Ranma 1/2 was created by Takahashi Rumiko, and anyone who doesn't already know this won't understand this story anyway. Bleach was created by Tite Kubo; you don't really need to have seen Bleach to understand this fic, but just so you know, anything not Ranma related in here was created by him.
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"Well, ya see...the curse is probably bound up in a form of ki. So if I force out that bit of ki..."
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"Ranma!" Akane rolled him over, and was shocked to see blood trickling from his nose and mouth.
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Kasumi's hand whitened on the telephone receiver. "Even if you say he's all right, Sensei, the fact is that he's still unconscious on the family room floor!"
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"I cannot help you, but..." Cologne looked down again at the scroll. "...but I can give you a hint. I will do so, just so that I can see you learn this."
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Ranma stepped over to the shrine, and looked into the small mirror. And gasped.
Tail Kinker Presents
Chapter 1: The Technique
Happousai drew in a long haul from the pipe, and considered the young man seated before him.
"You know, Ranma, you've left me in quite a position. At the moment, it seems that I owe you one."
Ranma snorted. "If I'd known it would've done you any good, I woulda just let them keep on going." He gestured towards the old man's room. "All I saw was a horde of angry women ransackin' the house. I shoulda just showed them where you keep your stash."
"Nonetheless, you've earned my gratitude and my respect. And to repay you, so that I can go back to treating you like dirt, I'm going to give you this."
From his gi, Happousai drew an ancient scroll.
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "What exactly is this?"
"It's an ancient martial arts technique, that I learned from my master," said Happousai. "Only those with truly powerful auras can master this technique."
Ranma grinned, and grabbed the scroll. "I can learn this." He paused, and asked, "What exactly does it do?"
"It allows the practitioner to untether his mind from its earthly shell, and wander freely." Happousai casually blew a smoke ring at the ceiling. "Thus, you can use it to travel invisibly, gather information, and then return to your body."
Ranma snorted. "And you used it to spy on women in the bath, right?"
"This is why the School of Anything Goes is sought after by men of discriminating tastes!"
"Or none at all." Ranma unrolled the scroll a bit, examined the writing. "You mastered this technique?"
"Well...not yet." Happousai looked sheepish. "I was hoping that, when you've mastered it, you'd show me the trick?"
"Forget it." He re-rolled the scroll. "You ain't gettin' your hands on this technique; there wouldn't be a girl left safe in the world!"
"Ranma! Would you deny an old man his only pleasures in life?"
"Any chance I get." Ranma stood. "If Akane or anyone is lookin' for me, I'll be in the dojo."
- - - - -
Ranma's tea had long since grown cold; he sipped it anyway, and continued to re-read the scroll.
"Man, I've been over this a dozen times, and it still looks like hen tracks."
He picked up his brush, added a few more marks to the fresh page before him, then leaned back.
"Ranma?" Akane leaned in from the door of the dojo. "Are you coming to dinner?"
"Naw, you can go ahead and start without me." Ranma waved a hand. "I've gotta figure this out."
Akane grinned. "You'll need something to eat, if you want to keep this up." She walked in, and set a bowl in front of him. "We've already eaten, but I saved you some."
"Thanks, Akane." Ranma picked up the bowl, and sniffed. "Your curry's gettin' better all the time."
"Thank you, Ranma!" Akane beamed widely.
"Yeah, I don't get sick at all anymore from eatin' it."
Akane's smile turned to a scowl, and she gave him a good swift kick to the seat. He didn't even blink, but continued to eat mechanically as he read.
Akane's eyes widened in surprise; she was well aware that Ranma normally took whatever she handed out. For him to be so completely absorbed in something, that he'd fail to keep that up...
"I think I've got it now." He set down the bowl, picked up his cup, and drained his tea.
"Ranma..." She sighed. There was little use in trying to reach him right now.
"Sorry, Akane." He turned back to her. "I think I've figured out the old letch's handwriting..." He pointed at the fresh page. "I've been copying it out, so I can read it better."
"What is it?" Akane leaned over, and examined the scroll.
"Happousai gave me this scroll, with an ancient technique on it to separate the body and soul." Ranma rolled the original, and set it to the side. "The idea is that the soul can wander around, then come back to the body."
"That sounds dangerous." Akane raised her hands to her lips. "If your body is just lying around, it could be attacked."
"Yeah, but the thing is, this technique sounds like it could be of some use in controllin' the curse."
"Yeah. You see, here..." He traced a kanji on the page. "This seems to indicate that it's not the soul itself, but a fragment of ki, that is forced out. You attach your senses to it, as a kind of rider."
"Okay." Akane scratched her head. "How does this help with the curse?"
"Well, ya see...the curse is probably bound up in a form of ki. So if I force out that bit of ki, without my senses..."
"You'd be ejecting the curse itself."
"Yeah." Ranma grinned, and gave her a thumbs up. "How's that for a good idea?"
"Suspiciously good." Akane frowned. "I'm not so sure it's sound."
Ranma looked stung. "What, you're sayin' that if I came up with it, it must be bad?"
"No, I'm just saying...be careful."
Ranma nodded. "Okay, fair enough."
Akane smiled. "It's nice not to fight once in a while, eh?"
"Do me a favour?"
"I'm gonna try this now. Can you just sorta keep an eye on me?"
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The technique required meditation, an art that Ranma had not studied seriously. Ranma arranged himself in seiza, and began to concentrate.
'Visualization is the key to success.'
He pictured his ki as he often had, a river rushing through his veins, intermingled with his very blood. He pictured the strains of the curse in his ki, and drew them together. Slowly, he began to push the curse from himself...
"Ranma!" Akane jumped to her feet as Ranma pitched face first into the tatami. She rolled him over, and was shocked to see blood trickling from his nose and mouth.
"Kasumi! Ranma's hurt! Help!"
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Ranma lay on the floor of the family room, a wet towel over his eyes.
"The bleeding was minor, it stopped shortly after I applied pressure." Kasumi was on the telephone, her voice worried. "I'm not sure what happened."
"It doesn't sound like a stroke." Tofu's voice was remarkably clear; probably because he couldn't actually -see- Kasumi.
"He hasn't regained consciousness." Kasumi's eyes fell to the page before her. "It seems that he was trying a meditation-based technique, one to separate his mind from his body."
"Not quite." Akane looked up from Ranma. "He was trying to use that technique to expel his curse."
Tofu could apparently hear Akane through the telephone line. "It sounds like he was less than successful. Tell him to talk to Cologne before messing around with his curse. It can only be dangerous to do so without any guidance."
"Even if you say so, Sensei, the fact is that he's still unconscious on the family room floor."
There was a pause, and Tofu said, "Try applying pressure between the third and fourth vertebrae. First left side, then right."
"Thank you, Tofu-sensei." She hung up the phone, and turned to Akane. "Please, roll him over onto his front."
"Are you sure, Sis?"
"Yes, please do it."
Akane rolled him over, and Kasumi knelt beside him. She felt the young man's neck, isolated the joint, and applied pressure, first to the left, then to the right.
Ranma grunted explosively, and she drew back. He jerked once, then pushed himself slowly to his knees.
"Oh, man..." He looked up at Akane. "What did you put in that curry?"
"Jerk!" She backhanded him across the forehead. "I told you to be careful!"
"I was tryin' ta be careful, but..." He shrugged. "Nothin' in the scroll said I should pass out like that."
Kasumi spoke up. "Tofu-sensei told me that you should speak to Cologne; she knows more about the curses."
"Yeah...good idea." Ranma sat back, and winced. "There any more tea, Kasumi?"
- - - - -
Cologne looked down at the ancient scroll, then over to Ranma's more recent transcription. She glanced between the two a few times, then sat back suddenly. "Of course!"
"What?" Ranma leaned forward excitedly.
"Your handwriting is every bit as bad as Happousai's!"
"Argh!" Ranma threw up his hands.
"But I think I can understand what you were planning with this." Cologne chuckled. "A very bold move, Son-In-Law. I am surprised that you had the courage to pursue this course."
"So can it be used this way?"
Cologne shook her head. "I am sorry, Son-In-Law, but you haven't quite got it right. We of the Joketsuzoku have learned this technique, however, and only the greatest of our cursed Warriors can use it. Even Shampoo lacks the spiritual energy to master this technique."
"However, I believe that you have the ability to master it." Cologne grinned. "And I would be willing to help you, if you'd just agree to--"
"Forget it." Ranma stood up. "There's no way I'll marry Shampoo."
"Be reasonable, Son-In--"
"Reasonable? She showed up at my weddin', and started attacking the guests." Ranma scowled. "She tried to kill Akane, for cryin' out loud! You expect me to be reasonable?"
"Her actions were...unfortunate." Cologne sighed. "Very well. I cannot help an outsider, not with this technique."
"Fine. I can respect that." He turned to walk away.
He turned back, a puzzled look on his face.
"I cannot help you, but..." She looked down again at the scroll. "Son-In-Law, you have consistently amazed me. Your ability to learn any technique is, quite simply, astounding. I believe that if anyone, -you- could learn this technique." She glanced up. "I cannot teach you...but I can give you a hint. I will do so, just so that I can see you learn this."
"All right." Ranma sat back down again. "What's the hint?"
"Jushenkyou is more than cursed...it is haunted." Cologne drew out her pipe, and began to pack it. "The spirits that inhabit the Pools lend their form and their magics to the curse. But the curse also binds itself to your very soul. Attempts to eject it fail miserably, and can be fatal."
Ranma nodded. "I sorta figured that last part out already."
"But the curse also has its own soul, and you can draw that out safely using this technique, the way it was meant to be used." Cologne lit the pipe, took a puff. "In this way, you can use the astral projection, without fear of either soul or body."
"That makes it even safer than usual." Ranma flashed her a thumbs up. "So how do I learn the effect?"
"That, I leave up to my student to discover." She stood, and waved him away with the pipe. "Lunch hour is starting soon. Either get out, or grab an apron!"
- - - - -
Ranma looked down at the cup of water before him.
"Safer when in cursed form?" He tilted his head, and considered. "If my astral form will be safer because of the curse, maybe I should use this first..."
"You're not seriously thinking of trying that again, are you?" Akane walked over to him, a look of suspicion on her face. "If you recall, it didn't work so well last time."
"I think I can handle it this time, Akane." He paused. "The Old Ghoul gave me some hints."
"Good for her. What did she get out of it?"
"I think she just wanted ta see if I'd actually try it."
"Problem is, Akane...it's not a cure, or anything remotely like it." He sighed. "Best I'll be able to do is just what Happousai said...it'll let my spirit wander around invisibly."
"That doesn't seem like a lot of use."
"Oh, you never know." Ranma shrugged. "Spyin' on enemies before a match ain't exactly honourable, but sometimes it's what's gotta be done, right?"
"I suppose." Akane sighed. "Are you sure I can't talk you out of this?"
"No, but..." He paused. "Can you sit here with me, in case I pass out again?"
"Ranma..." She smiled. "Do you actually trust me now?"
"I guess...it's more like you're the first person handy, and since you're strong as a gorilla, you can carry me around if I--" He was cut off by a fist slamming into his face.
"If you're going to be like that--" Akane paused, and removed her fist. "I'm sorry, Ranma."
Ranma waved it off. "Don't worry about it."
Akane stepped back from him, and sat down. "I'll be here, if you need...anything."
"Thanks." He picked up the glass, and upended it over his head. The change flowed through him, rendering him female, and she set the glass down carefully.
"Okay, Akane, I'm startin' this up."
She closed her eyes.
-Draw out the curse, not force it out.-
She pictured herself seated in seiza, feet tucked underneath her and knees touching. She pictured taking a step back, out of her body.
-I need to concentrate my ki!-
Her brow creased, and she bore down on the thought.
-Just step back...-
She stepped back. And blinked.
Kneeling before her was...her male body. She looked down at her hands, noted that they were the same tiny hands that her female form always had. "So I'm female, but I'm also male, and sittin' right there? That means..."
She glanced over at Akane, to see her fiancee's eyes wide with shock.
"It worked." She glanced down again, and noted that she was wearing a black kimono. A baldric hung across her chest, and she realized from the weight that a weapon was suspended from it across her back.
She glanced back at Akane, who was unsteadily standing. Her hand came up, and pointed straight at Ranma.
"You can see me, Akane?" Ranma scowled. "Lotta good this will do me if everyone can see me."
"I..." Akane shook her head. "Yes, I can see you...but I can see right through you, too."
Ranma blinked. She glanced down again. "I seem pretty solid to me." She glanced around. "There a mirror in here?"
"On the shrine."
Ranma stepped over to the shrine, and looked into the small mirror. And gasped.
Her face was the same, but a long scar ran down the left side, cutting directly through the orbital socket. By some miracle, whatever had left the scar had missed the eye itself. Her hair was unbound; it fell past her shoulders, as it would without the pigtail, and its red was even more brilliant than normal. The weapon on her back appeared to be a nagimaki, a short-handled horseman's glaive.
"This musta been what she really looked like."
"I guess so." Akane had crossed the dojo, and stood next to her fiance's...spirit? Soul? Whatever she currently was.
"'s kinda funny." Ranma sighed. "I spent the last year turnin' into this chick, and I had no idea about anythin' about her."
"She must have looked a lot like you, after all." Akane's voice was low. "After all, you look so much like your Mom when you're in girl form."
"I know." Ranma ran a hand along the scar, felt the abnormally smooth skin tissue under her fingertips. "I wonder where she got this?"
"No way to ever know, is there?"
"Guess not." She reached back, and grasped the nagimaki. "What about this...?"
She drew the blade from its restraint, and turned it end for end until it came to a ready position before her.
"I know this weapon." She examined it curiously. "It fits my hand perfectly, like it was meant to be here." She turned it, examining the blade. "It's not a beautiful weapon, but..." She shrugged, and resheathed it. "Well, it's almost anticlimactic. I've figured it out, but I--"
"Ranma?" Akane stepped closer to her. "What's the matter?"
Akane turned...to see Ranma standing, eyes wide, and staring at...Ranma.
"You've got to be kiddin'." He stepped forward, and reached towards his female double. "Which of us is real?"
"I am, of course!" Ranma jerked a thumb towards her chest, and scowled at him. "Whoever you are, possessin' my body, you've got five seconds to get the heck out, before I beat you out!"
"I ain't possessed, or anythin' like that!" Ranma's scowl deepened. "You ain't me, either, 'cause I'm still not doin' that projection thing or whatever! You've gotta be the Demon, or the mirror copy, or--"
Akane was glancing between the two of them, looking more and more confused by the second.
"Time's up!" Ranma ground her teeth, set her feet, and launched a punch towards her male double's face. Ranma reacted by instinct, raising a hand to brush the punch aside, but the moment that their hands touched, the redheaded girl vanished with a -crack-, and only male Ranma remained.
"Wha--" He shook his head. "That was very messed up."
"You're telling me!" Akane stepped towards him, a scowl replacing her earlier confusion. "What the hell was that?"
"We were both me." He looked as puzzled as she was angry. "I can remember bein' in the girl's body. I also remember bein' in this one. We were both real, and when we touched...our memories merged again."
Akane's anger ebbed. "All right, I think I get it."
"Yeah, me too." He grinned. "When we separate, we become two individuals, and when we re-combine, we can share memories. This is way better than I'd hoped!" He raised a fist. "Ranma Saotome does it again!"
"I'm actually impressed," said Akane. "That technique might not be as useful as Grandfather Happousai suggested, but it is definitely interesting."
"Yeah." He looked down at his hands. "I wonder if maybe..." He glanced up, towards the iroha. "I know that Cologne said it can't be used to cure the curse, but maybe I can use it to...I dunno...control it, maybe?" His grin widened. "Of course, I can! If I can master this technique in a day--"
He looked over at her, momentarily deflated. "Uh?"
She grinned. "Weren't you a girl before you started this? Or did you forget?"
His expression of confusion faded to delight.
- - - - -
Many thanks to the real genius behind this fic, ChaosBurnFlame, and to those who supplied ideas and concepts. More will be coming!