Lili drifted down towards the ocean floor, holding her breath desperately, her arms and legs flailing wildly, randomly, in some vain attempt to keep from drowning. This had happened before. Part of her wanted to just let go and drown again; but she had no idea what kind of hell she might wake up in next time. That thought made her panic even more, which didn't seem to help her attempts at swimming.

It was no use. She had held out much longer this time, but her body's demand for air was strong. Stronger than the will of a weak little girl. The world around her was starting to fade, becoming unreal. She felt something on her back. Was she moving? Or was the whole thing just a dream...


Lili's limp body was pulled onto the shore. Nabiki rushed over, trying to see what had saved the girl. It was P-chan! The black piglet shook the water from himself vigorously, wetting Nabiki as she knelt down to resuscitate the girl that he had pulled from the ocean.

Nabiki put her mouth over Lili's and breathed for her, in and out. It would work; she would live. That was, assuming that any of them would after the battle.

There had been hope when Lili's unexpected hit made Ashura take the brunt of her own attack. Doctor Tofu then joined up with Ukyo and Kuno-chan to try to pound Ashura while she was momentarily off-balance. Then she struck back. It was as if she had been toying with them up to that point and was now going to get serious. She spun in the air, and up popped an enormous flaming whirlwind. Under her command her fire tornado moved rapidly into the group attacking her, tossing them around like bowling pins.

Now, things looked pretty hopeless. "Are there no little ones left to challenge Ashura?" The demon hovered, smiling maliciously and triumphantly. "Very well, Ashura will accept your surrender if you offer her a sacrifice."

"Don't... listen to her, damn it... we're not beat yet," Ukyo said. Yeah right, she thought to herself. Tough words from someone who was barely managing to stand up. Ukyo suppressed a twinge of jealousy she got at the sight of Nabiki giving mouth-to-mouth to Ran-chan. She asked herself how she could think about that at a time like this. It wasn't really Ran-chan, anyway.

Tatewaki suddenly pulled himself from the ground and launched a rapid-fire series of bokken strikes against Ashura. "Tatewaki Kuno fights on!". Ashura gestured. A vertical column of fire roared up from the ground where Tatewaki stood, engulfing him. He cried out in agony as he dove wildly into the water.

Nabiki turned her full attention to Ashura, as Kasumi went to help Kuno-chan. Lili was breathing on her own; she'd be all right. "What do you mean by 'sacrifice'?" Nabiki asked, to play for time if nothing else.

"One of you must die, for the glory of Ashura. The others will then be allowed to live as her servants. A fitting penalty for the destruction of one of her limbs, yes? Except that the arm will eventually be grown back."

Nabiki's mind raced. She was being offered a chance to sell one of her teammates down the river, to buy a chance for the rest of them to strike back later. Which one? Kuno-chan, the useless idiot, maybe? Or his insane sister?

No. "No deal, Ashura," she said, trying to put on her usual businesslike manner. As inane as some of her friends were, Nabiki couldn't let them die if there were still a chance for everyone to come out of this alive. "I'm afraid your terms are unacceptable. None of us are going to give up our lives, or each other's lives, to you without fighting you every inch of the way; and we'll defeat you."

"Fools! Ashura is a force of nature. Ashura is entropy, unstoppable and inevitable!"

"You were stopped before. Or did you just drown in that Jusenkyo pool by accident?"

"Ashura's fellow gods had grown fearful of her power. They would have destroyed her, had she not bargained with the power controlling that place to have her essence transferred to a statue of her, then stored away at Jusenkyo . Now it is the other gods who are no more.

"If you will not choose a sacrifice, then Ashura shall." She floated over and pointed. "You!"

Nabiki gaped. "Kasumi! NO!!"

Ashura laughed evilly as she quickly built up a massive ki bolt. It was perfect. None of them would be able to stop her before she annihilated this one. She knew from her host's memories that this one was kind and innocent, one that they all cared for. Her death would destroy the others' morale utterly. She prepared to launch the attack.

Somewhere, a shy, beautiful girl (a Virgo with blood type A) said: No.

Ashura's attack fizzled.

This was distressing. Having a conscience was not a beneficial thing, not for a warrior demon goddess. She would have to take measures later to eradicate her host's personality completely.

Tofu took advantage of her hesitation. "KILL KASUMI??" His left hand grabbed Ashura by two of her arms. He struck again and again with his right, aiming for where her shiatsu points ought to be.

"Away, insect!" Ashura shouted, as her ki power blasted Tofu towards the ocean. Her body felt strange. What had he done to her? She was having trouble moving properly.

This was it, Nabiki thought. She had brought a little surprise for Ashura. With her aim, though, she normally wouldn't have had much chance of hitting her with it. Now, maybe she could. Nabiki hated getting personally involved in fights; but in for a penny, in for a pound. She only hoped she wouldn't be in for a pounding. She held up a cannister and pulled the lever on it. Foam squirted over Ashura.

Ashura started to twirl around rapidly, centrifugal force flinging away the fire foam. "ENOUGH!!" she said, sounding exasperated. "Feel Ashura's power!" Another flaming tornado, this one larger than the previous one, appeared instantly and tore through the ranks of the group.

A voice was heard, its tone insolent and mocking. "Hot and fast. That's the way I like it, honey!"

Ashura turned to see Happosai. "Have you come to die for Ashura, old one?" He answered by letting his battle aura expand, growing into a colossal manifestation of himself.

"Ashura is not impressed, little man," the demon said. Her flaming aura expanded, until she too was surrounded by a giant copy of herself. Gigantic manifestations of Happosai and Ashura now faced each other.

Lili had recovered consciousness. She sat and watched, her attention transfixed by the sight of the two giants staring each other down. It was a battle of the gods, clearly something that mortals such as her ought not to be allowed to witness; but still she could not take her eyes off of it.

For seconds that seemed to stretch into hours, the stand-off persisted. Then Ashura's aura expanded. Her fire slowly but deliberately reached out, surrounding the giant manifestation of Happosai. The giant little old man struggled, but Ashura's fire was engulfing him, consuming him. Moments later, the fiery giant faded, leaving only a broken down Happosai and a triumphant Ashura.

As Ashura laughed over the defeated old man, an arrow suddenly whizzed past her field of vision. All eyes turned to see Soun Tendo. He was dressed in his samurai armor, armed with bow, sword, and mallet.

Ashura laughed even harder.

Lili could watch no more. She closed her eyes and silently wept. Mr. Tendo would not fare any better than the others. If the old man with his obvious great power had failed, who could be found to help them now?

Then she was hit from behind by water.


"Is this a joke?" Ashura cackled, looking at Soun.

"Dad!? Where have you been?" Nabiki asked. To her ears it had sounded as if there were traces of exhaustion in the demon's multiple voices, but she knew that that was probably just wishful thinking. Or maybe Ashura was getting bored.

"I was getting some last-minute help," Soun replied, trying to sound dignified.

"Who?" Nabiki asked.

A figure stepped out from behind Soun, a young girl. She held out a small coin with one hand, and traced an imaginary circle in the air. "HAPPO GOEN SATSU!!"


Lili was disoriented. She felt as if she were in two places at once, had two different existences. She was male and female, at the same time, without being both.

She felt the presence of another mind. It called to her spirit, summoning her to join it. Was it the old man? It had not the raw power that she would have expected from his mind; but Lili could sense its powerful emotion. What a feeling it was, this deep and strong emotion; emotion of a depth she had never known, in her life of running scared and seeking nothing more than peace and security. Lili felt as if she had never truly lived, never experienced the joy of what life is, until this moment.

The other mind carried Lili away, away from this body that was never hers. She was swept out, as helpless as a pebble in a tidal wave.


Meanwhile, the now-adult Hinako and Ashura stood on opposite sides of a circle drawn in the air, engaged in a metaphysical tug-of-war. Hinako was trying to absorb Ashura's power. The demon goddess was resisting.

"She's weakening! This is our chance!" Soun said, charging in with his samurai sword.

Two of Ashura's arms grabbed Soun, throwing him into Hinako. The two crashed to the ground.


Ranma woke. Sleep was one of his favorite things, and he normally begrudged its end.

But not this time! He was alive, and he was himself!

How had it happened? He remembered from when he was Lili, Happosai saying that he had a way to transfer the curse to himself. Had someone finally convinced the old man to do it?

He saw Ucchan attacking and being blasted by Ashura. There was no time to think about how he'd been brought back.


All eyes turned. It was Lili, they thought. She found some hot water, and was courageously trying to bluff Ashura again. But the boy's stance, his determination, his eyes seemed to belie that explanation. Everyone felt a glimmer of hope that they dared not voice.

Ranma picked up a large piece of debris, the roof from some army vehicle that had been blown off during the earlier battle. He flung it into the air like a discus, towards Ashura.

A fire blast reduced the thrown object to ashes. "This is supposed to hurt Ashura, little man?"

No, Ranma said silently. This is. His feet slammed into one of Ashura's faces. He had been behind the roof he had thrown, using it as cover to gain an opening. He planted his feet onto the demon's head, and his fists struck her in rapid-fire succession.

Ashura cried out in pain as she flung Ranma off of her. He landed in the shallow part of the ocean. He stood, checking himself in the chest and elsewhere. He was still male! His curse had been removed completely. There was no time to think about how, though.

Sunlight shone through the clouds of the Tendo Dojo team's despair. Ranma Saotome was back. Ranma Saotome was fighting on their side.
That meant that they could win.

Ashura spat an energy blast towards Ranma, but Ranma dodged expertly. "You cannot keep this up forever, little one!" she said. But the trace of weariness in Ashura's voices suggested that maybe she couldn't

Ranma picked up P-chan from where he lay on the shore. "Sorry to do this, Mister P." He dipped the pig in the water where Ashura's heat blast had just struck, pulling out a naked Ryoga.

"Will you be running from Ashura the entire fight, frightened one?" the demon taunted. Then she was hit from the side by a familiar bonbori. It was Shampoo.

"Ranma no run from you. We defeat you, Ashura!" she said.

Ranma began building a Moko Takabisha. "Shampoo? You're not a cat no more?"

"Great-grandmother use transference water. Take curse instead of me! Give up her life for mine!"

"Fools!" Ashura laughed. "Do you not know when you are beaten?"

Then IT rose.

It moved steadily toward Ashura. It was an undead thing, clothed in tattered rags, a body covered from head to toe in skin so burned and blistered that it should not have held together. It spoke:


Ashura gaped in disbelief. Was this mortal simply too stubborn to know when he ought to be beaten or dead? Tatewaki's bokken struck rapidly. Then he was flung away by a massive burst of fire energy.

Ranma saw his chance. He let loose his ki blast. It struck Ashura with devastating force, sending her reeling back, seemingly stunned.

"Now's our chance!" Ranma leapt to one side of Ashura, joined by Shampoo, Ryoga, and Ukyo. The combination of bonbori, spatula, and two sets of fists slammed into the demon, knocking her into the water. The enormous splash was followed by massive clouds of steam, as large
quantities of water boiled off due to Ashura's heat aura.

"Get her out of the water, quick!" Ranma said.

"Ryoga?" Shampoo said. "You no wearing clothes!"

P-chan wondered why Shampoo was telling him something so obvious.

Before any of them could move, something rose from the steam. Something spinning in the air, something fiery, with three faces and five arms. Ashura.

It hadn't worked.

"HAHAHAHA!!!" Ashura cackled gleefully. "Little fools!

"Ashura delayed fighting with you until today for a reason, mortals! It was so she had time to locate a certain artifact called the chishuitong, and splash herself with water from it. She will not be changing into her mortal form, now or ever! You have lost!"

Ashura began whirling around and around, faster and faster. Red and black thunderclouds abruptly appeared in the sky, blocking out the sun. "It is time we ended this little game, little mortals. Feel Ashura's Rain of Fire Attack!"

The sky was suddenly filled by streams of light. Streaks of white-hot energy looking like tiny meteorites, or enormously giant fireflies, came down everywhere, tearing unhindered through all obstacles, their touch causing blistering agony.

Everyone screamed in pain. Nabiki dove for the water, to find it offered little protection. Others followed. Ranma leapt towards Ashura, to try to cut off the attack at its source. The fireballs were more numerous as he got closer. He felt several of them pass through his leg at once, and he fell, collapsing onto the unconscious Kodachi.

The attack ended. It had accomplished its purpose. Ashura floated in the air triumphantly. Her opponents had been reduced to burned and bleeding husks scattered on the ground.

Ranma rolled off of Kodachi, his every movement a new adventure in pain. By trying to get to the center of the storm, he had suffered the worst of it. Get up, he told himself, you're not gonna let her win. But his legs didn't want to listen.

"Time... to end this," Ashura said, panting with exhaustion. She raised her hands, and an incandescent ball of energy began forming between them, glowing brighter and brighter until its brilliance rivaled that of the sun.

This is it, Ranma thought. She must be putting everything she has into this attack. It would annihilate him and all of his friends. The whole neighborhood would probably go with them. Damn it, there was nothing he could do! He could barely move his legs, much less attack!

Ranma remembered what Akane had said. *If there's any of you left in there that can hear me, I don't hate you. I love you!*

No way was he going to give up now!!

He took one of Kodachi's razor hoops, being careful to grip it in the right place. One last chance.

The miniature sun glowed to blinding brightness, as the last of Ashura's remaining energy was put into it. "Time to die, little ones." The energy globe began to descend.

Ranma flung the razor hoop.

The hoop flew through the air. Ashura did not even see it coming as it sliced through her neck.

The globe of power fell, as it began to pulsate chaotically. It was no longer constrained by its creator's will; Ashura no longer had the strength. The sky filled with light. Everyone below shielded their eyes as the energy ball fell into the body of the five-armed goddess. Ashura's decapitated head screamed with terror as her body was consumed by the fire, by the unstoppable, inevitable force of nature. The energy dissolved Ashura into it.

Then the fireball collapsed, imploding into itself. Suddenly the sky was clear. Ashura was no more; she was entropy.

"WE WON!!" Ranma shouted. His triumphant shout was met by sighs of relief from the others.

He planted his good leg on the ground and pulled himself up to look around. His friends were groaning, in pain, but they were alive. It looked like everybody had made it through the ordeal alive!

Happosai was there, unconscious. Had he done for Ranma what Cologne had done for Shampoo? Taken the curse to himself, given up his life so that Ranma could be himself again? Then why wasn't he a girl now?

He looked over to see Akane. She looked mostly unhurt, only a few marks; she was probably only caught by the edge of Ashura's fire storm. "Akane! We won!" he cheered as he hobbled over to her.

Akane just looked at him. "R-Ranma, I..."

Something was wrong, very wrong. Her half-smile and fearful, teary eyes said that she was happy that they'd won, but that she had something to tell him, something really bad. Ranma looked into the depth of those eyes...

... those eyes, those pools of horror...

... and someone else looked out. Someone who he had never met, but whose presence he knew intimately.

Ranma put his head on the girl's shoulder and cried. "Oh no... Akane!! Akane... you didn't have to... not for me! Akane! Oh, Akane..." He kept crying, long into the night.

Lili, looking out from her new body, held Ranma in her arms. She didn't know what else to do.



It was quiet around Nerima, as it had been every morning since last month's battle against Ashura. Though everyone had been released from the hospital, they all spent most of their time resting at their respective homes.

Shampoo sat in the Tendo back yard, thinking to herself. She wasn't sure whether she should be there. How would Ranma react if he saw her? He'd been so depressed when they had been in the hospital, so sad about losing Akane. He just lay in bed, speaking very little to anyone. He even refused to eat the hospital food; he said it reminded him of her cooking.

Contrary to what some people thought, Shampoo wasn't stupid; but she was used to a simpler life. Life in her wonderful amazon home was always clear-cut. Black and white. When you had a battle to fight, you fought it. When you had a task to accomplish, you did everything you could to accomplish it. Obstacles were to be removed. It was that simple.

Akane had been an obstacle to Shampoo's task of getting Ranma to marry her. Many times Shampoo had wished her gone, and tried to remove her. Now she had been removed, though not because of anything Shampoo had done. Shampoo should have been happy about this, but she could not help regretting the loss of Akane, a girl whose tenacity and fiery spirit could have qualified her as an amazon. Shampoo actually felt sorry about having wished her rival dead, and that didn't make any sense to her.

Things were so complicated in this place, this place so far away from home. Shampoo wanted Ranma to be her husband. She knew that she would be a good wife, a wife who would make her husband happy. Now Shampoo realized how very unhappy Ranma would have been if she *had* managed to get rid of Akane. He would have hated her for it. Perhaps he hated her now just for having wished Akane dead. She decided to go before...

"Yo, Shampoo."

"... Ranma?"

"Hey, it's good to see you. I thought you mighta gone back home or somethin'."

"I stay to tell you I sorry, Ranma. Great-grandmother not plan this way. Not expect this happen."

"Hey, I know that. Is she ...."

"Great-grandmother a cat now. She take curse to save Shampoo. I miss her very much. She sometimes tell me do wrong thing, get me into trouble, but Shampoo love her."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Ranma said. He thought of his Pop, whom he had just been to visit at the local zoo, whom he felt the same way about. "Man, so many people are gone... Pop, Ryoga, Mousse too... all because they fell in those damn pools! I oughtta go find that guide who runs that place and --"

"Ranma, Shampoo's amazon sisters go look for Jusenkyo last week. It gone! It vanished! They not can find cursed springs!"

"It figures, I guess. That place is a nightmare. One'a those things that comes in the night when you're not ready for it. You don't find them, they find you."

"You be okay now, Ranma?"

"I guess so. For a while it was like I didn't want to do anything except lie there. But you gotta go on, y'know? I guess we all just gotta keep goin' on. I'm really glad for the friends I got left. You, Ucchan, the Tendos, even the Kunos. I'm sorry about Cologne, but I'm glad you're all right now, and I'm really glad we didn't lose any more than we did."

"I glad for friends I have left too. Shampoo be seeing you, Ranma!" She gave a warm smile and left through the gate, waving back at him. She would be staying in Nerima, for a little while at least. Maybe a week or a month from now, she would go back to her sisters; or maybe she would go back to trying to get Ranma to marry her. But for now, she was going to be a friend to Ranma, because right now Ranma needed her as a friend. It was that simple.


Lili walked out, shutting the door behind her. She wore a light blue flowered dress, the one that she had worn earlier in Ranma's body. She carried a suitcase in one hand, with P-chan cradled in the other arm.

She couldn't stay here. She liked the Tendo family, and they would never have forced her to leave, but she just couldn't stay with them. Not while she wore the body of Akane. Every day of looking at her would be another cruel reminder to them of what they had lost.

Ranma was outside. He saw the girl struggling with her suitcase, and went over to her. "Here, lemme help you with that. Hey, y'know that dress looks really good on you."

"Thank you," Lili said, a little uneasily. "I'm sorry I caused you so much trouble." Her presence in Ranma's life had brought him so much hardship and sorrow; she couldn't blame him if he hated her.

"So, looks like you're leavin', huh? Keep in touch, wherever you go, and let us know if you ever need anything."

"Thank you. I spoke to the Tendos. I think they understand why I have to go."

"Y'know, it was quite an experience," Ranma said, "having your body for a while. Uh, you know what I mean. I hated it at first, but when I got a little used to it, it was... interesting... to find out what it was like to be a girl." Lili laughed awkwardly.

"G'bye, widdle P-chan," Ranma told the pig, scratching him under the chin. "You'll look after your mommy, and be there when she needs you, right?" P-chan nodded in assent.

"G'bye. Lili," Ranma said. Lili smiled. It was a big, cute smile, one that took Ranma back in time to when he first met Akane, to those rare moments when they weren't arguing, and Akane would smile at him, and he'd tell her that she was cute when she smiled. She was.

Ranma remembered the things Akane had said that morning -- her final words to him. *We never even said goodbye!* *If there's any of you left in there that can hear me, I don't hate you. I love you!*

There was.

Ranma gazed deep into Lili's eyes, and spoke.

Suddenly, Lili's body was no longer under her control. Her arms moved involuntarily, taking hold of Ranma.

She kissed him.

They held each other in a long, slow embrace. In that moment, time stopped. The moment was all that had ever existed, and all that would ever be. The feeling was back; emotion so strong, so deep, that Lili knew once again what it was like to be alive. Somehow, someday she would find the courage, the spirit, to feel this way about someone herself.

Soon Lili's muscles were hers again. She gently broke off the embrace, and left Ranma with a wave and a smile. Ranma just stood and watched her go, the last words he had said to her echoing in his mind.

"I love you too, Akane. Goodbye."


Lili walked down the street, toward a certain estate. The thought of being on her own, especially in this world, frightened her too much. She needed a place to stay, and there was only one place to go.

Upperclassman Tatewaki Kuno opened his front door, only to see Akane Tendo standing there. "Please," she said to him, "I need a place to stay. Can you help me?"

Tatewaki kept his voice somber and sympathetic, as Akane was obviously distraught over something. "The house of Kuno is open to you always. My home is your home, and while in it you are under the protection of the Blue Thunder."

"Thank you," she said with a smile, and entered. Then Tatewaki looked into her eyes, and he saw. It had happened. He did not know how, but he knew that somehow it had.

He had them both.

He had always known that he would.


AUTHOR'S NOTES: This was based on "Cursed" by Richard Lawson, and "Hello Again" by Benjamin Franz, and it is dedicated to these authors with gratitude and admiration for these fine works. Thanks to Richard for giving me permission to do this sequel. Benjamin, I hope we'll see more from you soon!

I originally got the idea for this sequel in January, when "Cursed" came out. Because I had "Lost" and other projects to work on, this one got put on the shelf. My interest in this got renewed by a bit of spam on the fanfiction mailing list noting that there are many fics where Mousse gets Shampoo, but none where Kuno gets Akane. As you've seen, this is (sort of) a Kuno gets Akane fic. (It's not Akane's mind, you say? Picky picky!) Moreover, the premise behind it was Benjamin's and Richard's, so one can hardly accuse me of having contrived the whole fic just to get those two together in the end. (I hope it should be obvious, though, that Akane getting Kuno was not the ONLY reason I wrote this. Not even the main reason.)

Some readers asked how Lili knew which modern clothes were appropriate for a girl, and why she didn't try to find the kinds of clothes she wore in her own time. I attribute this to the residual influence of Ranma, the same thing that gave her the ability to understand and speak Japanese. I don't even know what kind of clothes she would have worn in her time, or even where to look to research the question; if anyone does, please tell me.

In case anyone is wondering, Happosai did NOT take advantage of Akane in the way that Nabiki thought he would in part 4. They went off together simply so he could teach her how to use the transference water. Nabiki was wrong. Hey, nobody's perfect!

Many people asked me about where the Musk Dynasty would be in this alternate universe. Good question. Since in this universe the Jusenkyo pools absorb and transmit entire personas, it would seem to me that any given pool would only work once until someone else drowned in it. If Herb and co. exist at all in this continuity, their story will be quite different. The same for Saffron and friends. Kima could not have made an Akane-niquan as in the original series, since this would have killed Akane and put her consciousness into Kima. (Of course there is some possibility of something along these lines happening AFTER the events of this story, given how it ended...) So dealing with Herb, Saffron, etc. was beyond the scope of this story. It might be material for a sequel to this, though I probably won't be the one to write it.

Many thanks to Lawson-sensei and the Newbie Forum members for pre-reading and encouragement, and thanks to everyone on the FFML who commented on the various sections. That's what kept me going. Thanks to Cindy Toler for giving the final manuscript a good going-over and spotting my mistakes. Finally, if you've made it through this, thanks to you, and I'd like to hear anything you have to say!