A Ranma 1/2 / Sailor Moon Fusion
By Robert Haynie
(Sailor Moon ain't mine, Ranma ain't mine, and Macross ain't mine. Macross hasn't got anything to do with this fic, but I thought it was just as well to get that out of the way.)
Prologue- Strange Destiny.
(I... have to hide her... hide him... until they are old enough...)
Serenity's final thoughts before sending the souls forward in time were unusually confused. And with good reason, considering the pain wracking her body as the Ginzoushou powered up. She was almost totally focused on her daughter.
(She... has to be able to fight back. Please, somehow, she HAS to be able to fight back!)
The crystal reacted. And it did the bidding of the Queen in the best way it could.
It just, well... chose a very STRANGE way.
Mariko Tendo was in pain- but that was nothing unusual. She had always been a frail sort, really, and this second child would be no easier a birthing than her first had been, or her third would be.
The doctor was there, and the drugs helped, but she felt agonized nonetheless... until the final spasm hit, the pain reached a climax and faded- so blessed a fading- and she passed into grateful unconsciousness.
Even before that she was in a drug-induced haze, and had little real knowledge of what was going on- only that it hurt.
So it wasn't until later that she discovered she had had twins.
The Ginzoushou acted. It changed things.
How, no-one could predict, not even Serenity.
The Ginzoushou was not, as we understand it, intelligent. However, it did have a sort of psuedo-awareness. It... "knew" things. It "knew" that it had certain tasks to perform.
For example, it "knew" it had to let the Prince be reborn.
It "knew" it had to hide the Princess.
It "knew" that the Princess had to be able to fight back.
It managed to do all it was required to do.
As was mentioned above, it was not as we understand it intelligent. So it did it in a way that no-one could have ever expected. But it certainly did it's job well.
Ranma Saotome stared at his body. Which wasn't his body at the moment. It was HER body.
Slender, well formed without being overly buxom. A tangle of blonde hair in her eyes told her that that had changed too. She could feel her scalp tingle as her hair started to grow at accelerated speed, she could feel how strange her body felt, she could feel... a lot of things she didn't strictly think she was SUPPOSED to feel.
And she spoke.
"Whoa. I'm a girl. Weird."
The guide looked at the once again human Genma sitting in his simple cabin. He hefted the teakettle once again, to reassure his latest clients.
"So, you see, Mister Customer, all you need is hot water and... you... change... huh?"
Genma Saotome stared in horror at his son, who was not looking very son-like at the moment. "Why isn't he changing? WHY ISN'T HE CHANGING?"
"I not know! Not ever happen before without Musk around, no Musk today! Maybe Amazons know?"
The blonde shrugged, while finishing tying her hair into twinned ponytails and odango. "Sheesh, Pops, if I don't mind it, you shouldn't. So I'm a girl. So what? Feels right, actually. What's your problem?"
"Well, for one thing, that ridiculous hairstyle. What are you THINKING? You should just cut it and-"
"Cut it? Are you KIDDIN' me? My hair has to be my best feature. Most girls would kill for hair as nice as mine. All I really need is these odango so it keeps off the floor, right?"
"And that's another thing. I don't like Ranma as a name. OK when I was a guy, but I'm a chick now. I want... I want a kawaii name."
"I think I like... I don't know. I'll think of something. But I'm gonna get a nice cute name."
"My son a weak, miserable girl..."
"Oh, and about that crap-"
Ranma then proved that yes, short slender blonde girls COULD be skilled at the Art. She wasn't exactly angry about becoming a girl- although she had a feeling she SHOULD be- but she WAS angry about suddenly having NO clothes that would fit her.
Genma, on the other hand, began to reassess certain long-held beliefs. Like girls were inherently weak. Being put through a wall does that to people.
Soul and personality are not the same thing.
Personality sometimes follows the soul, though.
That's significant too.
The girl was driving Genma insane.
He wasn't sure HOW he'd explain this to Nodoka- not and stay alive, that is- or what was happening to his ex-son. Ranma was Ranma- but wasn't.
One moment, casual and self-reliant, as he'd taught, and then suddenly she'd get distracted- DISTRACTED, by the gods- by a cute animal or something like that. Once, when he'd scolded her about this, she had actually started to cry- a full blown wail, in fact.
Then she'd slammed him into the earth with considerable force, on the grounds that he had no right to be such a meanie, proving that at least her skills hadn't changed.
She was acting one moment like a girl and then the next like a boy. The intervals between the apparent personality changes were shortening, however. Almost melding.
Genma was not a happy man. Even when he wasn't a man he wasn't happy.
Ranma, however, was. All her life she'd felt... uncertain about something. The phrase that had been drilled into her mind, "Man amongst Men" had somehow never seemed right.
Now, she wasn't a man at all- and she felt just plain wonderful. She liked this new body. She liked the change.
As they approached a certain village, the Guide said, "Is very sad you not here yesterday. Was great tournament scheduled, is usually very exciting."
Genma sighed. "We probably would have been if a certain SOMEONE hadn't insisted on finding new clothes."
"Pops, I can't dress like that any more. I needed the right underwear, and that gi didn't fit no more, and I like these, they're good to fight in and they look nice also." She spun about, displaying the crimson tang and black pants she wore that they had found in another town. They were a bit loose, perhaps, but they looked better than that yucky old gi any day. She also liked the ribbons she'd found for the base of her odango.
"Nice. What has looking nice to do with the Art?"
"Nothing!" Ranma retorted, with a merry laugh.
"Then why bother?" Genma asked, with some asperity. The Art was the only thing he knew of any importance. With the exception of keeping alive, getting enough to drink and eat, and... oh, HELL. How was Tendo going to react to this disruption of their long planned joining of the schools?
No, Genma was NOT a happy man.
"OOOH. All these girls have such PRETTY clothes! Maybe I should see if I can get a suit like that girl has- the one with purple hair, it would look so nice, don't ya think, Pops?"
Not happy at all.
There was something about the girl.
Cologne, Matriarch of the Amazons (As best as the term could be rendered) couldn't put her finger on it, but there was something about the girl. And Cologne HATED things she couldn't put her finger on. That meant not being in total control of the situation, and being in total control of the situation was something that she insisted on.
The girl was obviously an outsider, despite her Chinese clothing. Her stance was casual, almost innocent, but Cologne knew better. Beneath that relaxed stance was the ease of a skilled martial artist. A very skilled one.
Meanwhile, the guide was explaining a few things to his charges.
"You no get into fights with Amazon girls. Is very bad if you win."
"Why's that?" Ranma asked, curious. "Bad's when you lose, isn't it?"
"Is Amazon way, if girl win fight with Amazon girl, Amazon girl hunt outside girl to ends of earth and kill."
Ranma blinked, her eyes beginning to tear up a tiny bit. "But... I wanna have a match but I don't want to have someone trying to KILL me! That's no fair!"
"Nor is it inevitable," came an ancient voice. "I can arrange for a Test of Skills, if you like. The Kiss of Death is not applicable in that sort of 'match', as you put it."
"OOOH? REALLY! YAY!"
Cologne blinked. She was aware that the outsider girl was obviously a skilled fighter, but she had never sensed such skill in a package so bubbly. From what she knew of the outside world- and that was a LOT- the two didn't usually go together.
"Tomorrow, then after you are rested. For tonight, you and your father will be our guests."
"Arigato, Cologne-sama," the girl replied with a polite bow.
"What is your name, child?" Cologne inquired.
"Ranma Saotome. But I don't like Ranma and I want a new name. But my Pop's being mean about it."
"Blast it, boy-"
"Who you callin' a boy, Pops? Do I look like a boy to YOU? How many boys you know have a figure like this?"
"You aren't supposed to have a figure at ALL!"
Cologne stared, and then noted in Chinese to the Guide, "I think you had better start talking, my friend. And fast, if you please."
"You ain't going to believe this one, Elder. You just AIN'T." The guide grinned. "And I hope to the Yama Kings' final hells that you can explain it, because I can't..."
"Yes, Elder," Genma replied. "Is there a cure?"
"None known even for the normal version of the curse. This is... unprecedented. Guide, you are CERTAIN none of the Musk were there?"
"Yes. Also not know of hair growing long real fast before. Is strange, no?" The guide replied in his poor Japanese.
"Is strange yes," Cologne replied, distracted.
"But... but I have to turn him back! There's a pledge of honor between the Tendo family that he will marry one of the three Tendo daughters, and there's a pact with his mother that... ah, doesn't matter so much..."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that, young man?" Cologne replied. Genma found it impossible to be angry at the multi-centenarian at being called a young man. It was relatively true in this case.
Genma would have weaseled around the question, but for some reason he didn't think to do so this time. Possibly because there was a certain something in his tea- not exactly a truth potion but something to loosen conversation. Cologne had noted a certain familiarity in the way the heavy-set man moved.
"Well, there's a pact between us that if Ranma isn't a man amongst men that he'll commit seppuku, and with this he's not a man at all, at the moment, so you see-"
Cologne was aghast. "To force a young woman of such potential to KILL herself because of her gender? I cannot accept such a thing..."
"That's why I need a cure."
"There is none. None for a case such as this. But I shall see what I can do."
She stood, as if to leave the table, and then asked almost offhandedly, "Oh, by the way, when did you last see Happosai?"
Without thinking, Genma replied, "Not since Soun and I sealed him in a cave with a bunch of dynamite behind at least thirty tons of rock about twenty years ago."
Cologne froze. So, THAT was why... "Congratulations. You may be the first outsider male I have ever found myself in a small debt to."
The texts were clear. There were only two ways that a Jyusenko curse could be truly sealed- the Cat's Tongue point not counting, since it merely made the hot water unbearable.
One was the Chiisuton- the locking ladle held by the Musk Dynasty. It would seal the curse form until such time as it was unsealed by the Kaishufuu, or open water bucket. Which at the moment was lost, although Cologne had her suspicions as to it's location. But the guide claimed that there were no Musk in the area, and anyhow, that didn't explain the claims of growing hair and personality alteration.
The other way was if... the victim had actually BEEN, in spirit, the form of the curse.
Had, in other words, been at the core a girl anyway.
Which meant that this was actually the girl's natural form and the Nyannichuan had somehow released it.
The implications of THAT were... terrifying.
What could have caused this girl to be born as a boy? Any number of things, she supposed.
What could have bought the girl to Jyusenkyo, the only place where her true body could be released? Only Destiny.
And Destiny, Cologne knew, never did nice things like that idly. It always meant problems, strife, and possibly doom.
She looked out the window where the blonde was performing a kata in t-shirt and pants. Her body was finely toned, doubtless from her years of training as a male- that had certainly carried over. Her movements were graceful, precise, perfect. Which didn't make sense... normally.
She had known men who had fallen victim to the Nyannichuan, and women who had met it's "brother" pool, the Nannichuan. In both cases it would take a warrior of either gender weeks, sometimes months, to adapt to the different body balance, reach, strengths...
And young Ranma was adapting almost instantly. Yes, it was clear to Cologne that this was meant to be. But why?
What terrifying thing could be about to happen that would cause a girl to be born a boy and then drawn to Jyusenkyo to become a girl again?
This would have to be carefully investigated. That meant that when the girl returned to Japan, someone might have to... follow. And who better to do so than...
Cologne chuckled. FINALLY, an excuse to get out of this backwater village and to update herself on the outside world! Perhaps to get her somewhat hidebound great-granddaughter out too... the girl needed a bit of reality. And it was fairly obvious to her that the Amazons wouldn't survive much longer if they didn't adapt. They needed new sources of strength.
In a way, it was a pity that Ranma had found her true self. If she had still been a boy, Cologne might have found a proper husband for Shampoo at last.
"Two falls out of three or surrender. That is the rule of the Test of Skill. No penalty is applied for losing, no reward for winning. This is two warriors testing each other," The Matriarch announced.
Shampoo snorted. As though she would have needed the kiss of death against this... weakling.
"[I won't go easy on you, outsider.]"
"She said she won't go easy on you, Ranma."
"OK, fine with me!"
"[She said, fine with her.]"
Shampoo snorted. Everyone knew that outsider women were weak. And this skinny flat girl was going to be a pushover for the Champion. She stood in the ring (The Log was only used for formal challenges, not a Test of Skill), watched, and smirked. The outsider girl didn't even know how to make a proper combat stance.
Shampoo lunged with one bonbori- and blinked. Where did the silly-haired girl go?
From behind her, she felt a presence- no, not possible, the outsider couldn't be FASTER than her- and then Shampoo sat down hard as Ranma executed a perfect and insanely fast leg-sweep.
"Yatta! See, Pops, I TOLD you I'm a lot faster now!"
The panda grumbled. (Apparently, the Amazon children found his transformation amusing, and loved to set it off. After six encounters, he had given up on staying human this day.)
Shampoo bounded to her feet, snarling. "[That- that wasn't fair! I was not ready!]"
"[Then why did you attack, great-granddaughter?]"
"[It won't happen again!]"
"[We shall see.] Continue."
Shampoo retook her stance, much more wary this time. Again she lunged, but this time kept closer watch. Again Ranma vaulted, but this time Shampoo was ready, and managed to catch her with the haft of a bonbori. Using it as a lever, she managed to bring Ranma to the ground.
"Owwwwwwww!" Ranma restrained a sniffle- it was a fair blow, after all, and stood. "Hey, you're pretty good. Guess I shouldn't hold back, huh?"
Shampoo didn't understand the words, but the tone was unmistakable- the outsider girl was complementing her skill. Instead of being frightened of Shampoo, as by all rights she SHOULD have been, she was...
That suggested that the outsider thought she could WIN.
And THAT was an insult!
"Final pass. One and one."
This time, Shampoo tried for a side-swipe with the bonbori, which Ranma dodged. Ranma danced into a wheel-kick, which Shampoo barely parried. Shampoo attempted a feint with her off-hand bonbori, which grazed Ranma's ribs, but didn't knock her down. Ranma replied with a sudden left jab that left Shampoo standing but with a bruised eye.
Then they began to fight in earnest.
Most of the village watched in awe as they saw a performance of the Art that was unlike anything they had seen in decades. Shampoo's skill and strength, and the reach advantage of the bonbori were offset by Ranma's own skill, greater speed, and equal- possibly greater strength. For fifteen minutes the third battle raged on, Ranma grinning the whole time, and Shampoo gradually getting angrier and angrier.
Finally, the inevitable happened. Someone made a mistake.
It was Shampoo's. For a moment she was distracted by a complex move of Ranma's, and then the smaller blonde caught her behind the knees with one leg, shoved her chest with her hand, and sent Shampoo into a spinning toss that caused her to land painfully on her back.
Disgrace. And now the outsider would mock her, and shame her, and because it was a test of skills she couldn't even give the Kiss of Death... she would never live down the shame...
The outsider was saying something, but the voice sounded... friendly?
"[She says that's the best fight she's ever had, and that you're very good, Shampoo. And she wants to know if you want to be friends.]"
Shampoo replied, "[Let me think on that later, Great-grandmother, after the world stops spinning.]"
Good losers were not normally a part of Amazon psyche. Then again, neither were good winners. Normally, the victor would boast about her prowess and belittle the loser as a weakling, unfit to clean for men.
Instead, Shampoo was dealing with someone who was merrily telling anyone who would listen (and who spoke Japanese) that Shampoo was a GREAT fighter, best she'd ever seen in skill, and it wasn't an easy victory to pull off. Not that she'd doubted that she WOULD win, of course, but Shampoo was still the best she had fought.
Ranma, she saw, instead of the usual boasting, merely calmly believed that she would win. VERY strange, this girl. At least by Amazon standards.
"She's not what you expected, is she?"
Shampoo looked up at Cologne. "How did she defeat me, Great-grandmother? Is my technique bad? Are my skills weak?"
"No, child. But the way that one has trained- almost every hour of every day of her life- in an Art that I know to be one of the most powerful in the world... you should be proud that you got a single fall in on her. I see in her... great potential."
Cologne froze a moment as Ranma went into what seemed to be a battle with her father over the food served that evening. "Also great appetite. But do you see? Even when she eats, she is training. Almost everything she has done in her life, I suspect, has been in some form training. That you did as well as you did... Child, in a few years, I'm not certain I would be able to take her."
"It's true. I don't think I have ever seen such incredible potential... combined with such gentility. She held back as much as she could so that she would not injure you, Shampoo. She won't admit it, of course, but..."
"She... she's that good?"
"Maybe we should get one of the boys to challenge her, and then when she wins, we'll have some really strong blood in the tribe and learn her-"
"I somehow doubt she'd appreciate that, Shampoo. Besides, she is at the moment under guest law, and so cannot be challenged for marriage."
"But such a strong outsider girl-"
"Is, I think, not a threat to us as long as we are not a threat to her. I have much to think about this night. Go and eat, child. Go and eat."
Cologne watched her heir join the meal and pondered. There was still something about the girl that didn't fit...
In the night, the matriarch had a visitor. Two gleaming eyes in the night.
"You. Have you found the key to our redemption?"
"I may have. Just tonight. I watched the fight, you see."
"Is that her name?" The visitor chuckled. "Curious... somewhat appropriate, though. Quite a untamed colt."
"Then... she is the one?"
"She may be. I shall have to observe her for some time before I can be certain. But... I think it's possible. She is returning to Japan soon, I think?"
"Yes. And I plan to follow soon after. Even if she is not the one, we need to know more about the modern world. My heir could stand to learn more, also. And if she is- then who better than I to teach her battle?"
"Of a purely physical kind, yes. As I shall teach her other things. Then we can find the Princess."
"And our great shame in failing to protect her, to stop the Demon Queen those millennia ago can finally be expiated?"
"I hope so... and I hope she is the One. Time grows short, Cologne."
Cologne nodded, and drifted back off to sleep, as a black cat left her cottage.
"be kind to my daughter..."
Once again Nodoka Saotome woke up in a cold sweat. Once again the dream had invaded her mind while she slept, the dream of the goddess like person in the white gown who begged her to be kind to her daughter. But who was her daughter? What did it mean?
And why, each time she had the dream, as she had every night for the past two weeks, was it connected with a feeling that something terrible had happened to her son?
"be kind to my daughter..."
She thought back to when she had last seen Ranma and Genma, ten years ago. Ranma had always been a mild, almost girlish boy. Genma had left promising to make him a Man Amongst Men. He'd even presented her with a contract stipulating that if he failed, he and Ranma would both commit...
"be kind to my daughter..."
Nodoka attempted to relax her mind, trying to find some peace. Was Ranma manly? Should he be? What WAS manly? Why did that phrase bother her so now?
"be kind to my daughter..."
Without thinking, Nodoka opened a drawer, and took out the contract. She gazed at the yellowing paper, the sloppy signature of her husband and the handprint of her son. Handprint. It occurred to her that the child had almost certainly no idea of what he was signing. Still, honor...
"be kind to my daughter..."
Nodoka quietly, for reasons she never would be able to explain, burned the document. Somehow... she knew she had lost her son. Somehow, she knew... she had gained something... else.
"be kind to YOUR daughter..."
The next day she found out what.
"Look, Pops, Cologne told me that Mom's still alive. Well, I'm gonna go see her!"
"You don't understand, boy, I'm trying to tell you-"
"And stop calling me BOY! I ain't a boy! YEESH, you are one dumb panda!"
Genma might have been able to stop the girl. In fact, he probably would have been. But Destiny has it's own agenda, and Genma's qualms weren't relevant to it.
Nodoka had been out doing a little bit of shopping- just some fish for her spartan evening meal- when she saw the unmistakable form of her-
"Oh my GOD. Genma? Is.. is that YOU, Genma?"
"It IS you! Where's Ranma? Where's my..."
And then Nodoka noticed the girl with her husband and realised the truth.
The impossible but somehow inevitable truth.
The girl WAS ...
It was the eyes, really. As much as the rest had changed, there was something about the eyes that struck deep into a mother's soul. Nodoka KNEW.
Finally, the dreams all made sense.
"Mom? Is that you?"
"Aw, there's this place in China, and I got turned into a girl but I don't mind. I'm sorry if it bugs ya, though..."
"I... I see. I didn't think that that was what it meant... and... you don't mind."
"I like it, really. I can't explain, but..."
Genma, understandably, made his own comment in a calm and collected manner.
"PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON'T MAKE US COMMIT SEPPUKU! IT'S NOT MY FAULT! THE GUIDE'S JAPANESE WAS AWFUL! I DON'T WANT TO DIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
Well, calm and collected for Genma, under the circumstances.
"I... burned that yesterday, Genma."
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD I TRIED TO- huh?"
"I burned the pact yesterday. Do not think you are forgiven, completely. But I feel that this is... destined. And if I have no son, I do have a daughter. One, I suspect, who knows little about how to actually be a girl."
Ranma nodded. "Took me about a quarter hour to figure out a bra. I like what I am now, but I got a feeling that there's a lotta stuff I should learn, y'know? Like cooking proper instead of just a campfire, and about how to pick clothes, 'cause all of the girls I've seen dress a lot nicer than I do, and boys- even if I useta be one, and-"
Nodoka found herself beginning to laugh. "Oh, you have a LOT to learn. Grammar may the first thing on your list! I assume you still practice the Art?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm the best I know. Though there's this girl in China who's really good. She's gonna visit, I think..."
As mother and daughter walked off, chatting, Genma Saotome tried desparately to decide weither to be elated over his survival or to be annoyed at his near total inability to figure out what the HELL had just happened.
The story was fantastic, incredible, unbelievable, and after the third demonstration on Genma, obviously one hundred percent true. The repeated transformation of her long lost husband into her long lost panda fairly well hammered it home. Nodoka's head was spinning even as she wondered why she was taking this all in stride.
"Ya know, Mom, I'm not sure I ever really WAS a boy. Inside, I mean. I kinda, well, always felt wrong, y'see? But when I fell into that pool I felt, well, right."
"Ranma, my head hurts."
"Mom... I'm sorry if this has upset you. I know you were expecting a boy, and..."
"No... no, somehow this seems right to me too. I can't say why, but it does. Still... oh, the hassles with the family register are going to be insane..."
"Whoa. I never thought about that part. What are we gonna do?"
"Ranma is a boy... that's what the register and the law says..."
"Well... I don't like the name Ranma anymore. It's not a good name for a girl, y'know?"
"True... Let me think on the matter... daughter."
Inspiration comes from the most unlikely of sources.
Nodoka Saotome had spent the evening before over much paperwork. Changing her new daughter's gender wasn't an easy matter on state records (the Family register was simple), but she could do it. The names were a minor matter- people changed names all the time. But what to name her?
She'd suggested a few- Ranko, Kikuko, Ikuko, all of which Ranma had rejected. She so wanted her child to be happy with her new name.
She was awakened early in the morning by the sounds of war. Or something close to it.
Looking out the window, she saw her husband- again a panda, for some reason- in what seemed to be a full out battle with her new daughter. It took a moment for her to realize that they were not trying to kill each other, but were sparring.
She had expected Ranma to be good, but she was amazed at how good the blonde WAS. Moving at incredible speeds, punching and kicking with force that she doubted that any girl should be capable of, leaping about like a rab-
"Genma, may I talk to our daughter for a moment?"
Ranma broke off the fight, and casually leapt into the second story window her mother was calling from. Nodoka gave off a startled "Eeep!" at that feat.
Ranma blushed. "Sorry, momma, didn't mean to scare ya..."
"That's... all right. It seems that Genma has taught you well in at least one area..."
"Yeah. Pops' is kinda dim in some areas, I think, but he does know the Art. So, what'd ya want to ask, Momma?"
Nodoka renewed her resolve to train the girl in proper grammar. "I think I may have a name for you."
"How do you feel about... Usagi?"
There was a pause, and then the new girl's face lit up. "I LIKE."
"Excellent. I shall have the paperwork finished today. Then I shall get you registered for school tomorrow, and in a week the term starts-"
The lit up expression fell. Fast. "Aw, Momma... School? DO I HAVE ta?"
Nodoka gazed at the now renamed Usagi.
Usagi sighed. "I guess that means I DO have ta."
The next step was clothing. Usagi, after all, had a wardrobe that consisted of two bras, three pair of panties, four of boxers that she didn't like to wear, and one Chinese outfit that she refused to give up ("It's comfy for lying around in, Momma.") No proper girl should have such a limited wardrobe.
Shopping turned out to be somewhat more complicated than Nodoka had expected. Usagi approached it from a peculiar mixture of feminine outlook and martial arts practicality.
Example- slacks, jeans, and loose miniskirts were all fine. Knee-length was as far as she would go, though, no longer. Further, they had to be full enough so that she could deliver a proper kick (which she insisted on checking out with each skirt). As Usagi said, "A martial artist has ta be ready to fight at any time, Momma, 'cause you never know when a fight's gonna break out. Trust me."
Actually, Nodoka, being a Neriman, wasn't disagreeing. More than once she had seen fights break out for no discernable reason, and one of Usagi's skill and talent would probably attract challenges. Although she was hoping that her child would be somewhat more traditional, she accepted that that was probably not forthcoming at all.
Schoolwear was somewhat strained. Although Usagi accepted the gym uniforms with rather bad grace ("These things make my thighs look SOO fat!") when she got to the uniforms-
A dark-haired girl next to her at the rack nodded. "You said it. I don't know why they changed the uniforms this year, but I liked the old ones."
"What were they like?" Usagi wondered.
"Blue jumper and a white blouse. Not this seifuku stuff. I mean, it's like some old perv's dream." The dark haired girl took on an exceptionally black expression at that.
"Well, at least the skirt's got a lot of give... but what's with the bow?"
Dark-hair nodded. "I know. Cute is one thing, but this is like something for a six-year old. Well, there's no helping it, ne?"
"Guess not. Could'a been worse. I'm not sure how, but it could'a been worse."
The dark haired girl went home then, with her packages, and saw her older sister- the middle one- and nodded. "Nabiki, it's unanimous- I just met a girl today in passing at the store and she doesn't like the new uniforms either."
Nabiki, testing her own uniform in front of a mirror, hardly noticed Akane's statement. She was too busy looking mortified. How were her clients going to take her seriously in THIS getup?
Undergarments. Exercise wear. Swimwear. Nightwear. Usagi, who had rarely owned more than two sets of clothing in her life- and one of those had always been a gi- was now the proud possessor of a modest, but complete wardrobe. It was, by necessity, a mix and match sort of thing- Nodoka, while well off, was not incredibly rich- but it was there, and it was HERS.
She lay back on her bed- (I have a bed, a real bed) in her new pajamas and sighed happily. Clothes, and a room of her own, and a momma, and... the last few days had been heaven. The next few would be bliss.
Then school would start.
Well, bliss doesn't last forever...
It was fortunate that Genma had, from time to time, had Usagi (when she was Ranma) attend school on occasion. As it was, her entrance exams were nowhere NEAR good enough to get into one of the more prestigious schools, not that that would have mattered, since Nodoka probably would not have been able to afford it anyhow. She barely squeaked by with grades good enough for the local public High School, Furinkan.
In fact, she quite likely wouldn't have gotten in even there had it not been for her watching some girls performing some gymnastic maneuvers and deciding that that looked like fun. It was probably a good thing that she was in a t-shirt and jeans that day.
Ranma had always been a natural athlete, and Usagi hadn't changed in that respect. Add to that the fact that she was considerably more limber and agile than before, and a certain person was staring in awe at a happy blonde fairly dancing over the parallel bars.
"Ah... Miss, how long have you been taking gymnastics?"
"Is that what this is?"
He blinked. "Um... yes. Rather advanced gymnastics."
"So, how long?"
"Haven't been." Usagi was getting a bit irritated. What was with all the questions?
"Haven't... then how are you doing that?"
"Watched some of the other girls doing it. Looked like fun, so I thought I'd give it a try. I ain't in trouble, am I?" she finished, uncertainly.
"No... so, you're not a gymnast?"
"Naw. I'm a martial artist."
"A... what's your name?"
"Usagi Saotome. I'm here so Momma can get me registered, but she said she was having some- hey, where you goin'?" she finished, as the person- one Coach Nokaru Satamaru- dashed away at speeds that weren't as fast as, well, Usagi, but certainly WANTED to be.
In the Vice-Principal's office, that person shook his head. "Mrs. Saotome, I'm afraid your daughter's grades are at best marginal- as well as some apparent irregularities in past paperwork. Perhaps in six-"
Nodoka sighed. It seemed it would take a miracle to get Usagi registered.
"Satamaru-san, what is the meaning of this-" protested the Vice-Principal.
"Is this the Saotome girl's mother?"
The Vice-Principal was to his great astonishment bodily dragged out of his office by a grinning Satamaru.
"Have you gone INSANE? What are you-"
"Enroll Usagi Saotome."
"Look, there are other students that are more qualified, and-"
"Enroll her and we have a chance against Saint Hebereke this year."
"Her daughter- who has never trained in gymnastics in her life- is at the moment playing on the Parallel bars and performing an INCREDIBLE job. Not a lot in style- but incredible skill, and style can be learned. And she's ALSO a martial artist. What does that tell you?"
There was a pause.
"We will enroll her with the understanding that she will join our Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics team."
"Your what?" Nodoka said, weakly.
"Those are our conditions. She will also have to keep up a passing average- I would suggest a tutor, perhaps, for mathematics and English- but she will be admitted. She will not be able to start until Monday, and will have to take extra study until she is caught up. Will this be acceptable?"
"Well, I'd have to ask her..." Apparently miracles weren't impossible after all.
Usagi, who had decided she liked this gymnastics stuff, and was ready for ANYTHING that had the words martial arts in it, just nodded happily, missing the extra study part. Besides, the leotards were so cute.
Genma Saotome sat across from his daughter, who bleeding well should not BE a daughter, in her yellow and blue dress, that she should not be wearing, because boys don't wear dresses, eating at speeds that only he would not consider incredible. Good. At least one thing was being done right.
"Usagi, ladies don't eat so quickly," Nodoka chided.
"Nodoka, Usagi is eating properly for her true calling- that of a martial artist. At any time she may be called upon to risk life and limb against evil and wickedness, in her duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and so she must both be able to eat quickly and well so that she can drop a meal at a moments notice when duty requires- hey, that's MY pickle!" Genma protested, managing to totally ruin the impact of what had been a pretty good speech.
"I don't see that being a martial artist means being a slob, Genma. And Usagi, it's not polite to take other people's food."
"Nothin' wrong with taking other pandas food, is there?" she quipped, grabbing another pickle.
Nodoka, somewhat nonplussed, nodded weakly while Genma growfed in annoyance.
A sort of compromise was eventually reached between Genma and Nodoka. Genma finally accepted that Usagi was a girl, and apparently would be one for the rest of her life. Nodoka accepted that overdoing the ladylike and proper womanhood thing actually could hinder Usagi's progress in the Art, which was of utmost import to the girl- and besides, after spending 16 years as a boy, especially one mainly under Genma's influence, the best she actually hoped for was a sort of well behaved tomboy.
But it didn't change the fact that Genma's heart was irretrievably broken in one matter... the now crushed dream of uniting his and his old friend's schools. At least in a certain way. True, they could try merely blending the styles, or seeing if they could train together, or something... but the only assured and certain way they had known, marriage, was forever... out... of... the...
Then a thin, dim, almost invisible ray of hope broke through the clouds of misery enveloping Genma Saotome's mind.
Didn't Tendo have a...
Hmm... careful now. Have to get this past Nodoka, very carefully...
Usagi's first day at school proved to be interesting.
She had only attended general elementary schools and an all boys junior high (for a while in both cases) before, and so wasn't really familiar with high school ritual, but she felt fairly certain that they usually didn't start with a pack of some thirty to fifty boys in various sports outfits trying apparently to beat the living crap out of a girl while at the same time crying seemingly heartfelt protestations of love. She hadn't had a date yet- ever- boy or girl, but she was fairly certain that that wasn't the way it was usually gone about.
Then again, she was more interested in the somewhat familiar moves of the girl with longish black hair who was not trying to beat the living crap out of her suitors, but instead was succeeding in beating the living crap out of her suitors.
As the last of the mob fell, and the brunette stood panting, Usagi made a beeline for her, ignoring the arriving babble about teak and dying.
"Wow! I've seen multiple opponent techniques before, but that one was really good! I'm Usagi- Usagi Saotome, I'm new at school, what's your name? Was that Anything Goes? I didn't think anyone but Pops and me did Anything Goes..."
"Truly, such a boorish- excuse me, miss, I need to- Pardon me, miss, but- EXCUSE ME?"
The dark-haired girl stared at the sudden blonde face that had appeared in front of her that was saying something totally impossible. "A-Anything Goes?"
"But anyway, that was really good fighting! Although I don't see why y'were fighting, I mean, I thought I heard those guys yelling something about dating with ya if they beatcha, but that doesn't make sense, does it? So, was that some sort of demonstration, or-"
"Miss, I understand your enthusiasm for the fair Akane's skills- and indeed, I must admit to sharing them, for they are truly remarkable for a woman- but 'tis now when I must issue my challenge for her hand, and-"
Usagi blinked. "Waitaminnit. He sayin' that all these guys WERE trying to beat you up to get a date with you?" she asked, dismissing the kendoist. "What, are you from some Amazon family or something?"
"Truly, she has the spirit of an Amazon of legend, but still, I must ask you to-"
"Did you say Anything Goes?" asked Dark-hair.
"Yup! And some of what you did looked like that, but it was mostly Kempo, and I'm really curious?"
Dark-hair blinked. A girl that could understand Kempo AND Anything Goes- AND tell the difference- at a glance. She HAD to get to know her.
"Well, my name's Akane Tendo. And we better hurry, or we'll be late for class."
"AW, geez! You're right, don't wanna be late on my first day!"
The two headed off to class leaving a sputtering and for once unbruised Tatewaki Kuno behind.
They got to class on time.
Kuno didn't. And he hated bucket duty.
At lunchtime, Akane found her world turning upside down. Usagi apparently knew more about the Art than she thought anyone else could. Possibly more than she herself did- although that was unlikely. She was, after all, the best martial artist in Nerima.
Then again, the new girl had apparently been let into Furinkan to beef up the schools Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics team. "I also gotta take extra study till I catch up, which stinks, 'cause I hate study, but Momma says I haveta, so I haveta. And I also don't like these uniforms, I heard they used to be better the year before-"
"That's IT! I knew I saw you somewhere before- when I was buying my uniform!"
Usagi blinked. "Hey, yeah- you were the girl who told me about the old ones. This must be fate or something, 'cause we've met twice already, and we got the Art in common. So, how come an Amazon is living in Japan?"
"I don't understand what you mean by Amazon, Usagi-san."
"Why be so formal and all? Call me Usagi-chan, that's fine by me with a friend... and, well, I wanna be your friend."
Now, Akane had a lot of acquaintances, but not much in the way of real friends. Many girls resented her popularity with the boys at school, and wished to HELL she'd date one so that they could get some of those boys to look at her. Besides, she was the sister of Nabiki Tendo, who also was, if VERY well respected, hardly well liked. And here, out of the blue...
"I'd like that... Usagi-chan."
"Great, Akane-chan! So, if you're not an Amazon, what was that all about?"
As Akane explained about Kuno's proclamation, Usagi began to feel rather angry. "What kind of a jerk is he?"
"The biggest. Honestly, I'd get so totally angry if it weren't for my big brother pointing out that at least it gives me practice in both mass and single opponents. I think he holds back a bit- you know how boys can be, they don't like to hit girls sometimes."
"Yeah, I used to be like that."
Akane blinked. "What do you mean?"
(Oooops.) "Well, I was sorta raised as a boy, y'know? Pops had always wanted a son, and so he took me on this ten year training trip, and we only just got home, and now Momma's teaching me more on how to be a girl, 'cause I don't know a lot of the things that girls should know, see?"
"Oh?" Akane said, weakly. She had heard of girls raised as boys before, but had never quite believed those stories.
"Yeah. So, I was told not to hit girls- well, actually I was told not to hit girls unless I had to- well, actually Pops was pretty vague about it. But it's more like I don't want to have to hit anyone, except in the Art- you know sparring, or in a real fight."
"Speaking of the Art, my family owns a dojo. Tell you what- after school, why don't you come over and we can have a sparring match? Don't worry, I'll go easy on you."
Usagi grinned. "Akane-chan, I wouldn't recommend that..."
After dropping by Usagi's house and picking up what Usagi called her "Fighting Gear", they went to the Tendo residence. Akane was taken aback by Usagi's fighting gear- a crimson Chinese tang and black tights with slippers- but shrugged. "Okay, begin!"
Akane threw a carefully balanced punch. Usagi bobbed her head to one side, allowing it to miss by a fraction of an inch.
(What? How did she-)
The next punch was dodged the same way, except to the other side. The third by leaning back just enough. A sweep kick was barely leapt over, again clearing by scant space.
(How- is she reading my moves? She's better than I could have guessed- I'll have to get serious!)
"Okay, you have some skills. Now, here I come for REAL!"
And as Akane literally split the boards in front of her, Usagi vaulted over her head, spinning and twirling in midair, to crouch and pull Akane's legs out from under her. Akane gave out a "WHOOF!" as she suddenly fell flat on her back.
"I... I don't believe it..." Akane began to scowl.
Usagi suddenly began to tear up slightly. "Does this mean you don't want to be friends anymore?"
Akane found herself relenting. "No, it's just... I've always considered myself, well, the best martial artist in Nerima... and now..."
"Oh, well, you are good. It's just that I've been training almost constantly since I was,I think three or something, and not much else- that's why I'm so behind in school. So I have a lot more practice than you. And I don't think I could do as well as you do with that multiple opponent stuff- I mean, they all suck, next to us, but there was an AWFUL lot of them and you didn't get swamped. You can do better on your defense, I think, though, and I can maybe give you some pointers, if you like?"
Akane blinked. There was no condescension, no arrogance- at least, not arrogance as she knew from Kuno (or, she sometimes admitted, herself), but a quiet confidence. "I'd like that."
"And you can show me some of that multiple thing?"
"Sure!" Akane realized that even if this girl was better than her- MUCH better- it might not be that bad to be number two. Not when it was a friend.
"I can tell you one thing, I am SURE glad you are a girl, Usagi-chan."
"Well, after today I guess you can understand how I'd HATE to be beaten by a boy!"
For a second Usagi's face clouded. "You can thank China for that," she muttered under her voice.
"Nothing- ACK! I'm late for my tutoring session at home! I gotta go, if I don't Momma's gonna kill me!"
"Oh, baibai... then..." Akane stared at the speeding blonde, already out the door and halfway down the street.
"Weird," she muttered herself, and then went for a bath.
A few minutes later, Kasumi was staring at an oddly dusty younger brother. "Why, what happened to you?"
"A really really annoying day, Kasumi. REALLY annoying. First Kuno's grumbling all day in class about not having a chance to challenge his Fiery Soulmate this morning- why he thinks he can take Akane is a miracle when he can't take me, and Akane's better than I am- and then we get extra homework because Hasegawa-sensei's girl dumped him again, he's as bad as Akane's teacher Haruna, and THEN some weird blonde is dashing along- get THIS- the fencerail in Chinese clothes, and when she ran out of fence she steps on my HEAD and knocks me down and I don't think she even NOTICED. Not a good day at all."
"Oh, my. Well, Akane's in the furo now, but after you'll want a bath too, I suppose?"
"You bet I do," Mamoru Tendo, twin brother to Nabiki Tendo said, tiredly.
Destiny is a funny thing. Certain paths may be bent, but never broken.
The one certainty is that those who are destined tend to find that they only follow one path. Oh, they make choices that guide this path, certainly- even destiny isn't an absolute- but no-one can follow more than one path.
With the exception of one Usagi Saotome. She alone of all the people on the earth can- and must- follow two.
Fortunately for her, they are going to be running parallel, more or less...
"So I made a friend, and she's a real good fighter too- not as good as ME, of course, but good, and-"
Nodoka repressed a chuckle. "That's all very well, Usagi-chan, but I think you should meet your new tutor."
"Oh? OH! Yeah! So, when do I-"
"She should be here soon- ah, I think that is her now," at a knock on the door.
"I'll get it!" Usagi chirped, flying to the front of the house. She opened the door- and froze.
For a moment- only a moment- she thought it was Akane-chan. But reality quickly resurfaced. True there was a superficial similarity in hair color, hair length, and face- but this person was a bit more slender, not as toned in build, and her eyes and the actual hairstyle were rather different. Besides, there was a different feeling about her.
"Um... I'm Usagi Saotome, and this is my house, and are you the tutor?"
"Ah... hai. Pleased to meet you. My name is Ami Mizuno."
Ami wasn't certain about this. Her mother had suggested this part-time job on days she didn't have juku, since she felt it would be a "good experience". What good experience meant, she hadn't explained.
Ami was fairly certain "good experience" meant to get out of the house and talk to someone. She was aware that she was not good with people, she admitted that she was shy, but then it wasn't easy to make friends when... she was the way she was.
She heard the whispers. "Genius Girl." "Stuck Up." "Weird Chick." She never showed it, but it hurt... she heard them everywhere but at the Esai Juku she attended three times a week, and that was only because those there were like her. Shy, overly intelligent, and very private people.
She looked up, expecting the usual mix of scorn and amusement, and was faced instead with wide inquiring eyes and a dizzying smile.
"I hope so, because I'm not. Well, not very, and I'm WAY behind at school because I've been living on the road for ten years. I think it was ten, it might be ten and a half. Come in! Do you want a cookie before we start? I know I do, Momma makes the BEST cookies, and some tea too, and then you can help me."
Ami felt almost battered down by the almost physical waves of friendliness the blonde radiated. "Ah, thank you very much, Usagi-san..."
"Aw, what is it with everyone I meet wanting to be all formal?" Usagi said. "If we're gonna be working together, we might as well be friends. Now, I'm Usagi-chan, and you're Ami-chan- if that's OK with you, that is?" Said Usagi, her face filled with hope.
"Ah. Um. Well... certainly, Usagi-chan..."
Ami had never really had a friend.
She didn't exactly know it yet, but that had just changed. Forever.