperately needed a companion, a compassionate soul. A mate might do but I had to be careful before I knew more about my new wife. Then I could work on rebuilding that confidence I had briefly glimpsed in our fight. There was a lot of potential and somehow I had the feeling that a pleasant outcome would overweight possible complications by far.

(Ranma)

My mind was still a whirl of confusion and conflicting emotion as the Amazon quietly lead me into one of the houses, shutting out the whispers and rumors spreading around the village like wildfire. Breathing a sigh of relief I allowed myself to relax a little. Everything had gone so quick, from the kiss, the declaration – that I still was not sure what it was about – which had stirred up the murmurs and pointed stares. I felt like I had been some sort of prize… No, not like a prize, more like being stripped in front of every girl out there and examined, as if I was something totally weird. And damn did that come close to the truth.

I realized that I must have relaxed my guard a little too much since I had not even sensed the Amazon getting closer until soft fingers brushed over my cheek in clear concern. Startled I backed away slightly and flinched at the hurt look of the girl. "What… What happened there?" I finally managed to get out, my voice pitched a bit too high, even for a girl – not that I had much experience there. The Amazon looked a little nervous as she remained there she was and then she didn't reply after several moments I thought that she might not speak Japanese.

"Xian Pu… sorry." I blinked at that, trying to figure out what the girl meant. "No mean to frighten outs… Airen. Is strange for Xian Pu too." It appeared that she was struggling more with her feelings than with the words. As was I. "Ah, it's alright," I tried to reassure her. "Not that I mind that you didn't kill me and all but…" Inwardly I minded it very much. She should have just gone through with it. That would have been better for anyone, including myself. Aloud I asked: "What was all the, um… kissing stuff about? And why did anyone react as if it was some kind of scandal?"

The girl was silent for awhile longer and I patiently waited, not that I really was in a hurry to get… anywhere. Where should I go anyway? Back home? Yeah sure! Mother would hate or at the very least pity me… That would be even worse. And I had nowhere else to go, I didn't even have a sufficient identity even more. I probably would end up on the road for the rest of my life. Never finding a place to settle down and be accepted. Seppuku was looking more and more like a good option.

"Is… Is simple. Amazon law say then outsider girl defeat Amazon, Amazon must give Kiss of Death and hunt down girl to restore honor." That much I knew already from the guide. "If outsider is male and defeat Amazon, he is given Kiss of Marriage. Must then marry Amazon to strengthen tribe." Oh. But I was a… No, I was a man. Or did she know…? I stared at the Amazon, her eyes slightly averted as she twirled her fingers in her lap from there she was sitting on the edge of a table. No, it couldn't be. She couldn't know about the curse. How should she?

"But Xian Pu give Airen Kiss of Marriage. Is not unheard of, especially under Amazon people but is unusual with outsiders…" That got my attention. At least it explained all the whispering. From what I gathered the girl must have been the best warrior in her generation among the tribe and to have her snared away by an outsider girl… "Why did you do it then, um… Xian Pu?" I asked, having somewhat adapted to her broken Japanese and her way of apparently speaking in third person. Xian Pu, so I believed, finally looked at me with a look of sorrow. For a moment I thought it to be pity and my initiate response would have been to recoil but it was as I said, sorrow. Sorrow mixed with some kind of compassion. "Xian Pu not know. Is funny… Just look into eyes and could not do. There much… pain? Familiar to Xian Pu."

My eyes cast downwards I gave a bitter laugh. "Well, thank you, I guess. But after you learn what you got yourself as a…" I choked slightly on the word. "… wife. You most likely want to kill me again. Not that I would mind it much." I heard the Amazon gasp in surprise at the lack of emotion in my voice but ignored it. The girl was genuine, true, but it was better that she didn't get further involved with this. With that sorrowful excuse for a human that I had become. "Why… Why Airen say that?"

"Because I'm a freak, that's why. Ever since I came to China, I've got cursed to become a girl, then locked in this state and now I'm practically married to you… as a girl! How pathetic is this, huh? Believe me, you don't want to be…" My words were cut off and I was completely taken by surprise as gentle arms held me in a firm embrace. For a moment I stiffened but quickly felt myself relaxing in the comfort. I had not even seen the Amazon move before she was next to me in a flash.

Something moist ran down my cheek but it wasn't my own tears. Looking up, I almost froze solid under the crimson-brown eyes filled with sorrow that threatened to break my heart right there. "Xian… Xian Pu…?" I stuttered weakly, not knowing what to do. The Amazon merely sniffed as she reached up with one hand to brush some strands of red out of my face and lingering on the skin beneath. "Airen… cursed at Jusenkyo? Is really man?" I nodded, not daring to do anything more. The contact was so comforting, my body craved it and would not allow it to go. "Is… cursed twice?" I nodded again and saw painful realization creep into the Amazon's eyes. Before I could say anything more she proceeded to press me tightly against her slightly taller frame – which would need some getting used to.

"Xian Pu so sorry. Be here for Airen, yes? Try and make her… him feel better?" I doubted that but did not dare to protest. The feeling of serenity for that brief moment too good to shatter. Somewhere in the back of my mind I began to understand. She must have been lonely. I knew very well that superior skill and strength was rarely met with respect as it should be but often with envy. I had noticed that some of the heated looks were not sent my way when Xian Pu had all but dragged me away from the challenge log, they were pointed at her.

My eyes snapped open as I felt the sensation of lips against mine again. Just as before I simply lost myself in it. Normally, with my lack of experience with girls, my brain probably would have gone blank already. But it was different somehow with the Amazon. I could not really explain. I was confused, emotionally hurt… no, devastated and had no experience with girls or any romantic stuff at all. Somehow it just felt right. Even as a girl. Especially now that I was stuck as such. I craved for feeling. I craved for anything to fill me up inside and give me reason to live. And apparently Xian Pu did know that.

"Come," she whispered in my ear, her breath caressing my skin as she pushed me towards a nearby door. "Xian Pu make Airen feel better." A quick look confirmed that it must be the bedroom. Inexperienced I might be but I rather well could figure out what was being implied… offered here. And by any means, my mind and body should rebel, maybe they even wanted to. We shouldn't be doing this. We were both girls and I did not feel like one… However, my heart just accepted and my spirit just resigned. She was genuine. In a blunt way that some might consider barbaric others simply naturally she was genuine in her offer. I was tired of the pain and the numbness ever since the guide's words of pain had sunken in. So I just gave in and let her push me all the way through the door.

(Kho Lon)

This was turning out to be an… interesting day to say the least. To my satisfaction Xian Pu had done well in the tournament. Even against the slightly unfair order of opponents – which, of course, was altered to provide the best challenge. Nevertheless Xian Pu had made me proud and came out victorious with only exhaustion to bear as battle scars. I had known from the start that in a simple challenge none of the other Amazons could compete with my Great-granddaughter, so it needed a little meddling to actually challenge her.

In the end that might have cost Xian Pu the challenge match with the outsider girl. No, that wouldn't have mattered. Whoever the redhead was, she was trained far beyond my charge's current level and the style had something hauntingly familiar as well. In the end what was truly turning the day's events upside down was Xian Pu's sudden change of mind. I had observed the scene quietly from afar. Already wary from my charge's worry this morning, I tried to piece that puzzle together that the outsider presented to my mind's eye. There was a slight glamour in her aura that could mean a curse like the panda father quite obviously had. But it was horribly distorted. Twisted and somehow stained. I knew deep down I should have recognized it but up to this moment couldn't figure it out.

"So," I began, eyeing the bald man disdainful. He seemed like the type that would sell everything, including his own daughter, for his own personal gain. For some reason I even believed to be too close to the truth for my liking. "I am right to assume you are my new daughter-in-law's father, yes?" I did not add that I would prefer it not to be that way. The man sweated profoundly under my gaze and kept throwing glances in the direction of the bedroom… Of course, I hadn't been alive for over three hundred years to not know what was going on there. My Great-granddaughter was never one to hesitate when a chance presented itself, yet I could also sense a great emotional turmoil in the air. Their chi was giving most of it away and so I was sure that the father felt it as well.

"Now you see, lady. I'm sure you have pretty strict laws here but my… Ranma is already promised to another." I shook my head slightly. Why was it that I had expected something like that. "Oh really? This is a sad thing." Deciding to let him run into a self-made trap, I pressed on, "And is your daughter aware of this arrangement?" I saw him wince just the tiniest bit and was now almost sure that the girl was cursed. Which relieved me a great deal because this situation could have easily left our line without a heir.

"Um… you see… I…" The blabbering idiot was apparently trying to wind himself out of this one. "Ranma will marry one of the Tendo girls and join our schools as promised! It does not matter if he knows or not!" I arched an eyebrow at that, finally getting some sufficient information out of the outburst. Sending a look towards the bedroom myself, I could feel the two different chi patterns merge and calm down. "I think it will be hard to convince her of that after tonight." The reaction was anticipated and I thrust my staff out to block the man's path that would have lead him directly barreling through the bedroom door. No one would disturb one of my kin on their mating night.

"Tsk, tsk… Please sit down, Saotome-san." It was the first time I actually used his name and it was laced with that much humor that the man promptly followed the order with a chastised expression. "Tell me, Saotome-san, is Ranma cursed as well. Is she by any chance a he? Because I think arranging marriages between two girls is not quite legal in Japan, or at least not really welcomed." Of course the stupid male denied it and even emphasized on the fact that I could test it myself. SHE would not change with hot water.

I narrowed my eyes. Up to this point I had been hundred percent certain that I was dealing with a Jusenkyo-cursed male as a husband to my great-granddaughter. Saotome Genma could be lying but something about this gleam in his eyes let me doubt that. A very, VERY disturbing thought suddenly sprang into my mind. What had Xian Pu said she felt? A change coming? Could the lad by any chance…

My voice was low and very dangerous to the father's sensitive ears for a potent danger. "Saotome-san… I would advise you to not lie about this. Has your son's curse been locked?" The sweat pouring down from his forehead gave me all the answers I needed and I would have laughed at the fool shrinking in on himself into an actually humbled position under my flashing eyes but the cold flare of anger that cursed through my veins was far stronger. "Were YOU," I emphasized, "by any chance responsible for this?" Saotome Genma by now seemed to be ready to cry and beg for forgiveness at any moment yet I held the icy stare and had to fight hard for control when he meekly nodded his confirmation.

Double-cursed, I swore and slowly let go of the anger, sinking back in the chair. Jusenkyo was already to a certain degree Amazon business. Why we didn't take notice of any poor soul being cursed there, some were taken up afterwards and maybe even adopted into the tribe. A double curse was a sacred thing. Occurring rarely it was a desecration against the Jusenkyo law and nature itself. Usually a person bringing a locked curse upon a victim would be met with only one punishment. Death.

Three hundred years of experience began to pay out as I suddenly realized how much that devastating circumstance could be used to the advantage of my great-granddaughter and against any of the other arrangements the father might have done. A slow smile crept into my face that made the groveling man promptly shudder.

(Xian Pu)

Double-cursed… An act near to blasphemy for the Joketsuzoku. That history went far back and I wasn't even sure what had been the actual cause. Maybe nowadays it was more the grudge with the Musk Empire and their constant use of the pools for their own use and the locking that went with it. While the artifact that existed for that also had a counterpart, a victim falling into a spring twice was more or less forever locked. According to Great-grandmother there were cures, but most of them were almost impossible to acquire.

Maybe I hadn't been that far off with my earlier assumption. Locked in one's completely opposite form could very well drive you mad if your attention wasn't constantly diverted. I knew how proud outsider males were, probably as proud as Amazons, and I only had to imagine what I would do if I had fallen in Nannuchian twice… It was a thought I could barely bring myself to form.

No, this would need caution and a lot care. And I had no real idea how to help the poor boy-turned-girl beyond support and compassion. I also believed that this condition was just the final straw that had brought the boy's personality toppling. There was a deep loneliness in her – I could still not bring myself to think about her as male – eyes and that was a feeling I was as much familiar with as I wasn't good in dealing with it. A part of me feared to be confronted with my own feelings, the reality of my own social status.

It was no good lamenting, however. The redhead standing uncertainly in the middle of the room, arms wrapped around herself, was what was important now. I closed the door silently and walked over to my Airen. No, not uncertain, I corrected myself. Insecure. Confused and distraught as she was I could not blame her but it was apparent that she never had that sort of contact with a girl – or anyone for that matter – before. A fact that both surprised me and at the same time didn't.

Visitors often came to the village and there were a lot of incidents when outsider boys had to be restrained by force from overly ogling or even harassing my tribal sisters – myself included. So it was unusual for one to be as inexperienced as this one. Yet, I assumed my Airen had constantly been in training which often doesn't leave room for personal enjoyments.

Based on that I wasn't quite sure if I wouldn't scare the redhead away. On the other hand though, I had no idea how to otherwise express myself. Hesitation is a weakness, one of Kho Lon's lecture came to mind and I made my decision. It was done anyway. I had given the Kiss in front of the whole tribe, consequences had to be dealt with later. And my first reason for this had anyway been to make her see that even cursed it didn't make her any less desirable, that she was no freak of nature to me.

Stepping up to the redhead I gently but firmly reached out to uncross my Airen's arms. Experience from brief tryst with some of my tribal sisters began to pay out now as I met almost no resistance to the touch. Cupping the redhead's cheek I looked into her eyes, making her focus on me and not on her own misery. Feeling, I reminded myself. This was not about a formal confirmation of the bonding but solely about giving her something to feel, to feel more adequate.

"What is name?" I asked, not wanting to make love to an unknown face that just happened to be my Airen. Up to now I never had the chance to ask that question and of course I wanted to know. The redhead shivered as I let fingertips tiptoe over her cheek while the other hand was stroking idly through red hair. She needed a little time to come up with an answer, a testament that my efforts were already fertile.

"R-Ranma… Saotome Ranma…" I leaned a little closer and could actually feel my Airen's breath catching in her throat. Hmm, we really have to do something about this. It might be cute once but on a steady basis… "Ranma," I purred in my best suggestive voice. "Is nice name, strong name, yes? Is Ranma strong warrior?" Again she needed some time to nod and by when I had already moved in and initialized another kiss. I was doing most of the work but for once that was alright. No expectations for my Airen right now. Tonight I would be giving her something. And maybe in the process of helping her would help myself.

So lost in the dominating kiss Ranma did not notice that my hands had slipped under her Chinese-style shirt, purposefully venturing upwards. She did, however, moan to my silent satisfaction as my hands found ample breasts. Again I was amazed at the natural perfection. Neither to large nor to small. It was a shame actually that a curse could produce such results. Right now I didn't mind though as I stepped back one step. Ranma was breathing harder now and I proceeded to push her shirt over her head, to which she now willingly complied.

Not losing a second or giving my Airen a moment to reconsider I pushed a little. The redhead stumbled backwards and already as close to the cozy bed as she was promptly lost her balance to land on it. I followed immediately.

(Ranma)

The first sparkles of morning glow began to change the dawn to sunrise. Orange-colored beams peaked out from underneath the horizon and soon the sun itself would bath the village embedded deep inside the mountain range in all its glory. It was a truly beautiful, magnificent sight. A memory to behold and cherish for the rest of your life. For me it was just that. A morning. Another morning like any other but at the same time not.

It was the first morning I had woken up as a female, the first moment I had woken next to another my age and that in a less than platonic position. It was a morning that yesterday I would have dreaded and still did to a degree, however, the overwhelming pain, loneliness and feelings of tiredness had subsided. They were still there and would most likely be for a long time. Yet, the inadequacy that had dominated me since receiving and being locked that perfidious curse. Insecure as I was about such things as girls, romance and what went with it, it had only served to heighten the experience.

The Amazon, Xian Pu, was as I said rather blunt in her ways. I had no idea if it was a character thing or the language barrier but last night it had served its purpose. I could feel her own sadness and loneliness dominating and fueling the act. Her offer might have been to me alone but had also served to help the Amazon as well. One thought was it that had stuck. Kindred. We were kindred in so many ways. Without really knowing the details I could guess what her life must have been, picture it even. And I knew she did as well.

"Is beautiful, yes?" I might have been surprised at other day's, not expecting someone up so early, even father tended to sleep longer. Today my mind was left in a surprising clarity and my senses were stimulated by the peaceful atmosphere of the village. I did flinch slightly, however, as a pair of slender, long arms came around my waist and drew me back against the body behind me. After a few moments I managed to relax though, as the sweet feeling of some sort of belonging began to envelop me again. It was strange. Knowing that the Amazon understood me so well on a primal level, helped me immensely to relax as strange and sudden as the situation might be. I chuckled inwardly. Had I still been male I would have been to proud to submit to anyone. Whatever it was. A lot of the stubbornness that had come with the confidence had been drained out with the curse. Xian Pu had, so to say, caught me in a situation where I couldn't defend myself emotionally.

Not wanting to disrupt the serenity of the comforting or ending the at the moment rather welcomed affections, I opted for once to not speak my mind. Another ironic thing. The curse seemed to make me less tongue-tied and actually attentive to what a situation required… Maybe it was only my depressed state though. "Yeah… I usually wake up early. The mornings are always the best thing to concentrate and cleanse your chi for the day." Or at least they had been. I wasn't sure if I could ever see it like that again. But I didn't say that.

Whether or not my unexpected but not really unwanted… wife had seen through it or not, she didn't show any sign of it. "Xian Pu come up here often to meditate. Not actually the best place but is good for everyday training." She loosened her embrace, almost to my disappointment, and slid next to me. Nudging her head in the direction of the mountains, she added: "Up there is better though. Cleaner. Usually no chi in great… distance, yes?"

I did not reply to that but that was unnecessary. Oyaji – who I had seen no sign of after waking this morning – would probably disapprove and bawl his eyes out at my lack of manliness, not  that I cared though. I could feel Xian Pu's eyes observing me as I ever so slightly leaned on her, not wanting to leave the security the Amazon had offered just yet.

In a gesture to show that I probably would have to do more than that to ever escape her, Xian Pu put an arm around my shoulders and together we continued to sit on the roof of the house in silence, each lost in their own thoughts but strangely relieved that the other was so close by.

(Xian Pu)

I can't say that I wasn't a tiny bit annoyed at once again having my carefully planned out offense used against me and finding myself on my butt as a result. Unlike my usual training with Great-grandmother though now it stayed simply with that annoyance, otherwise it seemed almost… idle. Fun actually. Except the constantly getting whacked bit. I glanced up at the redhead who had her arms crossed and her head shaking in disapproval. I expected a rant any moment. But again Ranma wasn't Great-grandmother.

Declining the offered hand I got back on my feet, smothering my clothing. "You really better than Xian Pu. Xian Pu has never seen anyone move that fast except Great-grandmother." Was that a smile and a brief flicker of confidence in her eyes? That would be even more progress than I had thought about when we decided for a brief spar. Alright, maybe it was more my decision yet Ranma wasn't much for meditation beyond the cleansing of chi either. Maybe it was an age thing.

However, it was as I thought. My Airen was a Martial Artist after all, devoted and trained all his life. When I wanted to let go of everything and feel free for a timeless moment I would train or find a tribal sister to spar with. The Art always gave solitude to me and so it did for Ranma. We both could forget everything during that time, lost in either the simplicity or complexity of a kata; the beauty, passion as well as the completion and natural it provided. Gone were the sorrows, the loneliness, the emotional scars. There was only you and the Art. Nothing else.

"Of course, I'm the Best." The statement felt hollow with only that slight bit of confidence backing it up. I was sure it was meant to sound arrogant and proud but failed to be those things at the moment. Now it was more like one of those tape things from the bigger cities. Just an automatic response. That made me sad because I would rather more want… no, like an Airen who could stand up for him- or herself. It will take time, I reminded myself. One day after another. I sighed quietly. Patience never was one of my greatest strengths. This would be a trial that I could not afford to lose, however.

I was startled out of my thoughts when the redhead moved behind me and gently took my hands. The contact was innocent but it felt good. Especially for one like me who never had had much contact with others for a longer period of time. "You can do better," Ranma said softly and I could not help but shiver slightly as her breath caressed my neck. I forced myself to concentrate on the kata and tried to memorize what my Airen was showing me, knowing it would help to ease her mind and give her something to concentrate on.

"You see. The attack itself was good but you leave too many holes in your guard. For an average fighter it might be enough but if you want to compete with the best, you have to watch yourself more thoroughly. A good tactic and offense are good. Don't neglect your defense though." I was impressed with her speed to analyze, learn and improve the kata's pattern. I had worked on it for three day's and my Airen had just corrected it in seconds.

Finishing her instructions she stepped around me to position herself opposite of me again and I smiled slightly as her hands lingered on mine for a bit longer than necessary. "Try again." I did as I was shown and this time didn't land on my behind. Ranma nodded approvingly. The approving smile made me feel good and it was another sign that the redhead obviously seemed to get better already. Or maybe tried to not look so all-out misery.

She was about to say something but was beaten to it.  "Very impressive, Daughter-in-law. Or should I say Son-in-law?" We turned to find Great-grandmother perched on her staff a few meters away, seemingly idly observing us. I knew from experience that the Elder's observations were in fact never idle. "Doesn't matter to me. I suppose it is all the same right now," Ranma answered and eyed Elder Kho Lon closely. "But I really did not do so much, Old Ghoul." I nearly choked, trying to control my laughter at the comical expression on the Elder's face. She caught herself quickly though. "Now, don't sell yourself low. I have tried weeks making my Great-granddaughter see that particular flaw and you did so in the space of a few minutes." I blushed, embarrassed at being chastised by the Elder in front of my Airen.

Surprisingly Ranma just gave a snort. "Maybe you should try simply telling. Your Great-granddaughter is very attentive." Elder Kho Lon chuckled in response. "But I have a reputation to hold. I'm her Elder after all and not her… wife." As much as I was flattered that Ranma had stood up for me, she should learn that you can't play mind games with Great-grandmother and expect an easy win. I reached for her hand and squeezed it briefly, leveling a glare at the older woman who had the courtesy to look away. That last comment really didn't have to be.

"When you are finished please come inside. We have much to discuss." And with that Elder Kho Lon turned and hoped back to the house.

(Ranma)

"What the hell do you mean with fiancée?" Xian Pu next to me mirrored my disbelief. It was remarkable that Oyaji didn't flinch under the glares leveled at him. Usually Saotome Genma was a man that, in ninety-nine percent of all cases, would rather run from the problem than confronting it. He was a notorious coward and all he seemed to care about besides the Art were food and sleep. And I should know, I had put up with the man for about ten years of my life. However, whatever this promise business was, he obviously took it very seriously.

So? It was not that any of his wonderful ideas ever turned out into something less than at least chaotic. So why should this be any different? Who had heard about arranged marriages in these times anyway? Alright, as much as I knew our line had always been very traditional but that was simply hilarious. I couldn't imagine myself just being married to some girl I didn't even know…

Of course, glancing at Xian Pu a sweatdrop rolled down my forehead. That was quickly replaced by first concern and then guilt. The Amazon seemed to be enraged, sad and uncertain altogether. Whatever father had arranged, my first obligation should be to her. She had taken care of me without being asked to and after last night I hardly could just turn my back and walk away for Oyaji's wretched concept of honor.

A well-aimed punch brought my point home and managed to knock a surprised Genma over. "Forget it," I snarled and demonstratively sort our Xian Pu's hand. I still wasn't sure what to think about her but the decision was easy for me. Even if that promise was a matter of honor, I had learned about it AFTER being… married… to Xian Pu by Amazon Law. And there still was that sliver of hope that they had some sort of cure. Bailing out of my responsibility to who was obviously a leader's relative would certainly not help me there.

"Ranma, you ungrateful boy! The promise must be fulfilled and the joining of the schools must take place!" His rant did not more than bore me, even the annoyance seemed to have been drained through the events from yesterday. Not that Oyaji's speeches were ever anything more than boring and annoying. Lifting one eyebrow, I glanced tiredly at him. "And how do you suppose I do that? If you have forgotten I'm still locked in this form thanks to you. Do you really believe that those girls would want to marry another one? I bet they would be thrilled."

"Aiya! Doesn't matter to Xian Pu if Ranma girl or boy," the purple-haired girl exclaimed next to me. I smiled at her, knowing it would drive Oyaji up the walls. "Thanks, I appreciate that." Turning back at Genma who was glowering by now, I added: "See? It is as simple as that. As long as I have this curse nobody short of Xian Pu here would probably even consider me… legally at least." I shot the Amazon a look, trying to see if I hurt her with the statement but she seemed to be doing alright. Another strange thing about the curse, I seemed to be constantly worried how I appeared to people. Before the incident I would probably not have given a damn about other people's opinions.

"About the curse, there might still be hope for you SON-in-law," the old woman spoke up for the first time and effectively preventing Genma's protest. I wouldn't have paid it any mind anyway but the old woman made me listen attentively. "There is?" I asked, the sliver of hope changing into a small star. Had the guide been right? Did they really know how to treat locked curses? I would do everything for that, even if it meant that I had to live with it part-time, that would only be a small price and better than this permanent state.

The old woman chuckled at my barely concealed excitement. "Yes, indeed there is. But it is not easy to do. Not in your case at least." What was ever easy for me anyway? In fact what others thought was hard to do was easy for me and that wasn't even the norm. A Martial Artist grew with the challenges life threw at him. "No problem. I will do everything!" Of course as much as the curse had changed me inwardly, I had not quite abandoned my problem to speak before thinking. Not that it would have made a difference.

"Good. I'm sure. You will make a good Airen to my Great-granddaughter." I glanced at Xian Pu but did not dare to say anything. A part of me would not even mind being married to her. Just not yet. Oyaji was about to protest but the old woman leveled such an icy look at him that it felt like an blizzard had just passed over the room. "And you be silent, male. I could easily turn you over to the Council for violating Jusenkyo law. Only that you are Son-in-laws kin prevents me from doing it right away." Genma was silent. A fact that totally baffled me. He would be many things. Groveling, begging, protesting… but not silent. Man, it seemed this time one of his mistake had come back to haunt him tenfold.

Turning my attention back to the woman, I asked: "So what is this cure all about, Old Ghoul." Said Old Ghould narrowed her eyes. "The name is Kho Lon and for you it is Elder, girl," the… Elder replied. And this time it registered somewhere in my mind that I didn't want to make an enemy out of this woman. "About the cure… In your particular case there would only be one. But before I tell you, I will have to see for myself that you are worthy and ready for such a task."

"And how will you do that?" I asked suspiciously, biting back a remark. Kho Lon just cackled and grinned at me – which wasn't a very amusing sight. "Oh. We will begin training tomorrow. After I'm through with you, you will think your father's training to be mere child's play."

Somehow I believed her. Looking sideways at Xian Pu I could see it confirmed there in a look of pity. Oh well. At least training was something I could still do. It couldn't be THAT bad, right?"

Author's Notes

Actually I didn't even want to divide this into parts when I started but here was a good point to do so. This was the introduction and meeting phase. Next time you will see how Ranma deals with life in the Amazon Village, under Kho Lon's drill and growing feelings for his new Amazon wife.

It was not what really prompted me to write this but helped greatly with actually writing some of the scenes here. I'm not sure which story it was but I had an author once let Ranma mention/think that as emotionally torn and utterly down as he must have felt after being cursed he would probably have declared his undying love to her if she had let him. I think that could have happened. Anyone, under the right circumstances could have been Ranma's main fiancée as various alterverse fiction have shown.

In any case. If you really wish to blame me for… um, slightly badmouthing Genma in this chapter. I really tried my best to be objective because I believe myself that bashing is just an excuse for not wanting to get to know the character enough to portray him/her right. This is a hard thing to do in Genma's case, however  The man DOES have a wrecked sense of honor and is mostly doing things for his own good. He might care for his son on a basic level but doesn't allow it to show very often.

There is a very, VERY subtle hint in here about Xian Pu's parents in light of the main story. You will, however, only pick it up when you get to read that. If you anyway, I congratulate you personally though.

That's it for now. I'm testing the waters with releasing this part so to speak. Feedback is very much appreciate and needed (addy is in the header) since this is my first totally Ranma focused story even if only AU.

Ja ne, yours

Matthias