Monkey Head Butting!
m a davis/miko email@example.com
Characters are copyright Takahashi Rumiko, no infringement intended. This is a fan work only, not for profit.
"Oh! What's this?"
Kasumi set her laundry basket down on the grass and picked up the strange object lying at the edge of the stone path. She turned it over. It was a metal broach of some sort, of a dull grey metal, perhaps pewter. It was covered in dirt, but from what she could see of it, the front depicted a rather amuzing little monkey's face.
"How cute!" she exclaimed. "I wonder who's it is, and how it got here? I'll have to wash it off and see if I can't find out who it belongs to."
Slipping the broach into her apron pocket, she picked up the laundry and continued on her way, humming to herself.
"Ranma, hurry up! We're going to be late!"
Akane Tendo's voice carried up the stairwell. Ranma Saotome shoved his legs into loose pants of black silk and fumbled with the drawstring. *Damn her! Would it hurt her to wake me earlier?* he thought furiously. *It's not like I can help being a heavy sleeper! If she had to deal with pop's snoring, she'd be one too!*
Ranma grabbed his shoes and book bag and ducked into the hallway, legs pumping. He tugged his top into place as he nearly flew down the stairs. At the last second, he saw Kasumi come around the corner, a bundle of neatly folded clothes in hand.
"Look out!" Ranma yelled, too late. He saw her face coming at him, he felt a sharp crack against his head like a blow from Akane's mallet, and then there was darkness.
"You idiot!" Akane yelled. "How many times do you have to be told to be careful coming down those stairs? My sister could have been killed!"
"I'm all right," Kasumi said woozily, placing a hand to her forehead. There was going to be a knot there, she could tell. "It was just an accident, Akane. It's okay, really."
In the background father was crying in anguish, carrying on as if she were mortally injured. "Kasumi! My daughter! Poor Kasumi! Speak to your father!"
"I'm all right, father," Kasumi said. Her voice did seem a little odd...
"Let's put her on the couch," she heard Genma say. "Don't worry, Soun. She'll be alright in a minute or two."
"I'm all right, really..." she said again.
"Baka! You won't be if my father gets ahold of you," Akane said. She grabbed Kasumi's wrist and hauled her up to her feet. *Oh, she's so strong!* Kasumi thought, and then Akane was dragging her through the house, . "What's wrong with you? We don't have time for this! Honestly, you're so dense sometimes! If we don't hurry, we're going to be late! Now, come on, Ranma!"
"Akane?" Kasumi asked, confused.
"Don't worry, I've got your books and your lunch. Hurry up! We don't have all day you know!"
"Baka!" Akane shouted, and then she lunged out the door, yanking Kasumi off her feet, and flew through the front gate...
He was lying in the living room, a towel on his forehead. There was a futon under him, and a blanket pulled up over him. Soun Tendo was kneeling beside him, holding his hand.
"Thank the heavens you're awake!" Soun said. "Are you all right? How do you feel?"
"Mr. Tendo?" Ranma asked.
Soun's face fell as tears came to his eyes. "Wah! My own daughter doesn't remember me! Kasumi!" Ranma watched as the strange man got up and staggered about the room, wailing. Now what?
He remembered getting dressed, and running down the stairs... *Oh no! Is Kasumi all right? I hope I didn't kill her or nothing!*
Ranma's father was eating breakfast at the table nearby. Ranma sat up. "Pop?" Ranma asked. "What's up with Mr. Tendo? Is Kasumi okay?"
Slowly, his father stopped eating. His rice bowl hit the table with a clink.
"Yeah?" Ranma put his had to his head. "Oh man, my head hurts."
"Ranma? Is that really you, boy?"
"Of course it's me! Who the hell do you think it is?" Ranma pulled the blanket back, then looked down. He froze, and his eyes went wide.
"Pop? I'll probably regret asking this, but... why am I wearing a dress?"
Buildings and fences flashed by in a blur. Telephone poles and traffic signs appeared out of nowhere, then disappeared into the distance. As if she were on a carnival ride, Kasumi spun and twisted about, never actually colliding with any of the numerous objects that momentarily lept out at her. "Oh, my!" she exclaimed, flinching. "Oh my! Oh!..."
People stared as she flew past, and she was unable to do so much as greet them in her usual friendly manner. There, hadn't that blur been Mrs. Ishigawa, on her way to open up her store? And surely that blur was Mr. Ito, out for his morning jog. She'd been meaning to ask him if his poor dog had recovered after that trip to the vet... but she sped on, like a bullet train that could not stop or deviate from it's course.
Her feet never touched the ground. That was a good thing, because Kasumi didn't have shoes on. She knew that Akane was strong, but to carry Ranma like this... it really amazed her. Ranma was powerfully built; Kasumi would have trouble lifting the boy, let alone carrying him anywhere. But Akane flew along like it was nothing. And really, Kasumi reflected, it was actually kind of fun. This might be her only chance to experience it, since nobody in the household would ever dare drag Kasumi along behind them like this. Father would kill them if they so much as tried.
She was in Ranma's body, that much was self evident. Oblivious Kasumi might be, but blind she was not. She had no idea how or why, but she accepted it as one of the many weird occurances in her life. Ususally they happened to the others around her, but she was bound to get raked by the claws of fate once in a while. It came with being a martial artist, and while Kasumi had put her martial arts training behind her years ago, she was still surrounded by martial artists. She lived in a dojo, and was well aware of the weirdness that came with the territory (and if she wasn't, then there was always Mrs. Ishigawa and Mrs. Chino and others to remind her... constantly.)
Yes, Kasumi was the daughter of a martial artist. She'd seen weirdness before, and was prepared to deal with it. Father, and Ranma, and the rest would fix everything eventually. They always did. In the mean time, she would just have to suffer the inconvenience.
Her biggest concern was that she was being dragged to school, when there was so much to be done at home. Who was going to do the laundry? Who was going to make the beds, and dust, and vacuum? She hadn't even decided yet what they'd be having for dinner, or planned her trip to the market. And poor Ranma! What a horrible shock this must be for him!
As for being a boy, well... Kasumi wasn't sure how she felt about that. What did it entail, exactly? She wasn't sure she wanted to find out. And Ranma, of all people... if she were going to be a man, then why not father? Now she was engaged to her own sister, and then there were all those other girls to think about!
An old woman flashed by, tossing water onto the ground. Kasumi felt a cold splash on her face and side, soaking into her sleeve and the front of her shirt. There was a strange tingling all over, but especially centered in the chest and groin. It lasted for just a few seconds, then it was over.
Well, Kasumi thought, there's one thing I won't have to worry about immediately...
Ranma was a girl. That was nothing new, of course; although born male, she was often a girl. This time, however, it was different. Not only was she not just a female version of her male self, she was, in fact, someone else entirely. She was Kasumi Tendo, the oldest of the three Tendo sisters. At least, she was in Kasumi's body.
She was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the concept. Kasumi was nearly like a mother to her. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for the entire household, and never once complained about it. She seemed to enjoy it, in fact. She was sweet and innocent, a thousand times less devious than her sister Nabiki and a thousand times more feminine than her sister Akane. She was the last person Ranma would want this sort of thing to happen to, and the last person Ranma could imagine herself becoming.
One thing was for sure. A kettle of hot water wasn't going to get her out of this one. But on the bright side, she was apparently going to completely avoid that big economics test that she'd been dreading.
She looked up at her father and Mr. Tendo. They were, she supposed, both her father at the moment. Genma was her actual father -- the one who had raised her, at least as far as her mind was concerned. But at the moment, Soun was her physical father. Strange.
Her head still hurt.
"What have you done to my poor Kasumi?!?" Mr. Tendo wailed.
"I didn't do nothin'!" Ranma exclaimed, holding her head. Even to her, the phrase sounded weird, coming as it did in Kasumi's voice. "I mean... I really don't really know, Mr. Tendo," she said. "All I did was bump heads with her..."
"Kasumi!!! My Kasumi!!!!"
*Great,* Ranma thought to herself. Mr. Tendo had completely lost it.
Genma Saotome nodded gravely. "Of course! It all makes sense now!"
Ranma glanced up. "You got something to say, pop?"
"It's an ancient martial-arts technique," he said, "spoken of only in legend, and passed down from master to student since the dawn of China's first dynasty. It allows for the transmigration of souls from one body to another... the secret "Monkey Head-Butting" technique, a devestating attack for which there is no counter defense." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I can't tell you how many times I've seen that used to nuetralize an enemy..."
With practiced ease, Ranma careened a rice bowl off of her father's head. "Give me a break!" she yelled, and that, too, sounded strange in Kasumi's voice. "What kind of a stupid martial arts technique allows you to switch bodies with your enemy?"
"Only the most deadly technique ever developed," Genma said darkly, rubbing his head. "True, it's a move borne of desperation, but what better way to defeat an opponent of superior strength and speed, but to trade places with him?"
Soun stepped forward, and in his most serious voice, said, "Saotome, my friend, is this true? Do you know how to restore my daughter to her rightful body?"
"Don't listen to him, Mr. Tendo! He ain't never heard of no 'Monkey Head-Butting' technique! He's making it up!"
"Am I, boy?" Genma countered. "Perhaps you'd like a demonstration." He advanced on the woman who looked like Kasumi but spoke like his son. "After I bang heads with you, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about."
"Saotome, don't be foolish!" Soun grasped Genma's shoulder firmly. "That's my daughter's body you're talking about!"
"Ah man, I ain't butting heads with no one's body but my own," Ranma said.
- Without warning a giant demonic head that bore a passing resemblance to Soun Tendo lunged at Ranma. It's long tongue flicked in and out, the veins on it's red face bulged, and it's eyes burned like fires of hell. "YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BASH HEADS WITH MY KASUMI!!" the demon roared. "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!"
As quickly has it had appeared, the demon head was gone, leaving Mr. Tendo in it's place. He took one look at Ranma and burst into tears.
"Wah! Look what you've made me do! I'm yelling at my own daughter! Kasumi! Oh, Kasumi!!!!"
"Jeez," Ranma said under her breath. She put her head in her hands and looked at her father. "Okay, pop. How'm I supposed to get back to my own body without hurting Kasumi?"
"I told you," the redheaded girl said patiently. "I'm not Ranma, I'm Kasumi. Somehow, we've switched places."
Akane scowled. Ranma was being an especially big pain today. First he'd made them late, then he'd nearly killed her sister, and now this. "Jeez, Ranma, I know you hit your head a little hard this morning, but snap out of it!"
"Akane, I know it's a little hard to believe..."
"Hard to believe? Try impossible!"
"...but I'm telling you the truth. Why would I lie to you?"
"As if you need a reason to lie to me, Ranma! Of all the weird stories you've come up with..."
"Do you remember what mother was wearing the day she died?" the girl asked. Akane opened her mouth, but no sound came out. "It was her favorite dress, remember? The one with the blue trim? The... the one she was buried in?"
Akane's eyes went wide. "K... Kasumi?"
The girl, who looked every bit like Ranma, nodded solemnly.
"Oh my!" Akane said, "Kasumi, what are we going to do? We'd better head back home..."
"But you and Ranma are late for school," Kasumi said.
"Kasumi, school can wait! This is serious!"
"I don't want you missing any more school if you can help it. You've both already missed so much..."
Akane gritted her teeth. Hearing that tone of voice coming from Ranma was weird... but she knew her sister was right. "That's true... anyway, that stupid principal is only looking for another excuse to nail Ranma..."
"Akane! Pig-Tailed Girl!" A tall boy in a blue and black samurai outfit was running across the lawn. In one hand he clutched a bokken; in the other was a boquet of red roses wrapped in a ribbon.
Kasumi's face brightened. "Oh, look! It's one of Ranma's friends!"
Akane sighed, slipping into a defensive stance. "Kasumi, Ranma doesn't have any friends," she said.
Kuno headed for the red-haired pig-tailed girl first. Too late, Akane realized the implications of that... it wasn't Ranma by her side, but her sister Kasumi. She growled to herself and stepped forward, but Kuno had already glomped onto Kasumi, one hand placed prominently on her left breast. "Oh my pig-tailed goddess! Say that you'll date with me!"
There was a movement too fast for the eye to follow, and Kuno was flying through the air away from them. Akane blinked, staring at her sister. "Kasumi?" she asked.
Kasumi was staring at her fist in confusion. "Did I do that? I hurt Ranma's friend! Oh my!"
Akane rolled her eyes. It looked like it was going to be an especially long day...
With a resounding crack, the heads of the two martial artists came together.
Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo slumped to the floor, unconscious. Kasumi -- or at least, Ranma, in Kasumi's body -- sat nearby with a disgusted look on her face.
Several minutes passed, during which the only sounds were the tick of the clock, the soft tinkle of the wind chimes, and the occasional plop as a fish cleared the surface of the pond, then succombed to gravity again.
Finally Soun groaned, and then Genma sat up. He looked about, blinking, and shoved his glasses back onto his nose. "Did it work?" he asked. He jumped up and assumed a triumphant pose. "Do you see, boy? Here I am in Soun Tendo's body..." he glanced down. "Strange, I didn't think we'd exchange clothing as well..."
"Aw, man, for a moment I almost believed you..."
Ranma landed a punch that sent her father flying out into the yard. There was a loud splash, sending droplets of water raining down on the deck like hail. When the air cleared, a panda lay floating in the water.
Pain shot up Ranma's right arm, and she winced in pain and clutched her right arm to her chest. "Ow! That hurt, damn it!"
In and instant Soun was by his side, his arms around him, concern in his eyes. "Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Ranma said, pushing Soun away. "Geez, Mr. Tendo, don't be grabbing at me like that..."
Fountains of water gushed from Soun's eyes. "Wah! My own daughter has rejected me!"
"I'm not your daughter! Jeez, Mr. Tendo, get a grip!"
Like a dragonfly, Soun darted from overwhelming sorrow to complete seriousness with little warning. "This isn't your body, Ranma," he said in a steady voice. "You need to be careful with it. I don't want you causing damage to my daughter's body while you're in it."
"Well maybe we should think of a way to get me out of it," Ranma replied.
The panda lumbered out of the kitchen with a steaming kettle. He poured it over himself, and began to shrink.
"That's what we're working on, boy," Genma said. "After all, you can't marry Akane and take over the Tendo Dojo if you're Akane's own sister! Perhaps Tofu-Sensei will be able to help, or perhaps the master knows a way. Unfortunately the master's gone for the day, and we can't have you appearing before Tofu-Sensei in that body. For all we know the cure could take days or even weeks. Best to wait until this evening, when Akane and Kasumi return from school, and discuss it then."
"What? What am I supposed to do in the meantime?" Ranma asked. "I can't go to school like this!"
"No, I'm afraid you can't," Genma said. "The solution is obvious."
Soun nodded in agreement. "Until we figure a way to switch you two back, you'll just have to pretend to be each other. Kasumi will take your place, and you will take hers."
"What do you mean? Are you nuts? I can't be Kasumi!"
"That's true," Soun responded, "you can't. Nobody can be Kasumi, not really. Nobody could duplicate her perfection, her supreme serenity, her beauty and openness, her careful tending of the household, and her remarkable, upbeat personality. No one, and especially not you. No, Ranma, you can only hope to imitate her, in your own, crude way..."
"Okay, okay, I get the point!" Ranma yelled. "Sheesh! So how am I supposed to do that, exactly?"
"Well," Genma said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "You can start by washing the breakfast dishes, then going upstairs and making the beds. Then there's laundry to do, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scrubbing, moping, shopping, and cooking..."
"That's girl's work!"
"Have you looked in a mirror lately, boy?" Genma asked.
"No way, pop! I am not going to be your maid!"
"Is that how you think of our Kasumi?" Soun growled in warning.
"No, of course not!" Ranma suddenly grew silent. She held up her hands. "Look... I don't want to be... I'm not..."
Soun place a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry son, it's not permenant. Just until we find a way to reverse this situation."
"But... but... what about school?"
"Kasumi will take your place," Soun said.
"Look on the bright side, boy," Genma boomed out. "Your grades will be getting a huge boost!"
"Face facts, boy! You're hardly another Einstein. The only thing you've ever had going for you was the skill that I taught you, but with Kasumi's help, you might actually be able to graduate! She'll be doing you a favor!"
"Why you...!" Ranma lept to her feet, but just as quickly Soun was at her side, with his hands on her shoulders.
"Ranma, no! I forbid you to place our Kasumi's body in danger! As long as you are in this form, you will refrain from fighting!"
"I..." Ranma said, and then bowed her head. "Okay, Mr. Tendo. I promise. But," she said, looking up again, "I can't do all of that housewife stuff! I don't even know how. It's too much work, I'll mess it all up!"
"Kasumi does it every day," Soun said. "How difficult can it be?"
Genma nodded. "It may seem like a lot of work, boy, but compared to martial arts it's really quite easy. I've watched Kasumi do it every day for the last year, and there's really nothing to it."
"While you just sit there and eat and play shoji? Did you ever offer to help?"
"What? Foolish boy! That's woman's work!"
Ranma lept forward again, then stopped herself, remembering Soun's admonitions. Her face contorted in agony. A growling, gurgling sound emerged from her throat: "Aaaaaaaaarghghghgh."
Tears sprang to Soun Tendo's eyes. "Ranma, please! I can't bear to hear such noises coming from my daughter! Kasumi never sounds anything like that!"
"Kasumi doesn't have to put up with such abuse from my lame excuse for a father either!" Ranma growled.
"Never-the-less, you must school yourself. Think as Kasumi would think, act as Kasumi would act. How else can you expect others to believe that you are Kasumi, if you think and act like Ranma Saotome?"
"Oh man... you mean I not only gotta do all the woman's work around here, and do it without punching anyone out, but I gotta be nice to everyone? I gotta smile and act like nothing's wrong, that I don't really want to pound my father into a bloody pulp?"
Soun nodded gravely. "It wouldn't hurt if you sang to yourself too. Kasumi has a pleasant voice, you know."
Ranma slumped back to the floor, her head in her hands. "There's no way, Mr. Tendo. There's no way I can do all of that. Even if I manage to swallow my pride and anger and act like Kasumi, there's still no way I can do all of her work. I don't know what I'm doing... I'll need help."
"Don't fight us on this one, boy," Genma warned. "This situation is all your fault, after all."
"The boy does have a point, Genma," Soun said. "He's never done this before; he could use some help."
"Soun, are you suggesting that we..."
"I'm afraid so," Soun said. He breathed in deeply, and Ranma tensed. Could it actually be that his father and Mr. Tendo were going to prove useful for once?
"We..." Soun said, "that is, you and I, Genma, will have to swallow our pride..."
"...to put aside our manly, macho ways..." Genma added.
"...to bow to the inevitable," Soun said, "and... and... call Nadoka."
Ranma fell to the floor, stunned. Genma beamed. "My thoughts exactly, Tendo!" he exclaimed. "An excellent suggestion! If we do it right now, we may still have time to get in our usual games of shogi!"
"My, now wasn't that fun?"
Akane stared open-mouthed at her sister. "Kasumi? Hello? That was a mid-term test in Economics! I've been studying for it all week, and while I'm sure I did pretty good, nobody in this room would describe it as 'fun'! Are you feeling all right?"
Kasumi smiled sweetly. "Don't be silly, Akane! Those questions were really quite easy! It was hardly as difficult as trying to plan meals for seven on as limited a budget as I normally have! Are you sure you're not exaggerating just a little?"
A huge sweatdrop appeared at Akane's brow. "Uh... nevermind then, sis. You're really something else, you know that?" She looked her sister over... her sister, who, at the moment, was in Ranma's body. "You know, sis, Ranma doesn't usually attend class as a girl. Don't you think you should find hot water and change back? People might start thinking weird things about Ranma..." *As if they don't already,* she thought to herself.
Kasumi placed her hand to her cheek. "Oh, I thought about that, Akane, but I really don't think I'd feel comfortable... you don't really think Ranma will mind, do you? If I'm going to be in his body, I'd just as soon remain a girl for now..."
Akane nodded in sympathy. "That's okay, Kasumi," she said. "I guess Ranma would understand... I hope he'd understand. I can't really blame you."
"Oh good!" Kasumi smiled again. Akane was really having a hard time seeing that sweet, innocent, friendly smile on the face of her stupid, arrogant fiance. It just wasn't natural.
Kasumi stood up. "Oh, look!" she said. "Nabiki is talking to that poor boy I hit this morning! I should probably go over and apologize!"
"I don't think that's necessary..." Akane began, but by that point she was talking to empty air. "Well," she said to herself, "this day ought to be interesting, if nothing else..."
Kasumi was in the middle of her daily bargaining session with Kuno, and had just produced her latest selection of wares when the photos were yanked from her hand. She glanced over her shoulder to see Ranma staring at the photos, eyes wide.
"Ranma," Nabiki said, "this is a private transaction that doesn't concern you. So if you'd be so kind, please butt out."
"Oh, my!" Ranma exclaimed, putting her hand to her mouth. She glanced up, her eyes burning furiously. "Nabiki Tendo! If your mother knew you were selling photos of your own sister like this... why, I don't know what she'd do! She's probably turning over in her grave right now! Have you no shame?"
Nabiki opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again, speechless. That... that was absolutely the last thing she'd expected to hear Ranma say. What's more, it struck home. Ranma was absolutely right; her mother would almost certainly not approve. More than that, though, was the tone of voice, which sounded nothing like Ranma Saotome, and everything like another person in Nabiki's life...
"Pig-Tailed Girl! At last you've come to accept my offerings of love!"
Kuno started to get up. Nabiki slammed a book down over his head, and he slumped back into his chair. "Sorry, Kuno-baby," she said. "This is important."
"Nabiki? Are you listening to me?"
Nabiki's eyes narrowed as she turned back to the person who looked for all the world like Ranma Saotome. She'd been wondering all morning why he was still in his girl form, but now...
"Yes, Kasumi?" she asked.
"I want you to apologize to Akane right now!"
Nabiki nodded meekly, got up, and headed towards Akane, all under the watchful eyes of Ranma. But it wasn't Ranma after all, was it? Nabiki laughed softly to herself. This, she sensed, was a huge opportunity in the making.
"Man, I never knew cleaning a house could be so much work!" Ranma sat back, studying the newly-scrubbed floor. "What do I gotta do next?"
Nodoka smiled at her son... her son, who sometimes was her daughter, her son, who was currently in the body of Kasumi. It was a little hard to imagine, but since she'd been reunited with her husband and her son she'd begun to learn that being a martial artist meant all sorts of things she'd never initially considered. There were ancient curses, powerful spells and pressure-point lore, rivals and enemies, and all sorts of odd things to consider. Things like a spell or curse or technique that had somehow swapped Ranma and Kasumi's minds and souls.
There was a way to reverse it, she was certain, and it would be discovered, she would make sure of that. But, for the moment, her son had become the temporary caretaker of the Tendo household, and he needed her help. And, strange as the situation was, she was actually enjoying the chance to get a little closer to her son. She was even a little hopeful that it would last more than a day or two; there were many things that Ranma had yet to learn about being a man, things that his father had been unable to teach him, and she had been waiting for opportunities to fill in the gaps in her son's teaching. One such opportunity was now at hand, and with any luck, Ranma would come out of this situation a little wiser.
"Well," Nodoka said, "we've managed most of the morning chores. Now's a good time to plan lunch and dinner and then make a trip to the market for supplies. Lunch will have to be a little late, since we're a bit behind schedule; I came as soon as I could, but we got a late start and we've gone rather slow... then, in the afternoon, we can get to the laundry and the dusting, before we start preparing dinner..."
Ranma nodded tiredly. "Okay, mom. I'll be with you in just a minute." She headed down the hallway towards the toilet.
Soun rose up before Ranma, blocking his path.
"Son, where do you think you're going?" he said.
"Mr. Tendo? I just need to use the toilet..."
Soun shook his head. "I'm sorry, son, but I can't let you go in there. I must protect my daughter's body from those hands of yours."
"What the hell are you talking about, Mr. Tendo?" Ranma yelled. "These are Kasumi's hands! I'm in Kasumi's body, remember? Besides, I've been a girl before, right? And no matter what body I'm in, this is not something that I can simply put off! Now step aside!"
Soun's face fell. "I... I'm sorry, Ranma, I just... this is so hard for me to get used to..."
"Well that makes two of us. Maybe you could stop playing shogi long enough to figure a way to switch us back..."
Ranma shoved past Soun and into the restroom, slamming the door behind her.
"Get out of here, you pervert!"
"KIYAAAA! Hentai! Get out!"
Kasumi ran out of the restroom. Bars of soap followed her, bouncing off of her head. She winced, then spun about, realizing that a crowd had gathered, and that they were all staring at her.
Akane stepped out of the crowd, grabbed her by the elbow, and drug her around the corner. "Kasumi? Are you okay?"
"Akane, what did I do? I just wanted to use the facilities..."
"You're Ranma, remember? Even if you're in his girl-form, everyone here at school knows he's a guy! You can't just walk into the girl's toilet or the girl's locker!"
A troubled look passed over Kasumi's face. "I... I see. But Akane, I don't think I can face entering the boy's restroom! I'll die of embarassment!"
Akane sighed. "It's okay, sis. Look, remember when Ranma was trapped as a girl by Cologne and her cat-tongue pressure point? That lasted for more than a month, right? He couldn't use the guy's or the girl's toilets, and he couldn't change in either the guy's or the girl's locker rooms. He had to use the toilet in the nurse's station; it's private and there's a lock on the inside. I'll show you where it is. Okay?"
Kasumi nodded. "Thank goodness!" she exclaimed. "Thanks very much, Akane, I appreciate it. I guess I just never realized quite how complicated poor Ranma's life was."
"You have no idea," Akane muttered under her breath.
Passing by the stairwell, Nodoka bent down to pick up the object that had caught her eye. It was a metal broach of some sort, depicting a strange, comical monkey's head. It was very dirty.
*Where did this come from?* she wondered. *Who could have dropped such an odd piece of jewelry?*
She carried it into the kitchen, where Kasumi -- no, that was Ranma, she reminded herself -- was busy chopping vegetables. She went to the sink and washed the strange broach with soap and water. When she was satisfied that most of the dirt had been removed, she set it on the windowsill to dry.
*Eventually someone will come looking for it,* she thought. *Until then, it can rest here, out of the way.*
Doctor Tofu finished bandaging the cut on Kasumi's forehead, then sat back and eyed the results critically.
"You really ought to be more careful, Ranma," he said sternly. "Just because you're a highly trained martial artist is no reason to be careless. You can't be expected to dodge everything that comes your way, can you?"
"I... I guess not," Kasumi said. She glanced over to Akane, who was waiting patiently in the corner.
"Now, then," Doctor Tofu said. "I notice you're not yourself at the moment. Would you like me to heat up some water for you?"
"No, thank you," Kasumi said. "I think I'll be fine as a girl for now."
"Actually, Tofu-Sensei," Akane said, "we had a question for you."
"Have you ever heard of two people being able to switch bodies, either on accident or on purpose?"
Doctor Tofu frowned. "Why do you want to know?" he asked.
"Um... no reason in particular... we were just wondering about it, and thought you might know the answer."
Doctor Tofu nodded thoughtfully. "Well, there are several different legends that involve mind or soul transferance. I'd have to consult my books before I could give you any definate answers, but yes, I've read about such things before."
"Really? Do you... do you think you could look into it for us? We'd really like to know how it's done, and how to reverse it."
Doctor Tofu nodded. "Certainly, Akane, I can do that. But is there something you want to tell me? Someone who's in trouble, perhaps?"
"Perhaps," Akane said, "but it's best if we don't tell you the specific details just yet. okay?"
As Kasumi and Akane stepped out of the Doctor's office and headed up the street, Kasumi frowned. "Akane, what do you think is wrong with Tofu-Sensei? He's usually so funny, always clowning around. I've never seen him so serious before! I'm worried!"
Akane rolled her eyes. "Kasumi, sometimes I think you're the most dense person I've ever met."
"What do you mean by that, exactly?"
"I've told you before, Tofu-Sensei can be a very different person when you're not around."
Kasumi nodded. "I remember you saying that, although I was never sure I believed it. But I was right there!"
"No, you weren't. Ranma was right there. You're Ranma, remember?"
"Oh. I'd forgotten already."
"Tofu-Sensei doesn't 'clown around', as you put it, for Ranma or I. He only does that for you."
"How... how very odd," Kasumi said thoughtfully. "I wonder why that is? He must see something in me that he doesn't see in you or Ranma..."
"I'd certainly say so," Akane agreed. They walked on for a moment in silence.
"Maybe he thinks I need cheering up," Kasumi finally said. "Do you suppose that's it, Akane? Maybe I'm too serious around him. Maybe I don't smile enough."
Akane sighed as a huge sweatdrop appeared on her head. "I don't know, Kasumi, I... I guess that's one possibility..."
Ranma and Kasumi stood facing each other, with the entire household gathered around them. Dinner had not yet been set, but the two had decided that now was as good a time as any to try and end this strange turn of events.
"Father," Kasumi said, "I know you're trying to protect me, but really, it's all right. If bumping heads is the only way for Ranma and I to get back to our own bodies, then I'm quite willing to endure a lump on the head."
"But Kasumi!" her father pleaded, "Saotome and I have already tried it, and it didn't work! Please wait until we can consult with the master or see what Tofu-Sensei discovers!"
Kasumi shook her head. "Father, there's probably a reason why it didn't work with you and Mr. Saotome. Both of you are older, and both of you are male. Although young, Ranma is able to direct his ki in ways that neither of you can. On the other hand, I'm really not a martial artist at all, unlike the two of you. Don't you see? We don't know why, but it's already happened to Ranma and I once, so there's a chance it will work again. I'd just as soon go to sleep tonight back in my own body, if that's possible, so please don't argue with me, or scold Ranma. It's our decision to do this."
Ranma nodded in agreement. It was creeping her out, watching her body move and talk from a few feet away. She wanted to be back in her own body as quickly as possible, and out of Kasumi's body permenantly. Not that there was anything wrong with her body particularly... but after all, it belonged to Kasumi. People shouldn't be allowed to trade bodies like this -- it wasn't natural.
"I'm ready anytime you are, Kasumi," she said.
Kasumi nodded. "I'm ready too, Ranma. The sooner this is over, the better."
"Okay, then. Brace yourself."
"Wah! I can't bear to watch!" Soun cried as he fled from the room. The rest of the household... Akane, Nabiki, Genma, and also Nodoka -- held their breath.
Ranma stood with her feet apart, poised to attack. Kasumi stood with her feet together, eyes closed, hands folded in front of her. Ranma breathed in and out slowly, centering her ki. It wasn't easy to purposefully smash one's head into another's... your instinct was to flinch, or to pull back. But they'd hit each other pretty hard this morning, and Ranma was assuming that an equal force was needed to switch them back.
Finally, without warning, she lunged. Their heads came together with a resounding crack, and then there were stars, and darkness.
When Ranma opened her eyes, Soun and Akane were leaning over her with concern on their faces.
"Did it work?" she asked.
"Kasumi?" Soun said, grabbing her hand, and Ranma's heart sank. "Is that you, Kasumi?"
"No, Mr. Tendo..." Ranma said, "I'm not Kasumi..."