Prologue

Once upon a time, a vast kingdom existed. Its lands stretched over enormous distances, bounded by desert and mountains and ocean. An old and wise monarch ruled with justice and fairness, and was beloved by all the people, or so say the legends.

The djinn, or genies, were the bane of the kingdom. They flitted about from place to place, causing terrible chaos and mischief with their magics. So great was their power that none could stand against it.

The monarch of the land saw what the djinn were doing, and knew that they had to be stopped. One by one, the genies were captured and imprisoned so that they could cause no further harm and disruption to mankind.

However, one djinn managed to escape every trap set for it. Magic lamps, bottles, rings -- none of them could hold this genie. The monarch assembled the finest scholars who could be found and asked what could be done, how the kingdom could be rid of this troublesome spirit. They had no answer.

In desperation, the monarch traveled to the mountains, where the most knowledgeable sage in the kingdom was said to live. The monarch found the sage and asked what could be tried to contain the djinn that the most powerful devices in the land had failed to hold.

"Well," said the sage, "there might just be ONE thing...."


I DREAM OF RANMA

Ranma 1/2 Alternate Universe Manga Fanfiction
by Gary Kleppe

Episode 1:
When You Wish Upon a Martial Artist


Once upon a much later time, a kingdom of sorts existed called the Tendo Dojo. Its ruler was not really all that wise, but had a good heart and generally meant well. He had three daughters, the youngest of whom was named Akane.


"I'm Akane." She smiled at the smaller girl. "You want to be friends?"

The other girl -- Ranma, she'd said her name was -- nodded, with gratitude in her eyes. She stood, and followed Akane into the practice hall. The air was humid and sticky following an early rain shower, and Akane's gi clung to her body as she walked.

It'd been a weird morning. They'd been expecting a boy and his father, not a girl and a panda. Everyone had acted disappointed, and Ranma had seemed upset about it. Akane hoped a little combat would take her mind off it and make her feel better.

Akane paused for a moment to stare at Ranma's odd clothing. The basic outfit was something akin to a two-piece bikini. A vest partially overlaid the top, and a pair of loose-fitting, semitransparent pants covered the bottom. Shiny bracelets adorned her wrists and ankles. It certainly wasn't what Akane had expected from someone who practiced fighting. Then again, she'd seen and heard of some pretty weird styles; a school of Martial Arts Belly-dancing wouldn't be that hard to believe.

"You do karate, don't you?" Akane asked.

"A little."

The door slid open, and they stepped onto the slatted wooden floor of the dojo. "Then let's have a little match, okay?"

"Huh?"

"Just for fun." Akane took up a combat stance, feet widely apart. "Don't worry. I won't hurt you. I'm not the greatest martial artist in the world, no matter how much I wish I were." Ranma seemed to pale a bit at those last words. Strange, Akane thought; wasn't there any way to build up this girl's confidence? Oh well, it was something she would have to work on.

Ranma bowed slightly, and stood with her legs together and her hands behind her back. She obviously wasn't going to make the first move. Akane charged forward, her fists tightly clenched. Ranma waited for her approach.

Akane lashed out with a fist, and time seemed to go into slow motion. Her senses flared into an alertness at a level she'd never before experienced. She was aware of every minute motion, even every drop of sweat on Ranma's body. The muted thumping of Ranma's heartbeat quickened as her eyes tilted slightly upwards. She was about to try to leap over Akane's strike. That was as obvious to Akane as if there had been a six-foot sign announcing it.

The fist's direction adjusted slightly, it struck Ranma's chest in exactly the right spot. She went limp as she crashed into the wooden wall, then slumped to the ground like a child going down a slide.

Akane stared at her opponent, who was gasping for breath. How the hell did I do that? Not only had she easily hit the fastest opponent she'd ever faced, but she'd known exactly where and how to hit so that Ranma would be unable to keep fighting, but wouldn't sustain any lasting injury.

Akane reached out a hand, and helped Ranma to her feet. "Sorry about that." Why did she have to waste such a great strike fighting Ranma -- who she had been trying to cheer up? Why couldn't it happen against Kuno, or one of the other blowhards at school? The ones who deserved this kind of beating? "I'm not usually that good. Really."

"Yeah." Ranma nodded. "Believe me, I understand." The girls exchanged awkward smiles and nervous laughter.

"I'm really sorry." Akane was making a fool out of herself, practically falling over herself to apologize, but she didn't know what else to say.

"Don't worry about it. It wasn't your fault. It was...." Ranma's gaze seemed to lose focus for a moment, then returned. "It wasn't your fault."

"You know, I've always wanted to do that well against some of the adolescent idiots at our school. I'm sorry I had to waste a pounding like that against someone who didn't deserve it." She smirked at Ranma. "I kinda wish you were a boy."

Akane blinked. She was suddenly looking at a different person. The black pigtail was still there, but the person attached to it now wore a dark red Chinese shirt and black pants. And he was male. She spent several moments staring at the flat, muscular chest to confirm it. Definitely male.

"I'm Ranma Saotome," he said. "Sorry about this."

Turning away, Akane lowered her head for a moment.

Then she screamed.

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaad!"

***

"...and that's the story, Tendo."

A stunned silence pervaded the room. Tendos, their faces glazed over with dull astonishment, stared at Saotomes. Ranma wondered whether they believed Pop's explanation. Transforming springs weren't the kind
of thing you heard about every day. Still, they'd seen the changes for themselves, and it was hard to ignore what your own eyes told you.

Ranma sighed. Pop hadn't even told them the worst part of it yet. He hoped they never found out. But it was probably inevitable that they would.

Mr. Tendo tried to look stately and dignified, though he seemed like he might break into tears at any second. "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...." Beads of sweat ran down his forehead. "So, Saotome.... Cold water changes you into a panda, while hot water restores you to normal."

Pop nodded. "That's about the size of it, Tendo."

"How could you take Ranma to such a place?" Kasumi scolded. "A parent ought to be more responsible!"

"All for the sake of the art," Pop replied without shame. "I'll make Ranma into the world's greatest living martial artist if it kills both of us."

"Just a minute." Akane eyed Ranma dubiously. "There wasn't any hot water in the dojo when we fought. Yet you changed back."

"Ah, yes." Pop pushed his glasses up to the top of his nose. "You see, there's more to Ranma's curse than we'd originally thought." Without warning, he grabbed Ranma and flung him through the air. For the second time that day, Ranma landed with a splash in the pond.

As always, the change happened without any sensation. There was no feeling of his body being stretched and squeezed. He didn't notice that he'd changed until he looked down and saw his breasts. And his clothes were gone, too. Every time it happened, whatever he had been wearing would disappear and he'd be wearing the costume. He felt like a pervert in it. And it put his assets on display for all of the other perverts to stare at.

"You see, the pool Ranma fell in wasn't just a spring of ordinary drowned girl. Again, it would be easier to demonstrate." Pop turned to Ranma and raised his voice. "I w—"

Ranma quickly poured a bucket of water over him, and his words became a series of grunts and growfs. "That's nobody's business, Pop!"

"I wish you hadn't done that, son," Mr. Tendo gently admonished. "Your father was trying to--" He stopped in mid-sentence, gaping at Pop who was now back in human form. "Saotome? How did you--?"

"You wished for it, Tendo. You see, as near as we can figure, Ranma's pool has turned him into a genie."

"Oh my, a genie?" Kasumi said, as if the news were no big deal. "You mean one of those Arabian spirits who can grant wishes?"

"Yup." Ranma felt as if he were confessing to a crime, and about to take his punishment. It had been bad enough having Pop making all kinds of dumb wishes. Now the whole Tendo family would be doing the same thing. "Akane made one before, by accident. That's how she won the fight we had."

"Wait a minute!" Akane said defensively. "What are you talking about?! I beat you fair and square!"

"No you didn't." Ranma flashed a smug smile. "You wished to be the world's greatest martial artist, or something like that. That's cheating."

"What do you mean, 'cheating?!'"

"I mean cheating. If you don't understand, try wishing for a dictionary."

"Look, Ranma." Nabiki glared at him with steel eyes. "You can't possibly expect us to believe what you've told us, can you?"

"I don't care what you believe." Actually, Ranma hoped they wouldn't buy it.

"Uh huh. Well, gosh, this summer heat is such a bother," Nabiki said, her tone flippant. "I really wish this house had central air conditioning."

The low, soft hum of machinery activating was heard. Air blew into the room from a vent that hadn't been there minutes earlier, bathing the occupants in delicious cool.

"It worked?!" Nabiki gaped incredulously as she stared at the vent. She ran over and felt the stream of air with her hand.

"Goodness!" Kasumi exclaimed. "Ranma will certainly come in useful around the house!"

"You never told me you had such a talented offspring, Saotome!" Mr. Tendo put his arm around the boy-turned-genie, patting him on the shoulder. "Ranma! I'd like you to formally meet my three beautiful, eligible daughters. Pick the one you want, and...."

"Forget it." Ranma waved a hand dismissively. "No offense, Mr. Tendo, but I ain't gettin' married to nobody."

"This is a matter of family honor, boy," Pop said. "I told you that before."

"Stuff it, Pop." Ranma stared back at him defiantly. "I ain't pickin' one of them."

Pop smiled maliciously. "I wish you would."

"Akane," Ranma blurted out uncontrollably. Then he clubbed his father over the head with his fist. "Damn it, Pop! You got no right to--"

"Me?!" Akane glowered. "Why would I ever want to marry an egotistical jerk like you?"

"Hey! At least I don't cheat to win fights."

Akane's teeth clenched. "I. Did. Not. Cheat," she hissed. "Why don't you make a wish to not be such a jerk!"

"Don't you get it? It doesn't work when I do it!" Her insult sank in, and he felt the need to counterattack. "Anyway, you couldn't beat me in a fair fight in a hundred years." Middle school had taught him that verbal fighting was like any other kind; you won by finding and hitting your opponents' vulnerable spots. "I'm faster, stronger, and when I'm a girl I'm even built better than you." He laughed.

"Ranma," Akane said with surprising calm. "I wish I had a really big hammer."

A large mallet appeared in her hand. She promptly clubbed Ranma over the head with it.

"Now that he had coming," Pop said.

"You were right, Kasumi," Akane said as she walked away from Ranma. "It is convenient to have him around!"

Ranma winced, nursing the painful lump that was now on the back of his head. Of course, that was something else he'd learned in middle school: insult fights could easily turn into other kinds.

"It's all very impressive, Ranma." Nabiki looked at him, a skeptical eyebrow raised. "But what's the catch?"

Mr. Tendo turned his head. "Catch?" It evidently hadn't occurred to him that there might be one.

"Catch?" Pop repeated innocently.

"Yes, catch." Nabiki shot a hard glare at Pop. "It can't be this easy. Why haven't you wished to be cured of your panda curse permanently? Why aren't you obscenely wealthy? Et cetera, et cetera. And puh-lease don't try to tell me you'd never thought of it."

"Well." Pop cleared his throat. "To use my son's abilities for personal gain would, of course, be dishonorable."

Rolling his eyes, Ranma motioned for Mr. Tendo to hand him a kettle of hot water. He lifted it over himself as Pop kept talking.

"Such an action," Pop continued, "would not befit the high standards that I as a martial artist have naturally come to--" Ranma poured the hot water onto himself; he became male. Exactly simultaneously, Pop turned back into a panda, and his words became unintelligible. Akane's hammer vanished, as did the air conditioning.

"I see," Nabiki said. "Dad's wish had turned him human, but with you no longer a genie, there was nothing to keep it in effect. When you go back to male form, it cancels all the wishes. Right?"

Ranma nodded.

"Hmmm..." She stared at him. He could almost see the wheels turning in her head. "How's that lump?"

He carefully felt the bump on the back of his head. "Still hurts a little." Why was she asking? From her expression, she didn't seem concerned about him. It was more like he was a lab rat and she was observing him.

"Thought so." She flashed a shark-like smile that gave Ranma a sinking feeling in his stomach. Nabiki was going to mean trouble, probably more than any of the others. He was glad, at least, that he hadn't picked her for the fiancee deal. If he married her, he'd probably end up living in some magic lamp, let out only when she wanted another new car or something.

Kasumi, on the other hand, seemed relatively safe, but he couldn't picture himself married to her. Though she was only a few years older that he was, she still seemed so... motherly. A mother would be a nice thing to have, he supposed, but he didn't want to marry one. He thought about what married people did together, and shuddered. With someone who was like a mother? That was just wrong.

And what about Akane? She didn't seem interested in exploiting him, which was a good thing. But she'd gotten all hostile as soon as she'd found out that he was a boy. Would they ever be able to live together without arguing and fighting all the time?

He glanced over at her, and saw what might be sympathy in her eyes. Then, noticing that he was looking, she hmphed and turned away indignantly. So much for the lesser of three evils, he thought. Maybe the magic had just made him pick her at random.

I ain't gettin' married to nobody. He repeated the thought to himself, over and over. He was living with the Tendos now -- there was nothing he could do about that. But he wasn't going to let Nabiki and the others take advantage of him. And he'd keep his curse a secret from everyone else in the neighborhood.

After all, how difficult could it be?



AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story should not be confused with Tom "Disruptor" Mathews' "Genie of the Ring" fic. Though both grew from the same seed, our takes on the idea are quite different, as you know if you've read both stories. Thanks go to Jurai Knight for the idea post that got me interested in writing this, and to Megane 6.7, who allowed me to run some of my initial ideas for this series by him, and suggested some more.

I currently plan 13 episodes, and might add more if I think of ideas for them. Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you.