Hourou Budouka - Wandering Martial Artist

"I won't forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I'm glad he didn't check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other's lives out on the pirate's deck."

-Dar Williams

Chapter 1: When I was a Boy

A young man, in his mid 20s, slowly walked up the steps to his apartment. It was a fairly long climb, but he enjoyed the exercise and what awaited him at the top. He thought about the young woman who would be waiting for him when he got home. As he got to the door however, something else awaited him.

"A Package? What the heck is this?"

He looked down and saw the package was addressed to "Hiroyuki Yoshida" and sighed as he picked up the bulky box with one hand and wrestled with the key and door handle in the other.

"Yuki, your idiot parents sent you something. They're such a... hello?" Shiina realized he was having a conversation with himself in an empty apartment.

"Where did she get off to now?" Shiina remarked as he gently placed the package in the living room and sat down on the small loveseat. He was grateful because it was comfy and soft, not unlike his girlfriend, but he remembered briefly how much trouble it was running around three wards of Tokyo until she had found it, proclaiming it to be perfect. He shook his head.

"Oh Yuki-chan... " he sighed, closing his eyes. When Shiina opened them again, he felt a weight on his lap and a feeling of softness on his lips.

"Shii-chan. You're so cute when your asleep."

"Hmmm? Am I now?" he said drowsily.

"How long were you going to sleep like that?"

"I was waiting... welcome home," he said, slowly coming to consciousness and noting it was almost dark out, "I guess I was asleep a few hours... Oh, your parents sent you something, I think."

"I saw... I'm kind of scared to see what's inside," she admitted, leaning her head against his shoulder.

"Yeah? Maybe it's an O-chuugen present," he said with a light chuckle.

"Hey, you know perfectly well that's still a month away," she chastised him, hitting him lightly on the chest.

"Well, we can either think about it, or just open the damn thing, Yuki-chan," he smiled.

Yuki pouted and stood up along with Shiina, who stretched briefly.

The couple surrounded the package hesitantly, as if they were afraid a bomb was hidden inside. After a moment, Shiina walked towards a hallway closet and came back with a box cutter. He sliced the tape from the top of the box and opened it.

Yuki lifted the flaps and peered inside. Shiina saw her face as it went from confusion, to revulsion, to confusion again.

"It's... some of my old boystuff... why would they send this?"

"Maybe they thought it would be one last chance to make you change your mind?"

"Ha! Even mother wouldn't be that hopeful!"

"You don't think they... finally disowned you?" Shiina hesitantly asked.

"Maybe, but dad and I left on good terms the last time I went home. For dad, anyway"

"Hmm... Shall we take a look?"

Yuki sighed, "I suppose we must," and began digging into the parcel.

After the box had been emptied, Shiina appraised the contents. There was a surprisingly small amount of stuff, given the weight. There were a lot of books, readings from high school, mostly, some random objects like a baseball glove and cap, and some clothing. One particular item caught his eye. He dug into the folded shirts and said, "What is this?"

Unfurling the shirt, he saw it wasn't a t-shirt or jersey, but rather a red silk Chinese-style shirt. The sleeves looked frayed and there seemed to be hastily stitched tears all over.

Yuki turned to look at Shiina, mumbling, "hmm?" When she saw the shirt, her jaw dropped.

"Oh, my goodness! I can't believe I'd forgotten about that," she began giggling intensely as she flopped back down to the loveseat, the giggles now becomes bursts of boisterous laughter that Yuki could barely stop from being deep baritone bellows of amusement.

"This was yours?"

She waved a hand at her boyfriend, "Oh, haha, oh, oh no Shii-chan! It was it was this boy's..."

"Your first boyfriend?" Shiina looked at her in pretend hurt. The question though made Yuki begin her laughing fit once again.

"N-No hahaha! No! He was... my first true girl friend. My only, hahaha, *male* girl friend!"

"Huh?" Shiina was confused as his girlfriend giggled, first at the shirt, then at her boyfriend's confusion.

After a few minutes she calmed down, wiping the tears from her eyes. She stood up and began walking towards the small kitchentte.

"Let me make some tea. I have such a story to tell you," she stopped. "Actually... I should tell them too."

"The kids?"

Yuki nodded, "Uh-huh. How about if I can get them here on Sunday. By then, I'll have remembered all the details and we can all have a big laugh together?"

Shiina considered her proposal before nodding, "Hmmm... okay Yuki. This sounds like a story that needs an audience."

Shiina moved to hug his girlfriend and wonder what it was about the owner of that shirt that made her laugh like a schoolgirl.

That Sunday, Yuki and Shiina welcome their teenaged friends, Shuiichi and Yoshino. Shuuichi was dressed in a plain white dress with a light, pastel green fringe at the collar and cuffs of the short sleeves, belted loosely at the waist along with light colored leggings and dress flats. Yoshino was dressed in a dark sweatshirt and vest, over which he had a light zip-up jacket, jeans, and sneakers.

"How are you two today?" Yuki asked her younger counterparts.

The two nodded and Yoshino spoke, "we're Good, though Shii-chan seems really anxious. He was pacing around when we found him outside of the station. Is he okay?" the boy asked Yuki with a look of perplexion.

Yuki waved a hand away from herself, motioning them towards the living room, "Oh, he's just fine. He's been waiting three days to hear what I wanted to tell you, and you know, he gets very childish when he has to wait for something good. Have a seat. Tea will be ready soon."

Yoshino walked in, but Shuuichi stood there a little longer. the young girl looked at the older woman quizzically.

"Yuki-san, you seem different," Shuuichi said.

"Oh, is that so, Shuu-chan?" Yuki replied, tilting her head, a pencil thin smile on her lips.

The girl nodded, "Yes. You seem... brighter somehow. I really hope I can be like that someday."

Yuki ruffled the girl's head, "You look beautiful today, Shuu-chan. Now let me finish this up. You're really going to love this story most of all, I just know it."

A few minutes after Shuuichi sat down on the loveseat, next to Yoshino, Yuki came into the living area with a tray, on top of which there was a teapot, four mugs, and four piecs of cake.

"Here you go, now before I start, I need to get one thing from the bedroom." Yuki darted of in a small run that made Shiina's heart race just a bit. Almost as soon as she left, she returned with the red shirt she had received. She held it outstretched in front of the audience of three in front of Yuki as she continued.

"What I'm about to tell you is something I shamefully forgot about until I got this shirt from my parents. Here, take a look. It's very important."

Yoshino looked at the tattered and stiched Chinese shirt and looked puzzled.

"Is this yours, Shii-chan?"

Shiina snorted, "Ha! I don't think I could get away with something so old. Besides, didn't you hear her? Her parents sent her a box of her old things and this was part of it."

"It doesn't seem like something Yuki would have worn, " Shuuichi said, "whose was this?"

Yuki sat down next to Shiina, the shirt now folded on her lap, "That's what I wanted to tell you all. It was a long time ago, when I was about the same as you two. I told you before about what happened to me in middle school. I was suffering through so much pain that I had shut myself off from school for three years. I barely left my own room, except for once in a while, usually when my brother would take me somewhere. This one day, however, I had decided to leave home. I was in such a state, I'd felt so sorry for myself and like such a burden on my family. I wasn't sure where I was or if I even wanted to go. I had just gotten on a train and, in short, I suppose I ran away."

"Ran away?" the teenagers said, raising their voices slightly.

"I came back home the next week, but the time I was gone, I had met someone who was the first person, other than Shii-chan, who accepted me as I am."

"Who was he?"

"Well, I'm getting ahead of myself. As I was on the train..."

The JR train pulled away from Odawara Station, carrying with it among its other passengers, a small, frail boy, a duffel bag above him on a luggage rack. He looked downwards at the floor of the car, his hands folded over his lap, only shifting to adjust his glasses or feeling his scruffy hair.

After the incident in middle school, he had been unable to leave his room let alone go to a barber. Which was probably for the best. His father would've probably made him cut it military short. Aside from the times when his brother could cajole him, and that was only as of late, he hadn't left his home in two years.

What had finally pushed him to leave was nothing more than a whim, a heady mixture of desperation, dissatisfaction, and weariness. In his state, he thought maybe he was being bold for taking charge of his life, for once. Maube, if he was lucky, he could be a trend-setter for other bullied kids perhaps, or maybe even become a sort of post-modern hero that people would talk about one day as the first person to take charge of themselves.

As he sat there, he knew well enough that he was really just a scared boy running away. He kept thinking the same thoughts over and over and, before he realized it, he was nearing Tokyo.

"What am I doing? Why did do this? Why am I so stupid? Is this why everyone hates me? Well except for-"

It wasn't even really his fault the day he was forced into wearing the sailor suit uniform, he was bullied into it. Well, that wasn't exactly true. He was bullied, but he was definitely drawn to the iconic girls' uniform. He wore it enough times in private, at least until his mother had walked in on him and practically died of shock. There was some advantage to the family uniform store, at least.

Yuki knew he loved wearing the girls' uniform, though not for any lascivious purpose. It just felt right. He could almost imagine a life where looking like that would have been normal and no one would have laughed at or beaten or scolded him. "She" wouldn't have to feel the shame and embarrassment from her parents. If only she knew what she was being punished for, everything that had happened would at least have been for a reason.

In that life, Shiina could look at her that way he looked at other girls. Like maybe that day. Hiroyuki shook his head, face growing flush. Every time he thought he could forget, he'd somehow find a way to start thinking about Shiina. Those thoughts that just confused him further. His mind kept going around in circles at the question he'd been asking himself since he ran into him again at the batting cages after that day in middle school: Did she like Shiina because she was a girl on the inside or did she want to be a girl because she liked Shiina?

In the end, the young boy sighed and took a new look at his surroundings.

The car itself was rather empty, given the time of day and the distance left to travel into Tokyo proper. There were some Westerners, tourists most likely, some elderly folk who looked like they were on a trip and, in one corner, an odd looking teenage boy.

Hiroyuki thought the boy looked rather strange. He was wearing a rather loud red chinese-style shirt, black silk pants, and shoes he had only seen in kung-fu movies. The ensemble should have looked ridiculous, but it seemed to suit the boy. He had surprisingly long hair, though it was tied back in a pigtail and cut short in the front. Hiroyuki remarked that it would look pretty feminine if he let his hair down. However, the boy looked unkempt, dirty, tired, his shirt full of small rips, and the large pack resting on the luggage rack above looked like it had seen better days. Finally, as the boy slept in his seat, snoring lightly, Hiroyuki noted that he was ruggedly handsome. Not exactly his type, but he was very, very cute.

Hiroyuki caught himself staring too long, when he noticed the black haired boy raise an eyebrow slightly.

"Crap he noticed! I thought he was asleep!" Hiroyuki thought, panicking until he saw the boy yawn and stretch his limbs, finally opening his eyes. Hiroyuki looked away afraid.

"Hey, you know where we are? What time is it?"

Hiroyuki slowly turned to the boy, who seemed to have a light smile, and said, "Um... it's around 3:30, I think. I think we're just passed Atsugi."

"Ah, We got time then. Thanks, man. Headed into Tokyo proper?"

"Um, Yeah, I guess."

The boy stood up and sat closer to Hiroyuki. He smiled again.

"Sorry If I reek a bit. Been out in the mountains last two weeks trainin'. Can't wait to get to a real bath. Names Satotome, by the way. Saotome Ranma."

"Ah, Yoshida Hiroyuki. Nice to meet you." Hiroyuki's mind was racing.

"What are you gonna do in Tokyo, Yoshida? Visiting family? A secret girlfriend?" Hiroyuki looked down and away.

"No, I... I ran away from home."

"Oh," The black-haired boy's exuberance stopped, which seemed to lower the mood of the entire car.

"Jeez, me an my big mouth. I ain't see no one in two weeks and I get all chatty n' stuff. Look I don't wanna pry, but there a reason you can't go back? I know parents can be awful. I don't get along too well with my old man, that's for sure."

"It's okay. I just... decided to leave. It wasn't particularly dramatic or anything."

"Huh... usually when Pops are I run away, it's because we stole food or Pops owed someone money," Ranma laughed embarrassed. Hiroyuki looked puzzled at the boy's admission of theft.

"Where are you going, Saotome?"

"Home. I live in Nerima Ward. And Ranma's okay, ya know. I don't know if you noticed, but I'm not real formal."

Hiroyuki laughed slightly, "I noticed. Well in that case, Hiroyuki is also okay. Or Yuki. My brother calls me that sometimes. Besides, you're pretty relaxed, but I think your outfit is... not exactly stylish, but somehow it suits you very well. Where did you get those clothes?"

"China. Spent a few years there training. Learning martial arts. My family runs a martial arts school. I'm taking up the family business as it were. So China was the best place to learn all sorts of techniques."

"Wow, China... it must have been incredible."

"Sometimes. Other times, we were starving, or fighting angry wolves or worse, Amazons."


"Yeah. Didn't you see the TV special TBS ran? Nevermind, probably better if you missed it."

"So..." Hiroyuki cut the tension, "What's Nerima Ward like? I've only been to Tokyo once before, on a school trip."

"Pretty normal I guess... Well, I guess for normal folk it's pretty normal. I have... special problems cause I'm a martial artist."

"Hmm? Like Tournaments?"

Ranma smiled a bit and looked upwards, "If only." He sighed, then smiled, "I dunno why I'm telling you this. Maybe cause we're in a train, maybe cause I ain't got nothin' better ta do for the next hour and I ain't talked to anyone in two weeks. Or maybe I just like you. You seem like an okay guy."

Hiroyuki nodded nervously, "Yeah."

"Like I said, my Pop is kinda... well I ain't gonna put it lightly. He's a bit of a con artist sometimes. Usually it's just for a free meal, but... I got betrothed to two girls."


"Well that ain't too bad. One was my Pop's best friend's youngest daughter. She's okay, though kind of an uncute tomboy if you ask me. The other one was my best friend as a kid. I didn't even know she was a girl until she showed up one day looking for revenge."

"Um... wow."

"Yeah, and then the Amazons. Oh gods, the Amazons! I kinda sort of beat this amazon girl in combat so, according to their law, she's gotta marry me so... yeah. There's three."

Hiroyuki's eyes widened.

"Oh, and there's Kodachi, but she just thinks she's betrothed to me. Thankfully, I can usually avoid her toxins."

Hiroyuki was no longer sure if he was dreaming or not. He leaned back against his chair. pale.

Ranma laughed nervously, "Yeah. When you say it all at once, It's kind of a mess, specially when you add in the other guys who are fighting me cause they're in love with the other girls, or cause I apparently stole their bread in middle school. Or just cause they don't like my face." Ranma carefully omitted, "Or because they like my face too much" for brevity and clarity's sake.

"That sounds... awful."

Ranma put his right hand behind his head, trying to think of what to say, "It's a pain, but, honestly, with one or two exceptions, we actually all get along okay. Course the whole fiancee thing gets in the way, but it ain't as bad as it sounds when you tell a stranger..."

"Still, it sounds really troublesome. Though you seem kind enough." Hiroyuki smiled despite himself. He was having a conversation, the first real conversation outside of a family member since middle school. And it was with the cutest boy he met since Shiina, to boot.

At this time a train attendant walked by, selling food. Ranma bought a small bentou where Hiroyuki bought a can of iced ooling tea. The two sat quietly, as Ranma heartily ate his rice balls when the train suddenly stopped. Hiroyuki was thrown back strongly, spilling the contents of his can on the boy next to him.

A muffled voice come on over the speaker, "We apologize sincerely for the sudden stop. We will arrive in Ayasa shortly." The train began moving again.

"Oh Goddamit. Just my freakin' luck!" The angry red-haried girl with bits of rice stuck to her mouth had an annoyed expression on her face. Hiroyuki felt slightly faint as he dropped the now empty can down and began stuttering an apology.

"Oh, Oh God, I-I-I, Oh God."

Ranma sighed and softened her expression, " It's okay Yuki. Not your fault. Happens. All. The. Time," she punctuated the last sentence, vainly trying to hide her annoyance.

"B-but you-boy-and-tea-girl-but."

Ranma said, after drawing a large breath, in a distanced, almost academic tone, "I know I know. Look, short story is cursed springs in China, some of those other folks I told ya about turn into other things, cats, pigs, heck my Pop turns into a panda. It's not too big a deal, cold water does it, once I get some hot water, I'll be back to my regular self. I don't like it, but until I find a cure, I'm stuck going back and forth."

Ranma expected disgust, maybe coupled with mocking laughter to follow the initial shock. These were the typical responses you get for explaining why you change into a girl with adequately chilled liquid. He had seen the laughter or confusion on just about everyone's face he had met since he gained the curse. Internally, he found it really annoying that he had to see that look because of something outside of his control. It cemented his feelings that being a girl was less than no matter what his best friends seem to contradict. He braced himself for that confusion and derision.

Instead, Ranma saw a look he never saw from a normal person after seeing and being told about the curse.

"Th-That's... so cool!"

I was hoping this to be a short one-shot, but I decided it would be fun if both characters changed each other. Like Strangers on a Train, only with less murder.

Anyway, I see this being wrapped up in two more chapters. Of which I only have to write the middle. Hope you all enjoy it!