Disclaimer: The Characters and Places within this story are not mine, and remain the property of their respected owners. As such, I do not own them, nor am I making any money off them. So sad, honored reader, this very tragic tale of penniless author that fell into the spring of drowned …
The characters in this story will likely not act the same as in canon (written or video), so do not flame me about this. Some will have grown up with different influences on them leading them to react in different ways. Advice is always welcome.
AN: It is likely that some of you reader's will realize what is happening to Ranma earlier than others, but I hope you enjoy the somewhat slow start none-the-less.
Edited for grammar errors 5/01/10
Chapter 1: Dark Waters
"Hey, what's the big deal Pop's, this place don't look that special to me." Ranma said while dodging under his father's attack to the back of his head.
"Boy, this is obviously a special training ground for balance and aerial combat training. Now jump up on to one of the poles and let's start training before we lose anymore of the day," Genma snapped, hoping no one noticed them before they finished training for the day. He had watched the caretaker leave while he had Ranma setup their camp earlier, planning to avoid any fees for using the training grounds. No one would live out here in the middle of nowhere if there were not some money in being here.
Looking at his old man with a cocky grin, Ranma jumped up on to one of the many bamboo poles that stuck up from the pools that dotted the valley floor. Landing in a Crane stance with his arms stretched out for balance, he boasted, "Bring it on old man. I'm going to kick your fat lazy ass from one end of these pools to the other."
"Just for that boy, I'm going to make you eat those words. I won't be going easy on you this time," Genma snapped before springing forward with a flying butterfly kick towards his son's head.
"That's how I want it, old man," Ranma growled as he ducked under his father's next attack and spun around on his pole driving a fist into his father's exposed back.
The battle went on between the two martial artists's for the next ten minutes as each combatant hurled verbal attacks at each other while evading or blocking any serious physical blows from the other. As the minutes wore on in their battle, Genma's mind drifted between pride in his son's marital arts skills and a host of other baser emotions that largely dictated the course of the man's life. Soon the balance of these forces began to tip and Genma's focus shifted more from father and trainer to showing that he was still Ranma's better. With that, Genma stopped holding back on strikes that while still painful were not harmful or could lead to serious injury. "Now, boy I will teach you why I am still your better," snapped Genma, as he struck out at Ranma with a vicious kick that tore though Ranma defenses.
"Hey pops! Cut it out before I have to hurt you," Ranma yelled at his old man trying to break through Genma's defenses. However, he was having a harder time countering or softening the blows that his father continued to throw his way. He would need to try something dirty to distract the old man for a second and hopefully a cold swim would bring the baka out of this. Reaching into his shirt pocket he quickly grabbed a travel biscuit that he had saved from that morning's breakfast and threw it to the left of his father's face. Then while his father's attention was momentarily captured. Ranma dropped down and used the pole he had just landed on to spin around and land a powerful side kick to the right side of his father's head sending him into the next pool with a massive splash.
Ranma had just avoided being slashed himself with the pool's water by springing backwards off the pole when it started to snap back the other way. Landing gracefully atop another pole a short distance a way, Ranma waited for his father to resurface while breathing heavily from the exertion. If Ranma had hoped this dunking would break his father out of his furor, he was sadly mistaken. As he waited for his father to surface, a large form shot upwards out of the water and brutally struck him, the force of the blow propelling him nearly twenty meters backwards into a small dark pool. It was with some small mercy that Ranma lost consciousness, relaxing his body before painfully striking the pool's far bank and slipped under the dark icily cold waters of the cursed spring.
Genma's rage satiated now that he had taught his disrespectful son a lesson on who is the real master of Any Thing Goes, slowly started to come back to his senses again. "Now, where did that lazy boy disappear to?" Or, that was what he tried to say before he became aware that he was just growling and grunting, and that his whole body felt strange to him. Looking down he could see that he was still wearing his gi, but his body was covered in coarse black fur and that his hands were deformed and stunted. 'When and how did this happen? He could remember fighting Ranma and then pushing his training up a notch, then the boy did something and he was wet. It happened when he hit the water; it was the boy's fault. Then after Ranma knocked him into the water, he resurfaced hitting the boy across the valley and into another pool.'
Genma had never been called a genius, or even particularly bright, but it did not take one to add the facts together and come up with an answer. 'The boy was hiding from him, the coward knew what he had done and was trying to avoid his punishment. Well when he found the boy, he would teach his son another lesson. With that brilliant deduction Genma began to hop off in the direction he had last seen the boy.'
When Ranma awoke, he found himself floating in a formless white mist with no clear idea of how he came to be there. 'The last thing that he could fully remember was fighting his father, and then knocking the baka into one of the many pools doting the training ground in an attempt to knock some sense back into his fat head. No, there was one other thing that he could vaguely remember, but it made no sense to him. After he had knocked Genma into one of the pools, he had been waiting for the old fool to resurface when he was instead surprised and attacked by a giant monkey wearing the old man's clothes.'
For all his faults, Ranma was still no Genma and as crazy, as it all seemed he knew what happened. 'It had to have been magic, this was not the first time that they had come across it before in their travels. Not after all the strange and exotic places, his old man had taken them to study their style of martial arts. However, they had never stayed long at those places, quickly moving on as soon as his father discovered about anything magical in their training. He believed that his father actively feared anything magical. This whole mess was entirely his baka father's fault. The old man had brought them to this crazy training ground to train and it had done something to him when he fell into the water. Then the old man had turned around and uh … well … Genma must have killed him.' This must be the afterlife, looking around Ranma was less than suitably impressed with it.
"Well your half right human, it is the water that changed your father and brought you here. But, you are mistaken about this being the afterlife, your not dead yet. Though that may soon change," the strangely accented feminine voice seemed to say in his mind.
"Is that a threat lady? Because if it is you will regret it," Ranma yelled back defiantly at the voice.
"No, child, it is not a threat", the woman's voice lilted back at him. "I mean you no harm, but it is a fact. If steps are not taken soon you will die," and with these words the voice seemed to lose all playfulness and became very serious. "You are dying child, the blow your now cursed father struck you with drove you into the pools bank, injuring you greatly and you are drowning in the pools dark waters as we speak. There is still a way to save your life, but, there will be a heavy price to be paid."
"What do you mean lady, that there is a price? Are you saying you are going to just stand back and watch me die, do you have no honor. Even my ass of a father, as greedy and self-centered as he is would never refuse to save a life," Ranma snapped back at the woman.
"No, child that is not what I said exactly," the woman said with a sharp edge that had lost any trace of amusement. "It is not that I will not help you, it's that I can not help you unless you allow it. Now, let me try to explain while we still have a little time left, though it will need to be quick and I will not have time to answer very many of your questions. However, when this is over you will know as much as I know. Do you agree?"
"Uh, yea as it doesn't seem like I've got much choice if I want to live. Can you tell me more about who you are and how you got here? And I don't want to seem ungrateful for your help or anything, but how are you going to keep me alive?" Ranma asked the strange women.
"It may be difficult for you to believe, but the waters of these springs cross many worlds beyond your own, forming a nexus of realities tying all these different dimensions together. If you knew all of the possible fates that may have befallen you from landing in some of the pools here you would find even your father's curse to be a blessing of mercy," the woman stated to Ranma.
Ranma after hearing this and thinking about how horrified he was when he realized that the ape happened to be his father began to shutter thinking about what could be worse. It was about this time that Ranma put two and two together about what his own curse would be. "I'm going to turn into a girl," he yelled in shock.
"Yes, child that is a part of what the cursed spring's water has done to you, but you will also not be human anymore either. The race that I belong to does not exist on your world, or has not in many thousands of years. If what I have gathered from my meditations since my spirit became trapped in your world is accurate. Nevertheless, do not fear that you will be seen as an outsider, my form is not so different that it will be impossible to pass as one of your world's own. Now, I wish to tell you the price that your survival will cost. The waters of this pool have already changed your form as soon as you landed in the pool, but that has done nothing to remove the injuries it suffered. To repair this damage a much greater change will need to take place, if you agree I will pass the last of my energies into you. This will change your body further as you and I will effectively be fusing into one being, you will in effect gain all that I was before I drowned within these cursed waters. With this knowledge do you still agree to the deal or will you give up and be joining me here in this prison."
Ranma thought about what she had said and made his decision quickly before he could talk himself out of it. "Ranma Saotome does not quit; I will never just give up as long as I have a chance at life!" And, with those words Ranma felt everything shift as he felt his lungs begin to burn with the need for oxygen, he could feel the other presence begin to move away and start to fade into his mind. The fact that she did not try to force herself upon him told him everything he needed to know about her. He could not abandon the first person that he could remember in his short life that was willing to give up everything for him. Refusing to allow her to die within his mind, he reached out and pulled her back to him, he would not allow her to sacrifice herself by drowning within his mind regardless of the cost.
With greedy gasps, she pulled the fresh air into her burning lungs as her form broke the waters chilly surface. With a few tired strokes, she reached the edge of the pool pulling her body onto the dry shore between the pools and rolled over so that she could rest on her back. Within seconds, she fell asleep too drained to care about how exposed this left her.
Genma had been hopping from pole to pole looking for his disrespectful son with no luck, having pasted the pool that Ranma had landed in earlier. He had finally calmed down after the adrenaline began to purge from his system. Jumping down in a large open area past the pools he began to think back over what had happened since entering the valley. He and Ranma had started to spar after setting up camp, and the sparing had moved from training into more of a brutal contest of wills. Over the last few years, Ranma had become increasingly more difficult for him to control. He had started to worry that he had waited too long to end the training trip. So, he had planned Jusenkyo to be the last stop before heading back, now it seemed to have been one stop to many.
Looking down Genma was horrified to see the changes that had happened to his body. He was an animal, this accursed place had stripped the very humanity from his body, and how could he ever go back like this. And, what had happened to Ranma he had not seen him since backhanding the boy away in a blind rage. It had been as if his mind had regressed into the animal he had become, he had lost all control. Had he lost his son to this place, had Ranma been turned into something too small for him to notice? Then a thought hit him, if he had noticed would he have been able to hold back the blind rage that had overtaken him before killing his own son. It was with these disturbing thoughts on his mind that he was startled out of his musings by a yell.
"You Sir, uh Madam, uh Gorilla! What you do here? This place very dangerous, very bad, now you cursed to be gorilla," a high nasally male voice said from somewhere behind him.
Turning around quickly, Genma could see a fat middle-aged Chinese man dressed in old green military fatigues holding a rifle pointed loosely in his direction. Genma threw his arms up quickly to show that he was unarmed and not a threat, not realizing until too late how that may look in his present form. He then dived to the ground cowering as a shot whizzed over his head.
"Don't move honored customer, until I know you not crazy I no can trust," the man nervously yelled at the ape. "Curse only temporary, cold water activates the curse and hot water deactivates the curse. If you understand me raise your right arm and then turn around slowly," the guide yelled.
Genma breathed a sigh of relief as he followed the guide's instructions, having forgotten his previous worries, he suddenly found himself glad to be alive. Now, all he would need to do is change back and get the guide to help him locate Ranma and they could leave this place. "OK, honored customer, follow me to my house and I will get you changed back," Genma heard.
On the way back through the pools, Genma followed the guide's movements very carefully in fear of falling into another pool by accident. One curse was bad enough; he did not want to think about what the results would be if he fell into another of these pools. They were about halfway across the valley when Genma heard the guide's voice again.
"Oh, it looks like this has been a very bad day for customers, I see a body near the old pools" he said while pointing towards a hard to see form lying in the area between two pools. "Customer, wait here please, I will go over and check, yes?"
Genma nodded to show he understood the man, and sat down to wait, worried that the body may be that of his missing son. He was held back only by the desire not to make the guide any more nervous as the man still carried his rifle in a ready stance. He just waited, hoping that his son had somehow been able to avoid falling victim to any of the pools dark magic.
As the guide approached, he could tell that the body had not fallen into any of the non-humanoid pools that dotted the valley. As he got nearer he could make out the form better, he could tell from the shape that it was a young woman with dark ebony skin and long fiery auburn hair. For a moment he was confused as to wither, the woman had fallen into one of the pools, but as he got closer, he saw that one of the old pools had turned a pure blue color, a sign of an uncursed spring. This was troublesome, there was very little known of these pools, and none that he had ever heard of had fallen into that spring. He only hoped that this day would not become any more exciting.
When she awoke, it was late in the evening and she could tell that she lay in a warm and reasonably comfortable bed. She had instinctively feigned still being at rest as soon as consciousness had began to return, listening to the conversation that was going on nearby. As she listened, she slowly became more relaxed; realizing that one of the voices was that of her baka father in this world. At least here, she only feared her father killing her by accident, unlike her other father who would have made it part of a plot to wrest even more power over the other houses. Her father seemed to be badgering the other about a cure for their curses, that there had to be something that could be done about it. He also seemed to be especially worried about why his son's curse was not releasing, there seemed to be something behind this besides simple concern for his son's welfare. She would question him about this later, but for now, she had more immediate concerns, as her stomach began to demand her attention.
"Ai, honored customer is awake. Young Miss, how are you feeling? Is hungry, yes? I will get you a bowl, you is in luck tonight, we have very special sweet and sour Cantonese pork," he said while moving off to get her a bowl.
As the guide walked off to get her dinner, her father moved over to her, looking at her with a disappointed look on his face. "Ranma, you have let me down. Are you weak? I raised you to be a man among men, and this is how you repay me by turning into a weak and worthless girl. What am …," Genma rant at this point was cut off abruptly by a crackling in the air, as he suddenly became the target of his new daughter's ire.
Looking on the scene in front of him, the guide could swear that a bolt of lightning had struck the loud man and that it had come from the woman on the bed. Whatever the truth of the matter, Genma's rant had ended with him out cold on the floor smoking and twitching every few seconds. Then a startling change of emotions came over the girls face, as she shifted from anger to smiling at him in a very pleased way.
"Oh, I'm so sorry; it looks like my father will be unable to join us tonight for dinner. However, do not worry; I am sure that he would not want us to insult your hospitality by not eating his share. Now, what can you tell me about the curses, and of the area around us?" Then with a look that seemed to pain her, she bowed her head toward him and said, "I am deeply shamed by my poor manners, Sir. I have felled to properly give you my name and ask you yours, I hope you can forgive me for this slight. My name is Saotome Liriel."
With a touch of nervousness the guide bowed back to her and said, "Oh, honored customer, I am not in the least offended. You had only just awoken in a strange place, and then before you could recover yourself, that man shamed you. I am most honored to meet you, I believe that you may be the first person in a long time to ask for my name and politely give your own. I am Wu Fa, but I have become more comfortable with just being called Guide. If you call me that I will know you mean it respectfully."
"Thank you, most honored Guide," Liriel replied in return as she listening to Guide tell her all about Jusenkyo and the people that lived in the region over their dinner. The man seemed very eager to pass on as much information as possible. Likely because he seldom had any of the visitors to Jusenkyo ever stop and listen to what he had to say before going right out and doing something stupid. After dinner had finally settled and before the area lost all light, Liriel asked Guide to lead her back towards the pool that she had fallen into. At first, he was hesitant to do so until she explained what she planned to do and that there would be no danger involved.
Reluctantly, Guide led her back through the pools to where he found her. He watched her take a few deep breaths and then start to speak in a musical language that seemed to slide away from his ears. It was at this point that he had to blink his eyes in shocked surprise, as her body seemed to ripple somewhat as her hands and feet elongated with webbing forming between the digits and gills formed along her long neck. He was frozen, unable to move when she dived into the pool's clear blue water and started swimming downward towards the spring's bottom.
Liriel body shivered from the chill of the pool's cold water, and she could feel the magic of the pool reaching out towards her trying to bind her to the pool once more. However, she easily resisted the pull having been its prisoner for so long had taught her all the secrets she needed to do so. When she reached the bottom of the small pool, she started to use her hands to dig into the sandy bottom. After a few minutes of digging, she reached what she was looking for and began to collect what she found into an old rice sack. It was a long and emotionally tiring job, as it reminded her of what had been taken from her so long ago. When she finished locating the last piece of her grim work, there was no regret in her as she began to swim upwards towards the surface.
As he waited near the pools edge, the Jusenkyo guide began to worry about the strange woman's safety. He found it odd that the pools were so dangerous to those that came to train here and yet never seemed to offer any harm to him or his family. But, that did not mean he did not respect and fear them. At the minutes added up he carefully stepped closer to the waters edge to peer down toward the bottom, while he could not made out much he was relieved by there being some movement in its depths. By the third time that he got up to look, he could detect that the girl was coming back to the surface again. Staying up this time, he offered her his hand to help pull her up onto the pool's bank.
"Honored customer, I hope you are finished with what you were doing down there. It is getting cold and the waters have other dangers besides the magical ones because of this. Come let us hurry back and warm ourselves before you are sickened by the chill?"
"Yes, I am finished with my task and thank you for your concern for my health. It was important that I finish this task before my father could interfere or learn of it. I would ask that you not repeat anything that you have seen or heard tonight to him or anyone else, unless it would be dangerous for you not to remain silent. That is all that I ask of you, honored Guide of Jusenkyo. I also wish to give you this gift for your kindness to me and my ungrateful father," as Liriel finished, she handed Guide a large golden coin.
When she handed him the coin he at first did not believe that it was what it seemed to be, but as she released it, he could feel the golden coin's weight and knew that it was solid gold. "Honored customer did not need to pay me for my help; I would have done what I could regardless. But, I will not dishonor you by refusing your gift, and know that I will use the wealth you have given me wisely to care for my wife and family," Guide said as he bowed low to what he now knew or believed to be a very ancient and powerful entity.
When they returned to Guide's home, Liriel could see that her father was still out cold on the floor as she had expected. He was breathing regularly and was still likely to remain unconscious for several more hours. Not wishing to take any chances about this, she cast a small spell on him to ensure that he remained out for the rest of the night and dragged him over to a corner of the room, to be out of the way. Not understanding why she did so, she pulled his blanket from his pack and covered him with it.
Them Liriel, walked back to the bed that Guide insisted that she use for the night and began to go through her old pack and the sack that contained the items she had recovered. With great care, she started to remove some belongings from her pack. She then proceed to place these items into a much smaller belt pouch that did not seem as if it should have been able to hold a tenth of this. After she was finished with her work, she cast another small spell that caused the pouch at her belt to fade from view. Satisfied with her work, she placed the folded clothing that she intended to wear the next day onto the nightstand before laying down to mediate for the night and further reorder her newly combined memories.
Author's notes: I hope you have enjoying this story so far, it has the longest chapter I have written for a story so far. I will be continuing to work on my other stories after the holidays are over. I just could not seem to get this one out of my head and could not work on my school reports until I did so. If you have any suggestions or notice a mistake in my writing, I will be happy to take the help. Fight scenes are not my strongest point, as I am sure they are more many others, so forgive me if they seem weak. If you can write a better one and I use it, I will credit you for the help. Thanks again for all your support so far and I look forward to your continued reading.