Ranma 1/2 manga fanfiction
by Gary Kleppe

The characters of Ranma 1/2 are the creation of and rightful property of Rumiko Takahashi. They are used here without permission. This story may be freely redistributed, but it should not be altered substantially or used for profit in any way.

A chilling wind blows across Jusenkyo.

Bamboo poles vibrate back and forth like the tines of tuning forks. The waters of the Jusenkyo pool in front of me swirl, casting ripples outward from the poles. The glassteel barriers around the springs shake and tremble with the sound of ghosts rattling their chains. I try to remember how long it's been since the walls went up. Twenty years already? Thirty?

I sit, staring at the pools in front of me. I wonder whether you understand. The thought that you don't presses down on me like a massive weight. Burned indelibly into my memory, the last look on your face hovers before me. Your eyes gaping with utter confusion, with a single, unspoken question: Why?

I know you and I were never the closest of friends. I'd always meant to sit down with you someday and just talk -- about everything that I've been going through all these years, especially in the early days when we met each other for the second time. About what you meant to me, and what I wanted you to mean to me. I guess someday never comes. Or if it does, it comes too late.

The wind kicks up again; it stabs through my tired, old body, penetrating my tunic as if it were nothing. I should've worn something warmer. So many years ago, when I was young, I dressed like this all year round. Only a few weeks ago, a breeze like this would've been a welcome respite from the heat. I should've worn a sweater. Summer is gone, no matter how much I want to pretend it isn't.

I know you can't hear me anymore, but do you understand, Ran-chan? Understand why I killed you?


It all started with the dream.

I was young again. Ryoga and I were together, back at the cave. The ghosts swarmed over us like flies on horse droppings, forcing the two of us apart. You and Akane, engrossed in one of your usual arguments, didn't even seem to notice what was happening to us as the two of you walked out.

I'd gotten the two of you to go to the cave in hopes of breaking you up, you see. But it didn't exactly work out that way. The ghosts went for Ryoga and me instead, thinking that we were lovers. "No, you idiots! Get THEM!" we shouted, but it fell on dead ears.

But in the dream, something was different. I heard your voice shouting over the moans of the spirits. "Akane!"

I turned to look in your direction.

"Ucchan!" you said to me. "Akane can't get out!"

Suddenly, there were no more ghosts. Akane was embedded in the cave wall like a piece of fruit in a jello mold.

"I can't leave without her, Ucchan!"

I moved to help, to try to pull Akane out of the wall. But she wasn't in the direction I looked. The cave spun like a kaleidoscope, and I tried to hang on.

Then I woke up. The dingy brown of the cave faded into my bedroom's familiar muted whites and yellows.

Yawning, I stretched my arms as high as they would go. The supple, youthful body I'd had in the dream was gone, replaced by wrinkles and sags. I closed my eyes, trying to bring the dream back for just a few moments, but it was gone. My shoulder joints ached, as though someone were trying to pry my arm off with a chisel.

It was funny. As a girl, I'd hidden my feminine curves under breast bindings and boys' clothes. Now they were gone, and I had the scrawny, unfeminine body that I'd only pretended to have back then. Youth, as they say, is wasted on the young.

I looked across the room. Shan Pu sat cross-legged on the floor, quietly meditating, smiling slightly as her eyes met mine. She'd gone to sleep on my floor the night before. Sadly, I remembered why she'd come to town -- for your funeral, Ran-chan.

Yes, that's right. You died. Less than a month after Akane passed away, you followed. If anyone had told me that I'd outlive the two of you -- not to mention Ryoga, Kuno, even my own husband -- I'd have called her
crazy. Maybe okonomiyaki is the secret to long life, eh, Ran-chan? Your death was natural causes, by the way. Heart failure. Oh, I know I said that I killed you. But that was later. Not this time.

The dream was still as stuck in my mind as Akane had been in the wall. I wondered about what you had said in it. *Akane can't get out.* What did it mean?

"Good morning," Shan Pu said. Her hair was gray and her face worn, but her body was nearly as buxom as it had been when we were kids back in Nerima.

"Mornin', sugar." I slipped out of bed, grabbing the robe from the bedpost. "Ready for some breakfast?"

She stood. "Don't you need to get to work?"

"I'm giving myself the day off." I smirked. "My staff is better at dealing with yuppies, anyhow."

After the recession hit, I'd had to move my restaurant downtown; the businessmen who ate there could afford to pay what I needed to charge to keep myself going. It broke my heart to leave Nerima -- especially seeing how you and Akane just kept running your martial arts school year after year, somehow always making ends meet, even helping me out when I needed it the most. I felt like I was abandoning you.

But that's life, I suppose. Time keeps rolling forward, and nothing will stop it. I've heard people talk about the 'stream of time,' but that's not what it is at all. It's a raging river with huge waterfalls and rapids. We hang on to anything that floats as the current pulls us downstream, trying desperately to avoid drowning or being smashed against a rock, all the while trying to enjoy the scenery because we know we'll never see it again.

"It's strange." Shan Pu stared wistfully out the window. "Life without Ranma. I thought he'd go on forever."

"Me too," I said. "I guess he couldn't bear being away from Akane. It really hit him hard when she passed away."

"Yes, I know." Her voice dropped to a mumble. "He can't live without her." Her Chinese accent made 'live' sound like 'leave.'

I remembered what you'd said in the dream, and stared at her. "What did you say?"


A quick conference, and we came to the conclusion that we'd had similar dreams. It had to mean something. But what? Nothing that we'd be able to figure out by ourselves.

So we went for help. Fortunately, one of the perks of being an Amazon matriarch is instant access to transport. Before the day was over, we were at Jusenkyo -- or Zhouquanxiang, as the locals called it. I don't know whether you'd had a chance to go see the cursed springs lately, Ran-chan. It's not at all the way you'd remember.

When we got there, it was about two in the afternoon, but long lines of tourists still stretched out in front of the front gate. Billboard signs overhead listed the admission prices. We went around to the employees' entrance at the side.

The green-uniformed attendant said something in Chinese. I'd studied a little Chinese here and there -- enough to recognize her standard may-I-help-you greeting.

Shan Pu answered, speaking too quickly for me to catch any of what she said.

The attendant flipped open a data port and stared for a moment, said something, and waved us in.

Past the gate, the lines were much, much longer, bending back and forth in paths marked off by makeshift rope barriers. TV monitors showed clips from old cartoons, liberally interspersed with advertisements for other Warner-Disney attractions around the world. Plaques identified the particular pools that the visitors were waiting to use: Spring of Drowned Man, and so forth.

Of course, none of them were actual Jusenkyo springs; Pu Lanmu had dug holes, coated the bottoms with polyshield to prevent any seepage from below, and filled them with the single-use instant waters. The real springs were sectioned off behind glassteel barriers, so that the visitors could only stare at the signs. Spring of Drowned Werewolf. Spring of Drowned Tragic Lovers. Spring of Drowned Mime. I'm pretty sure that Pu Lanmu had made some of these up, substituting for things like Spring of Drowned Frog which were just not as impressive.

I suppose the walls were a good thing; we certainly didn't need any more Ashuras or Pantyhoses flying around. But still it bothered me somehow, to see people let themselves be herded around like sheep, going where they're allowed and never even wondering what they might find at the other places. Safety, all in all, is a good thing, but too much of it and a person might as well be dead.

A hovercar met us at the edge of the park, and moments later we were in the office of Pu Lanmu. A photo of her father, the original Jusenkyo Guide, stood on the desk.

"Sorry to bother you, sugar, but you're about the smartest person either of us knows when it comes to the supernatural. We were hoping you'd be able to figure out why...."

"Actually," she interrupted, "I already have."

Shan Pu and I stared at her, waiting for her to spill it.

"When you told me the dreams you'd had, I suspected, and a quick check confirmed it. Do you remember one of the pools here that was created when I was young? The Akaneniquan?"

We both nodded.

"Well." She leaned over her desk. "When a pool is created, it does so by binding a portion of the creature's spirit to the land. That's what Ranma was telling you in the dream. Akane's spirit is anchored to Jusenkyo by that spring. She can't get out. And his own refuses to go on to where it's supposed to without her."

I boggled at her ability to be so blase while telling us such a thing. So completely unflappable, so unlike the way you've described her father. From what I've been able to gather, Jusenkyo has some sort of special destiny in the far future, and its caretakers have to make sure nothing happens to it in the meantime. It's as if she's a subnuclear station operator, and the rest of us are children that she had to take to along to work. *No, honey, don't touch that button. Here, play with this instead.*

"I'm afraid there's even worse news," she continued. "His spirit can't endure in its current state, without a physical body to anchor it. If he doesn't give up and go where he's supposed to go, it won't last indefinitely."

An awkward silence prevailed for a few moments. "So how can we free Akane?" I asked, afraid that I wouldn't like the answer.

"I'm sorry." Pu Lanmu slumped. "But I'm afraid you can't. There's no way to unbind a spirit from a spring. Even destroying the pool wouldn't help. There's nothing you can do."

Inside me, a memory bubbled to the surface. I'd wanted to keep you and Akane apart.

Life's never more cruel than when it gives a person what she asks for.


Shan Pu and I wandered outside. The late afternoon sun hung low in the sky, stabbing its harsh glare into my eyes.

"Think she's telling us the truth?" I asked.

"Yes," Shan Pu answered without hesitation. "I've known Pu Lanmu since childhood. Sometimes she... fails to mention things, but I've never known her to lie."

"So there's no way we can help Ran-chan?"

She stared thoughtfully at the mountainside. "Maybe there is."

"But Pu Lanmu told us that...."

"That wasn't exactly what she said." Shan Pu popped up to her feet. Determination flashed in her eyes. "Let's go."

I stood. "Go where?"

"To the village," she answered. "I've got an idea."

Even though she was my oldest friend -- both figuratively and literally -- I wasn't completely sure that I should trust her on this. I like Shan Pu, really I do, but I know as well as anyone how vindictive she can be when she doesn't get her own way. I hate to admit it, but that's something she and I had in common. Was she planning to make things worse for you, Ran-chan, just out of spite because you decided that you loved Akane better than her? Yes, I know that that was a long time ago, and like me, she'd already loved and married someone else. But you're the kind of guy a girl never really gets over.

Still, there was nothing else to do but follow.


Shan Pu went inside the Amazon Council Chamber to speak with the other Elders.

They made me wait outside, which didn't make a lot of sense considering that they shouted at each other loud enough for me to hear them quite clearly anyway. Pro forma, I guess. Sadly, the Council aren't much more than figureheads anymore, not since the overseas companies came in and set up their sweatshops. The Elders are still in charge, but it's pretty much understood that that's only as long as they follow the dictates of the companies. So I suppose pushing around a little old chef like me made them feel important, and I really couldn't find it in my heart to begrudge them that.

Nothing for them to be ashamed of, really. For years and years they'd survived the rest of the world's various attempts to persuade them to end their isolation. But not even Amazons can fight against world-wide disease epidemics, not without medicines that they lacked the know-how and equipment to make themselves. China's much-vaunted industrialization only made it worse, as the polluted air and food lowered the populace's resistance.

I listened to the shouting match that was resonating through the walls, and could make out a few of the words. Shan Pu kept saying one particular phrase... "meirenyu de xinzang." Mermaid's heart? She had mentioned an Amazon magic item by that name to me. I tried to remember what she had said about it.

The other Elders barked back harshly. They spoke too quickly for me to make out any words, but the angry shouts on both sides made it clear that they were denying her what she was asking for. I perked up as I heard your name... Ranma always... something I don't understand... for the Amazons? And in reply, the other Elders just repeated what they'd said before, in the kind of snotty tone of voice that suggested that rules are rules, and nothing could be done about it.

Then Shan Pu said something that, for a moment, left them speechless.

"Duan jue guan xi." What did it mean?

Then it came back to me. It was the exact phrase her daughter had used the last time anyone saw her; an Amazon's last resort -- withdrawing from the sisterhood and severing all relations with it. It struck me, the severity of the risk she was taking for your sake. But that inner voice still nagged at me that it might not be to help you.

The conversation dropped to a level that I couldn't hear. Voices buzzed with frantic desperation. Shan Pu had hoist them by their own petard. Their own Amazon law gave her the right to do what she was threatening. I knew her well enough that I had no doubts about her willingness to go through with it -- but did they? Or would they try to call her bluff, leaving her without a home and you without the item that could help you?

The heavy, wooden door creaked open. Shan Pu stepped out. Wordlessly, I followed her up the stairs, noticing the leather satchel at her side.

Outside, she explained what the Mermaid's Heart did. I'd been wrong. The other Elders weren't simply unreasonable; they had a good reason for wanting to hoard this particular item.

All at once, I knew exactly what Shan Pu had planned. And I shuddered at the thought of what we'd have to do next.


"Go ahead," Shan Pu said. "I'll stand guard."

Easy for her to say.

I stepped forward into the cemetery. A half-empty moon hung low in the darkened sky, draping gravestones in deep shadows like the wings of gargoyles. The whole place was utterly silent, as though the slightest sound would wake the dead, make them rise up against the intruders who sought to violate their rest.

Stop thinking like a frightened little girl, I told myself. Dead people don't do things like that. They're... well, dead. But that wasn't completely true; if it were, we wouldn't have come here.

My flashlight stabbed forward, illuminating the flagstone path. I walked hesitantly ahead, shining my light at the various tombstones, until I saw the one I was looking for.

Here lies Ranma Saotome.
Master of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts
Beloved husband of Akane

Something howled in the distance; the sound sliced through the air like a scythe. Reflexively, the giant spatula flew into my hands, and I spun around to look. Nothing. Just some animal in the distance, I supposed.

My heart pounded in my chest like a gorilla trying to escape its cage. I exhaled, then breathed in deeply, trying to calm myself down, knowing that if that one old, fragile organ went, so did I. Gods, I thought, I should've let Shan Pu do this by herself; I'm too old for midnight school-child pranks. And what would I say if someone saw? Oh yes, I've taken up grave-robbing; every old lady needs a hobby. True, if it were just some random passer-by, Shan Pu would be able to make them remember that they'd been on the other side of town all evening; but one of your children would be a different story, Ran-chan.

Okay, I told myself. Time to get this over with. The spatula swung down, digging into the dirt behind your headstone.


The sun came up, spilling its light across the horizon as we arrived back at Jusenkyo, two days later. I found the spring that we had marked, the one that Pu Lanmu had picked out for us the day before. We had about an hour before opening time; more than long enough to finish what we needed to do.

Shan Pu laid your remains carefully down on the ground next to me. I had no idea how she'd managed to get you here from Nerima without the Transport Authority finding you, and I didn't really want to know. Your eyes had decayed away to a dull, brown glop. I looked away.

Unzipping her satchel, Shan Pu took out a gem. It was round, made of clear crystal, about half as big as an okonomiyaki. Blood-red streamers of light sparkled from deep within, dancing in mesmerizing spirals. The
Mermaid's Heart. She held it to her chest. Her head bowed, and her eyes closed, and the gem glowed with an orange fire. Looking at it was like staring directly into the sun.

And your hand twitched. And your eyes blinked, and you began to stagger to your feet. And I wished that I didn't have to do what I had to do next.

That's the power of the Heart, you see, Ran-chan. To bring the dead back to life. But once used, it takes anywhere from fifty to a hundred years to recharge. If some young Amazon were to die tomorrow, she would have to stay dead; and it would be Shan Pu's responsibility.

You know as well as I do what happened next. I guess coming back to life must've felt like nothing more than waking up from a long sleep. You must have been surprised to find yourself at Jusenkyo, let alone to see
me there; so surprised and disoriented that you had no time to react as my spatula knocked you off your feet and into the pool.

That was the only thing we could do, Ran-chan. Akane will be imprisoned here until Jusenkyo's special destiny, whatever it is, is fulfilled. We couldn't change that.

So we opted for the only remaining choice. And I'm sure it was what you'd have wanted, if you'd known. But you didn't, at least not consciously. Neither did you know that your heart condition would've killed you again in a matter of minutes. All you had time to think about was the water surrounding you, rushing into your lungs as your last breath of air deserted you. And you looked back at me with eyes that I'll remember for the rest of my days; eyes full of betrayal and helplessness and most of all, puzzlement. Eyes that made no sound, but whose words were nevertheless clear.

*Why are you killing me, Ukyo?*


I notice Pu Lanmu standing behind me, and realize it's only a few minutes before the park's scheduled to open. Shan Pu is already long gone. Tonight she'll go back to Nerima's graveyard and put back what we took out, and as far as anyone knows things will be back to the way they were.

Stepping back, I take a last look at the two pools. I thought that telling my story would make me feel better. It hasn't. I still feel sickened, as if something were eating my stomach from inside. Why? Ran-chan got what he wanted. He wouldn't leave Akane imprisoned here on her own, so he's locked up with her.

Or is he? Maybe she and he are in adjacent jail cells. Close enough to be aware of each other, but never able to touch. Maybe Shan Pu knew that that would happen, I think -- and then dismiss the idea as paranoia brought on by lack of sufficient sleep.

I look at my watch and turn to Pu Lanmu. "Aren't you opening up now?"

"We're closed for emergency repairs until noon," she says. "The walls have to be put back up." Two servobots hover behind her; sunlight glints barely noticeably off the transparent sheet they carry.

"Oh, right." I pause awkwardly, staring back at the two springs, feeling somehow that I should have something more to say. "Well, I guess I'll get out of your hair then."

She smiled. "Have a safe trip home."

I start to move toward the exit, and then turn, breaking into a sprint. In an instant, I stand on the narrow strip of dirt between the Akaneniquan and the Ranmaniquan.

"Stop!" Pu Lanmu shouted. "What are you doing?!" I now know what her father must've been like.

My image stares back at me in Ranma's spring, as if beckoning me to enter. Sorry, honey. Three's a crowd. And I don't want your body, Ran-chan. I've gotten over that little obsession.

I reach behind my back. The spatula swings down and digs into the ground, scooping aside the soil, carving out a channel between the two pools. Tongues of water stick out at one another, enlarging, finally touching. Waters mix and swirl, running back and forth across the channel, pushing aside even more dirt, until there aren't two springs any longer, only one.

Pu Lanmu stands gawking, her eyes nearly popping out of her head. "What-- what have you done?"

I just shrug, and smile at her. Truth is, I have no real idea. I don't know how this will affect Jusenkyo's destiny. Tomorrow is another day, as they say. I know it won't last, but for a few precious moments, I feel young again.

Not looking back, I begin to make my way toward the exit -- this time for real. Silently, I make my last farewells to my old friends. Goodbye, Akane.

Goodbye, Ran-chan.


AUTHOR'S WORDS: This started out as my entry in the FFIRC One Hour Challenge. The idea came from my HaM series, specifically the association of Jusenkyo curses with the spirits of the creatures who seeded the pools. I thought about what this might mean for Akane considering the events of Ranma vols. 37-38, and decided that it would be better explored in a separate story. Given my current writing speed (use of the term "snail's pace" would be highly unfair to our friendly mollusks) doing it in an hour turned out to be far too ambitious; it actually ended up taking three weeks to write.

Thanks are due to the FFIRC crowd for their encouragement after reading the initial one-hour portion of this, to Donny Cheng for supplying the Chinese phrases used at the Amazon village, and especially to the many readers on the FFML and FFML-R who sent comments and suggestions on the various drafts of this story.

Liked this story? Hated it? Indifferent? Whichever it was, I'd like to know what you thought.