Spells R Us: Japanese Chronicles 1: Candy Candy by Gregg

Kasumi noticed the cat trying to sneak in and intercepted it. "And where do you
think you're going, Mister Cat?"

"Meowmeowmewmeow. MEOW!"

"Oh my, you certainly are a talkative little kitty."

The cat gritted her teeth and let her ears flatten. How was she going to tell
anyone about this? How could she turn back without some help? She tried again,
yowling and spitting.

An anguished yelp could be heard from the stairway.

"I'm sorry, but we can't take any cats in here. Ranma's afraid of them."

The cat ducked around Kasumi, fleeing into the house. The kitchen hot water
tap should do it! She leapt onto the counter, began turning the knob and was
rewarded with a jet of hot water. Yes!

"Kasumi, what are you?" Nabiki watched the cat twist the hot water knob, then
jump under the faucet. The resulting wet cat howled. "Well, what did you expect?
Hmmm. You DID expect something, didn't you?"

The cat leapt up to the cupboard, looking thoroughly bedraggled and nodded.

"Nabiki, oh there it is." Kasumi started to remove the cat only to be stopped by
Nabiki raising a hand to bar her way.

"Hang on, sis." Nabiki sighed and looked at the cat. A little black cat with a
stubby tail, unremarkable as far as she could tell. "Do I know you?"

The cat nodded.

"You're under a curse that turned you into a cat?"

Another nod. The cat was now staring at Nabiki with tears welling up in her
eyes.

"Oh my."

"Do I know you from school?" The cat shook her head. "Do I know you personally?"
The cat nodded. "Are we related?" Another nod. "Well, Daddy, however did you get
yourself into this mess?"

The cat howled.

"Not Daddy?" Nabiki blinked. "Well, who the heck are you, then?"

"Meow!"

"Kasumi, do we have any other relatives?"

"Not that I know of," Kasumi began uncertainly.

"Well, this cat insists." Nabiki thought for a few moments. "Playing twenty
questions like this is not an efficient use of time. We need some means of
communication a cat can manipulate. That lets my computer out, I don't think the
keypad fits your paws."

"Meow?"

"Hmmm? Oh, sorry. It's a puzzle, and I simply can't let go of puzzles." Nabiki
pondered a few moments more. "Do you speak English?"

"Meow?" The cat looked rather puzzled but nodded.

"Good." Nabiki nodded and went to get a stack of notecards from the cupboard.

"Why English, Nabiki?" Kasumi looked curiously on as Nabiki quickly marked each
of the cards with a letter.

"Because English only has twenty-six letters. As opposed to doing up a card for
the hiragana, katakana, and the common kanji. It's more efficient even if that
language is quite a bit less elegant than Japanese."

In a trice, the cat was set in the middle of a ring of cards, each marked with a
romaji letter.

"Still not the best system," Nabiki said with a frown, "but the best I could
come up with on short notice."

"A-k-a-n-e-t-e-n-d-o." Kasumi read each letter off as the cat turned and batted
it with a paw.

"Akane? Akane Tendo? Do we have a relative named Akane Tendo?" Nabiki was
rewarded with the sight of a cat facefaulting.

"AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa!" Ranma walked in, saw the creature in the room, and fled.

"Oh good grief." Nabiki covered her face. "You WOULD be the one thing my fiance
is absolutely phobic about."

"MEOW?!" The cat's jaw was hanging open.

"You knew me and Kasumi, but didn't know Ranma? Yes, he's my fiance. Has been
for six months now. He doesn't look like much, I'll admit, but he's got his good
points."

The cat face faulted again, then started whapping cards as soon as she
recovered.

"Curse?" Nabiki blinked. "Yes, he's got a curse. Turns into a girl."

The cat continued to whap at cards.

"Oh. 'fatherisapanda' So, your father is named Panda?" Kasumi was rewarded by
the cat covering her head with her paws. "Oh."

"Yes. Ranma's father turns into a panda." Nabiki glanced at the cat, still
trying to come up with a faster method of communication. "So what kind of
relation are you?"

"Sister?!" Kasumi and Nabiki exclaimed in unison as the cat finished batting at
cards.

"You mean that Father...oh my!"

"Six months ago this would have been ludicrous. It's quite interesting at how
speaking to a cat that claims to be my sister has become almost the sort of
thing one would expect."

The cat continued to bat away at cards for a few moments.

"Cursed food turned you into a cat?" Nabiki blinked. "Nobody remembers you?
Hmmm. Sounds high level."

"Meow?"

"Of course I know something about curses," Nabiki chided the cat. "I have a
fiancee who changes genders when splashed with water. What kind of idiot
WOULDN'T research magic in general and curses in particular when you're engaged
to evidence for both?"

The cat blinked a couple of times and looked sheepish.

"Cursed food, eh? And a mass forgetfulness spell or else some localized reality
alteration focussing on your existence?" Nabiki had a thought. "Was it at the
Nekohanten?"

The cat shook her head.

"Well, I've got to think about this. Try to stay out of sight and tomorrow we
can get a start on whatever it is."

"Na-Nabiki?"

Akane scampered under the table only to nearly lose control at seeing Ranma come
nervously into the room. Then Nabiki swept him in for a brief kiss that
apparently took both of their minds away from felines of any stripe.

"Urrrrrr," came a growl from under the table when the shock wore off.

"Ranma, could you please go upstairs for a bit, I have to speak with you later."

Ranma looked into her eyes, and whatever he saw there brought a tender smile to
his lips. "You'll tell me what's going on later?"

"Of course, Ranchan. 'No secrets from EITHER of us.'" Nabiki let out a sigh as
she watched the view of Ranma walking up the stairs, then turned a more
businesslike expression towards the table. "All right, you. Why were you
growling at Ranma? You're not another childhood friend turned rival or
friend-turned-rival-turned fiancee, are you?"

Akane stuck her head out, ears flat as she looked towards where Ranma had walked
off. The baka had never done any of that with HER.

"Oh, I'd better get busy with supper." Kasumi made an excuse to leave the
weirdness and retreat to her sanctuary.

"Excuse me, Akane, but I want to spend some quality time with MY fiance and if
you're going to get cured it will be under the condition that you leave all
vengeance against MY iinazuke behind you. Do you understand?"

Akane blinked, then returned to the cards, batting away quickly.

"Whoa. Slow down. Geez, I'd almost think you were doing a Chestnut Fist. 'How
come you're engaged to Ranma.' Well, this is interesting. You know about Ranma,
his dad, me and Kasumi. You seem to be rather..." Nabiki stopped and blanched.
"Not an illegitimate half-sister? A real sister? One that was engaged to Ranma?"

The cat nodded to each question.

Nabiki looked sick. "Kitty, I've never had any sisters besides Kasumi. Ranma
showed up one day, to be engaged to one of the Tendos. Kasumi and me considered
the situation and I was slightly less revolted by his being a girl half the
time. I'm glad it happened though, as I've been able to get him to stop being a
jerk and once you get past all the insecurities and overcompensation, he can be
really sweet."

The cat made a hacking noise.

"It's true! And in return he's gotten me to open up and be more considerate of
others. It's not an ideal relationship but we've come to care for each other
very much, and neither of us wants anything to happen to that." Nabiki thought
for a moment. "Okay, now what kind of food and where?"

The cat began tapping away.

"Candy. From a store that specializes in curses? Let me guess, you went in while
looking for a cure for Ranma's curse and got a curse yourself instead?"

"Meeowww!" The cat nodded.

"Well we can check with them tomorrow for a cure for your curse." Nabiki gave
the cat a sad look. "You're sure about the part that you're really my sister and
you're really Ranma's fiancee?"

"MEOW!"

"And I suppose he does all those sweet things for you, and nuzzles you behind
the ear telling you what a sweet and wonderful creature you are?"

The cat facefaulted again then started angrily hissing and meowing and was
intent on running up the stairs and having a chat with that two-timer. Four
timer. Whatever.

Nabiki intercepted the cat. "I don't think so. I'm really not sure how much of
your story I believe..."

The cat meowed as if indignant.

"...but it's the duty of a martial artist to help those in need." Nabiki
straightened. "Even if I'm NOT that good as a martial artist, I AM Heir to the
Tendo School."

"Meow?!"

"Sorry, cat. Look, I've got to get working on the next installment of my manga,
and the dojo really needs the money, you know. ESPECIALLY after that little spat
with the Black Rose last week."

"Meow?" Akane didn't remember Kodachi attacking her last week. Waitaminute.
Working on the next installment of her manga?

"You haven't read, 'The Sword & The Rose?' It's doing fairly well in the
dojinshi circles. I may even be attracting the attention of one of the major
publishers if rumor can be believed. It's an action-romance set in the period
just before the Disarmament with an amnesiac ronin and this girl whom he rescues
from brigands." Nabiki grinned and winked. "My art style needs work but quite a
few people like the story. We can hope one of the big publishers gets
interested, ne?"

Akane blinked and settled back under the table. This was too weird.

-------

Morning came and a cat hidden under the house watched as Ranma fell into the
pond with a splash.

As a Nabiki who had never had a younger sister to be the Heir popped out briefly
to assist her fiance, only to get dunked herself.

As the two grinning teenagers proceeded to reduce a panda nearly to the status
of throw rug.

"Ranma, I've got a really tricky job I've got to work on today, so I'm going to
have to back out of checking out that 'Rivalsan Dojo' place."

"More work with your comic? I'm tellin' ya. More action sequences, that'll
sell."

"Now now, Ranma, I don't tell you how to do Anything Goes (much) and you don't
advise me in what will sell. Besides, with Kodachi continually attacking for me
being a 'wicked sorceress' who's 'cursed her Ranma sama to turn into a girl' and
used 'diabolic means to ensnare his heart', I'd kinda like to get away from
fight sequences for awhile."

Akane lost sight of the two as they walked into the house. From her vantage
though, she could clearly hear them as they moved overhead. She avoided Sasuke
and continued to listen.

"It's not something you need help with, is it?"

"Nah. This is definitely something you can't help with. It involves a cat."

"O-Oh."

"Don't sweat it, Ranma. I plan on getting ahold of Shampoo or maybe her Great
Grandmother. Besides, if this goes bad you can ride to the rescue at the last
minute, per usual."

Akane tried to identify the sounds that followed. What? They couldn't be! They
wouldn't! It sounded like some heavy liplock going on!

"Well, since you two are getting along so well, maybe I should..." Akane heard
her father's voice trail off. "Well, yes, a martial artist has to exercise
patience. Heh heh."

"Take care, Nabiki-chan. Suki da."

"Same here, Ranma-kun."

Akane facefaulted, which had the effect of causing a small amount of dirt going
up her nose and a resultant sneeze. Inside her currently feline brain, she was
reeling.

She had to wait for Nabiki, so she had plenty of time to think about it. How
could this happen? Nabiki was only interested in profit, she'd always been
badgering Ranma, selling him off, ready with a quick insult or to make his life
miserable. And it had been Nabiki who had first nominated Akane as the one to
marry Ranma after the curse had been demonstrated.

Akane wasn't that used to being devious, and wasn't the sort to enjoy figuring
out puzzles. She labored at understanding the scene she'd just observed now.

Nabiki's overwhelming mania for quick profit and ruthlessness had only
manifested AFTER Ranma had arrived. Nabiki had been interested in boys as
something other than a source of income before Ranma's arrival. Before Ranma's
arrival, she'd mainly taken bets and sold her skills at photography. Before, she
had read a lot of manga and had shown interest in a few other subjects.

Nabiki had briefly toyed with the idea of actually writing manga once, but had
given it up after it became obvious that it would be an uphill battle. Had her
continued training in the martial arts given her enough discipline that she had
pursued it?

Akane growled softly as she saw Ranma and Nabiki exit the house together,
holding hands and apparently not even aware of it!

Akane watched as Ranma ran off, Nabiki watching him from the gate with a wistful
expression on her face. Akane tried to fit this Nabiki in with the one she had
come to know over the past few months.

Something clicked that Akane had only noticed briefly but on a few occasions
within the household. Times when the mask slipped just a little. Nabiki goading
Ranma towards one of the other girls by making it a challenge or point of pride,
something Ranma couldn't possibly allow to go without giving his best effort.

Times when things seemed to smooth out in the Akane-Ranma running battle, only
to have Nabiki throw a little chaos into the mix. And sometimes, it had turned
out that even when it wasn't directly Nabiki, the interruption had come at
Nabiki's direction.

Feline eyes widened and she let out an involuntary meow. Only someone who knew
Nabiki as well as a sister would have noticed the shadow of an expression
passing over the face of the "heartless mercenary" Nabiki had become. Just seen
a few times here and there when the mask had slipped. Akane had noticed but not
really paid attention at that time. They were expressions of sadness and
jealousy.

It couldn't be. Could it?

"Oh hello, Ryouga."

Akane looked around but couldn't see Ryouga. But there was P-chan! Akane
wondered if P-chan was Nabiki's pet now, she seemed to have everything else of
hers.

"Bweee?"

"Ryouga, I could use your help today."

"Buqiii!"

"Tut tut, Ryouga-kun. You might be interested in this one. Someone you don't
know was cursed by some store's product to turn into a little black cat."
P-chan began growling. Akane was amazed at how well trained P-chan was. It was
almost as if he was having a conversation with Nabiki.

"If you're blaming Ranma for this, don't bother. He doesn't know about it. Now,
I will be going there to help this unfortunate girl get uncursed. The idea being
is that if this store sells the curses, the cures are also likely to be
available, though I'd expect the cures to be at a significant markup."

"Buqiii."

"Because I would expect curses to be easier than cures, also because the demand
for a cure would be rather more than that of a curse. Supply and demand and
relative value."

"Squee."

"And if they can cure one kind of curse, maybe they can cure other curses."
P-chan had turned away from Nabiki and had closed his eyes. Now he was giving
Nabiki his full attention. If Akane didn't know better, she could have sworn
that P-chan's eyes were glimmering with tears.

"Thought that would get your attention." There were deserts less dry than
Nabiki's tone. "In any case, Ryouga, sit your butt down. I'll get some hot
water, and the nice kitty cat can take us to that store."

"Mrow?" Akane watched Nabiki enter the house, returning a moment later with a
kettle and a thermos.

"I got two of those 'instant hot water dispensers' a couple of months ago. The
one in the living room has a coin slot attatched. That's Mister Saotome's.
There's another one I keep for emergencies." Nabiki assumed the cat was asking
about the quick availability of hot water. Nabiki smirked at the cat and added
that there were times when she really wanted Ranma to be in his male form.

Akane grumbled a little at the suggestive tone. She got it, she GOT it already.

Nabiki poured water down onto P-chan, eliciting a momentary hiss from Akane.
P-chan didn't need...a bath?!

A moment later, Ryouga was attacked by a thoroughly ticked off housecat.

-------------------------------

"I figure it's the same thing with Ranma and you. You don't know what you did,
but you did something to her. Missed an appointment or something, and she swore
vengeance. Etcetera, etcetera." Nabiki smirked. This was just too amusing to
have Ryouga hit with the same sort of grudge that the lost boy had against
Ranma.

"We're here," Ryouga noted, tugging a little against the tether that Nabiki had
insisted on tying to his belt.

Akane blinked. The Nekohanten?

"This won't take long." Nabiki winked at the cat. Nabiki entered the cafe,
exiting a moment later with Shampoo.

"Of course Shampoo ready to assist sister Amazon with problem. Maybe find cure
for own curse?"

Akane twitched at the reference to a "sister amazon." The sooner she got back to
normal and left this insanity behind, the better.

After a few moments, her curiosity got the better of her. It took a little trial
and error but finally Nabiki got the idea.

"Shampoo was my 'rival' up until last month. This old rival of Ranma's showed
up, promising to make him suffer for something that his father apparently did."

"Meow," said Akane, nodding. That would have been Ukyou.

"Anyway, this guy was going to kill Ranma, especially when he found out that I
was his fiancee and that we were getting along." Nabiki seemed to flush slightly
and Akane wondered exactly what the two had been doing when Ukyou had found
them. "So the usual challenge and fight like with Ryouga here, except this guy
is REALLY angry."

"What, you mean I'm not? I've been to Hell due to Ranma, and I won't rest until
he's paid for it!"

"During the fight I see this load of explosive tempura flakes heading my way. I
get out of the way, evasion is a specialty of the Tendo School, but then Shampoo
here gets tagged. So, private grudge match or not, me and Shampoo get involved
in the fight. Ranma goes into just pure rage when I get attacked, but then has
to sit on the sidelines when me and Shampoo go to town on Mr Challenger."

"Meow?" They didn't know Ukyou was a girl? And what did this have to do with
being a sister Amazon?

"Well, I read a lot. Research stuff online, too. So, I see Elder Cologne in
attendence. Me and Shampoo here have just fought together against a common
enemy. So in front of the Elder, I place a wound I got from a flying spatula on
a similar one from Shampoo. Then I take some sweat from Shampoo and taste it."

A cat made a disagreeable noise. Still, Akane was listening as she might be able
to use this herself.

"At this point, Cologne's eyes are as big as saucers. You should'a seen it. Then
I petition Cologne to become Shampoo's blood sister as we have shared blood and
salt in the defeat of a common enemy."

"Shampoo not know about rules. Never have blood-sister. Linlin and Ranran close,
but not go through this."

"Well, when I found out about the marriage laws and the bit about outsider
women, I knew there had to be loopholes. They couldn't possibly go about
indiscriminately killing and marrying outsiders. This was one, and when I saw my
chance I took it. Cologne HAD to accept the petition, and give me three tasks
which I had to complete. They couldn't be flat out impossible or kill me
directly or indirectly, though. The Trial Of War, The Trial Of Skill, and The
Trial Of The Heart.

"The first one was to defeat Shampoo. I had to make it other than a physical
combat, but I managed to get through the bakeoff with some help from Kasumi. The
Trial Of Skill was more difficult. The Breaking Point training. I think I've
still got bruises. I just don't heal as fast as Ryouga.

"The Trial Of The Heart is always the most difficult. Cologne used some
nightmare incense, trapped me in a dream where I was a minor supporting
character watching..."

Nabiki's face turned pale and she shot a glance towards the cat. "Oh no."

Shampoo gave a worried glance to her sister. "Nabiki win Trial. Make ultimate
sacrifice in dream. Give up on own life, own happiness, for the better of tribe.
Shampoo have to stay over for a few nights until nightmares stop. Was fun. Was
also good get away from stupid Mousse."

Akane led the small group through a series of streets, finally arriving at the
small alleyway. Her thoughts were whirling. How could she make use of this new
knowledge herself?

"Lemon Street, Ecchi Way, Kimyo Plaza?" Nabiki's eyes narrowed. "I don't
remember these in Nerima."

"Meow!" Akane stopped at the door to a small store. "Meow! Meow!"

"Spells R Us?" Nabiki frowned. "Hmmm. Nothing to do but give it a try, I
suppose."

"NABIKI TENDO! PREPARE TO DIE!"

Akane-neko stared, wide eyed and ears flattened, at the figure that had just
leapt down into the alley.

"For what you and that bimbo have done to me," Ukyou drew her spatula, "death!"

"Yeah, right, Kuonji." Nabiki felt a little better flanked by Ryouga and
Shampoo. "You're the one who used oil, electric heating devices, and that
tempura mixed with gunpowder crap! It's your OWN fault that it blew up in your
face when you tried to hit me with that stuff."

Her face swathed in bandages, and still wearing her boy disguise, Ukyou screamed
in rage at the three confronting her. "My fault?! LOOK AT WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" She
ripped the bandages away in a sweeping gesture.

"Pah! Is nothing. Hair grow back eventually in most places. Doctors in Japan
know how fix scars."

Nabiki was looking a little green. "It doesn't change that this was YOUR grudge
fight, and YOUR quest for vengeance. YOUR tools and YOUR lack of judgement. If
you hadn't attacked me, you wouldn't have been fighting me and Shampoo, and you
wouldn't have had one of your own bombs explode in your face."

"I'll get you, Nabiki Tendo! Sooner or later, you'll pay for this." Ukyou fled.
Nabiki held up a hand to prevent Shampoo from running after the target.

"You let him go?" Shampoo asked after a moment. "Why?"

"It's a trap. The Black Rose and the Blue Thunder, Kodachi and Tatewaki Kuno are
nearby. Smell the air. There's a faint hint of that perfume she wears. Just
another ambush. Trust me on that, kiddo, those two try something like this on a
weekly basis at least. Though with all three of them cooperating now, we'll have
to be doubly careful."

-----------------------------------------
Chapter 2: more Akane eye-openers in "kid in a candy store."
-----------------------------------------

A bell on the door jangled, as a number of people moved into the cluttered shop.

A black cat led the way, stopping at a rack of candy and meowing repeatedly.

The next one in was a short haired girl of seventeen, who moved with a slight
limp but otherwise had the typical grace of a skilled martial artist.

A tether from her hand led to the belt of a confused looking boy who had a
bandana and was carrying an umbrella.

The final member of this group was a purple-haired Chinese girl who had the
expression of a warrior who has just stepped behind enemy lines.

A man in a bathrobe stepped out of a room in the back. "Ah, Akane Tendo. So nice
to get a return customer. We don't get many, you know. And you brought your
sister Nabiki, the eternally lost Ryouga Hibiki, and Shampoo of the Nichieju
Chinese Amazons."

"How do you..." Nabiki started then waved it off. "Let me guess, a spell on the
door. Gives you identities and some basic dossier on those who ring the bell."

The old man adjusted his glasses. "So nice to do business with someone who
doesn't go through the usual spiel."

"Then you already know we're here to see about getting cures for curses, the one
that this cat picked up particularly."

"She should have read the fine print on the back." The wizard shrugged. "We're
not responsible for problems that occur as a result of use or misuse of our
products."

Shampoo looked up from where she was examining the candy rack. "All candies look
normal, but little print in Cantonese on back. Almost need magnifying glass to
read."

The wizard shrugged again.

Nabiki didn't waste time threatening a wizard capable of turning a girl into a
cat then rewriting history so that the girl had never existed. "How much to cure
the kitty cat?"

"Difficult to say." The wizard adjusted his glasses again and looked directly
into Nabiki's eyes. "Are you sure you want to do that, though? Turning her back
puts everything back the way it was."

"MEOW!"

"What's different?" Ryouga blinked. Not much could have changed, he didn't feel
different.

"The transformation apparently erased from existence a little sister of mine,
apparently named Akane Tendo. Just from the questions she's asked and reactions
she's displayed I can make a few guesses. May I?" This last was directed to the
wizard.

When he nodded, Nabiki continued.

"Akane is apparently the Heir to the Tendo School, not I. She is also apparently
engaged to Ranma, doesn't like him very much, doesn't like Ryouga at all, and is
a fair English student."

The wizard cleared his throat. "Ryouga sleeps with Akane in his cursed form as
her pet 'P-chan'. Ukyou is NOT scarred or insane and is seen as one of Ranma's
fiancees. Nabiki never got into singing, drawing manga, OR the martial arts. I
also don't have anything labelled 'antidote' but perhaps something else will
approximate what you're looking for?"

"I get to sleep indoors," Ryouga said with a wistful smile.

"How could Ukyou be..." Nabiki's eyes narrowed as pieces of a puzzle clicked
together. "He's a she? Hmmmm. Maybe another Jusenkyo victim. All righty then."

"How much this candy?" Shampoo dumped a few assorted pieces on the counter.

"SHAMPOO!" To say Nabiki was alarmed was quite understating it.

Shampoo smirked and raised an eyebrow. "Candy called 'Kit Kat' change girl into
kitty cat, yes? So what you think happen if Ranma in girl form eat 'Big Hunk'
bar? Or if girl-cat have 'Nerds' or 'Girl Scout Cookies:Thin Mints' or maybe
underdeveloped Amazon sister eat 'Whoppers'?"

Nabiki glared for a moment. "I am quite happy with my natural amount of
'talent', Shampoo."

"That not what you say when looking at them dresses last week."

Ryouga quietly added another "Big Hunk" bar and a "Three Musketeers" to the
pile.

"Waitaminute, Shampoo, if we cure Akane here, then you've paid for something,
but we set up a paradox because if she's cured then we wouldn't have had a
reason to come." Nabiki winced as all the implications and problems of mucking
about with your own history started occurring to her, absent mindedly putting a
set of coins on the counter to pay for the purchases. "The past timeline in
which she, not I, is your warrior sister..."

The sad look passed into Nabiki's eyes again as she considered what she was
doing. Would she go back to being as she was before meeting Ranma? Would she
still at least have her artwork and musical skills? Or would it be as in the
Trial Of The Heart and she would be a mere shadow trapped in a two- dimensional
life, forced to watch other people being happy but never able to grasp it
herself? Having erected walls around herself to protect herself, but being cold
and lonely and not that well protected after all.

The cat in discussion would have corrected Nabiki if she could, but couldn't, so
instead just settled for sniffing at the assorted candies. If all it took was
one bite...

This world was too crazy for her.

-----------------------

Akane staggered and put out a hand to steady himself against the furo wall.
Some curious dislocation continued to make itself felt. Groaning, Akane got to
the door and wondered where his... uh oh.

His scream brought everyone else in the household.

------------------------

"A curse, Akira?" Sixteen year old Nabiki frowned and shook her head. "Even with
all the craziness Ranma here brought in, that's a little difficult to swallow."

"It's Akane." The sullen nineteen year old corrected.

"That's a GIRL'S name." Nabiki's hand slapped down on the table. "YOU ARE A GUY!
You are NOT Ranma and you can't change genders with water temperature."

"Uhm, it's not a Jusenkyo curse." Akira/Akane looked down from his impressive
height at his sisters, father, and a thoroughly bewildered looking pair of
freeloading houseguests. "All I need to do is go back to the shop, and I can try
something else. No problem."

"AIREN!" The cry came from the backyard and the latter part was considerably
increased in volume from the first part.

Akane sat back, ready to get angry at Ranma for being glomped by Shampoo.

Unfortunately...

*GLOMP!* "Akira happy to see Shampoo?" The Amazon snuggled against her big brave
husband with the chiseled musculature. A moment later her eyes widened and she
glanced down. "Akira IS happy to see Shampoo! Shampoo was beginning to worry
that maybe Akira no like girls. Shampoo HAPPY!" The Amazon Glomp resumed.

Akira wasn't happy about her/his body going off and reacting to a suggestively
snuggling Amazon without consulting him about it.

"Oh dear," Akira's seventeen year old sister Kasumi said after a moment.
"Shouldn't you two take it upstairs if you're going to try that?"

"Ohohohohohohohoho!" Sinister laughter echoed through the house, causing Akira
to wince and start pleading that what he was imagining wasn't really going to
happen.

A swirl of black rose petals, and a leotard clad Kodachi appeared. "Halt, you
common tramp, and release my Akira-sama!"

"C'mon, Nabiki, we don't wanna be late," said Ranma with a weary sigh. He had no
idea why Akira was doing all this, but ever since the boy had insulted his girl
form that first day as a "short and scrawny sniveling little brat" - they hadn't
gotten along too well.

"So true, my dear Ranma, so true. We'll just leave the lovebirds alone..."

Nabiki smirked. Akira making fun of Nabiki's relationship with Ranma had stopped
after he had accidently beaten Shampoo, and catching Kodachi that once had set
big brother up for a whole slew of problems.

"AAAAAA! Shampoo, let go of me! Kodachi, no, not the ribbon! Not in the house,
you guys!" Akane was beginning to get the faintest hint of sympathy for what
Ranma went through.

-----------------------------------------

A thoroughly bedraggled Akira Tendo thwacked his head into the doorframe of
Spells R Us and wondered how things could be this bad.

Being 6'4" and having a sculpted physique, he understood was part of the "Big
Hunk" candy's transformation. This wasn't hard to understand. How to fix the
current problem and not end up worse off, that was the difficult part.

Trying to tell Shampoo to go back to China had ended when Akira had looked down
into that happy, loving, face and realized that Shampoo had it even worse for
Akira than she had for Ranma in the "real" timeline. Akane/Akira just hadn't had
the heart.

"So, Miss Tendo, what did you want to try this time?" It was the same wizard as
from before.

"The cure." Briefly, Akane entertained the notion of reaching across the
counter, and beating the snot out of this miserable little man until such time
as the wizard gave up the cure.

"You wouldn't want to try anything rash, Miss Tendo. The last person who did
ended up in a mess a great deal worse than your current difficulties."

Akira frowned, realizing that the telepathy spell must still be going. THAT cut
down an already slim list of options.

"Aunt Jemima" pancake mix. Akane didn't think so, though maybe Kasumi could make
some for Genma. Maybe with that big bottle of "Mrs Butterworth's" syrup to go
with them.

The old-fashioned soda machine in the corner had a number of cans. Some were
western drinks: Mr Pibb, Dr Pepper, Sprite, Orange Crush. Others were Japanese:
Pocari Sweat, Calpis, Kirin Gold. A few bottles of some gaijin health drink
under the brand name of "Sobe" read "Power", "Wisdom", "Energy", or "Eros."
This last word sounded vaguely familiar to Akira. Maybe it had something to do
with a cure.

The candy rack held some things that promised any number of things. There were
two varieties of Girl Scout cookies, and one variety of prepackaged Brownies.
Chunky, 3 Musketeers, Nerds, Everlasting Gobstoppers, Runts, Peppermint Patties,
Mars bars, Reese's Pieces, Whoppers, Skor, Kit-kats, Big Hunks, Tiger's Milk,
Lemon Warheads, Purple Passion Pop Rocks, Pixie Sticks, Koala Crunchies, Pocky
sticks, Baby Ruth, Oh Henry, Sweet Tarts. Nothing that immediately screamed
"CURE" to Akane's eye.

There were costumes hanging from racks. Harem girl costumes, French maid
costumes, bunny costumes, football player costumes, horse costumes, a blue
Sailor Moon-style seifuku, even a "Lina Inverse" costume from "Slayers" and a
costume similar to what was in Kasumi's anime magazine as a "Reiko Ayanami" plug
suit.

Computer programs were listed on a blackboard. VR versions of "Graduation" and
"Tomb Raider." Dating simulators and FFVII. A game called "Life Sugoroku
Special" and something else called "Monopoly."

Another blackboard had a list of odd things like "inflatable date" and specials
on catering.

A shelf of videos turned up titles like "Catgirl Nukunuku", "Bambi", "Dumbo",
"Debbie Does Dallas", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Gremlins", "Cutey Honey Flash
volumn I", an empty area marked "Ranma 1/2" (must be all checked out), and
"Fuchigi Yuugi."

Akira frowned, realizing that he had to do something. The way things were were
getting entirely too comfortable. It was beginning to feel "right" to be this
tall and muscular fellow with the gleaming smile. Time for Akane to return, but
how?

Akira looked around the shop, ignoring the shopkeeper's smirk. If Akira had
figured it out, returning to normal was almost impossible. So the next decision
would be: a) go for as close as possible to her original timeline and hope for
the best. Becoming a girl would be fairly easy. Becoming the right one might be
difficult. Maybe that "Debbie" tape was a travelogue, she could always get a
flight back. Or maybe the "Sweet Tarts" or "Peppermint Patty"- those seemed
safe. Then there was the other approach. b) screw the status quo, find one that
was better off than the original. After hours in this whacked out reality, Akira
realized that damn near everyone was happy. Kodachi and Shampoo were chasing
after Akira, who apparently had found the attention a mix of embarrassing and
kind of nice. Tatewaki was pursuing Nabiki and the Pigtailed girl. Kasumi was on
the Furinkan Cooking Club and a martial arts bakeoff was scheduled for later
this week against Kolkhoz High School's Midori Chiba. Ukyou and Nabiki were both
interested in Ranma. Shampoo's death-hunt against female Ranma had been called
off because of the relationship between Ranma and her 'airen' - though
occasional hostilities still occurred. Tsubasa still showed up every blue moon
to pursue Ukyou.

Akira had found that instead of the craziness swirling around Ranma, that there
were three centers to the madness in this odd world. Ranma, Akira, and Kasumi.
Kasumi being pursued by two odd suitors herself. At least they didn't show up
very often, as they were based OUT of Nerima.

Akira was the Heir to the Tendo School. Kasumi was fairly skilled but preferred
defensive and avoidance tactics as she seemed to have trouble with the idea of
hurting other people no matter what other insanities were going on around her.
Nabiki had never shown that much interest in the martial arts beyond as a form
of exercise.

Looking around in desperation, Akira felt more of Akane beginning to slip away
and made a choice.

-----------------------------------
Chapter 3: A Fistful of Akanes
-----------------------------------

The wizard merely smirked, looking past the transformed former sixteen year old
Japanese girl. A sign displayed where almost everyone would ignore it, read
"Only Three Per Customer."

Besides, after he was done here, he could go visit Juuban.

=============================
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING! Yes, this was my attempt to give Akane equal play after
"A Little Sense" did the same for Ranma. So choose the ending that you, the
reader, like. (Original, Crispy, Extra Crispy, BBQ, or Honey-Roasted.)

Option One: How this was originally planned.

Akira/Akane thought deeply about this, noting only idly the growing impatience
of the wizard behind the counter.

In both the "World Without Akane" and his current reality, there were people who
could be said to be reasonably happier. People like Nabiki who actually had
outside interests beyond making money now. People like Ranma who were being
challenged to grow up and act in a responsible manner as opposed to merely being
confronted.

Akira smiled, straightened, and nodded to the suddenly startled wizard. And left
the shop without touching anything. Being a huge guy pursued by Kodachi and
Shampoo was strange, but if her family was happier...

---------------

Akane shook her head and went into a coughing fit.

"Well done, my daughter."

"All right, sis!"

Akane looked up, seeing Cologne and Nabiki. Things began to filter back into her
mind. The petition to end Shampoo's pursuit of Ranma within the Laws of the
Amazons. Akane petitioning Cologne to become an Amazon blood-sister of Shampoo.

The three Trials or Ordeals that had to be overcome.

Nabiki was present because this had come out of Akane paying her older sister to
find a way to solve the problem with the Amazons.

There had been the Trial Of War where Akane had to fight a conjured evil twin of
herself, one that had every nasty impulse and habit. The towering rage of her
opponent had given the other an advantage at first, but Akane had (with effort)
kept her calm and had won at the end. Facing THAT had given her some
uncomfortable insight into how she acted on occasion.

The Trial Of Skill where Akane had learned the Breaking Point. Akane had a
sneaking suspicion that Cologne had enjoyed swinging those boulders into her
repeatedly. Two weeks, and she still hurt in a few places.

The Trial Of The Heart.

"Did I win? I couldn't remember. It was like it was last year right after Ukyou
came..."

Cologne smirked, oddly enough echoing Nabiki. "If you had remembered it was a
Trial, then it wouldn't have been a true Trial. You would have chosen based on
that knowledge instead of choosing truly. You sacrificed your own happiness and
existence for the good of your family - your own tribe.

"Welcome to the Amazon Tribe, daughter. Shampoo is not happy, but will come
around. The Kiss of Marriage and the Kiss Of Death are hereby voided as there is
now an Amazon with prior claim to Ranma Saotome." Cologne left then, to leave
the two sisters to talk and to prepare the feast that marked the new induction
of an Amazon. The Tribe would be stronger for having Akane in it. Though she
would have preferred giving Shampoo what she wanted, Cologne would settle for
this.

Akane nodded absently noting the reference. As Cologne was Matriarch, all
Amazons could be said to be her daughters. It was interesting to have a "mother"
of sorts again. The thought of calling Cologne "grandmother" was kind of creepy
though.

"So, sis, how did it go? Cologne didn't give any details. What did you see, what
did you experience?"

Akane looked at her sister with new eyes, having seen things that remained with
her now and wondering how much of what she had seen had been her own mind
filling in the blanks. She looked at her arm and realized that a cut there had
been put on Akira by Kodachi's ribbon. "Nabiki, do you remember when you tried
doing your own manga back in Junior High? I think I need to talk to you..."

*********************************

ending # 2 by Nicholas Leifker:

His hands hovered over the candy bars for a moment. It was tempting, the
'Whoppers' especially so. After all, with those, he'd never have to worry about
insults concerning her figure. 'Peppermint Patties' and the Girl Scout 'Thin
Mints' were also appealing, as they tended to point toward more feminine
results.

Unfortunately, he couldn't go that route - not yet. If there was one thing he'd
learned about magic from his time with Ranma, it was that it didn't want to let
go. He would be changed, one way or another; it was just up to him as to how.

The Akane Tendo who walked out of the store would be different from the Akane
Tendo who first came in.

So. How did he want to change? He crossed his arms; he knew there wasn't much
time left. Already he was beginning to forget. He had to decide - immediately.
The answer came on him in an instant. He smiled, grabbed the item, and placed it
on the counter.

-----------------------

Akane Tendo hummed a soft tune as she walked down the street. She was back; no,
she was better than back. She would have leapt up onto the fence, if she hadn't
been wearing a skirt.

For the first time in her life, she felt truly alive. Her life felt... expanded,
like all she had seen before was merely the surface. Every little secret was
hers for the taking; the world was a far more understanding place than she was
used to. Her life, in short, was hers again and then some.

The yowl of a furious cat got her attention, and she turned toward the source. A
bunch of ragamuffin kids were torturing a cat; Shampoo by the look of it. She
ran over to them, and pushed them away.

"Beat it, kids! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

The kids, as are wont to in the face of authority, ran. One gave her the
raspberry; she ignored it. Shampoo was her major concern; she had to make sure
she was all right.

She frowned, though, when she got a look at Shampoo's face. There was a bandage
covering her head, as though she had been hurt before. She peeled off the
bandage - it was loose from her struggles - and gasped.

Beneath was a shining crescent moon.

Shampoo-neko blinked, then focused her eyes on her - a stare that seemed to pass
through her. "Akane, we need talk. Now."

*********************************

ending suggested by Rick Robinson: (even though it went in a completely
different direction than either of us intended. It is, however, a fairly typical
Spells R Us style of ending.)

The door jangled and in walked Ranma and his fiancee.

"So you were serious, Akira?" Nabiki frowned slightly, trying to picture her
older brother as a younger sister and failing.

"You make fun of me turnin' into a girl all the time, and you are one." Ranma
shook his head. "That's just too ....uhm."

"I think you're looking for 'ironic'," supplied Nabiki after a moment. "Well,
whether you're sister or brother, you're family."

Akira shrugged after a moment. "Yeah, but this is somethin' I gotta do myself. I
have to figure out a way that I'm as close to me as possible without screwing
everything else up."

"Do you do wishes?" Ranma asked the man across the counter.

"Yes, but it wouldn't cure her of the transformation directly."

"How about indirectly?" Ranma was familiar with the tactic. If the opponent had
an iron defense, you found a way around it.

Everyone blinked at Ranma coming up with an idea. Nabiki recovered slightly
faster, reasoning correctly that hanging around with her, he had been challenged
to show more intelligence.

"Well, as long as it didn't involve a direct paradox, like never having visited
the store." The wizard allowed, getting fascinated despite himself. He placed an
object like a solid soap bubble out on the counter. "Twenty thousand yen."

Ranma pulled out his recent winnings and laid them on the counter. He restrained
himself from immediately wishing that he was cured of his curse. It was
difficult, though, very difficult.

"So how should I word this to make it indirectly change me back?"

"How about if ya wish that the cure for yer condition was there in yer hand.
That way the wish is actin' on the cure and not on yer curse."

There was a brief moment after which everyone (except Ranma) slowly picked
themselves up from their mass face fault. Nabiki smiled proudly at her iinazuke
and said in a low voice that "he CAN be taught."

The wizard shook his head and just reminded himself that it was the unexpected
that kept him in this business.

Ranma managed to look slightly insulted at Nabiki's observation.

Holding the soap bubble in his hands, Akira opened his mouth and blurted out
the request. "I wish that everything was back to normal."

The wizard began to laugh, hearing defeat being snatched from the jaws of
victory.

----------------

Akane stretched as she got off the couch, time to help mother fix breakfast. It
was good that things had gotten back to normal.

The sounds of Kasumi getting ready for a day at the office reached Akane, and
that was Nabiki almost sleepwalking with her toothbrush sticking out of her
mouth.

Her father was, of course, off to work already. Like all normal Japanese
fathers, he worked from before dawn until long after sundown.

That weirdness that her father had tried to inflict on the family had almost
been forgotten. A sad expression flickered over Akane's face at the memory. An
arranged marriage to some weird old buddy's son had been decidedly strange.

Still, Akane's mother had put a stop to THAT soon enough. Then made some
discrete inquiries and found the boy's mother through the simple exercise of
finding out the woman's name and then calling information.

Such a weird family. On finding out the boy was cursed to turn into a girl, the
mother had demanded that father and son commit seppuku. How terribly old
fashioned.

It had taken weeks to get the bloodstains out of the dojo.

But now everything was back to normal, and Akane could try to meet Tate- chan
later. He didn't seem to notice anyone as normal and boring as her, but Akane
had her hopes.

***********************

ending #4 suggested by Jared Ornstead:

Akira picked up the "Debbie Does Dallas" videotape and considered it. Would this
turn him into a gaijin? Akira put the video back on the shelf, as remaining a
member of his family was an important consideration.

"Gojira" was likewise passed over, though this version of the familiar story
seemed to look rather more like an oversized iguana. "Alien" was probably about
gaijin, and was turned down for the same reason as the "Dallas" video. "Better
off dead" didn't sound appealing at all.

Finally he saw it. One of his favorite movies. A Disney version of the old
story.

Akira put his hand on the copy of "Beauty & The Beast" and cast another glance
around the store. Other than the "princess" costume, nothing else really seemed
to pull at him.

Maybe he could get Ranma to watch it with him. That sounded like a winner.

-----

The wizard checked around eight that evening and smiled at the results.
Naturally, it had gone quite well by his own standards, if not by any of the
principals in this little play.

Ranma, of course, had become the Beauty. A demure and well built young woman.
Akira, of course, was the Beast.

He just loved a twisted ending.

**********************************

ending #5: suggested by Connie Decker

Akira wondered what to do and how to do it. Being a nineteen year old boy was
rather unnerving for a formerly sixteen year old girl named Akane.

Akira's gaze alighted on the Girl Scout cookies. This might work. There were
actually three kinds here. "Thin Mints" sounded good, after all he wouldn't have
to watch his weight. The second kind contained coconut, which he had gotten
rather sick of after the Principal had donated nearly a ton of the stuff to the
school cafeteria. They were putting it in almost everything.

Akira was unfamiliar with the name of this last kind of cookie. Opening the box,
he tried one. After all it wouldn't take effect until after it was paid for,
right?

------------------------

Alysse steadied herself against the kitchen cupboard and realized that the
Spells R Us wizard must have done something, but what?

Losing herself in the familiar task of preparing lunches, Alysse (short for
Alyssande) realized that she had taken a nibble out of a Girl Scout cookie
called a "Scandinavian" but that this probably hadn't had much of an effect.
She examined herself, looking for anything that might have changed. No, she was
still eleven years old, and of Scandinavian descent. She was still the adopted
daughter of Soun Tendo, adopted due to an old debt of honor that Soun had owed
her parents.

Alysse caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, of her long blonde hair and
piercing blue eyes. Things that marked her as being an outsider here in Japan,
though she was sufficiently charismatic that she had some popularity anyway.
She had become accepted by her new family, though, and that was of primary
importance.

Alysse could see Ranma and big sister Nabiki beating the stuffings out of
Ranma's father. Kasumi was studying, now in her second year of college. Alysse
was glad that she had been able to take over Kasumi's duties so that the older
girl could go ahead and pursue her dreams.

Yes, Alysse decided with a nod, she must have gotten it right.

********

possible ending #6 by
SKJAM! the Baby Ruth ending...

"Oh, Akane-chan, you want to look at the
pictures?"

"Gah! Pit-chers!" Akane hated having a limited vocabulary. It was nearly as bad
as being a cat.

Kasumi picked up her baby sister, put her on her lap and opened the photo album.

The first one was of Kasumi, Nabiki and...Mother? But this was obviously taken
when the girls were teens! "Mama?"

"That's right, dear. Mama. This was a couple of years ago, before you were
born."

"Mama...way-ah?"

Kasumi looked sad. "She's in Heaven now, Akane. She passed away shortly after
you were born. thank goodness I was old enough to quit school so I could look
after you."

Akane felt bad. At least Kasumi had a little freedom in the real world. Here,
she was stuck taking care of a baby all the time.

The next page had some pictures of Ranma. "Wan-ma!"

"Very good, Akane-chan! He's going to marry Nabiki some day, you know."

Akane frowned.

"Now, now, someday when you grow up, I'm sure you'll have a nice husband."

There was a strikingly embarrassing photo next.

"Oh, this is from the time Shampoo used that amnesia trick on Ranma, and he
thought he really was a girl, and your mommy! You were so angry when you found
out he didn't have any milk after all. But Nabiki made a mint off selling copies
of this picture. *ahem* Not that I approve, of course..."

**********************

ending #7 also by SKJAM! (alternate seifuku ending) the half moon ending

Akane pulled out her, or rather, Usagi's diary, and started writing.
"Pros: I'm human, female and engaged to Ranma. Boy, feels funny putting that in
the `pro' category. I have a bunch of new friends, and magical powers, and I'm a
princess!

"Cons: My name is now Usagi, I have a reputation as a airheaded crybaby, my
grades are in the toilet, and with constant monster attacks there's not much
chance I'll be bringing them up any time soon. Plus, half of my new friends are
after Ranma too, and none of my old rivals went away! And I'm lousy at martial
arts unless I'm in Senshi mode. Bummer. Still can't cook, and clumsy and more
flat-chested than ever. And when I slapped that Rei girl back, I thought she
would burst into tears right there! Wish I'd seen more than five episodes of
Sailor Moon before...."

**************************

ending #8, suggested by a visit to a local store

"Sobe beverages, 'Zen Blend'." Akane looked at the label on the tea and wondered
about the contents briefly. She was really good at English, but some of the
writing here looked to be a _completely_ different language.

What the heck was a 'schizandra' anyway? The yin/yang symbol with the little
lizards was kind of cute, but Akane set the bottle back anyway.

There was a sudden impulse to buy the bottle of 'Wisdom' then forcefeed it to
Ranma, but Akane restrained herself. She paused for a moment, wondering if there
was a way to do it so that THIS Ranma stayed around. You could see him struggle
to keep from speaking until he'd thought about it. THAT trait was one she'd
often wished the real Ranma had.

Turning, Akane's eyes caught something she had missed before. Now THIS was
perfect. Nestled between a box marked 'Mandarin Orange Spice' tea and something
called 'Passion Spice instant ramen' it had obviously been hidden.

And it was so simple that nothing could possibly go wrong with it, too. Her hand
passed over the box of 'Swiss Miss cocoa mix' as she lifted the target box and
remembered the event depicted on the box. Ranma had been _such_ a jerk, but
there _had_ been a payback.

"Ah, 'Ranma and Juliet', how did that get left out?" The shopkeeper looked
puzzled briefly. "Must be fate."

-------------------

"ANOTHER fiancee, Ranma?"

Nabiki glared at her iinazuke, even knowing that he hadn't known about this
himself.

"What did you sell me for this time, old man?" Ranma rubbed his forehead and
tried to imagine what life would have been like if his father knew how to
practice self-restraint.

"It was a question of honor. I was swimming the Sea of Japan when a storm came
up. I was exhausted and would have drowned but for a passing yacht owned by a
kind young man."

"So you promised him your firstborn son or something like that?" Nabiki's cold
glare swept over Genma.

"Uhm, more or less."

The newly arrived girl, Juliette Forbes, blew a bubble briefly before winking at
the crowd.

*********

ending #9 is an alternate for #3, very IC for the Wizard.

The wizard shook his head and just reminded himself that it was the
unexpected that kept him in this business.

Ranma managed to look slightly insulted at Nabiki's observation, not that he
wouldn't admit that he wasn't as mentally nimble as his iinazuke. Yet.

Holding the soap bubble in his hands, Akira opened his mouth and considered.
Biting back the temptation to just blurt something out, Akira tried to consider
this as carefully as THIS Ranma would.

"What's wrong, Akira?" Nabiki asked after a moment of silence.

"A cure for what is the question." Akira shook his head at their confusion. "No,
I still remember being Akane. The thing is, how do I phrase this so that it is
the _right_ cure? You've seen how many cures Ranma's gone after that have turned
out poorly."

"Good point," said Ranma and Nabiki simultaneously. The two then stared at each
other for a moment before grinning.

Akira just shuddered at the sight. "ANYWAY. I wish that the cure to return me to
being Akane Tendo, as close as possible to the way I was when I first entered
this store, but without erasing the insights I've gained since then, were here
in my hand."

The bubble burst, leaving a videotape in her hands. Akira stared briefly at it.
"What? 'An Akane To Remember'?"

-----------------------

Akane got up and shut the tape off, a thoughtful expression on her face. Opening the
door, she found Ranma and Nabiki waiting impatiently.

"Well? Did it work?" Ranma looked a little anxious.

"It's only about halfway through. I wanted to think about what I've seen some
more." Akane blinked.

"Did it..." Ranma and Nabiki threw a panicked and sorrowful glance at each
other, each reaching a hand out for the other as they faded from view.

Akane looked at the spot they had been standing on for a moment, a miniscule
frown marking her face. A quick search revealed Nabiki sneaking pictures of an
unconscious and drenched Ranma in the backyard.

Kasumi was in the kitchen, Soun and Genma were playing shogi. A quick peek under
the house revealed Sasuke. She waved at the ninja, who essayed a wave back.

An hour later, Akane sat back on her bed.

From what she had found, everything was back to normal. Just as it had been prior
to her entering that shop for the first time. Except for her memories of how things
*could* have been in those other lives she'd briefly walked through.

Kasumi was oblivious to anything outside her home and most of what was in it.
There was her usual polite smile but none of the humor glimpsed in the time where
she had been Akira.

Nabiki was only concerned with making a buck through the least amount of effort.
A two dimensional mercenary, a pale shadow of the girl she'd been in both the Akira
and in that first universe. The vibrant Tendo Heir and the manga artist were nowhere
visible in what her sister had again been reduced to.

Her father and Mr. Saotome were mainly concerned with playing shogi and
"getting their stubborn children together". Though the two had been among the
least changed, the pride openly visible in her Father's face when he'd looked upon
Akira was not even visible as a trace.

Ukyou and Shampoo had been, as they had been prior to this little adventure,
still competing with themselves and with Akane for Ranma. As before, Ukyou
was merely obsessive: about okonomiyaki, about Ranma. Shampoo was still
bound to pursue Ranma by both her tribal law and the dicates of her own
heart.

Kodachi and Tatewaki Kuno hadn't been changed very much. She hadn't seen
Tatewaki during this mess, but Kodachi had been genuinely concerned when her
ribbon had cut Akira's arm. A kinder gentler Kodachi, if only by a small amount,
had vanished when everything switched back.

Yes, everything was just the way it was supposed to be.

Akane looked at the tape still sitting in her VCR and asked herself why she
didn't feel satisfied.

-----------

The Wizard chuckled over this outcome.

Oh yes, Akane remembered. She remembered it all.

She would remember a Kasumi who wasn't withdrawn into herself. A Nabiki
who was concerned with more than making a quick yen. She would remember
a Ranma who had been challenged instead of confronted, back when such
actions would have mattered.

She would remember times when everything did not revolve around one
Akane Tendo and when people she knew and cared about were happier.

And she wouldn't be able to do a damn thing about it. Locked in her
own private nightmare, unable to do anything to make things change
to one of those happier alternatives. Not without self-sacrifice on
HER part, and just that she'd deliberately returned things to the
old status quo indicated this was unlikely.

Locked in a nightmare of guilt and frustration, one of her own
making.

The Wizard's chuckle increased to a full blown laugh.

end, roll credits.

thanks for reading

gregg