DISCLAIMER: These characters aren't mine, but belong to the brilliant
mind that originally created them, and the rich people that bought the
rights to make a below-average facsimile of them in an animated series.

This is a divergence. The point where it diverges, will be made clear as
you read.


Ranma 1/2
The Better End?




My name is Ranma Saotome and I'm a martial artist.

It's all I've really known, and it's all I wanted to do with my
life. I've spent my whole life trainin' and fightin' with almost
everyone I've met. From my pops and Akane, to Ryoga and Mousse. I've
never felt more alive than when I learned a new technique, or beat
someone who seemed unbeatable. Like I said, it's what I know best, and
it's what I can deal with.

In fact, since I don't deal real well with emotional stuff, I
show how much I respect or care about someone by fightin' and teasin'
with `em. What can I say? It's fun. When I was engaged to Akane, we used
to fight a lot of the time. When my good buddy Ryoga came around, I
fought with him. Pops was a lazy bum, but I kinda cared about the old
goat. `Course I couldn'ta said that aloud, it wouldn't have been real
manly, so I settled for a good round of heavy sparrin'. It's what Pops
would've preferred after all.

`Cause I'm a martial artist, see? I like to fight; conflict is a
part of who I am. If I don't train and fight often, I lose my edge, and
I had to fight all the time. At least, I used to...

"Honey?" comes my wife's voice from outside. "Are you done?"

"I'm almost ready," I respond. I stare at the outfit that I've
had to wear for the past decade and sigh, but put it on anyway. A
husband should be respectful to his wife, at least, that's what she
tells me.

Oh yeah, I'm 20 and married now, so I suppose I should tell ya
how I got to this point in my life. It all started when I was 16, and
pops and I dropped by his old friend's house, who goes by the name of
Soun Tendo.

Wait, you already know that part, about how I was engaged to
Akane, and all the crazy stuff that happen to us. How I got four women
after me, three of them fiancee's.

Oh yeah, no matter what you hear, Kodachi was never a fiancee!
I'm REAL glad about that, too...

Anyway, there was Akane, of course. She was cute when she
smiled, and we got along just fine. Some people think we fought too
much, but they didn't understand that's just the way we were. We were
just kids after all, what'd ya expect? That we'd be all nice to each
other all the time? How often do you get upset with the people ya live
with? I didn't realize until much later, how much I really cared about
her. I think, it may have been love, but I guess I'll never know now.

Next came Shampoo, who was violent and deadly. Fightin' is one
thing, but it seemed like she was willing to take it farther than that.
Shortly after I beat her as girl, she relentlessly pursued me and Pops,
tryin' to kill us! She came close a coupla times, as well as tryin' to
kill Akane and almost anybody else she thought was an obstacle in her
path. Always wonder why I didn't do nothin' `bout the fiancee problem?
Well there's your answer. Between her and the old ghoul, they could've
done almost anything to people I cared about, and usually did.

Then there was Ucchan, good ol' Ucchan. Some of my fondest
memories of my childhood were when we were kids together and fought over
okonomiyaki. I had a good friend, a sparrin' partner, and some good
food. I only found out later that the boy I knew, was a girl, and then I
felt real bad when I heard how Pops left her behind. No one deserves to
have that happen to them. So when she showed back in Nerima, I tried ta
be real nice to her and be her friend, but she had changed. Now she was
pursuin' me as hard as Shampoo and Kodachi. She even tried to get in my
bed! And I thought it was just Shampoo who did that stuff. I felt real
bad, `cause it seemed I lost the friend I knew.

"I'll be opening soon!" my wife's voice calls again. "Hurry up
Ranchan!"

Sigh. "Comin' Ukyo."

"What?" Her voice sounds a little... upset.

"I said I'll be right there, Ucchan!"

"Okay!" comes the happier response.

Thought I was married to Akane, right? I wish I was. Not that I
don't care for Ucchan, I do, but, well...

You see, I always thought I'd get married to Akane eventually
and we'd run the dojo, but it didn't quite happen that way. It all
started after the Gambling King showed back up in Nerima.

No, it actually started many years earlier, when me an' Ucchan
met him for the first time. When we both lost everything to him, we
ended up tossing him in the river. It was a cowardly and dishonorable
thing to do, but we were just children.

Anyway, he showed back up later and claimed the dojo. Me an'
the Tendos had several card matches with him, and pieces of the house
were traded back and forth. I kept losing to him, so I thought training
was in order and moved into Ucchan's. She seemed pretty supportive of
me, and even let me use her restaurant as collateral in the rematch.

Except that I lost.

I still don't know how the King did it, but he beat me in that
final match. Ucchan had talked me out of stuffing cards up my sleeves,
saying it would be a much more gratifying win if I could beat him
without cheating. That proved to be a mistake, especially considering
the Tendo's lost their home to him while I was training. The only
chance, was to use Ucchan's restaurant as a bargaining chip.

Because of the promise I made to Ucchan that I'd become her
cook and travel with her (she had managed to obtain another yatai) if I
lost her restaurant, I was forced to leave Nerima shortly after that.

I had a fight with Akane that night about the ordeal. She
accused me of giving up, but I told her I had no choice, as I had made a
promise to Ucchan. I lost her restaurant to him in addition to the dojo.
And since the King now officially owned the dojo, there was no dowry for
an engagement and no longer any school to unite, meaning we were no
longer fiancees. Still, I ended up telling her I'd be back someday, and
we parted.

Pops tried to go with us, but Ucchan wouldn't hear of it. Said
the lazy panda would only end up stealin' the food and scarin' off the
customers. Made sense to me. Even though Pops had always been there for
most of my life, it was Ukyo's yatai, so it was her choice. And I guess
I wanted to get away from my old man for awhile. I also realized he was
sorta using me to live an easy life at the Tendo's, so it didn't quite
matter to him to live off an okonomiyaki retirement if I couldn't marry
Akane.

Shampoo was the last problem, and Ukyo said she didn't want her
coming along either, but I knew Shampoo would end up following us and I
didn't know how to stop it. Ukyo had an idea, though, and I only found
out later what she had done. Shampoo was so quick to marry me anytime,
that Ukyo had used that against her, by getting a look-alike. The
marriage and honeymoon went kinda quick, and now I kinda feel sorry for
Shampoo, but I hope that at least Tsubasa is happy.

Cologne didn't find out until later as well, and man was she
furious! But apparently there was nothing she could do, once she learned
that Shampoo had gotten pregnant on the honeymoon.

Me an' Ucchan left Nerima after that and traveled all over
Japan, selling okonomiyaki. For the most part it wasn't too bad, except
I found myself missing those days back in Nerima, and... Akane as well.

But I figured if I could just get another dojo, I could trade
it to the King to get the Tendo's home back again. I just had to find
the right one where I could apprentice to the master, and then inherit
it when I proved I was good enough to take over, which I didn't think
would take me very long.

However, I had to fulfill my promise to Ucchan first, but what
I didn't realize, was that the promise was gonna to take the rest of my
life. I had agreed to become her cook, but I only figured it would be
for a year or so, like the IOU's I had to pay back to her during my
training to beat the King. But the bottom line was, I couldn't get into
a dojo while I was her full-time cook.

Akane showed while we were in Kansai a little over two years
later. Apparently, she had Nabiki track us down. I was kinda glad to see
her, even though it reminded me that she had lost her home thanks to me.
Surprisingly, she didn't blame me, but instead told me how they had been
living with her grandparents.

She told me of her families plan, that they had all been
working odd jobs, in an effort to accumulate enough cash to buy back the
dojo. I promised her I would work extra hard with Ucchan to raise money
as well. When she explained that she didn't have a job, I suggested she
come with us. I figured as long as she didn't cook, we'd be okay. She
could help wash dishes or something, or find odd jobs in the towns we'd
go through.

The truth is, I sorta missed her, and I wanted a reason to have
her along. And it was great for awhile. We even started to date
occasionally. I guess without the engagement over our heads, there was
much less stress to get married and there were no over-eager fathers
pushing us together, so we got along better.

I'm still not sure exactly how or why it happened, though, but
we broke up six months later. Everything was going okay, and Ucchan had
even told us we should take a vacation at this haunted tunnel she had
found. It sounded like fun, so we went. Even ran into Ryoga there, and
for awhile, me and Akane thought Ucchan and Ryoga had something goin'.

Anyways, a lot of stuff happened in there. The ghosts were real
as it turned out, and at the end of the cave... Well, me and Akane had a
real big fight while trying to get away from the ghosts. She stormed
out, and I haven't seen her since. I still don't quite remember what we
fought about, but I guess that's when I started to feel resentment
toward her. In the past, maybe we would have made up or something after
awhile, but for some reason, I didn't feel like it.

So, it was back to Ucchan and me, since Ryoga disappeared again
after that. I threw myself into making okonomiyaki, since I didn't know
what else to do. I guess I still wanted a dojo, but there was never
enough time to find one.

Then, after awhile, Ucchan suggested we get married. We were
already engaged, and she said she loved me, and we was basically livin'
together anyway... I shrugged and thought, `Why not?' There was the
matter of honor there, and it would've made my old friend happy.

So, we tied the knot, I became a Kuonji (she insisted I take
her name), and my life hasn't been the same since.

"Come on, Ranchan! The customers are waiting!"

I sigh yet again, and exit the tent. Ucchan nods and smiles at
me, approving my current state. You see, I'm female at the moment, and
wearing a drop, dead, sexy blouse and skirt. That's was Ucchan's idea,
since there wasn't that much hot water to be found on the road, and
naturally we were caught in the rain, or I was splashed by accident.
Instead of wasting fuel to heat up water, Ucchan thought we should take
advantage of my female half to draw in the male customers. Sometimes I
feel as if I'm spending more time as a girl than a guy.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind my female half much anymore,
but I was born a guy and I feel like a guy and ain't nothin' gonna
change that. As I spent more an' more time as a girl, though, and saw
the male customers leerin' and starin' at me, I began ta get disgusted
with the idea. Oh sure, it was fine for awhile since I liked using my
girl body to scam guys and make easy money on tips and such, but it just
lost it's appeal when I had to do it for many days in a row. I figured
I'd only have ta put up with it until we found a dojo, or had enough
money to build our own.

Ucchan had other plans, however, and said we should save the
money for a nice house, and maybe a good restaurant as well. But I
needed my martial arts, they were a huge part of my life. I could train
on my own, when I had the time, but I also wanted to teach and pass on
the Art, as I had slowly come back to the idea of a getting a dojo. So,
whenever I found a nice dojo and sensei to train under, Ucchan would
tell me that we didn't need it. We had a yatai and each other, and a
dojo just didn't fit into the plan right now.

"What plan?" I asked her at the time, confused.

She smiled, and I got the impression that she was humoring me.
"Why, our family of course! We need to make plenty of money so we can
support a family."

I can still remember when I attempted to put my foot down and
tell her that I needed a dojo, that I wanted a place to teach and pass
on the Art. She countered that I could teach the our kids and that
should be good enough.

"K-kids?" That caught me by surprise. I figured I'd probably
have kids one day, and pass the art onto them, but I wanted to learn to
teach first and see if I could. I didn't want to make the same screw-ups
pop did when he trained me. I told her as much.

That's when she smiled at me and patted her belly, exclaiming
that she was a one-month pregnant, so we needed to work a lot to make
enough money for a place of our own.

The idea that I was gonna be a father hit me like a ton of
bricks. We hadn't even talked about it and then Ucchan hits me with the
news out of the blue. But she looked so happy that I relented and we
moved on. And I guess I was happy as well. In fact, the first couple of
years of marriage went pretty great, and for the first time I felt like
life was worth living again. Though, naturally I didn't really press the
issue after that, figuring that maybe after the kid was born, I could
see about a dojo.

So, I threw myself back into helping with the okonomiyaki
business, eventually running the yatai all by myself when Ucchan was too
pregnant to do much. I wasn't able to do much workin' out or fightin',
however.

And that brings me back to the present, flauntin' my body while
serving and entertaining the customers and taking orders. It's what I've
been doin' for the past several years, except when I'm takin' care of
the kids. Don't get me wrong, Ucchan likes guys, but like I said before,
hot water was scarce on the road and Ucchan felt cute waitresses and
cooks drew in the bigger spending male crowd.

"Ranma! Prepare to die!"

I turn at the familiar shouted taunt, then break into a wide
grin. "Ryoga you pig! How long's it been? Five years?" Amazingly, I
haven't run across him in the past several years. I thought for sure
he'd pop up from time to time with his wanderings.

Ryoga's grin easily matches mine. He's still wearing the stupid
tiger-striped bandanna and yellow shirt, but other than that, he has
changed. He was big and strong when we were young, but now he's
literally a mountain.

He suddenly breaks out laughing.

"What's so funny?" I demanded to know.

He points at my clothes. "What the hell are you dressed up like
that for!?"

I realize I'm still female and dressed in the skimpy blouse and
skirt. "It attracts the customers." I offer the rote answer.

He shakes his head. "Akane was right, you are a pervert." I
scowl, and he somehow realizes he has overstepped. "Sorry. Hey, are ya
free for awhile, so we can catch up on old times?"

"Ryoga." I didn't even hear Ucchan step up. I notice the area is
free of customers, so she must've turned off the grill for awhile. "It
is... good to see you again."

I notice Ryoga tense up a bit. Most people would miss it, but
I've been trained since birth to read people. That same sense tells me
Ucchan is a bit on edge. I push those thoughts aside for the moment.

"Ya mind if I take a break to talk with Ryoga a bit?" I ask my
wife.

Ucchan doesn't respond right away; she's currently locked gazes
with Ryoga. "I don't think that's such a great idea, Ranchan. We have to
get the yatai packed up and stowed, so we can move on.

"Aw, come-on, Ucchan, it'll only be a few minutes?" I plead.
"I'll make it up to you later."

She turns to me, a small smile building on her face. "I
suppose, but keep it short. We have other things to take care of!" She
walks away, but I know she's hanging around nearby.

"So," I begin walking with him. "What have you been doin' with
your life? Didja ever marry Akane?" I always figured he would, if I was
ever out of the picture. In fact, I almost wanted him to be the one to
take care of her, if something did happen to me. Better him than Kuno
anyway.

He shakes his head. "I... finally got up the nerve to tell her
how I felt, and we even went on a few dates. But it didn't work out."

I was surprised at that. "Why?"

"I don't really know," he replied, shrugging. "I guess... she
was just being a good friend, and trying to cheer me up. She told that,
while she did care about me, she just could never love me the way I
wanted her to, no matter how hard she tried. In the end, she said, a
relationship where only one person was in love, would just make both of
us unhappy. She said she didn't want to ruin our friendship that way."

That sounded a little too close for comfort. "I'm sorry man, I
know how much you loved her." And I mean it, too. While he may have been
a real pig at times, he did grow to care about her well-being.

He shook his head again. "Don't be. I did find another girl."
He blushes and opens his wallet to show me a picture. "In one of my
wanderings, I ran this girl, Akari Unryu. Our meeting was...
interesting, and I found myself engaged to her before the day was out.
Still, I did fall in love with her, and she loved me."

"Heh, now that sounds familiar as well." I guess a part of me
still loves Akane, even after all this time, even though I know we'll
never get together.

"I've been livin' at her farm for the past couple of years," he
explains. "It's been good, and I haven't felt the need to wander much
since then. In fact, the only reason I'm out here, is that Akari heard
rumors from a friend about a great okonomiyaki chef up here."

I grin internally. "Heh, came to check up on me, eh?"

"So, how's married life treatin' ya?"

"Not bad. Yourself?"

Ryoga grins a little. "Pretty good."

"Still change into a pig?"

"Yeah. It ain't so bad anymore, since Akari likes it."
We walk in silence for a bit. I can tell he's a bit
uncomfortable bein' around me with the getup I've got on. I don't blame
him.

"So, I hope married life hasn't made you soft," he states.

I read the implied challenge. It'll be good ta tangle with
someone like Ryoga. I haven't fought anyone in a long time. "Just let me
get changed and I'll show you how soft I am!" I boast.

"Sure, whatever, Saotome!"

"Hey!" I sound indignant. "Stay right here, and I'll be back!" I
start to walk off. "And don't move! I don't want you ta get lost and
wimp outta this fight!"

"Don't worry, you won't get that lucky!"

I chuckle to myself as I head back to the tent, careful not to
wake my three-month old daughter sleeping inside. I grab the kettle on
the way and douse myself once I've shed my female clothing. I reach into
my duffel bag, and pull out a new set of clothes, or should I say, an
old set of clothes.

I slip on a black pair of pants and a sleeveless red Chinese
shirt. I've carried this particular outfit with me everywhere, but it
just now dawns on me how long it's been since I've worn it. It fits
pretty well, considering how long I've had it.

I end that line of thought for now as I snap on my bracers,
slip into my shoes, and exit the tent. "Gonna have a fun little match
with Ryoga." I respond in answer to my wife's questioning gaze.

She frowns, but nods her acceptance.

Ryoga's right where I left him, and he starts when he sees me.
"So it happened to you, too?"

"You the fact that since I fell into the spring of drowned
_young_ girl that I don't age while in my cursed form?" He nods. "Yeah,
should've figured the same thing would happen with you, eh P-chan?"

"Whatever." He grins a toothy, fanged grin. "I'm still gonna
kick your butt!"

"Dream on, pig-boy," I retort, and spring to the attack.

Right off, I know something's wrong. How?

I miss.

Ryoga dodges to the side and I feel a painful stab in my gut. I
twist away and launch an Amaguriken, but to my eyes, it doesn't seem all
that fast. After I punch him several dozen times, I grab an arm and
execute a near-perfect judo throw to toss Ryoga several meters away.

"Ha!" I grin in triumph. "Take that! Now who's gettin' soft!"

Ryoga gets to his feet, an odd look on his face. "I barely felt
that. Is that all you've got?"

"Shut up, P-chan!" I snarl as I charge.

I up the speed at close range, trading various blows and
attacks. At first, I seem to have the upper hand, but it's clear I'm not
doing much damage and Ryoga seems faster than I remember. I take a
couple of his powerful piledriving punches and go flyin' to the ground.

Ryoga looks at me, pity on his fast. "What happened, Ranma?" he
asks quietly. "I would've thought you'd been training all this time, and
be much better than this."

"I ain't through yet, bacon-breath." Deep inside, I know he's
right. I haven't done much martial arts training in awhile, nor faced
any really good opponents. It's obvious Ryoga has done both.

But I'm not ready to admit defeat. I'm the best, I've always
been the best, and I always will be.

Heightened by confidence, I spring at him. I'm a blur of fists
and feet, driving Ryoga back under my merciless assault. He can't touch
me, as I'm pouring on every ounce of speed and strength I've got, only
my arms and legs feel sluggish and awkward.

I'm trying to remember how to ride a bicycle, and not doin' so
well.

For a split second my eyes meet his and we both understand
something: I'm not hurting him at all. Ryoga was always built like a
tank, and agin' and trainin' has only solidified his rock-hard muscles.

He clips my side, sending pain shooting up my torso. That slows
me down for his backhand that knocks my head to the side. A punch to my
gut doubles me over, then a two-fisted slam sends me down to the ground.

I spit out some blood and attempt to rise, but my shaky arms
and legs won't respond very well.

"Stay down, Ranma," I hear Ryoga's worried voice. "It's over.
Rest."

"NO!" I scream. "It's not over!"

I drunkenly regain my feet and Ryoga shakes his head. "Maybe we
could do some training and get you back into shape..." The look of pity
comes back into his eyes for a moment, but he forces it away.

It was too late, anyway. I saw it. "Go ta hell, Ryoga! I can
beat you any time I want, bacon bait! I was always better than you!"

Ryoga shakes his head again and for the first time I notice
that he never once raised his anger in response to my insults. "Maybe...
another time..." He turns to go. "It was good seein' you again, Ranma."

I shakily try to follow, but collapse to my knees. "Yeah, run
away and get lost! It's what you've always been good at!"

He doesn't retort or respond, but disappears into the forest.

Tears are coming down my face now, but I don't pay much
attention to it. I collapse to the ground as I sob, and then Ukyo is
there, holding me and whispering soothing words to me.

"It's okay, Ranchan," Ukyo tells me. "Ryoga's always been a
bully. It doesn't matter that you lost; winning or losing doesn't mean
anything. You still have me, our child, and, the yatai. What more could
you want?"

Good ole Ucchan, I think to myself. You just don't understand
my need to be the best, nor what it really means ta be a martial artist.
I sacrificed so much to be good at what I do, always looking around for
the next challenge or opportunity to advance my skills. It's obvious,
though, that it would take years to even match Ryoga's strength. Hell,
even Kuno could probably give me a good run for my money now. I'd have
to do some serious training to regain my the skills I had when I was
younger.

However, it's unlikely to happen now. After all, I've got a kid
to take care of and the yatai to help run. Where am I going to find the
time to do some serious training?

And for that matter, can I even get those skills back? I wanted
to be the best, so where did I go wrong? Are all the good fights with
good friends behind me now? Do I really have to give all that up? Is
there any way for me to happy with the way my life is now?

I am no longer what I was, so just who am I now? This question
scares me the most, because I don't know anymore.

My name is Ranma Saotome, and I... I used to be a martial
artist...