The Ghost of Curses Past
by JP Buckner
ajaff@poky.srv.net
http://onewest.net/~ajaff/manff.htm

All rights to Ranma 1/2 belong to Rumiko Takahashi,
Shougakukan, Viz, Kitty, and anyone else I may have left out.



Tendo Akane was scared. She was more frightened now than she
had been in some time.

In her recent past, many things have happened which have
frightened her. Her life was in danger, or the lives of those
she cared about, not to mention her own sanity. But all of that
paled to the way she felt now, standing in front of this door.

She paused, knowing what she must do, but she still felt unable
to carry it out. Part of her wanted to run. Part of her did not
want to face what lay in store for her behind the door. Part of
her did not want to deal with the guilt, the pain, the memories
that would be brought back. Another part of her wanted to stay,
to confront her past, to try to finally deal with all of her
guilt, all of the hurt she had caused.

Both sides of her knew she had to do this. She had no other
choice.

Slowly, her hand reached up, and she knocked on the apartment
door. She heard noises from within, the person she had come to
see was home, and it was only a matter of time until...

The door opened, and a ghost stood in the doorway, a person
Akane had not seen in quite some time. Akane watched as
recognition came to those eyes. Those eyes, which had been a
major part of Akane's nightmares these last few months. Akane
saw the look of recognition turn to something else, for she saw
the accusatory glare in those eyes.

"Akane? Wha... what brings you here after all of this time?"

Trying to collect her nerves, Akane answered, "We have to talk.
Can I come inside?"

The person on the other side of the door nodded, and stepped
aside, giving Akane just enough room to enter the apartment.
Akane looked around at the home of the person who was once a
major part of her life. It was quite sparse, tidy, very little
in the way of 'homey' items here. It was just what Akane
expected.

Hearing the door close behind her, Akane turned and faced her
host. "You are looking well, how long as it been?"

Akane could see her host hesitate. "Six months, give or take a
day or two. It's been six months. You are looking good as well,
Akane."

"Thank you. How have you been doing? Been keeping busy, I hope."

Akane watched as the other half of the conversation paused for a
second. "Akane, enough of the small talk. I don't think you came
here for a light chat. Why are you here?"

Lowering her head, Akane replied, "I... we need your help."

Akane heard a snort come from the other side of the room.
"Typical. Here I was hoping that you had come for some other
reason, but no. You need something from me. But why me, Akane?
Why not HIM? Surely HE can help you, after all of the times HE
has helped you in the past, why would you need my help now?"

Giving a giant sigh, Akane continued, "Because you are the only
one who can help. Please, you have to help."

"*I* am the only one? What can I give you that he can't? What
can I do that your darling Ranma can't."

Akane looked straight into the eyes of her host. "To tell the
truth, he's the one who needs you. And you are the only one who
can help him."

Akane could almost hear a chortle come from across the room.
"*HE* needs *MY* help? In a pig's eye, Akane. Look, if you need
help, why not ask your family? Why not your friends? Why not
his? Ryoga would be glad to help, I'm sure. He'd do anything, as
long as you were the one who asked, Akane. And Ukyo and Shampoo,
if Ranma really needed help, they'd drop everything and be there
for him in an instant. Or then again maybe not, since it appears
that you two have finally formalized your engagement, if that
ring on your finger is what I think it is. So when's the happy
day?"

Akane nodded. "Yes, we've finally made our engagement official.
And it took some doing, but we convinced our families that we
wanted to wait until after college to get married, and which
point we...

"At which point you would take over the dojo, am I right,
Akane?"

Akane nodded. "Yes, at which point we would run the dojo,
together."

"So tell me, Akane, why does the great Saotome Ranma need my
help? Why come crawling to me after all this time?"

Taking a deep breath, Akane began her tale. "Well, after you
left, things got quite..."

"Let me guess. After I left, everybody had a big party, and all
of you celebrated until dawn, or perhaps to the end of the
week."

"No!" Akane hated hearing these words from this person. "It
wasn't like that! When you left, it hurt us, all of us. Well,
most of us, anyways. After Kasumi read us the letter you left
her, we felt so sad, so guilty over what we had done..."

"Sure you did, Akane. That's why none of you came after me.
That's why I haven't seen any of you these last six months.
That's why you turn up on my doorstep now only when you need
something from me, when Ranma needs something."

"Please," Akane was now close to tears, "you have to understand.
We all felt so ashamed, none of us felt worthy enough to
apologize to you, none of us felt able to try to explain to you
how we felt."

"If you say so, Akane. So anyway, what happened after I left."

Pausing for a second to collect her nerves, Akane answered, "It
was Kuno. After you left, he became crazy, even crazier than
before."

Her host began to chuckle. "I'll bet. With me gone, and you
officially engaged to Ranma, I'm sure he did not take that well
at all."

Nodding her head in ascent, Akane continued, "Not well at all.
He totally lost it, and began attacking Ranma even more
furiously than ever before. For the most part, it was just an
annoyance for Ranma, but one day, a couple of weeks ago, well...

"Ranma wasn't feeling very well that day. You see, I made him
breakfast that morning and..."

"And you still can't cook, can you Akane." Akane could hear a
low chuckle from her host. "I guess some things never change."

Akane tried to keep her anger in check, this was too important.
"Well, Kuno attacked Ranma, and with Ranma not at full
strength, Kuno actually managed to get an attack through,
causing major damage."

"So? How much damage could Kuno do Ranma with that silly bokken
of his?"

Akane shook her head vigorously. "It wasn't his bokken. Shortly
after you left, Kuno stopped using his bokken and started using
something else. A sword. A samurai sword. And Kuno just didn't
hit Ranma, he penetrated him with the sword, and did some
internal damage. Most of it was fixed with surgery, but..."

"But what, Akane?" Whatever humor or anger Akane had heard in
that voice before was now gone, replaced by a tinge of sympathy.

"He damaged his kidneys. Bad, really bad. One kidney is totally
non-functional. The other one is working right now, but the
doctors say it's only a matter of time before it fails too. The
only thing that can save Ranma right now is a transpl..."

"No!"

Akane shrank back from the fury of the reply. "But, please,
you're the best chance he has."

Akane saw the glare rise up again in those eyes. Those accusing,
pained, blue eyes.

"Even after all of this time, it's still the same, isn't it,
Akane? I'm not a real person to any of you, am I? Before, I was
a ghost, a reminder of something everyone didn't want to be
reminded of. And now, I'm just a walking body bank for your
beloved Ranma."

"Ranko, please, listen to me. The doctors have been unable to
find a usable match. None of the donated kidney's are a good
match for Ranma, and you, being his twin, so to speak..."

The red-haired, blue eyed girl standing in front of Akane
replied, "I'm not his twin, when will you all understand that!
I am, or at least I was, before all of you turned me into Tendo
Ranko, Ranma just as much as he is!"

Catching her breath before continuing her tirade, Ranko tore
back into Akane, "That day, that damned day one year ago when
Happosai used that damned burner to split us in two, I lost
everything! I lost everything, Akane!"

"Please, I know. But you spent so much time looking for a cure,
even you gave up when Cologne told you the spell Happosai cast
overrode all other magic that could be done on you, even
Jusenkyo. Even the instant Nanniichuan did nothing to you."

"My manhood? You think I'm talking about my manhood? Akane, in
all of the time I've had to deal with this, I've learned one
thing. That of all the things that I lost, my manhood was the
least important of them. Happosai took away my manhood, but all
of you took everything else away from me. If you read the letter that
I left Kasumi, you must understand that, at least.":

Akane was close to tears now. "I know, Ranko, I know, and I feel
so sorry..."

Ranko snorted. "Sorry doesn't cut it, Akane. Do you have any
kind of idea of what I went through, of the living hell I
endured? I lived that way, with all of you, for six months
before I couldn't take it anymore, and I left.

"How long it did take, Akane, how long was it before your father
and the man who was once my father decided that it would be too
dangerous for Mom to know the truth about me? No, Pop couldn't
risk the life of his precious son, so they forced me to live as
Ranko. They had Nabiki build a paper trail for one Tendo Ranko,
cousin to you and your sisters. And when that happened, Pop
abandoned me."

"Please, Ranko. Ranma and I have been over this time and time
again with your father. Yes, even now he refuses to accept what
he had done, but the rest of us..."

"I lost my manhood, yes, Akane, but I lost much more. I lost my
name. I lost my identity. I lost my father. My father, who once
was the only person in my life, turned his back on me because he
couldn't deal with me. And I lost my mother. I could never call
her mother, never be with her as her child. I was always a niece
to her, nothing more than a niece.

"And that was only the beginning, just the beginning. When I
attended Furinkan as Ranko, how was I treated? Sure, all of the
boys hounded me, Kuno especially, but the girls? They treated me
like some kind of pervert, like I wanted to be a girl just to spy
on them. They hounded me, they terrorized me, they made my life
at school torture.

"Happosai, he got just what he wanted, his Ranma-chan, now his
Ranko-chan, all of the time. The old freak would never leave me
alone, never! Unlike before, I didn't have the escape of hot
water from him, because I could never change back, I was always
a girl, just like Ranma was now always a boy."

"Please, Ranko, please, I know, I know..."

"Your father, sure he allowed me into your home, but he never
really accepted me, I was just a burden to him, a free-loader.
But unlike when I was Ranma, he had no reason to be kind to me,
because I wasn't going to be his heir. And Nabiki, her little
photo shoots not only continued, but got more racy as time went
by. Have you seen some of the photos she took of me when I
wasn't aware she was there? I have, I've seen those photos in
the possession of the boys at Furinkan, do you have any idea how
I felt about that?"

Akane could only look down in shame from that.

"And Kasumi, well at least she tried. But did she have to try
to force me to be a girl just like her? Couldn't she understand
that wasn't who I am?

"And then there were my friends. My so-called friends. Ryoga,
at least for a while he was sympathetic. I've always known
behind his anger was a kind soul. But Ranma had to keep teasing
and hounding Ryoga, and Ryoga, he eventually took out all of his
frustrations on Ranma against me! Ukyo? She hardly said two
words to me after the split, treating me like I was some kind
of leper. I felt fortunate if I even got served whenever I
visited Ucchans. And Shampoo? At first she was fine, but after
Ranma made it clear that it was you, and not her, he was
interested in, she flipped out. She stopped seeing me as
'Ranma', and saw me as the girl who bested her in combat back in
China, and began her Kiss of Death campaign on me all over
again. Mousse and Cologne tried to stop her, tried to help me,
but in the end, they sided with her. After all, Mousse would do
anything for her, and Cologne is family.

"I lost everything, Akane. My manhood, my name, my identity, my
family and my friends. But do you know the one thing that I lost
that hurt the most? Do you?"

Akane could not answer, she just hung her head in shame.

"Answer me one thing, Akane. Do you love Ranma?"

Akane was surprised by this question. "Yes, I love him very
much."

Ranko's eyes once again locked into Akane's. "What is it you
love about him, Akane? Why do you love him so?"

"I... I know sometimes he can be such a jerk, but he has a kind
heart, and a good spirit and a warm soul..."

"Liar!"

Akane was taken aback from the force of this response.

"It was his body, nothing more than his body, Akane. It was that
male body that you wanted, that you coveted. It wasn't love,
Akane, it was just pure lust!"

Akane shook her head vigorously. "No, it's not like that!"

"No? At the split, Akane, I was the same person as Ranma. The
exact same, inside. The same heart, the same spirit, the same
soul. And at the split, how did you react? Just like everyone
else. You treated him like he was some kind of Greek god, and
you completely turned your back on me.

"If it was the spirit, the heart, the soul, then wouldn't you
have at least felt some sympathy for me? Wouldn't you have at
least tried to help me? That's the kind of person you are,
Akane. If you care for someone, you would fight tooth and nail
for them, you would walk through fire for them. You would not
rest as long as someone you cared about was hurting."

"I did care, Ranko. It was just hard for me. Seeing you reminded
me about the curse, about how much it hurt all of us. It hurt me
to see you hurt like that, but I couldn't find the strength to
help."

"No, you didn't help. When Pop and your father took my name, my
identity, my mother away from me, did you speak up, did you say
anything on my behalf? When the girls at Furinkan terrorized me,
did you say one word in my defense? When Happosai tormented me,
did you try to help, the way we used to help each other against
that freak? Did you try to stop Nabiki from doing what she was
doing? Did you speak to Ryoga or Ukyo for my benefit? Did you
try to help me deal with the Kunos or the Amazons?

"No, you did none of that. After all of the times that I was
there for you, all of those times when I came to your aid, the
time I needed you the most, what did you do? You turned your
back on me, and devoted yourself exclusively to Ranma. You never
really cared for me, the person inside of me, Akane. If you had,
you would have never done what you had done."

Ranko dropped to her knees. "Of everything that I lost, it was
losing you that hurt the most. I never thought you, of all
people, would have abandoned me like you did. I always thought,
that even if I got trapped, like during the full-body cat tongue
or Herb, that you would stand by me, that you would at least be
my friend. What a fool I was."

Akane reached down, to try to comfort the young woman in front
of her. "I'm sorry, really, I'm sorry. I know I was wrong, I
know I should have done something, please let me try to make
things up to you."

Ranko brought up her head. "You can make things up to me by
leaving. Get out, Akane. Get out of my home, get out of my
life!"

Akane dropped down to her knees to confront Ranko face to face.
"Ranko, haven't you heard a word I've said? Come back with me,
we need you. Ranma will die if you don't come back. Even after
everything that has happened, how can you let him die?"

Ranko's face turned into a snarl. "All of you were willing to
let ME die. I'm not even alive anymore, Akane, I'm just a
walking ghost. So Ranma may die. Too bad, I just don't care
anymore."

Akane stood up, shock on her face. "How... how did you become
such a heartless bitch?"

Ranko glanced up. "Perhaps I learned it by watching you. Now get
out of here, before I toss you out."

"You wouldn't... you don't fight girls."

Ranko shook her head. "It was Saotome Ranma who didn't fight
girls. I haven't been Ranma for a year now, or have you
forgotten?"

Akane saw the look in Ranko's eyes, and she knew that she had
lost. She turned away, trying to fight the tears in her eyes.
She found the door, and headed home.

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

"She refused? That little ingrate!"

Genma was, to say the least, furious. He was listening to
Akane's tale in Ranma's hospital room, In addition to Akane,
Soun and Ranma were also present.

"How could she do this? We gave her a name, we gave her a past,
we gave her a family! How could she treat us this way now?"

Akane was ready to jump up and yell into Genma's face, but she
knew it would do no good. She and all of the rest of her family,
Ranma included, had tried to talk sense into the old fool for
six months now, but no sense had ever sank in. Still, she
couldn't remain quiet.

"You GAVE her a name and family? She already HAD a name and a
family. You took those away from her. You stopped being her
father..."

"Bah, I was never her father. I only have one child, Ranma here.
She was nothing more than a freak of nature, a curse come to
life. I don't care how many times you say it, she was NOT
Ranma."

"Oh, really, Pop? Is that what you really believe?" Ranma,
though weakened by his condition, couldn't let Akane take on his
father alone. "If that's the case, then why didn't you ever use
Happosai's burner for yourself? We still have it, you know. It
would cure you. Sure, there would be a panda around, who claims
to have your mind and memories. But it really wouldn't be you
now, would it? Whatever soul was in that panda wouldn't matter,
we'd just send it away to a zoo, and it should be happy we gave
it a nice home, right?"

"Bah, you all talk nonsense. There is no way that girl is my
child, my Ranma. I still can't believe after all of this time,
you still expect me to believe that she is. If she really was
Ranma, she wouldn't turn her back on us now, when we need her."

"Wouldn't she, uncle?" Akane's nerves had reached the end. "I
don't blame her, really I don't. What did we ever do for her?
She didn't run away six months ago, we pushed her away. We
pushed her, every single one of us. It's ironic, really. We
pushed her away in part because we had a cured Ranma, and
because we pushed her away, we may lose Ranma."

Genma stood up, and headed for the door. "No, we will not! I
will go to her, and drag her here. Ranma will get one of her
kidneys, even if I have to rip it from her body myself!" And
with that, Genma left.

"The old fool, will he ever understand?" Ranma felt like hell,
in part because of his condition, in part because of everything
else.

"This is hard on him, Son." Soun spoke up, trying to calm Ranma
down. "He just can't admit to himself that she was his son. To
do so would mean admitting that he had abandoned his own child
in her time of need, and he never was good at self-realization."

The three remained silent, wondering on what to do next.

"There's still hope, right, daddy? The doctors say there's
always a chance of a suitable kidney coming in when we least
expect it."

Soun walked over and comforted his daughter. He didn't verbally
respond, but inside he knew that while there was a chance, it
was going to take a miracle.

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

Genma, Soun, Akane, and Nabiki all sat in reflection at the
Tendo home. Nodoka was with Ranma at the hospital now, staying
with her son for as long as she could. Kasumi and Tofu, who had
been dating off and on for a couple of months, were with her.

"I can't believe it. She ran away. She just ran away."

After Genma returned from his attempt to bring Ranko back by
force, he told them all that Ranko had gone. Her neighbors told
him she had left and mentioned that she would be gone for an
extended period of time, asking them to watch over her apartment
while she was gone. She had left no clue as to where she had
disappeared to.

"When she was needed, she ran away. Wherever did she pick up a
cowardly trait like that?"

Akane turned towards Genma as he asked this. "I don't know,
uncle. Just who was it that taught her the Saotome Secret
Technique anyways?"

The group say in silence for a number of minutes. Eventually,
their thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.
Nabiki got up, and went to answer the phone.

Silence continued to dominate the group until Nabiki came back
into the room. Her face was a mixture of emotions.

"You're not going to believe this, everyone, but that was Auntie
Saotome. The doctors found a suitable match. They found a kidney
for Ranma! They're preparing him for surgery now."

All of the parties jumped up, and headed out of the Tendo home,
heading towards the hospital.

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

"So, doctor, what can you tell me about the donor?"

Saotome Nodoka was talking to her son's doctor, who was
explaining the procedure to her as her son was being prepped for
surgery. Tofu and Kasumi stood behind Nodoka.

"I'm sorry, I can't tell you much, I've been sworn to secrecy."

"Secrecy?"

"Yes, you see the donor died in a traffic accident, and her
family wants the donation to remain anonymous. I can tell you,
the kidney is a near perfect match for your son. There should be
no problem with rejection, although with a major surgery like
this there can always be complications. But the chances are
good, Mrs. Saotome, the chances are very good that your son will
make a complete recovery, and be able to live a normal life."

Nodoka was now in tears. "Oh, thank the kami! I don't know what
I would have done had I lost my only child. Especially as we
were separated for so long. It just wasn't fair, being together
for such a short period of time, to have to be afraid of losing
him again."

The doctor placed a hand on Nodoka's shoulder. "I understand. We
are going to do everything we can to make sure your son will be
okay. The surgery will take some time, so just stay out in the
waiting room, and when we have some news for you, we will know
where to find you. Okay?"

"Yes, doctor."

Kasumi began to lead Nodoka towards the waiting room. Tofu
stayed behind for a moment.

"Doctor, may I ask you a favor? I'm not a medical doctor, just a
chiropractor, but would you allow me to watch the procedure from
the observation gallery, as a professional courtesy? I'm not
only Ranma's chiropractor, but a good friend, and I hope one
day, a relation."

Ranma's doctor thought about this for a moment. "Okay, but just
you and no one else, all right."

Tofu nodded, and went to tell Kasumi where we would be.

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

Tofu looked out over the operating theater. Or was it theaters?
There were two operating teams, set up in adjoining operating
rooms. Tofu figured the second o.r. was set up for the donor,
but he wondered, if the girl was already dead, would they need
this second room? Wouldn't the kidney have already been
'harvested', and ready to be transplanted into Ranma?

The doors to one of the o.r.'s opened, and Tofu saw Ranma being
wheeled in. He watched in appreciation at the professional
manner the surgical team began to prepare for the surgery. Tofu
watched as Ranma was being put under, given anesthetics. After a
moment, Tofu noticed movement from the other room.

Tofu looked over, and saw a person being wheeled into the room.
He couldn't make out any details about this person, except it
was definitely a girl. That's odd, Tofu thought. I thought I saw
her moving for a second. But the doctor said the donor was dead.

Curiouser and curiouser, Tofu thought. Are they giving that girl
anesthetics? Tofu continued to watch, and eventually, one of the
surgical team moved enough to allow him to see the face of the
donor.

At which point Tofu did a massive face-fault.

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

The entire Saotome and Tendo clans were scrunched together in
Ranma's room. He had recently been brought back from the
recovery room, and was still fairly groggy.

Ranma's doctor was also there, making one quick check of his
patient. "It's too early to tell for sure, Ranma, but it looks
like the transplant took. Everything indicates a total
recovery."

Akane was overjoyed. Ranma, her Ranma, was going to be all
right. Out of the corner of her eye, Akane noticed Tofu talking
to Kasumi and Nabiki. Hmm, she wondered, I wonder what that's
all about? Akane wondered more when her sisters excused
themselves, and left the room.

Just as Ranma's doctor was about to leave the room, Tofu walked
over to him, and asked, "Can we talk in private, outside?"

Akane watched as Tofu and Ranma's doctor headed out into the
hallway. As the door to the room slowly shut, she could see them
in quiet conversation. Akane shook her head at what was going
on, but focused herself back on her fiancee.

"Oh, Ranma, once again you look defeat right in the face, and
you spit in it. I am so happy you are going to be okay."

Ranma gave Akane a sheepish grin. "Gee, Akane, just like you to
get all emotional over this."

"Baka! Now you just stay here and rest. You realize it's going
to be a while until you're 100%. No sparring with your father or
Ryoga for some time, mister!"

Ranma stuck out his tongue. "Nahh. You just watch. I'll be out
of here, and doing back-flips before you know it. Nothing stops
Saotome Ranma!"

Akane smiled at that. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
It was Tofu.

"Akane, Kasumi and Nabiki went to visit a patient of mine who is
here at the hospital as well. I expected them back by now. Could
you go check on them? They should be in room 451."

Akane nodded. "Ranma, I'll be back in a second, okay."

"Yeah, go already. I don't need some tomboy hovering over me
every second, ya know."

Akane smiled, the two's insults had turned somewhere along the
way from hurtful taunting to playful teasing. It was a difference
that meant everything to Akane.

As she left Ranma's room, she headed off in the direction of
room 451. As she turned a corner, she missed Kasumi and Nabiki
turning a corner at the opposite end of the hall..

"I wonder why Tofu wanted us to go downstairs and grab tea for
everybody?" Kasumi asked her sister.

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

Akane slowly opened the door to room 451.

"Kasumi? Nabiki? Are you here?"

As she opened the door, she saw that her sisters were not there.
In fact, no one was there, except for the patient who occupied
this room. Akane looked down at this patient, who had turned her
own head to look at Akane, and Akane felt her own legs go out
from under her.

A second later, as she regained her feet, and her composure,
Akane went over to the bed, and greeted the young girl laying
down in it.

'Ranko? What are you doing here?"

Ranko looked Akane straight in the eyes, and said, "I was
gettin' tired of lugging these things around, so I came in for
breast reduction surgery."

"Riiiiiiight. From where I stand, they look about the same size
to me, Ranko."

Ranko grinned. "The doctors just couldn't go through with it.
They told me they didn't want to mess with perfection."

Akane smiled. "Is that so? So if I were to look under your robe,
I wouldn't find a bandage over where a scar might be, say over
one of your kidneys?"

Ranko's eyes turned down, and she remained quiet.

"Why, Ranko, why?"

"'Cause I ain't no killer. Even after everything that happened,
I just couldn't let him die like that."

"Baka," Akane replied. "I know THAT. I mean, why didn't you say
anything?"

Ranko caught her breath. "'Cause I didn't do it, Akane, I didn't
do it to get your gratitude, to get your pity. I did it 'cause
it had to be done."

Akane paused for a moment, thinking over what to say next.
Eventually, the words came.

"Ranko, come home."

"Huh?"

Akane let out a breath. "Come home. Come back with us, isn't it
time you returned?"

Ranko began to shake her head. "No, Akane, I can't. I just
can't."

"Ranko, you had your say the other day, now let me have mine.
There's a lot you don't know, a lot happened after you left that
you don't know, and I'm not going to shut up until I say it all.

"Many of your problems, many of the things that drove you away
are fixed now, Ranko. They aren't problems anymore. For one,
after you left, I had a long talk with my classmates at
Furinkan. I read them the riot act. Many of them are ashamed at
how they treated you, Ranko, and would love to try to make up
for it. Some are sorry, and they will probably just leave you
alone. There are a few who wouldn't listen, but you won't be
alone this time. You'll have me and some of the other girls to
support you, to back you up against them.

"Then there's Ryoga and Ukyo. After they heard your letter,
after we all talked about it, they both felt really bad over the
way they treated you. Ryoga felt so bad, that he even confessed
his own curse to me, after all of this time."

"Really, Akane, he told you the truth? How did you react?"

Akane nodded. "Yes, he told me the truth, and at first I was
furious. Eventually Ranma calmed me down, and explained to me
that Ryoga wasn't trying to take advantage of me, or anything
like that. The three of us had a long talk after that, and we
settled our problems. Ryoga's not angry at Ranma all of the time
now, and Ranma doesn't tease him like he used to. The three of
us have never been closer, Ranko, never. And Ukyo? She changed
the name of her restaurant. It's called 'Rankos' now, not
'Ucchans'. If you came back, you'd have your Ucchan back. And
she and Ryoga have been seeing a lot of each other, in fact
Ryoga is staying at 'Rankos' now, it's a home to him.

"Father, when he realized what he had done, he cried for a week.
Kasumi is really sorry for trying to force you into that, Ranko,
she really is. And Nabiki?

"Remember how I told you that Kuno got real crazy when you left?
Your leaving was only part of it. First, Nabiki refused to sell
any more pictures of you to anyone. Second, she started
acquiring all of the photos she did sell, some she bought back
at a loss, some she used blackmail to get back. In Kuno's case,
she had Ryoga and Ukyo sneak into the Kuno estate and pilfer
every last photo of you that he had. Then she took the photos,
plus the negatives, and she burned them. She did save a few,
which she put into a scrapbook which she keeps, and no one else
sees. She calls it her 'Album of Shame' and I've seen her look
in it, crying herself to sleep at night.

"Kuno's no longer a problem for you, either. After the attack
on Ranma, he got arrested. He's now being held, pending a
psychiatric exam. One way or another, he's no longer a worry."

Akane paused for a second, catching her breath.

"Some problems still exist. Happosai is still out there, but I'm
sure all of us together can deal with him. Kodachi is out there
too, but again, we can deal with her together. Shampoo still
hasn't come to her senses, either. And your father, well you
know how stubborn he is."

Ranko nodded at that.

"We've tried, and tried, and tried until we were blue in the
face, but still he won't listen. But maybe we can still find a
way.

"So you see, Ranko, no matter what, we can work this out. We can
do it together. You and me and Ranma and all the rest of us, we
can do this."

Ranko shook her head, "No, Akane, it won't work. I still can't
come back."

"Why not?"

Ranko looked Akane straight in the eyes. "You may be able to fix
a lot of things, Akane, but the two biggest problems, the two
big ones won't be fixed so easily."

"And which problems are those?"

Ranko sighed before continuing. "The first is mother. Do you
know how hard it was on me to see her all of the time, and not
be able to call her mother? How hard it was to see Ranma be with
her as her son, knowing that if it wasn't for fate, that would
be me?"

"We could tell you mother the truth..."

Ranko shook her head. "No, I went through all of this to save
Ranma's life, I'm not going to risk putting his head on the
chopping block now. No, if I went back, every time I saw her, I
would die just a little bit. I can't put myself through that
again.

"And even if she did know the truth, and was all right with it,
there's still the second problem. And that problem isn't so
easily fixed. In fact, it's a no-win situation."

Akane stared down at Ranko. "And which problem is this?"

"You."

Akane stood speechless as Ranko continued. "You see, Akane, I
know something. I know Ranma loves you. I know Ranma loves you
more than anything. And do you know how I know this?"

"I have a pretty good idea."

Ranko grinned. "Because I love you too. Even after all of this
time, even after everything that has happened, I still love you,
Akane. I have for a long time.

"What I said to you the other day, Akane, about it being lust,
not love, I'm sorry about that. I really didn't mean it, I was
just hurt. I was just lashing out. You know me, I tend to say
stupid things at the drop of a hat. Even after all of this time,
I still manage to find a way to say the wrong things."

Akane reached down, and took Ranko's hand. "It's all right,
Ranko. I understand. I know you were hurting."

Ranko nodded. "Yes, and if I return, the hurting would just keep
coming. Every time I would see you two together, it would hurt.
When you and Ranma get married, when you take over the dojo,
when I see you with your children, it will hurt, more than
anything has ever hurt me.

"Maybe if it was Ryoga you were with, or Shinnosuke, or someone
else, it would be different, maybe in time I could deal with it.
But it's Ranma, the person I once was. Every time I would see
you two, I would be reminded that it could be ME that was with
you, me that was the father of your children, me that was
running the dojo. How he got everything that I had, that I
wanted.

"There's a part of me that wants to hate him for that, but I
can't. I used to be him, after all, and I am happy that his
life has turned out this way. I just can't deal with the
reminder that what he gained, I had lost. I just can't do it."

Tears began to come to Ranko's eyes. Akane looked down at the
young girl, and she made a decision.

"Ranko, you are coming home with us."

"Akane, please, didn't you hear a word..."

"Quiet! Didn't you tell me that I was the type of person who,
how did you put it, would walk through fire for those I care
about? Well, I care about you, Ranko. Just as much as I care
about Ranma. And I will find a way, I swear it, I will find a
way to make this work out. I will not rest until you are back in
my life, one way or another. Please, all I ask, Ranko, is to
give me a chance.

Ranko slowly nodded. "Okay, I guess I can give you a chance. But
I've been over this in my mind many times. I just don't see a
way."

A large grin graced Akane's face. "Well, now it's my turn to try
to find a way. Now I just want you to stay here and rest. You've
been through a lot, and it will take some time until you are
totally recovered."

Ranko stuck out her tongue. "Nahh. You just watch. I'll be out
of here, and doing back-flips before you know it. Nothing stops
Tendo Ranko!"

Akane began to laugh. "Baka," she quietly said. And she stayed
with Ranko for a few moments, before she headed back to Ranma.

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

Akane walked back into Ranma's room. Most of the family had
left, for Akane only saw her father and Ranma's there with him.
She walked into the room, past the bathroom door that sat at the
side of the room, and nervously went to Ranma.

"Akane, where have you been?" Ranma looked up at his fiancee,
noticing an odd look on her face.

"I just came from talking to the donor of your kidney."

Soun looked at his daughter with an odd expression. "You talked
to... but the doctor told us the donor died in a traffic
accident. How could you have talked to her?"

Akane shook her head. "Come on now, don't you think it was too
perfect, for a donor to just come out of the blue like that?
Just where do you think such a perfect match came from anyways?
Just who do you think I just talked to?"

"Ranko?" Genma asked quietly.

"Yes, Ranko. You remember her, don't you? You remember the child
you abandoned?" Akane's voice started to get louder, as the pent
up anger in her quelled.

Genma began to wave his arms in front of himself. "Ssh, Akane,
not so loud!"

"Not so loud?" Akane was now quite livid. "I'll be as loud as I
want to be. Do you understand what she just did? Ranko, the
person we all pushed away from us, saved Ranma's life, and
wanted to keep quiet about it! She was willing to let us think
the worst about her for the rest of our lives. If it wasn't for
Tofu-sensei, I'd never have learned the truth.

"She saved Ranma's life, uncle, not to get in our good graces,
not to try to worm her way back into our lives, but because it
was the right thing to do. Because it was the honorable thing to
do. Honor, you remember that, don't you? Once upon a time you
believed in honor."

"I still believe in honor. And please, keep your voice down."

"Honor?" Akane was now screaming. "Where is the honor in what
you did to Ranko? Where is the honor of a father destroying his
child's life? Where is the honor of keeping your own child from
ever really knowing her mother? For once, and for all, you
moron, deal with the fact that she is as much Ranma as he is. If
you had any honor, you would never have done what you did to
her! You..."

Akane stopped in her tirade as she heard a sound from behind
her. The sound of a toilet flushing. She turned around, and
noticed the door to the bathroom behind her and off to the side.
After a moment, she noticed the door open, and saw a figure
emerge from the bathroom.

"Auntie... I didn't know you were here."

"Nodoka, dear, how much..." Genma was tongue-tied, afraid that
his secrets might come back to haunt him.

"How much did I hear, husband? Enough. Now explain to me just
what Akane was talking about. What is this about Ranko being
your child? How is she Ranma as much as my son is?"

"Dear, you misheard, that's not what Akane was saying at all.
Right, Akane?" Genma turned his eyes towards Akane, with a
pleading look in them.

Akane said nothing.

"Genma, I am waiting."

Genma began to sweat. He kept his eyes focused on the bundle on
his wife's back.

"Mother, please. I'll tell you. I'll tell you everything."

Nodoka turned towards the bed, to where her son lay. She looked
Ranma straight in the eyes, and waited.

Ranma gulped, and began to tell his mother everything.
Everything from Jusenkyo, to his curse, and all of the
complications that came with it. He told her about 'Ranko', and
how he hid from Nodoka as Ranko, afraid of the pledge. He told
her about Happosai, and how Happosai split him in two, two
separate people, one in a male body, the other in a female one.
He told her how his father had insisted that the 'other Ranma'
become Ranko, to protect all of their lives from Nodoka's
katana. And how Ranko's life turned to hell, and why she
eventually left.

Ranma spoke for a long time, and it was hard for him to confess
it all. It was hard for him to admit that he had lied to his own
mother all of this time, and hard to admit his own guilt in what
had happened to his other self. But after it was all said, he
felt relief, as if a giant pressure had been lifted from his
soul.

And after he was done, Saotome Nodoka stood there, frozen in
time. She made no sound, no movement for a number of minutes.

"Mom?" Ranma was getting more than a little concerned.

Nododa's eyes began to glaze over. Ranma saw a sign of something
there. A sign of pure hatred. He saw his mother turn towards his
father.

"Is it true? Is everything that Ranma just told me true? Tell
me, husband."

Genma began to shudder, and he dropped to his knees, hanging his
head down, pleading.

"Please, please, please, understand..."

"Did Ranma fall into this spring of drowned girl, what was the
name of it again?"

"Nyanniichuan," Akane offered.

"Did he, husband?"

Genma slowly nodded. "Yes," he quietly replied.

"Did you have him hide from me as Ranko whenever I visited?"

"Yes."

Nodoka's anger was at a fever pitch now. "That girl, the one I
know as Ranko, does she really have Ranma's soul in her? Is she
our child?"

Genma kept his head down as much as he could. He really didn't
want to answer this question, not to his wife, and not to
himself.

"Well?" Nodoka waited for an answer.

"Yes. It's true, it's all true." Genma hated hearing himself say
those words. Admitting this was the hardest thing he had ever
done in his life.

In a second, Genma felt cold steel on the back of his neck.

"How could you? Tell me, how could you do such a thing?"

Gulping, Genma answered, "I was afraid. I was afraid that if you
learned about Ranma's curse, you wouldn't think him a
man-among-men, and force us to commit seppuku."

Genma looked up and saw his wife's eyes flaring with a hatred so
pure, it chilled him to his bones.

"Do you honestly think so little of me? Could you not believe
that I would have understood? Did you not have enough faith that
I would be able to see that Ranma was truly a man-among-men,
despite his appearance?"

"I can forgive you giving him that awful curse, Genma. I can
forgive you having him hide, at first, as Ranko, prior to the
split. But I can never forgive you for what you did after Ranma
was split. Never. I can never forgive a parent for abandoning
his own child. His own child."

If Genma could hang his head in shame any lower, he just found a
way.

"I will not kill Ranma, or Ranko either, Genma. As far as I am
concerned, they have both proven their worth to me. I will not
kill my children over your stupidity. Ranma truly is a
man-among-men. You on the other hand...

"Have no fear, Genma, I will not kill you either. The pact was
to make Ranma a man-among-men, which he is in spite of you, not
because of you. You are not a man-among-men, but that was not
the terms of the pact. Plus, I will not take my children's
father away from them. Just as long as he acts like a father. To
both of them. Do you understand me?"

Genma slowly nodded.

Nodoka turned to Akane. "There is nothing that can cure Ranko?
She will never have her male form ever again?"

Akane shook her head. "No. The one person who knows most about
this, and of magic, told us so."

Akane felt Nodoka's hand touch her shoulder. "Then tell me where
I can find my...daughter. I must let her know she has a mother."

"She's in room 451. Turn right when you leave this room, and
you'll find it."

Nodoka smiled. "Thank you, Akane. I am proud of you. I can see
why my son loves you so much. I will be honored to have you as a
daughter-in-law one day."

Akane smiled, and thanked her future mother-in-law, then watched
as she headed out of the room. She then turned to her father and
Genma.

"Could you two leave Ranma and me alone for a moment. There's
something I want to talk to him about, privately."

The two nodded, and slowly got up to leave. Before leaving,
Genma turned to his son and said, "Ranma, I'm sorry."

Ranma sighed. "Pop, you're apologizing to the wrong person."

Genma nodded, and left Akane and Ranma alone together.

"So, Akane, what is it?"

Akane sat down next to Ranma, taking his hand. "I asked Ranko
to come back to us. I told her I'd help in solving her
problems."

"Good."

Akane looked downcast. "Her mother was one of those problems,
I'd glad that one was taken care of this way. But there is one
problem I don't know how to deal with."

Ranma looked at Akane, and quietly said, "It's you, isn't it,
Akane? She's in love with you, even after everything."

Akane nodded.

Ranma gave a slight frown. "I can understand that. I mean I know
how much I care, and I know those feelings wouldn't go away so
easily."

Akane smiled. "It's flattering in a way. It's proof to me that
you really do love me, you know Ranma. If she can still love me
after all of this, the two of us have a good chance of having a
good life together, don't you think?"

Ranma nodded. "But that's going to make things rough on her. I
know how I'd feel if it was me in that situation. And it is, in
a way."

Akane smiled. "Yes, even after everything that has happened to
her, there is still so much of you in her. She told me this was
a no-win situation, and she may be right. I mean, it's not like
I can marry you both."

"Nope," Ranma replied, "Let's face it, living with one of me is
going to be hard enough for you. I know I'm not the easiest
person to deal with. But two of us? You wouldn't last the week.
Hell, Akane, you're strong willed and all, but you're only one
person."

"Yes. Plus any children we have would be ours, not hers. and..."

Akane stopped for a moment, lost in thought.

"Akane, what is it?" Ranma saw the look on his fiancee's face,
and became concerned.

"Could that work? I mean, could that possibly work?" Akane was
now muttering to herself. "It's so simple, but yet..."

"Akane?"

Akane turned her head, and smiled. She looked at Ranma and gave
him the biggest smile in her life.

"I have an idea, Ranma. I just got an idea. I just got a
wonderful, awful idea."

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

Ranko was laying quietly in her bed, when she heard the door to
her room open. As she turned her head, she began to ask, "Akane,
why are you back so..."

Then she stopped when she noticed it wasn't Akane who entered
her room, but someone else.

"Auntie?"

Saotome Nodoka went over to Ranko's bed, and looked sadly at the
young girl.

"Dear, I never want to hear you call me that ever again."

Ranko looked up at her mother, and replied, "But..."

Nodoka shook her head. "Isn't there something else you want to
call me, something else you've been wanting to call me for a
long time now?"

Ranko was in shock, and said nothing.

"Don't you wish to call me mother?"

Ranko began to breathe heavily. "Mo...mo...mother?"

"Yes, dear. I know. Ranma told me everything."

Ranko gulped. "Is he all right?"

Nodoka nodded. "Yes, he's still in one piece, if that's what
you're worried about. I will not force my son to commit seppuku.
Or my daughter either."

"Daught...you accept me as your daughter?"

Nodoka reached down, and stroked Ranko's hair. "Of course. What
mother wouldn't be proud to have someone like you as their
daughter. Now isn't there something you want to say to me,
Ranko?"

Tears began to streak down Ranko's face. "Mother...Mom, I'm so
sorry, I'm so sorry."

"Shh, it wasn't your fault. I understand. I just want us to be
together, as a family, from this moment on."

"Really, mom?" Ranko was overjoyed. The thought of having her
mother was almost too much for her.

"Yes, really. I understand that legally, you are officially
Tendo Ranko now. I will just have to adopt you, so you can be a
Saotome again. I hope you don't mind becoming Saotome Ranko."

Ranko gasped. "I don't care what you call me, as long as you are
my mother. That's all that matters to me."

Nodoka grinned. "How does it feel, calling me mother?"

"Wonderful! I don't think I'll ever get tired of it, mother.

"Mother. Mother, mother, mother, mother, mother. Never has
saying one word meant so much to me." Ranko's tears were truly
flowing now.

"I swear to you, Ranko, I will never let you out of my life ever
again. Never."

The two women stayed there, neither wanting to leave the others
company, as the hours passed.

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

Ranma looked at Akane in shock.

"Have you lost your mind, Akane?"

Akane shook her head. "Nope, I've never thought so clearly in
all of my life."

"But," Ranma interjected, "you realize what this will do? What
this will do to you?"

"Of course I understand, baka. That's the whole point."

"And you're willing to put yourself through that?"

Akane looked down at Ranma, and smiled. "I love you, Ranma, and
I would do anything for you, you know that. But I love Ranko
too. I drove her out of my life once, and I don't want to lose
her ever again. And this way is perfect."

"Perfect? For one thing, you don't know if it will work the same
way. It might do something much worse to you than you think.
Magic isn't some toy, Akane, this is serious stuff you're
dealing with."

"I know. I know it may not work. I know it may misfire. But I'm
willing to take that chance. For your sake, as well as hers, I
have to do this. I want to do this."

"If this is want you want, Akane, I will stand by you. But think
this though more carefully. I don't want you hurt if this
backfires. I love you too much."

Akane bent down, and kissed Ranma on his forehead. "Thank you
for your concern. But this will work, I know it."

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

"And that's the plan."

Akane sat and watched the faces of everyone assembled in the
dojo. Ranma and Ranko were still recuperating in the hospital,
and Nodoka was there as well, not wanting to leave her
children's side. Akane had already told Nodoka about her idea,
and although Nodoka had some reservations about it, just like
Ranma, she eventually gave Akane her blessing.

So Akane looked out at the rest of the group. Her father and her
sisters were here, as well as Saotome Genma. Ukyo and Ryoga
were also in attendance. And there was Tofu, by Kasumi's side.
Akane saw the stunned look on all of their faces as she told
them her plan.

"Well?" Akane asked.

"Akane, you can't be serious. Ranma was right, this is too
dangerous. I don't want you doing this."

"Daddy!" Akane replied. "Can't you see, this is the only way,
the only way for all of us to be happy. It will be too hard on
Ranko if I don't do this. And if she is hurt, eventually Ranma
and I will be hurt by it too. I don't see any other way. Do
you?"

Soun shook his head.

"Look, to make this work, I want and I need all of your support.
And your help."

Ukyo shook her head in wonder. "Our help? Sugar, how can we
help?"

Akane grinned. "First, I need an item from the Nekohanten, and I
don't expect them to hand it over willingly, not with Shampoo's
vendetta. Ukyo, you and Ryoga can help me acquire that item."

Ryoga nodded his head. "Of course, Akane, whatever you want. But
is this what you want?"

"Yes, this is what I want."

Ukyo and Ryoga shared a glance, and then the two nodded. Ukyo
spoke up. "Okay, honey, we're in."

Akane turned to her father. "Now the other item we need, we
still have. But I need the spell that goes with it. Father?"

Soun nodded. "I found the spell you need among The Masters
things after, well you know. I wanted to burn it, but I locked
it away. I can get it for you."

Akane smiled. "Okay, now none of you are to tell Ranko about
this. I know her, she will try to stop me. And I will not let
anyone stop me."

Everybody agreed. No one was real happy with this, but everyone
could understand what Akane was saying. It didn't mean they had
to like it.

"Nabiki, you come with me to the Nekohanten. You and I can
distract them while Ryoga and Ukyo do what they have to do."

Nabiki nodded, and the four left together, headed towards the
Nekohanten.

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

"So, how are you two getting along?"

Nodoka looked out at the hospital beds that her children were
in. She had managed to talk the hospital into moving Ranma and
Ranko into a double room, so she could be with both of her
children at the same time.

"It's not too bad, mother. It is weird seeing him again after
all of this time."

Ranma agreed. "Yeah. Out of sight, but never out of mind, hey,
little sister?"

Ranko gagged. "Please, don't call me that. I ain't your sister,
at least not legally yet."

"Whatever. You know, I always wanted to be a big brother."

"A big brother? Hey, we're the same age, you moron!"

"Children, please!" Nodoka wasn't sure if she was amused or
disturbed by the youngsters antics. "Ranko, you haven't told us
what you've been doing with yourself after you left."

Ranko smiled a little. "Not much to tell. I found a cheap
apartment, which is good, 'cause I can't work too many hours,
what with school, and trying to keep up with my martial arts
and stuff."

"You have a job?"

"Yeah, waitressing tables at some crummy little restaurant. Hey,
Ranma, remember when we worked for the old ghoul to try to get
hold of the Phoenix Pill?'

Ranma groaned. "Oh, yeah, I'll never forget that. Man, she was
a real slave driver."

Ranko chuckled. "She was nothing compared to my current boss.
Not to mention, he's a total hentai. I tell ya, some of the
stuff I have to put up with, Ranma you don't realize how good ya
got it."

"I might have an idea. Remember, I had to put up with Kuno, not
to mention Mikado and some of those other jerks. Man, it's great
not to have to deal with that any more."

Ranko humphed. "And thanks for rubbing it in. Man, I tell you,
my boss and some of my customers, they could give Happosai
lessons in perversion. And some of the boys at my school aren't
much better."

Nodoka smiled. "So, Ranko, do you have a boyfriend?"

"Mother! Gross, I can't believe you would think that! I mean..."

Nodoka shook her head. "So. You are a girl now, and you can
never be a boy again. You still like girls? I mean, I would try
to understand if you went that way."

Ranko made a face. "With another girl? Eww, that's almost as
gross as me being with a guy!"

Nodoka frowned. "So then what, Ranko? Are you going to live the
rest of your life alone? I mean, don't you want to be with
somebody. Maybe have a family someday?"

Ranko paused for a moment. "No, I don't want to be alone the
rest of my life. I've been alone all of these months, and I have
hated every minute of it. And I would like a family. I just
can't deal with being with somebody, man or woman, like that.
Maybe in time, but..."

"I understand, dear. Don't worry, one day a person will come
along, someone you want to spend the rest of your life with,
and all of your reservations will disappear. You loved Akane,
while spending time as both a girl and a boy. Weren't you ready
to try a relationship with her then, even if you would never be
cured?"

"Hmm, yeah, but..."

"But nothing, Ranko. Trust me, eventually you'll understand.
Maybe even sooner than you think."

"Huh?"

Nodoka gave her daughter a warm smile. "Just trust me, dear."

Ranko returned her smile. "Always, mother."

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

The two youngest Tendo sisters walked into the Nekohanten. They
looked around, and fortunately it was fairly dead. The place
wasn't as busy as it used to be, not after Shampoo starting
acting more irrational than before.

Speaking of whom...

"What violent girl and money girl want? You two not welcome
here. Go now."

Akane felt a tightness in the back of her throat. She was
worried now, and couldn't speak. Nabiki did speak up however.

"And a pleasure to see you as always, Miss Kitty. We were hoping
to talk to you, Duck-boy and the old prune. Of course, if you
want to get into a shouting match, hey, that works for us too."

Shampoo gave the sisters a look of pure rage. "You two not go?
Fine, then Shampoo throw trash out. With pleasure."

"Let's not be hasty, Great-Granddaughter. Let's hear what they
have to say, first."

Shampoo huffed, and turned around to see Mousse and Cologne
standing there. Just perfect, she thought. Just as she was going
to have some fun, she has to come along and ruin everything.

"So, Akane, what brings you and your delightful sister here?"
Cologne eyed the two carefully, trying to catch a hint or a sign
of what brought these two here, right now.

"What?" Nabiki answered, "We just can't come in, and shoot the
breeze with such charming people like yourself?"

Nabiki was a little worried as well. But she and Akane had to
buy some time.

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

In the back of the Nekohanten, a small pig made his way through
an open window. Once inside, he used the kettle, and the hot
water within, that was tied to him. In time, a naked young man
opened the back door, allowing his cohort entrance.

"Here, Ryoga." Ukyo said, trying to keep her eyes away from him
at this moment. "Put your clothes back on, then let's get started.
I hope it doesn't take too long to find what we're looking for."

All dressed up, Ryoga began heading in one direction. "I think
they keep their stuff over here."

Ukyo caught Ryoga before he went too far. "Look, sugar, you head
that way, you'll walk right into the front of the restaurant,
and our cover will be blown. Sometimes you are so pathetic, I
don't know why I put up with you."

Ryoga grinned. "You told me why just the other night."

Ukyo shook her head. "Now's not the time to deal with that,
sugar. We have work to do, and quickly. Before one of them comes
back here for some reason.

The two nodded, and Ukyo guided Ryoga to a back part of the
building, and the two started their search.

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

"We came to talk to you about Ranko."

Akane watched as three pairs of eyes bore into her. Two pairs
looked sad, and sympathetic. The third was anything but.

"Curse girl? Tell Shampoo where she is. Shampoo kill."

"Why?" Akane knew what Shampoo's answer would be, but she needed
this conversation to last awhile.

"Why? Curse girl beat Shampoo in combat. By law, by Kiss of
Death, she die. Curse girl reason Shampoo cursed. This personal.
Curse girl remind Ranma about curse. Shampoo prove love to Ranma
by killing her."

"Ranma?" Akane was getting just a little angry. "Ranma chose me,
not you, you bimbo! Isn't it time you realized that? Ukyo has,
and now she and Ryoga are together. Isn't it time you gave up on
Ranma, and finally noticed the one man who has loved you all of
this time?"

"Hmmph, Shampoo no want Mousse. Shampoo want Ranma. Ranma belong
to Shampoo by right, by law. Ranma confused now, but Shampoo
prove love to Ranma."

"How, by killing Ranko? Ranma doesn't hate Ranko. As a matter of
fact..."

Nabiki brought her hand on Akane's shoulder to stop her. "Akane,
allow me."

Nabiki turned towards Shampoo. "Okay, first, Ranko gave Ranma
her kidney. She saved his life, Shampoo. If you had killed her
long ago, Ranma would be at death's door right now."

"Shampoo no care. Curse girl serve purpose, now she die, no
longer needed."

"Second, Ranma doesn't want her dead. He wants her to be part of
his life, as his sister, so to speak. She's not a reminder of
his curse to him, but a person, an important person in his life.
Killing her will just make Ranma more angry at you."

"Ranma confused now. Ranma understand once she dead."

"If you attack her, Ranma will take it personally. He will take
it as an attack on himself. If you attack her, Ranma will fight
by her side against you. And he will not be alone."

"What money girl mean?"

Nabiki sighed. "Ranko is important to all of us, and every
single one of us will fight for her. Ranma, Akane, Father, Mr.
Saotome, Ukyo, Ryoga and me."

Shampoo scoffed at that. "You? You no fighter."

Nabiki smiled. "No, but I may be more dangerous than the rest
of them. You know what I'm capable of. Do you really want me
as an enemy?"

Shampoo stopped for a moment, thinking about this. Eventually
she replied, "Shampoo no care. Matter of honor. Only way
Shampoo regain honor is by killing. Amazon Law demands it.
Do YOU really want ME as an enemy?"

As the two glared at each other, Cologne turned her head. That's
odd, she thought, I thought I heard something from the back.

She smiled to herself. This is just a diversion. They are up to
something, but what? I could stop this charade now, and go into
the back and find out. But she thought about everything that had
happened, and decided not to. I"ll figure it out later, after
they leave. As long as Great-Granddaughter doesn't notice it, I
won't draw her attention to it.

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

"Man, I can't believe all of the stuff they have here. What is
all of this, anyways?"

Ukyo shook her head. "I'd be careful with that, sugar. Knowing
the Amazons, it's bound to be dangerous, especially to someone
already touched by magic, like yourself."

Ryoga nodded, and carefully put a bracelet he was holding down.
He looked to the side, and noticed a box. He opened the box, and
looked inside.

"Hey, I think we hit paydirt."

Ukyo came over to where Ryoga was, and looked down as well. She
grinned, "Yep, looks like what we're looking for. Now where's
that paper Nabiki gave me with the Chinese symbol to look for?
We don't want to take the wrong thing back with us, you know."

Ryoga swallowed. "Yeah. Akane would have our necks."

Ukyo brought one item up from the box. "Here, I think this is
it. You want to double check?"

Ryoga looked at the symbol on the sheet that Ukyo had, and
compared it to the symbol on the item Ukyo took from the box.
"Yep, looks right to me."

"Okay, let's get out of here before we're found out."

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

"Shampoo not listen. You try to confuse Shampoo. Not work,
Shampoo not fooled. Curse girl show up, Shampoo kill. Stop
wasting Shampoo's time."

Nabiki frowned. This was about to end, hopefully those two are
almost done. Suddenly, she heard the door to the restaurant
open, and two people walk in. Turning towards the sound, Nabiki
was relieved to see it was Ukyo and Ryoga.

"Hey there, you two, Kasumi told us we'd find you here." Ukyo
addressed the group, and as she did so, she gave Akane and
Nabiki a slight nod, letting them know they had what they came
for.

"Frankly, it's time we went home." Akane shot Shampoo a glance.
"It's obvious we are not welcome here."

"Hmmph, Shampoo tell violent girl that from beginning."

The four co-conspirators left the Nekohanten, and began to
return to the Tendo home.

"Let's see it, Ukyo."

Ukyo held up the item, for Akane to see. Akane took it from
Ukyo, and eyed it carefully.

Nabiki looked at it, and frowned. "You know, Akane, it's not too
late to change your mind."

Akane shook her head. "I'm not changing my mind. Let's head
home, after we stop somewhere else first."

Nabiki's eyebrows shot up. "And where would that be?"

Ukyo and Ryoga glanced at each other, then Ryoga spoke up.
"Akane, you don't need us anymore, right? We should get back to
'Rankos' before the rush hits."

Akane went over, and hugged Ryoga, causing him to blush. "Thanks
for the help, you guys. Remember, in a couple of days, Ranma and
Ranko come home from the hospital, then I'll put the plan in
action. I want both of you present."

Ukyo grinned. "Sugar, we wouldn't miss this for the world, right
Ryoga?"

Ryoga agreed, and the two waved good-bye to the Tendo sisters,
leaving them alone.

Nabiki turned back to Akane, "Okay, so just where is it you're
dragging me to this time?"

Grinning from ear to ear, Akane replied. "You'll see. I hope you
brought some cash with you, sis. I need to buy something."

Nabiki wondered what was going through Akane's mind, until they
reached their destination. Once she saw what Akane had in mind,
Nabiki began to chuckle.

"I see. Don't worry, Akane. I'll make sure you'll get a good
price. Trust me, we'll find something really nice."

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

Time passed, and eventually the day had arrived. There was a
good crowd of people around, as Ranma and Ranko entered the
Tendo grounds.

Ranko was close to tears at the sights in front of her. There
was a large banner adorning the entrance, saying "Welcome Home,
Ranko." In addition, a number of people were present. In
addition to her parents, who had escorted her back from the
hospital, all of the Tendos, save Akane, were there. Tofu, Ukyo
and Ryoga were there as well, and Ranko even recognized a few
people from Furinkan, her old friends Hiroshi and Daisuke,
Akane's friends Sayuri and Yuka, and was that Gosunkugi as well?
She wanted so much to say something to everyone, but the
emotions of the moment silenced her.

Tendo Soun walked up to her, and stated, "Ranko, I am eternally
sorry about the circumstances that led to your leaving this
place. I want you to know that you will always be welcome here,
no matter what. Even when you get your rightful family name
back, you will always be treated as a Tendo here." At which
point, Soun gave Ranko a deep bow.

Soon, a mob was surrounding Ranko.

"Hey, buddy, welcome back!"

"Ranchan, when you're up to it, there's an okonomiyaki with your
name on it, literally, at 'Rankos.'"

"Ranko, I speak for most of the girls at Furankin when I say we
are so sorry about everything."

"Hey, Ranko, get better, okay? I learned this new technique, and
I'd like to try it out on you."

"Kiddo, if you'd like some snapshots of your victorious return,
I can let you have some, at a modest price, of course."

Ranko couldn't keep it in anymore. "Thanks, everybody. This
means so much to me. Where's Akane?"

Everyone glanced at one another. Nodoka finally spoke up. "She's
in the dojo, waiting for all of us. She has a surprise for you,
Ranko."

Ranko's eyes shot up. "A surprise? What is it?"

Ranma chuckled. "If we told you, it wouldn't be a surprise now,
would it?"

Ranko was escorted to the dojo, and when she entered she nearly
did a double take. Akane was sitting in the center of the dojo,
wearing nothing but a large (for her) robe. Ranko noticed
another robe sitting close by. In addition, Ranko noticed a
couple of things covered by cloth sitting close to Akane. Akane
looked at Ranko as she entered, and smiled.

"Akane, what's going on?"

Akane gave Ranko a mischievous look. "Remember how you told me
about the no-win situation?"

Ranko nodded.

Akane grinned again. "I think I've found a way to beat the
no-win situation. Please, sit down, and soon you'll understand."

Ranko sat down at one end of the dojo, and found herself
surrounded by her friends and family, leaving a space open to
allow her to keep an eye on Akane.

Akane grinned, and once again addressed Ranko. "Now, Ranko,
watch carefully."

Ranko watched as Akane removed the cloth from one of the items
near her. A small pail was uncovered. Akane then reached into a
pocket on her robe, and removed a small white packet, with what
looked to Ranko like a Chinese character stenciled on it.

Akane tore open the packet, and positioned it over the pail. She
upturned the packet, and the contents, a white powder, emptied
into the pail. Ranko watched as Akane then closed her eyes, and
took a deep breath. She reached over and picked up the pail,
dumping its contents, which appeared to be water to Ranko, on
her.

Ranko's eyes bulged at what she saw next. Akane began to...
change. She seemed to get larger, the muscles of her body began
to redefine themselves, her face became more angled, a little
rougher, a little harder.

No, not her face. His face. Akane was male now.

"Wha... Akane, what's going on?"

Akane turned towards Ranko, and smiled. He replied. "Instant
Nanniichuan. I had Ukyo and Ryoga steal a packet from the
Nekohanten."

"But why?"

Once again, Akane smiled. "I told you before. I would walk
though fire for you. I love you, Ranko, as much as I love Ranma.
I would do anything to make you a part of my life."

Ranko shook her head. "But... it's just the instant stuff, I
don't understand how that will solve anything."

Once again Akane smiled. "Then I guess it's time for phase two."

"Phase two?"

Akane nodded, and reached into his robe once again. This time he
took out two items. One, a match. The other, what looked like a
scroll of some kind. Then Akane reached towards the second
covered item sitting near him.

As Akane uncovered this item, Ranko gasped. She stood up, and
was about to run towards Akane to stop him, when the others
stopped her. Trying to escape their grasps, Ranko yelled,
"Akane, no! You don't have to do that! Please, don't do it!"

Akane gave Ranko a look of pure love. "I want to do this, Ranko.
I love you, and I don't want to leave you, to hurt you ever
again. This way, we can be together." And as he said this, Akane
struck the match, and lit the burner in front of him. As smoke
began to rise from the burner, Akane opened the scroll, and
began to chant the spell within.

"Akane, no!!!! Don't do this, please!!!!"

But Ranko's pleas were too late. The smoke from the burner began
to envelop Akane, as if the smoke tendrils were alive. Soon,
there was nothing to see except for the large plume of smoke
that covered half of the dojo. The only proof of Akane's
existence was the sound of his voice reciting the spell
reverberating across the room. In time, that ended, and there
was only silence.

Ranko's friends and family released her, and she dropped down to
her knees, crying. "Akane, you baka! What were you thinking?
What were you thinking?" Slowly, Ranko heard a noise from the
other side of the dojo. It was a cough. A female cough.

Ranko watched in fascination as Akane walked out of the smoke.
She was female again, and as she left the smoke, Ranma ran over
to her, and grabbed her tight.

"Akane, are you all right?"

Akane nodded, and looked up at Ranma. "I'm fine. No, I'm better
than fine."

Ranko walked over to the two. "Akane, just what were you
thinking? Do you realize just how dangerous that was?"

Akane grinned, but didn't say a word. Ranko did hear a voice
from behind her, this time a male voice.

"Ranko?"

Ranko turned, and gasped. Standing in front of her, also wearing
a robe, was the male Akane. Ranko was speechless.

"So, Ranko, what do you think of my solution to the no-win
problem?"

"I... I... I..."

The male Akane walked over to Ranko, and grasped her tightly.
Tears filled his eyes, and he told Ranko, "Ranko, Ranko, I'll
never let you go, not ever do you hear me! I do love you, you
know."

Ranko began to chuckle.

Akane looked down at his love. "What's so funny?"

Ranko gave Akane a sly grin. "I know you love me. The proof,"
Ranko then shot her eyes part way down, "is down there."

Akane glanced down, and began to blush once he realized
what Ranko was talking about.

"Oops, sorry. I didn't..."

Ranko laughed. "It's okay. It's just something that happens to
guys. You'll get used to it."

Akane blushed harder. "Get used to it? This is kinda
embarrassing. How do you get used to it?"

Ranko grinned. "Oh, you'll get used to it, just like I got used
to certain... things about being a girl all of the time."

Understanding dawned on Akane's face. "Oh, hey wait a minute.
That means I don't have to worry about..."

Ranko smiled. "Nope, you don't. Of course, there are certain
things about being a guy you will have to learn. I'm sure Ranma
will be glad to help you through those."

Ranma grinned at this. "Of course, I'll be glad to make a man
out of your Akane."

The male Akane began to chuckle. "You know, Akane's not really
an appropriate name for a guy, is it? And two Akanes can be just
as confusing as..."

Ranko finished the thought. "Two Ranmas?"

Akane nodded. "Yeah, I wonder what name I should take."

Daisuke mused, "Well, since this was a no-win scenario, why not
Kobayashi Maru?"

Part of the audience began to chuckle, the other half wondered
what was so funny.

Akane turned to his father and asked, "Daddy... Father, what do
you think?"

"Well, your mother and I always though Kaneda would be a good
name, if we ever had a son."

Akane smiled. "Kaneda, I like that. So be it. I am now Tendo
Kaneda, son of Tendo Soun."

Nabiki smiled at that. "Consider it done. I had most of the
paperwork for our new 'brother' ready to go, all I needed was
the name."

Soun began to cry. "A son. I have a son. Waaaahhhh."

"Father!" Both Akane and Kaneda responded in unison. "Hey, quit
that!"

Ranma and Ranko chuckled. "It's like deja vu," Ranma pointed
out.

"All over again," Ranko added.

A low chuckle was heard from above them. They looked up and saw
Cologne watching over them.

The old Amazon dropped down to the floor, and addressed the
group at large.

"So this is why one packet of Instant Nanniichuan came up
missing. You didn't think I'd notice, did you?"

Everyone shook their heads.

"So," Cologne asked, "just whose idea was this, anyway?"

Once again, in unison, Akane and Kaneda replied. "It was my
idea. Hey, stop doing that! You are freaking me out!"

As Cologne began her chuckle anew, Ranko walked over to her.
"Okay, now you know. What are you doing to do now?"

Cologne sighed. "If this doesn't prove to Shampoo the strength
of the love that you all share for one another, I don't know
what will. However, if she remains stubborn, and continues her
campaign on you, Ranko, I promise you one thing."

"And what is that?"

A smile crossed the old woman's face. "I promise you I will not
interfere, on either side. And I will tell Shampoo just that. I
hope to be able to convince Mousse to stay out of this as well,
I think he's tired of the whole thing. Shampoo might think twice
about coming after all of you by herself."

Ranko bowed to the ancient Amazon. "I thank you for that,
Great-Grandmother."

The Amazon bowed in return. "I wish all of you the best that
life can offer you. But somehow, I think with all of you
together like this, no other outcome is possible."

And with that, Cologne departed the Tendo Dojo.

Ranma sighed. "You know, if she does end up leaving eventually,
I'm going to miss that old ghoul."

Ranko agreed, "Yeah, I know what you mean. She does kinda grow
on ya."

Kasumi spoke up. "I have food and drinks ready for everyone in
the house, Let's all go in and celebrate."

Kaneda looked down and Ranko and asked, "Shall we?"

Ranko grinned, and looped her arm inside of Kaneda's. "Where you
go, I will follow."

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

It was night, and after a long party, everyone who didn't live
at the Tendo home had long left. Ranko and Kaneda were up on the
roof, sitting close to each other, gazing at the stars.

It had taken awhile, but Kaneda had found some male clothes that
fit his new form. He knew he would have to go shopping, and
soon.

"So, Kaneda," Ranko wondered, "do you have any regrets over what
you did?"

"Ranko, that is the 12th time you've asked me that question!"

Ranko chuckled. "Actually, it's the 14th. But who's counting?"

Kaneda began to chuckle as well. "Well, the answer is the same
the 14th time as it was the 1st. No regrets. Not now, not ever.
I want to spend the rest of my life with you. If this is what it
takes to do so, so be it. Akane and Ranma have each other,
and so do we."

Ranko grinned. "I think I understand now what Mom was trying to
tell me once."

Kaneda asked, "And what is that?"

Ranko grinned. She then went in close to Kaneda, and gave him a
passionate kiss. The two kissed, and held each other tightly for
the longest time.

Ranko broke off the kiss, and began to chuckle. Casting her eyes
down, she stated. "You have to watch that, Kaneda. I'm not that
kind of girl, you little pervert."

Kaneda chuckled at that as well. "Well, if I'm the pervert, does
that make you the tomboy?"

"Darn right it does! If you expect me to be like Kasumi or Asuka
you have another thing coming, mister. I may be a girl, but I'll
define the type of girl I'm going to be. As long as I'm with
you, being a girl, and everything that comes with it, won't
bother me ever again."

Kaneda smiled at that. "Ranko, there is something I have to ask
you."

Ranko's eyes shot up. "And what is that?"

"I know your mother plans on adopting you, and making you a
Saotome once again."

Ranko nodded. As she did so, Kaneda reached into his pocket, and
pulled out a small box.

Handing the box to Ranko, he continued, "I hope in time, you
will consent to taking the name of Tendo once more."

Ranko opened the box, and her face showed the shock she felt
without a doubt.

"Do you like it?"

Ranko smiled. "I really don't have the appreciation for this
kind of thing, but it looks pretty nice to me."

Kaneda reached over, and took the ring from its box. He then
held it, ready to slip it on Ranko's finger. She smiled, and
held her hand out to allow him to do so.

"Trust me, this is a very nice ring. Nabiki helped me get it at
a decent price. You know, if you were a real girl, you'd know
just how nice of a ring it is."

Ranko chuckled, and replied in a breathy tone. "Oh, I am a real
girl. And one day I'll prove it to you, mister!"

Kaneda's face turned beet red. "Hey, now who's the pervert?"

"Just call me the perverted tomboy."

The two began to laugh. In the middle of their merriment, they
heard the sound of a throat being cleared behind them.

They turned their heads, and found Ranma and Akane staring at
them.

"Hey, are you two going to be up here all night? Akane and I
would like some private time to ourselves too, you know."

Ranko and Kaneda grinned at each other, then simultaneously
stuck their tongues out at their 'other selves.'

Kaneda replied. "Just give us five more minutes, and it's all
yours. Keep your pants on, will you, Ranma?"

Ranma and Akane began to chuckle as well. "Okay, five more
minutes," Ranma replied, "but if you try anything with my
sister, you'll have to deal with me, buddy."

Kaneda grinned. "Does this mean that now that I'm a guy, you'll
spar with me, seriously?"

Ranma grinned. "You bet. Just remember though, 'buddy', you
asked for it. I won't go easy on you either, since Uncle Tendo
now expects the four of us the run the dojo together."

Once again, Kaneda stuck his tongue out at Ranma, who simply
laughed, and with Akane, left Kaneda and Ranko alone on the
roof.

"So, Kaneda," Ranko wondered, "do you have any regrets over what
you did?"

Kaneda was about to lay into Ranko, when he noticed her
laughing. He began to laugh as well, and the two held on to each
other, tightly, as if they never wanted to ever let go.

END


Authors notes:

This story was inspired by the fanfic "Misuteru : Forsaken"
by Jason. It was a very sad little story, about a letter than
Ranko leaves Kasumi after the split, when she can't take
the hell her life has become because of it.

While I like the occasional sad story, I'm much more of a
happy ending type person myself, and I soon envisioned
ways for this problem to be reticified happily for most of
the characters involved.

The story you have just read is one of those ideas that
came to mind. I have another, which takes a totally different
approach, that I may write some day. If anyone would like to
see that, let me know.

Acknowledgment to Jason for his fine story, as well
as "Two Sides of The Coin" by Benares, which served
as the inspiration for Jason, and indirectly myself. I
encourage anyone who liked this story to check those
two stories out, if you are unfamiliar with them.

And if you didn't like this story, well, that's fine too.
You can't please everyone, you know.

JP Buckner