Author's note: When in Ranma or John's POV, I will use he/his/him to describe them, even in cursed form. After all, that's how they think of themselves, ne?
***Disclaimer: Ranma ½ belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and her licensees. Used without permission for nonprofit entertainment. Go buy some copies of the manga and anime; it'll keep 'em out of my hair. ***
Akane glanced sidelong at her jogging companion. John was keeping up nicely, and was even pushing her a bit. He'd surprised her, actually. He seemed to know exactly where they were going. So far they'd jogged in relative silence, but she could tell he was working up to something. She hoped it was something innocuous; she was feeling irritable today. Mustering what control she had, she waited for him to speak.
"Um, Akane?" John asked nervously. They had just reached the halfway point on Akane's morning route.
"Yes?" she responded. They turned around and began the two and a half kilometer return trip to the dojo.
"Has Ranma told you anything about me yet?"
"Well, he said Happosai did something to you at Jusenkyo, but he wouldn't go into detail." Her eyes widened as a thought struck her. "He didn't . . ." she began in a shocked tone.
"He did," John said grimly, "and he went one worse. Imagine the worst grope he's ever inflicted on you or Ranma, multiplied by a factor of ten." Akane blanched as John continued. "Then, imagine that you can't forget one. Little. Detail." He was seething, his hands balled in fists and his teeth clenched in rage. "I can't, you know."
"You can't what?" Akane asked timidly as John seemed to deflate.
"I can't forget. Anything." John blinked and looked over at Akane. Seeming to notice how scared she was, he smiled ruefully. "Sorry if I scared you, Akane, I have an Irish temper, and it's, um . . . well . . ." He scratched the back of his head nervously and blushed. "I'll get back to that."
Akane laughed softly. "I've got a bit of a temper, too," she said.
"Trust me," John said, smirking, "I know."
"What?" she asked sharply, with a dangerous glint in her eye. How dare he? she thought. This boy barely knows me, and he dares to . . .
"It's my curse," John said simply as they turned the corner.
"Oh." Akane deflated. "Um, what is it like for you? The curse, I mean."
"The physical part of it isn't too bad," he said thoughtfully. "Well, except for my 'Time.'" He grimaced. "I'm glad I'm a guy right now."
Akane was shocked. He has a menstrual cycle? If he does, then Ranma . . .She digested what John was implying. "Is . . . is it your 'Time,' now?" Seeing John's grimace and nod, she jogged in silence for a bit. "Wait, you said 'the physical part.' Does that mean there's more to your curse?"
"Yes," he said softly. "I'm sure you've noticed how good my Japanese is, but think for a moment; is there anything unusual about my accent?"
Akane thought for a moment, and realization hit her like a truck. "You speak perfect, unaccented Japanese! No, wait a moment. You speak Japanese like . . ." She faltered. " . . . I do."
"Yes. The Guide said that if the old freak hadn't applied something called 'The Lucky Scholar Point' just seconds after I acquired my curse, I would have only gotten the ability to speak Japanese and maybe a couple of subconscious mannerisms."
"What did this 'Lucky Scholar Point' do, then?" Akane was afraid of what the answer would be. She'd seen his fight with Ranma . . . Oh. My. GOD. He doesn't know a new school of Anything Goes. He knows Tendo-Ryu!
John looked at Akane, his expression almost unreadable. "The technique gives the recipient eidetic memory and reflexes. I remember everything that has happened to me, and how to do any martial arts or gymnastics moves I've ever seen. The pools at Jusenkyo take advantage of the shock of transformation to do a sort of 'core dump,' filling the victim's brain with all the knowledge of how to use the cursed form. It's how Mousse can fly as a duck. In my case, the core dump included the life experiences of one Akane Tendo, and I can't forget a single detail."
Akane staggered a bit. He knew everything she did? No, he knows more. I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of things, and he says he can't forget. "How were you able to keep it all straight?"
"I wasn't." John chuckled ruefully. "The shock of what Happy did to me was enough to shatter my mind, Akane. I suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder."
"What?" Akane blinked confusedly as John sighed.
"Multiple personalities. It took over a week of intensive mental therapy in the Amazon village before I was able to function somewhat normally. At one point I had forty-nine discrete personalities running around in my noggin." He tapped his temple. "Right now, I only have two." He noticed Akane edging away from him. He sighed softly. "You don't have to be scared of me, you know. Elder Mouthwash wouldn't have let me out of the village alive if I'd been dangerous."
"And what reason would I have to trust an Amazon Elder?" Akane asked sharply. She had opened up the distance between them a bit. "You've also admitted that you're crazy."
"Yes, I have, but so is Ranma."
"No, he's not!"
"What about the Neko-ken? Wouldn't you call that a split personality?"
"Well, yes, but he only goes into that when he's scared by a cat!"
"And I only slip into my other personality under extreme stress. Besides, I hardly think your twin sister would be dangerous."
"Huh? That's your other personality?" Akane slowed down as they reached the gate in front of her house.
"Yup." John said, smiling gently. "I think she's pretty much what you would have been like if you'd had my memories crammed into your skull."
Akane would have asked about his statement, but their arrival coincided with Kasumi's announcement that breakfast was ready. They quietly joined everyone at the table, and only Ranma and Kasumi noticed they ate in perfect synchronization.
Konatsu Kenzan rose from his extravagant bedding and prepared to have a sumptuous breakfast. He smiled as he saw the large amount of money Ukyo-sama had left him to eat with.
She spends too much on me, he thought wryly as he dressed in his kimono. It was a lovely shade of pink and had several beautifully done paintings of okonomiyaki on the sleeves and near the hem. He'd had it for a while, but it was still presentable. After all, it only had three patches on it. Shaking his head, he quickly finished his repast. He sighed and daintily set his bowl and chopsticks down.
"Oh, Ukyo-sama," he said sadly. "Wherever you've gone, please come back soon." Using the speed and precision that was his birthright as the legendary genius kunoichi, he straightened out the layers of clean cardboard he used as a futon, and then neatly arranged the newspapers he used as a blanket. He was terribly concerned with how long Ukyo-sama would be gone. She had left him ten thousand yen. He could eat for a couple of months on that, even if he splurged and had rice with two pickles, like today. Sure, she had said that she would be back in a couple of weeks, but he worried anyway. She had flat out refused to let him come along. He had only agreed to let her go alone because she finally had come out of her depression following Ranma and Akane's failed wedding. His worry was only exacerbated by the fact that she had had a manic gleam in her eyes and had been sing-songing the phrase, "Ran-chan's gonna forgive me!"
He sat at the counter and sighed deeply, holding one of Ukyo-sama's throwing spatulas. Someone walking by outside would have seen a delicate girl crying over an artifact left behind by the man she loved. They would have been very close to being right, except for the genders involved.
The valley of Jusenkyo was shrouded in mist as the sun rose over the Bayankala mountain range. As light filtered into the valley, the mist lifted in slow, languorous patches, revealing hundreds of pools dotting the landscape. Each pool had at least one bamboo pole jutting up from its depths. The poles were there for the purported purpose of martial arts training, but few used them for such anymore. They were primarily used by Pi Xu, the Jusenkyo Guide, to mark the springs that bore curses. The valley showed signs of having flooded recently, and all the poles were new. A little hut stood dark and empty in one corner of the grounds, awaiting the arrival of Pi Xu (whom we shall call Peach) and his daughter Pa La-Mu (whom we shall call Plum) for the day's work.
On the other side of the valley from the hut stood a pile of twisted metal and broken glass. At one time it had been a nice passenger sedan, but the only part of it left undamaged was a single metal plate, painted green and white, and embossed with letters, numbers, and the words "Vermont" and "Green Mountain State." It was a new addition to the scenery at Jusenkyo, only having been there for three weeks. The damage was extensive, but an observant viewer would notice that all the damage looked like it had been done by enormous fists and the body imprints of a man no more than three feet tall. Said viewer would also notice that the remains of the trunk lid had been ripped off, exposing the empty space beneath.
After the sun cleared the spires of the nearby mountain range and finished banishing the mist, Peach arrived for work with his daughter in tow, and a sack of wood on his back. He had finally gotten funding from the government in Beijing to provide proper signs for each of the cursed pools, and was going to start putting them up today. Opening the hut and starting up the stove to warm several kettles of water, he admonished Plum to stay away from the Spring of Drowned Pony for the thousandth time. Seeing her play with the doll one of the last visitors to the springs had given her, he smiled gently and began to paint the sign for Nanniichuan.
The phone rang. Peach frowned and answered it on the second ring.
"Hello, People's Jusenkyo Tours," he said. "How can I help you?" He paused. "Yes, Comrade Political Advisor." Another pause. "Yes, I do have the receipts." He paused, again. "I'll be right down as soon as I get a babysitter for my daughter. No, it won't take long. Thank you. Good bye." He reached over and flicked the handset switch. He then dialed the number for the only phone in the Amazon village. He waited three rings for someone to pick it up.
Loofah sat dejectedly in the small hut, which housed the village's telephone. While she was still taking some care of her appearance, her sadness dimmed her beauty. Her long emerald hair, normally bound in a complicated Amazon hairstyle, hung loose. She was going without makeup, and she was wearing her plainest clothes. She sighed.
I should be on my honeymoon right now, she thought. If only that stupid Pig-Boy had waited to find out that I knew my Airen was really a man cursed at Jusenkyo . . . He just saw me kissing 'her,' and assumed the worst . . . She shook her head and thought of the wonderful man who had proposed to her in such a romantic fashion.
The Jusenkyo Guide had led a motley crew into the village, consisting of a piglet, a red panda, and a foreign girl lashed to the back of a leopard. There had been a lot of commotion about their arrival, but the Guide had asked for Loofah's grandmother, Mouthwash. They had been immediately escorted to the healer's care, and, incidentally, her own.
Loofah smiled softly and ran her fingers through her hair. Smirking, she gazed at her hands. They were healer's hands; soft, graceful, and supple. They were also a warrior's hands: strong, and having the telltale calluses possessed by Amazon swordswomen. She grimaced a little. She had often been teased by the other girls for being a healer's apprentice instead of a proper Amazon warrior. Forcefully, she turned her thoughts back to happier memories.
She had been called into the examination room as the Guide had finished explaining about the patient's symptoms and her, er, his curse. The other Jusenkyo victims were in the waiting room, having finally gotten hot water. She had gotten a good look at his natural form as they had begun examination. His features were suitably exotic. He was, after all, a Westerner, just like her own grandfather. He was even from the same country. It had been lust at first sight.
He had required intense mental therapy, and Loofah had been there throughout it all. She had had no idea it was possible to fall in love so many times with the same person in such a short time, but she had. She had made close friendships with his female personalities and fallen for all of his male ones. She had even taught him Chinese, in the three dialects she knew. She had been extremely glad when, after a mere week, her grandmother had declared him well enough to go out into the village unattended.
She knew the others who had come with him had been lying low for the time they were in the village. Apparently, they had been extremely nervous about getting into any fights there. Thus, she had had him all to herself on a long, romantic walk on the outskirts of the village. They had talked about their respective hopes and fears, world history, and other such "sweet nothings." They had even walked back to the village hand-in-hand. He had stopped in the middle of the village and knelt before her, drawing stares and startled looks from the Amazons milling about.
"Liu Fa of the Nichiezu Amazons," he had intoned in the formal dialect. "I, John Green, an outsider male, would like to challenge you for your hand in marriage." She had gleefully accepted, and the battle began. Neither one of them had held back, and the battle lasted for a good hour. Somewhere in the middle of the battle, John had been splashed, but he hadn't stopped. Loofah had ended the battle flat on her back with John straddling her, a fist at her throat. "Do you yield?" He'd asked softly.
"Yes," she had replied, tears of joy in her eyes as he helped her up. She had embraced him and whispered, "Wo da Airen," in his ear. She then proceeded to kiss his brains out. Rather, she would have, if it hadn't been for a black and yellow blur screaming "NO!" in Japanese. The eternally lost boy had taken her Airen away from her, the force of his passing leaving her ears ringing. Even now, she could still hear it.
When the sound came again, she realized that the village's phone was ringing. Blushing profusely, she answered the phone.
"Hello, Joketsuzoku Village, Liu Fa speaking," she said, and listened to the person on the other side. "Why, Pi Xu! It's good to hear from you again! You need a baby sitter? I'll be glad to. I just need to let Grandmother know, and I'll be right over. What? Oh, sure, no problem. I'll even do it for nothing. I need to get away from the 'sympathetic' ministrations of my sister Amazons, after all. Uh-huh. See you soon, bye!"
She quickly got someone to cover the phone post in her absence and ran back to her home. After telling her grandmother where she was going to be and paying her respects to her grandfather's shrine, she gathered her Flying Tigers jacket and the English textbook that her grandmother had given her. She accepted Mouthwash's warning to stay as far from the springs as possible with a half-hearted "I'll do my best," and dashed off on the shortcut to Jusenkyo.