Ranma 1/2 and the characters and situations within were created by Rumiko Takahashi, and are owned by Shonen Sunday, Kitty, Viz, et al ad nauseum. They are not mine. Please don't sue me.
Tail Kinker Presents
Choices I: Planned Brotherhood
Cologne stared down at the letter in her hands, a look of complete disbelief in her eyes. She'd had this message for almost three hours, and she still could not quite believe its import. It was impossible. It was inconcievable.
Actually, when she stopped to think about it, it was rather expected, and she wondered what had taken them so long.
The bell over the Nekohanten door rang, and Ranma stepped in.
"Hey, Granny. I heard you wanted to talk to me?"
Cologne looked up from table. "Yes, Ranma. Please, sit down."
Ranma's eyebrow raised. "'Ranma'? Not 'Son-in-law'?"
"We have serious things to discuss. Now is not the time for verbal fencing."
Ranma shrugged, and sat. "All right. Elder."
Cologne chuckled. "No need to overdo it." She made a final mark in the ledger book, snapped it shut, then slid the various bills and receipts - and that one other document - to the side. "Now, as to why I called you here: I have a choice to offer you. I have procured a means to cure your curse."
Ranma raised a hand. "Whoa. If the cost is me marryin' Shampoo, you should know--"
"Yes, I know; you have finally admitted your love to Akane. All it took was a mountain splitting and the death of a God."
He shrugged. "Well, sometimes, things need a bit of a push, you know?"
"Indeed." Cologne grinned, then set a small flask on the table. "Know what this is?"
"Uhh..." Ranma frowned. "My first guess is that it'd be water from Nannichuan, but..."
"But that's too obvious. You wouldn't have asked if that's what it was."
"And they say you're stupid." She chuckled. "You are right, Ranma. It is not water from the Spring of Drowned Man. Such would be worthless, even dangerous, to you."
"Why? Wouldn't that cure the curse?"
Cologne shook her head. "No, I'm afraid that there is no simple cure for the curse. Using Nannichuan water would put you in a worse position than you are now. Remember Taro?"
"Yeah, he jumped into a second spring and..." Ranma's eyes widened. "You mean I'd become--" A shudder. "Man, I'm real glad that the Japanese Nannichuan was shut down."
"Actually, the irony is, that would've worked. Completely different magic."
"What is in this bottle, is water from the Spring of Drowned Twins."
Ranma leaned forward, and studied the bottle. "Isn't that the stuff that Taro had? Though he thought it was something else."
"Yes. Normally, a person who has been exposed to this water will, when the curse is triggered, fission into two identical twins. The fissioning is very painful." She chuckled. "I know of one Amazon woman, who has had three children, and is cursed with this water. She has said, on several occasions, that she'd rather give birth to all three children, at their current ages, than undergo one more fissioning."
"Ouch." Ranma paused. "How old are her kids?"
"The youngest is seventeen."
"Yes." She chuckled. "And since it is still a Jushenkyou curse, the hot water/cold water rules still apply. As does the tendency to be...how do you put it again?"
"A water magnet?"
"Hold on, I just thoughta something." Ranma frowned. "Since the curses combine, wouldn't this mean that a cursed person who used this water would fission into their normal form and their cursed form?"
"Very good, Ranma."
"This ain't no cure!" Ranma stood up. "This just makes things way worse!"
"Not really." Cologne dropped another item on the table, a long-handled silver ladle. "Do you recognize this?"
Ranma dropped back into his seat, a look of dread on his face. "The Chiisuiton."
"Yes. Now, can you put the pieces together?"
Ranma frowned, and thought. "The Chiisuiton would lock my curse. And that stuff--" His eyes widened. "So you use the Spring of Drowned Twins to split my curse, then lock it! I'd be a man forever!"
"Yes." Cologne smiled, and waited for the other shoe to fall.
It didn't take long. Ranma's brow creased. "But there'd be this other me, a girl, trapped in a female body forever." Then he brightened. "No, she wouldn't! She could just jump in Nannichuan--"
Cologne rapped him across the forehead with the Chiisuiton. "Wrong. And you were doing so well, too."
"Oh, right. We'd still be cursed, and then we'd both end up dickgirls or something." Ranma sighed. "Well, it seems like a good idea. Why are you offering me these?"
Cologne rolled her eyes. "You still haven't thought it through. Yes, there would be this 'other you' running around, a girl in all ways. Tell me, who would this girl be?"
"It'd be me, of course."
Cologne decided to give him five seconds. It only took three.
"Wait a minute...that means it'd be me, stuck as a girl forever. Me."
Cologne nodded. "Yes, Ranma. Use this combination, and you would indeed be a man forever. But you would also be a woman forever."
Akane stepped out of her shoes, pulled on her slippers, and looked around the front hall.
She walked into the family room, and noted the shogi board, unused. She stuck her head into the kitchen. Nobody.
Still no answer. She shrugged. Well, it meant that she had the house to herself for once. Probably they were out somewhere--
Wait. She glanced out towards the pond, and saw Ranma sitting by the pond. He was in girl form at the moment, sitting with his back towards her. He was rocking back and forth, muttering something she couldn't make out. And he was practically radiating confusion.
She walked up behind him, until she could make out what he was saying.
"...can't do that to her, even if she is me. But it's my only chance..." She let out a heavy sigh. "I wish I had someone to talk to about this."
"Will I do?"
He jumped, high enough to land straight on his feet. Akane giggled.
"Jeez, Akane. What the heck are ya tryin' ta do? Give me a heart attack?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't actually mean to startle you."
"Ah, it's okay." He waved it off.
"So what's wrong?"
"Oh." The redhead plopped back down next to the pond. Akane sat next to him, smoothing her skirt beneath her as she did.
"I just got back from visitin' the old ghoul. She says she's got some things that could cure my curse. But there's a catch."
"With her, there always is."
"Yeah, but this one's a doozy. See, the trick is that she's got some water that will split my curse. Make a boy Ranma and a girl Ranma. Then she can lock it so we never change."
Akane considered this. "That would work, wouldn't it? Except for the girl you still being around."
"Yeah, that's what's eatin' me." Ranma picked up a pebble and tossed it helplessly into the pool. "'Cause it's real important to remember that that girl...would still be me."
"I kinda figured that out, Ranma. I'm not stupid, you know."
"I know. But I don't think you really get it yet." Ranma shuddered. "That girl would be me, in every way. But a girl, forever."
Akane nodded. "I think I see."
"So I got a chance to be a boy forever, but part of the price is that I also will be a girl forever."
"But it won't be you, it'll be--" Akane paused. "It'll be you. I understand. From that girl's point of view, she will be...you."
"What's the other part of the price?"
"Cologne, Shampoo and Mousse have been kicked out of the Amazons." Ranma chuckled. "Cologne says they're gonna try starting an Amazon tribe right here in Nerima."
"Well, they'll fit right in. Everything else wierd happens here."
"Or Juuban." Ranma nodded. "The other half of the price is that I have to join 'em."
Akane scowled. "You are not going to marry Shampoo."
"No!" He raised his hands in self-defense. "Nothin' like that! It'd be my girl self joinin', as an Amazon warrior."
"Oh." The thunderclouds receded. "Well, would that be so bad?"
"Naw, that's the easy part." Ranma sighed. "What I have to think about is, is the first part of it worth the cure?"
Akane gazed at her fiance with sudden respect. "I'm really impressed, Ranma...you actually stopped to think about the consequences of your actions."
"Don't praise me too much, Akane...Cologne told me she wouldn't give me the cure unless I could prove that I'd really thought about it."
"Figures." Akane chuckled. "Knew it was too good to be true."
"Heh." A gleam came into the girl's eyes. "If I take the cure, then I could show you a real pervert."
"NO!" Akane jumped to her feet, laughing. "Don't even think about that, Ranma!"
"What's wrong?" He jumped up as well. "Thought you loved me, even when I'm a girl?"
Akane gave him a shove, and he fell back into the pond. Since he was already female, this did nothing other than cause him to sputter. Akane knelt, and offered a hand.
"So why were you in girl form?"
Ranma took her hand, and she pulled him out of the pond. He looked away from her, absently wringing the water out of his silk shirt.
"I needed to think about bein' a girl. And I figured I couldn't think about it unless I was one."
"Okay..." Akane shrugged. "What have you thought about?"
"Well, the worst part is that the me that is a girl will be really pissed with the me that is a boy. And no matter which one I end up as--" He paused. "But that doesn't really matter, does it. I will be both." He shook his head. "Man, this is a tough one."
"Very mind-boggling, yes." Akane smiled. "Wonder why we're taking it so calmly?"
"Because after all the looniness that's come along in the last year, this bit is almost sensible?"
"Akane, I think I'm gonna do this. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever decided, but I'm gonna do this." He looked up, and she was startled to see tears in his eyes. "But I need you to promise me something."
"When I'm a...girl, I need you to give me all the support you can, okay? Make sure I don't fall apart. Because once this..." He held out his arms, indicating his currently female state. "Once this is my only form, no more man-among-men, forever...I don't know what's gonna happen to me."
Akane nodded. "I understand."
"I've thought about it."
Cologne looked from Ranma, currently in his female form, to Akane, standing protectively close to him. "I do believe you have."
"You wanted proof I'd thought, right? I--"
She waved him off. "You brought Akane with you. Obviously, you had the common sense to talk to her about it. No further proof is needed." She hopped off her chair and walked back to the kitchen.
When she returned, she bore the flask and the ladle. "Akane, the substance in this bottle is very dangerous. I recommend you stand as far away as you can get. Under no curcumstances are you to touch Ranma until we are complete."
"I understand." She walked back to the door, and turned to face the two.
Cologne raised the bottle. "This is your last chance, Ranma."
"I know." Ranma knelt before the old woman. "Go ahead."
Cologne carefully uncorked the flask, and poured it over Ranma's head.
And Ranma screamed. It was the most heart-rending cry imaginable, the sound of utter agony. And suddenly, it was two screams, identical save in pitch. Akane's eyes widened, as she saw his clothing begin to strain at the seams.
"Ranma!" She started to leap forward--
"NO!" Cologne raised a hand, and Akane stopped, mid-lunge. "Idiot girl! If you touch him now, you will suffer the same fate!"
Ranma's clothes gave way, tearing with an unpleasant sound, and two forms sprawled away from them. One, her tall, handsome fiance, the other, the petite girl with whom she'd arrived. Both lay naked on the floor, the ruined clothes between them. The screams had stopped; both Ranmas were unconscious.
Cologne raised the ladle, and splashed the twins with the contents. "It is now safe to approach. I have locked the curse." She shook her head. "Too well I remember this transformation. Three seconds of unbearable agony." She sighed.
Akane looked up in surprise. "You--?"
"No. My granddaughter." Cologne looked saddened. "I would have given a great deal to have the Chiisuiton in my possession thirty years ago. I could have done for her what I did for Ranma."
The male Ranma was stirring, mumbling something under his breath. Cologne turned, grabbing two bundles of cloth, and handed Akane one of Mousse's white robes. "Here. He will want this, and quickly, when he comes to." The second item was a two-piece Chinese suit, similar to the one Ranma had been wearing moments ago, but in green silk. "And this one, one of Shampoo's, for..." She frowned. "...for Ranma."
The girl on the floor opened her eyes. "I'm gonna need a new name, to go with the new me. I used the name Ranko before, when I was hidin' from my Mom." She sniffed, and slowly sat up. "I can't be Ranma anymore, can I?"
Akane stared at the girl, then ran forward and knelt before her. "No, I guess you can't." She smiled at the girl. "But you can be Ranko. I'm Akane. Wanna be friends?"
Ranko smiled a bit. "Akane, I'm still--"
"I know. But those were the first words I ever said to you."
"...I guess." She looked down at herself. "Guess I should cover up, eh?"
"Still no feminine modesty?"
"Why would I need..." Suddenly tears welled up in her eyes, and she lunged forward, hugging Akane to her. "Why...feminine modesty?" She managed a chuckle, though it sounded as much like a sob. "Just us...girls here."
She glanced over at the still-unconscious Ranma, a look of longing on her face. "It's strange...I thought I'd really resent him, because he's still a boy. It was what I was most afraid of." She smiled a bit. "But I'm not."
"Why not, Ranko?"
"Because I chose this."
Ranma stole a glance at the two girls walking beside him. One, he felt he knew reasonably well; the other, he felt he didn't know at all.
Which was odd, considering that that one...was him.
His former girl form was clutching Akane's arm like it was a lifeline. She'd always been small, but in Shampoo's green silk suit, made for a somewhat larger girl, she seemed even more reduced. That, plus the fact that she was cringing.
He turned his gaze to Akane. His fiancee had an arm around the smaller girl, and occasionally murmured something reassuring. Perhaps she felt his gaze on her; she looked up at him, and flashed him a sad smile.
He sighed, and looked ahead. He could see the gates of the Tendo compound; the sooner he could get the girls through the gate, the better she'd feel--
He mentally cursed. Ranko, he told himself. She's not just some girl, she's not your cursed form, she's Ranko. And right now, she's in her own personal hell.
He was disturbed at a very deep level; To him, the girl was still him. He couldn't look over at her without a sudden lurch in his stomach.
They walked through the gates, walked into the house, and Ranma was struck with a sudden sense of panic.
I never told Mom or Dad about this...
But long before he could even consider a way to break the news to them, it was too late.
"Ranma?" Nodoka had come around the corner from the family room, and spotted Ranko, still clutched tightly to Akane's arm. "What happened to you? And why are you dressed like--" She stopped as she caught sight of him, and her hand flew to her mouth.
"Ranma...?" She looked back to Ranko, then to Ranma again. "Oh, my..."
Ranko had gone white as a sheet. Ranma winced; he knew exactly what must be going through her mind.
Oh, no, it's katana time...
He cleared his throat. "Mom, I've got good news, and bad news." He sighed. "The good news is that my curse is cured. The bad news..." He waved a hand towards Ranko.
The girl bit her lip, her eyes pleading.
Nodoka looked at the girl, and then back to Ranma. "The cure split you in two?"
"Yeah." He sighed. "And I know you're real disappointed in me, but--"
"Disappointed?" Nodoka shook her head. "Bad news? I can't believe you'd think that my having my Ranko back is bad news!"
Ranko's eyes welled with tears. She flew to her mother, wrapping her arms around the taller woman. Nodoka laughed, and ran her hand along the girl's hair.
"...Yeah, Ranko's back." Ranma grinned weakly.
"I was so scared!"
Nodoka looked down at her 'daughter'. "Why would you be scared?"
"Because I chose to do this."
Nodoka took a step back. "What do you mean?"
"...And it was only as we walked into the house that I realized that you might not be too happy with this."
Nodoka sighed. "Have I seemed that terrible to you, dear?"
"Well...it was mostly what Pop had to say."
"That would explain that." Nodoka smiled. "Let me put your fears to rest.
"In the first place, I want you to know that I am very proud of you."
Ranko blinked. "Proud?"
"Why, of course! You were faced with a difficult choice, and you chose a path that must have terrified you." Nodoka shook her head. "I can only imagine the strain it put you under. To know that you'd be a woman for the rest of your life..."
Ranma spoke up. "To be honest, Mom, I have to say, I also knew that I'd be a man for the rest of my life. Kinda coloured my judgement."
Nodoka turned to her son. "Yes, Ranma, but you did remember the other side." She beamed. "And you were brave enough to face it like a man."
"Oh." Ranma looked very relieved.
"Second, while I am certainly not thrilled that you failed to mention it to me, I am pleased that you at least discussed it with your fiancee before making the choice."
Nodoka turned back to her new daughter. "And, dear, I am so happy that you're back! We can have lots of fun, like we used to, cooking and shopping..."
"Yay." Ranko's voice was flat. Nodoka laughed.
"Oh, I know. You never really enjoyed such things. I'm afraid I'll have to resign myself to your being a bit of a tomboy."
Ranko glared daggers at her.