A one-shot of magic and mayhem.

By Archaon

Warning: You have been disclaimed.

- - -

Prince Herb sat on his throne smirking while savoring a glass filled with fine vintage. Even though he was a warrior at soul and even though sitting in his audience chamber idle for an hour each day as per custom did not appeal to him, he knew to appreciate the best things in life.

"You have visitors, Lord Herb" announced Mint and the dragonborn noticed his friend looked anxious. Friend was not exactly the word he would use for Mint and Lime, his trusty bodyguards, but after sharing many adventures and battles he couldn't rightly regard them as mere followers. Even if he was still miffed ever since that incident two year before, when he had to travel to Japan to find the Kettle of Liberation, he recognized his two friends' obsession with female breasts as part of their upbringing.

The fact that the dragonborn avoided cold water like the plague helped things too.

"I hope it is important, Mint. If this is another neighbor tribe ambassador tell them to come another time. I'm frankly bored out of my mind."

Mint seemed to stiffen. "I assure you you will hardly find these visitors boring, sir."

Herb nodded, regarding the wolfling curiously. Mint was usually much more relaxed around him. He seemed unnerved by whoever the visitor was.

Shortly after, three figures walked in and merely by their gait he instantly acknowledged them as powerful warriors.

The left one caught his attention first. Even though his clothes, hair and face all suggested he was female, his aura marked his true gender clearly. He wore the grabs of a ninja and his feet barely touched the ground as he floated along.

The right one occupied his attention second. He recognized him in soon enough. The white robes, the thick glasses and the long black hair were a dead giveaway. Even though he had not fought Mu Tzu the Amazon himself, he still remembered the hidden weapons master.

Lastly he turned his eyes on the final person.

And gasped audibly as he took in the plain Chinese clothes, the black pigtail and the oh so familiar face.

"Ranma Saotome" he breathed in disbelief.

The cocky martial artist in question smirked. "Long time no see, Herb."

If everybody else inside the audience chamber were mortified by the casual way the foreigner had addressed their lord, they were even more startled when prince Herb leaped to his feet and standing opposite to Ranma bowed in respect. "I never had a chance to apologize for my shameful behavior the first time we met. I was not really myself then. I own you my life, Ranma, and I shall let no one say the Musk can show no gratitude. My house is your house. Consider yourself an honored guest."

Ranma seemed a bit embarrassed by the display. "It is all water under the bridge. I do not hold grudges anyway. These are my companions, Mousse of the Amazons and Konatsu the kunoichi" he responded. "We came to visit and to ask for a boon."

Herb also smirked. "I gathered as much. We did not part on the best terms. But you must be tired from your journey. My servants will show you to your rooms and then we will dine together."

- - -

The two opponents stood in the middle of the combat arena, each sizing the other. "I must warn you, Ranma. Your old... distraction technique won't work too well. I have been working on my previous weakness."

The pig-tailed martial artist chuckled. "Don't worry, I don't intent changing and start flashing you this time. I have grown a bit stronger since our last duel."

Faster than a normal human could follow they both vanished, moving at barely subsonic speeds and trading hits that would kill a lesser man. A few seconds later, Herb leaped backwards and let go of a giant blast of pink chi, three times his height. He was delightfully surprised when Ranma answered in kind, sending forth a powerful orb of blue confidence chi that stopped Herb's blast in midair.

The two attacks stayed in a standstill for a few seconds, then the Musk prince had to leap out of the way. The special wards around the arena barely managed to protect the spectators from Ranma's attack.

Herb was even more shocked when Ranma's presence, that had vanished completely, reappeared behind him. Before he could more, a finger tapped the sleep point at the back of his neck. There wasn't enough power to actually knock him out, but it did drive a point home.

The Musk prince signified a break, then turned to regard his opponent. "A bit stronger, you say" he exclaimed mirthfully. "You have a talent in understating, Ranma. When I heard the rumors about your battle with god-king Saffron I thought they were exaggerating. I was wrong" he stated with respect, although there was contempt when he mentioned the Phoenix's name.

A shadow passed before Ranma's otherwise nonchalant features. "I had a choice between his life and another one's. I'm not proud of what I did, but I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Herb nodded in reverence. "I am glad you consider me an ally, Ranma. And I would like you to consider me a friend, too. With the kind of life we both lead, friends are a rare commodity."

Ranma smiled. "I'll also like that. Cursed ones should stick together, after all."

The prince nodded. "You've told me some of your story yesterday but you never mentioned what you ask of me."

Ranma told him.

Herb raised a brow. "Is this an attempt to cure your curse? I warn you that Jusenkyo curses are not to be trifled with. The magic can easily grow unstable."

"No, I don't consider it a curse anymore" replied Ranma. With a thought he switched to his female form, then back to his male form. "It's more like an ability for me now. Each form has its own strengths and weaknesses in battle."

Herb spent half a minute moving his jaw up and down. "You gained control of the curse?" he asked at long last. "How?"

Ranma rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "It's not too fancy, really. I bet you could learn it easily. Try to keep changing back and forth a few times and study the way your chi moves. In time you'll find the... well trigger I guess. It takes practice but you can either resist or cause the change anytime."

"That's amazing!" blurted Herb, obviously exited.

"Two things though" went on Ranma, now turning serious. "First of all, you are still a water magnet. I haven't found a way around it. But most importantly, you must accept the curse at least partially before you can do it."

"Accept the curse?" repeated Herb, frowning.

Ranma sighed. "Even though you change gender, the body is still your body. Until you sincerely believe that yourself, you won't gain control."

"I see" muttered Herb, a bit more convinced. "Now keep telling me about your plan."

- - -

Five days later, Ranma, Mousse and Konatsu reached the valley of Jusenkyo. Setting camp two hundred meters from the first pool for safety reasons, they gathered around the fire.

"You know a lot of amazing people, master Ranma" noted Konatsu. "The Musk prince treated you as a brother."

"Or sister" noted Mousse chuckling, eliciting a huff from the gender changing martial artist. "Is it okay if we do it tomorrow?" he asked, sobering down.

Ranma nodded. "The sooner the better" he replied, then frowned. "I don't have a problem with the plan, but are you both sure you want to do something like that? It is a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone."

Mousse chuckled. "Look at me Saotome. None of us has had an easy life, but you were always better off. I am almost blind. I'm one of the strongest males of my tribe yet few respect me. The woman I love barely acknowledges my presence. Anything is better than that. And of course, it will save everybody a lot of pain."

Konatsu nodded in accord. "It is the same for me, master Ranma. Before you saved me from my stepfamily, I had nothing and I was no one. After that, only you, lady Akane and mistress Ukyo know me. I have also grown to love her but she won't see me like that. And your decision, while just, might destroy her. I am ready to give my life for her."

Ranma sighed. "Okay, then. We have found how to keep the curses from mixing, we have a lot of water from both the Pail of Preservation and the Kettle of Liberation. Now we only have to dig another spring. Make sure you wash yourselves with waterproof soap for tomorrow. No sense in taking stupid risks around here. And Mousse? Are you absolutely sure you have learned how to make instant spring water?"

The amazon sighed. "For the tenth time, Saotome, I know how. I raided the old ghoul's archive, remember? I bet she didn't even know she had these scrolls."

- - -

A figure casually walked inside the Nekohanten, looking around with barely concealed fascination. He's been there many times before, but this was the first time he was able to actually see the place.

"Airen!" came a cry of joy and a purple-haired human missile crashed in him, glomping him with abandon. "Xian Pu too too happy you back. You take Xian Pu on a date, yes?"

The figure had to remind himself to behave properly even though he craved to return the hug tenfold. "I have a better idea, Shampoo" he exclaimed, making sure to pronounce the name wrong. "Now that I have finally gotten rid of my fear of cats, how about we go a trip to you village? Permanently even."

Shampoo's eyes went wide at the question, then she squealed in delight and proceeded to fervently kiss him. A pail of water that got them both and turned the one into a buxom redhead and the other into a cat interrupted them.

"Why did you do that for, old ghoul?" exclaimed the figure.

Cologne narrowed her eyes. "Just checking a theory, son-in-law. Nothing to concern yourself about. So, you want to be going soon?"

The figure nodded. "The sooner we leave Japan the better. If this becomes known all of Nerima will be on us. I have already packed, how about I help you pack too, airen?"

Shampoo nodded frantically, stopping herself from squealing again at the endearing term. "Wo da ai ni, Ranma. We leave tomorrow."

Cologne watched the pair intently. There was nothing different about Ranma's aura, nothing to indicate drugs or magic besides his Jusenkyo curse. She still felt something was off, but decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Mousse, wearing Ranma's form and sensing his beloved touching him so intimately, was in heaven. He would have to be very careful for the first couple of years, especially around the elder, but he would manage. Being able to see better than ever and feeling the incredible power contained in Ranma's body were merely added bonuses.

- - -

"Hey, Ucchan! Miss me?"

Said okonomiyaki chef froze as soon as she heard the all too familiar voice. Her eyes snapped to the figure that had just entered her restaurant and she didn't spare a moment, leaping above the grill and tackling him. "Ranchan! Where have you been?" she gasped.

The figure smiled. "I had to take care a couple of things, Ucchan" he responded earnestly. "Say, how about we go a trip around Europe?" he asked out of the blue.

Ukyo regarded him stunned. "A trip? Just the two of us?" she asked, barely believing her ears.

The figure nodded. "Sure. I'm kind of sick of Nerima. You'll take your cart; we'll be sleeping on the road. Just like the old times."

Ukyo rewarded the figure with a dazzling smile, not daring to question her luck. "When are we leaving?"

The figure smirked a very familiar smirk. "Tonight if you can pack fast enough. I want us out of Nerima by tomorrow. I've even booked airplane tickets. I hope you don't mind, misstr... I mean Ucchan."

Ukyo completely missed the almost-slip. She stole a kiss from the figure, then proceeded to close her shop, wiping away tears of joy. She did not intent to ever return to Nerima.

Konatsu touched his lips in awe. He still felt guilty, but soon dismissed the notion remembering what the alternative would be. Ranma had chosen and this was the only way to make the love of his life happy. Of course, the ninja was not really selfless. Spending his life with Ukyo was his fondest dream.

- - -

Ranma Saotome entered Nerima two days later, giving his partners in crime all the time in the world to get the hell out of dodge. By using the Umisenken, he made sure both the Nekohanten and Ucchan's were deserted. Ukyo used to be his friend and even Shampoo was dear to him, but ever since the failed wedding he had started to regard both of them as obstacles. Luckily for them, Ranma would only apply the amazon definition and treatment of obstacles as a last resort.

He soon discarded the thoughts along with the Umisenken when he spied Ryouga Hibiki who was busy setting camp in the middle of a park.

"Yo, pig-brain!" he greeted casually.

Ryouga turned around, his eyes widening then narrowing. "Ranma!" he exclaimed. "Prepare to die!"

The gender-changing martial artist faked a yawn while casually dodging the usual onslaught. "What got you riled up this time?" he inquired.

"You have to ask?" replied the lost boy. "Akane has been frantic ever since you vanished. You only left a 'Gone for training, be back in a while' note. What kind of an inconsiderate bastard are you? She thinks you left for good! I couldn't even get her to calm down as a pig."

Ranma hid a smile at that. "Yeah, about that" he started, producing two small bottles of water from hidden weapon space. Removing the corks while evading punches and kicks, he splashed Ryouga with both bottles. The first one predictably turned him into P-chan. The second one restored him to human form.

"What do you think you are doing?" he bellowed, then his eyes went wide. "B...but both of them were cold. How did I?" Noticing Ranma's smirk, he promptly leaped above the nearby fence and dove in the canal. "A pig no more!" came the cry after a while and a very wet and very human Ryouga dived and hugged Ranma. The pig-tailed martial artist chose not to suppress the change and the lost boy let go really fast when he felt Ranma-chan's assets pressing on his chest.

"Am I cured?" he asked in disbelief.

"Sure" responded Ranma, talking very casually. She produced a third bottle and tossed it to Ryouga. He caught it in the air and regarded Ranma questioningly. "From now on, your curse is locked. Therefore, my dept is paid and my promise not to reveal it to anyone is void. If you use that water, you can unlock it, but be warned. If I ever see P-chan around Akane again, he's getting a very fast hot bath in front of her."

Ryouga sneered. "You have no right to tell me..." he said, but was interrupted by a fist that almost broke his jaw.

"I have every right as her fiancé to do that" frowned Ranma, causing Ryouga to stare.

"Since when do you accept her as such?" he asked in disbelief, rubbing a fast-developing bruise.

Ranma smirked. "If everything goes right, I'll be starting from today." Taking advantage of the lost boy's wandering mind, she proceeded to boot him all the way to Akari's farm. Even if they couldn't get together, it would give Ranma enough time.

- - -

Akane was in her room, crying silently as she had been doing a lot during the last month and a half. She still hoped Ranma would return, but the hope was growing weaker every day. After all, she was convinced she had driven him away. A person can only take so much abuse and bad cooking, she rationalized at times. On the other hand, her training was coming along nicely. Why, in a few weeks she would definitely start shooting perfect Shi shi hokodans around.

The Tendo girl laughed bitterly at the thought. She would always accuse Ranma of refusing to train her, of dodging all the time and never taking her seriously. A week ago, when the losers at school decided to restore the hentai horde, she learned just how wrong she had been. She had breezed past their feeble attacks without even sparing a thought. Even after Kuno went all out, she still easily wiped the floors, walls and ceilings with him. Her friends would later say how they had first thought it was Ranma in her clothes doing the fighting. It seemed that after trying to keep up with Ranma's speed for so long, after breaking ten times as many bricks as she used to and after enduring Ranma's and her own crazy lives, she had grown in power far beyond her wildest dreams.

Akane sighed, looking at the clear sky outside her window. Ranma loved it when it wasn't raining, she remembered. Then she felt a very familiar presence and gasped, her eyes snapping downwards. She saw Ranma casually entering the yard.

Her room's door became an amazon obstacle, then cinders within the next second.

- - -

"Hey Kasumi, Nabs, how is it going?"

The heads of both sisters snapped towards the very familiar voice. They both struggled to contain their exhilaration. "Welcome back, Ranma-kun. Supper will be ready in half an hour" stated Kasumi, her usual smile in place. In truth, she wanted to start dancing and crying with joy. When Ranma left, it had felt like losing a brother.

Nabiki, on the other hand, smirked, too happy to mind about the nickname. "You impress me, Saotome. You are impossible to find when you don't want to."

Ranma would have added a retort if not for hurricane Akane that tumbled down the stairs. "RANMA! Where the hell have you been?" she cried, hiding her storm of feelings behind a curtain of anger.

"Yo, 'Kane" he responded as if he was only missing for an hour.

"Don't 'yo 'Kane' me" she snapped back, conjuring a mallet and starting chasing him. They both disappeared in seconds.

"It's true love, sis" commented Nabiki dryly.

"Oh my" added, predictably, Kasumi. "A good thing father and Saotome-san are away."

- - -

Ranma was hard pressed to keep running, seeing as he was busy chuckling at the same time. He soon reached Furinkan high, which was of course empty at Sundays. He leaped above the fence and jumped through one of the first story's windows, Akane hot at his heels. She followed effortlessly, without even thinking. As soon as she landed inside the class, though, she gasped as somebody tackled her from the side. She found herself with her back against a wall, with both wrists held above her head and a leg checking both her legs. Ranma used his free hand to snatch her mallet away and it vanished seconds later. The Tendo girl struggled for a while but soon realized the hold was perfect.

"Why, Akane, is that any way to greet me after so long. Did you not miss me at all, tomboy?" he commented and his words touched her. She looked away in shame and her body slacked, prompting Ranma to release her.

"I was worried, you idiot. Where have you been?" she asked hesitantly.

"Oh, here and there" he replied evenly. "Herb told me to transfer his apologies for tossing you and his greetings by the way."

"You went to China?" she exclaimed. "What else happened?"

Ranma rubbed his chin in mock contemplation. "Let's see. I got Kodachi, her brother and their father committed. It was easy really. I just had to make sure Sasuke is away and have all of them chase me to the correct institution at the same time. There is no one to bail them out when all three are there" he started, chuckling at Akane's disbelief. "Shampoo, Cologne and Mousse are back to China and this time for good. Don't expect to see them any time soon." His face lost the mirth after that. "Also, Ukyo is out of Japan and won't be coming back."

Akane was rendered speechless, a thousand thoughts in her mind. "I see," she added at length. "You are finally free of the fiancée mess. Don't... don't think to stay on my account. We never took the engagement seriously anyway. You shouldn't feel in dept or anything." She gave Ranma a blatantly fake smile, then turned away. She was determined not to let Ranma see her tears, not to try and keep him with her by such petty means. Now that he was free, he had no need for his uncute fiancée, she reasoned. "I'll miss you a little but I'll be alright" she lied, cursing her weakness as her voice broke a bit at the end.

Ranma was at first shell-shocked by her reaction, but after spending almost three years around her, he could finally claim to understand her if only a little. He soon realized what she was thinking. "Idiot" he exclaimed, stopping her from saying more. With a swift move, he effortlessly caused her to twirl around, then kissed her with all the accumulated desire of the last two and a half years.

At first she gasped, then melted against him, responding to the kiss with her usual fervor. "Why?" she moaned as they parted for air. "Why me?"

"Because I... " he started, hesitating. Summoning his mental strength and cursing his shyness and weakness he went on. "Because I love you."

Akane wanted to stay strong, to retain her dignity, to avoid breaking down.

She failed miserably, of course, as her feelings could not be contained. "I love you too, you idiot!" she shrieked, embracing him and crying on his chest like a true daughter of Soun. Ranma could not believe how relieved he felt at the moment, although there was still something to be done.

"Hey Akane. How do you really feel about my curse?" he asked after she had settled down a bit. "I want you to be completely honest," he added as an afterthought.

Akane regarded his eyes, noticing how unguarded they were, how they reflected his feelings for her and she found herself drowning in their depths. She sensed the importance behind the question though and decided she had to be very careful. "I don't mind it at all, Ranma. Without it you wouldn't be you. I even... I even like it a bit and feel curious" she answered, blushing furiously. "Not more than your male form though!" she added urgently.

Ranma smiled. "That's good. Even though I can now control it" he retaliated, changing back and forth in mid-sentence, "I think it as a part of me and I'll be spending some time in girl form."

Akane was stunned at first, but then smiled, clutching his hands like lifelines. "I'm happy for you."

"So" he went on. "Now that we cleared things a bit, how about we turn this farce of our fathers into a real engagement? Will you marry me Akane?" he asked, concentrating hard to avoid flinching and producing a ring box out of thin air. "It doesn't have to be immediately. Whenever you want will be fine," he added, now a bit uncertain.

Akane feared she was dreaming at that point. She regarded the ring, marveling at the elegantly carved phoenix and dragon whose tails formed it and whose golden bodies coiled once around a dazzling crimson gem. Ranma neglected to mention the ring was given to him by Herb himself directly from the Musk treasury.

She suddenly snapped out of her reverie, tackling Ranma and throwing both of them on the floor. She then spent the next minutes furiously kissing him.

"Is that a yes, tomboy?" he asked half-jokingly after a while.

"You bet it is, baka" she replied.

And they lived happily ever after, basking in the chaos of their lives, fighting challenge upon challenge, risking their lives for each other, bickering senselessly and enjoying intense martial arts sex for many many centuries to come.

You didn't expect THEIR life to be peaceful, did you?

The End

- - -

This is just a plotbunny smashing one-shot. You think it was unfair for Shampoo and Ukyo? I say that what they don't know can't hurt them. This is far more positive for them than half of the other solutions I have read in fanfiction.

Cursed spring mechanics: There are many theories and all them can be correct. For this story the following apply: Curses mix, like what happened when Taro fell in the spring of drowned octopus. Instant curses overlap and last only once but they can be locked. If someone almost drowns in an unnamed spring, the spring produces carbon copies instead of passing certain traits. So Mousse and Konatsu almost drowned Ranma in a new spring then used the spring's instant version on themselves, mixed with Preservation Pail water. The girl curse was included in the Ranmanichuan. As for Ryouga, the first bottle had preservation water that locked him in pig form, the second instant drowned man water to override the curse mixed with preservation water to lock it again and the third liberation water to unlock everything.