Prelude

The hulking man tried not to curse too much as the rain began to fall. Pulling up the hood of his cloak, he attempted to avoid the water. Next to him, a younger man was doing the same. After a few second however, the boy next to him shrunk a few inches while he grew several times in size.

"Power beyond our wildest belief," came a surprisingly high voice. "It won't hurt a bit to read it." The smaller form stopped moving and whipped off the hood of his cloak, revealing a shock of red hair and a feminine face.

"Won't hurt!" she screamed. "Ha!" The bigger man looked down at the girl with a shrug. "It'll show you hurt you… you…"

Unable to think of a proper insult, the girl unsheathed a sword from her side and strode towards her companion. He quickly held up his hands, trying to ward her off. At the same time, his hood fell back. Where there had once been a man, there was a black and white bear instead.

With a yell, the girl jumped towards the bear, which quickly spun out of the way, knocking her on the head and unconscious. Without another word, he picked up the collapsed body and headed towards the horizon, looking for the first sign of the town.

* * *

Tendo Soun stood out on the porch of his small house, watching the rain fall slowly. Inside, he could hear his eldest daughter, Kasumi, cleaning the house. With a sigh, he held the piece of paper in his hand up to his face, trying to think of the best way to break the news to his girls.

"Is something the matter, father?" Kasumi asked, suddenly appeared behind his shoulder.

"Not at all, Kasumi," Soun said. "Have you seen your sisters?"

"Akane should be back soon and Nabiki is… well, I don't know where she is right now."

"Probably at the market trying to sell more potions for three times their worth," he said with a smile. "I'll go get her."

Leaving Kasumi to tend the house, Tendo Soun quickly moved through the streets of Trsitram. He knew most of the people he passed but barely acknowledged their greetings. He concentrated on the crowd, looking for Nabiki.

"Please sir," came a tiny voice. Looking down, Soun saw a small lump of cloaks pulling at his leg. "I'm very ill and I need to sell these potions to…"

"Nabiki??" Soun said, grabbing the begger by the scruff of the neck.

"Oh crap… ah, I mean, hi daddy!" The cloaks fell away and Nabiki looked up at her father with innocent eyes. "I was just ummm…"

"Enough!" Soun said. "Oh, Nabiki, if your mother could see you know, scrounging like a beggar in the street," he continued, tears starting to form in his eyes.

"Like we aren't beggars already," she said under her breath. Soun shot her a disapproving look to let her know that he had heard her but wasn't going to dignify it with a response.

"We're going home," Soun said, dragging his middle daughter away from the growing crowd. All they needed was another brawl. Gods knew that Akane was trouble enough.

As if to answer him, the sky suddenly filled with the aura of a huge fireball. Looking up, Soun tried not to swear too much as he hurriedly made his way home, with Nabiki in tow. Reaching his house, he knew his fears were founded, as the tree in their front yard was on fire.

"Hi Daddy!" Looking up, Soun say his youngest daughter, Akane standing in the yard. She still wore the uniform from her school, a traditional sorceress' garb. It was a bit too revealing for Soun's tastes, the entire midsection having been removed and the skirt no more than two piece of fabric attached to a belt. But Akane had always wanted to be a sorceress like her mother and Soun could never deny her anything.

"Akane! What's going on??"

"Ah," Akane started looking sheepishly around. "Nothing much." Behind her a burning branch broke and fell to the ground.

"There goes the neighborhood," Nabiki grumbled, "again."

"It's okay, I can put it out!!" Akane called.

"Akane, no!" Soun called out. But it was too late. Akane's staff turned and the air around him got suddenly much colder. A second later he was encased by ice.

"Nice aim, sis!" Nabiki called out.

"Oh my," Kasumi said, looking outside at the scene. "Should I call the fire brigade?"

"No!" Akane yelled. "I can get this right! I know I can!" With that she started to cast the spell again. Nabiki quickly dove underneath a nearby bush while Kasumi discreetly stepped inside and closed the door.

A blue aura surrounded her and for a moment, she felt like she was floating off of the ground. Quickly she cast the spell forward towards the tree. Unfortunately, her aim was off again and the ice bolt hit the road instead, creating an ice path in its wake.

"Whoops," she said softly.

At that moment, two figures appeared on the path, unaware of what was occurring only a few feet from them.

"I don't care what you told him," the younger man said. "I ain't getting engaged to some girl I don't know. I ain't getting engaged at all! I'm going back to the Amazons and asking them to fix this damn…"

"Ah, Ranma," the older man started.

"No way, old man," Ranma said holding up his hands. "This ain't up for discussion, I'm not marrryi…"

With that, the young man stepped onto the ice path, quickly lost his footing and went sliding down the road, careening towards a flaming tree, a man in ice and a confused looking sorceress. Genma watched as his son quickly slid away from him and shrugged before transferring to the grass and moving towards the house.

Ranma continued sliding down the icy path, and much to his dismay, straight towards the sorceress. Akane was about to cast the ice spell for the third time before she saw something hurtling towards her. She barely had time to brace herself before Ranma hit her, swiftly taking out her legs and sending her to the ground.

A few seconds later, the tree still burning, Genma made his way to the scene. With a sigh, he cast a small firewall, melting the ice that encased his friend Soun. "Soun, how are you old friend?" Genma asked, stretching out a hand.

"Fine," Soun said, still a bit disoriented. "I, uh, I was in the middle of…"

"Oh, wow, I'm sorry," Ranma was saying, as he carefully lifted himself of the person he collided with. "Man, what kind of idiot casts an ice spell on a town road."

He felt the form underneath him shudder. For a moment, he thought she was afraid but her eyes suddenly locked with his and he saw her anger through them. Before he could say another word, she lifted her staff and connected with his side.

"BAKA!" she cried sending him up into the air.

Genma shook his head, that boy of his could never stay out of trouble. Carefully he conjured out a hurricane, the dousing rains putting out the fire while the winds caught Ranma and brought him, or she at this point, safely to the ground.

"Why the hell didya do that for?" Ranma-chan demanded as she hit the ground. But no one's attention was focused on what she was saying. Instead, the entire Tendo family stood open mouthed at the young lady who replaced the male Paladin that had arrived only moments before.

"I didn't know that Paladins could shape-shift," Nabiki said. She walked up with interest and poked her finger at the other girl's breast. "Well, it's not an illusion."

"Illusions are an Assassin skill," Akane said walking up to Nabiki and Ranma-chan.

"Ah, do you mind not doing that?" Ranma-chan asked, glaring at Nabiki.

"Genma, dear friend, exactly what is going on?" Soun asked. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Well, it's a bit of a story…"

* * *

Twelve weeks ago…

"Come on boy, keep up, we're almost there."

"What the heck is so important up there anyway?"

"A scroll with a legendary technique that will give us a power of the Gods!"

"Right about now I'd settle for the power to conjure up a sandwich."

"Quiet boy."

"Where did you read about this scroll anyway?"

"There was a man in the last town that gave me a book that told a scroll that would grant one wish to the man who held it."

"Wait a minute… this isn't like that book that told you about Nek… nek… neko…"

"Are you getting scared again boy? Am I going to have to teach you a lesson?"

"I'd like to see you try."

"Bring it… wait a minute, I think we're here."

"This… This is it?? You mean we climb all this way for this??"

"Quiet boy, I'm looking for…"

"Five days of walking so we can get to this damned mountain so we can spend another five days climbing the thing and this is all we have to show for it is a rotting tree?"

"You'd be surprised how many treasures have been hidden in rotting trees. Ha!"

"What?"

"I've got it!"

"Let me see, let me see!!"

"Stop pushing boy and let me read it first!"

"Right like I trust you to read anything after that… Neko… neko…"

"Boy sometimes I swear you would have been better off it you had been born a girl."

"Ha, you wish!"

"Yes, I do… ah… why is the scroll glowing…"

WISH GRANTED

…Silence…

"What? What happened?"

"Ah…"

"Don't just stand there, pop? What the heck happened?"

"Ah…"

"Listen… wait a minute what happened to my voice?"

* * *

"So you mean to say," Soun said with his head in his hand, "that you wished you're son had been born a girl."

"It was a mistake," Genma said.

"So how did you end up as a black and white bear?" Nabiki asked.

"Well…"

* * *

"AH! I'm a girl!!! WHAT DID YOU DO?!?!"

"Quiet boy, I'll fix this. Scroll, I wish my son was a man again."



"Nothing happened."

"You idiot! You only get one wish!!"

"Boy, if you don't stop shouting…"

"Why should I? You turned me into a girl!! Give me that scroll!"

"Be careful boy, this is a very delicate process. You only have one wish left so you have to use it the right way."

"Don't you worry, I will. I'll just fix it so I'm back to normal."

"Are you insane boy!? This is our one chance to get anything we've ever desired. You are not wasting it on something as trivial as that."

"Trivial, this is my manhood we're talking about! It ain't trivial!"

"There are worst things then being a girl… you could have been a rat or a pig or a…"

"Worse things… you try being a girl!"

"Ha, at least I'm secure enough in my manhood that becoming a female wouldn't bother me."

"Oh yeah, how about if you were a…"

* * *

"Big fluffy panda," Genma finished.

"You didn't!" Kasumi cried.

Ranma-chan looked sheepishly at the older girl. "Hey, it was the first thing I could thing I could think of!"

"A big fluffy panda," Genma repeated. There was a pause. "Oh that shame of it all! Not only is my son a girl but he is dreaming of big fluffy pandas!"

"Didn't you try to get someone else to help you?" Akane asked. "Get someone else to wish for you to return to normal?"

Genma and Ranma-chan looked at each other and sighed.

* * *

Ten weeks ago…

"We made it!! We finally made it again."

"Soooo… where is this scroll you were talking about?"

"It's right up here mister!"

"And you want me to wish you were a boy?"

"Uh huh, and like I said in town, I'll pay you ten thousand gold pieces to do it."

"This is it?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"And all I have to do is say what I wish for?"

"Yeah, yeah, go ahead."

"Okay, I wish… I wish… for twenty thousand gold pieces!!"

* * *

"Nice," Nabiki said. "I would have probably asked for two hundred thousand…"

"You would," Akane said. "So that didn't work… Did you try anyone else?"

* * *

Eight weeks ago…

"Up here?"

"Yeah, yeah, thanks mister, you're doing me a big favor!!"

"No problem, it's a barbarian's duty to protect the weak and…"

"Ah, mister, it's this way…"

"Oh yeah. Like I said, it's a barbarians' duty to…"

"Hey! Over here! To the left… no not that left! Watch out for that cliff!!!"

"Whoops, that was close. So this is the scroll?"

"Yeah, that's it!"

"Wow, so you can really wish for anything you want?"

"Yes, but please mister… I really need you to wish my father and me back to normal otherwise we might… sniff…"

"Don't worry, little girl, I'll help you out. I just think I might be able to help a lot of people out at the same time."

"Oh for the… Listen here, I brought you up here to make one wish, one stupid wish."

"Look, I'm just saying that maybe we could help more people…"

"Yeah, so more people could respect you!"

"That's not what this is about."

"It is too! You just used me to get up here so you could become famous!"

"I just want to help people…"

"You're in it for yourself, just like everyone else! You ingrate!"

"What?"

"You idiot!"

"WHAT?"

"You pig!!!"

"I am not a pig!"

"Are too!"

"Are not!"

"Are too!"

"Are not!"

"…Are not!"

"Are too! I am, I am a pig… whoa, why is this glowing???"

* * *

"No," Ranma-chan said. "I mean, we sort of learned our lesson the first time around."

"What about the scroll?" Kasumi asked. "You could have always brought it here and one of us would have been happy to grant you that wish."

"Speak for yourself," Nabiki said under her breathe. Kasumi glared at her.

"Actually, we did try to go back up there one more time," Genma started, "but when we reached there…"

* * *

Six weeks ago…

"Quack, quack, quack, quack…"

"Meowrr…. Hisssss…"

"AH! Cat!!!!"

"Growl… growl…"

* * *

"Wait, wait, wait," Akane said holding up her arms. " There was a cat and a goose up at the top of the mountain with the scroll."

"No," Genma said with a long sigh. "There was a cat, a goose and shreds of what used to be the scroll. We think the cat took it apart."

"Oh my," Kasumi said.

"So there's no hope of you two turning back to normal," Soun said.

"Well, except that they seem to be human to me," Nabiki said. "Well, maybe not the right sex," she continued, poking Ranma-chan's breast.

"Would you stop doing that," Ranma-chan said under her breath.

"So what happened next?" Akane asked, very intrigued by the whole story.

"Well, we traveled for several weeks," Genma continued. "We spoke to several wizards and witches in different towns but no one knew how to cure us. We went on several quests to seek out treasures that would grant us wishes. We rescued damsels in distress, fought the darkest demons, reached the pits of hell itself…"

"All in six weeks," Nabiki said. "My, my you must be exhausted from your trip."

Ranma-chan sighed. "What pop means to say is that we bribed a local gypsy seer to tell us how to change back to normal. She gave us this sacred water that let us remain in our normal forms half of the time."

"But how does it work," Akane asked. "Your changing back and forth and all."

"Water," Genma said. "Observe." He picked up a glass of boiling hot tea and dumped it over Ranma-chan's head. She quickly reverted back to boy form. "Hot water, changes us back…"

"It doesn't have to be that HOT!" a very male Ranma said. Genma grabbed a mug of water and threw it on him in response. Ranma quickly shrank back to female form.

"Cold water turns us to our cursed forms," Genma said. "It's a sad story but one that will hopefully have a happy ending. We've learned that the Sisterhood of Light may have a way for us to change back. But the trip is long and arduous and because of our curse we could very easily become easy targets for monsters."

"Speak for yourself old man," Ranma-chan said. "I can still handle them in this form."

"You can barely lift your sword in that form," Genma returned. "And even though I have learned the art of shifting into a grizzly bear… I can not cast spells in the panda form."

"So how do you intend to travel that far away?" Akane asked.

Genma cleared his voice, Soun looked away, but Ranma-chan reached over for a cup of tea and dumped it on her head. "They want me to get engaged to one of you," he said.

"What?!?" Akane cried.

"Oh dear," Kasumi said softly. Nabiki just laughed.

"Well, Genma and I grew up together," Soun started, "and we always wished that someday our families would be joined so that our fighting styles would become one."

"I didn't knew you were a fighter, daddy," Nabiki said. "You just seem to loaf around the house all day."

"Where do you think the money to build this house came from?" Soun asked. Nabiki huffed but he ignored her. "I was quite an adventurer in my day. But those days are done and I've done my best to teach you girls all I knew.

"Kasumi is a very strong sorceress but she lacked the fighting drive to become a true master," Soun continued. Kasumi merely smiled. "We tried with Nabiki but… she was more interested in making money by selling her supplies then from actually learning any magic."

"Once you learn you can't turn things into gold, what's the point?" Nabiki asked.

"But Akane has shown real promise and a real fighting spirit."

"So it's settled," Genma said.

"What's settled?" Akane asked quickly.

"Akane will come with us to find a cure and when we return to Tristram, she and Ranma will be married."

"WHAT?" Akane cried. "There's no way I'm getting married to him! I hardly know him!"

"That's what I've been saying," Ranma replied. "Besides, she wouldn't be any help. Did you see what she did to that tree and the road? We'd be baked and frozen before we even left town!"

"Oh dear," was all Kasumi could said before a fireball engulfed Ranma and threw him out of the house.

* * *

Later that night when the rest of the house was asleep, Akane sat in her bed looking out of her window at the starry night over Tristram. She tried to ignore the pack that lay next to her bed and the journey that it symbolized. Tristram was the only home she had ever known and she had never traveled far from its safety. Boarded up in these walls were years of memories of friends, family and most importantly her mother.

She could barely remember her face now. There were fleeting memories of a cherry pale face surrounded by short black hair. But there were other things she remembered about her. The singsong voice that cast spells to keep the family safe and warm. The way the smell of herbs would fill the house in the spring. The warmth of her hand as she pressed it against little Akane's head and told her it would be all right.

Akane needed that most of all right now. She was so terrified of leaving home. Sure it was every sorceress dreamed off, a chance to see the world with a pack of season adventurers but Akane could bring herself to get excited about the trip. She was too afraid that what Ranma had said was true, that she wouldn't be any help to them. That she would die on some cold and dark road miles away from her home and family.

There was a knock on the door and Akane jumped. Carefully, she uncurled herself from bed and padded over to the door, opening it a crack to see who it was.

"Kasumi?" she said, recognizing her older sister.

"I'm sorry to wake you up Akane," she said softly, "but Nabiki and I wanted to talk to you before you left."

Akane nodded and grabbed a knitted jacket before following her sister. In the common area of the house, Nabiki sat in front a large box with a grim look on her face.

"What is it?" Akane asked.

"Sit down," Nabiki said, ushering to an empty chair.

"This is mother's box," Kasumi said. "It was meant for me but I didn't want them."

"And I wanted to sell them," Nabiki said, "but Kasumi wouldn't let me."

"So since you will be the one to carry on mother's tradition," Kasumi continued opening the box. "These are yours."

Akane gasped. Inside was a plate of armor, a helm and a small wand. Each was engraved with arcane lettering except for a small signature on each that read Kimiko. Akane picked up the wand, a gnarled stick with a crystal globe on the top.

"I know you're comfortable with your staff," Kasumi said, "but more powerful sorceress use a wand. This one will help with your fire and ice spells."

"But not your aim," Nabiki threw in.

"Nabiki," Kasumi scolded. The other girl shrunk down.

"Thank you, I mean I don't know what to say," Akane said.

"Yeah well," Nabiki started, "they weren't exactly ours."

"No, they weren't," Kasumi agreed. "But this is. Give it to her, Nabiki." Nabiki shifted uncomfortably. "Nabiki," Kasumi said sharply.

"Here," Nabiki said quickly, shoving her hands out. "Just take it."

Akane reached out and carefully took the pouch from Nabiki. She opened it up and looked inside. "There has to be over a hundred gold piece in here!" she cried.

"Not enough to buy anything spectacular," Kasumi said. "But it's a start. Oh Akane… I'm so proud of you. You're so brave for leaving home."

"I am?" Akane asked.

"Sure you are sis," Nabiki said. "I mean, why do you think neither Kasumi or I became full blown sorceresses? We couldn't do what you're about to do."

"You're going to have such a wonderful time. Just be careful of the monsters," Kasumi said.

"Do you mean the normal baddies or the two guys that she's stuck with?" Nabiki asked. She and Akane started to laugh.

"Nabiki," Kasumi scolded. Or at least tried to. Soon, the three sisters were engulfed in laughter. But too soon, Kasumi stood up and motioned for them to get moving.

"Let's go to bed. Akane needs to get up early in the morning," she said closing up the box and handing it to Akane. She sank under the weight but hugged the box tightly as she made her way back to her room.

* * *

The sun had not even broken the night's sky when Akane was awoken by a knocking at her door. So little time had passed, that she thought Kasumi had returned to tell her something else. She walked over to the door and opened it, only to find Ranma there instead.

"Ah," he said somewhat nervous. "Pop said we need to go."

"Now?" Akane asked. "But this is much earlier than we told everyone we were going."

"I don't make the messages, I just deliver them," he said with a shrug. Akane sighed and turned back to her stuff.

"I have to change," she said. "Give me a minute."

"Okay, we'll be waiting outside," Ranma replied "Do you… do you need me to help you carry anything?"

Akane reddened. "You don't think I could do it myself?"

"That's not what I said," he replied. "Whatever, carry it yourself." With that, he turned and left.

Trying not to think too much about her rude awakening, Akane changed into her sorceress uniform and then quietly put on her armor. It fit perfectly but Akane was sure her mother had enchanted it to do just that. She briefly looked over at her long staff before grabbing the shorter wand and throwing on her pack.

Outside it was pitch black but she could make out the forms of Ranma and Genma. As she approached, she could see their breath. Ranma looked over at her and quickly blushed.

"What?" she demanded.

"Nuthing… just, aren't you cold wearing just that?" Akane looked down with surprise. She was wearing more than what she usually wore, now that the armor covered most of her chest.

"Warmth boy," Genma replied. "All sorceresses learn it. You ready?"

Akane looked at him, tempted to ask him whether she could wake everyone up to say good-bye. But one look at his stern face and she realized that this had been his plan all along. With a short shake of her head, she quickly fell into step behind them, leaving Tristram and her family behind her.