Warning: I am seriously not breaking any new ground here. I mean that – it's all been done before, and done better, and it's even been done by me before. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to write this, and I tried to make it worth reading.
This is an open-ended divergence fic, which means at some point I'll stop writing and never tie up all the plot lines, because by design the story has no particular goal in mind. Sorry about that. Hopefully I'll get a good ways into the story before that happens.
Also the chapter titles don't mean very much and are subject to change.
M A Davis / Miko
Chapter One: End Of All Hope
"This is my vow. I shall raise Ranma to be a true man among men. And if I somehow fail that task, Father and son together will commit ritual seppuku and take our own lives!"
"So said my husband." Nodoka Saotome sat back and surveyed the room. Everyone -- Soun Tendo, his three daughters, their cousin Ranko -- stared at her in shock. Only Mr. Panda in the corner seemed indifferent to her words, but after all, he was just a pet.
"But Mrs. Saotome," Akane said, "you wouldn't hold him to that would you? Suicide is so extreme!"
"Well," Nodoka said, "I come from a martial arts family as well, so I know how important sacred vows are..."
There were gasps from everyone on the room.
"Commit ritual seppuku?"
"I can't believe it!"
"...So I forced him to alter his vow," Nodoka finished.
There were sighs of relief from those present. "But then," Akane asked, "Alter it... how?"
"Well, it was a very stupid vow," Nodoka said. "A man among men? That really depends upon how you define those words, and I know how my husband would define them. But to me, it was only important that Ranma grow up to be a decent and honorable human being. That would make him a man among men!"
Suddenly the red-headed girl with the pigtail produced a large teakettle. Mr. Panda threw the tire aside and held up a sign. "No, girl who is not my son! Don't do it!"
"Mom," the girl said, and upended the hot water on her head. A second later a taller boy with black hair sat where the girl had been. "I'm Ranma Saotome, your son." After a moment's pause, he added, "Er... sorry about this."
Ranma's mother fainted.
When she'd come to, Nodoka stared at Ranma in wonder. "Ranma? Is it really you?"
"Yes, mother. It's me."
"But... there was a girl here, before..."
"That's me too." And Ranma launched into the full explanation about what had happened to him and Genma on the training trip to Jusenkyo. When he was done, Nodoka sighed.
"I... see." She paused and then suddenly she was hugging her son tightly. "It must have been so very hard on you, Ranma! I'm so sorry I allowed you to be taken away from me like that. I've been yearning for years to see you again!"
"Me too, mom, me too." Tears started to form in Ranma's eyes, which he quickly wiped away. But Nodoka had noticed.
"It's okay, Ranma," she said. "I know your father believes it's unmanly to cry, but I do not believe such things. True, there are limits to what one should allow..." She paused to stare pointedly at Soun, who had rivers of water flowing down his cheeks. Then she stared at the panda in the corner.
"Husband," she said, and her voice held far less warmth than a moment before. "I trust, then, that you have raised our son according to our pact?"
The panda held up a sign that read, "I warned you boy! You've sealed our fate!"
"What pact?" Ranma and Akane said together.
"What you want to ask," Nabiki said, "is for her to finish explaining in what way she had Genma alter his vow."
"Precicesly," Nodoka said. "I see that at least one person here actually pays attention to what's being said." She turned to look at Ranma. "Son," she said, "how are you doing in school? How are your grades?"
This question seemed to come out of left field. Ranma stammered. "I... uh... okay, I guess."
Nabiki snorted. "If you count sleeping in class, never paying attention, and getting D's and F's as doing okay."
"I... see," Nodoka said, looking very sad indeed. After a moment, she added, "It was always my greatest fear that if Genma took Ranma on this training trip, he would neglect the boy's education. Education is very important It's vital, in fact. Son, you could become the greatest martial artist in the world, and even become a 'true man among men' as defined by my husband, but without a proper education, what good would it all be?"
"I... but... I'm a martial artist! I don't need to learn that stuff!"
"You're wrong, Son," Nodoka said. "Education is the key to success in life. Do you, by chance, know what I do for a living? Being the wife of an itinerate martial artist who contributes no money to the household does not, of course, pay the bills."
Ranma shrugged. "I dunno. Dad's never told me much about you."
"I"m a teacher, Ranma. In fact, these last few years I've become more of an administrator, but I started out as a teacher. Currently I'm the Vice President of a private high school. Does that surprise you?"
"I guess," Ranma said. "I mean, I never knew... I really never knew anything about you, Mom."
"So," Nodoka said, "When your father tried to make that silly vow, I had him alter it, and then we signed a pledge to set it in stone. The eventual vow was, "If I fail to see that Ranma recieves a proper education and graduates high school with excellent grades, then father and son will both commit ritual seppuku and take our own lives."
As those words began to sink in, Nodoka produced a long curved Samurai sword. "As I said, solemn vows are very important to martial artists like us. I mean to hold them to this vow."
"But mom! There's no way I can do it! I'm not that smart!"
"Nonsense," Nodoka said. "You've learned martial arts exceedingly well, haven't you? If what I'm told here is true, you're one of the best of your generation."
"But that's different! I've trained in martial arts my whole life!"
"It's just a matter of concentration," Nodoka replied. "You're obviously quite smart and have no trouble learning martial arts. If you turn your full attention to school work, you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish."
"It's not that easy!" Ranma said. "I got distractions coming at me from every direction! Multiple fiancees plotting against me! Multiple enemies attacking me at every turn! New challengers showing up every week! Even if I wanted to, I'd have a hard time focusing on school work..."
"I hate to say it," Akane added, "but Ranma's right. It's pretty crazy around here."
Nabiki nodded. "It's even affected my grades lately, to be honest. Even the Principal of Furinkan and Ranma's Homeroom Teacher are a part of the problem."
"I... see." Nodoka sat in thought.
"So you see, you can't hold that vow against me..."
"No!" Nodoka grabbed the sword and yanked the blade from its sheath. It slipped from her grasp and flipped through the air towards Ranma.
"Ack!" Ranma exclaimed, falling backwards. The blade landed between his legs in the place he'd been moments before. At the same moment he bumped into Nabiki, who dropped a cup of water onto Ranma's head.
"Ooopsie," Nabiki said, looking down at the now-female Ranma.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Nodoka exclaimed. "I'm not very good at handling this..." She picked up the blade, then stared at it sadly. "Ranma," she said. "Should it turn out that you fail to graduate high school with top grades, I shall humbly serve as Kaishaku for you and your father, and then follow you to the grave by slitting my own throat with the same sword..."
She stared at the blade a moment longer. Everyone could see the seriousness in her eyes. The panda in the corner trembled uncontrollably. Then Nodoka brightened.
"But there's still time," she said. "You're only halfway through your junior year. You've got plenty of time to turn things around."
Ranma stared at the floor. "I... I can try..."
Nodoka looked at Ranma speculatively. "Actually," she said, "I think I have an idea that could help you immensely..."