I saved up all my sunshine
Just to see you more clear
I'm a little short on solar
And I haven't given in
No I'm going to hold you anyway
And I'll do it without shaking
Yes I'll love you always
And I'll do it without aching
Yes I'd give you anything
Yes I'd give you anything
I gave you everything
Gotta watch myself
I've gotta love myself
And take care
-Tegan and Sara
This is Everything
When did it start? What was the trigger? Shit, I've thought of that for a real long time now and I always come up short.
Maybe it was when I was 5 and dragged out of my house to go train. Maybe it was at age six when I lost my best friend. Or when I was ten and got thrown in the pit of starving cats and I could do was hear and feel... them, all the while beggin' for my mommy and apologizing for whatever it was I did to deserve it.
It coulda been at age twelve when my next best friend followed me to the ends of the earth over bread. Or the years in China where we dragged ourselves around every dojo, temple, brothel, and little old lady's house borrowing, begging and stealing all the while, though really mostly the latter two.
Most betting folk would say the real catalyst was probably Jusenkyo, though it wouldn't surprise me if I'd been bugged by it before then. When you're training to be the best martial artist and man among men, there ain't much room for introspection, 'specially along those lines. And there's the stuff I've already talked about since Jusenkyo. The Amazons, the Tendos, the Kunos, Ukyou, Ryouga, Herb, Saffron...
But, If I'm honest, it all really started the day of the failed wedding when I got cured.
Actually, it looked like a lost cause when the little troll drank that cask of Nanniichuan water. Majorly pissed off with every but of chaos happening around me, I stomped the guy, throwing all my weight on his stomach as I pressed him to the ground.
Well, he ain't Grandmaster of Anything Goes for nothin'. The little bastard threw up everythin' in his stomach on me. When I couldn't decide whether to throw up myself or outright kill the bastard, he tossed me into the pond. It was the first time (barring one time with a packet of Instant) that I stood from that koi pond with my bait and tackle intact, so ta speak.
So yeah, I got my wish and I'm a true man again?
Happy day right?
I thought so, too.
Cue about three weeks later. Akane and I were on good, almost great terms. We hadn't fought. Hell, we were starting to enjoy each other's company, given the chaos around us. The other fiancées gave me some goddamned needed space. Hell, even Ryouga kept his sorry ass on the farm. While not exactly overjoyed cause of the way the wedding came out, Ma was proud of me and Pops... well Pops was the same slimy bastard he always was. What can I say? Some shit never changes.
It was about then that Kasumi decided we might as well do some spring cleaning. Part of that was clearin' out the closet space I had for my girl stuff. I kinda surprised myself with how much space I needed for all of that shit, not to mention the space in Kasumi's closet she let me have just for the shoes.
Once I cleared it out, it looked barren. Hell, there was enough room now that I could probably keep extra clothes, a spare backpack, and a tent for Ryouga if he ever stopped by. My guy stuff, at best, was only like a fourth of the clothes I had racked up since Jusenkyo. Just a couple of pairs of pants, my Chinese silks, undershirts, kung-fu shoes, a suit, jacket, and tie, and some winter clothing. I mean, part of that is practical, I like wearing stuff that's easy ta fight in and part of it is just that guy clothes are kinda all the same. I mean, who gives a shit?
And yeah, I guess it was kinda sad lookin' at my stuff go away, but hey, not like I had a use for it. Didn't exactly fit anymore, ya know.
That's probably when I started wonderin' if I fit anymore.
It was low level stuff at first. I'd be walking down the shopping district and catch myself staring at a mannequin just a bit too long than I shoulda been, or looking at a cute girl and thinkin' about her shoes. Her goddamned shoes. It was embarrassin'. Especially since I'd usually look down at my own feet to imagine it.
Now, I know I ain't exactly a big guy. Hell, Pops is bigger than me. I also ain't built like a truck like Ryouga is. But, compared to my old girl-type? No contest. This was a guy's body.
So catching myself looking at my own feet I started feeling... loss? Grief? Wrongness? I had no fuckin' clue. I didn't have the words to say it and, even if I did, I was scared to death of anyone knowin' it. After about a month of this crap, I decided to go to the only person I knew I could talk to.
I ain't ever had siblings, so maybe I'm talking outta my ass here, but Kasumi is the closest thing to a big sister I know. And, this is embarrassin' to admit, I felt more like a little sister ta her as well. Not a lot of people know this, but she saved my butt more times than I can count, especially when it came to girl-body stuff, like when she calmed me down and set me up when I had my first period when I had the Cat's Tongue. Even more important, she never mentioned it to nobody.
So sittin' in her room again, after what happened at the wedding, felt real weird. Like I was here to give my condolences or somethin'. She was putting laundry away, keepin' busy.
I asked her, "Kasumi. I kinda need to ask you somethin' It's kinda... it's kinda important."
"What is it Ranma?" she replied while fixing up her shelf of books.
"Do ya... do ya miss... 'her'?"
I've always been kinda shitty about spittin' things out. Thankfully Kasumi is more perceptive than she looks. Probably picked that trick up from the Anything Goes playbook.
She sighed as she sat on the bed next to me. It still felt a little weird to see her without havin' ta crane my neck up.
She answered in that same, sweet voice of hers.
"Ranma... you're still the same person, but... maybe, just a little, perhaps."
She's too goddamned kind. Hearing that made it easier for me to sigh a bit and reply.
"Yeah... me too."
Kasumi gave me a small hug. I hated it at first, cause it made me feel weak, but then I started hating myself for hating it. Then I did somethin' I hadn't really done since that time in Jusendo when I thought Akane had died in my arms.
Actually, scratch that. I bawled my fuckin' eyes out, while doin' everything I could to make no noise possible. Which was tough, cause I wanted to scream loud enough to make the dojo come crashing down.
"I'm so stupid," I said, straining to be heard but to also make sense, "Why didn't I get it through my goddamned skull that it wasn't so bad?"
"Ranma," she said, holding me tightly, like nobody except Ma had ever done, "you're always so focused on accomplishing goals. I know you sometimes have a hard time finding a solution to whatever is going on, but once you do, you, more than anyone else, finish what you start."
I was shaking my head a bit. I didn't need a pep talk. I felt too rotten for that kinda charity.
"But..." she kept going, "Sometimes you have to take time to assess and re-assess things. Not just what you can see, hear, or feel, but on the inside. It's not always your fault when you don't take a second look, but to me, it's one of your weak points, Ranma."
I sighed, regaining some of my composure, "yeah... but now what?"
"Can you just be cursed again?"
"I dunno if that'd even work." I wiped my face, "And I ain't askin' the ghoul. Like ever."
"Maybe you can write to that nice girl whose father works at Jusenkyo, um..."
"Plum?" I shrugged, "Well... couldn't hurt."
It wasn't much, but it was a plan. However, I still had a nagging feeling.
I looked away from Kasumi, and said, "Until I know for sure... what am I supposed ta do?"
I wanted to ask her more questions. How was I s'posed ta fill the part of myself I lost? At the time, I didn't really know how much space it took up. Not just my closet, but... inside. Yeah yeah, don't know what ya got until it's gone. I've heard that song and dance a few times.
She shook her head, "I don't know, Ranma."
I stopped cryin' on her shoulder, but she just kept hugging me for what felt like forever. It felt good, but I also felt guilty.
A couple of weeks later, I got the letter back from China via Kasumi, who was nice enough ta keep it filed away in her recipe folder until I got home, just so pryin' Nabiki eyes couldn't get a hold of it.
I threw my self up to the roof of the house and read it slowly.
Dear Honorable Guest Ranma,
I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you for your letter. Father and I are well since the last time you were here with the Phoenix
Tribe. The springs are back to their usual selves. The Joketsuzoku have been very nice to me. I sometimes get to play with the girls my age.
I'm surprised you are asking this. Usually, when guests are cured with the right water, we never hear from them again. Father told me he's only ever had one guest with "buyer's remorse" (I think that is the right phrase in your language).
However, I'm sorry to tell you, but while it is possible to douse yourself in Nyanniichuan once more, your body may not be able to adjust itself to the same curse a second time. Unless you inflict yourself with a strong version of the curse, such as through the Chiisuiton, there's a chance you would become... Father says the right word is "unstable" and either merge both forms into one or just disappear into the mist. You could, of course, try a different spring that's similar, such as the Ashuraniichuan, but it would be unsafe to use Nyaniichuan in the usual manner unless you decide to make it permanent.
I hope we can be of further use, honorable guest
It wasn't what I wanted to hear, but I also kinda expected it. I also started ta wonder if it was the universe's way of tellin' me to shit or get off the pot.
Of course, this was when, while I was still at a loss as to what to do, the fiancée wars started up again. It was small at first. Seeing Shampoo down the street one too many times. Ucchan askin' me to share lunch with her. Hell, Akane was gettin' testy with the mallet again, though if I was careful, she'd actually listen to me.
But, honestly, I was too distracted to avoid them totally and, while they enjoyed their vacation and raring to prove themselves as fiancées, I was busy havin' an identity crisis. I did the only thing I could think of and unleashed the Saotome Ultimate Technique.
Yeah, I skipped town.
Not permanently mind ya. But I started escapin' Nerima as soon as class ended on Saturdays, buyin' time until Monday morning. I'd just pack a change of clothes and head out to central Tokyo and got lost.
It was kinda nice. I got to play tourist in a city that was technically was my hometown. I met lotsa folks. Hell, I'm pretty sure the homeless guys around Yoyogi Park thought I was a hero when I saved those Iranian day laborers from some cheap thugs.
One day, I ended up in Shinjuku's Second District after having gotten something of a lead wandering the city. The Second Distrct is I guess where a lot of folks who don't... 'fit in' go.
It's kinda funny lookin' back. I probably stuck out like a sore thumb. And that ain't even factoring in the whole martial arts-related crap. I mean, I was this scared lookin' straight guy in the middle of ground zero for Tokyo's queer folk.
It was at this bookstore, Ikoi Books. I dunno why I entered, after all. Probably cause I don't gotta pay anythin' just to look around. Probably cause I was kinda scared of it and being scared made it a challenge.
Ikoi Books was a surprisingly large place. Aside from the library, there was a small seating area and even a a little bar in one corner where there was a guy makin' coffee. I felt like an idiot, but I kept noticin' the guys holdin' hands, or the two women kissing quickly when they met each other after browsin' around. Not like a little peck like you hear about Europeans doing. I mean, like a real kiss. I shook my head clean. I got enough on my plate without thinking about that.
I frowned a bit when I found the section on gender and sex. It was real tiny compared to the stuff for gay guys and even for lesbian women, though that was pretty puny too, I had ta admit.
I picked up this book that looked good. A Pocket Resource on Gender Identity, Sex, and Sexuality. Had a lady doctor on the cover and everythin'. And I just started... reading. Yeah, Yeah, I can hear ya say it. "Saotome? Read? Can he even read a book without pictures in it?" Well, normally I'd agree with ya. I've never been much for studying. Blame Pops, I guess. I know I do. But if you know I ain't the kind to just crack open a book, you know I ain't the type to back down just cause it's somethin' I ain't good at.
Anyway, I started reading. The book started with this glossary. I was kinda dizzy tryin' to get it all straight in my head. The takeaway I guess is that ya got three things: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality.
Sex was the body ya got when you were born. The doc says "it's a boy" or "it's a girl", though I guess some folks aren't either or something? Only thing analogous I could think of at the time was what happened to Taro as a kid, but then I realized it probably wasn't like that at all.
Sexuality was what kind of people ya like: guys, girls, both, everybody, nobody. With my life, there was no way I was gonna start figurin' that out. Though I was pretty sure whatever it was, girls were in the picture somewhere.
The last bit, gender indentity, was what you felt ya were. Like, did ya feel like a boy or feel like a girl or something in-betweeen or neither or sometimes one, then another. That was the question of the year and the reason I ended up here. Hell if I was gonna get an easy answer. I just started reading everything I could, even though I was stumblin' on some of the medical jargon.
I dunno how long I was there. I was so absorbed readin' that I didn't sense the guy.
"Can I help you, kid?"
Panicking, I threw the book down and went into a stance, stable foot placement, legs slightly bent knees, and the arms out, but loose, ready to block or counter-attack. I got a good look at the guy: in his 30s, kinda short, shorter than me even, but only by about 5 centimeters or so, shaved head, glasses, muscular, almost stocky, but kinda lithe. The face reminded me a bit of Mousse, though the guy had regular brown eyes instead of green. He was wearing a button shirt and slacks, but had an apron on with the store's name on it.
Anyway the guy held his hands up, saying, "Woah Woah, didn't mean to scare you! I should have realized you'd be jumpy."
I relaxed and stood up. I dunno what the guy saw, but my face felt like it was on fire, like he was gonna tell the whole world where I was and what I'd been readin' about.
The guy waved. "I'm the assistant manager, Maruo Hinoshiya. We don't see too many kids your age here. Usually they're sneaking into clubs or wandering around with a date."
I looked away from him, feeling a bit silly I had dropped my guard at all, "Oh... sorry. I'm, uh, Saotome. Ranma Saotome."
"First time in the Second District?"
"Huh? Oh, um, yeah I guess."
Maruo then kneeled down and picked up the book. He looked at the cover and gave me a funny look. I was gonna get pissed, but then he smiled and handed me the book.
"Let me know you have any questions. I know we all do." Then the guy walked away, sly smile on his face.
I shoulda been pissed. If that smile was on Pops, or Ryouga, or any of the other guys I knew, they'd be out cold before you could say "Moko Takabisha". On that guy, it just seemed... I dunno.
I just ignored the guy and took the book and found a small chair.
I pretty much spent the day there. I had read, and re-read, and re-re-read the book, taking breaks to drink a coffee, think, go outside and wall-jump to the roof of the building to practice a few forms, scream a bit, toss some ki around, and have a sandwich. I ended up picking up three other books from the shelf, and kept reading.
It wasn't till Maruo tapped my shoulder and told me they were closin' up that I realized how late it was. I was the only person left in the shop, aside from him. He even had the outside shutters down and the closed sign turned outwards.
I grabbed my face in embarrassment, "Oh... sorry. I hope I wasn't too much of a pain in the ass, man."
"Oh, no you were perfectly fine. I told you we don't get a lot of teenagers here, but I'm happy to see them when they come in. Did you like the book by Dr. Okabe?"
"Uh, Oh yeah, the Pocket Guide? Yeah, it was tough to wrap my head around, but I guess it's a start... Man I've been tryin' ta read it so much, I should probably buy it." I reached into my wallet. I looked at the 2000 yen there forlornly.
"Crap. I only got enough for either the book or a train ride home."
"Well... I can let it slide and let you take it home."
"Really? I feel bad. I can just walk home. I run about as fast as the train, once ya figure in stops and stuff."
Maruo blinked and I remembered I wasn't in Nerima. I musta looked embarrassed again, cause Maruo smiled that smile again.
"I can see why you were so tense earlier. Are you a martial artist, by any chance"
He just kept smiling. I thought the guy was riling me up. I stood up, offended, and maybe wanting to toot my own horn cause of how lousy I felt.
" 'A' martial artist?" I stood up and said, forcefully "Look pal, I'm Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts!"
I made a fist and pointed to myself with my thumb, "I'm not just 'a' martial artist. I'm 'the' martial artist. I throw ki around like it's going out of style. I've won every challenge put before me. I've defeated everybody who's come to the plate."
I started counting off with my fingers, "Masters of Other Schools of Martial Arts, Dojo Destroyers, Ghost Cats, Chinese Amazons, half-dragon princes. I've killed a Phoenix Demi-God! So... yeah, I'm 'a' martial artist."
Normally that kind of display either makes people run away screaming or start thinking about taking me to the nuthouse. Maruo just smiled that damn knowing smile again. There was this crazy mix of Kasumi, Nabiki, and Cologne in his smile.
He asked nicely, "I take it you've been groomed to be a "man's man", then? I wouldn't also be surprised if you have women clamoring at your feet. More than you can stand, but honor forbids you from doing something?"
I stopped in my tracks, muttering "How the hell do you know?"
I started getting my guard up, drawing up my ki, just in case I had fallen into a trap. He just laughed softly again.
"I figured as much. You wouldn't believe it, but we're not so different, Ranma. Wanna know a secret? I was an Olympic figure skater."
I looked at Maruo incredulously. The guy looked too short and too muscular for that. Usually male skaters are like that bastard Sanzenin. A bit muscular (I mean they gotta lift them girls up, even if those girls weren't bigger than 45 kilos), but mostly tall and skinny.
"A Female Figure Skater," he clarified
Now my eyes were buggin' out.
"You've been to Jusenkyo!?"
He tilted his head and looked at me funny.
"Uh, nevermind... You're a girl?"
"In a way, I was. I was born 'Makiko', but I've always thought of myself as a guy."
"I transitioned. It was sort of like the way Okabe describes it in the book. I got diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, got on hormones, had an operation to fix my chest and I changed my name. Technically, I need more surgery to change my sex in my family registry, but that's more trouble than it's worth."
My head was reeling, not from the revelation. I mean, I've seen weirder shit in my day, but goin' from reading about something to meeting a person fitting the description was jarring.
"Sounds like that was tough."
"Well, not so much compared to before. My mother had me in skates since I could walk. We practiced every day. Two hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. In high school I went to a special cram school so I could spend most of the day practicing and then I'd go to school in the evening. On top of the skating, she was grooming me to be elegant, graceful, and super feminine. Needless to say I despised it."
"Y-you don't say..."
He nodded, "Oh yeah. And on top of that, I had male suitors up the wazoo! four or five of them, if I remembered. I mean one of them was nice, but a bit rough. Another was a friend from elementary school. Yet another was from an influential family in South Korea. The other two were creeps, in my opinion. Not that I really liked any of them. I'm straight, you know."
My cheek twitched slightly as I nodded. "Ah... I think I know what you mean about not being too different."
Maruo kept going, "Finally in the 88 Olympics in Calgary, I snapped. I kinda wrecked my opening round routine, my mother was furious, calling me "unladylike" and "a disgrace" and I... just kinda gave up and stopped caring. I told her off then and there. I didn't hate skating, but I hated the outfits, I hated the suitors, I hated having to be a proper woman, and, most of all, I hated having had my life dictated to me rather than letting me live as I saw fit."
Shit. Aside from the whole 'fighting for your life and the lives of those you care about' bit, he was a male counterpart to me... or was that female counterpart? I said the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time
"You're fucking kidding."
Maruo laughed a bit. When he laughed, I noticed it seemed a bit higher in pitch than I'dve expected, but if he hadn't just told me his life story I never woulda second-guessed it.
"It's all true, though I have a feeling the 'demi-god killer' knows that too. So, Ranma Saotome of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, when did you first realize you might be transgender?"
I struggled for a moment to recall the term and its definition, then blushed when I did. I spat out, "Oh, um, I'm not um... transgender... I think? I mean, I actually had a girls body... kind of?"
I shook my head, "Okay I'm gonna go through a lot of shit that won't make sense, so bear with me, I ain't crazy. Up to about two months ago, I had a Chinese curse that changed me into a girl whenever cold water splashed me and back into a boy when I got hit with hot water. I got it cured at my... almost-wedding."
Maruo gave me a raised eyebrow. I replied, "Don't ask."
I sighed, "But since then I've been feelin'... I dunno, empty? It took losing the curse to realize I actually didn't hate it as much as I said I did. But now, I gotta deal with the fact I got a..." I picked up the book and skimmed through the glossary, " 'gender identity' that don't match my body no more."
"I believe that means you may be transgender."
I sighed, "What do I do about it?"
Maruo grabbed the book and walked towards the small counter near the back of the store, talking, "Well, Dr Okabe has some good advice. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You can dress up in private or, maybe in a year or two, go to one of the transgender bars here and dress up there. Lot of people do just that to have 'normal' lives. If you wish, however, you can always take hormones, which will feminize your body. You can change your name, though I'd say Ranma is pretty neutral. And, finally, you can get surgery... 'down there', let's say. If you do that, you can get your sex changed in your family's register."
I nodded, I mean, I read those same steps earlier. At the time, it all just seemed like an insurmountable challenge, given a couple of things. The first one was Ma. Ma alone was gonna be one of the worst things that happened to me. Shit, I just finally got to know her as a person, kind of. Two was Akane. She might call me 'pervert' for the last time and then throw me to the curb. Hell the Tendos and my parents would probably throw me to the curb. Even if Kasumi backed me up. And then, finally...
"But what If I'm not sure I can be just one or the other? I got used to switching bodies, though I don't know if it's cause I was supposed to hate one and not the other or if it didn't matter to me or..."
Maruo walked back, the book, now wrapped in a red book jacket. It was red like my hair. Well like my hair was.
"Hmm... well, I don't know anything about magic or curses. The only thing I can suggest is finding someone to talk to. I can get you a list of therapists who help kids like you. I'm around the neighborhood as well, but I just run a bookshop."
"I thought you were an assistant manager?"
"Assistant manager and Co-owner. My wife's the manager. She runs the books while I do the day to day work."
"Your wife, huh?"
"Yes, she quite something..." He switched gears, "You said something about an almost-wedding. Did you like the girl, at least?"
"What, Akane? Uh..." Shit. "Yeah, I do. A lot. I was pissed I got knocked upside the head and woke up in a tux, but I did want to marry her. The other fiancées ruined it, though. I think she still kinda hates me for it. Don't help I got my own shit to deal with now. I don't know if she can handle it."
Maruo smiled as he led me out of the bookstore. "Well, chin up, you're still just a kid. If she likes you enough, she'll stick around."
Before I realized it he handed me the book, nudged me outside and closed the door.
"Wait I didn't pay-" I yelled, but if he heard me, he didn't care as he walked away and turned the lights out.
I looked at the time and rushed it to grab the last train home.
Comin' back, I saw Pops half-drunk in the living room.
He stood up shakily and started buggin me, "Where were you, boy? You're slacking in your training!"
I sighed, "Lay off Pops. I went out. I even rescued this drunk salaryman from some muggers. Ya know, doin' the duty of a martial artist to protect the weak?" I wasn't lying, though, I just jumped over the drunk guy and plowed through the two muggers before they could even say, "gimme all your money" while running to Shinjuku Station.
"Where have you been wandering off these past weeks. Not dishonoring the family name, I hope."
I sighed, Irony of fuckin' ironies. I spied the half full mug of cold tea. I looked at the old man and said, "Pops, I wouldn't even know where to start."
I swept his feet and gave him a "gentle" tap so that he collided with the table and, sure enough, I walked away from a passed out Panda and I made it up the stairs.
I stopped at Kasumi's room and knocked on the door. Surprisingly she opened it.
I reached into my shirt and pulled out the book. "Hey Kasumi, can you do me a favor and hold on to this? It's kinda important and I don't trust Nabiki or the old man to not look through it. I know you gotta a lot of medical books and stuff so nobody'll know its mine. Um... you can read it if you want to, though." I gave her the book. She opened it to read the title, looked at me and nodded.
"Okay, Ranma. Let's talk over some tea soon. Good night."
"Night Kasumi." I said. I wandered in my room. I tried ta sleep, but it wasn't comin'. I sat up, turned on the lights and went into my closet where I pulled out a large shoebox, like the kind boots come in. It had a couple of sentimental items: my first pair of arm bracers, a pic Ukyo gave me of us when we were kids, the case the Phoenix Pill was in, the dress Ma bought me when she thought I was Ranko, the boutonnière I had on my tux for the wedding (someone was smart enough to use fake flowers), and a scrapbook Kasumi made for me about a month after the wedding.
The scrapbook had a ton of pictures, going all the way back to almost the day I showed up at the Tendos. I wonder how Kasumi managed to get them from Nabiki, but it was goddamned comprehensive.
There were photos of me fighting the regulars, from the first time with Kuno, a ton with Ryouga, the old ghoul from when I was stuck in the Cat's Tongue, Mousse, Ukyo, even a couple of em with me fightin' Happi in Furinkan High.
There was a section for the big events like the Gymnastics Fight, the Figure-Skating match, the Takeout Race, The Tea Ceremony fight, Martial Arts Cheerleading.
Then there was a section on the big fights: dramatic shots of me versus Taro, Ryu Kumon, and Rouge as well as group shots of us on Kuno's Island before Prince Toma, before we went to Mt. Horai for the Kaisuufuu, and the two times we got the gang together to go to china to fight Kirin and, later, Saffron.
Finally, there was a section of photos of me and Akane. Hanging out, arguing, her beating me up after teasing P-Chan or getting too close to Shampoo. There was a big photo of that one Christmas when I sang with her, Nabiki, Kasumi, and Shampoo. The best photo, though, was one where Akane and I had fallen asleep in the living room, and didn't realize we were holding hands.
I'm sure it's pretty goddamn obvious at this point that the common denominator to all those photos was that I was in my girl body.
I just looked at the years of memories I had stored in here. I wanted to cry, again, like the first time I talked with Kasumi, but somehow I couldn't do it. After a while, I heard some rustling outside, so I put it away, turned out the lights and went to bed. Sure enough, Pops lumbered into bed next to me. I fell asleep before the damn panda started snoring, as usual.
Things kinda kept going for a while after that, though only an idiot would have missed the tension growing thick in the meanwhile. Shampoo and Ukyo were growing restless, even distrustful. Akane wasn't much better, but somehow, through the bluster, I could give her a look that kinda meant "not now" and "I'm sorry" and she'd somehow understand. The one thing though was that I started seein' her less and less often. I didn't think about it much at the time. I figured she was hanging out with Yuka and Sayuri, doin' stuff I both couldn't care less about and was kinda jealous of.
I didn't have a chance to go back to Ikoi Books or talk to Maruo again. After that weekend, it became real obvious somebody was following me. I thought it was Pops, but he would've resorted to the Umisenken. Hell, I know I would if I were him. I suspected it was either the old ghoul, Konastu, or the combined force of Nabiki's unofficial spy network, which might as well be INTERPOL or the CIA as far as I was concerned.
Thankfully, I had an "inside man", so to speak, in Kasumi. Hiding in plain sight had been my best option. As long as I picked my times right and made sure I wasn't seen, it was easy enough to head into her room.
Sitting there alone, I practically destroyed the book Maruo gave me reading it. Kasumi was able to pick up some others as well from the library. When she had a free moment, we talked a lot as well, mostly about stuff going on in school or with the fiancees and whatnot, but sometimes we'd get more serious and talk about the girl we both missed and whether or not I was up to being that person.
We both knew that, no matter how I decided, it was gonna be a tough sell. Talking though it over with her, I knew Kasumi was brighter than anyone gave her credit for, me included. She had the discipline and honorable disposition of Akane and the tactical, analytical mind of Nabiki. That she was hiding it under the guise of the Yamato Nadeshiko was impressive enough. That she was doing all that and acting as my second therapist and adoptive big sister? Shit, Kasumi is the only person aside from Ma and Akane that I would kill to protect.
She also helped me find my first therapist. It was tough, because I knew having a routine where I would go to the same building at the same time every week meant that the poor sap who took on my case would be drawn into my world of chaos and would either get his files stolen at best or kidnapped and interrogated at worst.
Thankfully, I found a guy. It took Kasumi explaining it to get him to agree, but yeah, Dr. Tamura was okay with it. He had multiple offices which he rotated, located in different parts of Tokyo. We staggered the visits so that the durations were different (6 days one week, 10 the next). With a bit of memorization of the Tokyo Subway System, I could get to each place in about an hour to an hour and a half, no matter what route I used or how many cut backs I needed to make to make sure I wasn't being followed.
Was it paranoid? Fuck yeah. Was it necessary? At the time, I thought my life was on the line, if not literally, than everything but.
It's hard to explain to regular folks what it means ta be sought after. Unless you're a fugitive, a sailor, or got a stalker, most people don't get pursued. Hiro and Dai never got that. They were always like "Oh, did ya do it with Akane?" or "How bout that hottie Shampoo?". They didn't get that, for me, my life wasn't about "scoring" with girls, cute or not. For one thing, and it ain't ta brag (well maybe a little), I was enough of a "hottie" in my old body that I didn't really need to stare like they did and two, each girl had her pluses, minuses, and baggage. The most important part that they never really got was that I only really liked Akane that way. I know I was shitty about sayin' it, but not bein' an idiot wasn't exactly my strong suit.
Anyways, the last thing Kasumi did was start helping me get back in touch with 'her'. There was some emotional stuff, but I've never exactly been good at that kinda thing. Kasumi wanted me to try speaking more like a girl. Like the sound coming out of my throat, not the words. I wasn't going all that dainty, ya know. The big thing, though, was dressin' the part. Given my new height and build, I guess it was good Kasumi was so tall. I had access to some of her older stuff. Of course, most of it was on the girlier end of the spectrum, but beggars can't be choosers.
I felt kinda silly... okay, really silly, even after she had made some underclothes that helped make me look less like a guy in a dress (which is never fun and usually leads to you getting beat up, in my experience). More than a few times I groaned that I was turning into Tsubasa or Konatsu (oh, the advice I coulda got from those two), but Kasumi kept reminding me that they were guys who dressed very femininely whereas I wasn't exactly a guy.
I kept reminding myself that, like a mantra. After about three weeks I started feeling comfortable. It wasn't the same, but I could start to see my old self in my face. It became... fun? I wasn't a petite busty red-head, but I had my charms. I was taller, which was a plus and my black hair, while not as exotic, was still nice. Thank god I didn't have much stubble to get in the way.
It's a crappy analogy, but what I thought at the time was that, if my old girl-body rivaled Shampoo in hotness, this new body could maybe rival Ucchan's in cuteness. If I didn't feel like the world would possibly explode cause of it, I probably coulda walked around without getting much in the way of a second glance with some practice.
Of course, all of that backstory is to say that the only problem with finding shelter in the eye of the storm is that, eventually, the storm moves on. I ain't afraid to admit that what happened next was cause I got careless after three months of the only place I could breathe being her room. I wanted to feel safe that badly. Because of it, though one day Akane Tendo caught me in Kasumi's room wearing a dress and in the middle of putting on a pair of hose.
That was a fun day.
I opened my mouth to start to protest, but I stopped. Talk was cheap and, with the look she gave me, I didn't know if she'd even hear me, let alone understand the words coming out of my mouth.
Thankfully it looked like she was doing the same thing.
Given the second to act, I leaped out and shut the door behind her.
I cupped her mouth gently and whispered whatever string of words I could throw out.
"Kasumi knows! It's okay! I'll explain! Please, please don't hate me!"
When I said that, it kinda took us both by surprise. I guess I didn't realize how fragile I had gotten and I think that, more than what I had on, is what broke her brain outta the rage-yelling-mallet loop. She calmed down.
I looked at her and tried to say something, anything.
"Oh... shit. I... don't you ever- No, no... shit." I kept fumbling my words. My way with words is just another thing I get to thank Pops for.
"Stop yammering. What the hell is going on, Ranma!" she whispered in that same tone I was using. Her senses were realigning.
"I... shit." I reached over, got the well worn book with the red cover from the shelf, opened it to the bookmarked page, and gave it to her.
"I got that a while back at a bookstore in Shinjuku. The guy who ran the place was real nice. Since then, Kasumi's been helping me deal with it."
"Kasumi?" she asked me while she was reading.
I nodded, "Yeah Kasumi. She's been awesome and there for me. Seriously, if it wasn't for her I probably woulda run away for good or.." I muttered, "thought about offin' myself."
I looked down at my stockinged foot, "I'm sorry if this is too goddamned perverted or it ruins your image of the guy you almost married, but I'm freakin' lost in my own body. I'm trying to come to grips and figure out what I'm gonna do. That ain't easy when I got the shit you know I have down my back."
I looked at her as she walked over and sat down in the chair by Kasumi's desk. She asked me, "How long has this been going on?"
"Well, about a month after I started running away during the weekend, I found that bookstore. Also talked to some people, Kasumi, the bookstore owner, and just random folks. I got a therapist about two months back. Funny, huh? and ... 'this'?" I pointed to the outfit, "couple a times over the last month."
I couldn't read her expression just then. I wanted to know what she was thinking, but at the time all I could do was thank the gods it wasn't just blind rage.
She asked me in this dull tone that reminded me more of Nabiki than anythin' else, "What are you deciding?"
I swallowed, "... That book I gave ya. That part I showed you? I've musta read it a hundred times by now. That's pretty much how I feel... I gotta decide how I'm gonna live with myself... before ya ask, living like I did before the weddin' is right out. If I get cursed again, I gotta do it permanently. I don't get to half-ass it amymore."
Akane's eyes widened. At the time I dunno if it was shock or betrayal. I know she probably woulda preferred she was in the loop, but I think she also realized that would've been too much too quickly. Either way she kept giving me the eye. I looked at her, but kinda unfocused.
"I talked it over with Kasumi and the Doc. I realistically got two options. I can go hit up Nyaniichuan with the Chiisuiton and say goodbye to my guy body forever. The plus to that is It'll be, for all intents and purposes, like I was born a girl." Akane winced at hearing that and, I gotta say, I was wincing along with her.
"The other thing is seein' if I can be happy doing what I can in the body I already have. That lets me be the "guy" Pops and Ma, at least, want me to be when I gotta be that. The downside to that of course, is, unless I wanna take pills to mess with my body chemistry, I'm basically just a crossdresser. That ain't right, but that's what everyone is gonna think."
I sighed a bit and looked at Akane again.
"I gotta say both choices... well they suck, but since one of the choices still let's me the father of your kids... I'm trying the second choice."
Even as I said it, I wondered why I had. Maybe I finally realized the jig would be up sooner or later and I needed answers from people I care about. Maybe I'm just that much of an idiot. I don't know.
I do know that when you're at your most vulnerable, whatever defenses you got tend to crumple. This was the person I loved, even if I was too stupid to say it then, seeing me more exposed than if I was havin' heart surgery. Everything I thought I needed for my survival fell out the goddamn window.
"Ra-Ranma?" She looked at me with this confused look I was pretty sure I was mirroring back.
I was babblin' like an idiot, but I couldn't stop myself.
"Y-Yeah, well... I mean... if ya wanna... you know, get married n' stuff... Like, after college or you know... damn me, this wasn't how I was thinkin' of asking you. I was trying to get my head on straight before I did anything. The doc was telling me it was tough for me cause Pops taught me ta have good instincts when it came to being on my guard, to findin' the next enemy or whatever kinda weakness they had. I never exactly learned how to be... what did he call it? 'Self-reflective'. I've been spending months tryin' ta figure this out."
I couldn't even look at her. I stood in front of the mirror Kasumi had on her closet door and frowned at the reflection, "I mean... shit, it's not like you'd marry me if I really became a girl, right?"
I didn't see Akane's face. I don't think I could've then. She was real quiet as well. I spoke again, if nothing else to cut through that silence.
"If... If you wanna call it off, I guess I understand. Even if ya do, can we be friends? I... I really care about ya, but... I guess what I need right now is people who'll let me talk without biting my head-"
"Ranma! Shut up!" The voice was still technically quiet, but yeah, she sounded pissed. I closed my eyes and braced myself.
"Why?" She asked in this tone... wasn't accusing or pleading, just... she just wanted to know.
"Cause... Cause I made a mess of things when I thought I had to be cured. I didn't... take time to look and see if the situation changed. I'm hard-headed too, ya know. And now, cause of that I gotta decide between hating myself or ruining everything. I ain't even sure which is worse."
"Why do you think you're going to ruin everything?"
I couldn't believe it. I mean, how the hell wouldn't it ruin everything I had in my life!? I know to most folks, it ain't much of a life, but, fuck it's mine.
"Cause, Tomboy!" I shot back, "Ma may decide I gotta die, after all. I know Pops and your dad will try and kick my ass and toss me out of the house cause of it. Shit and... and..." I started crying again, like I did with Kasumi, "I don't wanna lose you Akane. I don't want you to go away. I had a good thing going, but now I gotta pick between losing the person I love and losing a big part of myself. A bigger part than I ever thought I had in me."
Like I said, when you're vulnerable, when your guard is down, it all comes tumbling out. Even the words you've been trying for years ta say.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and I tensed up. I really wasn't sure what was gonna happen to me.
I felt her hug me from behind and I started trembling. God, I wanted nothin' else but to turn around and hug her back, but I was too scared. Plus, I started feeling more and more ridiculous in what I was wearing.
"Ranma... I think... maybe I hit you in the head too many times for my own good. I'm not gonna go away you idiot."
"But you want a husband and kids and-"
"I want Ranma. I don't care as long as I get Ranma."
"I... Damn, I never thought I hear something like that from you, tomboy."
"You're not the only one who's been doing some soul-searching since the wedding, idiot. Thank god for Nabiki."
"Nabiki?" That threw me for a loop, "was she the one tailing me? I honestly started thinking I was bein' followed by ninja or the ghoul herself."
"I only asked her too because I was worried you were seeing the other fiancées. But it was two months and you went just about everywhere else in Tokyo but Ucchans and the Nekohanten. Nabiki's impressed too. she never thought you'd be sneaky enough to evade her team."
For the first time in a long while, I laughed.
"Heh. She knows better than to mess with Ranma Saotome."
"Don't be an idiot Ranma," she bopped me on the back of my head.
"Ow! Sorry Akane..."
She kept hugging me, leaning against my now relaxed back.
"She told me about the bookstore you went to... Maruo and his wife were really nice."
"Y-you met him, huh?"
"Yeah. I spent some time with Setsuko. I cried a lot. She told me a lot of her story and Maruo's "
"Her story? I didn't meet her, though."
"Maruo told you about himself, right? The part about the registry."
"He's legally married though."
"Which means," the gears clicked, "Oh." I nodded. Well, maybe it worked out for her, but Akane wasn't like them, or me. I was still unsure about us. I got my bearings and asked again.
"Are you sure about this, Akane? You're not gonna miss me as I am right now?"
She joked, "What, in one of my sister's hand me downs?" I slumped.
"You know what I mean. The 'man among men' and all that comes with that bullshit title."
"Of course I am. A little bit, at least. Most girls dream of being held by a tall strong husband." She felt my body sink again and tapped my shoulder before resting her head against me.
"But... I told you, I want Ranma. I want that hard-headed, arrogant, stingy jerk who hates to lose, but also hates to hurt people's feelings, does everything they can to help others, and never gives up."
"But I won't be the same... even if I don't take the Jusenkyo option, even if I do it the hard way, I'm gonna be a 165cm tall girl with broad shoulders, at least half of the time. And if I think the way I'm thinkin' now, it'll probably end up as most if not all the time. If I take pills, I wouldn't be able to have kids. Not without the kind of money I don't think anybody here outside of Nabiki could afford."
"Then... maybe you should think about Jusenkyo," she quietly suggested.
I wasn't expecting that answer.
"Are you sure? You know what people will think. You wanna get married to a little runt of a girl? I can at least fake being a guy for a while, when you need me to."
She giggled a little, somehow, "Ranma, you're that little runt of a girl, you know, even if you're too scared to tell me. I've had a long time to get used to a little red-headed Ranma. I want to get married to you."
"But..but what about kids?"
"We can figure something out."
I was running the options we got in my head, "Y-you ain't gonna... like go find some Nanniichuan for yourself or somethin' are ya?" I gulped slightly, but stopped. No sense in bein' a hypocrite. Akane wants Ranma. Ranma wants Akane. I can deal.
She shook her head, "It's a good idea but... I was just thinking maybe Nabiki and Kasumi can help us with that part, especially if money's required."
"You sure we can trust Nabiki? The last thing I need is half of Nerima after me to 'save me' from myself." I sighed.
Akane nodded, "I think we have a bit of leverage to make sure she doesn't."
"Kasumi can ask her not to."
I coughed out a small laugh. That was the flimsiest idea I'd ever heard. But... if Akane was okay with me. If she still liked me. If she still wanted ta marry me...
I turned around and looked at her finally. She looked up at me and laughed a bit.
"W-What's so funny, Akane? I know I look stupid."
She shook her head, "No, Ranma. You only look stupid when Ms. Hinako calls on you and you're asleep in class. You look like yourself again. You're cute, Ranma."
I hugged her pretty tightly and whispered, "Thanks, tomboy."
She answered back, "You're welcome girl-boy."
We stood there together a while. Kasumi gasped a bit as she entered the room. I think we shared a good laugh. It was... I guess the word was cathartic. The three of us knew the road ahead was gonna be tough at best. Winnin Nabiki and Ma over wasn't going ta be a picnic. Pops and Mr. Tendo were gonna flip their lids. Ucchan and Shampoo would try and save me from myself. I had no idea what the ghoul'd say. And those were the players who had something ta lose without a male Ranma around.
For that small bit of time, though, the three of us were able to breathe again. I didn't know what the future was gonna bring, but I was damn sure I wasn't gonna stop moving forward.
Okay, this is one of a series of one-shots I've been working in lieu of my longer stories. The reason for such is that I'm working on my brevity and efficiency with language. My goals are to tell something resembling a cohesive story in under 10,000 words. I'm also trying to work on different types of genres (one of the one-shots is a light comedy) since my largest story, Balance, is straddling many genres. My future plans at the moment include finishing the following three one-shots:
One More Time, One More Chance- sort of the Mirror to This is Everything. Curse locked Ranma gets divorced by Akane after a years-long loveless marriage and has to figure who he or she is.
Difficult to Love - My attempt at a BL Story. Bisexuality exists and love is difficult to get. Not too maudlin, though not exactly a dramedy.
Twenty-Two Short Stories About Furinkan - Pure comedic fluff in homage to The Simpsons's classic episode "Twenty Two Short Films About Springfield", itself an homage to the movie Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. The Ryouga story alone is worth the price of admission.
After which, I will concentrate on finishing the shorter multi-part stories I have:
Hourou Budouka is getting close to being finished. I'm ironing out the human drama plot holes in Chapter 2, but otherwise chapter 3 and 4 are finished.
Yume Bakari Jya nai Shoujo is chugging along, but I'm worried I've either written myself into a corner or I've condemned myself to scope creep. I really did want it to be a one-shot, but it has ballooned to 4-5 chapters.
Finally, I will begin to focus solely on Balance, which has been on the backburner, though Chapter 5 is more done than not. Once 5 is finished, the next two to three chapters should be fairly straightforward plot heavy action adventure until we get back to Character Drama.
I would always love pre-readers, especially for the one-shots. PM if you'd like
That's all from this end, I have to be heading back to my interminable number of LibreOffice windows now ^_^;