"I'm looking for something called the Pool of Truth," Ranma said. "Any of you guys know where it is?"

"Ohaiyo!" the men said, as they thrust their tour guidebooks into Ranma's face yet again.

"I told you, I ain't got no money to pay for that!" Ranma said impatiently. "Besides, the thing I'm looking for ain't on that map. I already checked!"

"Ohaiyo!" they said again.

"They don't speak Japanese," said another man. He looked the same as the others, small and middle aged and dressed inconspicuously. "I speak a little. They think you just tourist. The way you dressed in old style clothes."

"Do you know where the Pool of Truth is?" Ranma asked.

"That thing? It just an old story. The park use it to get tourist to come and spend money. You looking for truth, you not get it from some water."

Ranma moved on. He had to keep looking. The Pool was probably just a myth, but he was desperate and willing to try anything.

It had been so simple just a little while ago. He had just defeated Saffron, with Akane very nearly a casualty of the battle. He was sure then that he loved her, would've given anything for her to be alive and back to normal. Which she soon was. But after that came all the old familiar doubts, about bad cooking, about being malleted for every misunderstanding, about everything.

Pop had told him about the legend of the Pool. It was supposed to be able to tell you the answer to any one question. Pop wasn't noted for coming up with good ideas, but it was worth a try. He and Pop had left the others back in Hefei and hiked to this park. Pop had insisted that he go into the park alone, or as alone as you could get in China without being in a wilderness like Jusenkyo. After all, it was Ranma's quest.

The path Ranma was following came to a large pond. Was this it? Strangely enough, there were no other people around. Ranma looked into the pond. The water was very dirty and muddy, and it was impossible to see anything in it except his own reflection. No answers there. Stupid, he thought, of him to think there would be.

Ranma sighed. "What the heck am I gonna do?"

The water swirled, as if some piece of debris were floating to the surface. Ranma gaped with amazement, as he could barely see Japanese writing on something below the water's surface. Through the muddy water he could barely make out what it said:

You love Akane. Marry her."

"Aaaaa!!!" Ranma backed away in surprise, as if he had seen a ghost. When he turned to look again, the writing was gone. But he knew now that it had been right. Deep down he had known it all along.

Ranma turned and walked casually back the way he had come, then started moving faster. He wanted to get back to town, to see Akane.

A little later, the waters of the pond swirled violently, and the figure of a giant panda came to the surface. It spat out the hollow reed that it had been using as a snorkel. It too then departed the scene, following a shortcut through the woods. It silently thanked whatever gods might be for signs and waterproof ink. It had been a risky plan, a lot of things could have gone wrong, but Genma had been desperate and willing to try anything.