The scene opens to a heavily decorated plush living room, complete with a roaring fireplace and a big, comfy-looking chair in the middle of a large carpeted area.

Sitting in the chair is a geeky-looking guy with dark hair and glasses, wearing a terry cloth robe, and holding a fake corncob pipe in his teeth.

Smiling amiably, the young man took the pipe out of his mouth to speak.

"Hello zere, and velcome to ze first revised edicion of Takahashi Soup, zat lovely conglomeracion of ze most psychotic examples of anime zat are available to ze general public. I am your host and author, Black Dragon, ze Lord of Chaos." BD smiled warmly, then replaced the pipe in his mouth.

"You may note zat I have an unconvincing, vaguely European accent, and I assure you it is merely for ze ambiance, and zat my spelling ability has in no vay been crippled. Vith zat said, I vould like to move on to zis revision of ze fic."

Black Dragon pretended to take a few puffs from his pipe, and then leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. "As many of you may know, I sometimes include short interludes such as zis before certain edicions of my works. Zis is the manner in vich I vill prelude zis particular story. However, zis is not, as certain ignorant cretins may suppose, an 'omake', as zey so crudely accuse, but a timely edicion of ze arts vich I like to call 'Jusenkyou Theatre'. I vill place an edicion of Jusenkyou Theatre at ze prelude to each chapter of zis story, to explain ze incomprehensible plot, slide ze chapters back into ze continuity, and give ze hastily introduced and underemphasized characters some level of personality and perhaps even a backstory."

"In today's edicion of Jusenkyou Theatre, I vould like to explain ze turn of events zat have influenced zis revision. You see, vile this vork vas supposed to originally interweave ze fine works of Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and ze wonderful Inu-Yasha, certain events totally vithin my control have influenced ze removal of one of zese series from ze proverbial plot line." BD stopped for a moment to take a few more fake puffs from his pipe.

"I had originally intended ze story to progress with Ranma and Ataru together for a vile, only giving clues as to Inu-Yasha's part in ze story through hasty and unexplained cameos. I vas zen going to introduce a part of ze story vere Inu-Yasha steals ze shikon jewel from its guardianship in ze hands of Sakura ze priestess. Zen Ataru was to accidentally take ze jewel himself, zus creating ze element zat vould join ze characters, leading up to a totally implausible romance between Sakura and Inu-Yasha. Later, I vas going to have Sesshomoru go crazy trying to kill Ataru. Good times, indeed."

BD cleared his throat. "However, it has occurred to me zat ze Inu-Yasha plot line diverges so much from zat of Ranma and UY zat I could not include ze vital elements of ze Inu-Yasha plot vithout almost making zem up myself. And I further recognized zat Inu-Yasha's addicion, while interesting and neat, added almost nothing to ze story, and vould severely detract from ze later development of ze plot, if I ever get around to doing zat. Ze decision vas concluded ven I noted a particular comment posted on ze message board on Delphi." BD took out a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolded it, and then held it at arm's length away from his face. "Ze comment vas as follows, and I quote, 'If it vasn't for zat part vith Inu-Yasha at ze beginning, zat story vould kick all kinds of ass."

BD folded the note back up and then slipped it back into his robe. "And zere you have it. In ze revised vork Inu-Yasha is no more. His contract has been rescinded," he turned away from the camera for a moment, "and I vould like to zank Ranma Saotome, Attorney at Law for his assistance vith zat," and then he turned back, "and zat particular character vill now busy himself vith other important duties. Right, Inu-Yasha?"

A grunt came from behind the camera. "Just hurry up, will you? My coffee's getting cold. And would you stop it with that damn accent?! It's creeping me out!"

Black Dragon chuckled darkly. "Apparently zis is not zis dog's day."

BD sighed happily and steepled his fingers under his chin. "I zank you, dear reader, and zus I give you ze revision of ze chapter zat started it all-"

"Started it all?" Inu-Yasha scoffed from behind camera 3, "Started what? You haven't done a second chapter yet!"

BD glared at the half-demon for a moment, then returned to gazing at the camera calmly. "Once again, I present to you, ze reader, chapter one of Takahashi Soup: Family Values. Vith Jusenkyou Theatre, zis is ze Black Dragon. Zank you."

With that, he nodded sharply, and then sat in his chair and waited.

"................................................................................................."

And waited...

"................................................................................................." *Ahem*

And waited some more.

"Inu-Yasha! Fade out already!"

"Which button is that?"

"On the left! I mean, ze left! No, no, ze other left!"

(Fade out)

Takahashi Soup

by Black Dragon

Disclaimer is as follows: Rumiko Takahashi owns everything. Hence the title. I'm going to do something I've never even ATTEMPTED before: use a canon plot line and not make up any new characters. Okay, fine, so it's more than one plot line, and they sort of screw each other up, but I AM going to try and hold to the no new characters thing. Just this once. Damn it, I can already feel my resolve breaking...

Chapter 1

Family Values

**********************************************************************************

Genma Saotome walked down the dirt road furiously, his angry gait kicking up such clouds of dirt that his regular karate gi began to gray from the layers of dust.

"100,000 yen! Bah! What a rip-off! Nobody scams Genma Saotome out of that kind of money!"

Soun Tendo trailed behind him, scratching his head. "It's a real shame. To think that people let an old woman cheat them like that."

The current subject of their ire was an old woman who owned a large shop in this particular village. Supposedly, the old hag was some kind of witch who was famous in the area for casting powerful curses. It was rumored that people came from far and wide to seek her help in spiteful revenge.

Though at that kind of price, Genma couldn't imagine who would be stupid enough to actually pay the stupid hex.

"Yes, Tendo, it looks like we're going to have to find some other way to deal with the master. Maybe hire a dancing girl to sedate him, and then drop him in the river?" Genma supposed, scratching his chin in thought.

Soun shook his head. "I don't think so Saotome. Remember how that worked out last time?"

Genma winced. The girl had ended up shoving the money, paid in advance, down his throat after having to put up with Happousai for just forty seconds. "Well, maybe not. But anything's better than paying that much for some ugly crone to pretend to cast a spell!"

"Well now, you're no spring chicken either, fatso."

Genma and Soun jumped at the voice, then whirled around to look behind them.

Glaring at them from the middle of the road was a short old woman, perhaps half Genma's height, with a face so contorted with age that it looked to be almost falling off.

Genma frowned. "What do you want, you old bat?"

She looked sharply at him. "You ate all my crackers. I demand reimbursement!"

Genma and Soun sweatdropped heavily.

Genma's expression went flat. "Your crackers?"

The woman nodded. "Yes. There was a big plate of them in the waiting room. Between the time that you arrived and the time you left, they all disappeared."

Genma's expression didn't change. "Aren't they there for customers?"

"Of course," the crone said indignantly, "however, as you didn't purchase anything, you were not customers."

"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!" Genma raged, stomping up to the old woman. "At 100,000 yen a curse, you expect people to buy your services?! And you're still too cheap to give away free food?! HA!! I'll bet you're not even a witch! Just some gypsy out to make money off of fools!"

"It seems you managed to keep your wallet closed; I must not be very good at it," she said with a perfectly straight face. "Think I'm a fake, do you? Well, how about a demonstration? Perhaps one that will teach you to be a little more respectful toward your elders."

Though Genma just rolled his eyes and stood still, Soun began to look about the road they were standing on. The people that had previously been walking along the road had all scattered, and were now either heading away from the confrontation or hiding behind obstructions of various sorts. Taking his cue from the villagers, Soun himself began to inch away from Genma.

The pudgy martial artist watched, nonplussed, as the old woman began to move her pointer finger through the air in front of her, as if she was drawing something.

"Neewo-eemo-kynee-sywaa..." The woman chanted hoarsely as she finished the inscription in the air, and then took a gourd that had been fashioned into a bottle and splashed its contents on Genma's leg.

Genma looked down as the watery, vaguely red fluid stained his pant leg. "Are you almost finished? I have better things to do than stand around and watch magic shows, old woman."

"Almost done," she assured him. "Keeyombi!" Suddenly the lines she had drawn in the air became visible, appearing as a complex array of symbols emblazoned in blue light.

After a moment, they faded, and the witch crossed her arms over her chest with a satisfied smirk on her face. "There! It is done."

Genma looked himself over skeptically. "I don't feel any different. Must not be much of a curse. Is that because you had nobody to pay your little 'maintenance fee'?"

She ignored the jibe. "Genma Saotome, I curse you, and any future progeny you may have, God forbid, to live your life accosted by phenomena of the highest degree of improbability, and people of the strangest manner and temperament."

Genma scoffed. "It sounds like how my life is now. I ran into you, didn't I?"

The old woman shrugged, then turned away. "Do as you will, Saotome. Oh, don't worry about the crackers. You did allow me to practice my craft, after all." Then she smiled suddenly, which sent shivers down Genma and Souns' backs. "And don't say I didn't warn you."

Genma frowned as the old crone walked away swiftly before shaking his head and turning away.

"Saotome? Are you all right?" Soun asked worriedly.

Genma chuckled. "Don't worry yourself about me, Tendo, that was nothing but a fancy trick of the light. It's all done with mirrors and such! She's no witch!"

__________________________________________________________________________________

'Well I'll be damned. I think that old woman really was a witch.' Genma thought, frowning. Which meant that he, and his entire future bloodline, really was cursed.

It also meant that the guy telling him that aliens had just landed in the village square was serious.

"I-I sw-swear! Th-They're right over there! They told us to bring them our finest champion for a last chance to save Earth from enslavement! We don't have a champion, so I thought you could help! You're a martial artist, right?"

Genma sighed and nodded glumly. No point in trying to avoid it, if the aliens were going to enslave the Earth anyway. Besides, if he could mop this up himself, then maybe he'd get some of the hard-earned respect he deserved! "All right, all right. Take me to them."

Genma was actually pleasantly surprised when the alien turned out to be, not a smily, one-eyed beast with hordes of tentacles, but a really big fat guy with horns and fangs. The alien seemed to sit in the air about a foot off the ground, and was wearing what appeared to be a tiger-striped bodysuit.

"M-Mr. Inv-vader, here is our hero! ...... I guess..." the man nervously swung his arms toward Genma, and then quickly ran away, afraid of being caught in-between the two.

Mr. Invader nodded as he looked over Genma. "So you're the hero of the Earth, huh?"

Genma shrugged. "I'm the only one here, so I might as well be." Why had the aliens chosen a remote backwater village near Osaka to launch an invasion. He HAD to be cursed.

Mr. Invader grinned. "Well, this may be easier than I thought. What is your name, Terran?"

Genma crossed his arms over his chest. This fellow didn't look so tough. "My name is Genma Saotome, invader!"

"Good! I, Mr. Invader, leader of the Oni race of alien invaders, in accordance with planetary conquest code #4555 from rulebook 7, formally declare my intention to conquer Earth and enslave its populace!"

Genma smirked slightly and adjusted the bandana covering his head. "Oh? You and what army?"

Mr. Invader point behind and above Genma. "That one."

Genma turned and sweatdropped. Hundreds of flying saucers hovered idly in midair, all covered in the same tiger-striped pattern. While none of them seemed particularly dangerous-looking, they were all rather big, and there seemed to be no shortage of them.

Genma turned back toward Mr. Invader. "So... uh, what do I have to do to save Earth?"

Mr. Invader blinked. "Why, defeat all my ground troops, which are in position past the mountains to swarm the village, then wipe out my fleet of UFOs, which you just saw. Quite simple, really."

Genma sweatdropped again, then gulped. "Uh... listen, perhaps we can talk this out?"

The alien blinked. "Talk what out? There's nothing to discuss. I want to enslave Earth, you don't want me to enslave Earth."

Genma nodded apprehensively. "True. But... what if I made you a... personal deal?"

Mr. Invader quickly shook his head. "No way. Sorry, but I need to conquer one more planet to reach quota this month, otherwise I can kiss my annual bonus goodbye, and I can't afford that. I just had a daughter, you know."

Genma bigsweated as he tried to think his way out of this. "Oh, really? That's a coincidence! My wife is actually pregnant right now! Ha ha ha!" His nervous laugh trailed off as something occurred to him, and he snapped his fingers.

"Tell me... Mr. Invader... do you have a husband lined up for your daughter yet?" Genma asked slyly.

The alien blinked. "Well, I... no, actually. I had someone in mind for that arrangement already, really, but..."

Genma grinned. "Well, how would you like her to be married to the son of the hero of the Earth?"

Mr. Invader looked down at Genma critically, and then fingered his lip, considering. "Keep talking, Terran."

"It's simple," Genma explained. "My son, should I have one, will marry your daughter as soon as they become an appropriate age."

"Thus replacing a costly military invasion with a diplomatic interracial marriage." Mr. Invader considered, nodding to himself. "We'll gain closer ties with Earth, even if we won't have them as slaves, and I can even manage to appease those whiny liberal brats back on my home planet that keep picketing in front of my house. I like the way you think, Saotome!" He then looked sharply at Genma. "But what if you have a daughter rather than a boy?"

Genma started to sweat some more; he had been hoping the creature before him wouldn't think of that. "Well... uh..." He suddenly pointed west. "A couple thousand miles that way, there's a nation called France. Why don't you take them as collateral?"

Mr. Invader looked toward where he was pointing. "France, huh?"

Genma nodded quickly. "Yup! You won't even have to fight them! Just fly overhead and they'll surrender immediately!"

The alien nodded in satisfaction, and then took Genma's hand and shook it. "Saotome, my boy, we have a deal! EARTH IS SPARED!!!"

__________________________________________________________________________________

"And that, dear, is how I saved the Earth from enslavement by alien beings," Genma finished, grinning to himself.

Nodoka smiled back at her husband even as she kept breathing heavily to overcome the pain of labor. She had been like this for several hours now, and Genma had been by her side, trying to help distract her with his stories from when he was training.

"You really defeated their entire ground army?" She asked breathlessly.

Genma nodded somberly. "And then their overwhelming space force. It was a terrible battle, but I do not regret the lives I took, for the Earth is safe, thanks to me.

Nodoka looked up at her husband adoringly, and was about to ask another question, when suddenly her body suffered a contraction.

Genma began to panic as his wife cried out suddenly, and before the man knew what was happening, the room had filled with nurses, and he was being pushed out of the room.

For a good while he paced from side to side in the waiting room, apprehensive as any new father could be.

'What if its a girl? Oh, good lord in heaven, PLEASE let it be a boy! If its a girl, then I can't marry him to one of Tendo's daughters! And what if that alien comes back? Oh please, please, PLEASE be a boy!'

Luckily, before Genma could began biting his fingernails in nervousness, a nurse emerged and tapped him on the arm.

He immediately whirled on the woman, grabbing her arm and effectively startling her.

"Well?? Is it a boy or a girl?!"

The nurse started in surprise, and barely stuttered out, "B-B-Boy."

Genma turned around and quickly gave a prayer of thanks. 'Yes... I'm safe...'

"Two boys, actually."

Genma blinked, and then slowly turned toward her. "Two?"

The nurse nodded, getting her bearings back. "Yes! You're the father of fraternal twins!"

Genma stared at her blankly.

"That means they're born together, but they look different," she explained.

"Of course! I knew that!" Genma insisted, and then began walking back toward the delivery room.

Genma entered to see Nodoka sitting peacefully on the bed holding her children, as calmly as if she hadn't been experiencing inhuman levels of pain just moments before.

Absently noting Genma's entrance, Nodoka began to inspect the boys for differences in appearance and immediate mannerisms. A rather simple task, as one of them was bawling his eyes out and drooling on himself, while the other was generally trying to cringe away from the noise.

Genma looked the children over and beamed. "Ah! Two sons! Nodoka, my dear, you've made me the happiest man alive today!"

Nodoka merely hummed a short agreement as she started to clean off the one who was still crying.

Ignoring his wife's lack of enthusiasm, Genma began to look over his new heirs.

He immediately took favor to the one that wasn't sniffling to himself. This one has a slightly thicker body as well, while the other looked just a bit underweight.

"Well, since we only came up with one name in case it was a boy, I think we should call this one Ranma." Genma nodded seriously to himself.

"It's a good name," Nodoka mused. "As for this one... how about... Ataru?"

Genma blinked. "Ataru? What kind of a name is that?"

Nodoka shrugged. "If you can think of a better one..."

Genma frowned to himself, then relented. "Well, Ataru it is then. They'll make fine martial artists, I'm sure!"

And thus, the legend of Ranma and Ataru Saotome had begun.

__________________________________________________________________________________

15 Years later...

Genma sat still on the ground, legs folded and palms together in perfect meditation, his mind engrossed in the ways of the universe, and man's unfolding fate.

'When will those boys finish down there? I'm hungry!'

Genma's deep contemplation was disrupted by a light cough behind him, and the heavy-set martial artist slowly stood up and stretched. "So? How did it go?"

The old man, a martial arts master significantly weakened by the ravages of time, offered a contemplative smile. "Your boy, Ranma, has much potential, and is very strong. Too strong, in fact, to benefit from anything I could teach him. There is nothing for him here."

The old man was about to continue, when Genma nodded sharply and interrupted. "I thought that might be the case, yes..." Genma turned away and crossed his arms in contemplation.

"My son Ranma has almost mastered physical unarmed combat. Its strengths, weaknesses, and its subtle lethality. Indeed, through the years he has taken to fighting like a swallow takes to flight, and is the embodiment of strength and tactical wit."

The master nodded along slowly. "True, true. He really is a remarkable boy. But actually, it's the other one I wanted to talk to you about..."

Again, Genma nodded. "Ah yes! And Ataru! The other side of the same coin, Ataru has mastered the non-combative aspects of Anything-Goes Martial Arts! Retreat, survival and stealth!"

The old man sweatdropped. "It doesn't really count as martial arts if you just run away."

Genma ignored the man, still in his 'reflective contemplation' mode. "Yes, growing up together, the boys inevitably chose different paths in their training. Ranma, the fierce warrior, gives himself to combat, refusing all else in the pursuit of victory. Ataru, like a Ninja, seeks tactical advantage, never allowing an opponent to corner him and hiding with such skill that it boggles the mind!"

"One of the villagers caught him using those very skills to spy on the women's baths this morning..."

Once again, the man was ignored. "They are as night and day, and yet, as one, they are the very embodiment of Anything-Goes! Purity and noble strength, combined with cowardice and shadowy guile!"

"The village girls took him out on the street and started to beat him with hoes and rakes," the aging martial artist explained, walking up next to Genma. "Somehow, he escaped."

Genma glanced over at him, mildly miffed that the old man had ignored his dramatic monologue.

"Several of the village women have also expressed... 'concern' over some of Ataru's actions over the last two days," the man said, a hint of warning beneath his voice.

Genma rolled his eyes. "Boys will be boys." 'Damn it, I knew I should have tried harder to keep Ataru away from the influence of women!' As if it was even possible. Ataru had developed an inexplicably accurate sense for detecting and finding attractive women. Ranma, thankfully, had not picked up Ataru's talent, or even desire, for finding and harassing pretty girls. In fact, Ranma had developed the opposite problem, in that they tended to come to him.

Genma shook his head sadly, and then realized that the old man was trying to get his attention.

"That may be true, but you should explain that to them, not me." The martial artist explained, smiling and pointing behind Genma.

Slowly turning around, the master of the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts beheld a fair-sized mob of angry looking villagers, most of them female and almost all of them armed with brooms, staffs, and assorted farming equipment.

"Mr. Saotome? We'd like to have a... talk with your son."

Genma sweatdropped big time.

"You know, that reminds me... I've got to go to China! Goodbye!" Off like a rocket, Genma jumped over the fence blocking the yard from the village road, and ran swiftly in-between some houses as he navigated the small town.

Ataru may have known more ways to run away than Genma had ever thought of, but he was still the one who had taught the boy.

__________________________________________________________________________________

"Gimme me back my cookies!" Ranma growled, running at top speed alongside a forest stream.

"Never!" Ataru shouted back, running ahead of his brother underneath the forest canopy.

It was one struggle of many. The battle that commenced that day to decide the fate of the dozen chocolate chip morsels was a battle that had been fought hundreds of times before. Such struggles were the epitome of the classic rivalry between siblings. Right and wrong were issues for discussing after the fact. At that moment, there was only the chase, and the inevitable struggle for dominance.

*Chomp* "Wow! These are still hot!" Ataru remarked to himself, still keeping up an admirable running speed.

"NOOOOO!!! I PAID for those!!" Ranma yelled, and then leapt into the air.

Okay, so maybe they were just hungry. But the dramatic psychological undercurrents are still there, right?

Determined to recover the rest of his purchase, Ranma made it look like he was coming down at Ataru in a flying kick. Ataru adjusted his path predictably, and as Ranma descended at high speed, he grabbed the branch of a nearby tree, rotated completely around it at high speed, and then launched himself at his brother.

Now, most people that had met Ataru and heard his story would say that Ataru had utterly wasted most of his life, having gone on a 10-year martial arts training trip and never having learned to fight, or in fact done anything especially useful or productive the entire time he was on the road.

They were right, of course, but that didn't mean Ataru had walked away from his experiences with NOTHING. Even if sparring between Ataru and Ranma was hopelessly one-sided (because Ataru would never make a decent effort, and fell too easily), Genma had continued them in the hopes that the scrawny teenager would start taking his training a little more seriously and learn to fight back.

Thus, Ataru had become VERY good at dodging.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" *Crash!* *Smash!* *Bam!* Toom!* Ataru winced as he ducked his head to the ground, inadvertently causing his brother to fly into a wooden storage shed that had been built by the stream by some of the villagers.

Ataru snickered to himself as he swallowed another cookie. "Nice landing, bro."

Ranma dug himself out of the pile of tools and shattered wooden boards that had fallen atop him, growling and ready to tear his sibling's head off.

Then he stopped, blinked, and pointed behind Ataru. "Wow! She is HOT!!"

Ataru immediately whirled around. "What?! Where?! Who?! Where is-" Ataru stopped talking as he felt a hand fall onto his shoulder. "Uhhh..."

*Thwack!* Pow!* *Wham!* *Pow!*

Ranma picked up the plate of cookies, cradling them protectively in his arms.

"Ugh... don't you think that was a little much?" Ataru groaned from the ground.

Ranma snorted. "Save it, wouldja?" Ranma didn't like using distraction tricks-they were more Ataru's type of thing-but dammit, nobody took his cookies and got away with it!

Within moments, Ataru was back on his feet and tenderly rubbing his head. It never failed to amaze Ranma how Ataru managed to benefit from the sparring that Genma made them do even though his brother never fought (not that the boy was a pacifist or anything; it was pretty much sheer cowardice and indifference). Ataru was the only person Ranma knew that could evade him so well for an extended period of time, and thanks to simply trying to hit his brother during their sparring matches, Ranma was also a great deal faster than he would have been otherwise. Also, Ataru had eventually developed a remarkable recovery time as a result of all the damage he had taken, though he still claimed an inexplicable aversion to pain.

"C'mon Ranma! Give me one!" Ataru begged, licking his lips.

Ranma turned around as he ate his snacks. "You already ate some, dope. Go buy your own."

"But I don't have any money!" Ataru whined, making a half-hearted grab for the cookies.

"Then what'd you spend it on? We both took that job cutting wood!" 'Not that you did any work,' Ranma added mentally, annoyed.

"I spent it on food, just like you!" Ataru shouted back, swiping for the cookies again.

Ranma held it a little further out of reach. "Then leave my food alone, dweeb!" Ranma planted his foot on Ataru's chest and launched him into the stream, causing a large shower of water and mud as Ataru fell into the onrushing stream.

Ranma turned away. At 15 years old, Ranma already a superior physique that Ataru had always envied. Trim, but not skinny, Ranma was solid muscle. His jet black hair was tied into a short ponytail at the base of his head, and Ranma had said a few times that he'd tie it into a pigtail once he found some good string. On the training journey he had adopted a taste for Chinese clothing, although he also wore his gi often during training.

Ataru, on the other hand, was everything that his brother was not... and less. Scrawny and undeveloped, Ataru was very skinny, but lacked any apparent muscle mass. Ataru had unkempt brown hair that he kept shorter than his brother. He preferred casual clothes at all times, and was currently wearing a pair of old jeans and one of the numerous white t-shirts he owned.

Ranma finished his snack and began licking his fingers. Behind him, Ataru muttered irritably as he wrung out his shirt.

"Ah, that was good." Turning to his brother, he smirked. "So, you want some cash? I heard there's a guy who wants someone to help build a fence near the edge of town. I've already got enough money, so you'll be on your own though. How about it?"

Ataru blinked, then shook his head as he shrugged on his still-damp t-shirt. "No go bro. I don't think I'd be very welcome there right now."

Ranma stared for a moment at his brother, then rubbed his forehead. "Oh God... you DIDN'T."

Ataru sweatdropped. "Hey, you know, she was there, she started flirting, and I took a chance! I don't know what everyone is so worked up about!"

Ranma grabbed his brother by the collar of his shirt and lifted him up. "'Flirting'? What, did she not punch you in the face as soon as she saw you?"

Ataru blinked. "Well... okay, yeah, she did, but still, she was smiling at me afterwards! Mixed messages, you know how it is!"

Ranma dropped Ataru onto the ground, his hands shaking as his eye twitching. "Ataru... didn't everyone TELL you not to mess with the mayor's daughter?! Because her father is very protective?! And very powerful?! You're lucky we don't have an angry mob after us!"

At that very moment, Genma burst through the surrounding foliage, skidding to a halt as he found his boys.

"There you are! Stop standing around like morons and start running before they find you!" Genma yelled. Then he took off in the same direction he had been heading, not waiting for his children to catch up.

"Well, so much for being lucky, huh?" Ataru sweatdropped and began to stretch, like he was preparing to run a marathon.

Ranma lifted a shaking fist into the air before him as he grit his teeth. "One of these days Ataru... mark my words... I am going to kill you."

Ataru just rolled his eyes. "You say that every day."

"Shut up and run."

__________________________________________________________________________________

1 year later...

Soun Tendo was a happy man.

However, this joy did not stem, as some might guess at first, from an morally optimistic or peppy state of being. Indeed, many would even say that the patriarch of the Tendo Dojo was a stressed, miserable wreck of a man, whose very life and mental well-being hung on his three precious daughters, without which the man surely would have lost his will to live and shoved off long ago.

Today, however, the man had reason for celebration.

At last, after so many years, he had been contacted by his old friend Genma, with whom he had made a solemn promise. A promise he would never forget, unfortunately. A promise to unite the children of the remaining schools of Anything-Goes Martial Arts in holy matrimony.

It was really sort of like a funny cosmic science project. Take two independent, volatile chemicals that refused to bond with each other, and callously pour them into a big vat of other violently reactive concoctions, and you had the Nerima situation, but without aliens. Soun and his promise were simply a catalyst, to position and direct the introduced reactants, and then stand by helplessly as everything went to hell.

But, aside from the pointless analogy and gratuitous foreshadowing, Soun's daughters weren't so thrilled about the prospect as he was.

"Don't we get any say in who we marry?" Akane, the youngest, complained loudly, clearly the most displeased with the idea.

Soun stood firm. "It was decided before you were born. If Genma and I have children, then they will marry to unite the two schools of Anything-Goes Martial Arts. Genma had twin boys, I hear, so at the very least, one of you has to marry one of them."

"Really Daddy, arranged marriages are SO old fashioned," Nabiki drawled, munching on a cracker.

Kasumi put a hand to her cheek. "Oh my. This is so sudden. He has twins, you say? I hope they're not younger than me."

"I'll bet they're both perverts. All boys are perverts!" Akane groused, crossing her arms over his chest.

"Oh Akane," Nabiki chided, rolling her eyes, "you never know; they might be cute!" She turned toward Soun. "How about it Daddy? Are they cute?"

"They're not younger than me, are they? Younger men are so... young." Kasumi asked, a worried expression across her pretty face.

"What kind of guys are these two, anyway?"

Soun sweatdropped. "I... I have no idea. I've never met them."

"............................" Silence. Outside, a tumbleweed could be seen rolling across the road (which was unusual, especially considering the heavy rain, never mind the geography). Until it reached an intersection, where it was run over and crushed by nameless, faceless people who could care less about plot development.

__________________________________________________________________________________

A passing redheaded girl spit repeatedly in disgust as she wiped bits of wet tumbleweed off her face, after she had been sprayed by a passing car.

"Stupid plants..." Suddenly remembering a far more crucial issue that had been recently introduced, the busty pigtailed girl wearing Chinese clothing turned to face behind her.

"Yeah, well I don't care if that dork thinks it's a good idea! I say the whole thing sucks!"

Onlookers' eyes widened as a large, wet panda emerged from the haze of the downpour down the street, running at a surprising rate as it barreled toward the redhead.

She growled, and then grabbed the panda's arm as it swung at her. "Choosing my fiancee..." She then flipped over the panda's head, and thus flipped the panda, slamming it hard into the ground. "Without even asking!!"

She flicked her pigtail over her shoulder, and looked down at the fallen animal condescendingly. "I'm going back to China. Suck on THAT, old man."

Suddenly, another figure made itself known. On the fence next to the canal, another girl walked along at a casual pace, shaking her head. She was arguably just as beautiful as the first, but was taller, had short blue hair, and wore a plain white t-shirt and jeans, which didn't seem to fit right on her body.

"Ranma, come on man. You never know! They might be hot! And I mean, they're literally just HANDING them to us!"

Ranma's eyes narrowed. "Give it a rest Ataru. I can't believe you're taking this so lightly! I mean, doesn't it MEAN anything to you anymore to be like that?"

Ataru looked down at herself, and then shrugged. "Well, sure, I mean, it's a pain, but in the long run, isn't it more important to find a major babe to marry?"

"You sicken me," Ranma muttered.

At this point, Genma had gotten his wet panda bulk up off the ground, and raised a sign in the air. [You don't even have to marry one of them Ranma] Genma flipped the sign. [Ataru could do it!]

Ranma growled. "What're you, stupid?!"

"Yes," Ataru quickly interjected. They ignored her.

"You KNOW that Ataru's gonna screw it all up anyway! Why even waste time when we could be looking for a cure?"

Ataru feigned having a pain in her heart, clutching her breast dramatically. "That hurts, bro. Right here."

Ranma turned toward her brother/sister. "Oh, stuff it. No woman in her right mind would put up with you."

Ataru chuckled. "Aw, give me a break, man! Look, I promise I'll be good, okay? Besides, it couldn't hurt to check it out, right?"

Ranma's left eye twitched. "YES, it could. Remember the last time you said that?"

Ataru rolled her eyes. "Dude, come on, it wasn't like it was ME who lit you on fire."

"YES, it was!" Ranma shouted.

"Well, not on purpose."

Ranma glared at her cursed sibling for a long moment, then grabbed the sign post that was being swung at her head.

"Give it a rest, will ya?!" Ranma shouted, then spun around and smacked the panda across the face with the road sign, knocking it clean into the wall Ataru was standing on, and nearly causing her brother turned sister to fall.

Then she sighed heavily. "All right. Fine. You wanna go ahead with this, go ahead. But I swear, once this thing falls apart, I'm leaving for China, period!" Ranma growled. At times she really wondered which curse was worse; turning into a girl, or having to put up with his brother and father.

Genma got up in a dizzy, and unsteadily raised a sign. [That's the spirit!] Flip. [If you'll excuse me, I think I'll rest here a moment.] *Thud*

"It's YOUR turn," Ranma stated firmly, his eyes on the road ahead of him as he walked.

"But Ranma-!" Ataru whined, only to be cut off.

"I dragged his furry carcass along last time; now it's your turn! Just do it!"

__________________________________________________________________________________

A cold shudder blasted through Akane's spine as a knock on the door sounded. She wasn't exactly sure why; sure, she had a very bad feeling about this whole situation, but she was already gearing herself up for a worst-case scenario and taking inventory of all the weapons she had stashed around the house in case the need to defend herself arose. Surely, that would be enough, right? Even if they did turn out to be total perverts, as she expected, how bad could they possibly be?

Soun and Nabiki rushed to the door, eager to greet the new arrivals, while Kasumi followed at a more sedate pace, fretting about the possible age of their visitors.

Soun reached the door and threw it open immediately.

A grinning, bright-eyed bluette stood before him, and then saluted.

"Yo! Ataru Saotome here! Are you Soun Tendo?"

Soun blinked, understandably confused. The girl was wearing a white t-shirt which, while it wasn't thin enough to turn transparent in the rain, was molded around two rather large breasts which the article was never made to conceal. The person before him was a girl. "Uh, yes, I'm Soun Tendo..." hadn't Genma said one of his sons was named Ataru?

Ataru nodded. "Cool! My Pop said we could crash here! 'Scuse me!" Ataru made his way past Soun, and then stopped as soon as she saw Nabiki. "Va va voom! How you doin'?" She asked, grinning widely.

Nabiki blinked, and then narrowed her eyes upon realizing that the person in front of her was female. Ignoring the strange introduction, Nabiki pushed past her father to look out the front door.

Upon seeing a red-haired girl dragging an insensate panda up to the front porch (muttering all the while about lazy jerks), she turned to her father, annoyed. "Daddy, are these those friends you were expecting?"

Soun shook his head wildly.

Ranma got up to the front door, and then realized that she had an audience. Putting a hand to the back of her head in embarrassment, Ranma bowed. "Uh, I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry about all this."

Soun blinked. "You're... Ranma Saotome?"

Ranma nodded.

Soun very slowly turned around, where the other girl was quite openly admiring Kasumi. "And you're... Ataru Saotome?"

Ataru nodded absently. 'Damn, she has a nice bod!' Her eyes were drawn to Akane as she entered the room. 'Hello, what's this?'

Soun began looking back and forth between Ranma and Ataru. "And your father... is Genma Saotome?"

"Unfortunately," Ranma admitted.

Soun nodded slowly in understanding, the pieces of the puzzle finally assembling themselves into coherency.

Then he fainted dead away.

Ranma blinked as the tall girl with brown hair sighed, and the younger girl with black hair dragged Soun into the living room. The last sister followed them, muttering about misinformation and stupidity (and casting uneasy glances at Ataru).

Ranma waited until the procession had left the room, and then turned to Ataru. "Okay, I admit it. That went WAY better than I could have possibly hoped."

Ataru grinned. "Hey, what did I tell ya? It's clear sailing from here, bro!"

Ranma's eyes went flat. "How do you figure that? We've still got to explain to these people that we're guys."

"Well, yeah, besides that."

"Growf!" [Idiot! You kicked me while I was down, didn't you?!]

"Hey Pop! You're awake!"

__________________________________________________________________________________

After things had been sorted out among the Saotomes (meaning that Genma had been thrown into the backyard, a prominent lump on his head), the two cursed brothers took their places in the living room as Soun was roused into consciousness.

"But Genma said he had two BOYS!" Soun cried, staring up into the ceiling. How could Genma do this to him? And the man wasn't even around to explain himself!

"Uh..." Ataru opened her mouth, but stopped when she caught a sharp warning glare from the redhead next to her.

Nabiki snorted. "Well, you should have made sure! Does THIS look like a boy to you?!" For emphasis, she reached out and squeezed Ranma's chest, causing the pigtailed girl to grimace badly.

Ataru snickered slightly. "You know, actually-" *Thock!* The blue-haired girl was silenced with a lightning-fast jab to her cheek, and was still quite dizzy when Ranma grabbed her by the collar and pulled her ear next to her mouth.

"Idiot!" She whispered, "don't just go and tell them like that! This is important!"

"Hey, is something wrong?"

Ranma blinked and released Ataru as she looked up. "Uh, hey..."

Akane smiled down at her. "My name's Akane. Want to be friends?"

Ranma blinked once more. "Uh-"

"Sure! I'll be friends with you!" Ataru shouted, jumping up and putting her arm around Akane's shoulders. "We'll be best friends! And we'll go to slumber parties and play truth or dare and get in big sweaty pillow fights and-" *Crack!*

Akane had been a tad weirded out by how the girl had started rambling, but was still very concerned when her new "friend" locked up in agony after she heard that strange cracking noise. It seemed to come from below, but when she looked down, the only thing that seemed out of place was that Ranma appeared to have laid his hand lightly on Ataru's foot. "Ataru? Are you okay?"

"Mommy..." the bluette squeaked.

Ranma stood up calmly, and then smirked as she wagged her finger in front of Ataru's face. "Now sis, let's not be TOO friendly and smother our hosts, eh?"

Akane sweatdropped and waved her hands in front of her. "No! No! It's all right! She's just... enthusiastic!"

"I'll say," Ranma muttered.

Akane composed herself. "We have a dojo in the back. Why don't I show you around?"

Ranma blinked. "Dojo? Okay, sure..."

Akane walked toward the hallway, looking over her shoulder as Ataru hobbled along with a limp. "Are you all right?"

Ataru cracked a fractured smile and grinned weakly. "I will be once my ankle grows back..."

"Yeah," Ranma intoned ahead of them, "I've been getting a lot better at that."

Akane blinked, having not a single clue as to what they were talking about, and then forgot about it as she jogged ahead of Ranma to lead the way to the dojo.

Ranma whistled to herself as she walked into the center of the practice hall. "Not bad... not bad at all."

Akane smiled. "You like it?"

Ataru nodded seriously, observing Akane from behind. "Oh yeah. Spectacular, even."

Ranma rolled his eyes as Akane stepped into the hall.

"So," the youngest Tendo daughter spoke, hoping to break the ice, "which of you is the better fighter?"

Ranma immediately jabbed a thumb at himself. Ataru immediately pointed a finger at Ranma.

Akane blinked. "Well, you agree on that easily enough..." truth be told, she was expecting a bit of debate, or maybe even a fight, over who was the better martial artist. Neither of them really looked very powerful, and the redhead's petite body made it seem even more that she would be rather weak.

Shrugging, Akane turned toward Ranma. "Want to have a little match?"

Ataru blink-blinked, while a large sweatdrop rolled down Ranma's head.

"Uh..."

Ataru cut Ranma off, thankfully, and jumped in front of Akane. "No, wait! You don't want to mess with him, trust me! He'll tear you apart! That guy is brutal! I should know! He's always-" *Clonk!* Ranma's fist landed lightly upon Ataru's head, shutting the young lecher's mouth quite effectively.

Akane blinked. "'Him'? 'Guy'? 'He'? Who are you talking about?"

Ranma's left eye twitched, and she grabbed Ataru by the collar and propped him up straight. "Say Ataru-CHAN, why don't you give Akane a little warm-up first, eh? Then we can see about another match."

Akane shook her head. "I can't fight her! She has a hurt ankle!"

Both 'brothers' blinked, and Akane looked down at Ataru's foot, only to see that she was putting weight on it, with no visible discomfort.

"Uh... ow! Oh! The pain! Make the hurting stop! Please! Oh!" Ataru grabbed her foot and then proceeded to hop around the dojo, moaning and crying in an utterly unconvincing manner.

Ranma coughed into a fist. "Wrong ankle, Einstein."

Akane giggled as Ataru sweatdropped, and then fell into a light fighting stance. "Oh, don't worry. I'll go real easy on you!"

Ataru blinked, and stopped hopping around. "You promise?"

Akane smiled brightly and held up a palm. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"Wonder how long that'll last..." Ranma muttered to herself.

"Well... okay... I guess..." Ataru scratched the back of her head as Akane prepared herself.

"You ready? Okay, here I come!"

The following two minutes were perhaps the most amusing moments Ranma had ever experienced (it was funny to watch Ataru try to pick up girls as well, but after watching that so many times, it had gotten old).

Ranma knew from experience that Ataru's incredible skill at dodging when caught in a fight didn't come from any sort of concentration or focus, but merely gobs and gobs of experience. He had to TRY in order to avoid a punch, but as soon as he did, instinct built from years of having been beaten into the ground took over, and it was all but impossible to touch the man.

"Rrrrgh..." Akane was feeling the type of frustration that Ranma experienced everyday, only tenfold. She was used to HITTING her targets, and hitting them hard. As she stopped making her blows sloppy and weak on purpose, Akane began to put more force in her attacks to try and make them more accurate.

It was all to no avail. Ataru stayed well away from the offensive, emitting yelps and eeps even as she jumped out of the way with many feet to spare.

The most frustrating part for Akane was that, along with pretending that she was panicking when she was dodging her easily, the stupid girl hadn't thrown a single punch! Not even a feint!

"All right," Akane growled, "Now it's for real!"

"What?!" Ataru shouted, "Whoa! No way! You said you weren't going to-Yipe! Hey! Waugh! Not so close! Gyah! Not in the face! Not in the face!!"

Akane pressed her offensive some more, and then grit her teeth when Ataru's back fell against the wall of the dojo. "What kind of martial artist are you?! Hyaaa!!" Launching a roundhouse, Akane put all of her strength and momentum into a final strike, aimed to drop Ataru instantly if it connected.

It never did.

*Crash!!* Akane found her foot stuck in the dojo wall as Ataru's image seemed to... disintegrate. Almost as if she had just disappeared.

Yanking her foot out, Akane whirled around to face her opponent.

Only to find that she wasn't behind her, either.

Dropping her guard slightly, Akane looked back and forth across the dojo, toward the hole she had put in the wall, and then again toward the entrance.

Finally, she turned toward Ranma. "Hey, where'd she go? What happened?"

Ranma rolled her eyes. "Ataru may not be much in the muscle department, but he... er... she can hide with the best of 'em." With that, Ranma slowly raised one hand to point up at the ceiling.

Akane looked up, and sweatdropped.

Ataru sweatdropped as well, as she hung by her fingernails onto the ceiling of the dojo. "Heh heh... uh... hey there..."

Akane stared at Ataru for a moment, then laughed suddenly. "Ha ha! You're really good!"

*Thud!* Ataru immediately lost her grip on the ceiling and fell straight to the floor. "I am?" She asked, totally baffled, as she lifted her head off the floor.

"She IS?" Ranma asked, just as confused.

Akane nodded. "Well, yeah, anyone who can dodge as well as she can must have worked really hard to train!"

Ataru blinked, then laughed. "You got that right! 'The path of a martial artist is fraught with peril', you know! Traveling to foreign lands to train in the wilds and dangerous forests, and all that! It was really hard!"

"Yeah," Ranma said wryly, "What with me having to carry half your stuff, and you always skipping out on training to go slumming."

Ataru snorted and crossed her arms over her chest. "What you call 'slumming', I happen to think of as 'socializing'."

"That's because you're a moron," Ranma muttered.

Akane sweatdropped as the two siblings began shooting glares at each other. "Uh... look, I'm sure you're both kind of tired right now, what with just getting back for your trip. I think Kasumi was filling up the bath a little while ago. Why don't you two take a soak?"

Ranma and Ataru looked at each other, and then each one shrugged.

"Sounds good to me."

"You wanna join us, cutie?" *Whack!* "Ow! I was just kidding! Jeez!"

Akane giggled a bit as she watched the two girls go. They were kind of goofy, really, and the taller blue haired one definitely made her uneasy, but overall, they seemed like nice enough girls.

She fingered the gi for a moment, and then grimaced. She had worked up quite a sweat trying to get Ataru.

"You know... maybe I'll take her up on her offer." Sure, the girl kind of creeped her out, but she seemed very friendly. A little feeling in the back of her mind wasn't anything to be wary of, was it? She left for her room to get a fresh set of clothes.

That was quite possibly the most optimistic thought that Akane Tendo would ever have from that point forward, for the rest of her miserable life.

__________________________________________________________________________________

"Ha ha! Score, bro! They're all babes! This is gonna be great!"

Ranma ignored his brother as he rested on his side of the furo, his towel atop his head. "Yeah, well, be that as it may, we can't keep on letting them think we're girls, obviously." Ranma sighed. "I saw Pop talking to Mr. Tendo. I guess he changed back. By the time we get down, Tendo will probably have the whole story, so we should probably just go down like this and let Pop do the explain'in."

Ataru nodded thoughtfully. "Well planned, well planned."

Unlike their cursed forms, in which Ataru was taller and more filled out than Ranma, Ranma had if anything gained even more on his brother on height and mass, while Ataru was still as scrawny as ever. Ranma had occasionally wondered why the comparison more or less flipped in their cursed forms, but that inquisition had been mostly crushed beneath a disgust and general loathing for the curse and whatever magic caused it.

Ranma got up. "Well, that's long enough. Let's get down there."

Ataru nodded and stood up himself.

*Clack*

Both brothers turned as the door to the changing room opened, and a very naked Akane stepped through the doorway, only to stop and blink as soon as she saw them.

Both boys blinked back. Ataru's mouth hung open slightly, and a bit of drool escaped.

Inevitably, Akane's gaze wandered down a little bit, confirming that they boys too, were naked.

Slowly, and calmly, Akane turned around and left the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Ataru chuckled to himself, then turned to his brother. "See? See?! We haven't been here an hour, and we've already seen one of them naked! See? This was a great idea!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"

Ranma massaged his forehead. "Ataru, just get dressed so that you're not still naked when they throw us out, all right?"

__________________________________________________________________________________

Nabiki winced as Akane's scream tore through the house, and frowned as her little sister tore down the stairs and hefted up the dining room table.

"I'll drown them in the bath tub! That's what I'll do!"

Nabiki blinked. "Drown who?"

Akane turned towards her. "There's a couple of perverts in the bathroom!"

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Well, why didn't you just beat them to death right then and there?"

"Because I got SCARED, that's why!" Akane retorted.

"Uh... hey..."

Akane, Nabiki, and Kasumi (who had been listening to the former two in worry) all turned toward the staircase.

Ranma grimaced and scratched the back of his head nervously. "I'm Ranma Saotome... sorry about all this."

Behind him, Ataru made a "victory" sign with his fingers and shoved them past Ranma's shoulders. "And I'm Ataru Saotome! Now about this engagem-URK!!"

Ranma twitched slightly as he dug his elbow a little deeper into Ataru's gut. "Timing, Ataru. Timing," Ranma growled.

At that moment, Soun emerged from the guest room with a heavy-set man wearing a white gi and a white bandanna over his head. "Ah! There you are! Very good! This is perfect! Everyone, sit down!"

Nabiki crossed her arms over her chest. "I can't WAIT to hear this one..."

__________________________________________________________________________________

"And here sirs, we come to legendary training ground Jusenkyou, Valley of Cursed Springs!" The Chinese guide turned around as he gestured to the numerous springs in the valley.

Ranma snorted. "Ah, this place doesn't look so tough. We came all that way for this?"

Ataru yawned, and let his pack (noticeably smaller than the others') fall to the ground. "So what's the deal? Do we get to go swimming, or what?"

The guide blinked. "Oh, you very strange, no sir? Nobody use these springs any more. Is too, too dangerous to... sir? Sirs? You listening? Is very important!"

The guide was, in fact, being totally ignored as Ataru once again proved his remarkable immunity to work. "But we can't do that! It's dangerous! What if we fall down?"

"So what if we fall down?!" Genma shouted, "You'll just fall in the water! Maybe it'll finally make a man out of you!"

Ranma blinked, and then looked up in wonder. "That's weird... I just felt a twinge of irony..."

"But Pop..." Ataru whined, "we've been traveling all day! Let's stop to eat and rest first! Come on!"

Genma twitched, a vein popping up on his forehead. Then he lowered his eyes. "Ranma, would you assist your brother please?"

Ranma rolled his eyes. "Stupid old man... why can't you just do it yourself?"

Before Ataru could sneak away, Ranma had grabbed him by his shirt collar and lifted him up.

"You traitor!" Ataru accused.

"That would imply that I was on your side at some point," Ranma reminded him, and then hurled his brother into the training ground.

"Aiyah! Sir! What you doing?!" The guide yelled, gaping.

Genma adjusted his belt. "I like to call it 'parenting'."

"You would, wouldn't you?" Ranma muttered.

"AAAAAAAH!!" Ataru yelped as one of the springs rushed up at him, and he barreled headfirst toward the water.

In that split second, the young Saotome called up all his lessons, his training, his instruction in the art to help him. This was what he had trained for, what he had suffered for ever since he had left his home all those years ago...

And then he just as quickly threw it all out the window and opted for blind panic.

And so, Ataru grabbed one of the bamboo poles that were sticking out of the spring, barely stopping his fall before he wrapped his arms and legs around it, firmly securing himself a bare two feet above the water, and whatever rocks or animals might be below the surface.

"Hey Ataru," he heard Ranma say, "You're supposed to land on top of them!"

"Yeah right!" Ataru yelled back, "How the hell am I supposed to..." Ataru trailed off as he saw both his brother and father alighted upon bamboo poles, keeping their balance on one foot. "Show-offs."

Ranma smirked as Genma attacked, and jumped up in the air. "You're no match for me, old man!"

Unfortunately for Genma, Ranma was quite right. Trying to hit Ataru during sparring matches had led to extraordinary jumps in Ranma's natural agility, and after Genma had tried probing his son's defenses, he found himself flying toward one of the springs as Ranma jumped off of him.

Ranma chuckled to himself as Genma hit the surface of the water. "What's the matter Pop? We done already?"

"Good!" Ataru shouted, still hanging onto his bamboo pole, "let's get out of here and eat!"

Ranma rolled his eyes, and then returned his gaze to the disturbed spring as bubbles began to surface on the water.

*Goosh!* A huge, wet, furry panda broke the surface of the spring, and bounded up to land on one of the bamboo poles, seemingly ignorant of the distribution of mass it now presented.

Ranma gaped, and pointed at the beast, his hand shaking. "Wh... Wha... What is... It... It's wearing Pops' glasses and gi!" Indeed, the man's wire-frame glasses were hanging off its ear, yet another thing that the dumb animal hadn't realized.

Ataru's eyes widened. "Holy Raisinettes! That panda ate Pop! And my camera's still in my backpack! Damn it!"

The guide shook his head wearily. "Sir fall into Spring of Drowned Panda. Is very tragic story of panda who drown in cursed spring 1,500 year ago. Now, whoever fall in spring take body of panda. Is very cursed spring!"

"What?!" Ranma sputtered, "You didn't say anything about-UGH!!!"

Unfortunately for Ranma, Genma had purposefully shut out the guide's rambling so as not to distract him from the fight, as it was clearly distracting Ranma. That Ranma might have a good reason to listen to the man, or that the man was explaining why he feeling rather off-balance right now hadn't occurred to him at all.

And so, a fierce punch landed, and Ranma was sent flying off across the valley, eventually landing in a spring of his own.

Ataru gaped at what was happening, and gulped loudly as he realized that he could, for all he knew, be just a few feet away from becoming a dog or something.

Of course, after his brother hit the water, something else came to his attention. One that clearly superceded the crisis that his family was currently suffering.

'There's a girl around here!' All else was cleanly forgotten.

And thus, Ataru had absolutely no idea who the cute, busty redhead emerging from the water in a soaked training gi was. Of course, if he had given it two seconds' thought it would have been clear, but Ataru didn't exactly have a wonderful attention span.

Jumping off his bamboo support to land safely on the ground, Ataru immediately ran for the disturbed spring, zipping between the dangerous pools of water with skill and agility that one would never normally associate with the lazy, clumsy teenager.

Ranma, in a particular, was very surprised when she saw her brother suddenly shoot towards her and then dive toward the water, especially concerned as she was that she had been transformed into some manner of animal.

*Splash!*

"Bleagh! Ataru! What the hell are you doing?!" Ranma sputtered.

"Don't worry! I'll save you! Hang in there!" Ataru shouted fearlessly, grabbing Ranma around the waist.

"Save me from WHAT?! I'm on the edge of the spri-GYAH!!!" Ranma was then subjected to an EXTREMELY unpleasant sensation from a part of her body that she was not familiar with at all. "Don't touch me!!" *Slam!!* *Pow!* *Thwack!* *Bash!*

Genma, still in panda form as he watched from the edge of one of the springs, sweatdropped heavily along with the guide, who had walked up next to him.

Ranma drove a last fist into Ataru's gut, and then growled as she tossed the sorely beaten girl onto the ground surrounding the spring.

It wasn't until she got out of the water herself that she realized something was wrong, and took another long look at Ataru.

"Blue hair... rounded hips... BREASTS..." Ranma's left eye started to twitch quite badly, and being very careful not to look down at her own chest, she turned her head toward the guide. "What spring is this?"

The guide shook his head sadly. "This spring of drowned girl. Is very tragic legend of-"

A scream of outrage, fury, anger, and a lot of other synonyms for being mad erupted throughout the valley, sending birds, rabbits, and one panda in particular, scrambling for cover.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Ranma sighed heavily, sitting at the dining room table. "And so that's the story..." He grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. "Jeez... I haven't been able to sleep well since it happened. It's just so horrible, you can't even imagine..."

Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Being a girl?"

"No!" Ranma shouted, "Being felt up by my brother!" The entire Tendo family immediately facefaulted.

Ataru looked indignant. "Hey! Do you think I WANTED to touch YOU like that?"

A vein popped up on Ranma's forehead, and he slammed a fist on the table as he faced Ataru. "Well you sure ACTED like it back at Jusenkyou!"

"Hey, if I'd known it was YOU..."

Soun ignored the bickering teenagers in favor of Genma. "So, how exactly does this curse work?"

Genma scratched his chin in thought. "Well... how shall I explain this... I know!" Genma moved his hand as if to grab Ranma by the back of his shirt.

"Touch me and you die," Ranma said sharply.

Genma's hand stopped short, and he sweatdropped. "Riiiiight..." Then he grabbed Ataru by the back of his shirt instead.

"Hey! What're you-GWAAAAAA!!" *Goosh!* Ataru landed smack dab in the middle of the koi pond, and quickly surfaced, his hair now a dark shade of blue. "What the hell was that for?!"

Genma nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. "As you can see, the curse is activated-" *Splash*

Ranma lowered his water glass, smirking as the panda glared down at him, "-With cold water," he finished.

Soun suddenly appeared over his old friend, and quickly poured a stream of very hot water on him, converting him back to human.

"Yow! It needn't be quite THAT hot, Tendo!"

Ataru drudged inside, and wasn't paying attention when the boiling water hit him too. "Yowch! Hey! What's the deal?!"

Soun smiled. "And you change back as well." Soun clapped a hand on Ataru's shoulder, and then pushed him forward until he was positioned next to his brother. "Well then, your problems aren't so bad after all, are they?"

He pointed to Kasumi. "Kasumi, she's 19."

Then at Nabiki. "Nabiki, age 17."

And finally, he pointed to Akane. "And you've already met Akane, she's 16."

Soun clapped the other hand on Ranma's shoulder. "Just choose any one you want, and she'll be your new fiancee!"

"Yes! The moment of truth!" Ataru cheered. Ranma considered hitting him, but decided against it.

The Tendo girls all developed huge sweatdrops.

Nabiki gulped. Looking at the situation, she really would prefer to not be part of this at all. While they guy with the pigtail WAS seriously cute, and had the muscle to boot, he also turned into a girl, which was not the kind of thing she wanted in her knight in shining armor. The fact that the other one shared that affliction was coupled with the fact that he really wasn't very pleasant to look at, and seemed way too focused on their bodies as he looked over them.

Kasumi's thoughts mostly mirrored Nabiki's, but there was an added concern. As the oldest, it would fall to her to marry one of them if both of her younger sisters absolutely resisted the idea. She was also a little more concerned with the less superficial nature of the boys. While Ranma seemed to have some mature common sense and wit about him, he also seemed a bit bitter and cold. And while Ataru seemed very warm and friendly, he... well.... seemed VERY warm and friendly. And rather dull upstairs, too.

Needless to say, Akane's take on the whole matter wasn't so kind. Somewhere along the lines of "The first one to pick me gets a foot where the sun don't shine". All other considerations were considered extraneous.

Ranma felt a general sense of unease as the girls began sizing them up, and Soun waited patiently.

He turned toward Ataru. "This is your thing Ataru. Go for it."

Ataru grinned. "Yes!" Then he looked them over critically. "But which one should I choose...?"

Suddenly, he turned toward Soun. "Can I take more than one?"

Soun blinked. The three Tendo sisters blanched.

Nabiki took a chance and pushed Akane forward. "Oh, he definitely wants Akane!"

"What?" Akane shouted.

"Of course, it's perfect!" Kasumi agreed happily.

Ataru blinked. "I want Akane, eh? ......... Okay!" Then he launched himself forward.

*Thwack!!* Akane's haymaker smashed straight into Ataru's face, stopping the boy before he could tackle her.

"Keep your distance!" She growled, and then turned toward her sisters. "Why should I marry him?!"

Nabiki grinned. "Well, you hate boys, right?"

"Well, you're in luck!" Kasumi added, "He's half girl!"

Akane clenched her teeth. "Why would I want to marry a pervert like that?!"

Ranma chuckled. "Man, looks like she's got your number already, eh Ataru?" Then he felt Soun's hand on his shoulder. "What?"

Soun cleared his throat, gaining his daughters' attention. "Be that as it may, I'd actually much prefer if you'd both choose a fiancee."

Ranma's expression went perfectly neutral. "Excuse me?"

Soun nodded. "Though the goal is to unite the two schools of Anything-Goes, the actual agreement was for any of Genma's children to marry mine."

Genma blinked, and then rubbed his chin. "Ah, quite right, Tendo. I hadn't thought of that."

Nabiki and Kasumi's faces darkened.

"Oh my. Father, is this really necessary?"

"Great... well, at least this just leaves the cute one."

"Wait a minute!" Akane shouted, slamming her hands flat against the dining room table, "Don't think you can dismiss me! I refuse to go along with this! There's no way I'm going to marry some pervert!"

Ataru's eyes narrowed. "You have something AGAINST perverts? Huh?"

Akane blinked. "What?"

Suddenly, Ataru was right in front of her, his brown eyes bearing down on her. "Let me guess. You also hate lechers too, eh? No doubt."

"Er..." Akane wasn't exactly sure what to say; the conversation was quickly spiraling out of her control.

Ataru turned away, throwing his hands up in the air. "And next we'll hear of complaints of playboys and neurotics! You sicken me, Akane Tendo! You should be ashamed!"

Akane winced, and then, ever so slowly, lowered her head. "I... I'm sorry. I guess... I guess I was wrong..."

Ranma found a clock on the wall, and fixated on the second hand. "Three... two... one..."

Akane's head snapped up. "Hey! Wait a minute!"

The pigtailed boy shook his head sadly. "Mentally outmaneuvered by Ataru. OUCH."

Akane glared at the lecherous teenager as he chuckled. "Why you little..."

Ataru grinned. "Hey, it was just a joke!" Then he leaned in close to her. "Say, since we're getting married and all, why don't we get to KNOW each other tonight? Eh? Eh? What's with that glint in your eye? What are you-HEY!! Stop!! No!! You're choking meeeaaggh!"

Ranma watched as his brother tried to pry himself away from Akane's iron grip, and then turned toward Soun. "Look, seeing how I'll be obligated not to marry into your family if she kills my brother, let's make this decision pending, all right?"

Soun sweatdropped heavily. "All right. Sounds fair." Then he spoke a little louder, to Akane, "Akane, could you loosen your grip just a little bit? I don't think Ataru can breathe like that."

"I'm gonna hit you until candy comes out!" Akane screamed, holding the Saotome boy in a headlock.

"It's going to be one of those years, isn't it?" Nabiki wondered aloud.

"Somebody help meeeeeee!!"

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End Chapter 1