Title: A trip to self
Author name: Trugeta
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ as well as many others. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Note further that I don't own any of the trademarks mentioned in this story. So suing is senseless.
This story focuses on Ranma and Kasumi and is set after Volume 38 of the Manga. It's an AU and Reviews are welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 5: A cursed Tendo! And Ranma's true power!
It was still a beautiful day outside. The mild sun of the spring was warming the afternoon air, birds were twittering and one could feel the spring literally in the air. Beautiful indeed, if one could enjoy it.
The current attendees of the Tendo Dojo could and would definitely not. They were still numb with shock from what had transpired in the last few minutes. Nodoka Saotome had declared the engagement between her son (at the moment daughter, to be exact) Ranma and Akane Tendo and as null and void. And that with just reason.
Reason for this had been Akane's behaviour during another 'Amazon incident'. Naturally Akane blamed anyone but herself, and thus she had attacked Shampoo, utilising a casket Kasumi had found in the cellar and planning to make a catfur-rug out of the Amazon once doused.
Shampoo, being no push-over, had deflected the casket right back to the source using her bonbori, but Akane had been able to duck. Not so Kasumi, who had been hit by the casket in the head, which's contents had spilled over her. Naturally and par for the course for Nerima the contents of the casket had been anything but normal water. After all, Nerima did not do normal.
Soun Tendo was, surprisingly, one of the first to recover. He took one look at Kasumi, and promptly employed his demon-head technique. But unlike former times, not Ranma was the recipient, for the whole incident was not Ranma's fault at all. No, this time it was directed solely at Akane. "AKANE TENDO, YOU WILL GO UP INTO YOUR ROOM AND STAY THERE UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME! I WILL DECIDE YOUR PUNISHMENT LATER! AND DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE YOUR ROOM EXCEPT FOR THE USE OF THE BATHROOM! NOW GET MOVING!" the Tendo patriarch bellowed.
Akane had progressively cringed back from her demon-headed father during his speech. She had never seen him angry enough at her to use the demon-head on her. Breaking out into a torrent of tears that could compare to fountain-sama any time, the youngest Tendo ran up the stairs as if hell itself was breathing down her neck. The next sound that could be heard was the slam of a door. And then… silence. Except for ragged breathing.
Ranma, still in female form, was the first one to approach Kasumi. Only that he hardly looked like Kasumi. Kasumis' face had taken on much more angular planes and his arms (at the shoulders) and waist had split the seams of the dress Kasumi was wearing. Nodoka approached him with a hastily prepared cold washcloth and laid it onto Kasumi-otokos forehead. The coldness of the wet washcloth was enough to revive Kasumi, and the first thing he exclaimed after he had sat up was an "Oh my!"
Kasumi's usual exclamation of surprise had everyone present cringing, for his voice had come out in a rich baritone. Fact that made Kasumi-otoko ¹ ready to faint, but Ranma was there and she quickly held him in a comforting hug. Nodokas' brow did a Spock-manoeuvre at the sight. Ranma was meanwhile flustering calming and soothing words into Kasumis' ears, and it seemed to help. Until...
"WAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! My daughter is now my son! WAAAHHHHH!" fountain-sama exclaimed, and Kasumi-otoko began to shake once more.
Ranma, who was hugging Kasumi-otoko even tighter now, was annoyed. "You're not helping, Mr. Tendo."
Shampoo had shaken herself out of her stupor too. "Shampoo know!" the Amazon exclaimed. "Will go and fetch Hibachan. Be back soon, yes?"
Everyone present nodded. "Thanks, Shampoo." Ranma exclaimed, gratefulness visible in her eyes.
Shampoo grinned at her Airen, mounted her bike and sped off. Inwardly she shuddered and she was very glad that what had happened to the nice girl Kasumi had not happened to her. Imagine an Amazon warrior turning into a male. Gruesome!
Ranma on her part was still occupied with tending to Kasumi. And to the surprise of everyone present (including herself, would she be asked later) she was handling the task very well. "Kasumi, do you feel strong enough to sit down on a chair?"
Kasumi-otoko, who did not trust his voice, simply nodded. With the help of Ranma and her considerable strength Kasumi was brought out of the sitting into a standing position. His balance was very off due to the altered balance point, and Ranma had to help him to keep standing.
It was not as bad as it had been for Ranma back then when she suddenly had had a lot of added weight in her chest which had screwed her balance totally. She still remembered with embarrassment how often she had landed flat on her face the first few days. But still, it was different for Kasumi-otoko and he would have to get used to it.
Ranma still helped him to remain standing, and it was visible that he was thankful for her support. Now everyone could see Kasumi-otoko clearly for the first time. Nabiki had to suppress the urge to whistle. Her 'brother' was a hunk!
He had considerably grown in height and was now easily towering over Mr. Tendo. Kasumi-otoko had not grown too much in muscle-mass as to make him look bulky, but the training Kasumi still did to keep in form clearly showed in her male form, as he was trim and athletically built. His new muscles quivered as he ascertained his new body; slowly, disbelievingly he was noticing that the curves that had existed mere minutes before had disappeared.
Kasumis' eyes, however, did not really look at himself. Anywhere but. The reality was just too much at the moment, and looking at himself would only have made it definite. Kasumi Tendo now had a curse. And a guy-curse to boot. He also slowly noticed the body parts which were now different, and it made him ready to faint again.
Ranma on her part knew exactly what Kasumi was going through. She had gone through the same thing, only in reverse. Stepping in front of Kasumi-otoko Ranma looked him directly into the eyes. "Kasumi, please look at me."she said softly but ordaining.
Slowly, the words registered, and Kasumi looked down into Ranmas blue orbs. "Ranma... I... I..." he began, and reached with his hands towards his throat, as if he could make the baritone disappear in this way.
The pigtailed girl smiled at him, and care and thinly veiled worry were obviously in her eyes. "Kasumi, now please calm down and breathe deeply. You can do that for me, ne?" she mocked playfully.
Ranma had obviously pushed the right button, and Kasumis' breathing slowly returned to normal. He had overcome the shock, but now realisation would come to Kasumi. Like a 40-ton hammer. "Ranma... I... I am... a guy. But... but I... can't be a guy!" he exclaimed.
Nodoka and Nabiki cringed. Of all the girls it could have happened to, sweet Kasumi was the one who was hit the hardest by it. But Ranma kept her cool. "Why not? Hey, I was born a guy and I turn into a girl. Big deal. It's not the end of the world. Besides, you're not butt-ugly, rather the opposite. If I were into guys I would be tempted."she said with a smile.
What Ranma had said brought a weak smile to Kasumi-otokos lips. She was right. It was not the end of the world, but still a lot to take in. Ranma smiled once more at Kasumi-otoko and embraced him in a comforting hug. She knew that the cursed Tendo needed comfort now (comfort she surely had not gotten from her idiot father after she had been cursed), and she was more than glad to repay Kasumi for all the help that the now cursed Tendo had given her in the past months. And slowly Kasumi-otoko seemed to relax.
However, multiple sweatdrops had ensued because of the statement Ranma had made. Genma was about to angrily shout something, but Nodoka silenced him with a glare that was as sharp as her katana. This was too important and no time for his misogynistic crap. And Ranma was correct. Kasumi-otoko was very handsome. But another thing confused most attendees.
Had Ranma really meant what she had said? Had she accepted the curse or had she just said it to calm Kasumi down? Now that would be interesting to know. But at the moment other matters were more pressing.
Nodoka smiled at Kasumi. "My child is right, Kasumi. It is hard to accept, but it is not the end of the world. So, now I will heat you a kettle of water and we will return you to normal. How does that sound?"
Kasumi managed a weak smile. "It... it sounds good, Auntie." he said with a firmer voice. Meanwhile Ranma was leading him carefully over to a chair where she helped the new curse victim to sit down.
Nodoka nodded and did as she had said. Meanwhile Soun had calmed down enough to see things more clearly. The engagement between Akane and Ranma had been dissolved, rightfully at that, and his oldest daughter had been cursed. It was a day to wail.
But unlike usually (and moments before) Soun Tendo refrained from giving in to his tears. Kasumi had been the backbone of the family ever since his wife had died, and now he had to be strong for his children, especially for Kasumi. He had been weak for far too long, that he realised now.
Besides, maybe things could be resolved. Granted, it was clear that Nodoka would never approve of Akane as Ranma's wife now, not after the disrespectful and outrageous behaviour she had shown, but who knew, maybe Kasumi would be… 'No,' Soun interrupted this thought before it could fully form, 'I made this mistake with Akane. The constant pressure Genma and I put onto the children has led to this disaster. And all this because of the joining of the schools. Is this really so important as to destroy the happiness of my children? What good has the joining of the schools done Akane? A fat lot! My baby daughter has become a violent and uncontrollable girl. And Kasumi? She has now a curse because of it! And I promised Himiko on her deathbed that our children would be happy, something my past activities for the schools has surely not achieved. No, Kasumi shall decide of her own free will if she is interested in Ranma. Although I think she might be. And who knows, maybe the schools will be joined much easier without the constant pressure from us…' the Tendo patriarch thought with a twinkle in his eyes.
His resolve grew. This time there would be no switching of the engagement just yet, first Soun would observe Ranma and Kasumi and learn if feelings of love could blossom between the two. For from observing how those two acted around each other it was at least obvious that they liked each other. No, he would not interfere this time. He now knew that he had made a mistake with his youngest daughter when he had pushed her into the engagement with Ranma, and he had underestimated her stubbornness regarding the refusal of the engagement.
Now, in hindsight he realised that with what had happened to Akane at school it might not have been his wisest move to engage Ranma and Akane. Maybe it would have been the best solution to engage none of his daughters to Ranma for a year or so, a year, during which his daughters could have come to know Ranma as a person, not as an iinazuke. But now it was too late, and Soun Tendo really hoped that things would work out between Ranma and Kasumi. From his side there would be no pressure this time, and he vowed to put his foot down should his old friend Genma tried anything.
In the meantime Ranma had realised something. Back then when she had changed into a girl for the first time it had not been so bad for her as she had worn boxers at this time, which were not that incompatible with the female gender.
But for Kasumi, who had changed from a woman into a man, it was a completely different matter. The pigtailed girl suspected that form-fitting panties did not really sit that well with a guy… "Uhh, Kasumi, do you feel strong enough to go upstairs?" she asked as cautiously as possible.
"Why that, Ranma?" Soun asked. "Should my daughter, err, son not recover properly first?"
The pigtailed girl blushed. There was obviously no way to avoid that specific explanation. "Umm, Mr. Tendo, as a female yer daughter wears panties, right?" Soun nodded, and Ranma continued. "And 'em things are very form-fitting. But right now Kasumi ain't a girl. See the problem?"
It took some seconds to make click, but suddenly everyone understood. "Oh yes," Nabiki said, her voice showing sympathy, "now that must be really uncomfortable, 'bro'."
Kasumi-otoko blushed and nodded. In reality it was more than just uncomfortable. It was pure hell! Now he knew why Ranma had never worn any panties, even when she had been a girl for a longer period of time. Changing into a guy while wearing panties was definitely not recommendable. "Yes, Ranma, I do feel strong enough. Thank you." he said, getting up.
Once more Ranma was at his side in a flash and helped him to keep his balance, and from there she helped him up the stairs. Nodoka noticed this and smiled silently to herself.
Ranma held Kasumi-otoko by the hand in order to give him enough support. And due to her phenomenal strength that was no problem at all. Kasumi-otokos' balance was still off, but the pigtailed girl also noticed that he did not seem to mind the physical contact at all. Unlike Akane.
The cursed Saotome youth had begun to notice a lot of things about Kasumi, things she had begun to notice over the course of the last three months. Aside from the fact that the present physical contact they shared felt good. She had soon come to see that the real Kasumi was hiding behind a mask. The mask of the pleasant and oblivious housewife.
Ranma knew that Kasumi possessed great medical knowledge, was a good listener and apparently very intelligent, but she had obviously put aside her true self in order to function for her family. But Ranma had gotten glimpses on the real Kasumi in these last months too, and what she had seen had been much to her liking.
To herself she had to admit that she had begun to develop feelings other than what one would feel for a friend for Kasumi over these months. After all, Kasumi had tended to her wounds time and time again, had always had an open ear for her troubles and problems and had always had a smile on her lips for her when she had needed one. In a few simple words: Kasumi had cared for her where Akane had not.
Kasumi had been a person Ranma could trust, could confide in, and she had realised over the past three months that Kasumi trusted her likewise. It had also made so much fun to learn with her, and throughout the last three months she had always looked forward to their tutoring sessions.
And during these Ranma had slowly begun to develop more than just friendly feelings for Kasumi. She had found out that she liked Kasumi. But in order to give Akane and herself a chance to make their relationship work she had suppressed these feelings as much as possible.
Now that was not necessary any more, and Ranma would see where those feelings would lead her. But this time, she vowed, nobody would interfere. Least of all her idiotic father. She would find a way to eliminate the outside influences as much as possible. There was no need for a repeat performance of what she had gone through with Akane.
The cursed martial artist knew that a relationship, even that of friends who might become more, was a frail thing. And in the presence of her idiot father, who'd only exerted mindless pressure on her and Akane in order to 'unite the schools' there would be no chance in hell to come to know the real Kasumi like she wanted. No, the outside influences had to be eliminated. And she'd ask her mother for help. After all, her mother had had some good ideas in the past.
Kasumi-otoko was also hanging to his own thoughts, now that he had recovered somewhat. The way Ranma was holding his hand gave him silent and strong support and made him eternally grateful towards the pigtailed martial artist. At the moment she was like a rock for him, and the renewed physical contact to the presently female Ranma simply felt good.
That they were holding hands was quite an achievement for Ranma in and on itself, for Ranma had all along been ill-conditioned by her younger sister that physical contact led to clobberings and insults. The fact that they were holding hands now (even if it was only meant to support him) showed a high level of trust. Which made Kasumi-otoko happy. Maybe he really had a chance at Ranma.
Seconds later they stopped at the guestroom door, and Ranma motioned for Kasumi-otoko to enter. The cursed Tendo did, and a moment later he stood in the room, waiting for what Ranma would do now.
The cursed martial artist walked towards her cupboard and opened it, then she extracted a bundle of boxers out of it. "Kasumi, from now on you'll need these. In private, I know how uncomfortable it is to change into a guy while wearing panties. It happened to me one time when I had to wear a disguise, and it was pure hell. Now that you change into a guy you'll have no other choice but to wear these. Sorry 'bout this."
The cursed Tendo managed a weak smile. "It is not your fault, Ranma. Far from it. I rather want to thank you for your help. Without it I would not have known how to handle this situation. Thank you for that." he said and embraced a surprised Ranma in a hug.
Said Ranma was only surprised for a second, then she rather enjoyed the hug. It felt really good to be embraced in a shared hug, not in something that was totally one-sided like those stupid Amazon glomps. No, to something like this she could get used to.
Seconds later the cursed individuals separated from each other, and Ranma smiled at Kasumi-otoko. "You're welcome, Kasumi. I know how hard it is to get used to the curse, and after all you have done in the past months for me it is the least I can do for you. Know what, I'll do my utmost to help you. This I promise."
Now Kasumi-otoko managed a real smile. "Thank you, Ranma. That really means a lot. Now… could you turn around so I can get rid of these stupid panties? They constrict me like hell!"
Ranma nearly keeled over in shock. Kasumi had sworn? "Uuh… sure." she said and turned around. "B… but I could have sworn that I heard you swear!"
Kasumi-otoko grinned while ridding himself of the now unfitting piece of cloth. "Must be the hormones of my new body." he answered.
The pigtailed girl nodded. "Probably…"
Seconds later Kasumi-otoko had finished the clothing procedure and breathed a sigh of relief. "That is much better. Now I know why guys do wear these." he exclaimed.
Ranma turned around and grinned. "A lot more freedom down there, eh?"
The cursed Tendo blushed for a moment, and then nodded. "There's no other way to word it."
Ranma nodded. Then she suddenly snapped her fingers as an idea hit her. "Kasumi, we can't have you running around in a nearly destroyed dress while you're a guy. Here, take these." she said and handed Kasumi a spare pair of her Chinese clothing.
Kasumi-otoko took the pants and the t-shirt, and nodded to himself. He could see the logic. Once he would change back into a she these clothes would still fit. "Thank you again, Ranma." he said with a smile, which then changed into a smirk. "But now you have to turn around once more."
The pigtailed girl laughed. "That ain't no problem." she said smiling and did just that. 'Although you don't have anything I haven't seen before.' she thought smiling.
And a minute later Kasumi-otoko was clothed in his new attire, and then the cursed individuals left the room, grinning about their shared knowledge as to why it was way better for victims of the Nannichuan and Nyannichuan to wear boxers.
The others had busied themselves with getting used to the new situation. Nodoka had made preparations to heat the water and was heating up some additional water for tea, Soun was still smouldering at the actions of his youngest daughter, and Nabiki was contemplating how she could keep what had happened a secret. There was no way she'd make a profit with the knowledge that her sister had received a curse. Even if she could, she never would have wanted to.
That the engagement between her little sister and Ranma had been dissolved was another matter. Out of this information she'd extract as much profit as possible, and this time she'd share the profits with Ranma. After all, the Saotome youth had proven to be much more than she had originally thought him to be, and Nabiki doubted that even she could have given Kasumi only half the moral support Ranma had given her or rather him. Heck, these damn gender-pronouns made her head hurt. Stupid genderging curses.
Some moments later both cursed individuals came downstairs again, and Ranma was again holding Kasumi-otokos hand to give him the proper support. She also helped him to sit down again, and then she sat down beside Kasumi-otoko herself.Nodoka, who was still standing at the stove, had watched this with interest.
As had Nabiki, who actually smiled at her sister-turned-brother. "And, feeling better now, bro? Nice style of clothes, by the way." she said, and her smile changed into a smirk.
Kasumi-otoko smiled back. "Thanks to Ranma's help, yes. And I wouldn't have thought it, but those clothes are really comfortable." he said, and directed a thankful smile at Ranma.
The middle Tendo daughter smirked to herself. 'Says the sister-turned-brother who never wore anything else but a dress.' thought Nabiki with a smirk. 'Hmm, I'd say some things are about to change around here, and maybe for the better.'
Genma, who had been thinking along the lines of Soun's first thought of uniting the schools by transferring the engagement, was seeing the silver lining again at this sight. His plans of retirement had received a severe beating when Nodoka had decided to call the engagement off.
Now things started to look up again. If only they could hitch Ranma together with Kasumi. They even had matching curses now, which he had realised was not such a bad thing. It would be perfect, and his retirement would be ensured! But for the time being he would postpone his plan; things had to settle down somewhat first, and not even he was as improvident as to proclaim a new engagement at present.
Nabiki for her part, always the curious one, had now gotten up from her place in the sitting-room after the chaos of the last few minutes had alleviated somewhat. She wanted to know if this casket really was what she thought it was. Why wait until Shampoo had fetched Cologne?
The mercenary girl got down to one knee where the incident had happened and picked the casket up, careful not to spill anything in case it still contained the cursed fluid. It was quite clear from what had happened that it had contained Nannichuan-water, so much was obvious from the state her sister-turned-brother was in, but it was still open if it was permanent or instant water.
Nabiki studied the casket carefully. It had remained largely intact and the Chinese symbols were still readable. Mentally congratulating herself that she had learned Chinese after the arrival of Cologne, the mercenary girl was able to read the symbols.
What she read, however, confirmed her worst fears. This was water from the Spring of Drowned Man, and it was indeed quite permanent, as the symbols said. The others, even Nodoka, who was heating up the water, must have noticed her expression change. 'Damn, I slipped.' she thought and put her cool Ice-queen exterior back up once more.
Then she turned to her sister-turned-brother. She hated to be the bearer of bad news, unless she was paid for it, of course, but Kasumi would soon find out anyhow. At the latest with Cologne's arrival. "Sis, or rather bro, I had the hope that it would only be Instant Nannichuan water. But the label is quite distinct. It is permanent Nannichuan and has been sent by the Jusenkyo guide himself. Sorry, Kasumi."
This made it really final to Kasumi. She (or rather he at the moment) was now permanently cursed to become a man when splashed with cold water. Thanks to Ranma's support Kasumi had somewhat accepted the reality of being cursed now, but despite that he was nearly ready to erupt into a fresh bout of tears. For now he had the knowledge that it was forever, else they found a cure. But how successful had Ranma been in the past? Sadly, not at all.
Ranma, who was kneeling besides the sitting Kasumi hugged him from the side to give him support in his time of need. In the past Kasumi had always been there for her, and now she would be there for the newly cursed Tendo.
And moments later with the help of Ranma, who had flustered calming and soothing words to Kasumi the newest curse victim had calmed down somewhat and gave Ranma a weak, but thankful smile. Meanwhile the kettle with warm water was ready, and Nodoka stood behind Kasumi and Ranma.
Ranma looked at Kasumi-otoko with obvious care in her eyes. "Kasumi, the change will come very fast. You'll sense a strange tingling sensation all over your body, but it does not hurt at all. Ready?" she asked.
Kasumi-otoko nodded, and Ranma helped him to get up from the chair. The cursed Tendo was now a bit surer of his footing, but still held on Ranma for support. The pigtailed girl smiled reassuringly at him and Ranma gave her mother the sign to upend the kettle over their heads.
The cursed Tendo concentrated on the change, and Ranma had been right. It did not hurt at all, but she could feel the shifting of organs and bones very clearly. She also felt herself filling out her Chinese pants in the right way once more.
As soon as the change was complete, Kasumi hugged Ranma-otoko and sobbed unrestrained into his chest. The oldest Tendo daughter did not care how that looked, she simply wanted to be comforted. And Ranma, even surprising himself, was more than ready to comfort Kasumi.
The pigtailed martial artist softly stroked and patted Kasumis' back, and Nodoka could not help herself, she had to smile at the sight. The anger she had still felt towards Akane had evaporated at the sight. 'What a nice couple those two make. And not only because of their matching clothes...' the Saotome matriarch thought.
Nabiki noticed it too, as did all the others, but the middle Tendo daughter had more pressing matters to attend to. With a calculating look she locked eyes with her father. The Tendo patriarch gulped. He knew that look. "Dad," she said in her sweetest voice, as in as sweet as a sledge hammer, "how come that the Nannichuan casket that should have been a wedding present to Ranma was hidden in the cellar? I mean, come on, it is now quite clear that the water jiji drank at the wedding was just that, normal water. Why did you exchange the caskets and why was it hidden in the cellar? Talk!"
Soun sighed. "I had my reasons. At first I wanted to have something up my sleeve in case Ranma did not want to marry Akane and join the schools, but then I found out a bitter truth about Jusenkyo."
"Ahh," came an old voice from the door, "so you found out, Tendo Soun." the withered old matriarch of the Joketsuzoku said.
"Hello, old ghoul." Ranma greeted, still comforting Kasumi, who was still leaning into his shoulder.
"Son-in-law." Cologne greeted back and pogoed into the room. She was followed by Shampoo and Mousse. "My great-granddaughter told me what has transpired here. Show me the casket." she said, and Nabiki, who had been examining it, handed it to her.
Cologne studied the casket intently, and after a while she nodded. "This is indeed authentic water from the Spring of Drowned Man and quite permanent, I might add. According to this," she pointed at the label, "sent by the Jusenkyo guide himself. Hmm, it seems I will have to have a talk with him once I return to China."
"Why is that, old ghoul?" Ranma asked.
"Ranma, watch your language!" Kasumi, who had meanwhile recovered, scolded from her position within the hug. A position which was noticed by Cologne and met with a raised brow on her part. Her great-granddaughter, who knew what a caring person her Airen was, thought nothing of it.
"Sorry, Kasumi. So why is that, Elder Cologne?" Ranma asked, directing a sheepish smile at Kasumi while he enjoyed the proximity of her body.
This exchange was followed with great interest, and in Colognes' head the mental gears began grinding. If what Shampoo had told her was true, and she had no reason to doubt her great-granddaughters' word, the engagement between Ranma and Akane had been dissolved. Permanently.
Now it seemed as if another player had entered the field, it seemed. 'Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but my instincts have never wronged me. The oldest Tendo daughter might be serious competition for my Xian-Pu. And with her we can't proceed the way we have with Tendo Akane. For making Tendo Kasumi jealous won't work. No, Xian-Pu will have to win son-in-law the normal way. Even though I suspect that my great-granddaughter 'helped' Tendo Akane losing the engagement. I'll have to check my spice-rack later.' Cologne mused.
Ever since the Matriarch had gained knowledge of what had happened at Jusendo she had had her doubts that Xian-Pu would be able to win Ranma over at all. The young warrior had stated repeatedly that he did not want to marry her great-granddaughter, and truth be told, she saw the chances of Xian-Pu dwindling. If Ranma was indeed as strong as Xian-Pu and Mu-Tzu had claimed, and she had no reason to doubt them, it might very well be impossible to win Ranma over as an Airen for Shampoo.
Thus she was already working in private on a way to preserve the honour of her great-granddaughter and to bring Ranma into the tribe without a marriage between Xian-Pu and Ranma. And slowly her plan began to assume shape. For it was unthinkable of what would happen if someone like Ranma, who did his Japanese name indeed honour in that regard that he was as untameable as his name suggested, was to be brought into the village by force. Which would be a feat in and on itself.
Not that Cologne had even considered this option, but two newly elected idiotic Elders had. Baka arrogant younglings. They were idiotic Elders indeed, who had seen Ranma only as a breeding stock, as an inferior male who had to be chained down, and not as the amazing individual Cologne had come to know the Saotome youth. But their behaviour had soon been corrected, and Cologne could be sure that there would be no rash actions on the Chinese Amazons' part.
For even the most optimistic calculations had estimated that the village and the tribe would be destroyed and wiped off the map five seconds after Ranma would have had regained consciousness. And he would only be of value for the tribe when conscious. Drugs, herbs and other, similar methods would not work, as Ranma had proven to be mysteriously immune against most means they had used in the past. And the other, stronger means had too disadvantageous side effects to be of any use.
And as it was completely useless to use the strength sapping moxibustion on Ranma due to his enormous ki-reserves and his phenomenal speed, Cologne was working on alternate plans which would involve a solution with which both sides could live. And that well at that. She still called him her son-in-law, but that was more to keep the façade. Plus she knew that it annoyed the Saotome youth. And after all, an old woman had to have some sports left in her old days.
But Xian-Pu did not know of her plans, and that was good so. "It seems that the guide was feeling mischievous when he sent the casket here. The magic of the Springs is inherently chaotic, so only the Kami knew what would happen when he send the casket here. It is quite clear that his intent was not to give you a cure, son-in-law. Maybe it was the influence of the combined Springs magic that made him do it, but the Nannichuan is no cure for you. Can you guess why?"
Ranma thought for a moment before giving up. Meanwhile Kasumi had recovered enough and helped herself to some tea with the hot water that was left over on the stove. "Umm... can you give me a clue?" Ranma asked hopefully.
Cologne cackled. "Of course, son-in-law." she said and paused to grin. Which was not a particularly nice sight. "Remember what happened to Pantyhose Taro?" she asked.
Ranma nodded. "But what has that got to do with..."
The Elder interrupted, while the other attendees listened with rapt attention. "What does he turn into, son-in-law?"
That was easy. "A flying Minotaur." Ranma answered promptly.
Cologne nodded. "But what happened to him when he splashed himself with water from the Pool of Drowned Giant Octopus? He did not turn into an Octopus. Rather his cursed form gained tentacles with the ability to spray ink. Why?"
Slowly it began to dawn on Ranma. "Because... because the curses don't replace each other. They...", the blood drained from his face, "Holy Kami-sama on a bike! They mix!" he exclaimed.
The Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku nodded sagely. Ranma really did have a mind if you could just get him to use it. "Got it in one. Now you know why you should never get near permanent Nannichuan water. The curses would mix, and you'd turn into a Hermaphrodite. Not an enviable fate in my book. This is also the reason, why you, Miss Tendo," she looked at Kasumi, "should never come near permanent Nyannichuan water. Sad as it is, but there are no cures for Jusenkyo curses. Jusenkyo holds its victims in an iron, unbreakable grip. And that to the end of the victims life."
"WHAT!" exclaimed Genma. Okay, he had accepted his curse for a long time now, but he had to keep his façade. If he showed that he had accepted his curse, his son might have the harebrained idea to accept his curse too. And then he'd become a weak little girl. A flower-loving sissy! Kami forbid!
Ranma did not want to accept what Cologne had said. "You lie! You must! There's gotta be a cure!" he exclaimed at the same time as his father had made his exclamation.
Hmm, obviously Ranma had not really accepted the curse completely. And true, secretly Ranma had still not given up the hope that somewhere a miracle cure existed. But to be true to himself, it was at best a dream. If what Cologne said was true...
Cologne shook her head sadly. "Son-in-law, we have lived near Jusenkyo ever since our founding days. We must know. There is no cure. Cures for Jusenkyo curses are a myth. Son-in-law, I have no reason to lie to you. What would I gain by doing so? If there was a cure and I had it or knew of it, do you think I would hesitate to give it to you in exchange for your marriage to Shampoo?"
The cursed martial artist visibly deflated. "No. No, you're right. If you had a cure or even knew of one, I'd be married to Shampoo already. Sorry, I overreacted." he mumbled. Now it was Kasumis' turn to hug Ranma, and the pigtailed martial artist let himself be hugged all too gladly.
Nodoka, who had followed this exchange with rapt attention, did not look as downcast as one would have expected as she locked eyes with Cologne. "Elder Cologne, are there really no cures for Jusenkyo curses? I admit that I have somewhat gotten used to the fact that my child changes genders, but it would have been more to my liking if Ranma could have been restored to the way he was born."
The Elder smiled sadly at Ranma's mother. "Saotome-san, I swear on my honour as the Head Elder and Leader of the Council of the Joketsuzoku that there is no cure for Jusenkyo curses on the planet. And such a vow is sacred. We from the Joketsuzoku have searched the whole world for over 3000 years and we have found no cure. Our resources are considerable, and we turned every stone on this world at least ten times. There is no cure, and the only choice Ranma has is to accept the curse. Your child will forever be both, Saotome-san, both a man and a woman."
The Saotome matriarch nodded. She had had a feeling that what Cologne had told them really was true. Call it feminine intuition or the gift to read people. Nodoka Saotome was now really convinced that Cologne was telling the truth. What would she have to gain by lying to them? She had said it herself. If there had been a cure or even the knowledge of one her child would probably have been an Amazon by now. No, the Elder was telling the truth.
Which meant that she, Nodoka Saotome, had to accept the curse of her child. She'd have to accept that Ranma was as much her daughter as her son. But that was not so difficult any more, not after the talks she had had with Kasumi in the past months. So her child would be a woman for half of the time for the rest of his/her life.
In former times she would have had a severe problem with this, but not so any more. She had finally understood what manliness really meant. In her childs' case it meant that Ranma should not aspire to be a man among men any more, which was inherently impossible due to the curse, but rather try to become a gentle person. But she would tell her child all this later. "I understand, Elder Cologne." she said and fell silent, obviously deep in thought.
Ranma, who had watched this exchange with great interest, turned to Mr. Tendo. "Is that why you exchanged the casket before the wedding? Did you know?" she asked.
Soun nodded sadly. "The master told me before the wedding. He found out the hard way that the curses mix when he baptised Taro after his birth in one of the springs. He informed himself about Taros' curse and found out that it was an already mixed curse Taro had received. The master said that the Nannichuan water should never, under any circumstances come near you, Ranma. What would happen to you would be worse than the Nyannichuan curse, he said. And he is right. Thus I hid the casket in the cellar in a place where I was sure no one would find it to dispose of it at a later time. Sadly I never did, and now it is too late. Sorry, my daughter."
Kasumi smiled at him sadly and released the hug she had shared with Ranma to hug her father. "It was not your fault, dad. Had Akane kept her temper none of this would have happened. But I will have to accept that the curse was Kami-samas will. As the Elder said, there is no use in fighting it as I will have it forever."
At this her father looked up. His daughter had spoken like a fighter, like the fiery girl she had once been before the death of her mother. Not like the docile housewife she had become after the death of his Himiko. And now he was sure that she'd manage. Most probably with the help of Ranma, as things looked.
Said pigtailed martial artist for his part had shuddered and nodded at the explanation he had received from Soun. The vision of him becoming... that was entirely too direful. That was a fate he did not even wish his worst enemy. "Thanks, Mr. Tendo." Ranma said and meant it. Then realisation came to him. "So that means that we," he pointed at Kasumi and himself, "will have those curses for the rest of our lives. I will always be a half-girl." he mused. "And you will always be a half-man." he added as an afterthought and hugged Kasumi anew.
Genma bristled. "My son is no weak little girl!" he exclaimed. Whereupon all women present glared poison-tipped daggers at him.
SHING. Nodoka drew her katana, and Genma eeped. "Husband, I think it is high time that you accept the curse of our child. I do now. And you know of it a much longer time than I. Maybe it is time..."
Nodoka had no time to finish. Ranma had released Kasumi from the hug and had upended a glass of water over his head, turning into a girl. Now she had had enough! "I... AM... NOT... WEAK! OYAJI... NO... BAKA!" Ranma yelled and launched her father into the koi pond, her face as red as her hair from anger at her baka father.
... "for you to stop being so misogynistic. THAT he had coming!" Nodoka finished, and everyone nodded, satisfied smiles plastered over the faces of all females.
Meanwhile Ranma had calmed down. "So... there is really no other choice for me but to accept the curse, is that it?" she mused.
Shampoo and Mousse, who had been silent ever since Cologne had revealed that the curses mixed, were looking at the Joketsuzoku matriarch. Actually, Mousse was looking at the TV.
Cologne sighed and shook her head. BOP.
"Oww you dried up old mummy, what did you do that for?" Mousse lamented and rubbed his skull where Colognes' staff had impacted.
"Respect your elders, boy! And apply those glasses of yours to your eyes for once!" the Amazon matriarch snapped and bopped him again for his insolence.
Then she looked back at Ranma, while Mousse followed her order, albeit grumbling. "No, son-in-law, there is no choice. Not if you want to lead a happy and fulfilled life. Ever since the Nyannichuan Spring came into existence 1500 years ago many men have fallen into the spring. Every single victim has been noted down by the guides throughout the centuries, including what became of them. And know that, son-in-law, that those who accepted the curse lived far longer and happier than those who constantly fought the curse for their whole lives, which were in these cases quite short. In essence, there is no other option but to accept the curse. You will have to accept your dual nature or the curse will break you. That is the sad truth of Jusenkyo."
Shampoo looked at her great-grandmother baffled. "There no cure for curses, Hibachan? Not even animal curses?" she asked.
Incidentally Panda-man came just staggering back into the house when Shampoo asked the question. # WHAT? # he signed, # There really is no cure? #
Everyone ignored him, and Cologne looked sadly at Shampoo. "No, Shampoo. It takes indeed longer for an animal curse to latch onto the ki of its victim, that is true, but there is no way to remove the curse. None at all. And as you know now, the curses can not be replaced. It is futile."
Ranma stumbled over the words. Something in the back of her mind was trying to tell her something, something she had experienced in the past. But she could not put a finger on it. Maybe it would come back to her later.
Meanwhile Nodoka had come to a decision. "It seems that both of you," she looked first at Ranma, then at Kasumi, "will have to come to terms with your curses. I admit that I have made it very difficult in the past for you, Ranma. I was so fixated on an outdated version of manliness that I overlooked what manliness really means."
Ranma nearly looked shocked at the admission of her mother. Not for the first time lately she wondered if her mother had been abducted and replaced by aliens. But it was a nice change. "Aww mom, it was not so bad."
Nodoka however shook her head. "But it was. And I apologise for that, my child. Ever since I learned of your curse, I had a lot to think about. I had a lot of talks with Kasumi here," she said and smiled at the Tendo daughter, "and I have come to the realisation, that you should not do your utmost to become a man among men, rather you should try hard to become a gentleman, or in your case, a gentle person. Because of the curse it is inherently impossible for you to be a man among men. As I know now, you'll be a woman at least for half of the time for the rest of your life. Thus manliness does not apply any more in your case, my child." she said and stepped towards her son-turned-daughter.
The cursed Saotome youth looked confused at her mother. What had she cooked up now? Hopefully not something that had to do with being a 'woman among women'… "Uhh… what exactly do ya mean by what ya said, mom?"
The Saotome matriarch smiled at her child, and then she hugged her son-turned-daughter. Nodoka Saotome moved a lose strand of her red hair behind her daughters' ear and looked her into the eyes. "A gentleman, or gentle person, in your case, is someone who aspires to become a person who is as much in control of his or her life as possible. That is something that was sorely lacking while I still held you on to being a 'man among men', and one of the main reasons why I changed my point of view." she said with a smile at Kasumi.
"But a gentle person is not to be selfish, for he or she has to accept and respect the plans Fate and Destiny have with the lives of the others around him or her, as long as they do not act against your code of honour. I know now that there are matters in your life of which you have little to no control, the most prominent being your curse. But in order to get in control of your life, my child, you will have to accept your curse, as it will be a part of you forever. Fighting it would lead you nowhere, as it seems that you were fated to receive this curse. Ranma," she said and cupped her son-turned-daughters chin in her hand, "I can now accept that you are sometimes my daughter and sometimes my son. I hope you can too."
The others nodded in acceptance of this, and even Nabiki was impressed. Who would have thought that the eccentric Saotome matriarch would come up with something like that? Hmm, maybe her older sister had used her intelligence to exert some influence on the opinions of Nodoka Saotome. Anyway, this new concept was lightyears better than the old, and something Ranma surely could live with.
Genma-Panda on the other hand was beside himself with frustration and growled, which prompted everyone to look at him. # I have no daughter! # Flip. # My son is no weak little girl! # he signed.
Much can be said about Genma Saotome, but obviously not that he is adaptive. Otherwise he would have learned by now, that even Ranma was far stronger than him. That rung especially true after Jusendo. But Genma Saotome would soon find out. Painfully.
For Genma Saotome had the bad luck that his son-turned-daughter had actually seen his messages because of his growl. And now she had really had enough. If even her mother, a woman who had constantly been on Ranma's case what with manliness and all the crap could accept the curse now, she, a person who would have had her commit Seppuku if she had not been deemed manly by her mother some months ago, why the blazes could baka oyaji not?
Oh yeah, because girls were weak and stupid. D'oh. She would show him! If he wanted to win the baka-of-the-year-award so badly, so be it! And she would give him his price personally, evil smirk included. "So, oyaji, you think that I am weak, ne?" she asked in a dangerous tone.
The Panda nodded, oblivious to the steely tone of Ranma. # When you're a girl # Flip. # you are weak! # Flip. # Girls are weak! # he signed.
Ranma grinned devilishly, ignoring the cries of outrage from the other female attendees for the time being. "Let's go into the yard, baka-Panda. I want to show you something."
Said baka-Panda shrugged and followed his son-turned-daughter. As did the rest. Once everyone was outside, Ranma literally smirked. "So you think that I am weak when I'm a girl, huh?"
Panda-man nodded. Smirking continued. And for the first time since Jusendo Ranma raised her true battle-aura. It formed fully in seconds and expanded more than twice as much as it had in Jusendo.
Power was literally rolling off of her in waves, more than any of them had ever felt before. Even Nabiki and Kasumi, who both had not an inkling of reading auras and such, felt that this was really something else.
The heat Ranma exuded was so great that it began to melt the ground, and one could watch the underground slowly beginning to bubble. "How is that, oyaji no baka? Still weak?" she sneered, crossing her arms over her chest.
Mousse boggled. As did the Panda. They both were the only ones out of the present attendees who had actually seen Ranma fight Saffron, aside from Shampoo. Akane was still banished to her room and did not count. But surely even she felt the power of Ranma.
There and then, at Jusendo, Saffron had been stronger despite the fact that he had lost, but it was quite evident that that was not the case any more. Ranma had become at least as strong as a god! "Great Aphrodite, Saotome is at least as strong as Saffron! Maybe even stronger!" the myopic Amazon male exclaimed his thoughts in absolute disbelief.
Now, for the first time, he got a glimpse at how much Ranma was really holding back in their fights. With that kind of power he could have beaten him with a flick of the hand! He gulped audibly. It was a good thing that Saotome had not lost his/her patience with him. Otherwise he would probably be counting daisies from six feet below. He shuddered again. Maybe it would be wise not to antagonise Ranma any further in the future...
Another Amazon, Shampoo, to be exact, had hearts in her eyes when she witnessed this display of power, as had Kasumi, for that matter. Both young women were spellbound by Ranmas display of power and did not notice the reaction of the other.
Nabiki had been initially stunned at this show of power coming from Ranma. After overcoming her... surprise adequately fast she had her indifferent mask back online. Sure, she had known that Ranma was a powerful martial artist, but that he had power that rivalled that of a god was... unsettling. It was a good thing that the engagement to her little sister had been dissolved.
The middle Tendo daughter did not even want to begin to think what could have happened if Ranma had lost control because of the abuse Akane and the fathers had constantly put him through. Some boxes were better left unopened, and the anger of Ranma Saotome obviously fell into that category.
Cologne, for her part, was more concerned about the implications of Ranma's gain in power. 'Hmm, it seems that son-in... Ranma has absorbed some of Saffrons' powers. Gauging from Mu-Tzu's reaction Ranma is maybe even stronger now than Saffron. Most intriguing. That means that I will have to speed up my plans to make Ranma an ally of the tribe. It is excluded that we bring such a powerful male, even if he is a half-female, into the tribe. No, we must make Ranma our ally. As much as it saddens me for my Xian-Pu. I will have to relate that to the village and initiate the necessary steps.'
Nodoka had also hearts in her eyes. Her child was so strong! "Dearest," she said looking at the Panda, "do you still think that our daughter is weak?"
At first the Panda wanted to nod vigorously, for all girls were weak and inferior in his opinion. But then he saw the promise of intense pain in Ranmas eyes and shook his head. 'Damn,' the misogynistic Panda thought, 'it seems I really have a part-time daughter.' # Okay, Ranma is not weak # Flip. # But all other girls are! #
Everyone present groaned, and Shampoo was more than ready to skin the stupid Panda alive. Would Genma ever learn? Okay, scratch the question. Ranma just growled. Then, suddenly, she held a sphere that seemed to consist of pure fire in her right hand and fired it without much further ado at the idiotic Panda.
Said Panda saw the burning projectile coming, but could do nothing to escape, for it was simply too fast. It hit head on and catapulted the offending (and annoying) Panda into the koi-pond, where he floated face down and quite charred.
Smoke was still rising from his backside, and every female present (even Nodoka) looked quite pleased at the sight. Revenge had been dealt! The sole male attendee (except for the floating Panda), namely Mousse, gulped once more. Yes, it was definitely a good idea not to antagonise Ranma any further…
Meanwhile said Ranma was doing a victory dance in a style she had seen on the TV in this sports show. How was that game named again? Ahh, yeah, American football. "Hah! That shut him up. Ranma 1 – Panda 0. Take that, stupid Panda!"
Mass face-faults ensued which then turned into hearty laughter. As often as the saying had been utilised today, that he had coming.
"Ranma," Nabiki asked, "what was it that you fired at your father?"
Said cursed martial artist smiled sheepishly. "Oh, that. It was something I came up with on the spot. A Moko Takabisha revised. Hmm, maybe I should call it 'Panda flambé', ne?"
Nabiki nodded absently, while the others boggled at the sight of the still smoking panda that now slowly began to show signs of life again. Which might be a good thing. Who needed a pond of drowned misogynistic panda after all? Then they looked at Ranma again as they realised something. She had made up that new attack on the spot? Awesome! Thus it was no wonder that as well Kasumis' as Shampoos' eyes were filled with hearts.
In the meantime the Saotome matriarch had an amused and decidedly smug look on her face. Maybe she should leave it to her son-turned-daughter to correct the behaviour of her father. That should be very interesting too watch. Inwardly Nodoka Saotome wondered how many demonstrations Genma would need until he (painfully) found out that women were anything but weak. The way her husband was acting, she mused, quite a lot.
Nodoka then shook her head at Genma's antics as her pandafied husband tried to heave himself out of the koi-pond and turned back to Ranma. "I hope you can accept that you are my son as well as my daughter."
Ranma hugged her mother who hugged her back. "I will... try, mother. I guess I have no choice. But I am still primarily a guy!"
Nodoka nodded after releasing the hug. After she had heard all the stories of the failed quests for a cure for the curses, she had figured that her child might have the curse forever. What Cologne had related today, had alleviated the last doubts she might have had in that regard.
There was no cure. And Nodoka believed Cologne. It was as the Amazon matriarch had said. Had there been a cure, Ranma would probably be an Amazon now. No, denial would not help, only acceptance would. She had now a part-time daughter, but she could live with it. As long as she'd get loads of grandchildren...
'Wow!' Ranma thought. It really was a month of revelations. Who would have thought that her mother of all people had accepted the curse? Sure, Ranma had noticed that her mother had stopped harping about manliness ever since the failed wedding, but who'd have thought that she'd shot her crazy definition of manliness out of the window?Maybe now that her mother seemed to accept her as she was she'd really come to know her mother after all…
¹ otoko is the male-suffix used for male names in Japanese and means 'man'; Kasumi will referred to as Kasumi-otoko whenever she is in male form
to be continued…
My thanks go to Rose Vaughn and HeWhoWalksTheEarth for betaing this; my stories would only be half as good without you.
I'd also like to thank all of you who have taken the time to leave a review, and my review answers can be found at my yahoo group. I enjoy reading your comments, and the suggestions you all make will help to make this story even better.
If you find anything illogical that might have created a plot-hole or anything else that is wrong, let me know and I'll fix it.
Thanks for reading.