-NOOB WARNING-

Neophyte writer here. No skills or talent. That's what this site is about, ne?

This will certainly have to be reworked at some time, but I think the concept is a worthy one.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

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Dawn breaks over a remote valley in China, lighting up the morning mist. It is a picturesque scene, one tourists will journey thousands of miles to see. But no one enjoys the beauty of the sunrise this day; there are no tourists to see it, only residents. Most are animals, and all have been here a very long time indeed. Lifetimes, in fact.

The dead spirits of the Pools of Jusenkyo go about their normal daily spiritual business. One, however, has a secret. Alone among the spirits this morning she enjoys the sunrise - but not for its beauty. It looks, in fact, like many another day. But it is not just another day to her. Today is special. Today, at long last, she leaves.

She hides her knowledge well; the few other intelligent spirits suspect nothing. She was always good at keeping secrets. It was her business once. It also helps that she is far and away the oldest of them.

The sun climbs into the sky, burning off the mists. Presently three figures approach along the road leading into the valley. One is the local area guide. The other is a travelling martial artist, like most who find their way here, usually in the guide's company. The last is, from his resemblance to the other, the martial artist's son. A boy with a destiny. The vehicle of the hopeful one's liberation.

The guide is not entirely competent. That is why he is here. The first guide assigned to the area was too competent, and none too wise: he prepared a report to his superiors about the properties and potential of the Springs, and the local villagers were forced to arrange an unfortunate accident to avoid having the whole valley become a top secret military reservation. The second guide, made aware of his predecessor's fate, kept his knowledge from getting to the government but thought he was doing well to keep a squirrel dunked in the Spring of Drowned Dog in a cage to demonstrate the power of the springs to the martial artists who came to train here. This gave them pause enough to listen to the full tour, after which they invariably jumped in powerful springs - tiger, elephant, chimera, dragon, ashura-demon. The almost-wise guide did not survive the resulting war among overpowered martial artists.

And so the villagers used what influence they had to find someone they could control, not too smart, who would offer only the basic tour. If some visitors were too impatient to listen and came to misfortune, they deserved their fate.

The father and son are such. They take to the poles immediately, jumping to and fro, clashing in midair, hurling insults. "I won't go easy on you!" "That's just how I like it!" "OY- SHOH- TOH!" Splash.

It is the Panda's turn this time. So many possibilities dance. If only the father had dodged. If only the son had hit on a slightly different angle. So much easier things would be for them if the first one to be cursed had a smaller and weaker form, unable to dunk the other. So much power the boy would gain to control his life if his father were a dog or a squirrel or a piglet or - best of all - a cat. But no. The Panda wins this round, and the father's advantage grows.

The dance resumes. The boy backs away in surprise, hopping along poles. Timelines split left and right as the boy dodges this way and that: here he falls in the generic Spring of Drowned Girl, to learn how the world judges appearances, how unforgiving and unfair his society can be. There he becomes a tiger, in mind as well as body due to his father's foolishness some years before. Over there he becomes a virtuous man, who renounces his family as honorless.

Across the pools they move, the boy getting his bearings. Knowing now the consequences of getting wet, he can stay dry much longer. He tries to get to the edge and safely away from the prospect of being cursed, but his father always angles to cut him off, keeping him over the springs.

They enter powerful territory now. The chimera-spring, in which an ancient lecher once baptized a baby with an unfortunate name. The dragon-spring, widely regarded as the most desirable; only one local village knows better. Toward that better spring they head, the boy almost falling in the Spring of Drowned Sage, very tragic story of a Han Dynasty wise man who drowned himself here two thousand years ago to offer his wisdom to future ages. The tragedy of his story, of course, is that no one has fallen in his pool since. Nor will anyone today, alas. Sorry, old friend, but this one is mine.

And so the fatal moment comes. The boy is an instant too slow. Down he goes, plunging into destiny.

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Ranma looked about himself. All was darkness. Strangely he didn't feel wet. He felt numb, like his body wasn't even there. Was he dead? Better dead than turned into some...THING.

Color appeared before him, then shape. Human. Female. Tanned. Dark hair. Nude.

A ghost, Ranma realized. Part of him thought he should look away. Another part wondered if it mattered. Ghosts don't have modesty, do they? Politeness had never been his thing anyway. "Who... who are you?" he asked.

"I am you, now," she replied.

Ranma remembered his father. The ghost's meaning was all too clear. "OH NO! NO WAY! I ain't gonna be a GIRL!"

He shrank away as the ghost reached out, touched his cheek, came face to face. "It is already done..." She moved in and kissed, her lips going through his, and she went INTO him.

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Genma looked on in satisfaction at his victory. At last he had evened the score! Surely that would be the terms of their training for today: counting dunkings.

Not focused on combat, he now noticed something was off. He felt different, somehow. Taller. Stronger than usual. He couldn't control his fingers. He looked at his hand...paw. Paw? Furry arm, furry body... suddenly he recalled what the guide had been saying. Horror washed over him. Cursed? The horror redoubled as he considered his son. What had happened to HIM?

He did not have to wait long to find out. A figure wearing his son's gi emerged sputtering from the spring below. A figure that did not look much like Ranma. Too thin and delicate, maybe a bit too tall. Hair tinted green. The figure looked down at itself, opened the front of the gi. Female breasts. Feminine cry of surprise and despair.

A girl. They were dead. Nodoka would have to enforce the seppuku contract. They couldn't go back home unless they found a way to break Ranma's curse.

Ranma emerged from the spring as the guide caught up to them. "Oh sirs! Very sorry. You fall in Spring of Drowned Wise Woman, oldest of all springs. No one know when it happen, but must have been very tragic. Local village tell you about it... ummm... maybe better not, they be very angry..."

Ranma went up to the guide and grabbed the front of his Mao suit. "How do I cure it?"

"Very sorry sir, is no cure. Can change to man with hot water, but only until you fall in cold water again."

"Never mind. I'll find a way myself." He looked back at the springs, then turned back to the guide. "Is there a Spring of Drowned Young Man?'

The guide pointed. "Over there, but it not...work...SIR!" The guide watched helplessly as the young-man-turned-woman flung himself into the indicated spring.

He emerged an instant later, unchanged. "It dosen't work!" He looked around again and quickly jumped into the next spring over.

After dunking himself in a dozen springs, Ranma walked back to the guide, cold fury in his eyes. "Why dosen't it WORK!"

"Is powerful spring you fall into, sirs. Stronger than others."

"Tell me. Tell me everything."

"Is spring of Drowned Wise Woman, or maybe Prophetess... woman who sees things no one else see... ummm... village over here know more... but they be angry -"

"Angry I can deal with. Let's go."

Next: Amazons