For Upperclassman Kuno Tatewaki, it was a matter of honor.

Honor was the reason that he was there in the American city of Los Angeles, helping Tendo Akane to locate the missing Saotome Ranma. They had just found out that Saotome was in the city, and would be at their present location at noon. Tendo Akane had just finished dealing with some local miscreant youths, and was now waiting for Saotome to arrive.

It was the Upperclassman's twisted sister, Kodachi, who brought him the news: The Furinkan High School chemistry club had come across something new, something that she would be able to use in her mad pursuit of Saotome. Tatewaki took no interest in his sister's love life; his concern was for the Pig-tailed Girl.

The Pig-Tailed girl was somewhat of a woman of mystery. Kuno knew that she had adopted the same name as the cad Saotome Ranma. Why this was was part of her mystery. It was clear that Saotome had some sort of hold over her, some power to make the girl do his bidding. He had obviously forced her to give up her own name, whatever it had been, and take his in its stead. Kuno refused to accept this travesty, and so always simply referred to her as the Pig-tailed Girl.

When his sister had told him of the chemistry club's discovery, Tatewaki had located the wretch Gosunkugi Hikaru. He instructed Gosunkugi to investigate the situation, giving him money with which to purchase some of whatever the chem club had found, and instructing him to use it on Saotome to help liberate the Pig-tailed Girl.

Some time later, Kuno was informed that Saotome Ranma had departed to some unknown location, and that this departure was due to the influence of the chemistry club's secret substance. The Tendo family requested that Tatewaki join their quest to locate and rescue the missing Saotome. Honor compelled him to accept, pledging both his personal and financial resources to the cause.

Clearly, Upperclassman Kuno's actions had been dishonorable. The ends cannot justify the means. But what of the pig-tailed girl? Would it have been proper for Tatewaki to simply ignore her plight? Could he let her continue to suffer to satisfy his honor? He had been pondering this conundrum since he had left home.

Kuno saw Akane look down the street. Someone was coming towards her. Kuno moved around to get a look at who it was. When he saw, he gaped in disbelief, hoping that his eyes were deceiving him. He knew that they had the same name, but when he had been told that it was Saotome Ranma who was missing, he had assumed that they were referring to his nemesis. But there with Tendo Akane was the one whom he had harmed by his actions. Her hair hung loose, no longer in its characteristic braided style, but it was her.

It was the pig-tailed girl.

That day, Upperclassman Kuno Tatewaki had been given a lesson in honor.


The group converged, crowding into the smallish apartment of Doctor Yafuso. Introductions were made all around. Doctor Tofu, using Yafuso's phone and Tatewaki's credit card, dialed up the Tendo Dojo. "Hello? K-Kasumi? What brings you here? I mean, have you eaten yet? I mean, he's all right, Kasumi, we found him and he's all right!" Kasumi reacted in a manner not unlike Tofu's usual behavior around her.

Akane sent Tatewaki and Ryoga out to bring back food from a nearby place that Yafuso suggested. It had been a while since they had stopped for food. Besides, Ranma had lost his memories, and the last thing he needed was to be confused by Kuno's distorted version of their personal history. She sent Ryoga along to keep an eye on Kuno.

Ranma told Akane and Tofu of all the terrible things he'd been through in the past few weeks. Akane and Tofu told Ranma of who he was: Your name is Saotome Ranma; you are the number one student of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts; you live at the Tendo Dojo in Nerima, Tokyo, Japan; you are engaged to Tendo Akane; you go to Furinkan High School. Oh, and you're a boy, not a girl.

Ryoga and Kuno entered, bearing a bag full of hamburgers and fries. The amnesiac girl nibbled on a burger as she tried to take in everything she'd just been told. She didn't know whether she could accept it all. But Akane just felt so right. If Akane said it was true, then Ranma was prepared to believe it.

"We need to get Ranma back to Tokyo as quickly as possible," Tofu said. "He needs to be checked to see what sort of damage to his system was done by the massive drug dose he was given. Then I'm sure he'll need psychological counselling as well, to deal with the ordeal he's been through."

"Wouldn't it be quicker for him to get treatment here?" Akane asked, as Ranma's half-eaten burger was passed to Ryoga. The Lost Boy gobbled the burger up appreciatively.

"Getting the kind of specialized care he needs here might strain even the Kuno bank accounts," Tofu replied. "Besides, I've already contacted some specialists back home and informed them about the case. They'll be waiting."

"You'll also have to decide what to do about the baby that Ak-- er, Ranma, is carrying," added Yafuso.

"That's right," Akane said, too exhausted to have immediately grasped the statement. Then everyone except Yafuso face-faulted.

"BABY?!?!?" they all said.

Kuno grabbed Yafuso by his shirt threateningly. "You IMPREGNATED the PIG-TAILED GIRL!?"

Tofu spoke calmingly. "Tatewaki, let me explain to you what happened..."

Ranma cried hysterically and ran into the bathroom. "N-no!!" Akane got up to follow. She gave Kuno a glance, not a hostile one, but one that told him that she had to be the one to handle this.

Akane came up to the bathroom door. She spoke softly. "Ranma?"

The door swung open.

Meanwhile, the two doctors were engaged in conversation. Kuno Tatewaki slipped out the apartment door. This went unnoticed by all, except for one person who was keeping a eye on him...


The voices in his head told Albert Bunson that it was time for a new strategy.

His plan to eliminate one of the enemy had failed. But even if it had succeeded, others could always have been recruited to carry on the evil. It was the establishment itself that was the problem; remove that, and the evil would be routed. A good plan. Of course it had to be, since it had come from the voices that are the voice of the Lord.

Bunson looked through his home and gathered the necessary equipment.


Ranma was sitting on the toilet. Akane shut the door, sat on the edge of the bathtub, and listened.

"When they... did that to me, I felt like I was so dirty... I came in here and just washed myself with cold water for a whole hour trying to get clean... now it's like there's this piece of dirt inside me that I can't get rid of!

"Akane, I used to love to eat... I'm pretty sure I always did. Now I hate it! I can still do it, but I have to force the stuff down my throat. I'm always so afraid that it'll put me to sleep, and they'll do that to me again, and I won't be able to do anything about it... I can't even stand to look at food! Help me, Akane..."

Akane hugged Ranma. She wanted to hold on forever and never let go.

"Ranma... if I ever say that you should leave again... just call me a dummy. Tell me 'Akane, you're the biggest idiot in the whole world.'. But don't go." They held each other even more tightly.


Kuno entered the park area. There was a shrine to the goddess Mary; he was familiar with some of the tales of her greatness. This place would do. The goddess Mary would be his witness. Let her record for all posterity that Upperclassman Kuno Tatewaki attempted to redeem his honor.

The Pig-tailed Girl was violated. Had the perpetrators of this most despicable crime not already been killed, Tatewaki would be hunting them down and painfully ending their worthless lives. But there was no denying that it was his own dishonorable act, his own treachery against the woman to whom he had pledged his love, that made their violating of her possible. In trying to save her, he had instead caused her untold agony. That was something that he could not live with.

He had picked up the knife at a local sporting goods establishment. The blade was designed for hunting. It was not of the finest quality, but it was adequate for the purposes at hand. Kuno set himself down on the ground in the traditional position.

Kuno was certain that no one would be able to follow him to this place. To confuse any possible pursuers, he had travelled in a pattern as chaotic as one of his insane father's shirts. Was there any manner of man who could possibly reproduce such a path, or anticipate its point of termination?

"So there you are," Ryoga said as he entered the shrine area. "I followed you."

"Ah, Hibiki. Very well, you shall be my second. Let it be known to all the world that Upperclassman Kuno Tatewaki perished in order to redeem himself for his crimes against the Pig-tailed Girl."

"You think I'm going to stand by and let you commit Seppuku?!? Have you any idea what that would do to Akane? Or Ranm -- the Pigtailed Girl??" It was Akane who Ryoga was really concerned about. He didn't want Kuno's death on her conscience. He didn't care what happened to Kuno or his "Pig-tailed Girl" -- did he?

"Honor must be maintained. I do not expect one such as yourself to understand."

"Damn it, you idiot! Honor isn't that simple! You made a mistake. I did too, the same one! Everyone makes mistakes! Alive, you can try to make up for them, try to make things better. Dead, you're just dead!!"

Tatewaki wasn't crying. No. That wouldn't be dignified. "But... the Pig-tailed Girl..."

"... isn't going to be helped by you dying. That's just going to give her one more reason to be sad. Hasn't she suffered enough during this trip? Don't make her mourn the death of a friend as well."

"Hibiki..." Upperclassman Kuno paused to collect himself, then stood. "Accompany me to this blade's place of purchase so that I may return it."

Ryoga smiled. He had just made things better.


"Damn it! Where are those idiots?" Akane said. "We need to get going!"

"I'll find Ryoga and Tatewaki," Tofu said. "The three of you need to get over to Doctor Yafuso's clinic so he can abort his pregnancy."

"Is that really... necessary? I remember hearing all of those stories... they said that if a child isn't born, its spirit has to wander the Earth forever. That's frightening."

"There's no choice here, Akane. I wish there were, I don't like the idea either. But none of us knows what would happen to Ranma if he... changed... while pregnant. If the pregnancy were advanced enough, it could kill him."

"Then can the fetus be transferred? Into me?"

"Medical science hasn't come up with a way to do that yet. I'm sorry, Akane, but I don't see that there's any alternative. Besides, as far as we know, those stories are just legends."

"I hope that's right," Akane said. Tofu silently agreed with her. "Wouldn't it be better if you went to the clinic instead of me, to help with the operation?"

"Ranma needs you a lot more than he needs me right now. Stay with him. Doctor Yafuso can handle this by himself. When you get done at the clinic, he'll take you straight to the airport. Get on the next plane for Tokyo with Ranma. I'll see you back home."

"Doctor Tofu, thank you," Akane said. "Ranma and I probably never would have found each other again if not for your help."

Tofu smiled modestly, and gave the two girls a fatherly hug. Akane was so grateful for the doctor, his quiet competence, his gentle good humor. There was a time, long ago, when she wanted more than anything to be Mrs. Ono Tofu. Now she hoped he would soon be part of her family in another way. When she got home she would ask her sister how she felt.

Akane set out for the clinic with Ranma and Doctor Yafuso. Ranma was wearing one of his old Chinese silk outfits; Akane had brought it with her from Japan.

The pregnancy was the most immediate of Ranma's problems. After that, his memory had to be restored somehow. Ranma had once helped Akane when Shampoo had made her forget him. She knew this wasn't going to be as easy.

Then they would have to deal with the after-effects of the memories he would have from this trip. Being raped; Akane couldn't imagine what that must feel like, what she would have done if it had been her. She wondered if Ranma's memories could be rewound back, if he could just pick up where he left off. Shampoo's shampoo could do that. He would come out of it not remembering anything since that day at school. Hey, which one of you jerks took my lunch? Waitaminit, how'd I get here? Never mind, just gimme something to eat, I'm starved.

No. Even if she could wave a magic wand and make Ranma's last few weeks disappear, she wouldn't do it. They had happened. They were a part of his life now, a part of *their* lives. They would work together, try to deal with what happened. Eventually, it would make them stronger.


A change in plans was necessary.

Akane, Ranma, and Doctor Yafuso got to the clinic, to find the rest of the staff standing outside with a crowd of other people. The building was in flames. So was an old-looking apartment building next door.

Joanie, the clinic receptionist, was there with a cellular phone on her shoulder. "It looks like a case of deliberate arson. It started in our building and spread over to the next one. Everyone is out of the clinic, but there are still people stuck on the top floors of the apartment building. The fire department is on its way to get them out and deal with the fire. I'm trying to relocate some of our patients, including the woman you said you were bringing in. Hello, Central Hospital? This is Joanie down at the clinic on Puedam Street. We have a pregnant woman here who needs a bit of medical attention. Our facilities are not currently able to accommodate her. Could you... Thank you! I'll just let you talk to her doctor for the details."

Ranma and Akane looked at the burning apartment house and gave each other a knowing nod. Then ki-boosted leaps propelled them both up to the top floor. Yafuso stared, wondering if it was really the planet Krypton that his visitors had come from.

Akane came crashing through a window upstairs. Moving around inside was like walking through an oven. She carried a family of three and their pet cat to the window. Hopefully, Ranma wouldn't meet any families with cats; that was a complication they would *not* want to deal with.

Her leap carried her out of the window, the residents screaming as if they were falling to their deaths. Nothing to worry about; the Anything Goes School specialized in mid-air combat, among other things. All of its students could use ki power to exert a limited control over their leaps.

Ranma's leap had carried her into another apartment, which she found to be empty. She kicked the apartment's front door open and walked into a corridor. Through the smoke, she noticed a series of old-looking automatic sprinklers running along the corridor ceiling. Evidently they didn't work.

Ranma's adrenaline was pumping. This was the kind of challenge that she lived for. That *he* lived for. Everything Akane and Tofu had told him was the truth. He knew that now. Despite the body he had right now, he was really a boy, not a girl. His memories were still a blur, but he knew that much.

Ranma called out the English word "Hello!" to try to locate any people who were still trapped. A muffled response came from behind another door. Ignoring the searing heat all around him, Ranma plunged through that door. A man and a woman were there. He directed them out, towards the window he had come in through. He followed as they crawled along the ground. The fire was coming closer. He was prepared to use his body as a shield.

Ranma heard a click from the corridor ceiling above him. No! Not now! The antiquated fire sprinkling system activated belatedly. Its water, heated by the flames, came out all over the corridor, spraying the corridor's occupants.

Ranma doubled over in agony, screaming. His body was changing, and something was coming out... What was it they had said back there? Our facilities are not currently able to accommodate...



Akane leapt up to the window Ranma had gone through. A moment later she came down again, carrying her fiance and two others. He had turned male, and he seemed to be in terrible pain. Sirens were approaching. The fire department would be here momentarily. They could finish getting the people out. Akane needed to help Ranma.

Ambulances arrived. Doctor Yafuso directed one of them to take his patient, who had been pregnant and just had a miscarriage, over to Central Hospital. Akane restrained herself from clobbering the paramedics as she had to explain to them twice, with Yafuso translating as he stared in disbelief at Ranma's changed gender, that Ranma was the one who had had the miscarriage, not her, and they had better hurry up and get him to that hospital, but first the patient would need some cold water. The ambulance drove off.

Firefighters carried out the remaining tenants from the apartment building. The ambulances took away more of the injured, with Yafuso giving first aid where needed. Fire hoses poured out gallons of water to smother the flames. Chaos gave way to quiet, as the ambulances were gone and the crowd fell mostly silent.

A weary Yafuso sat himself on the sidewalk for a moment. "You did a great job here, Joanie, thanks," he said to the woman who still had the cellular phone under her chin. "I'm going down to the hospital to check on Ranma."

"You mean the pregnant woman? I hope she's going to be all right."

"She'll be okay. She's not pregnant anymore, though. She had a miscarriage. Sort of an accident, because of the fire."

Unnoticed, a man in the crowd who had been listening turned and slipped away from the smoldering buildings. This was not the way the plan was supposed to turn out...


"I guess it's time for me to say goodbye," Doctor Yafuso said. The three were standing at the entrance to customs check-in. "You two and your friends were certainly the most interesting visitors I've ever had! I hope you'll keep in touch."

"We will, Doc," Ranma said. "Sorry about your clinic."

"Oh, don't worry, it'll get fixed. Now I can tell people that I had a patient who was a woman come in for an operation, and when she came out she was a man! People from all over will be coming to see us and give us money!" The three laughed.

"Sometime, we'll come back to see you," Akane said, "the two of us together. Right, Ranma?"

"Yeah! And if you ever need us, just call and we'll be right over. If not for you, I'd probably be lying dead in a gutter somewhere."

The three held each other in a tight embrace, until they noticed that the customs lines were forming around them. Ranma and Akane proceeded through customs as Yafuso watched, smiling and waving. It was hard to believe that the young man he saw was the same person as the nearly-starved girl who showed up in his clinic those weeks ago. He wondered again if this was what it was like to be a parent. The kids were all right.

Ranma and Akane passed through the customs check point and followed down the long series of airport corridors toward their flight's gate. They stopped at a bank of pay phones.

Akane dialed on one of the phones. "Kasumi, Ranma and I are coming home! The plane leaves in half an hour! We're coming home!"

"I'm so happy, Akane! We're all so excited! Everybody is going to be at the airport to meet you! Tell Ramna I'm going to cook a big welcome home feast for him! I'm even baking a cake!"

"Kasumi, we need to talk..."


A long way away...

"This is the Sears Tower, Johnny. It's the tallest building in the world."

"I know that, mom! Can we go up? I wanna look through the telescopes!"

"Not today, Johnny, we're going to the Chicago Museum of Art."

"Aw, mom! That's boring!"

Up in the Sears Tower, the Chicago tourists were treated to an unusual sight. A young man was running around the observation floor, looking in all directions, as if desperately trying to locate some landmark. Obviously unable to find what he was looking for, the young man in the bandanna cried out in frustration:



Ranma sat on the plane and waited. Akane, whose daily rhythm was still set on Japanese time, was sleeping. His memories were still hazy. He had no idea whether he'd read any of the magazines or seen the
in-flight movie yet, but he still found neither to be of interest. There was nothing much to do.

He thought about the old legends, of unborn spirits being forced to wander the Earth. He hoped that they weren't true.

There would be a lot to do when he got home. The trip had caused him a lot of problems that he would need to deal with. Akane would help. So would their families, and his friends. With them, he knew that he would be able to solve anything.

A flight attendant walked up the aisle. "What would you like for dinner, sir; steak or fish?"

"Oh, Uh, nothin' for me, thanks."

Of course, it wasn't going to be easy...

The boy sat quietly on the plane and waited.

But he was not alone.


For the first time, Albert Bunson didn't know what to do. He couldn't understand what the voices in his head were saying. He needed help. He went as fast as he could to the Virgin Mary's shrine, the one he'd been to so many times before.

"I don't understand..." he said to the image of Mary. "It turned out exactly the opposite as I intended. I only wanted to save the children, and in so doing, I destroyed one of them. How... how could this have happened?"

Bunson noticed that someone had walked up behind him. He looked back in puzzlement, not knowing who this person was.

"My name is Kuno Tatewaki. I believe the two of us should converse; for I have just had a similar experience."