Astral Signs For The Cursed Soul, Chapter 1

Wow its been a long time. *shivers as he looks at all the dust* Well I suppose it hasn't been that long. I lurk around this place quite a bit. I just don't contribute anymore. But my muse has managed to store up enough strength over the long winter months and has now struck at the worst possible time...Finals week. I have been hunched over my keyboard for the last couple hours banging out this little idea of mine when I should have been writing a paper. I'll tell you right out its a crossover. All my best ideas are crossovers. What can I say? I like em!

I don't own any of the characters or series contained within. I'm just borrowing em for a bit.

" " - Speech

^ ^ - Foreign Speech

* * - Thoughts

# # - Signage

It was a perfect hit. The target motionless in shock. The attack powerful, surprising, and right on target. It was the type of hit every martial artist hoped he could get on an opponent and Genma Saotome was no exception. Mixed with the pleasure of the hit however was disappointment. All the years of training. All the years of suffering and effort. All of that and his son still couldn't dodge or block a hit from his old man.

Genma shielded his eyes from the hot noon day sun as he watched his son start his decent. The boy was still apparently in shock for some reason because he wasn't attempting to right himself or fix his trajectory at all. Genma shrugged. At least Ranma wouldn't be seriously hurt from the fall. The springs would cushion his fall after all, just like they did for Genma.

The Guide watched the boy's arching fall as well. A few quick calculations and a mental map out of the area made the man's eyes widen. "This one hopes young honored customer not going where he think he going," he said as he began the run to the area where the boy would come down.

Unfortunately for The Guide the young man's fall sent him directly towards where he thought the boy would land.

The Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo are old. Very old. The springs magic dates back many millennia and yet not all of the individual springs are that old. In fact one can easily trace the age of each spring by how far back in the valley they are.

The oldest and most power springs are closest to the entrance of the valley. Spring of Drowned Dragon and Spring of Drowned Warlord are examples of some of the earliest. These date back to over four thousand years in some cases.

Further back, in the more visited portions of the valley, are the springs we are more familiar with. Spring of Drowned Panda, Girl, Piglet, Cat, and Duck are all in these areas. Their ages range out to about two thousand years.

The further back you get the more recent the drownings become. Spring of Drowned British Explorer, Spring of Drowned Japanese Soldier, and Spring of Drowned Communist Soldier are all examples of the newest of the springs...most of which only date back a couple of hundred years tops.

Oddly enough the age of each spring can tell one how often they're visited as well. A mathematician might describe it as a bell curve with the oldest and newest springs getting the fewest hits while those somewhere in the middle age range got the most hits. With the age of the springs and the addition of each new drowning the bell curve shifted slightly.

Early in the valley's history the springs produced a good number of Dragons and Warlords. Thankfully for the region's populous this string of powerful entities only lasted a thousand years or so and soon they were dealing with wayward pigs and confused pandas more often then wandering warlords or fire breathing dragons.

But even with a bell curve there are a few who land at either end...and chance had just rolled a hundred on its percentile dice.

The Guide would have preferred the young customer fly in the opposite direction, towards the oldest springs, instead of towards the youngest. After centuries of dealing with dragons and warlords the guides of Jusenkyo had the handling of such entities down to a science. It would have been easy to point a newly minted dragon in the direction of the nearest cave or annoying village and let it loose but today was not going to be one of those days.

As the boy descended and his end point became clearer however The Guide began to hope for something else. It wasn't often that a guide got to witness the making of a new spring or the identification of a recently created one. There had been only two drownings in the last thirty years and only one of them had been during the current guide's tenure, it being almost twelve years in the past. Neither of those two springs had had a so the names of the springs hadn't been solidified yet in the official histories.

The first of the two newest victims had left no calling card to help identify them. The second and newest, however, had left a fairly good clue as to what it was. The pool was one of the larger ones and thus quite powerful. Powerful enough, in fact, to burn out the engine of a small private airplane and send it tumbling down into the pool's embrace. The current guide had watched the aircraft fall, its engine and front cockpit on fire, into the spring and had made an effort to identify who or what might have ended up becoming the victim. He had quickly discovered two of the occupants burned corpses still strapped into their seats. The pilot and copilot had seemingly perished due to the fire before the plane ever hit the spring.

The Guide had been quite confused by this and had wondered if the spring had, in fact, not taken a victim. Experimentation with the springs was forbidden by Guide law so he could not test the waters with a random bird or beast and he was himself immune to the waters effects because he was a guide. But further searching of the wreckage had produced a child's car seat minus a child so The Guide had chocked it up as Spring of Drowned Child.

The Guide smiled as the boy's target became apparent. It looked like he would be able to positively name the Spring of Drowned Child after all.

Ranma Saotome came to just in time to witness his final few moments of free fall. The boy blinked. Was that a plane tail sticking up out of the pool?

The Guide skidded to a halt in front of the newest spring and stood with bated breath for the young customer to emerge. Bubbles, a murky shadow, and finally a distinct form rose out of the depths of the pool. With a burst of water the young customer emerged near the pool's side and began sputtering and coughing up liquid.

Once the young customer was dragged from the waters and on to dry land The Guide got his first good look at the results. To say the man was moderately disappointed was a bit of an understatement. The young customer's hair had gone from black to a dark coppery brown, height had increased a few inches, and a pair of breasts had appeared where once there were none.

The man sighed. "Young sir fall in new spring. This one not sure exactly but it look like it another Spring of Drowned Girl."

The young customer sat up at that. His, now her, blue gray eyes widening in shock as her hands pulled open her gi top. A long drawn out scream echoed across the valley and back again moments later.

Once the two honored customers had returned from their run and settled down The Guide explained the ins and outs of the standard Jusenkyo curse. Hot water, cold get the point.

After explaining it several times, demonstrating it several more, and offering a small meal or rice and steamed vegetables The Guide cornered the youngest of the duo.

"Young customer. This one need to see if he can identify curse. You feel anything strange about new body?"

Ranma *humphf'd*, which did interesting things to the bulges on her chest, and rolled her eyes. "Aside from the obvious ya mean?" she said as she gestured at her new body.

His female half was, as The Guide had already noted, several inches taller then his male half which, in Ranma's opinion, was quite unfair. Her hair, now that it was dry, had turned out to be a light to moderate coppery brown that did not look quite right in Ranma's traditional pigtail. His girl half's body was lanky but well proportioned. Her chest was moderately well sized and would have made her look top heavy if she'd been any shorter then his male half. In fighting terms he'd gained a bit of reach and speed but had lost some of his hitting power and durability. His flexibility, however, had gone through the roof.

The Guide nodded as he tried to ignore the dangerously loose gi. "You feel any strange powers, desires, or knowledges maybe?"

Ranma sighed and slumped back against the hut's wall to think. After a few moments of thought she shook her head. "Nah not really. Why's this so important anyway?"

"Because honored customer Jusenkyo already have Spring of Drowned Girl. Jusenkyo not ever allow more then one spring of each kind exist. First Spring of Drowned Girl normal girl so your spring cannot be normal girl. You see?"

The neo brunette nodded. "So there's gotta be somethin different bout the spring I fell in huh?" She pulled on her pigtail. "What if there ain't?"

"Then something strange happen," The Guide said as he set aside his tome and ink. "Jusenkyo have rules. This one rule Jusenkyo not break ever as far as Guides know. This one think maybe differences not show yet."

The man brightened suddenly. A quick rummage through his small work space produced a number of pre-paid postcards. He counted out a half dozen and gave them to the confused youth. "Anything strange happen with curse you let this one know yes? It very important for guide book to have correct information about curses."

Ranma nodded warily as he stuffed the cards deep inside his traveling pack. He soon forgot about the cards as the days and weeks went by. Being chased by crazed amazons and the Chinese authorities tended to put such small things out of ones mind.

Ranma Saotome, age seventeen, stared unseeing over the small valley that was where it all started. The Valley of the Springs was a total loss. The fight against Saffron had unleashed the stored up waters and magics of Jusenkyo's source, flooding and destroying most of the springs in the small valley. The guide's hut was gone. The rumored Spring of Drowned Man was gone. Even the mostly upright tail of the downed aircraft that had stuck up out of the spring Ranma had fallen into over a year ago was gone.

The Guide and Kiema, toting a newly re-hatched Saffron, had both stated that the springs would return eventually but that it would be many many years before the area's magics would work again. With their words went Ranma's last hope of a cure. Not that he minded much any more. He'd lived with the curse for so long now that he wasn't sure what life would be like without it. Sure it had turned his life upside down and caused him more than enough troubles to last two life times...but for some reason it just wasn't as big an issue any more. His friends had largely come to accept it as part of who he was...those that knew or who weren't insane that is. The only real problem left, aside from the crazies, was his mother and even she knew about it and had come to accept it. That hadn't stopped her from demanding Ranma act "manly" in either of his forms however.

A throat clearing behind him, or her in this instance as no hot water was available currently, alerted Ranma to The Guide's presence.

"This one sorry to bother young customer but this one was no write about curse. Anything happen that this one can know about?"

Ranma's head sank lower at the thought of the post cards she'd been given so long ago. She hadn't even given the things another thought since then. Looking up into The Guide's eyes she could see how much this meant to him and she silently cursed herself for forgetting.

She patted the ground beside her and spoke in The Guide's native Mandarin. It was one of the many things she'd learned from Shampoo and her Great Grandmother that didn't come up very often. ^I am sorry for not keeping my promise honored sir. My life has been so chaotic that I forgot. Allow me to think on this. I will attempt to answer as best I can.^

The Guide blinked. He hadn't remembered this young customer being able to speak his tongue when last they met.

It took Ranma a few minutes to browse through her memories for anything that might help the guide. Sadly she found very little. ^I can only think of one thing that may be the result of this curse. During my time at the Tendo Home I found that my interest in food and food preparation has increased. My honor-less father often made me the cook on our long voyages. Thus I was able to provide a decent meal whenever pressed by the time I reached the Tendos. But over time I have found this task has gone from one of mere necessity to one of moderate enjoyment.^

And it was true. Ranma's interest in food had never been great to begin with. Food was food to him. As long as it filled him and was at the very least bland he would eat it. But after gaining the curse Ranma had found himself adding the occasional extra ingredient to his camp food and enjoying the results. In fact in the last few weeks of their journey his father had largely stopped pestering him about changing back to his male half whenever meal time came around as long as he/she produced another of his/her good meals.

Arriving at the Tendos had removed Ranma's need to cook as Kasumi's cooking was light years ahead of anything Ranma could least in his mind. But it wasn't long before he found himself once again cooking meals. Two months into the Saotomes' stay Kasumi had asked Ranma to help her in the kitchen with some menial tasks and had ended up acquiring a full time helper. That is whenever no one else was around to see him doing such "unmanly" or "perverted" things with the eldest Tendo daughter.

To Ranma's surprise he'd found cooking meals with Kasumi was quite enjoyable. The different combinations of ingredients, spices, and styles offered an almost limitless host of opportunities for producing meals...much like how the Anything Goes Style offered many avenues of attack and defense against an opponent.

But it wasn't only the similarities to his art that drew Ranma back to the kitchen time and time again. The calm smile and ever friendly attitude of the eldest Tendo daughter was a soothing balm for Ranma's chaos scared life. Her quiet companionship in the odd moments Ranma could spare were, at least according to him, one of the few things that had helped keep him sane.

"That odd gift for spring to give," the guide said in his broken Japanese. Ranma returned to the moment and nodded. "I'm not sure if it's the curse or not but I enjoying cooking every now and then. I didn't used to and if my pop found out how much I enjoyed it he'd be angry as hell."

A loud voice from the tree line behind them announced the arrival of a third person. "Hey Ranma it's time to eat! Come on I don't want the stew to get cold. Hey! I see you trying to sneak away Uncle Saotome! Get back here!" A crash further off in the woods followed by the sound of a panda screaming marked Akane's return to the camp fire in the clearing not to far away.

Ranma shuddered and rose quickly from her seated position. She was tempted to try and run herself but she knew it would only result in pain and an angry fiancé. "If it is something the curse gives me I wish we had a casket or two of it left so I could dunk Akane. Tomboy's cooking makes sewage look bad."

The Guide shuddered and scampered away towards the site he and his daughter had chosen for the new hut. He'd experienced one of that Japanese girl's meals. He didn't think his intestines could take another round of what she called food.

Ah well that's that. I'll don't know when i'll write more. I've got some more planned but since its finals and my wife and I are closing on our first home purchase at the same time who knows when I'll be willing or able to write more. Hope you enjoyed at the very least.