Author's Notes: Okay, this'll probably be the last chapter in this story arc. I needed it mostly to set up the later ones. Don't worry, they'll be longer.
I had trouble trying to come up with wacky situations that haven't been done in some form to go along with Ranma's new condition. In the end, I just said, "screw it." After all, anything I come up with has most likely been done somewhere by someone at one point or another. The odds of me reading it or people reading this story reading it are small. So if you've seen something you've seen before, chalk it up to that.
Also, if something in this chapter (or later in the story) is very similar to something in the manga, there are three simple explanations for that: 1) I thought it was funny, so I used it. Remember, this story breaks off from the manga at an undetermined point so a lot that happened in canon didn't happen here (yet!). 2) I forgot. Honestly, I can't remember every single little thing from a 38-volume manga. In fact, I'm sure a couple of the "great ideas" I've had that came seemingly from nowhere were inspired subconsciously by Takahashi's work. Hehe. 3) I haven't read it yet. It's true; I have yet to finish the entire series, even though I know the end. It's my secret shame.
The preceding explanation holds true for any similarities with the anime, as well.
THE TRUTH ABOUT…EVERYTHING
The rest of the trip home was made without incident, and upon their arrival Ranma decided he would isolate himself for the remainder of the afternoon to avoid any other human contact. After all, Akane was the only one who knew about the wish and knew not to ask him certain things. Telling anyone else would be incredibly stupid. His father and Tendou-ojiisan would undoubtedly try to get him to confess something, and telling Nabiki was too ridiculous to even think about.
And so it was that Ranma raced off to the dojo after an extremely rushed "hello," leaving Akane to come up with an explanation for his behavior.
"What's wrong with Ranma-kun, Akane-chan?" Kasumi asked as Akane entered the kitchen.
"Eh? Oh, nothing's wrong," she answered nervously. "Ranma just said how he wanted to do some serious training this afternoon."
"Well good for him!" Kasumi smiled sweetly.
"Yes, good," said Genma, who had appeared out of nowhere and was sampling some of the riceballs Kasumi was making. "I'm glad he's showing some initiative for once." His mouth was full of rice as he spoke. "Perhaps I should go and check up on him and see how his training has progressed." He stuffed another riceball into his mouth.
"Ah…" Akane stammered. "Ojiisan, I don't think that…"
"Nonsense," Genma said. "As his father I must monitor his training very closely, especially if he is to inherit the Saotome school. If you'll excuse me, Kasumi-chan." He bowed to Kasumi as he swiped another riceball for the road.
"Ranma…" Akane whispered worriedly before rushing off after the older martial artist.
"Oh my," Kasumi declared. "I appear not to have made as many riceballs as I thought."
Akane arrived in time to see Ranma and his father leaping through the air in a sparring match. They appeared to be speaking to each other, which probably wasn't a good sign.
"Akane!" Ranma called as soon as he noticed her. It was clearly a cry for help. What he and Saotome-ojiisan had been discussing she didn't know, but it was obviously something Ranma didn't care to continue. What should she do?
"So what happened after Mousse attacked you?" Genma was asking, either oblivious or indifferent to her presence.
"I fought him and beat him, and was coming home when Kodachi jumped me and drugged me," Ranma said. All the while he was looking to Akane with panicked eyes.
"I see," Ojiisan said as he parried an attack and countered with one of his own. "Trouble, that girl. Then what?"
"Ucchan found us and saved me somehow, but then she dragged me back to her restaurant instead of letting me come home." His eyes were growing more and more desperate. As soon as this story was over, the more awkward questions would come.
"I see. So you finally managed to escape, and decided to use that Ryouga as a distraction to keep Akane's ire off of yourself. An excellent tactic." Ranma landed a solid kick in the older man's gut that sent him sprawling across the dojo.
"I didn't do that, you gutless old man!" Ranma yelled at his father, panic temporarily replaced by indignation. "Akane didn't deserve to find out like that!"
A smile found its way to Akane's lips even as she came up with a plan. Ranma sometimes kept a bucket of cold water in the dojo so he could train his female half's speed. If it was here…
Looking around, she saw it a few feet to her right. Going over to pick it up, she chucked its contents at her fiancé before he or his father could yell anything else.
"Oi!" Ranma yelled, spinning around on her. "What'd you do that for, Akane?" Amused that he'd forgotten he was begging for help mere seconds ago, she dropped into a fighting stance.
"Spar with me, Ranma," she said. He was confused, and he showed it.
"What are you talkin' about?" the now redheaded girl asked. "You're still in your uniform and everything!"
She cursed him under her breath. "At least help me out a bit here, you dolt!" she screamed in her head.
"I think the two of you having a sparring match would be an excellent idea," Genma said, getting up from the floor.
"Feh. You just don't want to get pummeled anymore," Akane thought.
"Feh. You just don't want to get pummeled anymore," Ranma spat tauntingly. Akane couldn't suppress her giggle.
"Well, in any case," Genma said, trying to regain face, "Ranma is right, Akane. You should at least change into a gi first. Why don't we schedule a match for ten minutes from now? That will give everyone time to come in and watch." Akane sweatdropped. If ever a plan backfired, this was it.
"Um, okay, Ojiisan." Genma nodded and left, presumably to gather the rest of the family.
"What did you do that for?" Ranma demanded. "Now everyone is gonna be in here!"
Akane had the tact to look sheepish. "Gomen! I was trying to get your dad to leave you alone!"
"Well now I have to fight you in front of everyone and not say anything. This stinks."
Akane couldn't help herself. "Ranma, why do you never want to spar with me?"
"Because I'm afraid I'll hurt you," came his immediate reply. This hadn't been quite what she was expecting, and she didn't know whether to feel touched or irritated. She went for the latter.
"What, you think I can't handle myself in a fight? That I'm no match for you?"
The bluntness of the answer was such that Akane actually felt as if she'd been struck. She didn't know what she'd been expecting to say, but it wasn't that. In the heat of the argument she'd forgotten about the wish, and she was caught completely off-guard.
Ranma seemed to realize what he'd said a few seconds after he'd said it, because he immediately started to apologize. He tried to, anyway.
"Akane! I didn't mean it like that! I mean…well, you're a girl, and I don't like fighting girls because they're weaker, and not that you're weak…but well…you're weaker than me…and it's not my fault that your training was incomplete, and well..." he cut off as he finally realized he wasn't getting anywhere. Akane had been seething through the whole thing, and now she was practically boiling.
"RanMA!" She rushed at him in her rage, completely forgetting she was still in her uniform, which had been the reason for putting off the fight in the first place.
"Yaa!" Ranma dodged a punch. "Akane, hold on a minute!" He dodged a kick and another punch. "You were supposed to change into a gi first!" He ducked back as a kick came at his head, and then flipped backward to get out of her range.
"You jerk!" she yelled back at him. "And here I was trying to help you, too!"
"Then why did you start asking me questions? You knew what would happen!"
"Asking questions can only turn out bad if the truth is bad, Ranma. Do you really have so many secrets and think so badly about people that we can't ask you anything?"
He had to take a pause at that one. Was he really incapable of uttering the truth without hurting someone? He didn't think so, but then why did Akane's words sting so much?
"It's not about everything!" he shot back. "You just take everything the wrong way!"
"Oh yeah? How?" She was still yelling, but at least she wasn't in a fighting stance anymore.
"Well, like me saying you're not as strong as I am. That's true, isn't it?"
"But what? It's not even my fault! I trained every day since I was six. I'm stronger than most people. Why does that make you so mad?"
"Well you don't have to just come right out and say it!"
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Well thanks to you, I don't really have a choice, do I?"
That seemed to be enough to end the argument, because Akane didn't shout anything back.
"I didn't mean to make you mad, Akane," he said once he was sure she calmed down. "But that really is the reason I don't like fighting you. If I go all out I could hurt you, and if I don't you'll get mad at me for holding back. I don't want to hurt you and I don't want to make you mad. So what am I supposed to do?"
Akane could not say anything. Instead, she looked at the boy-turned-girl in front of her in a state of almost disbelief. He was right, and for the first time in a long time she really knew he was right. She didn't have any time to reflect on it further, because Genma returned with her family, all of them looking forward to watching the match between her and Ranma. Nabiki had brought her video camera and everything, and had a devilish smirk on her face. She was suddenly reminded of how angry she was at her father and Saotome-ojiisan because of what they'd been doing with Ryouga behind her back. But there wasn't time for that now. Ranma was still in a pickle and loathe as she was to admit it, it was kind of her fault.
"Saotome tells us that you have challenged Ranma to a sparring match, Akane," her father said. "Good for you. It will be a good way to prepare for when the two of you inherit the school, and t may help you bond as well. I'm proud of you."
"Make it good, ne?" Nabiki added, waving her video camera. "The tape of this match will fetch a good price."
"Akane-chan, I thought you were going to change first," Genma said. "After all, it is not befitting a young lady to fight in a school uniform."
"Indeed," her father agreed. "And it may slow you down as well."
"That's my fault," Ranma spoke up. "I said some stuff I shouldn't have said and we had a fight when she was supposed to be changin'."
"Oh?" Soun looked menacingly at Ranma.
"It's okay, Tousan," Akane said. "We're fine now." She smiled. Ranma gave her a puzzled look and she smiled at him as well.
"Well that's fine, then," Soun said. "But you should go get changed now. Kasumi has to make dinner, after all."
"Actually, we aren't going to fight," Akane said. Everyone – including Ranma – looked at her as if she'd grown a second head.
"Ranma's much stronger than I am, and faster," she explained. "There's no point in me fighting him until I've trained some more to catch up."
Ranma stood dumbfounded. Had she said what he thought she said? It was so unlike Akane that it was almost…creepy. Not that he was complaining.
"It's a shame to hear that, Akane-chan," Genma said. "But knowing one's own limitations is admirable. Perhaps we should up her training, ne, Tendou-kun?"
"It may be for the best," Soun agreed, seemingly reluctantly. "We need them to be able to bond, after all."
"Excellent! Maybe we can get the master to help as well."
"Erm, Saotome-kun, I don't think that's a good idea. You …remember the master's training methods, don't you? And you know how he is with young women."
"That's right, that's right," Genma nodded. "Very well, you and I will train Akane together. Ranma, be sure to train on your own even if I am not around."
"You don't help much anymore anyway, Pops," Ranma said under his breath. His father apparently didn't hear him, but he had a feeling that Akane did.
"Well, if nothing's happening around here, I have things to do," Nabiki announced as she turned to leave.
"Yes, I must be going as well," Kasumi said. "I have to begin preparations for dinner. It will be at the usual time." She followed her sister out of the dojo.
"We'll leave you two alone now," Genma said. "Akane, we will work out a training regimen for you and begin you on it as soon as it is prepared." He and Soun also left, leaving Ranma and Akane alone in the dojo once more. Now was the time for Ranma to ask the question he was dying to ask.
"Why did you tell them that?" he asked her. "I would have sparred with you now, you know."
"I know, but you would have held back and you know it."
"Well yeah, because I…"
"Don't want to hurt me," she finished his sentence for him. "Yeah, I know." She smiled at him.
"What are you smiling about?" he asked, confused. "Weren't you mad about this just a few minutes ago?"
"Well, I can't say it makes me angry that you don't want to hurt me," she said. "I don't know. I guess I'm just upset that I'm not as good at you is all."
"Whoa. Did someone put a truth wish on you, too?"
"Very funny." She narrowed her eyes at him. "What I mean is that it's frustrating. And when you say you won't fight me, it feels like you're rubbing it in."
"I know. This wish might have been a good thing after all. I'm finding out things that make it so I won't have to be angry at you as much."
"Heh. It seems to be having the opposite effect on everyone else."
"Just your bad luck, ne?" She grinned at him.
"Still, if it has a positive result with anyone, I'm glad it's you." He blushed immediately after saying that and tried to avoid her eyes. She caught his gaze for a moment, however, and her grin morphed into a warm smile.
Ranma made it through the next couple of hours with minimal incident, training by himself in the dojo. According to Akane, she'd made the wish some time around eight o'clock in the evening, so he only had a few more left to go. If nothing happened…
His thought process was interrupted by a resounding crash that shook the dojo. Even if he hadn't known what it was right away, what came next certainly gave it away.
"Airen!" Shampoo came bursting through the hole she'd made in the wall and made a beeline to glomp him.
"Ranma? What was that?" Akane came bursting into the dojo, though she also probably knew what it was right away. "Shampoo!" She exclaimed when she caught sight of the Amazon.
"What violent girl want? Leave Shampoo and Airen alone!" the violet-tressed destroyer demanded.
"I might consider it if you weren't the one bursting onto my family property!" Akane shot back. Ranma rolled his eyes. The exchange was so typical he had a feeling he could recite the rest of it verbatim.
"Hmph! Shampoo only come for what is rightfully hers!" Then she turned in Ranma's direction. "Airen, why you run away from Shampoo yesterday?"
"I didn't. Mousse came and you left," he answered simply.
"You right! That troublesome Mousse always mess things up between Shampoo and her Airen!" She stomped her foot to emphasize her displeasure.
"He only does to you what you do to me all the time," Ranma observed. This seemed to make Shampoo angry.
"Not compare Shampoo to Mousse! Shampoo chase her Airen because she loves him, and because law says she must marry him!"
"Well I don't want to marry you!" Ranma yelled harshly. He heard Akane gasp and remembered the enchantment he was under. He'd better finish this quickly, because annoying as she was, he had no particular desire to make Shampoo cry again.
Akane worked hard to contain…whatever it was. Surprise? That might have been it. Ranma had just told Shampoo that he didn't want to marry her, and there was no possible she could doubt him. It suddenly occurred to her that she always did doubt him whenever he said that, though she couldn't quite think why. Maybe it was because he always let Shampoo hang all over him like a hussy. She narrowed her eyes. Yes, that was probably it. But here he was, incapable of uttering anything untrue, saying he did not want to marry the Amazon princess.
Of course Shampoo didn't know any of this, so she just reacted as she always did.
"You no have choice! Amazon law say you have to marry Shampoo. You grow to like over time, Shampoo promise." She grinned.
"Well Amazon law is stupid," Ranma spat. Akane couldn't suppress her giggle. Shampoo spun toward her angrily.
"Violent girl not laugh! This none of your business!"
"She's laughing because she knows I'm telling the truth," Ranma said. Unlike all the other times he'd said things he normally wouldn't have, he was smirking. Shampoo spun back to him again.
"Shampoo not come here to fight with Airen. Only wanted to know why you ran off yesterday. I go now, but we talk later." The last part was said as a threat. She turned and stormed off through the hole she'd made in the wall.
"Do I need to stay here in case anyone else we know stops by before the wish is over?" Akane asked mockingly.
"That would really help," came Ranma's answer. Akane's eyes widened for a moment, but she stayed.
A few hours later and Ranma was almost in the clear. Since they didn't know exactly what time the wish had been made, only "around eight o'clock," they weren't sure when it would wear off. They knew it would be gone by quarter past, since that was the time Ranma got home and she'd most certainly made the wish by then. (Akane had asked if anyone knew when Ranma had returned the night before, and Nabiki knew because of what she'd been watching on the television at the time.)
So that was what they were waiting for. Ranma would train, and Akane would watch and occasionally get up to train with him, only to be corrected rather candidly, which irritated her to such a degree that she had to sit down again or risk losing her temper. She was fighting very hard not to do that, since while some of the things Ranma said were more annoying than usual since she knew they were true, she felt guilty for making the wish in the first place. So she sat and watched, trying very hard to avoid any conversation that might make her angry. It was a new experience, to say the least.
About an hour after Shampoo's departure, Kasumi announced dinner. Ranma didn't want to go, and Akane made up an excuse for him and then brought him back some food later. Their fathers, at least, were thrilled that they were spending so much time together all of a sudden, and weren't bothering them. Nabiki, however, was highly suspicious. She had peeked in on them twice, but saw nothing out of the ordinary going on, which of course only fueled her curiosity.
On her third try, Nabiki struck what she thought just be pay dirt. Ranma was apparently taking a break from training, and he and Akane were just sitting down and talking. She knew they did this from time to time, but after spending all day together – especially after everything that had happened the day before – was undeniably dubious behavior.
"Well hello, you two," she greeted casually as she entered the dojo and strolled over to them.
"Nabiki!" Ranma shouted in alarm. Alarm that Akane appeared to share. Fishy indeed.
"What do you want, Neesan?" Akane asked warily.
"Oh, I was just wondering why Ranma here has holed himself away in the dojo all day," she said.
"Because I can't lie," Ranma said. She hadn't been expecting that.
"What? That doesn't make any sense."
"He means he can't lie about why we're in here," Akane added quickly – too quickly. "Father and Saotome-ojiisan are starting up a training regimen for me, and Ranma's trying to prepare me for what I may have to do."
"Is that it?" She directed her question specifically at Ranma, who shook his head. "What is it, then?"
"It's just what I said. Akane made a wish yesterday that I couldn't tell a lie, and it came true. I'm hiding in here so I don't say anything I wouldn't want to say."
Tendou Nabiki was a master of masking her emotions. No one could tell what she was really thinking unless she wanted them too. In this instance, however, even she could not keep the look of pure glee that crossed her face. Christmas had come early this year for Tendou Nabiki.
"Is that so?" she asked as mock-sweetly as she could. "How fascinating. How do you know it works?"
"Because I can't stop myself from saying something, even if I want to say something else."
This just kept getting better.
"Oh really? Is that how you let slip about P-chan last night?"
"Neesan, that's enough!" Akane had jumped to her feet and was now staring angrily at her sister. "You leave him alone!"
"Why would I want to do that?" Nabiki laughed. "Besides, aren't you the one who wished for him to be like this? What room do you have to talk?" She sidestepped her little sister and moved in on her prey. "I just have a few questions, and then I'll be on my way."
"Feh! What makes you think I'll stick around and answer them?" Ranma countered. He glared right back at her with a cocky expression on his face. "All I have to do is leave through that hole Shampoo made and you won't be able to catch up with me."
"That's true," Nabiki admitted. "But then I just might have to inform the whole school that your rumor today about Akane sleeping with Ryouga without knowing it was true, and you did nothing to stop it."
Behind her, Akane gasped. "You wouldn't!"
"How could you do that to your own sister?" Ranma demanded furiously.
"It would damage you a lot more than it would damage her, I assure you. There is a chance I'm not that heartless, true, but do you really want to leave and find out?"
A moment passed in which nothing was said, and Ranma glanced over at Akane, who looked like she didn't know what to do.
"Fine. Ask your stupid questions."
"Ranma, no! Just run away! She can't really do anything, she's just trying to trick you!"
"But what if she's not? It's my fault that rumor got out in the first place, and it's my fault for not exposing Ryouga to you sooner. I'm not going to let her do that to you. Even if she is just bluffing, I can't take the chance."
"Excellent!" Nabiki explained happily. "Now, where to start. I need some information that I can use, but the trick is asking the right questions. Even the truth can be manipulated if the question is asked incorrectly." She put her finger to her chin as Ranma and Akane looked on in disbelief.
"Ah!" She said suddenly. "I know just where to start. Ranma, did you enjoy it when that Sanzenin guy kissed you when you were in female form?"
"Are you kidding? I hated it! What kind of sick question is that?" Ranma shouted indignantly.
"Just checking, just checking," Nabiki said, holding out her hands in front of her. "It was a long shot, but you have to admit that information would have been worth a lot if it were true.
"Just hurry up and leave me alone," Ranma grumbled.
"Anxious now, are we?" Nabiki teased. "Well, we'll get to the good stuff any minute." She paused to think again. "Okay, here we go. Have you ever pleasured yourself while in your female form?"
"A…couple of times," Ranma stuttered.
"Ranma, you pervert!" Akane screeched.
"Like that thought would never cross your mind if you changed sexes!" Ranma shouted back. Akane hung her head and blushed a little, saying no more.
"Only a couple?" Nabiki pressed. "I'm impressed. I would think a guy would get addicted."
"How can you talk about things like that so casually?" Ranma and Akane demanded simultaneously, incredulous.
"Now now, let's not get upset. That last bit of information wasn't really worth anything anyway, I was just curious. As I said, I'd expect most guys to do it nonstop if they ever got the opportunity."
"Would you change the subject already!" The two of them shouted again.
"All right, all right," she said, waving her hand dismissively. "Have you ever betrayed a promise to someone, Ranma?"
"Ryouga," Ranma said.
"Well, I already knew that. No one else?" Ranma shook his head.
"Hmph. This isn't working out at all," Nabiki lamented. "You have to have some secrets that I can use."
"I killed someone for interrogating me once," Ranma said suddenly. Nabiki snapped to attention and looked him in the eyes. They were wider than usual.
"In China. They were interrogating me about Jusenkyo, and after a while I just kind of snapped into neko-ken. When I came out, I found out the man who'd been interrogating me was dead, and he had scratch marks all over him. They said it was from a giant cat of some kind."
"You-you can't be serious," Nabiki stammered. Akane too, looked horror-struck, but said nothing.
"Absolutely. I hate being asked a bunch of questions. Especially ones I don't want to answer." His eyes opened a little wider, and she heard his knuckles crack. Blackmail material or not, it was time to go.
"Well, I've got just about everything I'm going to get, I think," she said as calmly as she could. It took all her skill to keep her voice from shaking. "I'll go now." She turned and practically ran out of the dojo.
As soon as Nabiki was gone, Ranma burst out laughing. Akane didn't see what on earth was so funny. She was terrified. Ranma, who noticed this after a minute, turned to her and said, "Look at your watch, Akane."
She did. It said the time was 8:02.
"What does this mean?" she asked. "Is the wish over?"
"Uh-huh." He grinned. "What, you didn't think I'd ever actually kill somebody, did you?"
"You did?" his face went from amused to hurt. "C'mon, Akane, I thought you knew me better than that."
"Well I do…but the wish…"
"I was counting on Nabiki falling for it, but not you," he said matter-of-factly.
"Oh," was all she could say.
"Well, anyway, it's over. She'll be mad when she finds out I tricked her, though. Heh heh."
"How did you know the wish was over?" Akane asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"My answer to the last question," he said. "I only said Ryouga, but there was another person I should have said."
"What?" Akane was confused now.
"Last night, I promised I'd be back for dinner. Even if it wasn't on purpose, the promise was still broken, and I should have mentioned it if I had to tell the truth about everything. But I didn't." He grinned triumphantly, apparently very proud of his own cleverness.
"Good one," Akane congratulated him. "But wait, are you saying those are the only two promises you've ever broken in your whole life?"
"No, but those are the only two I can remember," he said, scratching the back of his head.
Akane sweatdropped. "I should have known."
"Hey, if it was something major like promising to return a family treasure or something, I'd remember. Don't go thinking I never keep my promises or anything."
"Okay, okay." Akane thought for a minute. "You know, now that this is all over, I should be mad at you for not telling me about Ryouga before."
"What?" Ranma exclaimed. "Didn't we go through all this last night?"
Akane stuck her tongue out at him, revealing that she was joking.
"That wasn't funny at all."
"Really? I thought it was." She grinned at him.
"You're such an uncute tomboy."
But instead of insulting him back like she always did, Akane laughed. It was a very mirthful laugh, too. Ranma didn't understand until he remembered their conversation earlier in the tree. His face fell.
"That's never going to work again, is it?" She shook her head with that annoying grin still spread across her face. He growled.
"Well, let's get out of here," he finally said. "I've been training all day and I need to go take a bath."
"All right," she agreed. "And we have homework, too."
"You would have known about it if you hadn't spent all day in the hallway holding buckets."
They exited the dojo and walked the path to the house. They had almost arrived when Akane spoke again, though now she sounded hesitant.
"Ranma, have you really…as a girl…?"
"Akane?" he cut her off.
"Can we never talk about that again?"
She nodded meekly, and the two of them entered their home after a very long day.
Cripes. Well that took about fifteen times longer than I meant it to. Several re-writes coupled with severe laziness is to blame for the seemingly infinite delay on this chapter. One wonders whether anyone out there will even read this anymore.
Anyway, there is a lot less comedy in this chapter than I had originally planned. This is due to many things, but one of the main things is that it was hard to prevent Ranma from giving away things I didn't want him to give away yet. Also, some of the humor seemed repetitive to me, which in my opinion diminishes its potency. These are the reasons for the many re-writes I mentioned above. Hopefully the next part won't take nearly as long. I don't think it will, as I've procured for myself a laptop, which does nothing but word processing. It is without the constantly present temptations of games and the internet that I am able to get any work done at all. Indeed, it is why I was able to churn out this final version of chapter three in only two days after working on it in bits and pieces all along, and not working on it at all for over three months.
Lastly, thanks to my prereader, SJR, for making sure everything makes sense. He always does it right away too, so I never have to wait like the rest of you guys.
Happy holidays, everybody.