There was once a girl called Rouge. A native of India, a shy, beautiful girl, a Virgo with blood type A; at least that was how she would introduce herself.

One day, Rouge fell into one of the cursed pools of Jusenkyo. From then on, contact with cold water would turn her body into that of the three-headed six-armed fire-wielding demon known as Ashura.

Time passed. Something shifted, and the nature of the Jusenkyo curses subsequently changed. The spirit of Ashura awoke, engulfing the young Indian's mind. There was no longer a girl called Rouge. There was only Ashura.

"Ashura has returned, little ones!"

The two policemen and the five representatives of the Tendo Dojo watched the flying demon intently, waiting to see what it would do. Pantyhose Taro, in human form, handcuffed, and locked into the back seat of a police car, could only look at Ashura and growl.

Ashura swiveled around in midair, surveying her surroundings. One of her faces fixed its gaze on Pantyhose. "Ashura has come looking for you, vulgar one. You once stole something from her during her sleep time. Something that she no longer needs. Still, you deserve to be punished."

The face looked toward Soun Tendo and Police officer Usugurai, who were standing next to the car. "Ashura suggests that you step back, little ones." The two men dove away from the vehicle. A column of fiery energy came from the demon, consuming the helpless Taro.

A moment later the car's gas tank exploded. Ryoga quickly moved himself to shield Akane as everyone was thrown back by the shock wave. "Interesting," the demon said. "Ashura did not know that that would happen."

A ball of light began forming around her, quickly increasing in intensity, forcing everyone to shield their eyes. "Ashura wishes to spend some time observing this modern world before she decides what to do with it. Should any of you little ones wish to challenge her, she will be at this location at noon tomorrow. Do be warned that Ashura is not in the habit of showing mercy to her foes." She laughed as the miniature sun around her flared even brighter, until it suddenly dissipated, leaving Ashura nowhere to be seen.

Nabiki was the first to stand. "I'm going to call Kasumi and have her start calling for help. We're going to need everyone we can get on this one."


Kodachi Kuno was practicing her gymnastics routines. She was bored. The team from Makeru High School had had to forfeit the match against her team that was to take place tomorrow, due to a sudden mysterious outbreak of diarrhea among its members. That left her with nothing interesting to do.

Earlier she had gone to Furinkan to look for her beloved Ranma, only to find that he was not there. Not only that, but he had not been seen all that day, and the day before he had left school early without explanation. Something was evidently amiss with him, and the Black Rose would have to find out what.

One of Kodachi's clubs emitted a short, muffled ringing sound. She pressed a hidden stud on it, revealing it to be a concealed cellular phone. "Yes?" she said into it. "I see. What exactly is the situation?" Kodachi paused in her routine to listen to the caller's explanation.

"Very well, Kasumi Tendo. I, the Black Rose, shall attend your little gathering. I shall also speak to my brother. For now I bid you au revoir." She put down the phone and leapt up the stairs.

Kodachi's brother, Upperclassman Tatewaki Kuno, was sitting in his study, reflecting on the events of the day. He had helped the Pig-Tailed Girl as she had been menaced by the vile pervert Happosai. For the first time, she did not put her boot in Tatewaki's face or throw him down the street. For once she seemed grateful for his help, perhaps even appreciative of his attentions.

The Upperclassman was certain that he had seen, for the first time, a glimmer of the Pig-Tailed Girl's true self. Would she finally be able to cast off whatever sinister control the vile Ranma Saotome had on her?

She had finally used a name of her own, instead of calling herself Ranma Saotome as she had always done in the past. Tatewaki couldn't remember what it was, but she had used a different name. Obviously the malevolent influence of Saotome was indeed beginning to fade.

But what of Akane Tendo? She had seen the Pig-Tailed Girl's attraction to him, and pulled her away. A most jealous reaction. Clearly Akane did not want him dividing his affections between the two of them.

And was that not to be expected? Was not it reasonable for a woman in love to resent having to share her man's devotion with another? Perhaps, the Upperclassman thought, he was insane for expecting to be able to have both of them. Was there ever any person anywhere more insane than a man who could believe such a thing?

"Brother, dear!" Kodachi opened her brother's door without knocking.


"Kasumi Tendo just phoned. She requests that we join a fighting force being assembled by the Tendos. They require help in dealing with a six-armed flaming demon creature."

"Inform her that the Blue Thunder pledges his full skill and resolve to the cause. As long as there is life within me, I, Tatewaki Kuno, shall fight on, until the evil is vanquished."

"That's nice, brother. Be at the Tendo residence in two hours. In the meantime, I leave you to continue meditating on your two lady loves."

"How did you know I was..."

"Why brother! What *else* would you be doing? OHOHOHOHOHO!!!" Kodachi closed her brother's door and bounded down the stairs, laughing all the way.

Tatewaki frowned. Had his behavior become... predictable?

No matter. He would have both of the objects of his affection. He had no idea how it would happen, how he could get them to agree to it, how he could commit such an act of bigamy and still satisfy his honor. But he knew that it would happen, simply because it was right and proper that it should. He would have them both. It was only a matter of time.


Two hours later, the Tendo family had gathered together in their living room, along with Lili-Ranma, Ukyo Kuonji, and the two Kuno siblings.

"This is it, huh?" Ukyo said. "Where's Ryoga? You told me he was here, and we could really use the big lug's help. Is he lost again or something?"

The truth was that P-chan had gone back to pig form as soon as the group had gotten home, and was resting on Akane's lap. When the time for the fight came, he would be there, but for now he wanted to spend as much time as he could in the body that was comfortable to him; especially since he knew that he might not survive the battle.

"I'm sure Ryoga will turn up tomorrow," Kasumi said. "He's always there when we really need him. I also called Doctor Tofu. He can't be here right now because of his patients, but he'll be with us for the battle as well."

"That still leaves us with a pretty small fighting force," Akane said. "We're going up against Rouge. She was powerful enough to beat Pantyhose in his monster form. She might be the most powerful opponent any of us has ever faced. It couldn't get much worse than this."

"I hate to be the one to say so," Nabiki said, "but it *is* worse than that. You're not fighting Rouge, a girl who has Ashura's body and has learned a few tricks that she can do with it. You're fighting Ashura herself. You're going to be fighting a demon, maybe even a goddess, who knows exactly what she can do and is fully experienced in using her powers."

Tatewaki raised his bokken defiantly. "Though our numbers be few and the peril dire, fight we must and fight we will; for our cause is noble and right, and we will win because we are right."

Nabiki tried to think of a witty remark to add to Kuno-chan's speech, then decided to keep quiet. A little mindless optimism might not be a bad thing at the moment, considering how they seemed to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. He was certainly a better cheerleader than she could be right now.

"If Ran-chan were here, he could find a way to beat this demon thing. I don't know how, but he could." Ukyo saw the sorrow in Akane's eyes. "Oh, damn, I'm sorry, everyone, I didn't mean to remind us. I think I'll go bash myself upside the head with my spatula now."

"Where *is* Ranma?" asked Kodachi. "I for one have not been told, and I would like to know."

"I'm afraid Ranma is... not well." Kasumi thought back to a time when she had had to explain to a very emotional six-year old sister that they wouldn't ever be able to see their mother anymore. It didn't hurt any less now. "It... it looks like he might not be coming back at all. I'm sorry."

Lili watched with a feeling of helplessness. As usual. There was nothing she could do to help, no way for her to help against the fire-demon or to bring back this Ranma whose body she now possessed. Still she felt as if she should be blamed for the whole situation. This was the oddest-looking group of people she'd ever seen gathered in one place; Lili was fairly certain that she would have thought this even without the cultural differences between this new world and her home. The girl Ukyo carried items that were more like cooking utensils than weaponry. Her manner seemed to vary continuously; she would be as rough as a boy one moment and properly ladylike the next.

The man, Tatewaki Kuno, reminded Lili so much of Yang Wei, her love interest from so long ago. But she also saw in him something akin to herself. Like her, he seemed to be someone who was trying to do what was right, but whose sensibilities were geared towards another time, another culture.

Tatewaki's sister, the girl called Kodachi, frightened Lili, as so many things she'd seen since waking did. The insane-sounding way Kodachi had laughed earlier, the way she casually walked around in what appeared to be her underwear, made it seem as if she were not afraid of anything. What were the objects she carried? One of them was circular, about an arm's length in diameter. Lili took a closer look.

"Be careful, pig-tailed girl. This is one of my razor hoops. If you grip it anywhere other than in the right place, it will cut your fingers off."

Lili recoiled back into her chair. Then she wondered if it could cut her heart out, or perhaps slice all the way through her neck. She wouldn't have to live anymore in this place that wasn't hers, where her very presence brought pain and disaster. Just slice the razor hoop through her neck, that's all it would take.

Except that it wasn't really hers. It wasn't her body. If she died, what would that do to Ranma? Wouldn't that ruin any possibility of getting him back? Anyway, it wouldn't do anyone any good. She may or may not have caused the situation they were in, but now all she could do was stay and wait for her chance to do something to help.

"Good heavens!" Kasumi exclaimed. "I forgot about Mr. Saotome! He'll want to help us, I'm sure!" She went upstairs, quickly followed by the others.

Nabiki found herself the last one left in the living room. She was about to follow the others when her attention was diverted by a persistent knocking on the front door.


A familiar panda was sitting in the Saotomes' bedroom. Everyone noticed an overpowering stench in the room. "Geez!" Ukyo said. "This room smells like someone took a --" She paused, searching for a more polite way to express what she wanted to say.

"That's because someone did." With several paper towels, Kasumi proceeded to pick up a mass of what had to be panda droppings from a spot next to where Genma was sitting. "Oh dear. Oh dear. Mr. Saotome's become a panda."

"You mean... SAOTOME!! My best friend!" Soun held the panda and sobbed uncontrollably.

The panda merely grunted, not understanding the reason for all of the excitement. He only hoped that someone would bring him some food soon.

It's true, Akane thought. It's really true.

Up until then, she had still believed that the whole thing might have been some elaborate hoax. Some plot by Cologne to try to force Ranma into going off to China with Shampoo. No, she thought, Ranma is dead. He was doomed the moment he fell into that damned cursed pool.

Why was it so much easier now to feel for him? When she and Ranma had been together, they spent most of their time trying to push each other away. Now he was gone, and she felt that if she could have him back, she'd marry him in an instant, and they'd love each other forever.

How much easier it was to love a dead man. A dead man wouldn't be unfaithful, wouldn't call her an uncute macho sexless tomboy when she wanted a tender moment, wouldn't give her any of the trouble that two real people trying to share a life together would always give each other. If she could bring Ranma back, would this experience of having lost him make her appreciate him the way she did now? Would the same be true the other way around? Or would they be back to the same old fighting?

Uncute macho sexless tomboy. Akane wanted so much for someone to call her that right now.


"I'm sorry," Nabiki said, looking quizzically at the stranger on her doorstep. The woman appeared to be in her twenties, with a slim, well-toned form. She was wearing clothes similar to Shampoo's battle dress. "We didn't order any cologne."

"No," the woman said in heavily accented Japanese. Her name was Ti Pi. "I have *express letter* for you from someone *name* Cologne." Working for Amazon Express was never easy, especially considering the guarantee that a late delivery gave the recipient the right to marry the delivery girl. That would have been a particularly horrifying fate with the customer whom Ti Pi had delivered to before this one.

"Oh, duh, of course, you'll have to forgive me. It's been a really bad day," Nabiki signed the receipt form and took the letter, convinced that she had just won the Understatement of All Time Competition. Ti Pi bounded off gratefully as Nabiki examined the letter.

"Well, well..." she said to herself. Maybe here was the proverbial paddle.

She walked upstairs. Everyone else was there, just standing, as if at a loss for what to say or do. "I'm sorry, people," Nabiki said, "but there needs to be an emergency Tendo family meeting. Right now. Would the rest of you please excuse us?"

"Very well. Let the rest of us go into the dojo and spar," Kodachi said.

"Good idea," Ukyo said. "I have a serious need to work off some tension."

Tatewaki balked. "I should fight with women?"

"Ashura is a female, brother dear. Did you not plan to fight her tomorrow? Come along. You also, pig-tailed girl."

"No, I can't. I..."

"It's all right," Nabiki said. "Ran -- Lili, you come with us instead. This concerns you, too."

Akane whispered to Kodachi, "She's not a fighter. She's a Chinese girl from the fifth century..."

"You need not explain such things to me, Akane Tendo. Come, Ukyo. Come, brother." Kodachi understood. She knew full well the terrible emotions that came from losing a loved one. This girl had been in love with Ranma. Obviously the knowledge of his death, or whatever horrible fate was now his, perhaps coupled with some guilt of hers in the matter, had driven the pig-tailed girl insane.

Kodachi knew that she would have to make the girl pay if it turned out that she had had anything to do with the death of Ranma, no matter what her mental state. Clearly now was not the time for that, though. This demon called Ashura was a threat to them all, and Kodachi would not be any safer than anyone else until it was destroyed. Kodachi had been called insane by many, but one thing she was definitely not was stupid.

"Very well," Tatewaki said, as the three headed down the stairs, toward the combat area. "I have not had the pleasure of making your acquaintance before, Ukyo Kuonji. It is an honor. One of the students at my school in the class beneath mine is, I believe, your brother."

Shortly, the Tendos and Lili were assembled in the living room. "Okay," Soun said. "Now what is it, Nabiki?"

"It's nothing definite, but I just found out that there *might* be a way to help Ranma."

Everyone's eyes lit up, with various cries along the lines of "Help Ranma? How?"

"That's the problem. I don't know. This letter from Cologne was just delivered. It says that there's a way to draw out Ranma's curse, bringing him back to who and what he was. Doesn't say what it is or how to do it, only that Cologne's sent the means to a certain person around here."

"Who?!?" Akane asked. "Who is that person?"

The outside door opened. Happosai entered carrying a sack over his shoulder, looking like a miniature Santa Claus. "Hey ho, everyone! Who's up for a panty raid tonight?"

Happosai stood on the room's central table. For some odd reason, everyone was looking at him.