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A Ranma ½ story
by 'The Randalls' (Brian Randall and Durandall)

Disclaimer: All hail Takahashi-sama, for creating the fine works she has. In that vein of thought, I am using her creations without permission from her, Viz, or anyone else who actually does own the rights to Ranma.

Durandall: What about a world where something has gone differently in the past? Well, there have been many, many, many of those… As many Ranma fanfics as are out there, one of the most common things in Ranma, is to have Ranma be a capable fighter. More than that, Ranma is usually willing to fight. And heís good at it. Let's face it, Ranma is almost always cast as being the best at whatever he does when he shows up at the dojo, and that's part of the appeal of his character, I suppose. But have any ever explored the possibility of Ranma as a pacifist? Someone opposed to violence and harm? Why not? Well, here it is.

The young boy stared at the flames that leapt from the remnants of the yattai. Of course, his father was not a skilled cook, and even had he been, his drunkenness couldn't help matters. The boy sighed, staring into the flames. Somehow, he knew that they represented much more than just a physical loss.

In the back of his mind, even at his young age, he recognized that this was a loss that would hurt his young friend. His friend who he had fought with regularly, just a little match every day to see if he could beat him and win an okonomiyaki or two. The child furrowed his brow in thought; was it the fighting that had lead to this?


He glanced at his father, drunk and snoring precariously near the flaming wreckage of the okonomiyaki cart. Is this where being a fighter would lead him? He believed with almost absolute certainty that it would. What options did he have?

In his childish mind, he came up with two possibilities. Either he would become a better fighter than his father, and try not to repeat his mistakes. Or he would never fight anyone again.

Which choice to make? He turned around the lot, idly searching for another source of wisdom. Much to his delight, there was another man in the lot. Leaning against a wall in flickering shadows cast from the raging yattai, he looked at it sadly, almost forlornly.

He approached the man and bowed politely. He was not normally taken to being this polite, but something told him that the decision he would make now was important, and that the occasion deserved some amount of respect.

The older man smiled at him, "Hello, young gentleman." He politely nodded his head, returning the child's attempt at a proper bow. "What troubles you?"

The boy thought for a long moment, choosing his words with care, "My father hurt someone that I was a friend to."

Sighing, the man shook his head, "We all hurt people, some times in our lives… it is a mark of youth and carelessness."

Shaking his head vigorously in response, the boy responded, "But I don't want to hurt anyone. I never want to hurt anyone ever again."

Pursing his lips thoughtfully, the old man stared into the night sky for a period of time. As the young boy's attention was about to waver, he nodded to himself, and lowered his gaze to meet the child's, "Very well then. It is not possible to never hurt anyone, but you may find a way to hurt everyone less. In that case, I will give you a simple saying, to remember your conviction. Child, never forget this. 'The pen is mightier than the sword.'"

The boy's face split into a wide grin, "So if I use a pen, I'll never hurt anyone?"

The old man shook his head, returning the smile ruefully, "No… The pen can cause greater hurts than a mere blade or fist ever could… but the pen offers the chance to mend wounds, and heal hurts as well. If you follow that path… then you may find a way to help people who have been hurt."

Nodding, the boy turned to face his father for a moment, then returned to the old man, "Thank you, Sir. I will follow the path of the pen."

Smirking, the older man tousled the child's hair, "Never forget that. Now, let's haul that man away from the fire before he hurts himself."

"I refuse, Father. There is no sound reason for me to do such a thing."

Genma growled at his son, the glimmering of an idea forming in his head, "Very well then, I understand your cowardice."

The young Ranma shook his head, "I see no reason to learn a new technique that is used to harm others."

With a lopsided grin, Genma shrugged, "If you're afraid you can't survive the training without becoming a violent man, you only have to admit to your fear."

That did it. A goad to the young boy's pride in two places. He was no coward; in fact, he had faced challenges that most children his age would run from screaming. The worse of the two goads, of course, was to his chosen path. "Wrap me up, Father. I'm going in."

Genma suppressed a laugh as he draped the boy with fish sausages.

"Come on, boy, are you scared?"

The guide turned to Ranma, "{He isn't exactly the brightest in the bunch, is he?}"

Ranma turned a sad smile to the guide, "{As much as I would wish to claim otherwise, you are correct. Now, what is the story of these springs?}"

The guide's eyes widened briefly, "{Wow! A customer that actually heeds the warning? The apocalypse must be coming soon. Even the natives fall in sometimes!}"

Shrugging, Ranma surveyed the training grounds, "{I'll admit… it doesn't look like much. Now, the pamphlet I read said that if you fall into a spring, you take the body of whatever fell in. Is that right?}"

Nodding, the guide gestured, "{Yes. The pond that he is standing over is the spring of drowned little black pig. If he falls in, he will turn into a piglet.}"

Frowning, he glanced over the seemingly harmless training ground, "{Is it permanent? Does it affect the mind, or the body?}"

The guide shrugged, lighting his pipe. At a slight frown from Ranma, he apologetically tapped it out and stowed it in a coat pocket, "{Well, yes, and no. You will retake the cursed form every time you're splashed with cold water. Most of the springs only affect your body, but a few affect the mind…}"

Sighing, Ranma shook his head, "Come down, Father. This place is too dangerous to play in. If you fall in, you won't like the results!"

Genma grimaced, "Coward!" The insult would not work on the boy anymore. Ever since the neko-ken training… And when had the boy learned Chinese, anyway? Or any of the other myriad things he had picked up over the years. Frankly, Genma found the healing spells unnerving, "Fine. Have it your way. No violence, just try and touch me."

Rolling his eyes, Ranma set his bag on the ground, and crossed his arms over his chest, "No. This is foolish, and I'd rather not get cursed."

The older man snorted, "No such thing as curses, boy, now get up here!"

The guide shook his head sadly, "{That man-}" He had long ago decided that he admired the boy too much to admit that the boy and the older man were related, "{-is without a doubt the world's biggest moron. I think you'd be better off without him.}"

Ranma nodded sadly at the man, "{I'm just glad I don't follow in his footsteps.}"

Unfortunately, Ranma was facing the guide, and experienced one of the few moments in his life that he wished he had paid attention to his father. Seemingly out of nowhere, the old man dashed in, grabbed Ranma, and flung him bodily towards a spring, "Come on boy! Fight! There's no such thing as curses, you'll see!"

Flying towards the spring, Ranma assessed his options. One, he could try and latch onto something as he flew past it. Two, he could scream and flail his arms around at random until he hit the pond. Three, he could develop a new technique to try and change his course in midair. Four, he could use some of his arcane lore to float over the pond.

Option four seemed like a good idea, but Ranma wasn't yet very good at that trick, and it required him to be seated in a lotus position. He also wasn't sure it worked over water. Well, four was out. What about three? Hrm. Nope, can't think of anything in time. Well. There's a bamboo pole right there, we'll just grab onto that as we pass by, right? Option one, here we go.


It was worth a shot. On to option two, then. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"


Ranma grumbled as he sank into the pond, perhaps, if he was lucky, nothing would happen. However, he knew from certain experience, that magic did exist. Certainly, he'd seen nothing of this magnitude before, but he did not doubt its power for an instant.

Emerging from the pond, Ranma cast quick glances over himself. Hands? Check. Feet? They felt okay. Face? Still have eyes nose and lips. So far so good. Let's see… torso? This is new. Hrm. Better check lower. Oh, dear. My life is over. Better enjoy what's left of it for now.

Climbing out of the pond, Ranma stalked towards the old man, "Father." His - no, her voice held no anger, only pity, "We will have to commit seppuku once mother hears of this, of course."

Genma winced, and cringed as his son-turned-daughter bared her chest at him, to make the point clear. He had learned long ago that Ranma's words could cut more deeply than any blade ever could, and did not look forward to Nodoka discovering the change in the boy… girl… child.

The guide scowled, "{Forgive me, sir. I know that you won't, and I think that he deserves this.}" Quickly whipping out and lighting his pipe, the guide dropped a sizable lump of hot ash into the back of the old man's gi. Dealing with Ranma's purely defensive methods had caused the old man to forget how much pain he could tolerate.

He hopped around, trying to reach the searing point of pain in his back, "OW, OW, OW, OW!"

The guide smirked, "Quick, mister customer! Jump into spring! Spring put out fire!" Turning to Ranma, he sighed, "{I just hope he doesn't jump into an unbound spring.}"

Ranma raised an eyebrow, wringing out her hair, "{What happens then?}"

The guide shrugged, watching the old man leap towards a spring, "{We get dirt and fill in new spring of drowned pathetic bastardly excuse for a father.}"

Swallowing back a laugh, Ranma nodded, "{Quite. I really shouldn't gloat, but perhaps… In the mean-time, while he's busy making a fool of himself, how do I get my own body back?}"

The guide motioned her to follow, "{Come with me, sir. We'll make you some hot water. I don't have a cure, but you seem knowledgeable… I have a few books about magic that might be able to help you search for a cure to the spring of drowned girl.}"

After dousing himself, Ranma slumped to a chair in the cabin, "{Ah… whew. This is going to cause me problems. I kind of like the idea of red hair, though… anyway. Is there a spring of drowned boy?}"

Nodding slowly, the guide gestured vaguely towards the spring, "{Yes… but it doesn't quite mesh with the opposing curse…}"

Sighing, Ranma flipped through the small stack of books the guide had given him, "{Which would result in me dying?}"

The guide snorted, "{If you're lucky. Otherwise, you might become half-and-half… or both. Or trapped in curse form… it's not a good thing.}"

A panda pawed into the house, glancing around mournfully.

After handing him a kettle of hot water, the guide pointedly ignored him, and turned back to Ranma, "{Spring of drowned boy will cure panda spring, though…}"

Genma looked grief stricken, "Is there a cure, son? Does it last?"

Ranma glanced at Genma for a moment, then turned back to guide, "{Too bad for him. As much as I try and avoid being judgmental… I don't think he deserves it yet… do you have something like the spring of drowned saint?}"

The guide nodded thoughtfully, "{Spring of drowned virtuous man… should I…?}"

After considering for a moment, Ranma shook his head, "{No… Not a good idea. It wouldn't really make him better all the time… just some times. And it wouldn't really be him.}"

The guide shook his head, sighing, "{You are wise beyond your years.}"

Wearing his sad smile again, Ranma shook his head, "{With him, I have to be.}" He then turned to his father, "It's permanent, for now. Hot water will reverse it, cold water will activate it. The guide kindly gave me some books so we can research it, and look for a way to find a cure." It didn't occur to Ranma at just that moment that Genma was referring to his own curse, and not Ranma's.


"No! That table says 'first prize', and I certainly don't recall winning it."

The guide's eyes widened, and he hastened to help Ranma hold back the panda, "Women in village are very strong! You eat their food, you will make them very mad!"

Ranma smiled slightly, the Japanese lessons she was giving the guide were slowly making their effect felt, "Now, sit down, and I'll see if I can talk someone into giving us something to eat. I still have some money."

The panda sank to its haunches and wailed pitifully, "Growf!"

Feeling a slight tap on her shoulder, Ranma turned to face a pretty, long-haired girl. Her purple locks outlined her face, while she wore a pair of bells on the foremost strands of hair. She eyed Ranma speculatively, then nodded, "{Who are you? And what is your pet doing?}"

Ranma bowed low to the girl politely, "{My name is Ranma. The panda is my father, with a curse. He was trying to eat this prize, and I was stopping him.}"

Violence flared momentarily in the purple-haired Amazonís eyes, "{Trying to eat my prize? Why do you think you can help yourself to my prize?}"

Ranma pushed down on the back of her father's head, to encourage him to bow, and deepened her own, kneeling in front of the girl, "{My father is ignorant to the ways of the world, and further ignorant to the ways of your culture. I was able to stop my father before he touched your prize. Please find it within your heart to forgive us.}"

A new voice made itself known, while the panda straightened up to look around. Ranma maintained his low bow, listening, "{I am surprised. You're awfully polite for an outsider. Look up at me, child.}"

Ranma straightened up, facing the old woman that was balancing on her staff, and regarding her intently, "{When a man finds himself in a foreign land, that man must learn the ways of the land he visits. To do otherwise, is to dishonor your hosts.}"

Cologne blinked at him for a moment, "{Are you a man?}"

Nodding, Ranma explained it in a single word, "Jusenkyou."

Sighing, Cologne turned to her great granddaughter, "{Xian Pu, you have no reason to fight this one… he has not touched your prize.}"

Shampoo eyed Ranma for a moment, then shook her head, "{A man that thinks he can wear a woman's body and enter our village? I wish to challenge you anyway.}"

Ranma sighed, and shook her head, "{I do not fight; I am a pacifist.}"

The amazons stared at him for a minute, then exchanged a worried glance. The word 'pacifist,' in their culture was said rarely, and when it was, it was used as an insult. A rather rude one, at that. Cologne raised an eyebrow, and faced the redhead again, "{You cannot fight at all?}"

Smiling, Ranma shook her head again, "{I can defend myself, but I believe that true power is knowing when not to fight.}" Turning to Shampoo, she bowed again, "{Again, I apologize, but I will not fight you, or anyone else.}"

Shampoo eyed the shorter girl for a moment, then shrugged, "{Will you defend yourself if I attack you?}"

Ranma nodded, "{I will… but I wish to not have to fight you.}"

The guide was slowly translating for Genma, who rolled his eyes, and panda swiped at Ranma, "Growf!" He hefted a sign as Ranma ducked below the blow, 'Real men accept all challenges!'

Shampoo glanced at the panda, "{What is he doing?}"

Shrugging, Ranma explained, "{My father wishes me to challenge you. He thinks that my refusal to fight makes me less of a man.}"

Shaking her head, Shampoo sighed, "{I will fight you, then.}"

With resignation, Ranma entered the battle with Shampoo, on the log. Ranma blocked all of Shampoo's attacks with her arms and legs, and twisted out of their paths when she could, but refused to strike back. She could tell that Shampoo was more skilled than she was, but was holding back somewhat. Almost a full hour later, a final lunge sent Shampoo off balance, and she collided with Ranma, bringing both crashing to the ground.

Cologne poured hot water on Ranma while he lay still, not daring to try and remove Shampoo for fear of touching her somewhere… offensive. Shampoo blinked, frowned, and bit her lip, looking up at Cologne, but otherwise pinning Ranma to the ground with her body.

It was then that Ranma began to notice certain… things. Shampoo was sprawled along him, pressing her… assets into his chest. Trying not to think about it became much harder after the two of them got wet. Ranma tried to concentrate on the leather breastplate between the two of them, but it wasn't helping much.

With a sigh, the elder shook her head, "{No, child… I don't think you could without his permission.}"

Pouting, Shampoo climbed to her feet, then helped Ranma to his own. Shampoo smiled coyly, "{Ranma… would you like to marry me?}"

Ranma blinked a few times, taken aback, "Eh? What? Marriage?"

The majority of the amazons that had gathered to watch the spectacle stared. Genma growled, "Ranma… you can't marry an Amazon."

Frowning, he turned to face his father, who had managed to get some hot water, "And why not?"

Genma shook his head, "You have… a prior obligation."

Sighing, Ranma turned back to Shampoo, "{I am sorry. My father says that I have a prior obligation to attend to.}"

Pouting cutely, Shampoo sighed, "{Then… can we be friends? I have far too much food to eat on my own…}"

Smiling, Ranma gently took her hand in his, "{I would be proud to call you a friend.}"

From the side, Cologne heaved a sigh of relief. While Ranma was a good potential ally, adding him to the village might weaken its fighting instincts.

"Are you really and truly certain that this is the best idea? You don't want to find some hot water first?"

The panda shook his head, "Growf."

Sighing, the redhead knocked on the door to the Tendo home, "At least walk on four legs, you'll scare them otherwise."

Grumbling, the panda hunkered down onto four legs.

An older man and a somewhat attractive girl with shoulder length hair answered the door. The thin man in the worn brown gi looked down at Ranma, smiling hugely, "Ranma?"

Ranma nodded, staring at her feet, "I am Saotome Ranma… sorry about this." She blushed, feeling nervous, and knowing her curse would only make matters worse.

The man embraced Ranma tightly, "Ranma!" Then he blinked, and pulled the girl away, staring at her chest, "Eh?"

With a muffled thump, he fell to the ground.

Kneeling on the floor, surrounded by the old man and his three daughters, Ranma could only feel her discomfort and embarrassment mount. The girl who he had seen at the door exclaimed, "Some fiancť this is!" And proceeded to grope Ranma forcefully.

Ranma placed a hand on Nabiki's gently, "Please don't do that… that hurts." But she ignored Ranma's protests, and poked Ranma's chest again.

Another girl, the youngest one, he imagined, took her hand in her own, "Hey, I'm Akane… you look like you could use a friend. Want to spar?"

Nodding, the redhead allowed herself to be lead to the family's dojo. Once inside, Akane smiled at Ranma, "So. You know Kempo?"

Ranma nodded, "Yes. I am knowledgeable in many areas of martial arts."

Akane grinned, "Great! Let's get started."

The fight started. Ranma watched passively, and blocked or evaded every attack, though only just barely. After about ten minutes, Akane backed off slightly, "Well… you're pretty good, but why don't you attack me?"

Ranma looked away from Akane, and stared at the floor, "I… I don't fight. I never strike an opponent. My father… when I was young I learned that force and violence always bring pain. So now, I don't fight."

Akane rolled her eyes, "But you still know martial arts."

Ranma nodded, "Yes. I think I see it as a perfect unity of mind and body… I also see it as an excellent form of self defense."

Smirking, Akane asked, "So. If you have to fight, and you can't strike your enemy, how do you win the battle?"

Meeting her gaze, the redhead smiled warmly, "'The pen is mightier than the sword,' Akane. Some day, if you wish, I can show you. But words can stop people with less damage than a fist ever could. When words fail… I can defend myself, though I would let myself be struck before I would ever lash out."

Akane rolled her eyes again, "Okay, let's spar again, but this time fight me back. If you don't want to hit me, just touch me."

Ranma reddened slightly, "Um… okay. Where?"

Not thinking about it, Akane shrugged, "I don't know, anywhere." Ignoring the redhead's deepening blush, Akane swung a fist at Ranma as fast and hard as she could.

Ranma ducked down beneath the fist, and slid forward. She passed underneath Akane's arm, then bounced to her feet behind Akane. Smiling, she reached towards Akane and… tickled. By the time she crashed to the floor, the two had collapsed into a giggling pile.

Akane disentangled herself from the other girl, "Well, for someone who doesn't believe in fighting, you're not very bad."

Ranma stood, blushing, and staring at her feet, "Thanks." She smiled at the other girl, "You know… I haven't had a real friend in so long… I left my best friends behind in China…" Her face darkened a little, as she began to suspect that Akane wouldn't want to be her friend once she found out about the curse.

Akane shrugged, not noticing, "Heh. I'm just glad I lost to you. I don't think I'd ever want to lose to a boy." Sinking to her knees, the color drained from Ranma's face. Akane turned, "Ranma? What's wrong?"

With pain visible in her face, Ranma shook her head, "N… nothing…"

Akane rolled her eyes, "Yeah, right. Now come on, you can tell me about it."

Sinking slowly to her own knees, Akane attempted to give Ranma a hug, but the redhead scurried out of reach, and fled from the dojo silently.

Akane rose to her feet, frowning, "What did I say?"

She met Kasumi on the porch. Kasumi handed her a towel, "Here you go, Akane. Ranma's already in the bath… she said she wanted to bathe alone, but I think she could use someone to talk to afterwards."

Nodding at her older sister's look of concern, Akane entered the changing room. Seeing Ranma's Chinese clothing stacked in the clothing bin, she sighed to herself. What did I say to that poor girl? She listened at the bathroom door carefully, removing her own clothing.

Ranma mumbled to herself, unsure what to do, "And now… I blew it. They aren't going to want anything to do with me once they find out!"

Sliding the door open, Akane peered into the bathroom. Ranma was on a stool in the rough center, her back to Akane, and her face buried in her hands. Akane gently placed a hand on the other girl's shoulder, "Ranma? Are you okay?"

Ranma leapt at the touch, and huddled in the far corner of the bathroom, eyes clenched shut, "Akane?! Don't! I… I can't look at you!"

Akane blinked, confused. Was the shorter girl, perhaps interested in women? It would explain a lot of things. Akane sighed, deciding that that answer explained this confusion best. After wrapping herself with a towel, she turned back to the redhead, "It's okay, I'm covered… do you want to talk about it?"

Heaving a shuddering breath, Ranma opened her eyes slowly, "I… yes. I should explain everything to you…" Sighing, Akane went to the girl to give her a hug. In Akane's mind, that was what Ranma needed more than anything. Ranma scurried out of reach, "You can't touch me! Not until I explain things!"

Frowning, Akane sat a short distance away from Ranma, trapping her in another corner. Her only path of escape lay either through Akane, or into the furo. And the furo was the last place that Ranma wanted to go without explaining things first. Akane's face showed only concern. "Well, I'm listening… go ahead and explain things to me, then."

Taking a few gulping breaths of air, Ranma nodded slowly, "Well… can… can I have a towel?"

Akane grabbed a towel from the rack, and handed it to the smaller girl. Oddly, she fastened it about her waist, seemingly unconcerned about her uncovered chest. Akane tried to reach a hand out to the other girl's shoulder, but again, Ranma shied away, her eyes moist.

Composing herself, Ranma stared at the ceiling, "Akane… I'm not a girl. I'm a boy…. I just… have this body…"

Akane cut her off, "I understand, Ranma… It's… I don't think I go that way, but I'd still like to be your friend… and maybe… well. Let's give it time." Secretly, Akane was scared to discover that she did care about the redhead … and she wasn't… was she? She had always claimed to hate boys, but… this much? No. That wasn't it. But Akane wasn't at all worried about being friends with the girl, and it looked like she needed a friend rather badly.

Ranma was staring at her in shock, "Wait… you think… you think I'm a lesbian?"

Smiling, Akane nodded, "And… that's fine. I'd still like to be your friend. You seem like a nice girl."

Sputtering, Ranma couldn't formulate any words for a long moment. Then she bowed her head.

Akane stared at her, wondering if she could find the curves of another woman's body attractive, and unsure of the answer. Certainly, she was already accused of it on occasion at school, but… "I… I don't know it I'm like that… but… well…"

Ranma shook her head, smiling, "No… I'm not a lesbian, Akane… I just have a girl's body."

Smirking Akane shrugged, "It's the same thing, though, isn't it?"

Actually laughing, Ranma shook her head again, "No… I… I was born a man. I… in China, I fell into a cursed spring… no… Thatís not true." Sighing, Ranma screwed her eyes shut, "My father… he… threw me into a cursed spring, and now I take this form when I'm touched with cold water… I… I'll understand if you never want to speak to me or see me again after this…" No longer trying to conceal her fear, Ranma thrust her arm into the furo, triggering the now familiar change.

Akane's eyes widened, and she stared in a kind of mortified fascination as breasts flattened, the hair changed color, Ranma gained a few inches of height, and the towel unknotted itself to accommodate his larger waist. Managing to catch the towel, and turning away from Akane, he stared into a corner of the furo.

Not meeting her gaze, or even looking at her, he edged towards the doorway, "I… I… I'm sorry. I'll leave now… I'm really sorry."

One thought shone through Akane's stunned confusion. S/he is very hurt and needs a friend. Before Ranma could reach the door to the changing room, Akane grabbed his wrist, "Ranma… I'm… a little confused right now… but… I… you need a friend. I'd… I can't be angry with you. You never lied to me, and you didn't try and look at me…" She realized she was babbling, "Oh, damn. Actions speak louder than words. Ranma… It's okay." She embraced him.

Ranma stiffened at first, unsure how to deal with displays of affection. He had learned much on his travels, but how to make friends was something he had always had trouble with. And he shouldn't be hugging this girl who hardly knew him when the pair of them were only wearing towels. But damn. It felt good. Not exciting and confusing like Shampoo's awkward landing in the amazon village, but something deeper. Something… meaningful. He returned the embrace nervously, and when he felt the reassuring squeeze of the girl's arms around him, he knew he was doing something right.

Wrapping her arms around the boy, Akane was dimly surprised to feel the wetness of tears striking her shoulder. But the sensation was enough to break her out of the 'am I a lesbian?' question that was circling through her mind. No, she decided, she still liked boys. This one wasn't making her nervous or uncomfortable. And for a change, wasn't being a pervert. Perhaps being cursed to turn into a girl had made him lose the automatic male perversions. Shoving away the lingering doubts, she admitted to herself that she might maybe kind of like him… There was a certain… maturity about his behavior, if nothing else… but it was too soon for that.

Ranma lost himself in the embrace, happy for a few brief moments, until one thought returned with startling clarity. Straightening up, and gently separating himself from the girl, he blushed at his feet, "Uh… I already scrubbed… I'll go… and change… would… would you like to talk later?"

Akane nodded, staring at the boy, "Yeah… Oh, right… here, give me your pinky." Curious, Ranma obliged, extending a pinky to Akane. She wrapped her own pink finger around it, "Friends. Forever. Promise?"

Ranma nodded, staring at their hooked fingers, "Promise. Now… what about our fathers?"

Akane blanched a little, "I'll… oh, oh damn. What… my sisters and my father are going to freak… what should we do?"

Ranma disappeared around the divider, and Akane could hear the rustling as he redressed. "Hrm. Well. Let me fall back on my teachings for that. I know a few magic tricks that should help."

Akane giggled, sliding the divider closed and scrubbing herself, "Don't peek. You know magic? That sounds funny."

She heard a dry laugh from the boy, "Of course. Changing genders isn't odd enough?"

"Well… Ack! Cold! I guess so… what's… what's it like? Does it hurt?"

After a moment of silence, while she was sluicing warmer water across herself, he replied, "It… hurt. It hurt a lot. Not… right away, but… It's like being put into a mold that's too small for you, and being crushed into a new shape. I… I know that's not how it works. I weigh a lot less in my other form, but… it didn't hurt until a few days later, when I really thought about it. Then I could remember pain I know I didn't feel at the time… it… it doesn't hurt, now. It kind of tingles."

Akane nodded, toweling off her hair, "It… it must be very odd. What's it like, being able to change?"

"Um… I kind of like it, really. I've only had this curse for a few months… And I'm still studying. There might be a cure… I suppose if I find it, I'll use it… I know of a cure for father's curse, but… I forgot, and even though I try and avoid being judgmental… He threw me into the spring after ignoring me and the guide. I'll give it to him once he's learned better…"

Frowning, Akane shook her head, "Huh… could you set my clothes inside here for me, so I can dress? So… you like being able to turn into a girl?"

"Oh. Right… um… hold on a moment…" Ranma's hand came through the door, and set a pile of clothing on the floor. There was a folded towel on the bottom to protect the clothing from wetness. "I hope those are yours. And… I kind of do. I think it's a balancing thing. My father's ideas were instilling me with an imbalance of yin and yang. The curse restored that balance. I suppose it might seem odd… but for me, it's just embracing my feminine side."

Frowning, Akane slid the door shut again. "So… You… you're a girl and a boy? You like guys, too?

Snorting as he replied, Ranma explained, "No… I… I suppose then, when I'm a girl I might be a lesbian… I don't like men in that way. Perhaps I find them too aggressive. Perhaps it's just the mindset I was born with. For all practical purposes, I just have two forms."

Akane shook her head, pulling her clothing on, "… isn't that a little… perverted?"

After a moment of silence, Ranma sighed, "I don't know. It doesn't feel that way to me… on the other hand, how would you feel if I said that turning into a female was the worse fate that a man could have befall him? I suppose to some men, it might be, but I'm secure in my convictions."

Considering the idea, Akane brushed at her hair quickly, "I… Actually, you're right. I would have been very offended if you had said that you hated being a girl. But then… tell me what you like about it?"

"Well… It's difficult to explain. I suppose that I enjoy it because it allows me to be someone else, and myself. It lets me explore who I really am. In the grand scheme of things, maybe I'm supposed to have this curse. I wouldn't want to be trapped as a woman, but… I can't say for certain, however… in reality, I'm not sure I want to find a cure. It feels to me more like the curse is a completion of who I am."

Staring into space, Akane nodded slowly, "That does make sense… there's a balance of yin and yang in everyone… if your balance is perfect, then it would be the ideal body for you, right?"

"That's my belief. But I don't know. I was born a male, and some things stick, like my reluctance to search for romance in the arms of a man, but… I think I am more both, than either."

Shaking her head, Akane wondered why she was so comfortable with the boy's attitude. Perhaps it was his ability to reason things out, and not be panicked by a little thing like having your gender switched. Deciding to change the subject for a while, Akane asked, "Anyway… your father turns into a girl, too?"

Ranma barked a short laugh, "No… He turns into the panda."

Smirking to herself, Akane nodded, "That explains a few things. So… what will we tell everyone outside?"

In the silence, Akane guessed Ranma was shrugging, while she tugged on her dress to smooth out any wrinkles it might have had. He sighed, after a moment, "The truth. I don't… I don't see any reason to lie."

Akane sighed herself, staring into the divider, "You're right. Shall we go? And… Who are you going to choose to be engaged to?" She frowned, realizing it hadn't even occurred to her until then.

Ranma said nothing, only staring at his hands in thought while Akane slid the divider open. His face was clouded, and Akane could feel the pain in his eyes, echoing back from the past. Finally, he shook his head, "I… I'm sorry. I'll explain later."

The two of them walked into the living room. Soun and Genma were already staring at each other, tears streaming down their faces. Nabiki raised an eyebrow, then did a double take and stared, eyes bulging, as Akane came out of the bathroom at the same time as a boy. A somewhat cute boy, but a boy nonetheless.

Ranma knelt near his father, ignoring Nabiki and facing Soun, and then bowed low, "I am Saotome Ranma. Sorry about this."

Genma, tears still streaming, shook his head, "Where to begin? Where to begin?"

Ranma stared at the floor, brow furrowed in thought, "Well. How about at the beginning? I will admit that I am better with words than my father."

The older man growled, and punched at Ranma. Ranma casually deflected all the blows, refusing to retaliate. Akane watched, rapt. The old man's form was sloppy, and he left so many openings that it was pathetic. This old man had trained Ranma? How could that be? Suddenly, it occurred to her why the old man was such a poor martial artist. Ranma didn't fight back. The elder Saotome had let himself slide. She wondered if Ranma could see the glaring openings as well as she could. The way his eyes flickered occasionally, she guessed that he could.

Resolving to ask him about that later, she turned to the older man, "Excuse me, Saotome-san, what lead to this?"

The older man paused his attack for a moment, "Well… I wanted Ranma to be the best martial artist in the world."

Ranma sighed, "Of course, I abhor violence… but I was willing to sacrifice many things to make my father happy, and to meet the obligations I had set before me."

Sighing, the older man grabbed Ranma, who did not struggle, and heaved him towards the koi pond, "My son should be willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of the art!"

Ranma lurched onto the deck of the porch, raising an eyebrow at Genma, "My life? Yes. And in setting aside my manhood, I've lost my life as well. But then, that effects both of us, doesn't it?" Gesturing, at the old man, Akane's eyes bulged as the water in Ranma's clothing and on her skin coalesced into a sphere in her palm. Ranma calmly sat the sphere on her father's head, then returned to her kneeling position.

Genma stayed still, aware of the still sphere of water balanced on his head, "Uh… Right… well… there's a way around that. You can marry, and when she - Growf!"

Sighing, Ranma gestured at the panda, "Go outside, Father, It's rude to drip on the floor of a host's house."

Grumbling, the panda lumbered out to the deck.

Soun nodded slowly, "I see… I see… so. The curse is reversed with hot water! No problem then." He tipped a kettle onto Genma, who was enveloped in a cloud of steam briefly before returning to his own form.

The reddened and older man winced, "It doesn't need to be that hot."

Shrugging, the old man turned to Soun, "And you can be restored as well!"

The water coalesced into a sphere above Ranma's head. She calmly took the kettle from Soun, who stared in amazement, "Well, he is correct. It doesn't need to be nearly that hot. I suspect that having it too hot might actually aggravate the curse… but yes." Gesturing again, the water cooled slightly, then enveloped Ranma briefly before flowing up his arm and into the kettle. Setting the kettle on the table, he shook his head, "So now you know about our curses."

Soun shrugged again, "Still no problem! I'd like you to choose one of my daughters. First, Kasumi, age 19. Nabiki, age 17. And Akane, age 16."

The older sisters shared a glance, then turned on Akane, "Oh, he wants Akane. Akane's the one for him."

Akane blushed, and stared at her feet. This wasn't something she was ready for, but she wasn't sure how to say it without hurting Ranma's feelings…

Ranma sighed, and shook his head, "I apologize, but I cannot marry any of your daughters, Tendo-san."

Genma grumbled something, and disappeared into the back yard. Soun blinked for a few moments, "Eh… why?" Akane wasn't going to admit it, but she was curious as well. She was… well… maybe… a little… interested in him… did he not like her?

Morose, Ranma stared at the ceiling, "I… my father and I signed a pledge before my father took me away from my mother when I was a child. The pledge said that if he failed to make me a 'man among men,' that we would both have to commit seppuku."

The sisters were silent for a long moment. Nabiki spoke first, "And… how did you fail?"

Rolling his eyes, Ranma gestured vaguely towards the backyard, "My curse. If I can't cure it before it's time to meet with her, then I will have failed. I… I cannot consign a woman to be a widow."

Soun blinked, then shook his head, "No, your father is right, if you marry one of my daughters, then you will be able to prove yourself a man, and then you won't have to fear seppuku!"

Ranma studied the table in front of him for a moment, then sighed, "And… Hiding from seppuku that way is manly? I am not certain that she would approve… and I will not run the risk of leaving a widow behind. Even an engagement is too much to ask. I would not force anyone to plead an engagement to a dead man."

Akane found her voice, seeing the pain from behind Ranma's eyes, "I… Ranma… you're giving up. There may be another way…" I'm not ready for this yet! I can't! It's too soon! "Ranma. I… I would accept an engagement to you… you can't just give up that easily."

Ranma met her eyes, and hope flared within her, perhaps, just perhaps, he would… He shook his head, smiling that sad smile of his. "I can't do that to you, Akane… I'm sorry."

Soun shrugged, "It's settled then. You and Akane are engaged."

Blinking, Ranma turned his gaze to Soun, "I just said… I can't. Why are you doing this to me? To her?"

Genma, appearing from nowhere, pounded Ranma on the back heartily, "There you go boy! No problem. Just need to get the two of you married, and then you're all set!"

Soun nodded quickly, waving a flag, "Indeed! I shall fetch a minister right away!"

Ranma may have been opposed to violence, but Akane was not. The two old men found themselves flattened beneath the dining room table. She whirled to face Ranma, "Ranma! Come with me." There was no hint of compromise in her voice.

Ranma rose from his position, wondering how Akane had managed to get both men, and not him, when he had been sitting between them, "Of course." Akane marched out into the backyard, and vaulted herself onto the roof.

Following her leap was difficult, but Ranma managed to make it. After the two had situated themselves comfortably, Akane cleared her throat, "Ranma… why are you giving up like that? I… I can't stand to lose you as a friend just because you won't fight something like this… and… I'd be willing to be engaged to you so you could live." And… even though it is too soon, I might, maybe, just a little, like you.

Ranma stared at the stars for a long moment, before bowing his head. "The measure of a man's worth is more than the sum of his parts, eh?"

Akane blinked, "I… I'm not sure what you mean, but I don't want to give you up. You promised that you would be my friend forever… I expect you to keep that promise."

He turned to face her suddenly, his eyes grim, "I will do what I can, then. If a man who can occasionally be a woman can still be a man, then I will be that man for you."

Smiling faintly, Akane nodded, "Good… then… even though… it's… too soon… we'll… be engaged?"

Ranma's face darkened, "I… I…" He knew, of course, that he might like this girl. She was patient, kind, and strong. More importantly, she wanted to be his friend. The only other friends he had were either left behind in his childhood, oh… Ryouga… Ucchan… where had they gone? Or even further away, in China. Kuh Lon-sensei… Xian Pu… Even more importantly, she seemed to like him regardless of his gender. Many people who claimed to understand tried to impose one or the other on him. Sighing, he admitted to himself that he wanted to be with this girl as much as he wanted to run away. He wanted to turn her against him, because as much as that would hurt her, it would hurt her so much more when his mother would order him to commit seppuku… "I don't want to hurt you."

Akane stared at him for a moment, an inkling of understanding crossing her face. Sighing, she wondered if she would ever be able to break down his barriers, "Ranma… I don't care about that right now. I… I want you to live." I like you. A little. Maybe. Kind of.

Nodding, Ranma turned to face Akane again, "Then I will do my best for you. I… I accept." He sighed to himself. His small collection of books had been augmented greatly thanks to Kuh Lon-sensei's assistance, and there were many difficult tomes to sort through. One of them, just maybe, might hold a cure. And if he could find a cure, then he wouldn't have to commit seppuku. Even though he would be losing something he enjoyed, he would be keeping a friend happy. And that was more important to him. If he did that, then he would be able to admit to himself that he liked this girl. A little. Maybe. Kind of.

Akane smiled, attempting a companionable hug around Ranma's shoulder, "Good! Now let's get back down. Dinner will be ready soon, I think."

Akane glanced up at Ranma, "So… why are you walking on the fence, anyway?"

Ranma shrugged, flipping idly through one of the smaller tomes, "It's a balance exercise." And it keeps me from being too close to you, and might help lessen the blow a little when I have to die if I can't cure the curse.

Nodding, Akane leapt up onto the fence behind him, "I see." It also puts distance between us, and I'm not going to let that happen if I can help it. "What are you reading?"

Ranma turned and began walking backward, facing Akane, "A book of curses and how to remove them. Nothing so far… I don't think there will be anything else useful in this book, but… you can never know for certain without checking."

Akane smiled, clenching her skirts around her legs to minimize the danger of a stranger looking up at her. She sighed inwardly, "I think I'm going to need a new wardrobe."

Startled, Ranma snapped the book shut, and eyed Akane appraisingly, "Erm… why would that be?"

Shrugging, Akane gestured at the fence, "Don't want a stray breeze to embarrass me."

Ranma froze, stunned, and stared at Akane. Did she mean that because she didn't want distance between the two of them? Maybe she had. But then… "I… might be able to help. Perhaps… after school?"

Smirking, Akane nodded, "Certainly!" Remembering something suddenly, Akane shook her head to clear it, "Oh yeah… at the entrance to the school… there's this group of boys that like to challenge me… every morning. You might want to stand back and let me fight them on my own."

Frowning, Ranma resumed his backwards walk, "I see… would you… why do they challenge you?"

Akane shrugged, "Every morning… it's basically to see if they can beat me. If they can, then they think that means they get to date me." She smirked, hefting a fist, "Of course, no one's ever beaten me before."

Ranma nodded, "There was a custom like that in a village in China I visited for a while… would… you be offended if I fought them for you this morning?"

Laughing, Akane nearly fell off the fence, "I thought you refused to fight!"

Ranma shook his head, still walking backwards, "No… I just don't use my fists. Words are much stronger for me. May I?"

Sighing, Akane shook her head, "Okay, but if you let yourself get hurt, I'm coming in after you."

With a smile, Ranma nodded, "Agreed. Which way do we go now?"

Rolling her eyes, Akane leapt over Ranma and landed on a section of fence thirty yards past him, "Follow me if you can!"

Ranma surveyed the gates, watching the crowd behind it.

The crowd eyed Ranma warily. He didn't look dangerous. But he came to school with Akane, and she was smiling at him with a secretive smile… could it be that, the fair Akane had somehow chosen… of course not, such a thing could never happen! Could it?

Ranma eyed the crowd. He knew, of course, how crowd mentalities worked. He also knew something of why this crowd was doing what it was. In addition, he had a feeling that they themselves were not certain what, or why, they did what they did.

He shook he head sadly, and stood in the center of the gate. Akane stood behind him and to the side, giving him a few feet of space. Crossing his arms over his chest, he glanced at the lot, "And why are you all here?"

A boy was pushed forward, someone wearing hockey gear. Apparently he was decided to be the spokesman. Ranma inclined his head to the boy, and was pleased to receive a nod in return.

Clearing his throat, the boy said, "We come here to fight for the hand of Tendo Akane."

Ranma nodded once, "I see. And… she asked you to do this?"

The boys grumbled, and the leader shook his head, "No… Itís just… the way things are."

Ranma nodded again, he knew that pushing too much against a crowd could turn things against him. He decided to change tactics, "Okay, then. What do you expect to prove if you fight her and win?"

The leader shrugged, at the crowd's murmuring, "We do it to show how much we love her. And if we win, we can date her."

Ranma spread his hands, preparing himself, "I see. And what will this accomplish? If you win against her, will she date you all?"

After a moment, the leader nodded.

Sighing, Ranma shook his head, "There is only one Tendo Akane. She cannot date you all, can she?" The crowd murmured worriedly, and Ranma suppressed a grin. It was so easy, and so much more permanent than applying a fist to a face, "And… if you beat her, what makes you think that she will care for you?"

The crowd silenced, turning to watch Ranma. He knew when he had a crowd in his hands, and this one was eager to see things from another angle. Certainly, he had dealt with angrier crowds, normally in the wake of his father's occasional binges, but he had handled them at a much younger age.

Pointing at them vaguely, and managing to give them a sense that he was pointing at each of them, all at once, he scanned them, with a disappointed, pitying gaze. "What makes your actions any better than that of a rapist?"

The crowd objected, their leader fading to blend into the confused mass. They had lost their confidence, but they did not like the direction that this was going.

He raised a hand to them, palm outward, and they fell silent, "You are not better, save that you failed. Even if it wasn't an abuse of the body, it's something worse, an abuse of the heart. To force your love, physical or otherwise, on someone who is not willing to accept it? Come. Why would she fight back, if she cared for any of you? You sought to force your love on someone, and she reacted, hurt by your careless verbal and emotional groping."

Not an eye in the crowd could meet his piercing blue-eyed gaze. His eyes swept over them, and they flinched back from its force. Sighing, he shook his head again, "If you act that way… then you are doing a worse crime than you may ever imagine. You aren't only turning love from something beautiful, to something disturbing and filthy, and worse, you are denying yourselves and Akane of any possible happiness."

He turned his back to the crowd, to face Akane, "Indeed, if you wish to be a friend to Akane, then you would treat her in a manner more like this." Ranma stepped towards Akane. His gaze softened, turning from a steely, pitying, glare, to a hopeful, warm, and shy glance. Akane's eyes were wide, and her face was slightly flushed. Ranma bowed to her, "Akane-san… I was wondering… would you like to be friends?"

Akane reeled back, and nodded deliriously. Yes, yes a thousand times yes, and… just maybe… probably… definitely… something more than friends, "Of course, Ranma. But friends don't call each other 'san'." Now, why hadn't the other words come out? Maybe it was a good thing that the words that had spilled from her lips were head, instead of the words flowing from her heart. It was simply too soon for that.

Ranma smiled, not noticing how much his persona was affecting her. The force he was using was typically reserved for large crowds, not schoolgirls. He took her hand in his for a moment, "Thank you, Akane. I shall treasure your friendship always."

Turning back to the crowd, the softness leaked out of his eyes, "Even I, who have spent most of my life on the road recognize love more than you fools. If you can't learn that lesson…" As if to punctuate the statement, a drop of rain spattered on the ground. "Then you aren't really men." The crowd's eyes widened, as the rain parted over Ranma, "You are nothing at all." The rain stopped parting, and washed over him, transforming him from his boy form, into the petite redhead.

As she re-adjusted her belt, she shook her head, "If you wish to call yourselves men, then you had best go about learning the lessons that life tries to teach you." Turning to face Akane, she offered a hand.

Akane, not remembering the significance of the gesture, took her hand, and the crowd wordlessly parted around them, remaining in the rain and lost in their thoughts.


To be continued.

Author's notes:

This was actually largely inspired by reading (surprise!) some entries for the Bet. It's quite obviously a Ranma/Akane story, however. The original intent when I was working on this project was to see if I could have Ranma be the voice of reason, and show a way that Ranma can be the one who doesn't like violence, while Akane becomes the best martial artist. And since Ranma won't fight… someone has to protect him. He's not that skilled, and his magical powers are limited to healing, and manipulating water. But there are a lot of situations that can be talked through, instead of battled out…

January 10, 2001

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