Making Waves

Not an artist nor a woman so the originals ain't mine.

Hey all. This is the first chapter of my Fairy Tail X Ranma crossover. This story has been posted over on my patty r on page for some time, up to chapter 6, with chapter 7 coming in the next week or so. I had not intended to post any of it over here on fanfic for a while, but I had three people who said they had recently become mothers who read my fanfiction and wanted to see this story but weren't in a position to actually donate. So here is my belated Mother's Day present to any mothers out there who read fanfiction. I have no idea how many of you there are, but you rock nonetheless.

Realize before you read the FT portion of the chapter, I have not read the series since the end of the Grand Magic Games. When I learned that Fairy Tail had dissolved I was enraged at what I saw as a blatant use of another plot tool, just like the whole time skip that happened on Tenryou Island. I am also not a fan (putting it mildly) of Jellal, let alone the evil that is JERZA. Ugh. That being said, I still haven't decided on the pairings that might show up in this fic; more on that in my endnotes. For now, please enjoy!

This has been betaed by Michael, so please give your thanks to him for his work on it.

Chapter 1: Old People Are Wise, Who Knew?!

After nearly two years of living here, Ranma knew that there was only one place in the Tendo dojo where he could go for some peace and quiet. He could wish that it was because everyone knew that this was his spot and wouldn't bother him when he was there, but it was more because most people just didn't know he liked it. Regardless, Ranma now sat on the roof of the house leaning his head and back against the house's small chimney and staring out over the Nerima area around them, thinking hard.

The fact of the matter was that of late Ranma was not happy, not happy at all. Everything should've changed after the wedding fiasco, but it hasn't!

The rivals had all returned, showing up during the actual wedding to disrupt events for their own reasons and then continuing to show up afterward as if nothing had changed. Oh, Mousse and Ryoga at the very least tended to act warier around Ranma, retreating quicker if it seemed that Ranma was gaining the upper hand. But they and the fiancées all seemed to be under the impression that because nothing had been finalized at the marriage that it didn't count it all. Even Akane was back to normal, though possibly a bit more vicious towards Ranma and a bit less understanding about his curse.

But Ranma, though he didn't show it to anyone, hadn't returned to normal. For one thing, he had for the first time gone into a fight with the intent to kill. That had marked Ranma. Even if Saffron would be able to come back eventually, reborn from his egg, Ranma had still intended to end him.

It wasn't like Ranma had never been in a fight that truly put his life on the line. Living on the road his father had put him into street fights several times, and they had rubbed elbows with the yakuza and triad members more often than Ranma cared to think about. But he had never had to kill. Disable, cripple, and in a few cases neuter, but never kill.

And no one seems to understand that except for Happosai and Cologne. Both of them had been treating him differently since then, having noticed the change in Ranma, though in Happy's case it came and went. No one else had. Even his mother, who he had happily reconciled with a few months before the whole Akane kidnapping thing had occurred, hadn't noticed.

And the other problem is everything is so boring! It seemed as if Ranma had pushed past some kind of internal threshold, pushing his body's abilities far beyond what he could have done a mere few months before. Not even Ryoga was able to keep up with him now in terms of strength, and everyone around him moved so slowly! That and the strange sort of sameness his life had fallen into had woken up a desire to head out onto the road again like he was younger.

His odd boredom with the way his life was like right now had forced him to talk with his mother and Kasumi. They were the two most responsible adults in his life, but neither of them had much advice to offer. Kasumi didn't simply because she didn't want to get further involved in the chaos around him.

Something had happened during the wedding ceremony, and now she was distancing herself from everyone involved in the normal chaos of the area. Even Soun had gotten the cold shoulder sometimes, something Ranma had put down to a shrine to her mother having been destroyed during the wedding brawl. He had tried to repair it the day after, which won him a bit of a smile, but that was all. It'd gotten so bad that even the rivals and fiancées had stopped showing up at the Tendos place, even Shampoo!

As for his mother… Ranma sighed, thinking about her. She wants me to be this manly man guy and sees no reason why I can't be with so many girls, even if the law and their honor and mine says I can't be, even if they would probably kill each other rather than share me. Or, well, okay, they would probably kill me, he thought more bitingly. I always seem to get blamed for it whenever they try to start a fight, and I try to stop them. No, I need someone else to talk to. Someone who knows at least a bit about what's been going on, but who hasn't actually been a part. Someone whose opinion I can trust and that can only mean Dr. Tofu.

The next day at breakfast as Akane was getting up to head to grab her bag for school, Ranma didn't move from the table, instead of helping Kasumi clean up. "Ranma aren't you coming?" Akane asked suspiciously. "And stop trying to butter up my sister, pervert!"

Ranma winced slightly. The amount of vitriol Akane could put into that word was frankly a little disturbing to him these days. "Nah, I'm not going to school," he said, and before anyone could speak up he went on quickly. "I think I'm going to go search for Doctor Tofu. I stopped by his clinic a few days ago, but there was nothing there. I just want to make sure nothing happened to him, you know?"

Akane paused at that and then slowly nodded. Even Soun could see the point of that. Their eyes tracked over to where Kasumi was still placidly picking up plates, and then back to Ranma who nodded slightly, and both of them nodded back. Even Nabiki nodded, her own eyes trailing to her older sister. "That's a good idea," she said aloud. "How long has his office been closed, and have you gone over to his house?"

"He lives above the clinic, Nabs," Ranma said with a shrug, ignoring her growl at the nickname. "I looked inside yesterday; didn't see anything."

Despite his words, Ranma had seen something, or rather a lack of something. All of Doctor Tofu's clothing and much of the furniture was gone, and there was a "For Sale" sign on the door. It wouldn't take long for Nabiki to figure that out once she started to look into the issue, but she hadn't yet, being so busy with her college work.

"That's nice of you, Ranma," Kasumi said, causing the other Tendos to freeze. Even Genma looked at her quickly. "I do have two books that I borrowed from him a while ago, so if you do run into him, could you please return them for me?"

"Sure, Kasumi," Ranma said with a nod as he reached over to pick up the last of the tableware. "Why don't you go get them and I'll finish cleaning up."

Kasumi favored him with a slight smile, the most she ever showed anyone these days, walking upstairs quickly.

Glaring at him, Akane scowled but eventually nodded. "Tell us about it when you get back, and I'll share my school notes with you."

Ranma nodded back, though inwardly he was rolling his eyes in frustration. If Akane at this point hadn't realized that he didn't really care about school, well, that was kind of sad, really.

"You need any help, boy?" Genma asked.

"Nah old man. I got it. I have a few ideas of where he could've gone already," Ranma said hurriedly. The last thing he wanted to do was bring his father along on this trip. "Though if you could stop by Ukyo and Shampoo's restaurants and tell them what I'm doing so they don't come after me for the day?"

"In that case, Ranma, why don't you take Akane with you?" asked Soun happily. "You could make a date of it."

"No way!" Akane said sharply. "There's a play I want to try out for at school this afternoon, and I'm not missing that for anything, not even Doctor Tofu. Ranma can handle anything that Tofu couldn't handle himself."

"Good luck with that," Ranma said almost absentmindedly, not noticing any of the others reactions to that. In his mind, Akane had a lot more passion for acting than she did for the martial arts, and the sooner she realized that the sooner she'd be happier, he thought. Maybe. Who knows, really? I might be a girl half the time, but I sure don't understand 'em.

A few moments later the two supposed adults in the room had retreated to their traditional game of Anything Goes shogi, and Nabiki and Akane had left for college and school respectively. Ranma was just finishing putting the dishes away when Kasumi came into the kitchen. She held out the two books to him, then asked, "Before you go, Ranma, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Kasumi," Ranma said happy that she was actually initiating a conversation for the first time since the Wedding Disaster. "What's up?"

"Why did everyone look at me so strangely when you mentioned the idea of finding Doctor Tofu?" Kasumi asked innocently.

Ranma coughed in surprise, nearly dropping the plate he was drying, looking away then back at Kasumi. The innocent expression on her face didn't go away, didn't twitch at all, and he realized that she wasn't having him on about this. "Um, well, everyone, that is, Akane, once told me that she thought you kind of sort of liked Doctor Tofu. Er, I guess everyone sort of assumed that, really," he said hesitantly.

Kasumi blinked once, then twice, then a third time as a wide smile appeared on her face and she broke out into laughter. Ranma stood there for a moment just staring, happy to once more see a real smile on her face but wondering why.

"That's," Kasumi said, still laughing, "that is so silly! Why does everyone think that?"

"I don't know. It ain't like I'm really knowledgeable about romance," Ranma replied. "I think it's because you always are borrowing books from him, and they think you might have a lot in common? Maybe the fact you go out of your way to go and visit him, bringing him dishes whenever you return books."

"I am an excellent cook. Paying for the rental of his books with food is simply a neighborly thing to do," Kasumi said dryly, regaining control of herself. "He also has an extremely good collection of books, and his office is closer than the public library, so it is not out of my way to visit him. Besides which, he acts so silly when he was around me. At first, I found it amusing, but at the same time it was rather disconcerting, and never seemed to go away."

Ranma had to wince at the disparaging tone of Kasumi's voice there and answered hesitantly. "I think that was kind of…part of it? I mean, Akane pointed it out to me first, and I sort of figured it out after, but he only acts that way around you. Like he's sort of love-struck?" Even as he said it though, the words didn't seem to make sense to him any longer.

"If someone's acting like that around someone it is a sign of silliness, not love," Kasumi replied tartly. "Besides which, while I like maturity, I don't like men who are so much older than me."

"Ouch," Ranma said, actually holding a hand over his heart, knowing that was both directed towards him and the good Doctor. "I'll remember that one."

"See that you do," Kasumi said still tartly then she looked at him closely. "Was that the only reason you're searching for Doctor Tofu?"

"No," Ranma said quickly, shaking his head. "Not really. I just wanted to talk to him about stuff."

Kasumi looked at him closely before nodding and turning away without another word causing Ranma to wince. Before the wedding, she would've asked him if she could give him any advice, but not anymore. The wall between them was back, and Kasumi continued to look away as Ranma turned, exiting the house quickly.

Ranma hopped his way over the rooftops, heading not for Doctor Tofu's clinic, but the house of Tofu's mother. He had been there exactly once, but Ranma would never forget the home of the woman who smacked his female half's hips saying that they were perfect for childbearing… No matter how much he wanted to.

As he hopped along Ranma thought about that moment and his female form in general. Suppose I'll just have to get used to it, goddammit! No cure I've found has worked out, and frankly looking for them has been more trouble than it's worth every time.

I suppose… I mean, it's not as if the form itself bothers me anymore and I sure as hell have used it to my advantage a lot of times. My mind doesn't change, which is the most important thing. The whole monthly monster thing is terrifying, but I can deal with that. It's just everyone else's reactions to it. My mom's in particular.

Looking around, Ranma realized he was close to Mrs. Tofu's house and focused on figuring out which roof belonged to it before landed right in front of it. For some reason, there were a few guards outside dressed in relatively good suits, and they reached into their pockets the instant Ranma landed in front of them. Before they could pull out what were probably guns, Ranma was in their faces, grabbing their hands and pressing them into their chests, pushing the guards backwards.

Holding them against the door several feet off the ground, he said calmly, "I'm just here to talk to Doctor Tofu. I'm going to let you go now, and you're going to pull those hands out of your jackets without anything in them. If you don't, I'm going to get irritated. Are we clear?"

Both men nodded slowly, their eyes wide. One of them did in fact bring his hand out without a weapon as Ranma had requested. The other tried to pull his gun out anyway, despite Ranma now actually being right there in his face.

Ranma broke his wrist with a flick of his hand, grabbed the gun, and after removing the clip, twisted the metal into a tight ball before dropping it at his feet. "You're within a few miles of Nerima, dude," he said calmly to the now kneeling and cursing man. "You should know by now that guns don't really matter around here much."

Ignoring the whimpering man for now, Ranma looked over at the other. "Is the Doctor in? And what the hell are you two doing out here anyway?"

"We're not here to protect Doctor Tofu. We're here to protect our boss, who the doctor's looking after right now," the man said, staring from Ranma down to his friend. "Could you maybe wait until we're leaving?"

Ranma frowned but nodded. "Sure. I'll just be up there," Ranma said, pointing at the nearest rooftop. With that he bounded up, easily clearing the three stories with a single leap, landing easily on the edge before he turned around to look down at the doorway.

"Well, come on," the uninjured guard said to his fellow as he helped him up. "We'll just take you inside for the doctor to look at."

A few moments later the two of them, with the moron's wrist now bandaged, exited the complex escorting an elderly looking gentleman who Ranma instantly recognized as either someone with the government or someone high up in the yakuza. It's funny. Both types like to run with the same kind of bodyguards and dress the same too.

The old man was talking to the injured guard and looked up as they exited. Seeing Ranma simply sitting there on the edge of the building without a care in the world, he raised a wintry eyebrow, but Ranma shrugged, indicating that he didn't care one way or the other what the older man thought. He saw the older man's lips purse slightly before he turned and headed towards the limo now being pulled up to the front of the complex.

Once the group was gone Ranma hopped down. He found Dr. Tofu waiting for him at the entrance, shaking his head with a faint smile. "Did you have to break that guard's wrist, Ranma? It wasn't all that hard to splint up, but still…"

"He shouldn't've pulled a gun on me," Ranma said with a chuckle, putting his hands behind his head. "That's just asking for trouble. So, did you just move your practice, Doc, or is there some other reason you ran away from Nerima?"

Tofu winced as Ranma's tone suddenly went biting and he looked away. But before he could answer, a female voice interrupted the two of them. "Bring your friend inside, Tofu. I've wanted to meet a real Nerima resident for a while now."

Ranma's eyes narrowed, staring into the house, then down at Tofu's hands, which now that he looked had a gold ring on it. "I see," he said flatly. "This should be interesting."

The woman waiting for them inside was around Tofu's age, slightly shorter than Ranma in his male body, with glasses and long black hair, wearing a trench coat over her normal clothing. Tofu did the introductions. "Ranma, this is Sakura, my wife."

"I gathered," Ranma said with a chuckle, shaking the woman's hands. "Did he act all crazy around you too?"

"A few times early on during our courtship, yes," the woman replied coolly, examining Ranma from head to toe for a moment. "I soon broke him of the habit, though. It wasn't his crazy antics that I liked, after all, but the normal Tofu Ono." She cocked her head thoughtfully, looking at Ranma. "While I'm happy to meet a Nerima resident for the first time and would like to talk to you—after all, Ono told me about some of your adventures—I have to ask why you sought him out."

"I need advice," Ranma said simply. "And when he was around Dr. Tofu was good for that kind of thing, although I don't know now. So, what, Doc? You weren't actually interested in Kasumi? Or realized you weren't compatible or something and sort of gave up on her?"

Tofu winced, and Sakura looked at him, her eyes narrowing. "Kasumi?"

"I mentioned that I had realized what my reaction to you was before you snapped me out of it. There was a girl back in Nerima who I, well, I thought I was in love with her at the time. My father, he reacted to my mother the same way, so…"

"Yes, but he got control of it after a while. I take it you didn't in this case?" Sakura asked.

"No, he didn't," Ranma supplied as he sat down at the small main table of the house after the woman indicated that he could.

"Infatuation can lead to love, but it isn't the same thing," Tofu said softly and with as much dignity as he could. "I was infatuated with Kasumi; she was one of the prettiest girls I'd ever seen. But eventually, since my infatuation was not truly returned and I kept on making a fool of myself in her presence, I decided it was time to move on."

"I'm not saying it was a bad thing, Doc," Ranma said, laughing as he remembered Kasumi's conversation with him that morning. "She wasn't actually interested in you either, despite what her family and the rest of us thought. That alone'll come as a shock to a lot of people back home."

"She said that?" Tofu asked then nodded in relief. "I didn't think she was, but it's good to have some closure there."

"You would've gotten that closure sooner if you would've actually talked to her before you moved away," Ranma said sharply. "Just leaving like that, that was kind of cowardly even if you realized you weren't really in love with Kasumi."

"Perhaps," Tofu replied, while to his side Sakura nodded agreement before her husband tried to move the conversation along. "But I doubt you're here to talk about me."

"I need advice, like I said," Ranma shrugged. "But now that I'm here, I don't know where to begin."

"At the beginning. I take it this is not advice about an actual martial art match or a technique or anything of that nature?" Sakura asked.

Ranma shook his head, looking over at Tofu who smiled, gesturing at his wife. "My wife happens to be a psychologist. If it's advice you're seeking, you at least came to the right couple."

"One heals the body; one heals the mind. That's kind of cool," Ranma quipped, winking at them both. Inwardly, though, he didn't really know if he wanted to have his head shrunk for him. Somehow he knew it would be both painful and humiliating. Come on Ranma, you've come this far, no backing out now.

"Our clients seem to think so," Sakura said dryly. "Now quit stalling young man. I have another client I need to get to in two hours and this seems as if it's going to take a while."

Ranma looked at her, then nodded and began. He talked about what had happened in China, how it had changed him mentally and the threshold that he seemed to have passed physically, something that caught Tofu's interest. He talked about the boredom he was facing and then he talked about all the suitors, rivals, and all the chaos that never seemed to give up while at the same time become less interesting.

Sakura listened, occasionally glancing at her husband with something like anger in her eyes, which seemed to make him wilt slightly. "How long was this going on?" she asked at one point, interrupting Ranma.

"Since the moment I arrived in Nerima for some of it, longer for the rest. I mean, if you're talking about the chaos and everything. Ryoga arrived two months or so after I did, but Kuno was already there, chasing after my female form and try to kill my male form for 'defiling his fierce tigress'." Ranma said, holding up his hands to make air quotes for the last four words. "Shampoo arrived something like two months after that? Maybe more like six weeks. After that, the craziness just sort of continued to pile up."

"And your father, he really is that…" Sakura paused, looking for a direct adjective to use. "Gormless? And so utterly vilely wrong when it comes to matters of emotion?"

"I don't think he could find the word emotion if you actually pointed him to the E section of the dictionary," Ranma said with a laugh. 'Emotions are for the weak, boy!'" he said in a frighteningly accurate portrayal of Genma. "'You don't want to be a weak girl, do you?!'" Ranma continued in his normal tone. "He was saying shit like that long before he smacked me into the Spring of Drowned Girl."

"That is disturbing on many levels," Sakura mused. "Sadly, we're not here to fully psychoanalyze you or attempt to fix the faults in your personality that your father seems to have built into you, let alone those which seem homegrown as it were."

Ranma winced at that but didn't dispute her statement. He knew he was screwed up in the head in many ways. He just didn't care for the most part.

"I think that my husband has already given you some very good advice when he mentioned his own problems with this Kasumi girl." She paused and looked at them both for a moment, her eyes narrowing. "How old was she, might I ask?" she said looking over at her husband.

Tofu winced and tried to signal to Ranma that he probably shouldn't actually mention Kasumi's age, but Ranma missed that entirely. "She is about two and a half years older than me, so she just turned twenty-one."

"I see," Sakura said coldly, and now Ranma realized what he had said and why it was bad. "Really, Ono-kun?"

"It's not like he had much of a choice in Nerima," Ranma said, trying to come to the doc's aid. "I mean, there were married women, girls, and elderly, and there weren't any…"

"Ranma, just stop talking," Tofu said quickly. "Sakura and I will talk about this later. That part of my life is in the past, and we will talk about it like mature adults, I am certain."

"Which doesn't mean you won't end up sleeping on the couch tonight for withholding that bit of information, Ono-kun," Sakura replied dryly, though for some reason she seemed to have mellowed thanks to Tofu's words. Ranma wondered why but decided to put it down as something going on between the two of them relationship-wise.

"But again, let's return to your issues. Just like Ono had to learn, you must understand that love and infatuation are two different things." From there she went on to describe the differences between the two, her voice soft and gentle now rather than biting. "Furthermore, love needs to be built upon mutual understanding of what the future can hold, or perhaps better said, the ability to grow together as people rather than as individuals who merely share a relationship. These women who are after you, who would be most willing to allow you to grow as you want to grow? Who do you think could share your dream for the future or something that is at least compatible with it?"

"None of them, I don't think," Ranma said after a moment. "Not even Akane. I mean, I don't know what she thinks her future could hold, but I know it doesn't include going on the road or learning new martial arts techniques. She hasn't learned much in the past two years as far as I know, despite other girls coming along who are better at martial arts than her."

"And then we come to your own mistakes in this affair…" Sakura said more coldly, cutting Ranma off. "Tell me, why did you think that it was a good thing to talk to a girl like this Akane as you would your own father? Let us," she went on before Ranma could respond, her voice taking on the tone of someone talking to a young child, "talk about what verbal abuse is, and why it is bad. Then we will talk about communication, what empathy means, and why they are important…"

Ranma did a lot of wincing and cringing over the next half hour as Sakura explained everything he had done wrong in his relationship with Akane in as blunt a manner as possible. And boy, were there a lot of things. Not that Akane came off scot-free either, but there it seemed as if Sakura was more worried about the fact that the girl didn't seem to be able to understand why physical abuse was bad than the fact that Ranma had never made the connection between the way he spoke to Akane and the way Genma belittled him.

Sakura finished by saying that their fathers were also to blame to a large degree for pushing the relationship along faster than it should go and that both of the teens had reacted in a childish manner in lashing out at one another. When she talked about the parents, her voice went so ice cold that Ranma thought for a moment that she knew the Soul of Ice technique.

"I think, Ranma," she said after a moment, "you need to sit down and really think these girls. Who can grow with you, rather than simply alongside you? Who can you communicate with? Are you in fact ready for a relationship at all, and if so, what form? Do not think about who has the best claim on you in terms of honor, but who can you see yourself happy with in the future. I know that sounds like a foreign concept, but in the end, if you marry someone only for honor's sake, you might as well be signing a contract to make you both miserable for the rest of your lives."

Ranma slowly nodded, his mind awhirl with all of the mistakes he had made, all of the mistakes Akane had made, all of the mistakes they had both made; as well as what Sakura had said about what the future could be. "This is a lot to take in. I came for some advice, and I think I got a lot more than I bargained for, honestly. But thanks, Docs," he said, looking at them both as he stood up, a smirk appearing on his face at his wordplay. "I really will do that."

"I'll walk you to the back door," Tofu said as Sakura stood up.

Moments later Ranma was bounding across the rooftops again. Stopping and briefly explaining what he had found to Kasumi, he asked her to tell the rest of the family that Tofu was fine, hadn't been kidnapped, and had moved away willingly. Coming from Kasumi it would send another message so she could break the news to them gently that she had never been in love with the older man. Kasumi simply nodded, turning back to her work of cleaning the garden without further conversation, and Ranma once again soon found himself up on the rooftop, leaning back and thinking.

Sakura had done a really good job of not so much deconstructing as imploding the idea that Ranma and Akane could ever have a real relationship, which was the bit occupying Ranma's mind now considering that a few weeks back he would've thought he loved Akane. They were too immature and had fallen into too much of a rut in how they interacted with one another. Maybe if both of them put in a lot of effort they could break out of it, but Ranma wasn't certain if he wanted to. I need to talk to her, but I don't know where that's going to go.

As for the others… I'm going to completely discount Kodachi, of course. Ukyo…she's just a friend; I mean, she's always been just a friend. I've never seen her as anything else, plus our dreams for the future are so different. Sakura said I need to find someone whose dream for the future would work with mine, and I don't think hers would.

Plus, I've also seen her looking at me when I'm in my curse form a few times. She's never really seemed…attracted to it. If I'm going to have to live with this curse, that's another big thing: the girl I'm with has to be somewhat understanding of it at least.

And that is probably another nail in the coffin of mine and Akane's relationship, dammit, Ranma thought, smacking his head against the brick behind him hard enough to actually dent the brick.

Setting that thought aside, he turned his mind to Shampoo. Okay, she's fucking sexy. I mean she is easily the sexiest girl of the three. Despite his massive amount of self-control, Ranma was a guy and had no issue with appreciating their bodies. That didn't mean he knew what to do about it or would ever act on it since that would only have made everything even worse. Still, of all of the girls, it was Shampoo's body that he really had to think about as being a major draw when thinking about her at all.

But the problem is she's also the one I think I'm the least compatible with 'emotionally' as Sakura put it. I mean, I hate the tricks she kept on trying to pull, and she kept on using magic junk to chase after me. And she went from wanting to kill me in my female form to wanting to kiss me in my male body! I don't care what culture you're from that's fucking weird.

As he cursed in his head, a chibi version of Kasumi appeared in his mind's eye, frowning at him, and he shook it off quickly. This is my head! I can curse in it if I want to, he thought plaintively.

The chibi Kasumi seems to frown at that, but at that moment Ranma's thoughts were interrupted by a bellow from down below. "Boy, where are you! Why aren't you down here spending time with your fiancée and congratulating her for getting the part she wanted in some play?"

"It's not 'some play,'" Akane's voice shouted from inside. "It's Othello; it's a classic! And I don't want that pervert's congratulations. He'll just rub in my face that I got the lead hero's part instead of the heroine's."

Ranma had paused from hopping down when he heard that and nodded to himself. Yeah, I probably would do that, especially if she insulted me again like that. Then he pictured himself being catapulted into LEO and decided to wait and see if anyone found him up here before doing anything.

His father bellowed again for his presence, but Ranma didn't react this time, and the voice didn't come any closer. He's got no idea I'm up here. Is that because he's lazy or just that he doesn't know me all that well?

"What are you two bellowing for?" said Happosai's voice, and Ranma once again opened his eyes to stare down into the backyard. There he saw Happosai standing atop one of the rocks in the garden, glaring at the two so-called patriarchs, and was once more witness to the completely pathetic sight of his father breaking down and gibbering in front of the old man, complete with Mister Weepy doing the same thing right next to him. "We, we're just trying to find my ungrateful son so that he can spend time with his fiancée, master!"

"I told you I don't want him here!" Akane shouted. "This is supposed to be my night. If Ranma's out somewhere, that's fine by me so long as he isn't with one of those hussies! And if he is, I'll just pound him for it afterwards."

You'd pound me for even thinking about it, Ranma thought to himself but did not say aloud, actually clamping his hands over his mouth.

Instead, he watched Happosai's eyes flick up towards him for just a brief second, before landing once more on the two older men. "It seems to me that the boy is out somewhere practicing the martial arts like you two should be. He certainly was the last time I saw him a few hours ago. In fact, I think you're both in danger of being left behind. Yes, I think you both need a little bit of a refresher to keep your titles as Masters of Anything Goes."

"Oh master, we don't need to prove that!" Genma said hurriedly, his face whitening. "After all, we have already gone through your training, and…"

"And nothing. The two of you have gotten fat and lazy, always pushing stuff onto the boy. Mind you, that's made him strong, but it's also pushed him to leave the two of you in the dust. Unless you're saying that if he went all out the two of you could beat him? I wouldn't mind seeing that or your beaten bodies once he's finished with you." Happosai retorted.

Genma flinched, and Soun looked almost to be breaking out into another round of weeping. Meanwhile, out of sight of both of them, Ranma's eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline hearing Happosai praise him like that when Ranma wasn't in his female form and didn't have anything the old man wanted. Then again, he's been treating me somewhat differently since we got back from China, the whole wedding thing aside.

"I'll tell you what," Happosai said, pulling at his pipe for a moment before breathing out a small circle of smoke. "If you can keep away from me for say, three hours, we can ignore the idea of you two needing retraining. But if you can't, I'm going to train you into the ground, then make you come with me tonight to pick up more silky darlings!"

The two middle-aged men exchanged a glance then bolted straight over the wall and away without another word. Neither of them noticed Ranma staring at them from the rooftop of the house. Hopping over the wall after them, Happosai once more sent him a wink before chasing after his apprentices.

"Did that just happen?" Ranma said softly to himself. "Did, did Happosai just do me a favor? Is the sky falling? Where's the freaking apocalypse?"

"While out of character, it wasn't that bad, boy. We both noticed you were thinking hard, son-in-law, and decided we wanted to make certain you could finish thinking before you were interrupted."

Ranma whirled, fist flying out before he could stop himself, only to stop a centimeter away from Cologne's face. "Don't sneak up on me like that, old ghoul!"

"I didn't try to sneak up on you, boy. You just didn't notice," Cologne replied, tapping the fist away from her face with one of her own. The strength of that tap belied her appearance and age, and her narrow-eyed stare hadn't left Ranma's. "That was quite quick. Holding back these days, are we?"

"…Just a bit," Ranma said, moving back to his original position, though he didn't take his eyes off Cologne. Their relationship had changed after Herb, long before the Saffron incident. She had stopped remotely helping Shampoo in her attempts to woo Ranma, though she still called him son-in-law at times. And she had been there numerous times to help him out, most of the time for her own amusement, but still.

"So, what deep thoughts were you thinking now?"

Ranma looked at her thoughtfully, then shrugged. "Just wondering about how my life is going, where I want it to go, that kind of thing."

Cologne sighed. "And that vision doesn't include my great-granddaughter does it?"

Ranma paused, looking at her thoughtfully, then slowly nodded, sitting up, his body language becoming more formal for a moment. "Cologne, I can't thank you enough for your help, whatever the reason behind ya offering it, the martial arts techniques you've helped me learn, the Amiguriken, the Hiryu Shoten Ha, your help with my own ki attacks, even the Soul of Ice have all been a major help. But no, I don't think I'll ever be part of your family or your clan. I don't want to be tied down, and I don't want to be a second-class citizen just because I'm a man."

"And before you ask," Ranma said with a smile as he saw Cologne open her mouth, "I know I would be. I've talked to Mousse a time or two, mostly, admittedly, right after Saffron and that's precisely what he is in your village despite his mastery of the hidden weapons technique. Even in my curse form the majority of your people wouldn't respect me. And I'm afraid Shampoo's one of them."

"She is, and that is true," Cologne said with a sigh. "I had hoped that she would have realized that as a blooded warrior she could no longer pursue you as she had, but she hasn't. Frankly, I'm not exactly pleased with how Shampoo has gone about this hunt from beginning to end. But she won't stand for losing to one of the other girls, Ranma. You know that."

"I know that," Ranma said with a nod. "But if you don't help her, I think I could probably give her the slip if I ran off."

"And are you planning to leave?"

"I don't know yet, not really, but… I'm getting bored here, Cologne."

The old woman guffawed so hard she nearly fell off her cane but caught herself as she realized that Ranma was serious. "Truly?"

"I ain't learnin' anything new; none of my rivals here are really pushing me anymore," Ranma replied, then grinned. "Now if Herb or maybe even Ryu showed up, that'd be different. Unless you want to try a real spar with me?"

Cologne goggled at the idea of Herb showing up once more, nevermind the idea that Ranma wanted him to because it would alleviate the boy's boredom. "Er, no, Ranma. Thank you for the compliment, but these old bones aren't up to such exertions any longer. But you will talk to all the girls before you leave?"

"Yeah, them and my mom, maybe even Kasumi. I'll need to explain to 'em why I'm leaving at least. I want some closure with the girls, though not my old man. Him and Soun, I doubt they'll ever change. But their opinions don't matter as much to me."

Cologne blew out a smoke ring from her long twisted pipe, staring at the boy. "I'll miss you, you know. The last few years have been the most fun I've had in centuries."

"The way you say that so easily is kind of scary, you know that, right?" Ranma quipped. But after a second he bowed respectfully, his tone formal. "It has been fun, but I think I'm gonna move on, whatever my discussions with the girls. I'll be by to talk with Shampoo last, I think. Got to work up to that point, y'know?"

Cologne cackled. She knew that Shampoo would still chase Ranma whatever happened, so leaving her for last was smart. Then she sobered. "What about your mother?"

"My mom…" Ranma paused, then sighed sadly. "My mom isn't what I wanted her to be. In some ways, she's just as crazy as my old man, just a very different kind of crazy. She's obsessed with grandbabies and manliness, and the way she looks at me when I'm in my female form? That worries me a lot. Like half the time she wants ta reach for her sword, the other she wants to dress me up and force me ta act like a real girl."

"And what about your female form?" Cologne asked, frowning internally at Ranma's words about Nodoka, though she couldn't say she disagreed with anything he had said. "Have you decided that it's with you to stay?"

"Nothing we've tried has worked, and now the spring of drowned man is gone. Or mixed up with so many other curses it's not even funny. No, I think a cure just doesn't seem to be in the cards. It's best to get used to living with it," Ranma said, shaking his head.

"Maturity from the pigtailed one, will wonders never cease?" Cologne replied, shaking her head, before bowing back. "It has been a pleasure to know and teach you, boy. If we don't get a chance to speak in private again, I want you to know that."

"Actually," Ranma said, fiddling with his pigtail, "there is one thing you could do to help me tomorrow. I'm going to try to talk to Akane about, about the two of us. And, er, after some advice from Tofu, I know it won't go smoothly, but… Well, do you have any idea what I can do to keep my mouth shut and not insult her?"

"The first step to solving a problem is knowing you have one," Cologne said sententiously, then smirked and pulled out something that Ranma recognized, causing a frown to appear on his face. "I think I've just got just the solution, boy. It's called shock therapy…"

After school the next day, Ranma asked Akane to come with him to the local ice cream shop. "Is that why you're a girl now?" Akane asked crossly, looking at Ranma, who had left and come back after changing, not wanting to be in his female form at school. Despite his best efforts to hide, Ranma had still needed to deal with Kuno in that brief walk.

"Yep," Ranma said with a nod. "Ice cream tastes way better like this; don't ask me why."

"I suppose we can go then, Ranma," Akane said shaking her head. "So long as you don't start anything if P-chan shows up again like what happened two days ago. I won't have you picking on him again!"

Ranma was about to open her mouth when an electric jolt went through her, causing her to stiffen for a moment before it ended. She shook it off lightly while Akane looked at her quizzically. "I won't," she said through slightly gritted teeth. "Come on; let's get this over with."

"Well, excuse me! If spending time with me is such a trial, why did you ask me to come with you? Heck, why don't you just move out, you freeloader!" Akane shouted, moving towards Ranma with the intent of punting her away.

"That's part of what I want to talk to you about," Ranma said, after another jolt from the taser in Cologne's hand. The old ghoul was hiding somewhere nearby with all of the skill of a ninja, so much so that even Ranma had trouble spotting her.

Ranma's words stopped Akane from moving towards the redhead, and she frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Let's go and talk about it over ice cream," Ranma said instead of answering.

To Akane's surprise, Ranma didn't immediately scarf down her ice cream as soon as they sat down, instead eating it slowly and asking her questions about the role in the play she had gotten. That Ranma had never heard of it wasn't a surprise to her, though she despaired of Ranma's ignorance of such things.

"So is that what you want to do with your life?" Ranma asked finally. "Be an actress? Or, in your case…" She paused as another zap went through her, gritting her teeth but quickly changing what she was going to say, "an action heroine? I bet you could make a lot of money that way. Heh, maybe more than even Nabiki would know what to do with."

Wondering why Ranma now looked as if she had stepped on a live wire, Akane shrugged, just answering her question for once. She wasn't insulting her, so she would take what she could get. "Probably. I mean, let's face it, the martial arts are fun, and I'll always define myself as a martial artist, but you can't really make a living off it. Not a good one, anyway, even if like me you've got a family dojo to build on."

Ranma bit her lip at that, and this time there was no corresponding electrical zap. There were dozens of ways Ranma could think of to use the martial arts to make a good living, though admittedly half of them he/she had thought up during conversations with Nabiki when she was in a less egotistic mood. Sure, acting was one of them, but not one that Ranma would have thought of.

"But I'm still a martial artist like I said! It's just that the acting thing is going to be added on top of that," Akane said seriously.

To Ranma that was the height of fallacy. If you're a martial artist that was what you were. There was nothing more, nothing less. But again she bit off her words as she felt another jolt go through her. Dammit, that old crone's having way too much fun! she thought as she heard a muffled cackle from behind them in the next booth over. "Okay, that's fine then. But it sort of brings me to what I wanted to talk about. I mean, if you're doing that, then what do you see me doing?"

"Why should I care what you were doing, Ranma!?" Akane asked bluntly. "It's not like we're getting married or anything. We had our chance for that, remember? And now you don't even have your cure!"

"That's the other question I wanted ta ask. I mean, if we…" The redhead blushed, stammering for several minutes until another electric jolt forced her to keep speaking. "If I get with anyone, I'm not saying I will…" she added hastily as Akane seemed ready to flare up. "But if I do, this form's not just going away, Akane! It's going to be a part of me. Do you, that is, could you see yourself even kissing me in this form, let alone any, um, anything else?"

Now it was Akane turn to rein in her self-control, banishing the heavy mallet that had just appeared in her hands with difficulty as she glared across the table at Ranma. "Never! A girl kissing another girl, that's so perverted, though I shouldn't be surprised the idea occurred to you!"

Then she paused as her own words registered. Not the insult, that was unimportant, just background noise at this point. But as for her statement… "Oh," she said softly.

"Heh, yeah," Ranma said with a nod, her blue eyes more serious and sad than Akane had ever seen them. "No shared dream of the future. No discussion about where our lives are going. And you can't see past my female form. Even…even if we wanted to try to push past all of the mistakes we've both made, all the insults and shit, I don't know that I see us going anywhere."

Akane paled as Ranma spoke, staring at her, then she shook her head. "Why does it matter what our feelings are?" she said, her voice dead, leached of all emotions, even anger. "Our parents are still going to push us into it."

"Not if I'm not around, they aren't," Ranma retorted. The redhead stood up abruptly, pushing the remains of her half-eaten ice cream across the table. "In case I don't get ta say it again without something interferin', have a nice life, Akane. I hope your acting career takes off. I think it would be cool to tell people I knew the famous martial artist-cum-actress before she got famous," the redhead said with a wink, before heading towards the door.

For some reason, Ranma didn't feel as sad as she thought she would have after that. Instead, it was as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders instead of her heart being gouged out as she had feared.

"That was well done, boy," Cologne said, coming out of her hiding place and moving alongside Ranma. "And I didn't have to shock you nearly as badly as I had feared I would."

"You shocked me enough, you old ghoul!" Ranma shot back then mellowed. "Still, I really needed it. I'll see you this evening at the Cat Café."

Cologne nodded, hefting the taser hopefully. "You don't want me to follow you over to Uchan's?"

Ranma shook her head. "For one thing, Konatsu is working there, and if anyone around here could spot you he would, and I'm kind of afraid any kind of fight'd start the ball of crazy rolling for the day," Ranma said dryly. "For another, Ukyo's always been easier to talk to than Akane. I never fell into the whole insulting her to show affection thing with her."

"You really have matured, Ranma," Cologne said with a chuckle, patting the young woman on the shoulder before pogoing off on her staff.

Ranma stared after her, then looked back inside to where Akane still sat, staring straight ahead while she finished off their ice cream. "Right," Ranma said, slapping her face. "Martial artists, ho, full speed ahead! Let's get this over with."

Ranma moved over the rooftops towards Ukyo's place of work, hopping down off of the roof to one side of it, narrowly avoiding a few throwing stars tossed her way. Plucking them out of the air as they passed, the redhead landed, holding them out to the man dressed as a girl who had thrown them. "These are yours, I think," she said dryly.

"My apologies, Ranma-sama," Konatsu, the boy trained as a kunoichi, said, taking the throwing stars and making them disappear somewhere on his person. "And thank you for returning them; these are rather expensive, strangely."

"I know. Ya can never find the real ones in the city without paying up the nose for 'em," Ranma said commiseratingly. "Ah, and I'm not here to start anything to worry about. Heck, none of the others have followed me either, I don't think. I just want to talk to Ukyo."

"Thank you," the man replied once more, bowing his head. "And again I am sorry I attacked without looking, but we had a bit of an issue yesterday with some very silly criminal sorts."

"Really?" Ranma asked, laughing as she pushed the door open. "In this town? Damn, they must've been brain dead."

"That's what we said, sugah!" Ukyo replied from behind her grill in her heavy Osakan accent, waving to her friend. The place was jam-packed at the moment, with only a single spot free in one of the booths, but she still had time to acknowledge the redhead's entry. "You want some hot water, Ran-chan?"

Ranma shook her head as she slid into one of the booths. "Not right now, thanks. I'd like to talk to you though if that's all right?"

Ukyo looked around shaking her head. "Sorry, this is kind of rush hour in here right now. You want something to eat while ya wait?"

Ranma nodded and pulled out a few bills, putting them on the side of the table for her. "I'll pay this time if that's all right?"

"You paying for food, Ranma? That's ominous," she quipped, though Ukyo did actually look worried. "What can I get you? We're having a special on mushroom and shrimp okonomiyaki today. The mushrooms are really tasty."

"Then I'll have one of each, I think," Ranma said, patting her stomach.

"Comin' right up!" Ukyo replied with a grin, before going around to take a few more orders. For several minutes Ukyo moved around and served other people, flipping Ranma's okonomiyaki over to her when they were done before going back to the other customers. She continued to be busy as Ranma ate but stopped working as suddenly something very strange happened. She felt herself shrinking suddenly, her clothes becoming too large and now the top of her grill well above her head. "What the heck!"

Ranma wheeled around, staring at the place Ukyo and been standing, then looking down at her own food, her eyes widening. "Ukyo, where did you get these mushrooms!?"

Ukyo looked up from staring down at her body in shock, keeping her clothing on with difficulty as she glanced around the side of the grill. "I, I didn't get them. Konatsu found them. Why what just happened?"

"Age-changing mushrooms!" Ranma shouted, just as the effects hit her. One moment Ranma and the rest of Ukyo's customers were normal, then many had suddenly regressed in age to various degrees.

One elderly man had suddenly changed into a teenager and, looking down at his body, cackled evilly as he rubbed his hands together before moving towards the door. A middle-aged woman who had been changed into a preteen girl was looking down at her hands thoughtfully as if deciding whether or not she was happy with this.

Others, however, were certainly unhappy including Ranma. Her body had suddenly changed into that of a five or six-year-old redheaded girl.

"Age regression mushrooms, sugah?" Ukyo asked several moments later after the majority of the customers had left and she had changed her clothing. She looked at Ranma, now dressed in a miniature version of his/her normal attire, and just barely held back from grabbing the little redhead up and squealing about how cute she was with difficulty. Then again, I suppose the same thing could be said about me right now. "You never mentioned anything about them."

"They're one of the more embarrassing things I've run into. Ryoga found them somewhere and brought a lot of them back," Ranma said with a shrug. "It's okay. We just have to find the mushrooms, then grow them to a certain height and eat them. Then we'll change back."

"It'll take a while for them to grow from what we have," Ukyo said thoughtfully. "Though I think I could send Konatsu out to look for more?"

Ukyo looked down at her own body then laughed hugging Ranma unable to control herself any longer. "EEE, we both look just like when we were kids!"

"Yeah, except for my being cursed into a girl this time!" Ranma said with a laugh, pushing her away lightly.

"But just think of it! This way we could play dress-up," Ukyo said quickly.

Ranma rolled her eyes. "So, anyway. Before this, I wanted to ask you about plans for the future."

"Are you seriously asking that right now?" Ukyo asked, somewhat incredulous. "I mean," Ukyo said, tapping her chest. "I know I'm not exactly…"

"Nothing like that," Ranma replied, quickly shaking her head. "And like I said, this isn't exactly permanent." Ranma leaned back, looking at Ukyo thoughtfully. "Ukyo, you've always said that your big dream for the future is to run your own major restaurant, right? Make your family name famous. But, but when I was struck by that Weakness Moxibustion point, you acted as if you wanted me to be some kind of, of a stay-at-home husband. Is that where you see me fitting into your plans? And be serious."

"There's no reason you couldn't add a dojo to the side of the restaurant, Ranchan," Ukyo said defensively. "I wouldn't stop you from having your own dream."

"That's my old man's dream, not mine," Ranma said softly. "Mine is traveling the world and pushing my martial arts to the limit by learning everything I can, not tying myself down to one place."

Ukyo winced. She had memories of being on the road both before and after her father died, or both before-and-after he'd tried to pawn her off onto Ranma and his fat oaf of a father. She much preferred remaining in one place like she had been the last year and a half since she had arrived in Nerima.

"I, I wouldn't like that sugar, but, but you could go on like long training trips every other week or something?" she said somewhat desperately. She knew she was losing points with Ranma and was wondering where this smarter, more mature Ranma had come from. She almost brought up Genma's deal with her own but knew somehow that that would be even more counterproductive.

"And then there's this form," Ranma said, looking down at herself. "Well, not really this form, but you know what I mean. My female form, not our being so young again. It's, it's not going away, Ukyo. There is no cure for it any longer, none that would work without turning me into more of a freak I already am. Can you, that is…" the redhead paused seeing the answer in Ukyo's face, which had fallen.

She simply shook her head lightly. "Sorry, Ranchan. I might like to cross-dress, but I've never liked the idea of kissing another girl. I tried it once when I was passing myself off as a boy, and I didn't like it." Ukyo sighed sadly a pout on her face, which looked rather adorable on her child body at the moment. "So is that it? We just remain friends? What about the agreement your old man and mine made?"

"I think so, yeah. And as for my old man's stupidity, I've decided to take the stance that his selling my hand off so often nullifies all the agreements he made, not just one," Ranma said, sighing. "If it's any consolation, you are handling it a hell of a lot better than Akane did. She called me a pervert for even bringing up the idea."

"HAH! You're not a pervert, Ranma. Frankly, I think she's insane to even think you are. With that Chinese hussy throwing herself at you at every opportunity, you could've perved out big time at any point. Heck, I wouldn't have said no to a bit of a kissing or something like that, but you never took us up on it," Ukyo replied, rolling her eyes at Akane's silliness. Ranma might not have been perfect, but if he had given Ukyo even half the attention he gave Akane she would never have let him go.

"Yeah, but that wouldn't have been honorable," Ranma replied with a sigh. "So, still friends?"

"Still friends," Ukyo replied with a laugh, shaking the redheaded girl's hand quickly. She then grabbed and pulled Ranma into a hug, fighting back a few tears as Ranma ended their father's agreement. "And now, dress-up party!"

"Help! Kidnapper!" Ranma shouted theatrically. "Help me Konatsu you're my only hope!"

"Oooh! That's an idea!" Ukyo squealed.

Much to Ranma consternation when Konatsu appeared after locking up the restaurant, the kunoichi-boy was more than happy to join the dress up party. Later, after a sort of consolation party with Ukyo and letting herself be dressed up in various costumes Ranma left, hopping over the rooftops having taken a brief moment to change into his male body once more. Two down, one to go…

Catching a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye, Ranma turned aside from his course to the Cat Café, hopping over to one of the many vacant lots in the area designed to help contain the martial arts battles. In the center of the lot was Gosunkugi, mapping out what looked like a magic circle on the ground.

Sighing, Ranma decided to head this off at the pass. He hopped down next to the self-styled sorcerer, smacking him on the shoulder and sending him sprawling. Even as a seven-year-old boy, Ranma was stronger than most adult men. And Gosunkugi was a weakling even for his age group. "What're you up to this time, Gos?" he asked conversationally, looking around at the magic circle the boy had been drawing, then picking up the piece of paper he had been reading from. "A return me hex? What the heck?"

"It's supposed to be a spell to send you away," Gosunkugi mumbled, pushing himself off the ground with difficulty. Once on his feet, he stared at the little boy that had accosted him. "Wh, Ranma, what the…"

"Age regression mushrooms. I'll be back to normal tomorrow or somewhere close." Ranma shrugged. "You have any idea where it'd send me?"

"It's just supposed to just send you home. I wanted to see if this new shop I bought it from was worth the money they were asking for most of their stuff," Gosunkugi said slowly, staring at Ranma and being a bit more forthright than he would've been normally thanks to his shock at Ranma's appearance. "They had a lot of other stuff, but all of it is way out of my normal budget. This wasn't, so I figured if it worked I might want to ask my parents or maybe Kuno for some help."

The boy was interrupted by a fist thumping into his stomach, sending him doubling over and gasping. "Right, new magic shop in the area. Must hunt down and destroy," Ranma said shaking his head. "Thank God you're so poor, Gos. And if I ever… Oh you have gotta…!"

Just then as if Gosunkugi mentioning him had summoned the madman into being, Kuno appeared from a nearby street, charging forward and laughing wildly. "Ah! My servant's words have been proven correct! You have been struck down by your own magic, foul sorcerer! Now it falls on me to deal the final blow, and the fierce tigress will be mine!"

Ranma growled, then turned and launched himself towards the swordsman. A good fight was just what he needed right now after the emotional conversations he'd had with Akane and Ukyo. And I still have to see Shampoo! No way in hell I'm going over there like this, though. Too dangerous with Mousse there, so I'd have to wait till tomorrow anyway. Of all his rivals, Ranma felt that Mousse was the one most likely to actually kill him if given the opportunity.

The swordsman swung his wooden sword towards Ranma. Ranma adroitly ducked underneath it, hammering a blow upwards. However, Kuno was fast enough, or Ranma was slow enough in his young body, that Kuno was able to dodge backward. Kuno swung his sword again and again, the blade becoming a blur, and it was all Ranma could do for a few moments to dodge. He didn't notice that behind him Gosunkugi had gone back to work on his magic circle.

The two of them danced around one another, and the swordsman exclaimed, "Verily, even like this your vile magics do make you passably beyond mere mortals. But I am the blue thunder of Furinkan High, and today I will prevail!"

"You're still at Furinkan High because you were held back a year moron!" Ranma replied tartly, dodging another blow that came little too close for comfort. Grabbing Kuno's arm as the swordsman was a little too slow to pull back, he hammered a single blow into the swordsman's jaw, which sent his body flying backward.

Before Kuno landed, Ranma raced afterward, pressing his advantage and hammering several more blows into the delusional dolt. Interestingly, like this, I don't have to worry so much about holding back! Who would've thought there'd be a good thing to being shrunk like this? The short arms are a bit of a bitch, though!

The swordsman almost recovered before Rama was in his own reach, but three hard blows pummeling into his chest and face knocked him out, and the young boy pushed himself upright, shaking his head. "That was actually a good bit of exercise," he said happily, hopping off and away. "Now, where was I?"

Gosunkugi looked up as he finished his mumbling, pointing at Ranma dramatically. "And let him disappear to his heart, no wait…" Gosunkugi paused, looking down, but before he could finish his spell Ranma's fist slammed into his face.

It sent Gosunkugi away, and Ranma landed right where he had been. "That's enough of that, Gos!"

There was a flash then, and Ranma looked down as the magic circle activated despite the fact that Gosunkugi hadn't finished the spell. "Oh, that can't be good!" A second later, Ranma was gone.

At that point Cologne came upon the scene carrying a basket of mushrooms and cackling in amusement, only to stop as she saw Ranma disappear in a flash of light. Faster than most people would have credited her for moving, even Ranma, she crossed the intervening distance from the roof where she had been pogoing along to right in front of Gosunkugi. Grabbing the weedy boy, she hefted him into the air while she remained standing on top of her pogo stick. "Where is he! Where did you send him?!"

"I don't know!" the boy gasped. "I, I didn't finish the spell! It was supposed to, that is, it's just a simple…"

"Where is it?" Cologne interrupted.

Fearfully, Gosunkugi held out the page he had been reading from and watched as Cologne's eyes widened. "This is a real spell! I saw several like this when I was younger. Where did you get this?" she bellowed, turning back to him with a glare that nearly made Gosunkugi wet himself.

"A, a magic curio shop. There's a new one in town, but it's prices are so large, this was all I could afford!" he squealed.

Turning back to the paper, Cologne read through the spell quickly. It should have returned Ranma simply to his home, or wherever his heart's home was. Does Ranma even have one of those? With that boy's wanderlust and new desire to leave, I have no idea. Maybe his mother's home, but if not there, then where?

After a moment she frowned, looking at the spell again. There are some bits of this array…they could be dimensional in nature! "Tell me, where were you cut off?"

Gosunkugi pointed with a hesitant finger, and Cologne frowned. "Very well. I will check the boy's home. If he is not there, expect to see me again, and I will not be in a very forgiving mood."

She found Nodoka at home and asked quickly if Ranma was there. When informed that he was not, she was forced to share what had occurred.

"If not here, then where could Ranma have been sent?" his mother asked quickly, concern for her son shining through. Whatever Ranma might have thought about how obsessed she was, his mother did care for him in her own admittedly odd manner.

"I don't know. It should've sent anyone who had a home to said home, but I'm afraid your boy doesn't really think of this as home. That's not a slight on you," Cologne added, though she felt it was in a way. "It's just that Ranma spent so much time on the road that he developed quite a bit of wanderlust. If he loved traveling more than being here or anywhere else, there's no telling where the spell sent him, especially since the verbal activation segment of the spell was interrupted. In fact, that spell was designed to send interdimensional travelers home. It could be used on someone from this dimension to send them home, of course. It is a multipurpose spell, though it has cross-dimensional components."

Over the next few hours, the concerned parties gathered together. The chibi-Ukyo, Akane, Shampoo, Soun, Genma and his wife, Mousse, and Cologne tried to find the shop Gos had found the spell in with his somewhat-willing help, only to discover that the shop was gone. There was no hint that it had ever existed, and the spell array had been wiped out in the casting, so no clue was left as to where Ranma had gone or how to get him back. Cologne had to admit to being utterly flummoxed.

Well, the boys away, Cologne thought as she watched everyone's reactions. Ukyo looked sad but resigned; Shampoo enraged, muttering about skinning the now-shaking Gos alive. The two men wept and moaned, despairing that the boy had been foolish enough to be caught and blaming him for something completely out of his control as usual. Mousse seemed sad, yet also happy at the same time. And Akane was almost blank as if she wasn't certain what she felt at all.

Looking at the chibi-Ukyo, Cologne cackled suddenly, remembering that Ranma had also been under the influence of the mushrooms. As everyone looked at her, she shook her head. "I was just thinking: he was still under the effect of the age regression mushrooms. I'm just wondering if maybe this time when he grows up, he'll have an easier time of it is all without this one around," she said gesturing over towards Genma

As Genma looked affronted, everyone else nodded seriously, understanding her point, before going back to trying to figure out a way to get Ranma back. Turning away, Cologne wished them luck but doubted they would have any success. Good luck with your new life, my boy. It's not the way I would have liked it to occur, but I think you got your clean break and then some! Cologne hopped away back to the Cat Café, letting out another cackle. "Nothing is ever halfway with you, is it, Ranma?"


Ranma appeared in midair in a sky devoid of any buildings or any other sign of human habitation within sight. Not that Ranma had much time to realize that before gravity, a force much like common sense which he had fought with his entire life, decided to grab at him once more. "Well, fuck me!" he shouted as he began to fall.

Yet while Ranma was still affected by the age regression mushrooms, he retained his knowledge as a master of the Saotome Aerial Style. Flipping himself, Ranma went with the pull of gravity for a moment, diving down towards the ground headfirst to where he saw some larger than average trees sticking out above the rest of the forest which covered the ground from one end to the other. Once he was on course he began flipping himself, flinging out his arms and legs in order to slow his descent once more.

With his shorter limbs, he couldn't slow himself as quickly as he normally would, but he was able to fit through a few of the upper branches before smacking into a few more. Ranma's feet found brief purchase on one of them, hopping upwards as it cracked, redirecting much of his momentum. However, there he ran into a problem, mistiming his jump, his hands not able to grab the branch he had been aiming for. "Curse my short arms!"

Continuing to fall, Ranma bounced around and down the tree for a while before he had bled out all the momentum of his original plummet through the sky. One branch caught him in the shoulder and another in the leg, hidden by their fellows until he was too close to dodge, and Ranma felt his far weaker child form break under the blows, but he was still eventually able to stop himself, one of his legs hanging limply for a moment. "OW…"

Leaning against the tree's trunk for a moment, Ranma closed his eyes, letting the noise of the forest wash over him as he concentrated on his ki, his inner energy. Given all of the injuries and especially the mallet shots he had taken over the past two years, Ranma had learned how to actually redirect his ki to aid in his healing. Before that Ranma's ki would heal him without his direction, which was far slower than when he was directing it. And luckily his ki reserves hadn't shrunk along with his age.

After a few moments, his injuries were healed, and Ranma pushed himself to his feet, glaring at him. In particular, a large bird which looked like it had a lizard's lower body caught his eye. "Not to sound like pig-boy, but where the hell am I? I so fucking hope that stinking spell of Gos's didn't send me back in time… That would truly suck."

Hopping up to the tallest portion of the tree and looking around, Ranma couldn't see any sign of human habitation anywhere. What was worse, a lot of animals that should have been much warier of him, squirrels and other small animals, didn't seem to be as wary of him as they should be. "Gah! Well, I ain't gonna find anything just standing here. Best to choose a direction and go with it."

Closing his eyes, Ranma concentrated on his hearing for a moment, hoping to hear the sound of running water. He did and moved in that direction, finding a decent sized river about twenty minutes from his original landing point. "And water means I can find the ocean, at least. And that means I might find people too since towns and stuff are always centered on water if they can be."

Hopping through the trees, Ranma followed the stream, his progress slowed by his stomach rumbling and his short stature. Hmm, gonna have to stop and maybe fish or hunt up a squirrel or something. Despite those two irritations, Ranma found he was actually having fun. Traveling like this was always interesting, and he enjoyed the idea of traveling through areas that he had never seen before.

He stopped for a second at a place where another stream fed into the one he had been following, staring up higher into the trees to the other side of the river. "What the heck're you?"

"OOK, ooh, the little boy has good eyes, ooh, ooh." A giant, ape looking creature with a nearly human expression on his face and pale green fur hopped down to the small cleared area near the stream. "Oooh, ooh, human boy isn't normally very tasty, but I'm hungry!"

With that the creature lunged across the stream, only to run into a punch that rocked it backwards. Before it knew what was going on, two little hands had grabbed it by its ears and then, somehow, flipped the giant creature over its own back, slamming it head first into a tree trunk which shattered under the impact.

Flipping his pigtail slightly with one hand, Ranma scoffed. "Raw Ranma is never on the menu, ya weird stupid beastie. I hope you're not an example of the dominant species around here." For a moment Ranma wondered if he should kill and eat the beast like it had wanted to do to him, but decided that eating something that could speak intelligently was just wrong. He left the beast there and moved further downriver before stopping to fish for a time, refilling his Saotome Stomach™ with several large fish.

A few days passed by, with Ranma continuing his journey downstream. He ran into several other monsters: an overlarge alligator thing, two more ape creatures, and more. This along with the fact the stars in the nighttime sky were different made Ranma realize that he certainly wasn't anywhere on Earth, whatever era it was here. The alligator thing made good eating though.

Other people might have been despondent, angry, or in shock. Ranma, however, wasn't. Yes, not being his real age sucked hugely, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. Yes, he hadn't intended to leave Nerima so completely, but he couldn't really say leaving this way was bad. And Ranma loved traveling, so he was actually enjoying this opportunity. Growing up wouldn't be fun. He remembered enough about his own puberty and knew enough about his female form to worry about that, but that was years in the future.

Yet, even so Ranma couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief when he began to see signs of human habitation. Here and there a few trees of a specific variety had been cut down. Ranma saw a few walking paths cut out of the underbrush, and then the area around the stream crossed a road. Pausing there, Ranma stood in the nearby treetops looking from the road to the stream, thinking hard. Follow the stream still or the road?

A second later Ranma's decision was taken from him as he saw a group of humans walking down the road. There were around sixty of them or so, with fifteen, maybe twenty wearing hoods and cloaks walking alongside or in front of the rest. They all had staffs in their hands and were gesturing at the main group angrily. That main group consisted of several dozen people of all ages chained together, their hands in irons before them. Many of them were children, including one redheaded girl who grabbed Ranma's attention for a second, her hair the same color as his own curse form.

At the sight of the slaves, Ranma's eyes practically glowed in fury. Ranma held his independence and freedom as the most important things in his life save for his honor and his love of the art. Yeah, this ain't gonna fly.

Ranma hid for a moment, his body one with the surroundings as he waited for the column to pass under his hiding spot. As it did, he launched himself forward, his hands flaring out to either side as he roared "Moko Takabasha!" Two cerulean spheres of energy shot out, smashing into two of the guards as Ranma dropped feet first onto a third. His little feet impacted the mans' face with a sickening crunch and Ranma leaped away, kicking and punching out at several more nearby. Having gotten used to his smaller body over the last few days it was no longer a hindrance. Indeed, he had made it a strength, working on his dodging and leaping abilities to an even greater degree than he had, so he could both close in and get away faster if need be.

That skill was put to the test now as several of the attackers got over their initial shock and began to wave their sticks at him. Circles of energy appeared around the tips, then what could only be called magic spells lashed out at him. Streams of water, fire, and even lightning lashed out at him one after another.

Oh great, in this world real magic exists, not just fucking paper spells or weird items. GRAHH! Ranma dodged everything they could send at him, kicking and dodging here and there, lashing out with his own ki attacks as he could. When they struck the slavers they were smashed backwards, their bodies broken. Ranma would not normally have been so ruthless, but with his younger body, their numbers, and the fact they were slaving scum, any hesitation could get him killed or worse. Ranma was not willing to let that happen. He'd grieve over their deaths later, maybe.

More and more of the slavers got into the battle, so much so their spells started to cause casualties on their own side. Seeing that, Ranma began to add fuel to the fire, taunting them and hoping to get them even angrier. Anything to stop them from trying to take a few of the slaves hostage against him. "Ha! You losers couldn't hit the broad side of a barn! You think you're tough, I know old grannies who could kick all your asses! Is that why you have so many girls and women locked up, can't get any girl's attention any other way? I don't blame ya, with the way you all look they'd have to be tied down 'less they run away in fright! And is it just me, or are those staves of yours overcompensating for something else?"

His words roused the slavers fury, and all of them now moved around the column of slaves, firing spells at him as he continued to dodge. And at the same time, Ranma's fearless assault also inspired the hearts of the slaves.


The street urchin known as Erza stared as a young boy her own age assaulted the slavers which had assaulted her town, killing many and enslaving the rest. She had overheard them speaking about some kind of tower, but beyond that, she had no idea about why they had captured them all or where they were being taken. And at the moment she didn't care. Watching the boy fight so fiercely, so fearlessly, had woken something inside her.

As the closest slaver turned to launch a fire spell at their attacker, she barreled forward, dragging a few of the others with her. That slowed her charge down, but she still rammed into the man with enough energy to ruin his shot. He staggered before turning to her, his staff raised to smack her down, but a blow to the side of the head sent him flying to the side, his neck snapped.

Erza stared in shock at the dead body, but she couldn't dwell on it for long as the boy landed in front of her, winking once as his hand flashed out. There was a sound of rolling thunder for a second, then Erza's shackles shattered under blows she couldn't see.

"GO!" the boy bellowed as he leaped away, flipping a few times in midair before landing on the shoulders of one of the slavers, lashing out with that blue magic attack even as his legs twisted, cracking the man's neck explosively before kicking off and ramming headfirst into another one.

Erza looked down at her unchained hands for a moment before reaching down to grab the staff of the slaver she had rammed into, swinging it one way, then the other. While it didn't activate for her, it was still a nicely sized bit of yew wood, which could do as a weapon.

She turned and gestured at the other slaves, shouting, "What are you all waiting for? Fight!" Galvanized by the fact that a third of their captors were down and by Erza's words, the rest of the slaves, regardless of age, began to fight back, rushing this way and that. Someone found the keys to their shackles on one of the downed wizards and began to pass them down, unlatching the shackles one after another.

Once freed, the slaves either scattered out into the woodlands, escaping as best they could, or began to attack the guards as best they could. Beaten, starving, and weak, this wasn't much in most cases, but some, like Ezra, seemed to find hidden pools of strength as they fought for their freedom.


While Ranma's ki reserves had not shrunk to match his body, his need to use ki to enhance his young body's physical ability had grown. Before this fight Ranma actually hadn't realized that; none of his previous experiences since eating at Uk-chan's had prepared him for it. At this point in the battle, however, Ranma could feel his ki reserves dwindling. Still, it looks like we might have won this fight! Damn, that redheaded girl is feisty. That one guy she hit in the balls'll never be able to use 'em again!

Ranma's upbeat opinion of the fight's outcome ended abruptly as a wave of fire slammed into him from behind, searing his skin. He roared in pain, pushing himself down and to the left to get away from the source of the pain. A stray kick shattered a slaver's kneecap as he passed, and he used the momentum to roll away from another attack, turning in the direction the magical assault had come from.

Another group of fifty wizard slavers had appeared in the sky being carried by several magic carpets. Where they had come from Ranma had no idea, but he supposed they might have been supposed to meet the group he had been attacking, maybe to take over transporting the slaves.

Why they were there didn't matter much at the moment so much as the fact that they were there at all. Several of them had begun to chant out longer spells, and small globes of power encased the slaves in small or large groups. At the same time, others began to cover their nearly overwhelmed fellows, killing a few of the slaves almost immediately. "If they will not serve in the creation of the tower, then they can die where they stand! For the glory of Lord Zeref!"

Growling, Ranma launched himself forward, bouncing up and out of a nearby tree's canopy, smashing into one of the flying carpets and lashing out left and right. He killed several of the slavers, but the rest of the group turned on him and the carpet he was on. "Bring him down! One less slave won't matter at this point, but we need to break this resistance!"

Spells lashed at Ranma and the people around him from all over, and some of them were bound to get through. One lightning blast caught the young boy in the side, the impact launching him over the side to land in the river Ranma had originally been following. Several more wizards launched attacks on the river itself, keeping up the stream of lightning into the water, electrocuting Ranma as he landed in the water.

Screaming, Ranma launched a single ki attack, one of the sealed techniques he/she had learned during the fight with Ryu Kumon. The Kijin Raishin Dan did its work, slicing into and through more than half of the slavers and their flying carpets without slowing.

But the damage was done, and Ranma's ability to take pain finally gave out. The now redheaded little girl slumped further into the water and felt her body being picked up and carried downstream by the current. The last thing Ranma saw was the other redhead, her expression torn between shock and horror, trying to race after her along the river bank before darkness took him.


Typhon was the king of water dragons. He was huge, the size of two whales set tail to nose and with shoulders around half a whale lengths long, with more scars covering his body then unmarred scale. He was also very, very old, easily the oldest dragon still living, possibly the oldest to ever have existed. He had seen millennia pass, and though it was utterly unheard of for a dragon to die of old age, Typhon could feel his body giving out on him.

Perhaps that is why Acnologia left me alive. The ancient dragon thought, not for the first time. It could be considered the ultimate humiliation for a dragon, especially a dragon king, to die of old age rather than in battle. I suppose I could try and find him, make Acnologia kill me. But I doubt he would do more than laugh at me, and besides, where would I start my search?

His rheumy eyes blinked once as he stared around at his greatest creation, the runic control room. It was a large underwater cavern about the size of his own body, though it actually wasn't his main hall, rather it was an offshoot from the main cavern. Separating it from the rest of his underwater home was a massive stone door set on a diagonal along one wall and a portion of the floor, so heavy that only a dragon could ever move it. And every surface on the inside was covered with runes.

When he set himself down on the master rune set in his sleeping chamber, Typhon became the master of everything in this room. He could create anything, change the landscape to his whim, create beasts, monsters, anything and everything, even food. He could even compress time or change the gravity within the room.

Typhon had originally begun the work on the room as part of a trap for Acnologia, but by the time it was finished he was too old to take advantage of it. One thing the room could not do was reverse time, and so there was no cure for Typhon's old age… Added to this was the fact he had never considered how would have actually get Acnologia into the room in the first place. I call it my greatest creation, yet it could also be called my curse!

Turning with difficulty, Typhon cast that thought aside for what seemed like the millionth time in the last decade or so. He might be old, but he still had the appetite of a dragon, and it was time to hunt. Food in the chamber was filling and gave you nutrients, but Typhon felt that it just couldn't quite capture the taste of food correctly. I think I am in the mood for squid today. Perhaps I can find a giant one willing to try and fight me. That would be nice.

Swimming forward with a surprising amount of grace for something so large and old, Typhon exited his lair, swimming out into the ocean beyond, his senses reaching forward to explore the surrounding ocean. He swam slowly but inexorably, moving like a great underwater snake, searching for prey and finding it quickly.

After battling and killing the giant squid, Typhon looped his massive bulk around it, tearing out great chunks of his kill, ignoring the number of sharks that had turned up to try and partake of his meal. Old he might be, but no mere shark would ever be able to even dent his scales, made tougher even than most dragons by the scarring and the constant pressures found deep beneath the ocean.

Typhon had nearly finished his meal when he felt something at the edge of his senses, an energy signature of some kind, the nature of which he had never felt before. It was faint, but Typhon could sense it, his skill at manipulating and sensing magic having grown as he aged. What is that, I wonder?

Curiosity suddenly filling his aged body at this mystery, Typhon swam in the direction of the odd energy, moving up through the water as he did, stopping in puzzlement as he finally caught sight of the odd energy signature. What in the name of all the Ancient Kings is a human girl of that young an age doing this far out to sea? And how is she still alive?

Typhon's home was protected more by its remoteness than anything else, but that didn't mean getting out this far from the human lands was too hard. Typhon could well imagine the youth having been dumped over the side of a ship or falling off during a storm, but even if Typhon supposed that was what had happened he still didn't understand how the human was still alive, if barely.

Swimming closer, Typhon nudged the tiny body with his nose, watching its small chest move up and down as it continued to float there. There were wounds on the tiny body, old wounds it looked like, almost faded, but ones that Typhon recognized as those given by lightning strikes. There was another mark on the girl, an old mostly faded burn which encompassed all of the girl's visible back. It was obvious at that point what had happened. The girl had run into and possibly fought a group of wizards for some reason and had survived to tell the tale.

Sticking his nostrils out of the ocean, Typhon sniffed heavily, taking in the smell of the girl. He could smell some very odd things from her to go with the energy within her. He also could sense that she had some very odd magic on her. It felt like a curse, but one that could be best described as a joke rather than a physically or mentally harmful curse.

But the energy of the girl is slowly draining away, and she looks as if she has been unconscious for some time. She could perhaps even be dying, not from wounds, but from lack of food. Starvation is a horrible way to die, perhaps as bad as old age. If I want to know what that odd energy is within her and the even stranger magical signature, I will have to try to keep her alive. Hmm… Now, what was it humans liked to eat? I do hope they aren't susceptible to poisons.


Ranma woke up groggily from the sudden intrusion into her dreamless sleep of two different types of stimuli. One was the feel of her little feet being smacked very lightly by something. That, given her sense of utter exhaustion, would not have been enough to wake Ranma, but besides that, there was the smell of something cooking. The Saotome Stomach™ aided by the Saotome Nose (patent pending) told Ranma's bleary mind that it smelled like seafood.

There was also a loud, gravelly voice growling at him. "Wake up, girl! Wake up! Damn it, claws are not made for fine manipulation, let alone delicate maneuvering! Wake up!"

Realizing Ranma's brain was offline, the stomach engaged its override subroutine, and Ranma found her body moving on its own, eyes opening, locating the target and pouncing without any input from her brain. Said target was what looked like a whole flame-grilled shark, but the type of food it was didn't really matter as much as the fact that it was there, and there was a lot of it. "Rahhh-yumyummmm!"

Ranma tore and ate the food for several minutes like a ravenous beast, her body demanding fuel to refill her ki reserves after healing itself from the horrendous damage she had taken. Despite having an insanely high threshold in terms of how much physical damage she could take, for some reason the magical attacks she had been hit with had almost ignored her durability, so her ki had had to work overtime to keep him alive. That had come with a severe cost, and her reserves were so empty right now Ranma felt almost as weak as a normal girl her current physical age normally was.

In the background of her frenzied gorging was something that sounded like an avalanche, and it was only a few moments later that Ranma had enough cognitive ability to notice that the sound was laughter. She didn't care until about halfway through the shark to wonder who was doing the laughing. On the heels of that thought came the need to wonder about other pesky details, such as where she was and what had happened.

Looking up, Ranma found herself looking into the massive eyes of an equally large… "Dragon!" she shouted, leaping back and trying to put some distance between the monstrous thing and her currently tiny frame. Doing so made her realize how massive the creature really was. Damn, I wouldn't even be a bite to this beastie!

"Do you always shout and scream at the people who save you from drowning or starvation?" the dragon grumbled, moving back slightly itself.

It was only then that Ranma noticed that at least half of its body was currently submerged in a huge pool that filled one end of the large cavern Ranma found herself in. Ranma also noticed that the beast looked old, extremely so. The dragon's scales were noticeably gray along the edges, and there were hundreds of scars covering its body from snout to where its body disappeared into the water. Its eyes too were rheumy.

"Um…sorry, I guess. Took me a bit to um, to be all there up here, y'know?" Ranma said, tapping her head. "So you saved me and brought me here?" Looking around quickly, Ranma frowned before turning back to the ancient looking dragon. "Just to be clear on this, you didn't save me so I could go on a quest for you? I've seen that kind of crap in games, and I've actually gone through a few adventures like that myself, so I gotta tell ya my gratitude don't extend that far."

The dragon chuckled, but it peered at Ranma with even more amusement and interest than before. "You don't seem surprised to hear me speak?"

Ranma shrugged. "I've run into a lot of weird shit over my life; a talking dragon isn't that unusual. I mean, the Musk Dynasty was started by the son of a dragon and a man, so I figure dragons at least need to be smart enough to talk."

"I have never heard of this Musk Dynasty, and how in the world would a dragon and a human mate?" Typhon asked before shuddering a little. "And may I just say how happy I am to hear that it was the human who was the man in that relationship, because ouch."

"Gah, no!" Ranma said, cursing as she blushed. "The dragon somehow fell into a cursed spring that turned her into a human woman. Don't ask me how that works. And you haven't answered my questions," she finished, growling the words and once more taking up a combat stance.

I saved you, girl because you have a very odd energy signature in you that I have never seen before. You also have some kind of curse I've never seen the like of. I can sense its magic on you, though not the result of it. Some kind of prank or other? Hmm, but while I might not have spent any time around humans in the last two millennia or so, I do not think that normal human girls your age are able to talk as well as you are. And how would a female so young as you are have been on adventures?"

The dragon moved to one side, laying its heavy head on a ledge of rock. It made a rumbling sort of noise, and Ranma for a moment could only think of an old man gratefully sitting down in a soft chair. "But we are getting ahead of ourselves. I am Typhon, king of the water dragons. What is your name, girl?"

Getting a little fed up at the 'girl' comments, Ranma scowled. "Name's Ranma, and I can show ya my curse, so long as ya promise not to attack me the moment I go back to normal."

"By that, I have to assume the curse is already active," Typhon mused. "Very well, this should be interesting."

"Okay, in that case, I need some hot water," Ranma said, moving over to the water. She was also hoping to see if it maybe led to a way out of here since she couldn't see an entrance anywhere else. Sure, the massive dragon seemed friendly, in a crotchety senile mad scientist with a new specimen sort of way, but that didn't mean she fully trusted him to stay that way.

Before she could see more than a bit of the tunnel leading down into the water and away, Ranma found herself drenched by warm water from somewhere. Turning quickly, the now male Ranma found that the dragon hadn't moved its mouth and head still in the same position it had been in a moment before. Okay, so that wasn't some kind of spit. That's good. "Huh, that handy."

The dragon seemed to blink slowly, then a deep avalanche-like chuckle reverberated through its body. "That's an amusing curse, boy, though I've never heard of a spell like that being linked to the application of water. I presume that this is your real body?"

"Erm, sort of, yes." Ranma fell silent, but the old dragon's rheumy eyes remained locked on him, and eventually, he mumbled, "Er, I ate an age reducing mushroom a few days ago.

"So, a curse the likes of which I've never heard of, an odd energy within your body that is even now filling up from nearly being extinguished, and mentions of a mushroom whose properties would make it famous worldwide," Typhon mused, his eyes narrowing in thought. I wonder if it works on dragons. Bah, probably not. "If that is, it existed anywhere on Earth Land. Further, you have experience with magic, which means you are not from Edolas. So, where did you come from, Ranma?"

Ranma hesitated, staring at the ancient dragon then sighed. It really wasn't like she had much of a choice but to answer Typhon's questions right now anyway. He was too tired, too small, and had no idea where he was or how long it would take him to get to the surface. "I don't know where I am right now. I, I guess you could say I was the target of a spell, but then interrupted the spell at the source. The spell was supposed to send me away, like to my home, but it was being used by a nuisance I know, and until it activated I honestly thought it was a gag gift. As for the names you mentioned, never heard of 'em."

"Ah, a planes traveler then. Though you're from much farther afield than our nearest dimensional neighbor. What was its name again? Bah, probably not important. And did you mean to eat this age regression mushroom?" Typhon asked. "You must tell me more about yourself, lad. Consider sharing some of your adventures, as you put it, with me as payment for saving your life."

"Sure, if you tell me about you and where I am," Ranma countered, only to blush as his stomach began to roar at him. "Erm… and so long as ya don't mind me still eating as you're talking."

"Then we have an agreement. I will start. Hmm, this planet is called Earth Land. My home is located in the oceans to the south of a peninsula called Ishgar, which is in many ways the center of human civilization on the planet, with all those odd nations and names and such. Hmmm…magic is prevalent in this world, in stark contrast to the only other dimension I know of. You are certainly not from there, so don't ask; they don't have curses like you do. I know not of human history for the most part, so let us concentrate on magic. There are dozens of different varieties of magic, all of which are based upon what is called the embodiment of the spirit and the use of Ethernano…"

From there Typhon went into a discourse on magic: what it was, how many varieties it could come in, and other things, sounding like a professor who was extremely scatterbrained, jumping from topic to topic. Despite that, the sheer scope of magic fascinated Ranma, as did the fact that if you learned you were a mage, i.e., if you had the ability to bring out your spirit, you could learn any magic you could visualize and then control. He was a little concerned that every magic type had what Typhon called Taboos, but even so, they sounded amazingly interesting.

Holy hell, so much to learn, heheheh! Maybe, maybe that spell did precisely what it said it would: sent me to where my heart's home is. I have always loved learning, loved the martial arts and getting better, training myself in new styles. Here there is so much to do I could keep learning for decades and never get bored! Ranma thought.

Despite eyes that were nearly blind with cataracts, Typhon could still see well enough to note how much Ranma had almost lit up at the idea of magic. Now to see if there is as much to this youth as he says there is. If so,…he could be worthy of learning my Dragon Slaying Arts.

With that thought, Typhon trailed off. "But now it is your turn to tell me about yourself, Ranma. Tell me about your life and your adventures."

Nodding, Ranma finished the bite of burnt shark and began. Typhon listened intently, getting a feel for the boy in what he said, in his adventures and how he acted, as well as how he spoke about his past. Even if you set aside the amount of human mating ritual stuff which Typhon couldn't care less about, the story was utterly fascinating. Typhon could quickly tell that here was someone who was both driven, intelligent in his own way, and almost painfully easy to manipulate if you could figure out his handles.

"It sounds amazing, Ranma. But this magic spell that sent you here, I certainly don't know how to reverse that, and I doubt you would be able to find anyone else who could," Typhon said as Ranma's story wound down. "Would you be happy with never going back to your old dimension?"

"I…" Ranma paused, thinking hard before a smile somewhat tinged with sadness came to him. "I think I would be fine with that. I can't say I wouldn't miss some of my friends, Ukyo and my mom and maybe Kasumi, but…yeah, I'm fine with staying in this dimension. There's so much I could learn here!" he said, his voice going from melancholy to enthusiastic in the blink of an eye as he thrust one, admittedly tiny, fist in the air.

"Hah, an excellent attitude to have there!" Typhon said, roaring aloud in laughter, but if another dragon had been there they would have recognized a sort of sly, scheming set to his mouth and eyes. He sighed theatrically, leaning back down against the raised stone ledge. "But you know, without magic you're going to be very small change around here. Oh, this ki energy of yours is fascinating, but there are many types of magic that could overcome them. And even being able to access magic gives its users a certain amount of durability at the higher levels. I'm rather afraid you would be overwhelmed as you are, especially given your age."

"Say that to those slaver bastards whose asses I, I kicked…" Ranma paused, the memory of taking over a dozen lives in that engagement coming back to him. He shuddered but pushed the memories aside for now. It had been a serious fight, one not only for his own life but for the lives of those slaves, a real 'me or them' situation where he could not have hesitated lest it cost lives. Best I get used to that kind of thing now. This world, it's a lot more…raw, I'd call it, than my own. I don't want to go about entering every fight likes I need to kill to win, but I need to be ready to do so if need be.

"Ranma, those scum were the equivalent of peons. They are like those students who attacked that one prospective mate of yours," Typhon said, rolling his eyes visibly. "You can't compare yourself to them. No, to really be at the top of the food chain on Earth Land, you need magic."

"Hah, just wait until I grow back to my original age, old man!" Ranma said with a laugh coming out of his maudlin thoughts. "Still, you might right, and besides, learning all these different types of magic sound really fun! But how to bring this magic out of me?"

"Ahh, there I actually have a suggestion and would like to offer a deal, Ranma. You see, I can bring your magic out of you easily. But while I did not mention it earlier, dragons such as myself use a magic called Dragon Slaying magic, which we can teach to a chosen human. Several other dragons have done that of late, and I always wondered what doing so would be like but had no wish to search out a human that might be worth my time. So how about this, lad? I bring out your magic, and you learn my Water Dragon Slayer art?"

Ranma looked at the big lizard thoughtfully. There were a lot of things he could think to say right now, and he could tell that the old dragon had some reason to offer this deal beyond the goodness of his heart. But that and even more normal questions like, how long it would take, what Water Dragon Slayer magic entailed, and what the training would consist of, didn't stay in Ranma's head. Instead, he asked, "If I can control water, does that mean I could ward it off me, or heat it up at need?"

"Eventually your element manipulation could reach that point, yes," Typhon replied, holding back a burst of laughter at Ranma's priorities. Then again, if I changed gender every time I touched water I would want some way to control it too. Oh, the experiments I could try…

"Then you got yourself a deal, old man!" Ranma said, leaping to his feet happily. His ki reserves slowly changing the food he'd just eaten into fuel, Ranma was feeling almost back to normal. Well, normal for me at this physical age, anyway, Ranma thought ruefully.

"Excellent, then we can begin." Typhon gestured with one paw, and a magic circle appeared around Ranma. Before he could think of moving it froze him in place, and Typhon slowly began to breathe out over him, a slow stream of water coming from his mouth. It wasn't unpleasant, at least not at first, but the water didn't seem to hit Ranma so much as to seep into his form. At least it's warm so I'm not changing back into a girl!

How long this went on Ranma didn't know, but eventually his body began to emit a light, a deep blue pulse of light that cascaded out of him. The magic circle around him disappeared, and Typhon pulled back, the stream of water stopping. Looking up at the massive dragon, Ranma noted that he now looked tired on top of his age. "Well, that was interesting, and it does indeed look as if you have magic, brat."

So saying Typhon moved back over to his stone slate. He then turned, staring at Ranma, his eyes glowing for a moment with a dim yellow light, which went away quickly, leaving the ancient dragon looking even more tired than before. "Well, now. I had assumed that what you called ki would turn out to be the same thing as magic, only coming solely from your own energy rather than your body's energy and the environment. But it looks as if that is not the case. Your ki is separate, or somewhat, at any rate, from your magical core. That is truly strange. Still, I doubt it will matter in the long run."

"Cool! I'm badass, now tell me something new!" Ranma replied, closing his eyes and trying to get a feel for his body and how it might have changed given what Typhon had just done. He could sense something there but really couldn't figure out how to access it. Despite that Ranma felt better than he had, actually a little light almost, certainly more energetic.

"Hah. Let's say that after we see if you can actually learn the magic, monkey!" Typhon scoffed. "The words for the magic I want to teach you first is Soryu no Hoko. Concentrate on that new feeling within you. That should be the magical energy now imbuing your body. Bring it up and concentrate it into your hands and mouth. Cup your mouth, then say the words and concentrate on expelling the magic out of your mouth."

This was how Ranma's apprenticeship to Typhon the Water Dragon King began. Months passed as Ranma learned from the old dragon everything he could. It was quickly evident to Typhon however that he would not be able to finish Ranma's training, not in real time anyway. He was so old that the magic he had forced into Ranma's body had really taken it out of him, his mind starting to collapse further. Every day he showed his age more than the day before, and Ranma began to be really worried about the old guy.

Eventually, it got to the point where Ranma actually stopped his training to stare at the old beast. "Typhon, you're not looking well. Is there anything…" He trailed off, knowing that it was a stupid question even as he felt compelled to say it.

"Bah, I'm old, boy. Old! Old for a race that shouldn't grow old. I'll be the only dragon in all of Earth Land's history that could die of old age rather than combat. But that is not important. What is important is you finishing your training."

Ranma frowned, unwilling to restart his training which had been sparring with Typhon, or rather one of Typhon's front paws given the size disparity. Yet even that minimal amount of exertion seemed to have sapped Typhon. "Let's not for now. Tell me about the other Dragons Slayers. You've mentioned them, but haven't told me any details."

"Bah, it's not as if I know much about them, Ranma. It's been years since I talked to any other dragon, let alone one of the ones who adopted a human child," Typhon said, but didn't argue further for restarting their training. "Still, I can tell you some about two of them. Igneel's brat is worse than you when it comes to fighting, apparently. The boy's always going around destroying trees now that he can use his power more freely. Can't remember his name. Then there's the Marvell girl. Can't remember her first name, but Grandeeney, the queen of the sky, was raving about how cute and sweet she was."

Typhon sighed, shifting more of his body back into the water which let out of the cave. Ranma knew by this point that it led out into the rest of his underground palace, a multi-cave structure on the bottom of the sea. He had even been out there twice, but his young body could not take the pressure for long, burning ki so fast to protect him that he had to turn back within a minute.

The old dragon's continued musings brought Ranma out of his own as he spoke about Grandeeney. "Ah, but Grandeeney herself, a more gentle soul you could never find amongst dragons, truly a gem. Hah, she was even kind to an old coot like me! And she never goes looking for a fight or imagining slights, not like Metalicana or Igneel, the sarcastic bastard, and the overly proud fool."

Then Typhon sighed, only his jaws and head still above the water now. "But that is not what we must speak of, Ranma. We need to speed up your training. I know of a way to do that and to at least give you a head start on regaining your original age."

"What is it? Tell me!?" Ranma said, then paused. "Wait, unless it takes more of your magic out of you, in which case don't do it. I'll grow up and train my magic on my own."

"No. I am dying, boy, Ranma, and the other Dragon Slayers may well need you," Typhon said, shaking his head and sending ripples through the pool of water. "Best to do something with my life, and maybe this time it'll actually work!"

With that Typhon dove abruptly, leaving Ranma to gape at him before jumping in after the beast, wanting to go after him and demand that Typhon explain what he meant by that. But Typhon swam too quickly, gone out the cave before Ranma could catch him, and Ranma had to stop as he saw the stone doorway roll into place. Cursing to herself, the redhead swam back up to the rest of the cavern, pulling herself out of the water.

She was just in time to watch the walls which had always glowed green since she had arrived began to pulse. Then suddenly the massive cavern was different. It was almost as if Ranma had been transported to a forest somewhere, with a nice pool to one side of it. "What…."

Typhon's voice came out of nowhere, sounding far louder and more energetic than in person. "This is the runic control room, Ranma, a creation I spent my entire life to build. It is my life's work and, until you arrived, utterly useless too. You see, the room can only be controlled from another room, and…let's just say finishing the project took so much of my mind, I couldn't actually think up a way to use it for its original purpose."

From there Typhon explained the magic of the room and what it could and could not do. Ranma was a little leery about the whole time compression thing. Still, he couldn't deny that this place could be a major aid in terms of training. "Okay, I get all that, but why not just explain it, and why the hell do you think that these other Dragon Slayers out there might need me?"

Unfortunately for Ranma, Typhon couldn't actually hear his response. Not that he would have replied in any event. He wanted Ranma to live, to get to know the other Dragon Slayers, not to go looking for Acnologia, which he knew Ranma would if told about him, or even worry about the other threats out there to humanity, such as Zeref or the demons he had created.

Instead, he simply said. "I said I am dying, Ranma. I think I barely have another week, maybe a little more to me. And before you start to feel guilty, waking up your magic did not take more than a few months off my life expectancy. And when you have lived for over two thousand years a month doesn't matter at all. No, what does is leaving something behind. You, and your mastering my Water Dragon Slayer magic, that will be what I leave behind. Now, get to training!"

"Hey, hold on, ya old bastard. I'm not doneEE!" Ranma was interrupted by a roar behind her. Turning, the redhead gaped at the massive beast which looked like someone had bred a rock golem with a shark and was currently charging at her. "Oh, you have got to be, GRAHH!"

Again Ranma's words were interrupted, this time by Ranma having to dodge a punch that would have taken her head off. "Okay, ya bastard, bring it on!"


Typhon had been off, actually. He was only able to last out three days before his magic started to fail him, and the illusions and everything else in the runic control cave faded. But judging by the way the rock wall that had been blocking the passage into the cave exploded, it seemed to be enough.

Ranma came out, swimming through the water, ignoring the pressure like she was born to it. Around the redhead's head was a bubble of air, kept there by Ranma, pushing the water around her head back through magic rather than by creating an actual bubble. Typhon also blearily noticed that the young girl did indeed look older. A human would have been able to tell that before she had been around eight, and now she was around ten. To Typhon, all he could tell was that she seemed a little taller.

The human paused, floating in the water in front of Typhon's now almost completely blind eyes, while the lights around them, the magic in the caverns fueled by Typhon's magic, began to fade slowly. "Typhon, I… Damn it, I wanted to scream and shout at you for trapping me in there, and for, for killing yourself, but…" The redhead shook her head sadly. "Just tell me why!"

"I had my reasons… Wanted to train you, wanted to make certain you mastered my magical art," Typhon replied, his voice a whisper, barely heard through the water. Each word was accompanied by a rattling gasp of air, and Ranma noticed how thin and haggard the dragon looked. There was no more blue in his scales, and even the gray which had replaced it seemed lifeless.

"Live, Ranma. Live and grow. Seek out the other Dragon Slayers; they will need you and you them. And remember this, this life, it is a second chance. Don't just concentrate on magic and the arts. That, obsession like that, is what led me to my solitude. It, it isn't enough to be strong, if, if you are also alone…"

With that Typhon's eyes slid shut. He let out a last, bone-rattling gasp of air, and then, suddenly, the bubbles stopped coming from his mouth, and his sides stopped heaving. Ranma looked at the ancient dragon who had become, if not his/her friend or parental figure, at least somewhat like a grandfather to him/her in a way. She bowed her head in prayer before resolutely turning towards the entrance.

Once she passed the threshold, Ranma's eyes could barely make out anything, so dark was the ocean around her. But thanks to her training Ranma barely felt the depth pressure. Well, heh, at least I know the direction I need to go.

Opening her mouth, Ranma sucked in as much water as she could take in, empowering her magic to the utmost then expelling it out of her feet. She zoomed up through the water, slowly so she wouldn't get the bends, but still far faster than anyone could normally swim. Ranma nearly lost control of her air bubble several times but was able to sustain it until she saw the water lightening around her. Having used up her air by then, Ranma pushed on and broke out onto the surface with a gasping roar as loud as a whale's.

For a moment Ranma just floated there, gasping in air and enjoying the feel of the sun, the real sun, on her face and the wind moving over her. Then she changed position and began to once more shoot water out of her feet, moving through the ocean.

Two days passed before she saw any sign of human habitation, and when she did it was a large merchant vessel. The lookout saw her first, of course, and several people were lining the side of the ship by the time Ranma came within shouting distance. "Hey, can you point out where the nearest shoreline is?" Ranma shouted, her voice carrying over the wind and wave with difficulty.

Still staring at the young redheaded girl apparently sliding across the surface of the ocean, the person Ranma thought might be the captain pointed numbly in a northeastern direction.

"Thanks!" Ranma bellowed back, before continuing on her way. Soon after that Ranma spotted land and began to smile. Typhon had been right after all. This whole world was a new adventure for him/her, and despite the tragedy of the old dragon's passing, she/he was looking forward to this…

End Chapter

For those of you wondering I want Ranma to be a little older than the majority of the main characters. He will be twenty or so by the time the canon arcs start. This does mean I will be speeding through time quite briskly, and yes maybe using one large time-skip right before the start of canon - that is, when Ranma starts interacting fulltime with the Fairy Tail characters.

In terms of pairing: I originally thought this story up and thought to put Ranma with Erza. However, I also actually like Mira's character too, and given the rivalry between the two girls, there is no chance of me using both. It will be one or the other.

Other than that, I would like to play around with characters that I rarely see in pairings. I really like Bisca for one, and Jenny Realight as well as Ultear. Who knows. We'll see.

Anyway, hope you all enjoyed this, and if you want to see more, please consider joining over on Patty R On.