Ranma 1/2: The Switch,

This story takes place after vol. 38

A tale of the darkness that lies sleeping in all of us.

"Look into the eyes of the idol Ranma," said the lazy looking man that sat across from his son. He was holding forward a small and ugly looking statue with a face on either side of its head. Small worthless jewels adorned the neck and clothing around its body. Four large and possibly somewhat valuable jewels replaced the pupils of the disgusting looking creature.

"Why should I? What's this got to do with martial arts anyway pop? It's just some stupid doll from China." muttered the boy as he scratched the back of his head lazily. The two of them were sitting in a clearing in a small forested area of Japan. Ranma looked tired and grumpy after several days of training with his father.

"Shut up boy! This will give you the confidence I have. They you'll be able to drop those other fiancée's like you were supposed to. You had the perfect opportunity a few months ago when Shampoo had that stupid jewel! Face it son you blew it!" said the elder man as he punched his son into the ground.

"What makes you think I don't want to marry Shampoo?" grumbled Ranma as he returned the blow casually.

"You know as well as I do that the Saotome men are irresistible! You have to be forceful with these women or you'll never get to enjoy marital bliss!" said Genma with tears flowing from his eyes.

"Give it a rest pop, what would you know about marital bliss anyway? Mom was still gonna kill us a few weeks ago as far as I can recall. Besides, I have enough confidence for the both of us," said Ranma as he grinned dangerously and formed a small chi ball in his palm.

"I'll have you know that this trip was to teach you some respect boy! You've been slacking in your training ever since we moved in with the Tendos. I have to put you back on track so you can be a real man when we finally get rid of these curses for your mother," said Genma as he nodded sagely and turned his nose up at his son.

"Training? You haven't done a lick of work in months; I haven't even seen you training for weeks! Who the heck are you to talk?" screamed Ranma as she kicked her father square in the jaw and sent him sprawling.

Genma recovered quickly and frowned. "Such disrespectful behavior. My only son, how could you? You break your father's heart," he lamented as the tears began to flow again.

"Save it pop, we ain't buying any. Now are you gonna tell me what the heck we are doing or do I have to beat it out of you?" said Ranma as he hung lazily from a nearby tree.

"Well son, it's something like this. This thing will make you just as smart as your old man! In fact it will make you the most handsome and cunning of all martial artist," said Genma as he held the statue up and smiled broadly.

"It'll turn me into...myself?" said Ranma looking confused.

"No boy! It'll make you just like your father! I know I taught you some modesty! Show a little respect!" growled Genma as he pulled Ranma up to his face by the boy's shirt.

"Great, I'm out of here," said Ranma as he turned to walk away.

"Wait Ranma! I promise that it will give you years of experience in an instant! You'll feel like a new man!" called Genma as he chased after his son.

"If it ain't a cure I don't want it," Ranma never stopped or turned around as he continued on his way.

Genma smiled. "It will take away your curse for a while as well. Just a month or two, but still..."

Ranma froze in place; he turned and looked at his father with a gaze of steel. He looked at his traveling pack and then back at his father again.

"You'd better be right about this old man. If you're lying..."

"I promise you won't turn into a girl for an entire month," said Genma coolly.

"All right, what do I have to do?" said Ranma warily.

"Nothing, just watch the statue," said his father as he placed the idol on the ground between the two of them. Ranma gazed deep into the ruby side of the statue and almost instantly they seemed to glow green.

A hand reached down and scooped it up. Ranma felt dazed and sluggish for a moment before he realized that whatever was going to happen had already occurred.

"What's up pop? I don't feel any different," he said and almost immediately he realized something was wrong. The next thing he knew a fist was planted in his face and the world went black.

The zookeeper smiled at the new acquisition. It was a healthy panda right around the breeding age. It growled menacingly at the boy who had brought it there. "It was a family pet, left to me by an old relative who died a few days ago. I want you to take good care of him for me. He does have a few problems though," said the boy almost absently.

"Oh?" asked the zookeeper suddenly wary of his purchase.

"He's harmless to humans, but he does tend to escape, keep a sharp eye on him. He also likes cold water; he can't stand hot water though. He can't tell the difference between the two so be careful. If he gets hot water on himself he'll pitch a fit. So no matter what happens don't give him any hot water, no matter how much he begs for it. Just give him some cold water instead and he'll be perfectly happy," said the boy with a dark smile on his face.

The panda growled and struggled with the cage again. "I think we can handle that, He shouldn't come in contact with hot water anyway. The zoo tries to keep the animals away from anything that they would not encounter in the wild. It keeps them calmer and more docile," said the zookeeper as he handed the boy a modest sum of money.

"See you around father," said Ranma as he walked out of the room.

Genma snarled and banged on the bars of the cage again as his son disappeared behind the closed door.

A few days later...

Akane sat in front of the TV and watched as the two lovers leaned slowly closer to each other. She turned suddenly as the door opened and Ranma staggered in wearily. He had a strange smile on his face and was looking around absently.

"What's with you Ranma? Where's Uncle Saotome?" asked the girl in an annoyed tone.

"Somewhere in Kyushu, I think," said Ranma absently.

"You left your father?" asked Akane in shock.

"We got separated, besides I've always been disrespectful and ungrateful before. Why stop now?" said Ranma in answer.

Akane just stared at him in mild shock. Ranma had just put himself down; maybe he just didn't realize he did though?

"Oh, Akane!" cried Ranma dramatically. "Your eyes are just like stars in the night sky. Your hair is soft like the gentle breeze. Your face
reminds me of..."

Akane felt her heart leap into her throat as Ranma fell to his knees and started praising her. She just stared at him wide eyed and gaped as he fell into a poetic farce that would rival any Kuno had ever given. She felt weak kneed and her head was light. "Am I dreaming?" she wondered as she looked into his eyes. That was when his last words hit her. "MY FACE LOOKS LIKE WHAT?!"

"Sukiyaki, like the tender morsels of beef simmering ever so slightly on the oily rice bed of my hea..." Ranma flew through the roof of the home courtesy of Akane Tendo's mightily and just left foot.

"Sounds like Ranma is home," said Nabiki as she walked by her little sister in the hallway and headed for the dining room.

Kasumi was setting up dinner and smiling cheerfully. "I do hope he gets back soon; I'd hate for his dinner to get cold."

"That's funny I don't see Genma around," said Soun as he glanced around his paper and frowned.

"Ranma said they got separated in Kyushu," Growled Akane as she huffed from her place at the table. It would obviously be some time before she calmed at all.

A few blocks away, Ranma sat on a rooftop and sighed dejectedly. "I guess she doesn't like Sukiyaki? That can't be it, she ate so much the last time we had it! Maybe she was still upset that I got the last piece of beef?" he stood and started to wander towards the dojo.

On his way home Ranma heard his stomach growling. He glanced around and saw a familiar and welcome sight. The Ucchan.

"You say Ranma was acting weird?" said Nabiki as she gave her sister an odd look.

"Yea, he just walked in and told me I looked like sukiyaki; then I hit him..." she stopped and looked at her sister noting the look she was getting from her. "What?"

"Sounds perfectly normal to me," commented Nabiki dryly.

"Really Akane, you should be nicer to Ranma, you know it makes father cry when he has to fix the roof," said Kasumi sweetly

Ukyo stared blankly at her fiancée as he sat stuffing his face in front of her. The spatula dug into the grill taking out a large shaving of metal as she shook with anger. Not because of what he was doing, but because of the words coming out of his mouth. "Wh-what?"

"I said I'm dumping you. Really Ukyo, I worry about your hearing," said Ranma with a smug looking nod.

"You can't dump me!" screamed the girl. "This is a joke right?" she laughed nervously and pulled him by his shirt.

Ranma stepped back and blinked at her. "Sure I can, after all. I have to marry Akane, my family honor demands it. You understand."

"But... I'm the cute one remember? You can't do this to me! Your honor demands that you marry me too!" screamed the girl as the grill slowly became shaved into tiny little metal bits by her dangerously working spatula.

"Well, Akane was first. I get a dojo if I marry her, she's cute, much prettier than you are, and the money will be enough to take care of me and my father for years," said Ranma with a shrug.

Ukyo could not stand anymore, with a final and very just heave of the spatula on her back Ranma was made about a foot shorter. He blinked and looked at her. "Why did you do that?"

"I... I'm going to kill you!" said Ukyo as her battle aura seemed to blot out any thing in the room but her. Ranma gulped and stepped away. "Look, there's no need to be like this. I know my natural good looks are very appealing, after all I get them from my father..."

Ukyo simply stared at him and walked through the counter top sending splinters of wood and metal in every direction. "That's not all you get from your father," she commented darkly as she raised the spatula over her head.

"Uh oh," said Ranma as he turned towards the door of the restaurant.

Ryoga Hibiki walked down a familiar looking street and sighed. "Where the hell am I? I guess I'd better ask for directions." He turned into a nearby restaurant and stopped as screams of pain came from inside the door. "Hmm, maybe I'll just wait and try to figure it out myself first." As he walked away a ball of fire and a huge cloud of dust erupted from the doorway. "I think that would be best."

The zookeeper stared at the animal in frustration. "I know these animals are fickle and hard to breed, but this one is impossible."

Inside the cage several female pandas lounged on a large heart shaped bed that was covered in pink frills and long draping sheets. The walls of the room were covered in candles and soft music played in the background. The male panda simply sat in the corner turned away from the room desperately wishing it would all just go away.

Shampoo growled as her bonbori slammed into another brick wall crushing it to dust. Mousse stood behind the mess that remained of the street and cheered. "That's the way Shampoo! Teach that two timing fool a lesson!" Occasionally he would throw another weapon or twenty at him too keep him off balance.

"Shampoo kill!" screamed the girl in a rage as she crushed another wall while Ranma barely dodged in time.

The boy looked tired and worn, a throwing spatula hung loosely from his sleeve and a gymnastics ribbon was tied around his neck. He ducked away from the Amazon's rage as best he could and stopped cold as the old woman appeared in front of him.

"So, it seems you've made your decision," she cackled madly.

"That's right," said Ranma confidently, he noticed Shampoo had temporarily stopped her attack while her great grandmother stood off against the boy.

"Do you really think we'll let you off this easily. You are going to marry Shampoo and that's final," threatened the hag with a strange smile on her face.

"Ranma is going to marry Akane! Even if it kills him, uh... I mean me!" retorted the boy angrily as he jumped away onto the rooftops of Nerima.

Shampoo started to lunge after him but Cologne placed her hand up and stopped her. "Wait a moment Shampoo, there is something strange about the Son in Law."

"What you talking?" said the girl as her anger faded slightly.

"This is something that we can perhaps use to our advantage," cackled the old woman playfully. "Come child we have a little work to do."

Ranma sat in the dojo a few hours later panting desperately for breath. Akane walked up behind him and frowned. "Been visiting the other fiancée's today I see."

Ranma blinked and turned towards her. "Actually, I broke up with all of them."

Akane stopped in her tracks, "What?"

"How else are we going to get married tomorrow?" said Ranma flatly.

"M-m-m" Akane couldn't even get the word out of her mouth. "Ranma?"

"After all, we have to get married soon or I won't be able to give my father any grandchildren. We have to ensure the school after all, and I'm to stupid to train future generations myself."

Akane blinked at this and stared at him. "What?" Then something else that he said hit her. "So... you only want to marry me to ensure the school? Is that it?"

Ranma smiled warmly and sighed. "Of course, why else would I?"

Akane sat there quietly for a moment and Ranma merely hummed to himself. She looked up at him and he instantly realized something was wrong with her. "RRRAAANNNMMMAAA!" He backed away desperately and held up his hands, the only thing he could think to say was the same thing that had saved his life the last time this had happened to him.

"I love you!" He covered his head and waited for the blow. After nothing happened he peered between his arms and saw her staring at him wide-eyed.

"Wha?" She dropped the shinai she had procured from the wall and stared at him blankly. After a moment, tears started to fall from her eyes and she fell to the ground sobbing. "What did you say?"

Ranma looked confused and put out his hand counting off the events that had led to this moment. He smiled to himself and looked proud. "We have to get married tomorrow to join the schools?"

Akane hit him with the shinai. "After that!"

The boy blinked and shrugged his shoulders. "I donno."

"You said you loved me you jerk!" screamed the girl in a rage, she stopped and her features softened suddenly. "D-did you mean that?"

Ranma grinned again, "Sure!" Anyone watching could see he was lying through his teeth, but Akane wasn't that observant. She didn't care about anything but the words themselves.

"Ranma my boy! You've done well!" said Soun cheerfully as he grabbed his soon to be son in law by his shoulder and squeezed him roughly.

"Thanks Tendo!" said the boy cheerily.

"Please, call me father!" said the man as he slapped him on the back a little harder than he needed to.

Ranma merely smiled and nodded his head oblivious to anything but the meal Kasumi set down before them.

Nabiki watched the scene carefully and frowned. "Ranma sure is acting weird, don't you think Akane?"

Her younger sister looked at her and frowned before turning her gaze on the loudly eating boy. "He doesn't seem any different to me."

Nabiki ignored her and turned towards Soun. "So, why don't we wait for Uncle Saotome to get back first? I'm sure he would like to be here to see his own son's wedding."

Ranma and Soun looked at each other. "Nah," the said in unison before returning to the meal.

This reaction interested Nabiki more than anything else that had been said at the table, "Interesting."

"Well my useless old friend, it seems we've found a home for you," said the zookeeper as he unlocked the cage that held Genma Saotome. "A nice Chinese family with a license to keep Pandas."

The animal blinked and turned to see a familiar figure sitting on top of a gnarled old staff. "Well, we meet again Saotome."

Genma narrowed his eyes and glared at her angrily. She held up a kettle of hot water and smiled at him. "What would you be willing to do for this I wonder? Perhaps prevent the son in law from marring Akane Tendo?"

The animal's eyes went wide as he dashed forward and grabbed the pot. Pouring its contents over his head he grabbed Cologne by her shoulders. "No! We have to stop him before it's too late!"

"I know we do... son in law," said the old woman with a knowing wink.

Genma blinked and stood up straight.

The zookeeper sat against the wall mumbling to himself while he rocked back and fourth staring at the events that he had just witnessed in disbelief.

Ranma smiled as Akane walked down the center of the dojo with a nervous look on her face as she approached the priest that stood waiting. After the botched wedding before Soun had been particularly cautious this time around. Only his family was invited and Nabiki had not been allowed near the phone or out of the house since she discovered the plot.
Even so, his middle daughter had a mixture of emotion on her face that was halfway between anticipation and fear. Soun shook it off and led his daughter up to Ranma with a tight smile, tears flowed freely down his face and he sucked a quick breath in order to control himself.

The priest cleared his throat and started the ritual. "We are gathered here to witness the union of..."

"I shall never allow this!" screamed an angry voice from the dojo door.

"Thank Kami for cell phones," commented Nabiki under her breath. She still had hope for the other fiancée's to show up, but after the stories she had been given it seemed unlikely. Kuno wasn't much of a backup plan, but he was something. A cold fear crept into her heart at what happened next.

A fist slammed into Kuno from behind the door, the boy turned slightly and watched the top of an umbrella come from a wide arc and plant itself in his face. Ryoga Hibiki stepped into the dojo and smiled. "Hurry up Ranma, the others are coming soon."

Nabiki stood up and glared at him. "Traitor!"

Soun and Kasumi Tendo looked at her in shock. Akane turned away from Ranma with a hurt look in her eyes. "Nabiki, how could you?"

The girl turned towards them and pointed at Ranma. "How could you be so stupid? Don't you realize who that is?"

The boy seemed edgy for a moment and his eyes went wide with terror as a new figure walked onto the dojo floor moving right by Ryoga. "You're late," commented the lost boy as Genma stood glaring at Ranma with a burning hatred in his eyes.

"You get your damn hands off her old man!" he snarled.

"Saotome! What is the meaning of this?" cried Soun as he snapped his head back and fourth between the man and his son.

Ranma lurched forward as Cologne appeared beside him with a wry smile on her face with her staff poking him in the back. "Well, that was a close one."

"Now see here!" shouted Soun as he turned towards her and stood between the fallen martial artist and the ghoul.

She pushed him aside with her staff and rummaged through the boy's clothes pulling out a small, ugly statue. "The fool was carrying it with him the whole time I bet."

Genma nodded his head and sat down directly across from the boy as Cologne held Ranma's head and forced open his eyes. There was a green glow between them and the boy sat up shaking his head.

"You didn't have to poke me that hard ghoul," he said with a relieved sigh.

"What's going on?" demanded Akane as she pulled the front of her wedding dress and kicked Ranma back onto the ground. She froze as she saw Genma angrily punching the ground.

"So close! I almost did it!" he cried into the sky.

"What is he talking about?" said Akane as she looked towards her family.

"I thought as much," snorted Nabiki. "That wasn't Ranma you almost married Akane."

The girl looked between her fiancée and his father for a moment as the concept began to sing in. "Y-you tricked me?" Pain flooded her face as she rushed out of the room in tears.

Ranma jumped up and started after her. "Akane! Wait I..." He turned and gave his father a single hate filled glare before slamming his foot down on top of the statue sending pieces of it scattering across the dojo floor. "Do you have any idea what you've done old man?" He popped his knuckles and glared at him with a Range even Genma had never seen in his eyes before. Or perhaps he had, Saffron wouldn't be talking about that look for some time now, then again, neither would Genma Saotome.

The screams of pain that emerged from the dojo lasted long into the night.


"So everything is back to normal?" said Soun with a heavy sigh as he patched another Amazon entrance into his home.

Genma nodded his head and attempted to keep up with his son during the meal with one of his arms in a cast. Needless to say he lost about half of his meal. "Ungrateful boy!"

"Shut up old man," retorted the boy calmly.

Akane glared at both of them and sighed. She probably wouldn't forgive Genma for some time yet. As for Ranma, he had gone and made his apologies to his various fiancée's.
Shampoo had known about it already, but Ukyo almost took his head off when he walked into the Okonomiyaki restaurant. In the end everything went well, but Genma would have to lay low for at least a few more weeks. Luckily for him, all the girls seemed reluctant to kill the man they considered their future father in law. That didn't mean he was above a good beating though.
Kodachi, well Genma had been unsuccessful in ridding his son of her anyway. She had arrived after the failed wedding was already over and dashed off into the shadows proclaiming that she had saved her Ranma from a horrible fate single handedly.
And so everything returned to status quo in Nerima once again. It would probably stay that way for some time now that Ranma had seen what would happen if he ever did get around to marrying Akane.
The pigtailed boy shuddered and popped another pickle into his mouth. "I almost wish I was too late," he thought privately.