A/N: The good news is, I'm finally updating this. The bad news is, I'm also ending it. As I've complained in several previous author's notes, while the beginning of this fic worked out well (basically because I already had the first few chapters planned out in advance), it has become too Mary-Sue for my liking. I'm just not happy with where it's going.
So, I'm dealing with a new arc that started in the last chapter, and then getting to the manga arc that ended the anime series. I hope you like it.
WARNING: Brief lemons
Ranma sat in a restaurant booth, doing his best to hear the conversation going on at the booth next to him, where a row of plastic plants kept him from being seen. In that booth sat Nabiki and Kuno, in the midst of one of their transactions. Though she'd been at it for a couple of months, Ranma hadn't managed to get an idea of her progress at man-trapping. And from what he'd already heard that afternoon, it wasn't working out well.
"Nabiki Tendo, I don't know what your perverted interest is in me, but I continue to protest your disgusting payment requirements. I don't understand why simple money is no longer sufficient for a stack of photos."
"Because, Kuno-baby, I'm sick of you being such a jerk to people and I'm going to break you of it if it's the last thing I do."
"Sounds like an excuse born out of obsession."
"You're going to accuse me of obsession when you're buying pictures of two girls you're in love with. At least Gosunkugi takes his own pictures of Akane. You're so lazy you can't even be a decent stalker."
Ranma smirked and poked at a wad of bills in his pocket. Nabiki would've nabbed some pictures of him as a girl anyway, so he'd cut a deal to pose a little in exchange for a cut of the profits. It wasn't anything terribly degrading. Well… to a woman, topless pictures would've been, but as a man, being shirtless didn't seem odd.
"Your insults are like a child mocking the person she loves. You're clearly in love with me."
"No one could ever love you, Kuno. Let's get this over with."
A few seconds of silence ensued, followed by an irritated masculine grunt. "There, Nabiki. Is that enough to satisfy your demented fetish for me, or do you wish to thrust your hand in my pants?"
"Like I'd be able to find it." Ranma fought the urge to laugh out loud. "Just get lost, Kuno. You have your pictures."
He waited a few moments, then slipped out of the booth and around to where Nabiki sat. She was rubbing her temples in frustration, mumbling about Kuno being a "dumb jock". He stood next to her table.
"Doesn't sound like you're reaching him."
She jumped, then gave him an irritated glance. "Geez, you martial artists. Walk into people's line of sight before you start talking, will ya?"
"Force of habit. So Kuno doesn't sound like he's warming up to you. Unless he's got a real weird way of showing affection…"
She shook her head. "Nah, I'm giving up on this plan. At this rate I'll graduate before he comes around. Too many other rich guys out there in college land for me to keep pushing for that jerkoff. It ain't worth the effort."
"I can't believe you tried it in the first place."
"The way he took after you in five seconds, I thought he'd be easy to distract. Oh, by the way…" She reached into her pocket and pulled out a couple bills, handing them to him. "You were nice and posed for me, so here's a cut."
"What is this, five percent?"
"Be lucky I'm giving you anything, Saotome. I could've just photographed you in your sleep."
"You get way more cash when they're posed and you know it."
"Yeah, and the money I bring in pays you and your dad's expenses, so be happy I give you spending money at all."
"Oh, bullshit. You just bought a new computer and pop works for Doctor Tofu."
She looked aloof. "A good financial planner deserves to be well-compensated. Now take your money and stop griping."
"Yeah, whatever. You know, you shouldn't be so stingy, Nabiki. It makes me lose my desire to pose for a camera."
He snickered and sauntered off.
Ranma walked along the top of the fence, following his usual route alongside the rive. He'd been pensive for a couple of days. The anniversary of Akane's mother's death had just passed, and it had him thinking about his own mother. Or trying to. His perpetual training trip had started at such an early age that he couldn't remember her, or wherever they were living at the time. He'd been racking his brain since then, but coming up with a blank.
His concentration may have been the reason that he didn't notice the precarious condition of the fence in front of him. Unfortunately, he not only didn't see it in advance, he didn't catch that the fence was starting to give way until it was too late to move. In an instant, the section of fence he'd stepped on was falling over, and he was plummeting into the river below.
The now-female Ranma sat up in the shallow water. At least the water wasn't too cold. And she could enjoy having boobs. She stood up and straightened out her clothes. "Stupid fence…"
"Hello down there!" a voice called from the sidewalk above. She looked up to see an older woman, dressed in a formal kimono and extending something toward her. "Grab hold," she continued, "and I'll pull you up!"
"Thank you," Ranma replied meekly, grabbing hold of the thing she was holding. The object proved strong enough to hold her weight, but the lady on the sidewalk… wasn't. Ranma watched in horror as the lady fell toward her, and they both toppled into the water.
"I'm so sorry!" she cried, surveying the woman. "Your nice kimono's all wet! I'm sorry!"
"Don't worry about me," the woman replied. "Just remember that young ladies should act like young ladies."
Ranma stood and watched her leave. There was something about her. She was nice, for sure, but there were plenty of nice people around. It was something else.
She looked for a way to get out of the river, still thinking about what had just happened. There was definitely something about that woman…
A while later, she was stepping in through the front door of the Tendo home. "I'm home!" she called, stepping out of her shoes. Akane came around the corner and stopped.
"What happened to you?"
"Fell in the damn river. Come hit the furo with me."
Before either could move, Genma raced around the corner, grabbed Ranma by the collar, and tried to run out the door.
"Ranma!" he spat, "we're going on a training trip! Now! No questions!"
She tried and failed to get away, but thankfully Soun stepped in front of them. "You're not going anywhere," he said, "until you explain this postcard."
Soon, Genma was tied up in the washitsu, and Ranma and the girls were looking at the postcard that had arrived, addressed to Genma. "Genma," it read, "I've finally found you! I'll be right there!" It was signed simply "Nodoka."
"All right, pop," Ranma said. "Who's this 'Nodoka' person, and what did you do to her?"
"My own son, accusing me…"
"Stuff it, pop. You engaged me to a girl that was my friend and stole her family's food cart. I know the kind of crap you do and I'm sure she's pissed at you from stealing from her or something. So start explaining."
"It's not like that, Ranma! She's your…"
"Hello?" a woman's voice called from the front door. Genma reacted with fright.
"Hide me!" he cried, diving under the kotatsu. He did his best to squirm out of sight, then stopped as footsteps approached. "Forgive me, darling," he continued, panicked. "I didn't mean it! Have pity on me, my love!"
The others in the room looked at each other.
"She's…" Nabiki said.
"Ranma's mother?" Kasumi finished.
A portly woman strode through the door. "Nerima All-Night Sushi Delivery," she said. "I'm here to pick up the plates."
Soun laughed. "A perfect choice for you, eh, Saotome?"
"That's not her!" Genma barked hopping out from under the table. He tried to look dignified, but his dignity was long gone after his several minutes of frightened pleading.
The woman left. Akane squeezed Ranma's arm. "You must be happy," she said.
"Yeah," Ranma replied. "I don't even remember her. Until now, I wasn't even sure if she was alive or dead."
The doorbell rang, and a new voice called out. Everyone jumped up and started heading for the door, but Ranma and Soun were suddenly held back by his father.
"Stay a girl and don't talk!" Genma hissed to Ranma. "Tell her Ranma and I aren't here! It's a matter of life and death!" He dove into the koi pond. Ranma scratched her head, wondering just what the hell her father was going on about this time.
Sound and the girls brought a lady into the washitsu, and they all sat. Ranma recognized her right away― it was the very lady she'd taken on an accidental swimming trip barely an hour before. She instantly felt vindicated for knowing there was something different about her, and slightly emotional that she'd known it was her mother just by being near her.
She searched for her father, and after a brief search, found the dripping furball hiding around the corner of the house. "Pop!" she barked. "What's going on? Why ain't she supposed to know we're here?"
"THE TRUTH IS," Genma signed, "SHE IS YOUR MOTHER!"
"Yeah, I know! So why can't I go in there and meet her?!"
"OUR LIVES ARE BOTH AT STAKE!"
Ranma turned at a whispered voice. Akane was kneeling next to her.
"We were just talking to your mom about the training and engagement and everything. She told us that your father made an agreement with her when he took you."
"Oh?" Ranma replied, shooting the panda a dirty look. 'Genma' and 'agreement' in the same sentence was a sure sign of trouble.
"Yeah. He promised to make you a 'man among men', and if not… you two would both commit seppuku."
"Seppuku!" She gave her father an icy glare. "You've dragged me into some stupid crap before, old man, but this tears it! What kind of freak makes a promise like that about his own son?"
She stood for a moment, glaring, then pounded her fist into her palm.
"You know what?" she said. "I'm done with your honor crap. I'm not going along with any more of your contracts, starting with this one. I don't care if mom doesn't think I'm good enough, I'm not going along with this seppuku thing. You can't make me. What are you gonna do, force me to kill myself?"
She turned to go inside when she was suddenly grabbed from behind, as Genma tried his best to drag her away. She clawed at the ground, finally managing to snag the side of the house.
"Get hot water!" she hissed to Akane, who nodded and raced inside. Genma jumped up to chase after Akane, only to be brought down by Ranma. After a few seconds of the commotion, the others inside raced out to find the source of the noise, Nodoka included.
"You're the young lady I met this morning!"
"I ain't a―"
Akane reappeared with a kettle.
"Akane! Throw it!"
Akane tossed the contents of the kettle in their direction. With one last desperate tug, Genma tried to pull Ranma out of the path of the hot water, but managed to put himself in its path instead. Nodoka clasped her hand to her mouth in shock as the panda before her turned into the unmistakable form of her long-lost husband.
He stopped and looked at her sheepishly, then, realizing his naked state, released Ranma and rushed to cover himself. Ranma took the opportunity to race off without a word, rushing into the furo, dousing herself with the shower, and racing back out fully male.
As soon as he rounded the last corner, he locked eyes with his mother. They stared for a moment, then rushed to embrace each other. After ten years, the wait was over.
After a moment, she pulled back and looked him over. "So handsome," she whispered. Then, something caught her attention. "You're dressed just like that girl I saw a moment ago. And she'd fallen in the river, and you're damp all over."
Ranma sighed. "Yeah, there's something you gotta know right away."
He turned and started toward the koi pond, only to be tackled by his father, who had wrapped himself in the tablecloth from the kotatsu. Ranma tried to squirm free.
"Damn it, pop!" he spat. "She's gonna find out sooner or later!"
"It's for your own good!"
"I don't care about your stupid suicide pact!"
He was shocked as a blast of cold water suddenly changed them from man and boy to panda and girl. Genma released her, and she looked to see Akane, standing over them with a garden hose. She gave the girl a grateful look.
Nodoka stared at the scene in front of her. "What in the world is going on?"
Genma took the opportunity to jump up and run, still a panda.
A few minutes later, everyone except Genma was sitting around the kotatsu, with Nodoka pondering the explanation of the curse she'd just been given.
"So all it takes is some water?" she asked.
"Just water," Ranma replied.
"And it changes everything?"
"Head to toe. Well, it changes my body. I don't think different or anything."
She perked up at that. "So you're still a boy on the inside, even when you have a girl's body?"
"Oh, sure. Pop's not off acting like a panda right now, he knows who he is."
"Ranma was a girl when he first showed up," Nabiki added. "He acted so much like a boy in that body, I thought he was a lesbian."
Nodoka looked to Akane. "You're his fiancée", she said. "Would you say he's… manly?"
The blush that crossed Akane's face seemed to be enough of an answer.
She sat pensively for a moment. "I have to think about what this means," she said.
"Will you be staying for dinner, Auntie Saotome?" Kasumi asked.
"That would be lovely, dear! Besides, I really should wait to see if my husband reappears. We need to have a serious discussion about his training methods."
"You might as well spend the night," Soun said. "Genma's liable to disappear until the morning. Now, let's see." He thought for a moment. "Which room would be best?"
"I can just take Genma's bed. That way he can't sneak into it without me knowing."
"Genma and I share a room, so that may be a bit awkward."
"Ranma and his father don't share a room?"
"No," Kasumi said sweetly, "they were together in the guest room until Akane and Ranma started sharing it, and then Mr. Saotome moved in with father. Oh! Akane's old room is empty. I'll make it up after dinner."
Ranma felt his face go crimson, and glanced over to see Akane's doing the same. Nodoka fixed them in a wide-eyed gaze.
"You two share a room?"
"Well yeah," Ranma replied without thinking. "I'm manly and all." He cringed as he realized the ill timing of his joke.
"Are you, ah…" She searched for words. "…sharing a bed as well?"
"If they aren't," Nabiki chimed unhelpfully, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, "I'd love to know what all of the noise is when they go to bed early."
"You can hear us?!" Akane shrieked. "Why didn't anybody tell me?!"
"Never stopped you in your old room," Nabiki replied, "or anywhere else in the house. Or at school."
"Nobody's ever caught us at school," Ranma said, again without thinking.
"And now I know you two do it at school. Thanks, Saotome."
Akane buried her face in his shoulder, trying her damndest to disappear, while he simply cast his eyes downward. "We have gym together," he muttered. "An hour with Akane in a gym uniform."
Kasumi jumped up. "I should get started on dinner," she said. Ranma gave her a grateful look for breaking the tension.
Nodoka rose. "I'll help you dear," she said. She looked at Ranma and Akane. "I suppose there's no doubt left that you've grown into a man." She and Kasumi left.
Akane groaned from her hiding spot. "At least the suicide thing is sewn up," Ranma muttered. Akane groaned again.
That night, Ranma and Akane were curled up in bed, spooning with her back pressed against his front. He leaned close and gently kissed her neck.
"No way," she whispered. "Not after what Nabiki said."
"Everybody went to bed. The downstairs is empty."
"I'm still not in the mood."
He kissed her neck again, then moved up to put some light kisses on her ear. He wrapped an arm around her and stroked one of her breasts.
"It's not working."
He stroked her breasts again, then ran his fingertips down her belly and started stroking the inside of her thigh. He placed another kiss on her neck. She let out a soft moan and rolled over to face him.
"You're not going to give up, are you?"
"No, because you're in the mood and we both know it."
In the dim light, he could see the eye roll she gave him. He rolled onto his back, and his statement was confirmed as she climbed on top of him and put her lips to his. He gave her rear a squeeze with both hands, and she shifted her weight to put her entrance against his erection. A second later, they were passionately involved, her body bobbing up and down and their soft moans bouncing around the otherwise quiet room.
Without warning, the window popped open with a thud, a breeze from the open window blowing the curtains aside. Genma slipped in through the window and landed silently, but the whole process didn't go unnoticed by the two inside. They jumped apart, Akane hugging the blankets to herself while Ranma reached up and flipped on the lamp above their bed. Genma froze in the lamp light like a deer in headlights.
"Pop!" Ranma hissed. "Get out!"
"I needed to sneak in!"
"Sneak in downstairs, you fat moron!"
The door to the hallway flew open, revealing Nodoka's silhouette against the hallway light. Akane squeaked and hid closer to Ranma, pulling the blankets over her head.
"There you are, Genma!" Nodoka said, her voice rising. She unsheathed the sword she always carried. "You're going to answer for what you did to our son!"
"Get out!" Ranma growled, trying to convey anger without shouting loudly enough to rouse everyone else in the house.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, Ranma," Nodoka said. "I know you and Akane were busy."
"Yes, I just happened to be passing when I heard you both."
Ranma felt a hard punch to his thigh, courtesy of his hiding fiancée. He winced. Genma backed up and sprang out of the window. Nodoka rushed out the door, heading downstairs.
"They're gone," Ranma said. "That was my fault for ever thinking we could get a moment of peace and quiet, and I'm sorry."
Akane's muffled voice came from under the blanket. "I'm never having sex with you again."
"I believe you." He leaned forward to look out into the hallway, and seeing no one else, he jumped up, rushed to the door, and slammed it closed. After a moment of contemplation, he grabbed one of Akane's shinai and jammed it into the door track, wedging it shut. He heard the window slide closed and turned to see Akane closing it and locking it. He walked up behind her and wrapped her in a hug, pressing their naked bodies together. He kissed her neck again, and she leaned her head against his.
"Not happening," she said.
"I'm not giving up."
They climbed back into bed. Somewhere outside, Genma could be heard begging for his life.
The next morning, Ranma worked out by himself. He'd been saved from the usual mess and eventual dip in the koi pond, thanks to Genma being literally tied up by Nodoka, who had cornered him at some point during the night. Later, everyone was sitting down to breakfast, with Genma still captive.
Akane, still in her revealing workout gear, leaned forward to pluck something from the table. Ranma took the opportunity to give her a pinch on the butt, getting his hand smacked in response. Nodoka smiled sweetly at them.
"You two are so close," she said. "Akane, you be sure to come over and see Ranma as often as you wish."
Ranma blinked. "Come over?"
"Of course. Now that I've met you, it's time for you and your father to come back home with me."
Genma squirmed in his restrained position.
Given all of the 'honor' contracts he'd been pushed into, Ranma wasn't so much surprised, or even angry, but irritated. "Are you serious?" he growled. "The whole reason I came here in the first place was because of an arranged marriage, and now that things are working out, you expect me to leave?"
"Well, Ranma, it's hardly proper for someone your age to be living with a girl."
"If it was proper to engage us before we were born, it's proper to live together when we're only a couple of years from getting married!"
"Ranma!" Genma barked from his captive position. "Don't raise your voice to your mother!"
"I don't care anymore. I've gone along with your crap for ten years now, I'm making good on your arranged marriage, and that's the end. I'm not doing what you say anymore."
"Just shut up already. Mom… take pop when you go, and let me do things my own way, alright? I can handle it."
No argument seemed forthcoming.
A while later, Ranma and Akane were watching as Genma and Nodoka prepared to depart, with Genma carrying his possessions in an array of bags. Nodoka paused, turned to Ranma, and produced a small box from her kimono.
"Ranma," she said, "I want you to give this to Akane. It's something I used for a while, and I want her to have it."
Ranma opened the box, and his eyes bulged at what was inside— a ring. He heard a soft gasp from behind him, and looked back to see Akane looking over his shoulder. He held the box toward her. "Mom wants you to have this," he said.
She reached a trembling hand forward, took hold of the ring, and pulled. It didn't come out of the box; instead, the bottom of the box came with it, revealing a compartment. They looked at what was inside.
"Pills?" Ranma asked.
Nodoka smiled sweetly. "Women in the Saotome family tend to go through many trials and tribulations," she explained. "That's my favorite medicine box."
She embraced Ranma, and she and Genma departed. Ranma watched them go, still holding the pill box.
"That explains a lot," he said.
"Yeah, it really does. Are you sad you didn't get closer to your mother?"
"Eh. She's almost as crazy as pop. I'm better-off keeping some distance. I am a little curious what our old house looks like, assuming she still lives wherever I used to live. But I'm not gonna move in there just to see it."
"You didn't let her push you around."
"Nope. If they're gonna plan out my adult life, I'm at least gonna decide when it starts."
He put his arm around her, and they went back inside.
A/N: And that's it! It's over! It's a bit bittersweet— this is my first fic to ever become a real success, by which I mean got a flurry of follows and reviews from the outset. However, rather than do the smart thing and figure out an endpoint before starting, I'd decided to just do the entire series, not accounting for its length and the likelihood that changing Ranma's personality would make absolutely no difference in most of the story arcs. And so it just got Mary Sue to a cringeworthy degree, and I had utterly lost interest in writing for what I considered to be a fic that was no longer any good.
So, with me reaching the story arc where the anime had concluded, and what appeared to be the only remaining story arc in the entire series worth covering in a fic like this, it's time to bring it to a close. I hope you've enjoyed the ride. I'm hoping to get to work on "Who Hates Boys?" next, which will be restarted with changes worked in from the start. And, of course, "Ranma-Baby" is always waiting to be updated. (You know, the good fic…) So stay tuned!