To Tell a Hawk From a Handsaw

I have been defeated, totally. Me. I've trained my whole life to be the best martial artist in the world. I've put up with all of my Pop's hare-brained schemes so that I could become the best, and now I realized how easily anyone can defeat me.

Today my mother came to the dojo, looking for me and my worthless father. Naturally I learned that my father had us sign a suicide pact that I'd become a "Man among Men", so I had to spend the day as a girl and pretend to be Ranko Tendo, so mom wouldn't discover my curse.

It was after my mother left, that I started thinking about my day. I wanted to fly into her arms and cry. I wanted to yell at her and ask her why she abandoned me to my father. I wanted to tell her all that my brainless father had done, and watch her carve the panda up into steaks. Instead I did whatever anyone wanted me to.

Everyone I know, knows me too well. They know what buttons to push to get me to respond the way they want. My father's been manipulating me for years. Soun alternately employs tears and his demon-head technique. Nabiki gets anything she wants from me. Even Kasumi can get me to do anything she wants. They could train my stand-in, and they wouldn't even need me around.

But what brought this home to me was my mother. A complete stranger. Doesn't even know we're related. She tried to get me to act less like a tomboy, and she succeeded. Once I noticed that, I noticed how little control I had on my life.

So, how can I regain control? Idealy I should change the type of person that I am. But that will never work. Personal growth takes way too long, and my puppet-masters will just learn my new triggers as fast as I change them. Leaving isn't an option. I've never succeeded in getting alone for long before. That leaves mis-direction.

The only way for me to buy time is to confuse them. If I act irrationally, they wont see the effect their manipulations have on me. I'll have time to free myself of their controls. Tonight, I'll let my grief over the gaining and loosing of my mother be the ostensible reason for my descent into madness. From now on, I, Ranma, will be as free as a Kuno to do whatever strikes my amusement.

But manipulating a Kuno is a game we all play. I'll tailor my madness to the individual to throw them into the most confusion. I will give them obvious controls to play with that connect to nothing in me. Nabiki has her hooks in me through embarrassing me and through possessions. I'll embarrass myself in my acts of madness and show no embarrassment, and then I'll treat my possessions and hers as meaningless paper. Randomly destroying things. My father I wont recognize, and I won't let a stranger goad me into fighting. Soun, I'll treat as a young child, and act as his moods dictate.

Kasumi will be a hard one. Her manipulations seem to be done with the best intentions. I must harden my heart to her pain, and drive her to question whether her planned life for us all is really the best of ideas. Tofu I'll avoid, and play Kasumi against him. He won't see my charade if he's too busy dancing in the streets with Betty. And my fiancees? I shall return all of their affection while swearing vehemently that I hate them all.


The next morning was unusual in that the Saotomes weren't sparring. When Kasumi called breakfast, and neither Saotome appeared, she sent Akane to wake Ranma. But inside the Saotomes' bedroom, all she found was an unconscious Genma, and a mess. A quick search of the house, the dojo, and the roof didn't reveal Ranma.

She was found lying on her back, around the side of the house, with her pigtail trapped by her shirt-collar, her shirt on inside out, and improperly buttoned. Akane nearly tripped over her. "Ranma, what are you doing there?"


"Waiting for what!"

"I don't know. When it comes, it should know its purpose."

She practically drags Ranma to the table. After consuming Kasumi's cooking, Akane says "Come on, Ranma. It's time for school."

"Then it is rude for school to be late. I expect it to be here promptly."

"What are you talking about?"

"Don't you remember? You started this conversation. At least one of us should be listening to you."

"Ranma! Let's go!"

"I can't. I'm expecting my departed parents."

"What do you mean?"

"Before I was born, they expected me. Now that they're not here, it's only just that I expect them."

"Your father is in your room unconscious, and your mother isn't coming today."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I have no parents. They may have conceived me, but I have yet to conceive them. Perhaps I should make them out of whole-cloth. I seem to remember my father should be a bag of gas that flaps in the wind. An Autumn koi streamer. Tell me, do you think I was born from koi?"

Soun interrupts "I remember when your parents met. They were very deeply in love."

"They should have conducted such matters in private. The depths my parents sunk to shouldn't be discussed in public."

"You make their love sound almost obscene."

"If it hadn't become obscene at some point, I should not exist, and we should not have known each other."

"Ranma, If you don't go to school now, I'm going without you."

"You've gone without me most of your life, feel free to continue."

Akane leaves for school while shouting "Ranma no baka".

Soun turns to Ranma, "Aren't you going to school with my daughter?"

"I school my thoughts and expressions. Akane has never done that. Or did you mean Nabiki? I am not in her grade, nor could she make mine."

"What are you taking about?"

"You have too many daughters. It's forced you to mark them down and let them cheap to the first that's come along. Luckily your middle daughter sells herself without your help. She's well sought after, and as her only stock, she can charge highly for her favors. You do realize that most of the school has bought her favors? And paid dearly indeed."

"How dare you impugn my daughter's honor!"

"Did you think I meant sexual favors? I would never dare impugn Nabiki's honor; she does that herself. But maybe you meant one of your other daughters. Taking Kasumi as a wife is a bit unusual. She does set an excellent table, and keep a clean house. Unfortunately she's likely to bear daughters if genetics are to be followed, but you're used to a house of girls."

"How dare you imply I've taken Kasumi as a wife!"

"I never did. I was referring to whomever she would eventually marry. I seem to have upset you. I'll leave you to your thoughts, while I go looking for my parents. I'll start at the cemetery, and work my way back to the hospital birth ward. I should meet everyone that way."


A little while later, Genma comes downstairs, and sits opposite Soun at the shogi board. "Genma, what's going on with your son? He's been acting weird all morning."

"I have no idea. I woke him this morning for sparring practice, and he just looked at me and said 'You should be quiet around sleeping people, idiot.' and then knocked me out using his amaguriken.

"He was in his female form with his clothes incorrectly worn. He said his school should have been here by now, that his parents haven't been conceived, that Nabiki was a prostitute, and that it looked like I'd married Kasumi or something like that. Do you think he might have snapped because he couldn't be himself around his mother yesterday?"

"It's probably just temporary, or some kind of joke, or a new curse or something. Nothing to worry about. He'll probably be back to normal as soon as school's over."

"He didn't go to school. He went to look for his parents."

"Do you think he's gone to Nodoka to tell her about his curse? We have to stop him! Let me turn into a panda, and we'll go watch Nodoka and intercept Ranma before he gets there!"


Akane came home from school in a foul mood. "Kasumi, where's Ranma!"

"I've no idea. The house has been empty since shortly after you left from school. I haven't seen daddy, or either Saotome all day."

"Don't worry about daddy. He and Ranma's father are probably starting another of their little schemes. Ranma didn't show up at school today."

"Perhaps he's playing with one of his friends that drop by constantly."

"Well, he hasn't been to the Nekohanten or Ucchan's, and that leaves the Kunos and Ryouga, and Ryouga's been gone a while. Sounds like Ranma's dragged some new weirdness to the area."

At this point, Ranma walks in. Akane turns on him and growls "Where were you today! What have you gotten yourself into now?"

"I've been looking for a family."

"Whose family?"

"A family for me. I haven't found anyone decent for my mother or father, but I've got a large number of people suitable to be my crazy uncle Jiro."

"Where have you been all day?"

"The cemetery. All parents wind up there eventually, but mine didn't show up no matter how long I waited. I guess it's for the best, I never wanted late parents."

"Were you looking for your father?"

"Among other relatives. But he's the hardest. I've yet to see a good role-model to determine what I'd like in a father. Kuno's father's ran away for years, while Ryouga lost his somewhere. Shampoo's is so innocuous that I'm not sure he really exists. Meanwhile the elders Tendo and Kuonji only seem to gripe about the unfairness of the world, while trying to fob off their daughters on others. I've yet to see a father worth his weight in rice. Mothers are much easier. The average mother is kind, gentle, loving, and dead. I just have to find the right woman and kill her."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"What everyone wants. The bosom of the family, I seem to have misplaced mine. At least until I get splashed again. I'd best train until the master of the house returns. See you later."


Soun and Genma finally return from their pointless stakeout. Kasumi greets them "Oh, daddy! I'm glad you're here. I wouldn't have been able to delay dinner much longer."

"Has Ranma come home?"

"Oh yes. He came home shortly after Akane, but he was behaving a bit oddly."


"Dinner proceeded quietly. After dinner, Ranma commented "Excellent dinner, Kasumi, but I'm disappointed in you." This elicited odd looks from everyone."

"Why are you disappointed?"

"You've had the whole day to do anything, and all you've accomplished was that remarkable dinner, which is now gone. You could have stretched some canvasses, built a clay armature, or started writing a novel. But instead all your talent went into this mess that rumor tells me was a feast."

"I'm content caring for my family."

"How could you be? I'll admit that dinners like that will make you the last daughter he sells off, but you could be so much more."

Soun roars "Sell off? How could you say that!"

"'Choose any daughter,and she's yours', Sound familiar? All fathers sell their children. My going rate was fish, rice and 2 pickles. Anyone who paid more was swindled. What did you pay for me? Your dojo and a daughter? You should have offered food. Like the sake you drank the night you made your marriage pact."

"That pact was a sacred oath!"

"Made in the traditional manner in order to insure a traditional retirement, with the traditional grandkids, and the traditional shove into traffic when we no longer need babysitters."

Soun bursts into tears "How could you say something like that?"

To everyone's surprise, Ranma has run around the table and is patting Soun on the back "There, there. Stop crying. Everything will be all right. When you die, which is regrettable, but necessary, we'll tell everyone that you voluntarily took your life to end our burden, but were too clumsy to properly handle a tanto."


Nabiki finds Ranma in the dojo, and confronts him "I don't like the way you're treating my sisters and my father. I won't let you hurt my family."

"Hurt your family? I couldn't if I tried. It was dead before I ever arrived. Your father sold one of you off before my birth, and you accompliced yourself to it when you made Akane my fiancee. Your older sister has hacked off those parts of her not needed for cooking and cleaning. Your younger sister has no control over her emotions, and has been trained by your father to the point that she's a public menace. And instead of helping any of them, you preferred to make a few yen off of your sister's problems. I was dragged here against my will, engaged to your sister with your help, and then forcibly restrained from leaving for China, and you have the nerve to say I'm the problem? Look to your own problems. If you want me to leave, secure my release. Without my freedom, I accept no blame."

"I may not have been a saint, but I'm not going to let you do this."

"What's it to be then, threats? 'Stop or I'll make your life hell.'? You've bought me, sold me, ransomed me, blackmailed me, invaded my privacy, sold my secrets to my enemies, blamed me for your sister's shortcomings, and blamed me for the actions of people who want to marry me against my will. After all that, how could you make my life hell?"

"I could tell your mother about your curse."

"I haven't got any parents to worry about. Until I find some you'll have to save that threat. For all you've done to me, I could kill you where you stand and God, himself, would call it justice. You have nothing I want or need, and you wont stop me from talking."

"What do you mean you have no parents?"

"I spent the day searching for some without any luck. Though I did find a nice windsock that struck me as fatherly, it wasn't puffed up with air. I suppose it couldn't look its best in a store window. Do you think fathers improve after being properly hung?"


Akane confronts Ranma, "What do you think you're up to now?"

"Searching for the distinction between Affection' and Affectation', for the love of family is the root of all evil. You do love your family, don't you?"

"Of course I do!"

"Then if I became part of your family, you'd care for me, and stop hitting me?"

"Who says I'd ever marry a jerk like you?"

"I wasn't talking about us marrying. Since it's the older generation that wants it, my parents should settle it. Either we marry your father to whoever I find for a mother, or I select one of your sisters as a mother, and you become my aunt. Unfortunately both of your sisters are alive, that doesn't seem too motherly to me. I'm sure your father would be willing to remarry to meet family honor, since he thinks you should."

"How could my father marry your mother? What about your father?"

"i figure I can pick a mother that your father would like, better than you like me. As long as I don't pick my father until after my mother marries your father, then he shouldn't be a problem."

"How can you pick your parents? You already have them!"

"How could you pick your father? He engaged you against your will."

"Stop acting crazy. What are you trying to pull?"

"I'm trying to politely point out that I don't think much of your father marrying into my family. His daughters all have their benefits and disadvantages, but your father does nothing but demand, pontificate, and cringe whenever resisted. What's the difference between him and a bully?"

"You take that back! My father's a kind man!"

"Ahh, but what kind? I didn't call your father a bully, I'm asking you to explain to me why he isn't. I heard you've been bothered by boys your own age, and that your father has engaged you against your will to marry one of them. Is that kind?"

"My father is doing what he thinks best."

"Ahh, but best for whom? It can't be in your interest to engage you to someone you hate, unless you were incapable of getting a husband. And I know for a fact that the wealthy son of the Kuno line would make anyone wealthy for the opportunity to marry you. There's no way that he'd affiance his unborn daughter to an unmet inconcieved boy if he cared for her."

"Don't you dare try to bring Kuno into this. I'd never marry him."

"Dare to try'? I couldn't fail if I tried. All I'd have to do is propose to Kasumi, suggest an omiai with the Kunos, have Cologne drug you to keep you quiet and get you out of Shampoo's way, and you'd be married within two hours from now. Don't make empty threats to me, unless you really want to try to stop me. I'm enough a warrior to see an empty threat. Your unmarried state is due to my protection, and your sister's lazyness."

"Nabiki? she wouldn't ..."

"She's done everything else. She likes things the way they are. Why bother finding new scams? Better to avoid selling you off until after she milks this situation fully. Didn't she give you away to me the day we met? I wonder if she sells pictures of you abroad? No one would know if she sold locker-room pictures to foriegn porn magazines."

"Even Nabiki wouldn't do that!"

"Wouldn't sell pornographic pictures? She sells them regularly to a stalker who's after you. That makes her an accomplice. Child Pornographer, accomplice stalker, informant, professional gambler, fraud, extortion. Tell me, at what age did she get her first tatoo?"

"My sister is not Yakusa!"

"Then there'll be three groups after her when she reaches 18. Are you planning on protecting her from your country, your classmates, and your country's criminals simultaneously? It would leave Kasumi as the only Tendo who could go where she wants without fear, that is until someone shoots her to get at Nabiki. Put your own house in order before you criticize me."


Meanwhile, Nabiki is on the telephone "Hiroshi? This is Tendo Nabiki. Find Daisuke and meet me with or without him in front of the school in an hour. No excuses less than a death in your immediate family will be accepted." click


On her way home from a delivery, Shampoo spots Ranma in the Tendo's yard, and nearly lands on top of him. At the last minute, Ranma ducks to the side and avoids the bike. Shampoo glomps onto Ranma, and tries to give him a kiss. Everyone is surprised when Ranma responds amorously. Once the kiss ends, he pushes her away. As Shampoo falls to the ground, Ranma shouts "Don't tempt me again, you adulteress. I'm already married."

Shampoo calls back, "What do you mean, you're married to me!"

"I was married a few days before I met you, at my Father's prodding."

Soun assumes his demon-head "Genma! How dare you!"

"The boy is making it up!"

"Pop, just because I haven't had a ceremony doesn't mean I'm not married. A marriage ceremony is merely a public confirmation of the fact that two people's souls are inextricably bound. Just because I never invited you all to a ceremony doesn't in the least affect my married status."

"Genma! how could you push your son into marriage! What about our pact?"

"Ranma, how could you say that I am responsible?"

"You pushed me into Nyannichuan. And from that moment, I have been two bodies with one soul, therefor I am married."


Half an hour later, Nabiki watches Hiroshi and Daisuke walk up to the school gate, "Good. You've found him. I have a task for you, In return I'll wipe out your debt. Refuse and I'll collect immediately. Whether you have the cash, or not."

"What do you want?"

"I want you to explain Ranma's current behavior, and help me reverse it."

"Behavior? What's he up to now? We haven't seen him since class yesterday. He didn't show up today for class."

"I'd rather not say. You'll see soon enough. Just find out what you can.


"I'm not sure I like this." Hiroshi was walking with Daisuke to the Tendo dojo. "Getting between Ranma and Nabiki doesn't strike me as a healthy position."

"Well, we're there now. Lets just go see Ranma, it might be nothing."

"It's more likely the return of Gojira, than it's nothing. This is Ranma we're talking about. Prince-bane, cursed, and multiply affianced."

"I know, I know. Also contains Lanolin.' We don't have a choice. Lets get ringside seats to the latest insanity."


Hiroshi and Daisuke knock on the Tendo's door, and are shown into the dojo by Kasumi. Ranma stops his kata when he sees them enter. "Hey guys, what are you doing here?"

"Well, you weren't in school today, so we thought we'd drop by. What happenned?"

"I had to track down my old man, without success. But what's wrong? You never came to visit me here before. Why today?"

"Nothing special, we just thought we'd stop by."

"Come on. It's pretty obvious. Nabiki has probably started some new betting pool over my absense, and you're wondering how to bet. You can't tell me what, or Nabiki will never bet with you again. I haven't heard any new challenges, or seen Ryouga, so it must either deal with Akane or my mood, and she hasn't shown much concern over her sister lately. What has she been saying about me?"

"Just that you've been behaving differently than normal."

"That's a nice way of putting it. It's really very simple. My life has gotten impossible to live, so I'm doing something else."

"Something other than living?"

"In a way. I was trapped by all these family obligations. But now everyone wants me to return to the way things were, and stick my hand back into the wolf's maw. I'm not going to let that happen."

"But what about your engagements?"

"Are you sure that you can ask such a direct question? Wont Nabiki stop betting with you? I guess it doesn't really matter. They all stem from family honor, so either I'm engaged to everyone, or I'm engaged to no one. Family honor is a double edged sword. I've allowed myself to be pidgeonholed into everything because I wanted to protect everyone. But now I'm free, and some people will be wounded. This time it's serious, so be careful.

"Is there going to be a fight?"

"I'm fighting now. Nabiki might be my most dangerous opponent, but remember I rarely lose, and never when it matters, and it matters now.


Hiroshi and Daisuke were going home from their talk with Ranma. Hiroshi asked "So, what do you think?"

"He was acting a bit odd, but we've got nothing to tell Nabiki."

"I'm worried. We've always survived Ranma's insane life because he always looks out for others. If he's no longer going to protect everybody, we could be in real trouble."

"So the next time he gets into a fight, we run the other way, instead of watch."

"I don't think that's enough. Remember, he said he's fighting now. I think we'd better get out from between him and Nabiki."

"How can we? Nabiki holds our promisary notes."

Hiroshi thought for a while. "I'm going to ask my parents for an advance of my next 5 allowances. My parents are going to flip, but it will get me free of Nabiki."

Daisuke shakes his head. "Better to play along with Nabiki. She'll wipe out your debt."

"Would you accept money from Kuno to attack Ranma?"

"This isn't like that. Nabiki only wants some information. This isn't attacking Ranma. I wouldn't betray anything important."

"I don't know how, but I feel you are getting in over your head."

"You're making too much of this. Go along with Nabiki, and it'll make the next five weeks nicer. At least you'll still have spending cash."

"No. I'm getting out of this while I can. Ranma said this time was different."


Nabiki stops over at Ucchan to grab a quick snack, and to try to coax some money out of its proprietor. "I'll have the spring pork okonomiyaki, and I have some information for sale."

"About Ranma?"

"Who else? 1000 yen and the okonomiyaki for all I know about the new situation."

"I could go there and find out for nothing."

"True. I'm just offering advanced warning so that you can use forethought, and not risk putting your foot in it."

"All right. What's happening now?"

"Best guess is that he's having a nervous breakdown brought on by seeing his mother but having to remain in disguise. Since she left he's behaved oddly. He seems to believe he is without relatives, and wants to replace them. Doesn't care if his mother finds out about his curse, as he hasn't got a mother. Spent the day looking for one in the cemetary to replace his. He babbles, and criticizes Kasumi. Says alot of odd things about marriage and death."

"And what is being done about this?"

"Well, Akane is denying anything's changed, Kasumi hasn't responded yet, and our fathers are too busy to scheme how to use this to force a marriage, while they are trying to prevent him from spilling everything to his mother, whom he hasn't gone near as far as I can tell."

"And you?"

"I'm still making enquiries, and seeing what money there is to be had."

"Ranchan", Ukyou called out as she entered the Tendo Compound. "I brought you some okonomiyaki."

"Ucchan, my once and future friend. Come in."

"Once and future friend'? Aren't we friends now?"

"I have no friends. Just scheamers, rivals, and fiancees. Which one are you?"

"I'm your cute fiancee."

"There's your proof. A fiancee wants something of mine. Namely myself. A friend provides care unconditionally. Therefor, while I am your friend, you aren't mine."

"We've been friends since we were six."

"We've been affianced since we were six. We stopped being friends since then. I still have hope for the future. How could you desire me in marriage when I haven't already given myself to you?"

"You know we were engagd by our fathers because we liked each other so much."

"And I like you still. Clever, wasn't it, of your father to lessen our friendship by trying to engage me, wasn't it? Nothing seems to kill blossoming love like marriage. But you are mistaken. Your father could not engage us without the consent of my family, and I have no family. Therefor are we still friends."

"We're both friends, and fiancees. Ever since your father accepted my dowery."

"We're either one, or the other. Seeing as I've hardly had a real date, no friend of mine would propose. I haven't proposed to you as I need a friend, and no one else has the right to decide for us. Don't you agree?"

"Your father took my dowery, and abandoned me by the side of the road! He ruined my life for ten years!"

"You insult me to tie me to such an idiot. No one in their right mind would abandon you, either when you were six, or now. Come, let us be friends, and find the thief, and kill him."

"You'd help me kill your own father?"

"It's a silly question, as I've never had one to judge. I hope to find one soon, though. Could I interest you in a crazy uncle Jiro? I'm over-stocked with them. Come, be my friend, and lets forget this temporary delusion of yours."

"You want me to give up my engagement and my honor?"

"I want you to forget your delusion and be my friend, or propose to me, and prove you aren't."

"If I propose to you, would you marry me?"

"Marry someone who wasn't my friend? What would be the point? No, it would be some time before I'm ready to get engaged, and I won't accept a fiancee until then."

"You deny our engagement? How could you do this to me?"

"I've already shown you we couldn't be engaged, and that if we were, we wouldn't be. You can't deny logic."

"How could you do this to me?"

"Ahh, you're mad at me, then maybe we are engaged. To bad, I wanted a friend."

"We can be friends and be engaged."

"No we can't You can say we're engaged, and I can be your friend. But that's as far as it can go."

Ukyou, uncharacteristically, leaves in tears. Ranma thinks "God I hate this. I really care for Ukyou. But this will only work if I behave similarly to everyone. I can't trust anyone with the secret that my madness is contrived, especially when they're holding an engagement over my head, unless I'm ready to marry them immediately. I'm not ready to marry anyone. I haven't even had a normal date yet. I'm going to marry who I decide. And no family or friends are going to force me. I'll find a way out of this mess yet."



Author's notes: Ranma's plans will not survive contact with the enemy.

Neither did mine when writing this story. At this point I had Hiroshi and Ukyou pegged as joint Horatios, and Daisuke playing both Posencrantz and Guildenstern to Nabiki's King.

On Ranma's vocabulary. I tried dumbing his speech down, but I just can't do it. Ranma's vocabulary is OOC for this fic. If you think the rest of him is out of character, tell me

I beg most sincerely for comments, reviews, corrections, and errata.