By M. Zephyr

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is a trademark of Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ Communications, and its characters have been borrowed without permission. This story was written for non-commercial purposes only.

Ranma x Akane. Two teenagers, strangers to one another, find themselves forced more closely together than they could possibly have imagined.

Chapter 1. Together in Spirit

Eyes older than time turned their attention to the earthly plane, specifically the eastern portions of Asia, where they foresaw events which were soon to transpire. Thoughts deeper than any ocean slowly considered matters. A smile appeared, although had any observers been present, they would have been hard pressed whether to describe that smile as malevolent, benevolent or merely mischievous. A gesture was made, and a course of events was set into motion.

It was late in April and Akane Tendo, a female first year student at Furinkan High School in Nerima, was once again doing battle. An ordinary popular girl might have to put up with boys fighting each other over her. In Akane's case, things took a different twist. Every morning since the school year began, a few dozen boys would attack her as she came through the school gates, each one proclaiming that he would be victorious and win the right to date her. The fools were mostly ordinary athletes, no match for her martial arts skills. As she threw one fellow into a group of three others, her mind wandered.

She remembered how it had all started. Akane had rebuffed the advances of the exceedingly pompous Tatewaki Kuno, an admittedly handsome kendoist in the next higher grade. As a result, the deranged idiot had made a speech before the entire school that no boy would be permitted to date Akane Tendo unless he could first defeat her. By the time this message had finished passing through the ears of the perverted jerks who attended her school, they had decided that if one of them was able to defeat her, then she would have to date him. No amount of outraged denials on her part had affected them in the least.

Thus began the morning battles, in which the fools tried to win a date with her by beating her up. This morning, as every morning, she stood unscathed at the end, her would-be suitors lying scattered around her on the ground; injured, unconscious, or wisely pretending to be one or the other.

This morning, as every morning, the real battle would now begin. With the rest of the contenders defeated, Tatewaki Kuno stepped forward from behind the tree where he had watched the general melee. He sniffed a rose he was holding, as always, while he declaimed, "Truly such a boorish lot." He flicked the rose in her direction. She caught and crushed it. Kuno went on, "But now, Akane Tendo, my fierce tigress, would you fight with me?" He raised his bokken into the ready position.

"Kuno-senpai," Akane said with a sigh. "Can't you give it a rest?" However, she did take up a stance in preparation.

Kuno spoke in haughty tones. "You seek to jest, my fair one. There can be no greater pursuit than this challenge, which shall one day permit you to acknowledge your love for me." He then launched his attack.

Unlike the other boys earlier, Akane was forced to defend herself vigorously, deftly blocking the wooden sword and striking back with kicks and punches. Several landed to good effect, and Kuno's movements rapidly grew more clumsy due to the pain. The spectators nodded to themselves sagely, as Akane's customary victory became imminent.

However, events suddenly took an unexpected turn. Akane's foot found a wet patch of grass and slipped out from under her. She twisted desperately, trying to break her fall, and at the same moment Tatewaki sliced toward her with his bokken. Even as she hit the ground, Akane was attempting to reverse the motion of one of her arms, to raise it to block, already realizing that she was going to be too late. She had no time for fear to begin as the blade came in from her left, headed toward her forehead. Horror gripped Kuno as he observed this sequence of events, and the realization pierced him that he was unable to pull the blow and prevent her injury.

Akane had time only to think, ‹This can't ...›

Then everything went dark.

The teenage boy came muzzily to wakefulness. He had a feeling like something was pounding on the inside of his head, trying to get out. He looked around blearily, unable to make out very much, as there wasn't much light to see with. The sky was only beginning to lighten with the coming dawn.

Where am I?! What's going on?!

‹Huh?› the boy thought to himself. He stuck a finger in his ear and wiggled it around, while turning his head from side to side. It hadn't sounded precisely like someone speaking. Maybe he just wasn't quite awake yet.

Why am I outdoors?! Why did I stick my finger in my ear?! I didn't try to put my finger in my ear!

The boy felt goose bumps rising along his arms. Trying not to wake his father who was sleeping nearby, he whispered, "Who said that? Come out and let me see you."

Why did I say that? Why can't I control my mouth? Why can't I get up? Kasumi! Daddy! Anybody!

The voice he was hearing was starting to sound panicked. The young man quietly climbed out of his sleeping bag, and started to walk around the clearing carefully, peering into the darkness. "Calm down," he whispered. "Can you tell me where you are? Maybe I can help."

I'm walking around some clearing in some forest!› the voice shouted back angrily, except that the sound didn't seem to be passing through his ears. ‹And my mouth is the one that just asked that question! Who are you, and why are you in control of my body? Where am I? How did I get here?

The teenage boy swallowed heavily as it began to dawn on him that his ears really weren't hearing anything. The words were coming from inside of his own head!

‹Um, can you hear me when I think like this?› he thought, tentatively.

He winced at the return shout inside of his head. ‹Yes! Now give me back my body!

‹Um, I'm pretty sure that this is my body. At least it was in my sleeping bag, and that's my pop snoring over there, and this is the clearing where we set up camp last night. Do you think you could stop shouting?›

The voice paused for a few blessed moments of silence. Finally, more quietly and with just a touch of fear, it asked, ‹Are you sure?

‹Yeah, pretty sure,› he responded. He raised an arm in front of his face, and pushed back a sleeve. Squinting in the gray darkness, he was just able to make out a scar. ‹I got a scar on my arm here. It's one of the ones I got when I was ten, when pop trained me in the neko-ken. It's definitely me.›

This time there was a longer pause. When it spoke again, the voice had seemed to get a grip on itself, though he could still hear fear in the background. ‹Who are you? Where are we?

‹My name is Ranma Saotome. We're in the Qinghai province of China. If you're not familiar with it, that's over in western China. My pop and I are headed for someplace that's supposed to be some kind of legendary training ground, at least that's what he says his guidebook says. We should get there sometime today.›

How'd I get here?

Ranma gave a weak chuckle. ‹You're asking me? You're the - what? spirit? demon? - who somehow ended up in my head. Shouldn't you know how you got here? What's your name anyway?›

The voice sounded huffy when it answered. ‹I'm Akane Tendo, and I live in Nerima, in Japan.› She sounded a little puzzled as she next asked, ‹Why isn't this bothering you more?

Ranma snorted. ‹I've had plenty of crazy things happen to me in my life. I'm just chalking this up as one more. You're a girl, aren't you? You sound like a girl. You said you live in Japan? Ought to be well after dawn there. What's the last thing you remember?›

Yes of course I'm a girl!› The voice sounded quite indignant. ‹It figures I'd get stuck inside some stupid, perverted boy.

"Hey! I'm not a pervert!" Ranma's father stirred grumpily at the noise.

Hmmph! All boys are perverts.

‹Well I'm not, so stop calling me one! It's not like I asked you to pay a visit inside my head. The least you could do is not be rude about it.›

Ranma got an impression that if he could see this girl, her arms would be crossed and her expression would indicate that she was utterly unconvinced by his words. He sighed.

‹So like I asked, what's the last thing that you remember?›

There was another pause, and then Akane continued thoughtfully. ‹I was at school. I was having my usual morning fight with Kuno. I was winning, as usual. Oh jeez, I slipped and I remember seeing his bokken about to hit me in the head. But why would that have done this?

Ranma shrugged. ‹Do you remember what day it was?›

Of course I do! April twenty-third.

Ranma nodded. ‹That's today, all right. Sounds like as soon as you got hit in the head, you somehow jumped inside my head. Was he using some kind of magic bokken, or something?›

Akane snorted mentally. ‹Magic bokken? What sort of nonsense is that?

The boy smiled to himself. ‹Well, I've seen some strange things in my time. There ought to be some explanation besides just getting hit in the head. Still, if you don't know, then you don't know. Might make it a bit difficult to figure out how to get you out of my head, though.›

Her thoughts became nervous. ‹What ... what do you think will happen to my body in the meantime? How long will it be before I can even tell my family what happened?

Ranma tried to keep his next thought to himself, but was completely unsuccessful. ‹Oh my god! You think I'm dead, don't you? You think that blow to my head killed me! And somehow my spirit ended up here!

Ranma sighed, then tried to comfort her. ‹Listen, stupid, I don't know anything. Okay, that's a possibility, but it's only one. I just don't know. Tell you what I'll do though ...›

He paused, but Akane remained silent. ‹I got no intention of telling pop that I'm hearing voices in my head. I'm sure he's going to insist on going to this training ground, so we'll do that. But after we leave, I'll try to talk him into heading back to Japan. We've been in China long enough, anyway, as far as I'm concerned. When we get back to Japan we can try to find out what happened to your body.›

Okay,› Akane whispered. ‹Ranma? I'm scared.

Ranma wasn't the most considerate person around when it came to other people's feelings, but neither was he heartless. ‹I know. I wish there was more I could do for you. I'm afraid it'll be at least a couple of weeks before we can get back to Japan, at the earliest. Assuming I can convince pop to head straight there.›

He headed off to the makeshift latrine he had dug the previous night, his thoughts still busy trying to figure out this unexpected experience. ‹Meanwhile, I gotta know, just how much are you picking up from me? I got the impression that you can see what I can see.›

Everything,› Akane told him. ‹Sight. Hearing. Smell. Taste probably, once you eat. I'm feeling everything that you are. You know, that's pretty disgusting.

Ranma's eyes whipped up from looking at what he was doing. He had the distinct impression of a disgruntled harrumph.

Doesn't help, you know. I can still feel what your hands feel.

"Oh man!" he whispered aloud. "Why me?"

As he headed back to camp, Ranma was suddenly struck in the back and sent flying by a kick from his father. He landed on his toes and spun around in time to duck under the followup attack and nail his father in the ribs. Their regular morning sparring session was underway, and the local wildlife quickly departed the area.

As the battle continued, with many acrobatic leaps, Akane remarked, ‹You know, you're pretty good. If I had to get stuck inside somebody else's head, at least it's another martial artist.

Ranma's head rocked with a blow. ‹Would you mind not distracting me, just at the moment?› he asked sarcastically.

Her response was apologetic. ‹I'll do my best. That hurt.

Eventually the exercise came to an end, and the two men sat down to a meager breakfast. Akane made a number of snide comments on their table manners, which Ranma merely ignored. After breakfast, the boy went to take a bath in a nearby stream. The first thing he did, even before undressing, was to bend down over a relatively calm patch of water.

So that's what you look like, huh? Could be worse I suppose.

‹Hey! What's that supposed to mean?› He frowned at the mental giggle inside of his head. ‹You're probably just jealous because your body is really uncute.› Ranma smirked as he was rewarded with a mental growl.

As he undressed, Ranma asked, ‹I suppose there's no use in asking you not to peek?›

She responded grimly, ‹I wish I didn't have to. I'm going to see whatever you look at, so you'd better keep that in mind.› Ranma just sighed, and tried to be very careful of where he looked while he bathed.

The two men broke camp, shouldered their packs, and set off. Later that morning, Ranma and his father were hiking further up into the mountains. Giving only a tiny bit of his attention to his surroundings, the boy was carrying on an internal conversation.

‹So why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?› he suggested.

Well, I already told you my name is Akane Tendo. I'm a martial artist too. I practice Anything Goes martial arts ...

"What!" Ranma shouted out loud.

His father turned back. "Something the matter, boy?"

Ranma shook his head. "Uh, no, sorry." Inside he went on, ‹I practice Anything Goes martial arts. I didn't know there was anyone else who did.›

Akane's voice sounded shocked. ‹I didn't know there was anyone else either. I wonder if that has anything to do with why I ended up in your head?

Ranma called out. "Hey, pop! Something I just thought of. Is there anyone else besides us who practices Anything Goes?"

His father snorted and gave his son a quelling look, then turned his attention back to the trail. Nonetheless, he answered the question. "Yes, there is another master. Soun Tendo. We trained together, years ago, when we were young men. We're old friends."

Akane exclaimed, ‹That's my father's name! Your dad and mine trained together!

Ranma called out another question. "If he's such an old friend, how come I ain't ever met him?"

The response was practically snarled. "I plan on taking you to meet him one of these days, when the time is right. Now hush, boy. I need my breath for climbing this mountainside."

‹Small world, huh?› said Ranma. ‹So your pop taught you Anything Goes?›

Yeah,› Akane went on. ‹We live in Nerima, Japan. That's part of Tokyo, in case you didn't know.› Ranma snorted angrily at the patronizing tone. ‹We have a dojo beside our house, and I practice there. I'm afraid daddy hasn't taught any students recently, though. I have two sisters. Kasumi, she's nineteen, and Nabiki, who just turned seventeen at the beginning of the month. Oh, and I'll be turning sixteen next week. Or, at least, I was supposed to,› she finished sadly.

‹Hey, keep your hopes up,› Ranma told her. ‹We don't have any proof that you're dead. Maybe you're just lying unconscious somewhere and this is just a dream to you. Of course, I guess that's bad enough, but it's still better than being dead.›

I suppose,› she said dejectedly. ‹Anyway, my mom died a long time ago, so it's just daddy, me and my sisters. I just started at Furinkan High School, which is a pretty nice school, except for the boys there. All boys are perverts.

‹We are not! I'm not! How can you say that?›

Her mental voice was bitter. ‹Every morning before school a big crowd of boys attack me. They think that if one of them beats me, then I have to date him. They won't listen when I tell them I never said that and I'll never do that. So every morning I have to beat them up. Then I get to fight Tatewaki Kuno, who's the jerk who started it all, and I always win against him, too. Or at least, I always did until this morning.

‹Well, try not to let it get you down,› Ranma told her. ‹Anyone can make a mistake. Besides, you're just a girl.›

What the hell is that supposed to mean!› Ranma wiggled a finger inside his ear, wondering if a mental shout could damage an eardrum. ‹I'm a martial artist too! Do you think just anybody could handle thirty or so boys armed with baseball bats and other stuff? For that matter, and much though I hate to admit it, Kuno is pretty good himself, he's got a lot of kendo awards. And I beat him every day!

Ranma shrugged. ‹Well, sometimes a guy lets up a bit when he's fighting a girl.›

Why ... you ... ooooh ...› Her voice trailed off into incoherent imprecations.

Ranma grinned. ‹Guess that shut you up for a bit.›

The grin faded as Akane began to criticize, at considerable length, his appearance, ancestry, martial arts skills, education, manners and anything else which occurred to her. She continued in this vein for approximately the next half hour, without repeating once, before finally winding down.

When he was finally able to squeeze in a thought of his own, it was to think, ‹Note to self. Do not tease my mental guest about being a girl.›

Akane harrumphed. ‹You deserved it, baka.› After a short pause she went on, ‹So when are you going to tell me about yourself?

Ranma smirked. ‹Now, I suppose, since you've finally run down. Okay, so my name is Ranma Saotome, and I practice Anything Goes, like you already know. That's my pop up there, Genma Saotome. He's an idiot, but a pretty good martial artist. We've been on a training trip since I was six, and I've probably studied under pretty much every master in Japan. Except, apparently, for your dad. Oh, and I turned sixteen a couple of days ago.›

Any family beside your father?› Akane asked.

Ranma shrugged. ‹None that I know of. If I have a mother, well, pop's never mentioned her. I suppose she might be dead, like your mom. Probably is, otherwise you'd think we would have visited her from time to time.›

You don't sound too sad about it.› Akane said in an accusing tone.

‹What do you want me to say? I musta had a mother, but I don't remember her. How am I supposed to feel sad about someone I don't even remember?›

At that point, they came over a ridge and looked down into the valley in front of them. There were at least a hundred pools of water scattered around, with bamboo poles sticking up all over the place. Off to one side was a hut, from which a portly Chinese man in a uniform walked out. He noticed their presence and headed over to meet them.

"Hello honored customers," this man called out. "Welcome to Jusenkyo, legendary training ground of accursed springs. I am guide."

Genma looked out over the pools. "Are you prepared, Ranma?"

The boy surveyed the valley as well. "This place isn't so impressive."

What makes this a training ground, anyway?› Akane asked.

‹See all the bamboo poles?› Ranma pointed out. ‹You're supposed to stand on top of those while you fight. If you fall off, you lose. I suppose the pools of water help to drive home the point. If you fall off, you're going to get soaked.›

In the meantime, the guide was continuing to speak. "You very strange one, no sir? This place very dangerous. Nobody use now. Is more than one hundred spring here, and every one have own tragic legend!"

Doesn't look so dangerous to me!› Akane snorted with contempt.

Genma called out, "Ranma, follow me!" He leaped atop one of the poles. Ranma jumped after him, landing on another pole. They each adopted fighting stances.

"Ah! Sir! What you doing?" called out the guide.

"I won't go easy on you," Genma called out to his son.

Ranma smiled. "That's how I want it." Inside of him, Akane prepared herself to experience another acrobatic contest of skill, wishing that she could participate herself instead of just feeling everything secondhand.

As Ranma and his father leaped off their poles straight at one another, the guide shouted again. "Please, sir! Very bad if you fall in spring!"

Genma drove a kick at Ranma, but the boy spun around his center of gravity, and pushed off his father's kicking leg with his fingertips. This placed him above his father, and as he completed his spin Ranma kicked down, pounding his heel into Genma's back. There was a huge splash as his father landed in one of the pools. As Ranma gently alit on a pole he snickered, "Gotcha."

After a few moments, the boy began to worry. A few bubbles were breaking the surface of the water, but there was no sign of his father yet. Akane, speaking from one of her own fears, asked, ‹You don't think he's drowning, do you?

Ranma called down, "Pop? What's up? We done already?"

At that moment, an enormous panda bear erupted from the water at Ranma's feet, looking as angry as a panda could manage. The top of a gi was stretched tightly around its arms and back, and glasses were dangling from one ear. Ranma reared back in shock and began to stammer as the panda landed on a nearby pole, which bent slightly under its weight. Inside of Ranma's head, Akane was also stammering.

The guide called out in answer to the unasked question. "That is 'spring of drowned panda!' There is tragic legend, very tragic, of panda who drown there two thousand year ago! Now whoever fall in that spring ... take body of panda!"

Ranma's eyes went very wide. "Oh, no."

Akane shouted internally, ‹Ranma! Let's get out of here!

At that same instant the panda attacked. Ranma leaped over a thrusting paw. "Wait a second!" the boy shouted. He dodged again. "You never said anything about ..."

At that moment a paw caught him across the back of his head, and Ranma and Akane both watched in horror as he plummeted toward one of the pools. The water closed over his head.

Above the pool, the guide was saying for the panda's benefit, "Not 'spring of drowned girl!' There is tragic legend, very tragic, of young girl who drown in spring one thousand, five hundred year ago! Now whoever fall in that spring take body of young girl!"

Underneath the water, Akane was starting to panic. She was unable to swim, and the possibility of drowning was one of her worst nightmares. Ranma tried to ignore her, while also trying to reorient himself to swim for the surface. The water was freezing, and the cold poured in through his skin, filled the marrow of his bones, and ran along his nerves like frozen fire.

The magic of the waters of Jusenkyo entered his body and his mind. There was a pattern in the magic, a pattern which sought for an appropriate match to complete the transformation. Under ordinary circumstances, this pattern would have been taken from Ranma's own genetic code, and the transformation would have caused him to take on the appearance he would have had if he had been born a girl instead. However, the circumstances were not ordinary, and the magic found its match in a different pattern.

Ranma felt strange, awkward, as if he no longer quite remembered how to move correctly. He broke the surface of the pool, and shook water out of his hair and eyes. While doing so, he felt a strange weight bobbing on his chest. Looking down at the partially open top of his gi, he saw something unexpected. Yanking the top open, he found himself looking at a pair of breasts. In rapidly growing horror, he shoved a hand down inside his pants.

Ranma screamed. The scream was tenor, instead of his normal baritone.

Oh my god!› Akane was exclaiming in shock. ‹You've been changed into a girl!

Ranma spun around, and his eyes burned into those of the panda. Akane was no stranger to anger, but she felt a fury erupt inside of Ranma's head which made anything she had ever felt pale in comparison. The panda clearly saw it, for he spun around and started running. It was quite surprising how quickly such an ungainly creature could run.

Ranma leaped out of the pool and gave chase. The panda glanced over its shoulder and started running even faster.

Ranma? You're ... you're not going to kill him, are you? I mean, he is your father.

"He turned me into a girl!" Ranma shouted, tears in the tenor voice. "I'm a girl! Damn right I'm going to kill him! Face me and die, old man!" The panda managed to find a little more speed in its stout legs.

The chase continued for some time around the valley. The only thing in Ranma's vision was the black and white fur running ahead of him. He was very startled when Akane suddenly shouted, ‹Ranma, watch out!

Ranma realized that he was about to kick a boy out of his way. With a muttered oath, he realized that he couldn't avoid hitting him, and instead wrapped his arms around the boy in order to minimize the damage. They landed at the very edge of a cliff, which promptly crumbled under their feet, and they were falling. Akane and Ranma both gave another mental shriek as they saw the pool of water below them.

Luckily, Ranma's skill in martial arts was phenomenal, and the long chase had already given him a feel for the differences in this female body. His mind did a lightning fast calculation, and he shoved the boy out of his arms with incredible precision. They flew away from one another and landed on opposite banks of the pool.

Ranma looked down into the waters of the pool, giving silent thanks that they had missed it. His reflection showed the face of a young woman of about his own age, with black hair still tied back in a ponytail. A very cute face, he reflected bitterly, if only he wasn't trapped inside of it. He then clapped his hands over his ears as Akane screamed inside of his head.

‹What's wrong?› he demanded.

My body! That's my body! You've got my body now!› Akane was shouting.

‹Well it isn't my fault!› Ranma yelled back inside his head. ‹I've got no more idea than you what's going on, okay?› He looked up as he heard the sound of a throat being cleared.

"Um, thank you, miss," the boy stammered. "Looks like you spared me a dunking."

"It's worse than you think," Ranma replied. "These pools are cursed. If you fall into one, it changes you into something else. I've got no idea what that pool would have changed us into, but believe me you should be happy you don't have to find out."

The boy looked a bit skeptical, but Ranma had no time for that. Sounding apologetic, Ranma told him, "Sorry, but I gotta run. I've got to catch and skin a panda bear." He turned to run off.

"Could you at least tell me your name?" called out the boy back by the pool.

"Ranma Saotome!" he shouted back, just as he disappeared from sight. Neither Ranma nor Akane heard the splash as the boy fell over backwards from shock, right into the pool.

Several minutes later Ranma was forced to concede that he had lost the panda's trail. He slowly slid to his knees on the rocky ground, and leaned against a handy tree. Without the single-minded concentration on killing his father to occupy his mind, his brain was forced to face the knowledge that he was probably going to spend the rest of his life as a girl because of the old man. Bitter tears started sliding down his face from eyes that were tightly shut.

Inside his head he could hear Akane sobbing as well. He had problems enough with his own misery, but could not help but overhear her quiet monologue. ‹He has my body. I must really be dead, and he has my body now. I'm never going to live again. I'm never going to take over the dojo and teach martial arts. I'm never going to see Kasumi or any of the rest of my family again. I'm stuck here, inside my own body, and it's not even mine anymore. It's not fair! I don't even get to go to heaven and see momma. Why? Why did this happen to me? Some boy is living in my body now. ...

She just kept on and on, convinced that she really was dead, that her body had somehow been given to Ranma and she would never be getting it back. Ranma was still miserable and heart-broken, but it did occur to him that unlike Akane, he was alive. It was an agony to realize that his own body was lost, and he was stuck in this girl's body. Nonetheless, the grief in Akane's voice was clearly deeper than his own. He tried to find words of comfort to speak to her, but could think of nothing adequate, and in any event she was ignoring him, not hearing his pathetic efforts at sympathy.

Wearily Ranma stood up, noticing that the sun had slipped behind the mountains and darkness was falling fast. He began to carefully work his way back down into the valley, heading for the guide's hut, near which he should find his pack. Beyond that he wasn't sure what he was going to do, except that he would probably wait until morning to make up his mind. Right now all that he wanted to do was to sleep, and to pray that when he woke up this would all prove to have been nothing more than a nightmare.

Author's note:

Is Akane really dead? Is she lying somewhere in a coma? Is she alive and well and it's just some copy of her personality in Ranma's head? Or maybe she's in Ranma's head while some demon is possessing her body? Stay tuned for answers to these and other questions.

Of course, some might say that she can't be dead, since I've already labeled this as a Ranma/Akane pairing. Allow me to suggest possibilities, if it should turn out that she is dead. Maybe the story will turn out to be rather narcissistic, with Ranma in love with the voice inside of his head for the rest of his life. Or maybe as in several other fanfics, Ranma and his curse will be split apart somehow, and Akane will get a copy of her body back. Or perhaps some magical ritual will transfer Akane's spirit into the body of some teenage girl who has just died (in a spiritual sense) but whose body is still alive. Death is not necessarily a final ending in a fanfic, if the author doesn't want it to be.

Then again who says she's dead? Maybe she is, maybe she isn't. Time will tell. Stay tuned for Chapter 2, "Together in Amazonia."

This story will be six chapters in length, of which this chapter is the shortest by a significant margin. It will carry on to a point a short time beyond when the manga would have begun. I am planning a sequel, which will continue through the alternate history paralleling events in the manga.

The entity mentioned in the first paragraph of the story will not be reappearing later on. It was just a convenient tool to set things on the course that I wanted.

I'm sorry about the delay in starting to post this story. My pre-reader has several projects occupying her attention these days, and now on top of that her computer has gone on the fritz. I had wanted to hold off on posting the story until it was completely pre-read, so that I could modify earlier chapters if necessary to fit changes in later chapters. As you can see, I'm going to back off on that a bit and start posting. Nonetheless, there will probably be longer delays between chapters than has been the norm for me in previous stories.