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.


"Base to patrol four. Patrol four, report. Over."

Corporal Sauchuk spoke into his radio unit. "Patrol four. Entering area C. Everything appears to be clear. Over."

"Roger, four. Stay alert. Base out."

Sauchuk stepped tentatively ahead. With slightly sweaty hands, he held his AK-47 forward, ready to fire at a moment's notice. There probably wasn't any danger; the gas would have taken out anyone the bombs hadn't, and the other patrols had already been through and cleared away the locals. Still, you couldn't be too careful, especially in a village of fanatical warrior women. The place definitely gave him the creeps. He'd be glad when his unit shipped out to somewhere, anywhere else.

He motioned with an arm, and Corporal Rou moved up to stand next to him. Dead silence hung over the area as the two of them advanced. Most of the buildings stood largely undamaged by the bombardment; obviously, these Amazons knew a thing or two about construction.

Overhead, a few clouds floated in a sea of idyllic blue. Another day. There were only four hundred and ninety-six to go before Sauchuk's tour of duty would be finished. Though he'd signed on voluntarily to serve his country, he still couldn't wait for the day when he'd be able to go back home, marry Jambyn and start a family.

"Hey, check it out," Rou said, pointing at a young woman lying on the ground. "It's one of the locals."

Sauchuk peered closer, eyeing the girl cautiously. Badly bruised flesh showed through the many rips in her clothes. "Is she alive?"

"Yeah," Rou replied, his hand on her wrist. "She's got a pulse. But she's out cold."

"Good." Sauchuk had heard stories about these so-called Amazons. Supposedly, they were taught to fight with swords and clubs before they even learned to read and write. They held combat tournaments where even the kids participated. The whole point of it was to make them into complete maniacs by the time they were grown up -- so that even with a shot-off arm and facing a dozen armed men, they'd attack, just to be able to kill one more person before they got blown away. Sauchuk didn't want to take any chances with people that crazy.

"She looks pretty young," Rou said. "What do you suppose she is... twenty?"

Sauchuk nodded in vague assent. "Let's get her over to holding with the others."

"I bet she's not married yet." Rou pulled on her long hair to make her face him. "How about it, girl? Looking for a couple of husbands?"

Sauchuk was confused for a moment, then understood. "Not me. I've got a girl back home."

Rou grinned up at him. "She won't know."

"Maybe not. But I will," Sauchuk replied, unamused.

"Your loss." Rou hefted her limp form over his shoulder. "C'mon, honey. Let's get to know each other."

Sauchuk silently grumbled some choice curse-words at the idiocy of his partner. The two of them were supposed to be on watch. The village itself was under control, but the surrounding area was bound to be full of unfriendlies who'd love to catch Rou with his pants down, so to speak.

By proper military procedure, Sauchuk was supposed to report Rou to an officer. He certainly deserved whatever they'd do to him, the crazy, stupid bastard; he was jeopardizing the safety of everyone in the unit just to have his jollies with this girl. But squealing was something you just didn't do to a buddy -- not when you might be depending on him to watch your back in the next campaign. Especially when the back he was watching made a great target.

"I'm not gonna pull your ass out of the fire if you get caught by an officer," Sauchuk said. "As far as I know, you just went off to use the latrine."

"Won't be lying much." Rou grinned. "Just taking care of life's little basic necessities."

Crazy, stupid bastard.


"Would you like some lunch, sir?"

"Yes. Thank you very much." Tofu smiled politely as he accepted the plastic box from the flight attendant. Flipping open the lid revealed a cold cut sandwich, a salad, a roll with margarine, and a few strawberries. Not exactly the height of dining elegance, but it would satisfy his hunger nicely.

Leaning back in the chair, he spread the margarine on the bun and watched the attendant push the food cart ahead. The cabin was crowded, and loud conversation filled the air. Kuno Tatewaki sat next to Tofu, with Shan Pu in the aisle seat. The two conversed in Chinese; Kuno spoke hesitantly, but they seemed to be able to understand each other.

Across the aisle from Shan Pu was Kasumi, beside Mu Si at the window. Tofu wondered whether Kasumi was deliberately avoiding him. Was she angry because of the time he had visited her at her temple, thinking he had been cured of his... problem? He understood that she'd want to spend time with her family and the Saotomes, after not having seen them in such a long while. But as far as he knew, she'd never been especially good friends with the two Amazons. Why had she insisted on sitting with them instead of him?

He stared up at the ceiling as he chewed on a mouthful of lunchmeat, and wondered about the strange effect Kasumi had on him. Was it love? Being near her felt like flying too close to the sun — its radiance blinding, engulfing, burning away his thin, fragile veneer of rationality. But today, she had changed something. Now, instead of flooding out everything else, her light glimmered tantalizingly at the edge of his senses. There was something there that he couldn't zero in on, couldn't comprehend.

He wished he could talk to her — find out how she felt toward him after so many years. But he didn't have the nerve. He was afraid to find out that she hated him, for making her wait so long, for not being man enough to overcome the demons that plagued him.

Of course, if that were true, she wouldn't be able to tell him so directly. He was too much of a 'nice guy.' Mitsu had called him that when they had been in high school — and he lived up to it. He dated her through three years of college without once discussing marriage, knowing that she would bring up the subject when she was ready. But in the end it was her mother who told him of Mitsu's engagement to someone else. You're a nice guy, Tofu, she said when he asked her why Mitsu hadn't talked to him about it. People don't like to hurt nice guys.

It was true. People didn't like to hurt nice guys. Yet, somehow, they always managed to do it anyway.

He couldn't let the same thing happen again. Tofu promised himself that he'd talk to Kasumi, find out how she really felt. Soon.

The attendant carried boxes to the row in front of Tofu. "Would any of you care for some lunch?"

"I'll have one." Ranma took the plastic box from the flight attendant. "And couldja leave one for my wife? She'll probably want it when she gets up."

Akane lay sleeping against the window, her head resting on a small pillow. The flight attendant nodded and gave Ranma another lunch, which he slid under his own.

"As for my pop here, he ain't hungry. Matter of fact, I'll have his, if that's okay."

Head bent down, Genma held a paper sack under his mouth. A low gurgling noise issued forth as he threw up into the bag.

"Don't worry, Pop. The life of a true martial artist is filled with airsickness. Right?"

"Perhaps you shouldn't eat a double lunch, Ranma-sama," Kodachi called from across the aisle. "Too much food will make it harder for you to get back into condition."

"I ain't outta condition!" Ranma snapped back.

The flight attendant took the bag from Genma. "Sir, would you like me to bring you some medicine?"

"I'll be all right. I just need to wash up." He stood, managing to keep some dignity despite the situation as he trudged down the aisle towards the bathroom.

"It seems you have a sick father to look after, Ranma dear. But it's not all bad. At least that will give you something to do while the rest of us fight alongside the Amazons."

"Shaddap, Kodachi." Ranma's teeth gritted in rage. "Just shut up."

Kodachi laughed. "Oh, I'm only teasing!" But her voice had a malicious edge to it that belied her words.

"I'm gonna beat you, y'know. All I need to do is figure out how you've been cheatin'. Then we'll go at it fair and square, hard and fast, and you'll see, I'll be the one who comes out on top." Ranma winced, probably at his own choice of words. It was lucky that Akane was asleep, Tofu thought.

"Whatever you say, Ranma-sama. Just phone anytime you might be ready. Or perhaps drop me a postcard."

"Damn it!" Ranma swung his legs out into the aisle and stood, hovering near the gymnast. "You think I'm afraid of you? Is that it?"

Kodachi's mouth curved into a predatory smile. Her eyes remained locked with Ranma's as she slipped out of her seat to stand in front of him. Tofu gulped. They weren't... they couldn't be about to....

"Ranma!" Shan Pu rose. "What you doing?!"

Ranma turned. "Huh?"

"You can no have fight here! This is airplane!"

Ranma blinked. "No duh, Shan Pu. I wasn't gonna.... How stupid do you all think I am?"

Shan Pu stared back at him blankly. The others looked at the walls, the floor, the ceiling. Ranma hmphed, and sat back down.

"Feh," Kodachi said. "I am quite capable of defeating an opponent without damage to the aircraft."

"Now might be a bad time to put that to the test," Tofu said. He tried to sound calm and reasonable, but his words came out rather nervous. She had to be bluffing. She couldn't be that reckless — could she?

Tofu moved back away from the edge of his seat, letting out the breath that he'd been holding. They were over their heads in this. Ranma, Akane... Kasumi. Whatever it was that they were headed for, none of them would have the skills nor experience with which to deal with it. Maybe he didn't either. But at least he knew how to maintain a level head and focus on the problem at hand. Maybe with that, he could keep the group working with each other, at least some of the time. He certainly had to try.

And if he survived until it was all over, then nothing would keep him from confronting Kasumi. But for now, he couldn't let that get in the way. Like it or not, he had to serve as the nice guy one more time. Above all, he had to keep alert, and keep his wits about him. This was serious business.

A passenger spoke up. "Excuse me, stewardess. There's a panda stuck in one of the bathrooms, throwing up."


Ti Pi struggled to regain consciousness. Images and sensations sped by, running past her awareness like wild animals, too quickly for her to catch them. Cool air blew across her face. She was being... carried?

She felt herself being thrown down onto the ground. She lay on her back, looking up at the darkening evening sky. The man... the man stood, watching her with eyes as hard and cold as steel.

"Don't move."

She tried to say something, anything, but all that came out was a tiny squeal. The man put his hands to her shoulders to pin her to the ground. Ti Pi struggled, but found very little strength left within her injured body. It was a struggle just to keep conscious.

He flashed a sadistic grin. "That's good. Lie still, like a good wife."

Wife... no! Oh, Goddesses, please, don't let him.... Ti Pi tried again to scream, and could make no sound at all. The man reached to her waist, and pulled her pants down to her knees. Nonononopleasepleaseno....

The man began to unbuckle his own trousers. Ti Pi's hand reached down to her leg and touched something metallic. The man leaned over...

... and screamed in pain as Ti Pi's dagger slashed upwards into his gut. Blood leaked out of him and splattered down onto her shirt. She twisted the knife, and the blood gushed faster and faster, and she smiled grimly, though she took no pleasure in the act. The man's eyes gaped in dull astonishment, as if he couldn't believe it could possibly end this way. Then they went blank, as he stopped moving, his blood still pouring into a crimson pool on the ground.

An outsider cannot make an Amazon his wife without first defeating her in combat. Perhaps there was more wisdom in that law than Ti Pi had thought.

Ti Pi said a silent prayer of thanks to the goddesses as she stood. Her heart thumped forcefully in her chest. Dimly, something reminded her to wipe her dagger on the man's uniform and re-sheathe it, then fix her own clothes. She had to get away. Away. But to where?

She ran, not consciously choosing a direction. Soon, she came upon a large, knobby rock formation. There were supposed to be guards on top, ready to sound an alert if anything unusual were to approach the village. Why had they not done so? Circling around to the back, Ti Pi found the handholds that she remembered, and climbed up the rock. Zhen Ben was one of those who were supposed to be on watch here. Had he somehow failed in his duty, and allowed the attack to happen?

Reaching the rock's surface, Ti Pi began to crawl on hands and knees. As long as she didn't stand up, the concave shape of the rock would make it unlikely for anyone to spot her from below. Of course, if they had flying scouts, she would be dead obvious, but she would just have to hope that that wasn't the case. Her eyes scanned over the rock, and saw three people sprawled near its edges. Closer examination confirmed that all three were lifeless. Each had a hole running through the head, narrow in back, wide and bloody in front. One of them was Zhen.

Something shattered inside Ti Pi. Zhen was dead. Up until now, she'd held onto hope that this would all be over soon, that the foes would be defeated and everything would be back to normal. But Zhen — her lifelong friend, who maybe even loved her in his own way — would never be back to normal... would never be again, at all. And his last memory of her would be a blow to the head.

Oh, goddesses... I wanted to dissuade him from trying to marry me. But I didn't want this. I didn't want this.

She wanted to sit down and cry, the way she had years ago when she had skinned her knee playing on this rock. Cry, and then an adult would come along and make everything better. Only she wasn't a little girl anymore — and if she didn't keep moving, didn't get to safety somewhere, she'd surely be joining the dead.

Slowly, carefully, she climbed down the back of the rock.


Elder Lan entered the Council chamber, escorted from behind by two men bearing large guns. Her usual place at the head of the table was occupied; she took an empty seat in the middle. The two soldiers took up positions behind her, completing a circle of gunmen that surrounded the table, weapons pointed at the Elders.

The man leaned forward, gazing at Lan with piercing brown eyes. "You are Lan Zhilei?" His hair showed a touch of gray, and, though neatly combed, failed to completely cover a bald spot on the back of his head. Evidently, this man was somewhat older than the other soldiers.


"I am Major Huang, commander of this division of the Mongol Army."

Lan stared back at him defiantly. "Why have your soldiers invaded our village?"

"Invaded?" Huang smiled slightly. "I'm afraid that you're mistaken. We are defending a part of the Mongol Empire against an uprising."

"What makes you believe that this village belongs to Mongolia?"

"An agreement, signed in Ulan Bator, between the General and the Chief Elder of the Amazons."

Lan shifted in her seat. "If I had traveled there and signed such an agreement, would I not remember doing so? And if an agreement had been made, would not the village welcome you openly, making your attacks on us unnecessary?"

"You? Who said anything about you?" Someone stepped through the soldiers and took the seat beside Huang. Though her hair had turned whiter, and her face bore many more wrinkles than it had, Lan recognized her immediately. A ghost from the past, come back to haunt her.

"Zhen Biaozi."

"Teacher Lan." Zhen smiled smugly. "It's been a long time."

"This is outrageous!" Elder Bi shouted at Zhen. "You have no right to—" One of the soldiers stepped forward, and the prod of his gun cut off her words.

"Let's return to the matter at hand," Huang said, his demeanor businesslike. "Those of you in this room are guilty of treason against the Mongol Empire. The penalty for this offense is death."

Lan tensed as she tried to think of any way she and her colleagues could survive. None. Though the Elders were far better fighters than they looked, they couldn't possibly take on a tightly-packed roomful of armed men without ending up dead. Not that she was unwilling to die for her people, but there would be better opportunities.

"But I'm inclined to be a little more generous than that. I stand ready to pardon your crimes, provided that each of you pledges allegiance to the Mongol Empire, and accepts Zhen Biaozi as your rightful leader."

Lan nodded in understanding. So that's what they wanted from her. "Very well." There was no choice in the matter — for the moment.

"Very sensible." Huang sounded almost disappointed as he turned to the next Elder, Kui.

"I also agree," she said, with a sorrowful look. "It seems we have no alternative."

"Of course we have," Bi spat. "I, for one, choose to die if I must do so to preserve my honor."

"A most noble sentiment. You have my respect." Huang stretched out a finger and beckoned forward one of the soldiers.

Lan raised a hand. "Wait." Of course, no matter what question was before the Council, Kui and Bi would have to disagree. The pragmatist and the idealist. But an old friend shouldn't have to die for an ideal, especially when the whole situation was probably Lan's fault in the first place. "I believe I can persuade her to change her mind."

"You have thirty seconds."

"May I speak with her alone?"


"Very well. Elder Bi, I am going to ask you a few questions. I want you to answer them to yourself, not aloud."

Bi nodded.

"What course of action does the law prescribe in the event of a dispute over the office of chief elder?"

Lan paused for several seconds, allowing Bi time to think.

"What current circumstances would need to be changed before the law could be properly fulfilled?"

Lan paused again.

"Would you be better able to assist in changing those circumstances alive, or dead?"

Bi considered, and then bowed her head. "I yield."

"Thank you." The man with the gun stood back. Huang went around the rest of the table, and all the other elders agreed.

"Excellent." Huang smiled. "Now, you will all follow me."


Huang marched them out into the central courtyard of the village. There, a makeshift barbed wire fence had been set up, encircling most of the courtyard. A ring of soldiers surrounded the barrier. They stood stoically, guns pointed toward the inside of the fence, where most of the village population appeared to be interned. Lan remembered a term from her world history studies: "Concentration camp."

The wire, of course, would not be capable of keeping an Amazon warrior prisoner; but getting through or over it would slow her down long enough for one of the soldiers to shoot her. Lan could see the bodies of several Amazons who had apparently tried to escape. One of them was Ni — little Ni, who had been the brightest student in teacher Lan's class so very few years ago. She was one of the last remaining members of the Ke family — or rather, had been.

No more, Lan vowed to herself. The Amazons were warriors, but not stupid ones. They died in battle only when necessary.

The precession advanced, and the line of gunmen parted to let Huang and the Elders through. The circle of soldiers that had been surrounding the Elders merged smoothly with the others to form a larger loop, like dancers skillfully executing a well-choreographed pageant. Lan walked up to the fence. A series of gunshots exploded into the air. Conversation inside the fence died, and all eyes turned toward Huang.

Huang spoke into a device, shaped something like a huge flower bulb. Amplified, his words resonated over the area. "This village is now a part of the Mongol Empire. You have no choice in the matter. Any acts of treason will mean death, not only for the ones caught, but for any who might have reported them and did not." He handed the sound device to Lan. A man stood next to her with a gun, eyeing her warily, as if to remind her of what would happen if she were to say the wrong thing.

"Sisters. It is not easy for me to tell you that which I must today. I hereby resign as Chief Elder of this village. That position now belongs to Zhen Biaozi. You will follow her dictates, and those of the major, as if they had been mine."

Lan stopped a moment, taken aback a bit at the unusual sound of her amplified voice. Then she continued.

"Many of you are surely unhappy with this change. We Amazons are a proud people, with a proud history. But above all, we are survivors. We do not throw our lives away in pointless open defiance when there is nothing to be gained in so doing. Think of our history. I am sure you all know of the Three Years of Hell."

The crowd began to murmur. Lan looked over at Huang, who motioned for her to keep going.

"I pledge to you today that I will not show the Mongol Empire any resistance. The major will see nothing from me other than cooperation and obedience. And I urge all of you to make the same pledge. That is all I have to say."

Lan stepped back and passed the sound machine to Huang, who returned a grim smile. Good. If he had understood....

She glanced over at Zhen Biaozi, whose expression was unreadable. Surely she knew what Lan had really said. What was she trying to gain from this situation? As an Amazon, she understood full well the impossibility of enslaving their people. The ultimate result could only be death — to one side, or the other.

Maybe she knew that, and didn't care. Maybe she was simply out for revenge over having been kept off of the Council of Elders. What did she have to lose? She was probably near the end of her own lifetime anyway. Lan shuddered sickly at the thought. So many deaths... so many Amazons killed, for a vendetta that should've been against her alone.

At the major's direction, the troops began dismantling the fence. The Amazons could go about their business, as long as they understood who was now in charge. It's not going to be that easy, she told Huang silently. His troops may have managed to capture the village, but the hearts and minds of the Amazon people were unassailable territory, and always would be.

With the fence completely down, she walked toward the people who remained in the area. The injured needed tending to.


The waitress placed the plate of stir-fry vegetables and rice on the table. "Xiexie!" Kasumi said; thank you, one of the few Chinese phrases she'd had time to learn. The waitress nodded, smiling politely.

Kasumi scooped a helping of food into her mouth, and savored the delicious taste. "Mmm! This is really good food, Nabiki!"

Nabiki sampled her own order, a beef dish. "Not bad." She had arrived on a different plane from the US, and met with the group at the Beijing luggage check. They had decided to go to one of the airport cafes for a meal, seeing as it would take some time for Mu Si to finish going through customs.

"Adequate," Kodachi said. Her dish was some sort of seafood and vegetable combination. Kasumi wished she had time to try them all.

At the adjacent table, Ranma argued with Akane. Kodachi had fought with him on the tarmac as soon as the plane had landed, and once again beat him easily. By the time Akane had made them stop, Ranma had been slammed into the ground chin-first, kicked in the face several times, and slammed into the ground again. The most he'd been able to do to Kodachi was to accidentally tear her dress, revealing the black rose leotard underneath. Yet still, he'd wanted to keep fighting, protesting loudly as Akane dragged him away. Kasumi admired his dedication to his art.

"The comforts of civilization," Nabiki said, pointing at the food with her chopsticks. "Enjoy them while you can. Our connecting flight leaves for Xi Ning an hour and a half from now. I've reserved hotel rooms for us there. Tonight'll be the last night before we head out to face who-knows-what."

"I'm sure the Amazons have some excellent cooks, Nabiki," Kasumi said.

"You are paying for all of the rooms?" Kodachi asked Nabiki. "Some would call that uncharacteristic behavior for you."

"Moi? I'm the soul of generosity." Nabiki smirked. "Especially when your brother is letting me charge everything on his card."

"Ah, I see. How lucky we are to have you and your business acumen with us on this trip." Kodachi laughed. "Perhaps you will be able to take over our enemies in a leveraged buy-out."

Kasumi giggled. Nabiki rolled her eyes, looking away. Strange, Kasumi thought; as a businesswoman, she should have gotten the joke.

"So many non-combatants on this trip. Thirteen of us, and I can count those who are capable fighters on one hand." Kodachi turned to Kasumi. "What of you? Were you taught battle at your temple, or are you here simply to pray for our victory?"

"Oh my, no." Kasumi giggled again. "I don't fight. But I hope I can be useful in other ways."

"Don't fight at all? Pity. You should have asked them to show you some basic self-defense, at least. It's a dangerous world out there."

"Actually, the sensei wanted me to have something that would've made me into a fighter. But I said no."

Kodachi seemed about to reply, but said nothing. She eyed Kasumi cautiously, as if suspicious of something she had said.

Kasumi smiled brightly. "Anyway, I'm so glad you're with us. I saw how good you were against Ranma. I'm sure with your skill on our side, we can't lose!"

"Er... yes. Excuse me." Kodachi nodded curtly, and stood, moving over to the ladies' room.

"Goodness, I hope I didn't say the wrong thing!"

"If it got rid of her, it was the right thing," Nabiki said dryly.

The last bit of food on her plate finished, Kasumi wiped her mouth with her napkin, then folded it up and set it on the plate. "I'm going to go call Father and let him know where we are. I saw some pay phones out near the entrance."

Nabiki handed her a portable phone unit. "Here, use my cellular."

"A cellular phone? Will it work here?"

"Yup, anywhere in the world." She smiled proudly. "It works through a global satellite relay network. The latest in communications technology. Dial zero-one-one-eight-one-three and wait for a beep. It takes a few minutes. Then dial Dad's number."

Kasumi dialed as she'd been told, holding the phone to her ear and listening. Such a wonderful thing, to be able to communicate with family and loved ones no matter where you went. She hoped someday everyone would have one of these phones.

She was proud of her family. Akane, who was one of the best martial artists in the world. And Nabiki, whose company was making the world better with inventions like this phone. She only hoped her own studies with Kaede-sensei would lead to things half as great as those that her sisters had already done.

But not fighting. That simply wasn't the kind of person she was. She had found that out when Kaede-sensei had given her the chance to try out her fighting clothes. They were animated by a powerful fighting spirit, the teacher said. The same technique, used with swords and the like, produced so-called magic weapons. With the sensei's clothes, the result was a battle suit that fought for its wearer. Kasumi remembered how Akane had acquired such a thing at one time.

At Kaede's insistence, Kasumi wore her animated robes and fought against a group of traveling martial artists. The battle suit pulled her around like a puppet on strings. Her arms and legs moved uncontrollably, smashing into one person and then the next, moving on before they could hear her tell them how sorry she was. In the end, all she could do was close her eyes and wait for it to stop.

The next day, she told Kaede that she refused to ever again wear a set of animated battle clothes. She would learn the techniques for creating them, if she was able, but she would never, ever make one for herself. Nor would she create them for other people, unless they desperately needed them for some reason. It wasn't fair to people like Akane, who had spent their whole lives learning and perfecting their arts, to have someone become as good as them just due to trickery.

At first, Kasumi was afraid of being defenseless. Then she thought about the fight that she'd been in. She'd won due to the speed and power that the animated suit had given her, of course; but there had been something else. They had hesitated to attack her. It wasn't because of the clothes, either; something about Kasumi made people not want to fight her. It was a kind of aura that she had. As her studies progressed, she learned to affect it in limited ways — to increase or decrease its strength.

The source of her aura remained a mystery to her. But she was sure that the only way to keep it was to stay a noncombatant. She knew that if she were to take up fighting — whether or not she used magical aids like the sensei's clothes — the aura wouldn't remain. And the danger, of course, was that someday she might meet opponents who weren't affected by it, against whom she would be helpless. Still, she had to be true to herself.

A tone sounded in Kasumi's ear. She dialed the number, and it began ringing.

"Hello, Father?"


"Goodbye, Kasumi," Tendo Soun said, worry apparent in his voice. "Good luck and safe journey to you."

"They are well?" Nodoka asked as Soun hung up.

In the other corner of the room, the computer blipped and bleeped as the children competed at some sort of game. Nodoka understood none of it, but Ranma had told her that the kids knew enough to use the machine safely.

Soun nodded. "Kasumi said everyone's fine, except that Ranma keeps getting beaten up by Kodachi. They've landed in Beijing. From there they will fly to Xi Ning tonight, and tomorrow it's on to the Amazon village. No way of telling what they'll find there."

Nodoka thought she should say something to reassure him. "No one knows what the future has in store. We should not spend our time worrying until the worst happens." That wasn't it.

"Akane and Ranma will be all right. They can take care of themselves better than any two people on Earth. And Nabiki is crafty enough not to get near something she can't handle. But Kasumi...." Soun sighed. "Kasumi shouldn't be anywhere near something like this."

"She's had training, hasn't she? From that aged priestess?"

"A few years. If she'd been able to start years earlier...." Soun wiped his forehead with his hand. "I took those years from her, Nodoka-san. She had to spend them cooking, cleaning... being the parent that I should've been."

A shout came from the computer area. "I won!"

"You cheated!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"Children!" Soun scolded, and turned back to Nodoka. The argument continued, but at a lower volume.

"We are what the gods make of us, Tendo Soun. It is possible that even if you had done all of those things yourself, Kasumi still would have been as she is now."

"Possible," Soun repeated, his eyes downcast.

"Possible is all we have." Nodoka smiled at Soun. She wanted to say something to make him feel better, but she seemed to be failing miserably at that so far. What advice was she qualified to give? By all reckonings, she was much more of a failure at parenting than he. She still remembered well the day on which Genma had taken Ranma from her. With the promise that he had signed, there had been no way for her to refuse — not without staining the family honor. But it had hurt, and still did. Part of her always felt that Ranma had run away from her because he had been unhappy with his mother; that Genma had had to take him away because she didn't have what it took to be a good parent.

A smooth voice issued forth from the computer speaker. "Windows zero-three conflict error. This application will shut down due to an error. Please reboot your system."

Soun zipped over to the computer. "Trouble?"

"It's okay, Grampa," Hikaru said. "I know how to fix this."

"No, no, of course not!" Soun zipped over to sit at the keyboard. "You go play, for heaven's sake! Leave this to Grandpa."

Nodoka realized that the conversation was over. "I'll get back to my cooking."

"Cooking?" Hikaru scampered over to her, with Ririko following behind. "But Grandma! It's Saturday!"


"We always get take-out from the Aburakkoi on Saturday!"

"Hikaru-chan, I've already started making dinner!"

"Take-out from Aburakkoi!" Ririko cried.

"Ririko-chan, I... I..."

"Mom and Dad get take-out every week," Hikaru said, as if he were a lawyer arguing a case before a courtroom.

"Mommy! Daddy!" Ririko cried.

Nodoka sighed as she walked over to the stove to turn off the burner.


"Skate size, ma'am?"

"Actually, I'm looking for Sanzenin Mikado. Is he out on the ice?"

"Um, no, ma'am, I believe he and his partner are over at the ice cream shop in back."

"In that case, I don't need to rent skates. Thanks!"

"You're welcome, ma'am. I'm sure he'll be glad to sign an autograph for you."

Ukyo smiled at the clerk as she stepped away from the counter. She walked along a narrow walkway led around the perimeter of the ice rink. Skaters flew by on the ice as she passed. Pop music blared over loudspeakers, the lyrics unintelligible. Ukyo laughed. Autograph? As it happened, she was here to collect Mikado's skull imprint on her spatula. The mark of a true fan.

Reaching the other side, she stopped and looked around. She heard Mikado's voice from a balcony directly above her.

"So do you finally understand?"

"Understand what?" Azusa's voice.

"What I've been trying to explain for the past fifteen minutes!" Mikado sounded agitated, frustrated.

"You're getting married."

"No, no, no." Mikado sighed. "I'll try one more time. Please try to listen. I am carrying out my plan for revenge on the Kuonji woman."

"Getting revenge by marrying her?"

"No! We are not getting married at all. Were I actually contemplating a wedding, I can assure you that Ms. Kuonji would be a long way down the list of worthy candidates."

Oh yeah? Ukyo thought. Same to you, jackass!

"It is also obvious that she feels the same about me. Hard to believe though it might be, Ms. Kuonji is quite repulsed by the idea of a marriage between the two of us."

"Why is that hard to believe?" Azusa asked. Ukyo agreed.

"Never mind. The point is, she will undoubtedly tell everyone that she has no intention of going through with the wedding. When that happens, I will announce to all of her friends and everyone else how cruelly she broke her promise and my heart by unexpectedly jilting me. Everyone will blame her, and feel sorry for me. Legions of women will no doubt want to comfort me, while no one will give her the time of day." He began to speak slowly and emphatically. "Now, do you understand?"

After a pause, Azusa spoke. "Will your wedding cake have those cute little bride and groom dolls on top?"

Mikado screamed.

Ukyo silently scrambled up the steps to the balcony. The song coming over the loudspeakers faded out. A new one began; Ukyo couldn't tell the difference between it and the last one. A new plan formed in her mind.

The two skaters sat at a small, white, round table. A huge bowl of brightly-colored ice cream lay before Azusa, and still more of the stuff decorated her mouth. Mikado held a half-empty glass of cola as he glared at his partner, speaking through clenched teeth. "All right. Let me try one more time."

"Excuse me."

Mikado turned at the sound of the voice. His eyes fixated on the combat spatula strapped to Ukyo's back, and his chair slid away from her slightly.

"Can we talk?" she asked softly.

"T-Talk? What, er, what about?" His eyes held a 'please don't kill me' look.

"Mikado, you took me by surprise this morning. Don't you think we should've talked about an engagement before you announced one in front of everybody?"

Mikado stammered unintelligibly.

"It's okay. I understand." She smiled warmly. "I don't have much time before I have to be back at my restaurant for the dinner shift. I just came here to give you my answer."

"A— answer?"

"Yes. My answer's yes. After all, what girl wouldn't want to be Mrs. Sanzenin Mikado?" It took all of her self control not to giggle.


Summoning all of her self-control, Ukyo leaned forward and planted a kiss on Mikado's lips.

"Yippee!" Azusa shouted. "Wedding cake!"


The plane from Beijing to Xi Ning was a small, propeller-driven model. The Nerima group filled most of the seats. Propellers roared deafeningly, making it difficult for conversation to be heard. Ranma's father slept, under the influence of some medicine he had bought.

Tsubasa sat next to Kasumi — a dream come true for him, except that she seemed to take little interest in his presence. She'd smiled at him and said the customary greetings when they boarded, but after that she paid him no attention at all, staring instead at the seat ahead of her where Ranma sat. Typical. Women were always attracted to Ranma. Of course, Tsubasa knew why that was.

But that wasn't important right now. What was important was saving the Amazon village. Ever since Tsubasa had heard that such a place existed, he had wanted to go there. Finally, there was somewhere where the women were in charge — the way things ought to be everywhere. It was a basic law of the universe: women were beautiful, wise, and kind. The source of everything good. Men, on the other hand, were ugly, mean, and stupid; the source of all trouble. It was a truth that Tsubasa had tried to deny at one time, but finally had to admit.

He leaned forward, trying to catch some of the conversation over the noise. "Yeah, yeah, I know we ain't got time now. But once this battle's over and we've kicked butt, I'm gonna be makin' a little side trip. I'm tellin' ya, before this trip's over, I'm gonna go swimming in a certain spring."

"Ranma, not can do that," Shan Pu said.


"I talk about this with Elders. Spring of Drowned Man no will cure curse, they all say. You get two curses, they combine. Then you maybe splash by water and turn into her... herm...."

"Ick. You mean there's no cure?"

"They say can cure, but only for Amazon. I no allowed cure because I fail to... because I broke law. But for outsider, they say nothing can do."

"I dunno." Ranma shrugged. "They could be wrong, right?" He slumped back into his seat. "Damn it, why do things always haveta get more and more screwed up? Why can't I ever get a good surprise for a change?"

"Don't worry about it, Ranma," Kasumi said, smiling enigmatically as Ranma looked back at her. She continued to smile, saying nothing as Ranma stared, until he finally shrugged and turned away.

Of course, Ranma didn't understand. It was clear to Tsubasa what Kasumi was saying. Ranma, deep down, wanted to be a woman. How could he not? But his male insecurity wouldn't let him admit to himself the superiority of the female sex, so he struggled against it. It was obvious.

Would Ranma really go to Jusenkyo during this trip? Tsubasa had no clue. But he would go there. He knew a good thing when he saw it. And then all of Ranma's women would be attracted to him.


Arriving at Xi Ning, the group checked into the hotel Bie Baoyuan. Some of them left to go sightseeing, with a promise to be ready to travel bright and early tomorrow morning. Others simply retired to their respective rooms.

Mu Si sat on the bed as he flipped through the TV channels. Finding nothing interesting, he switched it off, yawned, stretched, and didn't feel tired at all. What were people supposed to do alone in hotel rooms?

From the next room over, bedsprings squeaked violently, as voices called each other's name in impassioned gasps. Ranma and Akane. It was a safe bet that they weren't practicing martial arts. Mu Si sighed. How he wished that he and Shan Pu could have....

Then there was Azusa. Sweet, childlike Azusa. It felt... wrong... to even think those kind of thoughts about her. Originally he had thought that with his help she might be cured of her autism, or whatever it was, and they could get married. But as he'd gotten to know her, he'd realized how silly that idea had been. It wasn't a disease; it was who she was.

Mu Si sighed again as he lay down on the bed. It was bad enough that he'd never be with the one he'd spent most of his life pursuing. But lately, it seemed more and more likely that he'd never feel the touch of a woman at all. Any woman. And he wondered, why? Had the gods some special destiny in mind for him? Or were they punishing him for some unknown misdeeds? Perhaps they had someone perfect for him waiting until it was the right time to meet. He prayed to the gods for an answer.

The telephone rang. Mu Si hesitated. It rang three more times, and he answered it.


"Hello, Mu Si?"


"This is Kasumi! How have you been?"

"Uh, fine, thanks. Yourself?"

"Oh, just fine, thank you. Are you busy now?"

"Um... not really, no."

"Then would you please come to my hotel room? It's number two hundred fifty."

"Er, all right."

"Great, see you in a few minutes! Oh, and don't tell anyone where you're going, all right?"

"Okay." He hung up the phone, mulling everything over in his mind. Coincidence, he told himself. It had to be coincidence.




"Wanna do it again?"

She giggled.

"I mean, this might be our last chance for a while to have a little privacy."

"Not tonight, Ranma. Let's get up early tomorrow morning, okay?"

"Okay, yeah, that's cool."

He slid his arm around her shoulders, and she cuddled up against him.

"I wonder how the kids are doin'."

"Probably driving Grandma and Grandpa crazy. Bet they'll be glad when we get home."

He laughed. "That's one reason I'm glad Pop came on the trip with us. If he was back home with Hikaru, he'd be tryin' to push martial arts on him."

"He doesn't exactly have to 'push.' Hikaru keeps saying how he wants to learn."

"The kid's only five. He don't know what he wants yet. He oughtta have some time to make up his mind, 'cause once you start training, it's not that easy to stop."

"I know. I agreed with you about that, remember?"


She leisurely ran her fingers through his hair. "Ranma, I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"For the way I acted when I saw you with Kodachi today."

"You ain't gotta be sorry for that."

"It's... I don't know. When I see you with her like that, something just makes me get really angry... and not just at her. Even though I know damn well it's not your fault. I don't know... something I need to work on, I guess."

"Akane, remember on the plane today, when I said I wasn't afraid of Kodachi?"

"No... no, I don't. I must've been asleep."

"Well, I did. But I was. And I am. I lied my butt off. I keep thinking about Asuka, and what she did to me...." Ranma shuddered. "If Kodachi ever got the same chance...."

"It's okay, Ranma," Akane said, trying to sound reassuring. "It's okay... we won't let her." Though Akane wasn't sure what they could do to stop Kodachi, given her current capabilities.

"Akane, if I'm ever stupid enough to... leave myself open... around her, promise you'll get me away. Beat the crap out of me if you have to."

"I promise." She purred softly as she snuggled closer to him, savoring the warmth of his body. His hand caressed her shoulder. Tomorrow, they'd go back to the real world with all of its conflicts and complications. But for now, at least for one stolen moment, she felt content.



"Only if you have to."


Mu Si walked down the corridor, peering at each door through his glasses. Two thirty-six, two thirty-eight... that meant that two-fifty would be further down the corridor.

Abruptly, Saotome Genma walked past, barely acknowledging Mu Si's presence. His face bore an odd, wayward smile, as if he were a cat who'd eaten his owner's prized canary. From the numbers, he had come from the direction of Kasumi's room. No, Mu Si told himself. There had to be a reasonable explanation.

"Over here," a voice whispered. An arm beckoned Mu Si into towards an ajar door. He followed into the dimly-lit room, and the door shut quickly behind him.

"Kasumi? Um... hi. How are you?"

"Hello!" Kasumi beamed a bright smile. "Thank you for coming!"

Mu Si stared back at her awkwardly.

"Come over here, please."

She pointed him toward an area on the floor. The furniture had been pulled aside, leaving bare carpet. He lay down in the middle of it, noticing that it was damp in spots.

"You'll need to sit like this." Kasumi crossed her legs, assuming a meditative position. Mu Si got up and did likewise.

Mu Si decided to ask the obvious question. "Why are we sitting like this?"

Kasumi smiled mysteriously. "I'm going to teach you a new technique."

"I haven't had much chance to practice the old ones," Mu Si mumbled.

"I'm sorry?" she responded innocently.

"Um, nothing." He mentally slapped himself. He still had no idea what was about to happen here, but it definitely, positively, absolutely couldn't be... that.

"Oh my. I suppose you'll have to take off your clothes for this."


"I won't look at anything, I promise."

"Right." He tossed his robes onto a chair at the far end of the room. Pulling his pants down and off, he threw them to the same spot. This was getting weirder and weirder.

Kasumi disappeared into the bathroom, and came back out carrying something. Mu Si stretched his neck, and saw that she had a teakettle in one hand, and a large cup in the other. She moved around to stand behind him. "Now, I want you to just relax, and feel your manhood."

"Excuse me?" Mu Si said, embarrassed.

"Your humanity. Concentrate on experiencing every sensation of what it's like to be a person."

"Oh." He became aware of his legs, his arms, the heart pumping in his chest. Without warning, water spilled onto his head, and he became a duck. He quacked indignantly. What did she do that for?

"Now compare your duck form," she said.

Mu Si noticed the scrawny legs, the misshapen mouth, the tiny, rapidly beating heart. Hot water burbled down, and he was human again. And still confused.

"Now, imagine that you're both human and duck," she said. "Think of both forms being there at once, as I take you from one to the other." Mu tried his best to do what she had asked, visualizing his duck self coexisting with his human body. "Ready? Here's the duck!"

Cold water struck Mu Si again. He held onto the mental image of his human form, picturing it in his mind alongside his duck body.


Hot water poured down. This time it didn't feel like a reshaping of his body. Instead, it was like the changing of a traffic light; the human body switched on, becoming solid, as the duck one turned off.


Cold water. Human flesh vanished; feathers and webbed feet became reality.


Hot water. The duck form faded out, and the human one came into focus.


The duck reappeared. Mu Si wondered how much longer this was going to go on.


Once again, the human body became solid.

Kasumi grinned down at him. "You've learned the technique!" Her hands were empty. Mu Si looked up, and realized that she hadn't poured any water on him the last couple of times.

In his mind, he still felt the other body's presence; reaching for it with his mind, he changed himself into the duck, and then back to normal. Jumping into the air, he cheered with delight as he changed forms at the top of his leap, then again as he landed. It was like being cured. No, it was better than being cured. "This is... incredible! How can I thank you?"

Kasumi smiled. "Just go and win the fight."

AUTHOR'S RAMBLINGS: The bit about the nanniquan not being able to cure the curses is not Ranma 1/2 canon. In fact, it is probably wrong, since the instant nanniquan provided a temporary cure in vol. 8. On the other hand, if curing the curses were so simple, why don't people who get cursed simply jump in the curing springs right away? Anyway, the assumption here is that Jusenkyo can't be used to cure Jusenkyo. This is not canon, so please don't think that it has to be that way because HaM said so.

The Three Years of Hell is a reference to the original series (vol. 34 story 11).

Thanks to those who pre-read and/or offered comments on the previous releases of this chapter. Thanks also to you for reading, and as always, I'd like to know what you thought.