Subject: [FFML] [Fanfic][Ranma] Inherit the Earth, Prologue + Chapter 1
From: "Shay Caron" <shay@protection-comic.com>
Date: 11/16/2002, 7:30 PM
To:


Pre-Fanfic Note:
        This is the draft of the first chapter of my new ongoing Ranma
series. Once I've gotten a little feedback and I'm certain that I'm
happy with what's here, I'll send it to rec.arts.anime.creative and
fanfiction.net. Please send me feedback! (*After* you read.) Thank you.
    -- Shay Caron (E-mail address: shay@protection-comic.com)
       Web site: http://www.protection-comic.com/

------------------

        It was a dark and stormy night.

        Yeah. Yeah, I *know* how clich� that is, but the sun *was* down,
the wind *was* blowing, and it *was* 10:12 PM, so if you could just get
over it maybe we can continue the story. All right? Thank you.

        The black clouds above the ward of Tokyo named Nerima created
pictures in the young man's imagination of an enormous dam in the sky,
threatening to open its floodgates at any moment. As he trudged down the
sidewalk, wind whipping his red Chinese shirt back and forth, he
reflected on the fact that he'd seen (and been in) more water in the
past month than he had during all of his life before. "This stupid curse
must attract water or somethin'," he muttered under his breath. "I never
had this much trouble stayin' dry before Jusenkyou."

        This young man has some distance to go before he reaches his
destination, so as he searches the Neriman streets, let us take a step
back for a moment and examine him with an impartial eye. His body is
trim, fit, full of well-defined muscles, the type of muscles which are
usually even more powerful than they appear. The sleeveless red shirt he
wears shows off his arms, while his baggy drawstring pants mask the
contours of his legs and rear. A small blue bracer at either wrist, a
pair of what seem to be kung fu slippers, and a massive brown backpack
and bedroll complete the ensemble of a classic wanderer. The boy's jet
black hair is short over most of his head, pulled into a small pigtail
at the back of his neck. In his hands he clutches a large wooden sign
with writing across it.

        The floodgates opened. Cold rainwater poured down on the boy's
-- no, the *girl's* form. The former boy's body had shifted in a moment,
losing several inches of height and gaining many times that in feminine
curves. Black hair brightened to a flaming red that nearly matched her
shirt, and the muscles beneath the shirt lost much of their visibility.

        And the girl walked on, hardly even noticing the change.

------

        Tendou Kasumi was always happiest in the kitchen. Ever since her
mother had passed away, she had taken it upon herself to handle the
responsibilities Mrs. Tendou had once held. Another woman might harbor
resentment toward her family for hampering her social life, but Kasumi
was a remarkably patient young lady. Once her sisters were settled, she
would have all the time she needed. Until then, her family needed her,
and she was happy to carry as much of their burden as she could.

        A timid knock on the front door interrupted her idle fantasies
of her family's future. Setting down the dish in her grasp, she stepped
out to the entryway into the Tendou home, wondering who on earth would
want to be out in a rainstorm like this. The girl she found leaning
against the wall outside could only be described with the word
"bedraggled". She looked as if she'd swum across the Sea of Japan in one
night. The girl looked up at Kasumi and asked in a weak voice, "Um...
Pardon me for intruding, but... is this, er... the Tendou home?"

        Kasumi's nurturing instincts kicked in at full capacity. "Oh,
you poor dear, you look simply *exhausted*! Come in and warm up a bit."
She swiftly ushered the redhead inside, placing her backpack next to the
door and pulling her into the family room. "I'm Tendou Kasumi. Here,
sit, sit. I was just about to make some tea; you're welcome to it if you
like."

        "I..." The girl was caught speechless. She shook her head,
worked up her nerve, and called to Kasumi, who had returned to the
kitchen, "Ah, I would like some tea, please." Perhaps she was being
forward, but she was cold and wet and she wasn't going to let her
reticence keep her from tea.

------

        "I'm Saotome Ranma. Sorry 'bout this."

        "Please, it's no trouble at all. As I said, I'd planned to make
tea anyway. It wouldn't be very kind of me to let you freeze to death,
now, would it?"

        Ranma smiled and snuggled into the warm blanket Kasumi had
provided for her. "I guess not. Thank you very much." Somehow she found
Kasumi very easy to talk to. She seemed to radiate acceptance and gentle
caring. Ranma could hardly imagine her taking offense at anything. It
was a strange feeling, being comfortable around a stranger. It was nice,
though. Ranma wondered idly if this was a weaker version of love at
first sight. "Like at first sight". It wasn't quite as catchy.

        Kasumi set the tea tray down on the table and sat across from
Ranma, leaning forward over her own teacup. "Now that you're hopefully a
little warmer, I'm curious. What brings you to the Tendou home?"

        Ranma let out a sigh of relief before replying, "So this *is*
the Tendou home, then? I managed to find it after all. Er, my father,
he's Saotome Genma, told me he knows Mr. Tendou. He sent me here to
help... 'unite the schools', he said, but I dunno what he meant. I'm
s'posed to talk to Mr. Tendou, anyway." For Ranma, that was quite a
speech. She coughed and reached for the tea.

        "Oh, my, a family friend? How wonderful! I'll have to bring the
rest of the family to meet you!"

        Ranma nearly panicked. How large was this family? She wasn't
good at *all* around strangers! Well, non-Kasumi strangers, anyway. "No!
No, that isn't necessary, really!" she exclaimed, waving her hands in a
warding fashion.

        Kasumi gave her a winning smile. "Everyone will be happy to meet
you, Ranma. There's no need to worry. Nabiki is helping Father with our
finances, and Akane should be coming in from the dojo fairly soon. I'll
go collect everyone up." With that she left Ranma to her hot tea and her
warm blanket.

        Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Sipping her tea slowly, Ranma
thought back and remembered what she'd been told, the last time she had
seen her father...

------

        [Listen carefully, Ranma,] panda-Genma told his son via a series
of wooden signs. [While I'm here, I want you to return to Japan and
visit my old friend Tendou Soun.] One of the signs, on which was written
directions to a house somewhere in Tokyo, Genma handed over to Ranma,
who held onto it as if it were a life preserver. [Go there and tell him
who you are and that you're there about uniting the schools. I'll be
along as soon as possible.]

------

        So far, Ranma had done everything her father had asked of her.
She had found the Tendou home, and, thanks to Kasumi, she would soon
meet the head of the household. But it was too good to be true. She felt
uneasy about the whole thing, despite Kasumi's immediate friendliness.
There was no doubt in Ranma's mind that she'd screwed *something* up
along the line; the only question was, what had she forgotten? She cast
her mind back, to see if there was anything else her father had told her
that she didn't recall before...

------

        [And whatever you do, Ranma, don't show up there as a girl!]

------

        Oh.

        Crud.

------------------

Inherit the Earth
A Ranma � Alterverse Fanfic by Shay Caron
Ranma � and all characters therein belong to Takahashi Rumiko

Chapter 1: Meet the Tendous! Enter the Accursed Saotome Ranma
Draft 11/16/2002

------------------

        Saotome Ranma was many things: a talented martial artist, a
loyal friend, a fierce defender of honor, a respectful son. What he was
at the moment, however, was a nervous young girl. She sat in the
unfamiliar family room of the Tendou home, surrounded by four people she
barely knew, and completely out of her element (that element being
"battle").

        And she was a girl. She could not possibly have been any more
aware of that fact. When she'd remembered that she was supposed to be a
boy, she had reached for the teapot in front of her, but Tendou Soun had
walked in at that moment and she'd lost her nerve. She didn't want to
change in front of anyone.

        Tendou Soun was easily recognizable from the description Ranma's
father had given her. The long black hair and mustache, the angular
face, the brown gi were all familiar, in a way. He asked, "So you are
really Saotome Ranma?"

        "Yes," Ranma replied quietly.

        Soun smiled warmly. "The son of my old friend, Saotome Genma?"

        "I am," Ranma said, before she caught herself. 'Idiot,' she
thought, 'how are you going to explain *that*?'

        One of the two girls Ranma hadn't met yet (her name was Nabiki,
Kasumi had said) leaned over the table and prodded Ranma's chest. "Son?
Looks more like a daughter to me."

        Ranma could feel her face turning red. "Please don't do that,"
she whispered.

        The girl in the yellow gi (Akane, Ranma remembered) slapped
Nabiki's hand away. "Stop it, Nabiki!" she exclaimed. "She's our guest,
remember?"

        "Huh?" Soun looked spectacularly confused. He stared at Ranma,
muttering to himself, "But I thought -- Saotome said that -- I *assumed*
that -- Where is your father, anyway?"

        "Er, he's back in China right now, workin' off a debt. He wanted
me to wait for him here."

        Finally Soun just sighed and shrugged. "I suppose it doesn't
matter. Saotome told me he'd been blessed with a son, that's all. I
*assumed* that his son was a boy."

        'Oh, *man*...' Out loud Ranma said, "Well, um, actually, I can
explain that..." She knew the pauses and "um"s probably made her sound
like an idiot, but she was just plain bad at meeting new people. 'At
least I don't stutter,' she thought.

        Nabiki laughed. "Saotome must be pretty dim-witted to mistake
this for a boy," she said, accompanying the word "this" with a squeeze
at Ranma's chest. Ranma blushed even darker.

        "Nabiki, cut it out! Honestly, you're going to make her think
you're a pervert." Akane grabbed Nabiki's wrist this time, pulling her
away from Ranma.

        Ranma moaned; this was getting out of hand. She should just grab
the teapot sitting on the table, dump it over her head, and show the
Tendous what he really looked like. Yes, don't worry about how they
would react to the sudden change. Better than leading them on. They
*probably* wouldn't freak out and kick him out of the house. Ranma
reached for the teapot --

        Akane turned to Ranma and smiled sweetly. "Sorry about my
sister, Ranma. I'm Akane. Would you like me to show you around?"

        -- and chickened out. Transfixed by Akane's smile, Ranma could
only nod, another blush creeping up on her face. 'Wow, she's cute...
Stupid! You're a girl now! And she wouldn't be interested in you
anyway.' She took Akane's outstretched hand and hopped to her feet.
"... Thanks."

------

        The door to the building next to the Tendou house slid open
easily. The tour was winding down. "... And this is our dojo! I spend a
lot of time in here after school practicing."

        Ranma smiled. "Oh, so you're a martial artist too?" And smacked
herself. 'You moron! Why the hell else would she be wearing a gi?'

        Akane didn't seem to notice Ranma's self-scolding. "Yeah, I'm a
student of the Tendo School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts."

        "Anything-Goes? I practice Anything-Goes too! Saotome School, of
course."

        Akane spun around, a grin on her face. "Really? That's great!
You're the first girl martial artist I've known in ages!"

        Ranma was figuratively flattened by the mallet of Guilt. She had
to say something. "Um, look, about that..." And she stopped. What was
she going to say? "I'm actually a boy"? With her damned figure, there
was no way Akane would buy it. She'd have to get some hot water and
demonstrate the curse right in front of her. But...

        Ranma didn't want to *think* about what sort of reaction Akane
might have to the transformation. Maybe... maybe it would be best to
stay female for a while. Stay and unite the schools like her father
wanted (although how she was supposed to do *that* she had no idea),
then return to the training journey. Ranma *liked* Akane. She didn't
want to alienate her. Then again, no one in Joketsuzoku had had a
problem with the curse, past the initial reaction to seeing an instant
gender transformation. But they *lived* near Jusenkyou. Of *course*
they'd be used to it. Akane had probably never --

        "Ranma? You okay?" Ranma eeped as she realized she'd zoned out.
Akane poked her in the forehead. "You looked worried for a minute
there."

        "Mmh." Gulp. "Sorry." Cough. "I'm fine." Scratch neck nervously.
'I'm such an idiot.'

        Akane looked Ranma up and down. "So... You know kempo, then?"

        "A little."

        "Well, why don't we have a little match? Y'know, just for fun."

        Ranma smiled genuinely -- one of the few real smiles Akane had
seen on her face so far. "I'd like that."

        Akane grinned back and dropped into a battle stance in the
middle of the dojo. Ranma stood a few feet in front of her, arms behind
her back. "Don't worry," Akane said, "I won't attack you for real."

        Akane's first realization that she'd underestimated her opponent
came when Ranma nimbly leapt over the first punch she threw. The next
two punches Ranma leaned left and right to dodge, still with her arms
held behind her. Akane tried a straight kick to the head next, and Ranma
actually leaned backward and let Akane's foot pass in front of her face!
Akane kept trying to strike her, putting more and more force into it,
but she kept slipping past her fists. Abruptly one of Ranma's fists shot
out, and Akane was barely able to react in time to protect herself.
'She's amazing!'

        Soon the two girls were trading punches, faster and faster,
blows striking and blows missing, dodges and blocks, back and forth.
Akane couldn't shake the feeling, though, that Ranma was letting her get
in most of the hits she got. 'Ow!' Ranma kept poking her just above her
hip; apparently she had a gap in her defenses. The next time Ranma tried
to poke her, she grabbed her finger and yanked, pulling Ranma
off-balance.

        Ranma grinned and flipped over Akane, landing behind her. Before
Akane could react, she felt a poke at the back of her head. She spun
around to find a smiling Ranma waiting for her to catch up. Akane had to
take a moment to catch her breath. "Wow, you're really good!"

        Ranma blushed. "Thanks. You too."

        "You've gotta be kidding. I could tell you were holding back.
Any time you wanted, you could have had me on the ground, right?"

        Ranma's blush went redder and darker. "Well, I guess I coulda
done that," she said, "but then neither one of us would've really
learned anything, right?" She laughed a little, Akane giggled, and then
they were both laughing.

        "Seriously, though," Akane said. "How on earth did you get so
fast?"

        "It's the trainin' father put me through. If *you'd* been on a
trainin' trip for thirteen years, you'd easily be my equal, if not my
better."

        Akane's jaw went slack. "*Thirteen years*?!"

        "Yep. Started trainin' when I was three. A lot of it wasn't fun,
but I'm a better g -- person for it." 'You almost said "guy", stupid.'

        "Wow. No wonder you're so good!" Akane moved to leave the dojo.
"Well, I'm sure glad you're a girl."

        Apprehension struck. "W-what?"

        Akane turned back to face Ranma. "It's just... I couldn't stand
losing to a boy." She smiled a bit.

        "Oh."

        Ranma was oddly silent for the rest of the tour.

------

        "Oh, Ranma? I drew a bath for you, if you'd like to take one."

        "Really? Thanks, Kasumi."

------

        "Hey, Akane. Kasumi says you should take a bath soon."

        "Oh, OK. Thanks, Nabiki."

------

        Stepping into the changing room, Akane saw Ranma's distinctive
red shirt in the clothes hamper. 'Guess she's already in here.' She
reached back and untied the yellow bow at the end of her ponytail.

        "Ohhhhhh... What am I gonna do?" A very obviously male Ranma
sank down into the hot water of the bath until his nose was only just
above the water. 'Should I tell 'em the truth or turn back into a girl?
Either way I'm gonna have trouble.'

        Akane slid her gi off of her shoulders, letting it drop into the
hamper.

        'The Tendous are so nice... I really don't want to lie to them,
even if it would be easier.' Ranma attempted a groan. "Glub..."

        Now completely nude, Akane walked over to the door into the
inner bathroom. 'I hope Ranma doesn't mind me joining her.'

        'It's settled, then. I go out as I am.' Satisfied that he was
making the right choice, Ranma rose from the bath, quickly, so he
wouldn't have any time to lose his nerve.

        Of course, that's when Akane stepped into the inner bathroom.

        They both froze where they were, staring at each other.
Obviously, this was not a situation either of them had experience
dealing with. Ranma was the first to react. He made a noise that sounded
like "eep" and dropped back down into the water, eyes closed and nose
pinched shut.

        Akane closed the door and slipped back into her gi. She stepped
out of the bathroom with an almost preternatural calm. She took a
breath.

        "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!"

        It was a very impressive scream, all things considered.

------

        Soun glanced up from his newspaper to see Akane run down the
hallway, take the corner, end up in the same room as him, and easily
pick up the table in front of him, all before she stopped screaming. She
growled, "I'm gonna beat him to a pulp!"

        "Akane?" Kasumi leaned into the room. "My goodness, what's the
matter?"

        In the middle of hefting the table above her head, Akane
shouted, "There's a pervert in the bathroom!"

        Nabiki stared at her sister. "Well? Why didn't you just clobber
him?"

        "I was scared! Is that alright with you?!"

        "Oh dear," Kasumi said. "Last I knew, Ranma was in there. I hope
she's all right."

        Soun just sat where he had been sitting and waited patiently for
something to make sense.

        "Um, 'scuse me..."

        Akane prepared for a killing blow -- and stopped. Kasumi,
Nabiki, and Soun stared.

        He was obviously a boy, the boy who'd been in the bath. But he
was wearing Ranma's clothes, and they actually looked like they fit him
better than they'd fit her. He looked like he wanted to turn and run,
but he stood his ground. And Akane noticed his eyes -- if she hadn't
known better, she'd have said they were *Ranma's* eyes.

        "Who..."

        "Who are you?!"

        The young man sighed and stared at his feet. "I'm Saotome
Ranma," he whispered. "Sorry 'bout this."

        Akane dropped the table.

------

        Some time later, four pairs of eyes stared at the young man
claiming to be Saotome Ranma. He was visibly uncomfortable with the
attention, fidgeting slightly under the quartet of gazes. Five people
sat around the table (which had been returned to its previous location
following Akane's appropriation of it) in the family room. For some
reason, Ranma had placed a glass of cold water on the table.

        Kasumi spoke up first. "Are you really her? I mean, are you
Ranma? The girl we met before?"

        "I am," Ranma said quietly. He glanced at each of the Tendous --
and winced when he caught Akane's furious glare. Obviously she had not
calmed down in the time it took her to get dressed.

        "I *knew* Saotome had a son!" Soun laughed. He quickly turned
serious. "But how is this possible?"

        "It's pretty obvious that you're not her, no matter how good you
are with disguises," Nabiki pointed out. "Same hairstyle, yeah, and your
faces look alike, but you're a few inches taller than her."

        Ranma sighed. "Yeah, I know. This... This is me. The *real* me.
I turn into the girl, because of a curse."

        "A curse." Nabiki gave off multiple signs of being very not
convinced.

        "Yes." Ranma rubbed his eyes, coughed, and started talking in a
low voice. "It all started a month ago. We -- my father and I, that is
-- were continuin' our trainin' trip by travelin' to China, lookin' for
new places to train. My dad had this guide to trainin' grounds, and even
though it was in Chinese, which he can't read, he picked out a few
places he wanted to go. Finally, we reached the Mt. Quanjing region, in
the Bayankala Range, Qinghai Province, and, well, it happened there..."

------

        The springs really were beautiful. Flanked by trees and
mountains on all sides, the valley filled with grass and water all but
shone in the sunlight. Bamboo poles stood perhaps ten feet tall, one or
more in each tiny spring.

        "Here we are, Ranma! The legendary training grounds of
Jusenkyou! Ready to go?"

        "Hey, now." Ranma tilted his head at his eager father. "Remember
what we agreed? I wanna know *why* this place is 'legendary', and since
we can't read that book you got..."

        Genma scratched his head and shrugged. "Whatever you say, son.
We'll talk to the guide, if there is one, *then* begin today's
training." The pair eventually found a house overlooking the springs,
from which a rather heavy-set man emerged.

        "Ah, sirs, welcome to Jusenkyou, the famous Training Ground of
Cursed Springs!" The brown-clad guide pulled a sign from behind his back
reiterating this. "You very strange to consider training in dangerous
place like this. More than one hundred springs here, and each one have
own tragic legend! Please be careful, sirs. *Very* bad if fall in
spring."

        "How bad is *very* bad?" Genma wondered out loud.

        The guide pointed to one of the springs closest to the house.
"Allow me to give example, sirs. Over two thousand year ago, panda drown
in this spring, so spring named 'Shonmaoniichuan', 'Spring of Drowned
Panda'. Very tragic story." For the sake of redundancy, he held up a
sign reading "Shonmaoniichuan". "Now, anyone who fall in this spring
cursed to take body of panda."

        "What?!"

        "Is true story. Hot water splashed on body will return to
normal, but cold water splashed on body will bring cursed form back."

        "This... isn't what I expected," Genma commented.

        The guide led them along the edge of the training ground. "And
over here," he continued, apparently in tour mode, "we come to
'Chanyuiniichuan', 'Spring of Drowned Octopus'." Another sign
accompanied this announcement. "Octopus drown in this spring over
twenty-five hundred year ago. Anyone who fall in spring now take body of
octopus."

        Ranma shook his head. "This is too weird, father, even for --
wait a minute." He turned to the guide and asked, "And just *how* did an
octopus *drown*, exactly?"

        "Very, *very* tragic story."

        Genma considered this for a moment. "Ranma, you know I always
support new experiences and new methods of training, but there are some
risks even I feel it's best not to take."

        "Couldn't agree more, father," Ranma replied, rather relieved.
"Let's get outta here."

------

        "You didn't get out of there, did you?" Nabiki put in.

        Ranma smiled sadly. "Not in time, we didn't. We were just about
to leave..."

------

        "Let's get outta here."

        "Not so fast, Saotome!"

        Ranma and Genma spun around to face the voice, just in time to
see the furious figure in dark yellow leap at them. The two Saotomes
nimbly leapt out of the way, each landing on the end of a bamboo pole.
"Hey, watch out!" Ranma shouted.

        "You'll suffer for your foolishness, I promise you!" The young
man pulled a red umbrella from the backpack he wore, as if preparing to
use it as a weapon.

        "I'll handle this, son!" Genma dropped to the ground and ran
toward the boy in yellow. "I don't know what I did to you, but you
won't --"

        The boy in yellow idly swung his umbrella. It slammed into Genma
with surprising force and sent him flying. "Not *you*, old man," he said
offhandedly.

        "Father!" Ranma could only watch as Genma flew through the air
and landed in one of the springs the guide had pointed out. "Oh, no!
Which spring is that?"

        "Saotome Ranma! Don't ignore me!"

        Ranma growled and lunged at the boy in yellow from his perch on
the pole. "You have no idea what you just did!"

        "Saotome, prepare to --" the boy spat out before Ranma's fist
collided with his face. Ranma pushed off the boy, twirled neatly in
mid-air, and landed on another pole closer to the center of Jusenkyou.
The boy scrambled and narrowly avoided losing his balance. "Ow," he
pointed out.

        "This stinks," Ranma muttered. "Whoever that guy is, he's
between me and dry curseless land." He bounced from pole to pole as he
watched the boy do something strange with the bandanna around his
forehead.

        The next thing Ranma saw was a quintet of bandannas flying at
him like frisbees. He panicked and slid halfway down the pole he was on,
allowing the bandannas to fly over his head. One of them clipped the end
of the pole, neatly slicing off the top three inches. 'Those things are
*sharp*!' Ranma thought as he desperately tried to climb back up the
pole.

        The boy pulled four more bandannas off of his head, which seemed
to hold an effectively infinite supply. "How long can you keep dodging,
I wonder?" He raised his arm to throw.

        Just before the boy released the bandannas, a huge panda leaped
out of nowhere (as far as the boy was concerned) and connected with a
massive kick to his face, sending him soaring and sending bandannas in
random directions. Ranma backflipped to avoid one bandanna and landed on
the end of the pole directly behind him...

        ... only to notice too late that the the pole had been slashed,
just a foot above ground level, by a stray bandanna.

        Ranma's brain examined a list of possible reactions and wound up
selecting "panic". Arms windmilling like crazy, feet scrabbling for
purchase on the pole that was no longer there, desperately looking for a
way out of danger, screaming a constant "Aaaaaaugh", Ranma fell backward
into the spring below.

------

        Through most of his story, Ranma had focused his gaze on his
slippered feet, refusing to look up at the audience that hung on every
word he spoke. He swallowed, paused for a moment, picked up a glass of
water that was on the table, and finally continued. "The spring I fell
into was 'Nyannichuan', the 'Spring of Drowned Girl'. The guide started
babblin' about how fifteen hundred years ago some girl fell in the
spring. Long story short, every time *I* get splashed..." Ranma tipped
the glass over himself and let the water pour down his head.

        Kasumi blinked at just the wrong moment and missed the change.
Nabiki stared, rubbed her eyes, stared, then rubbed her eyes again.
Akane's mouth hung slightly open. Soun almost fainted. Ranma pushed her
wet red hair back and waited nervously for the reactions of the various
Tendous.

        Kasumi was the first to speak. "Oh, my... He's... a she again."

        "I don't believe it. That absurd story was actually the truth,"
Nabiki muttered. She immediately set herself to finding a way to make a
profit off of this.

        Akane didn't say anything. She didn't *want* to like this...
*boy*. She didn't *want* to feel sorry for him. She kept scowling,
focusing on how he had stared at her body in the bath, trying to forget
how nice he'd been *before* the bath.

        Soun stepped into the kitchen and brought out a steaming kettle.
"So you say hot water returns you to your regular form?"

        He tried to pour some water on Ranma, but she dodged the stream
of water and let it form a puddle on the floor. "Er, the water just
needs to be hot, not boiling!"

        Ranma was trying to decide what to say or do now when Soun
laughed and clapped her on the back. "Well, now! Your problem isn't so
terrible after all! We can continue with the arrangement as planned."

        "Arrangement?" Ranma asked.

        "Look!" Soun put his arm around Ranma's shoulders and gestured
at his daughters, one by one.

        "My eldest daughter, Kasumi. She's nineteen." Kasumi looked a
bit confused. "My second daughter, Nabiki. She's seventeen." Nabiki
frowned and wondered where this was leading. "And my youngest daughter,
Akane. She's sixteen." Akane glanced up as attention was focused on her.

        Soun smiled and finished up his speech. "Pick any girl you want.
She'll be your fianc�e."

        The pause lasted for about three seconds. After that, four
voices shouted in unison, "WHAT?!"

        Soun backed up a step, nonplussed. "But that's why you're here,
isn't it? Didn't Saotome send you here to unite the schools?"

        "Unitin' the schools, fine, good, but nobody ever said
*anything* about me gettin' *married*! Besides..." Ranma kind of slumped
a bit. "I can't ask a girl to put up with me while I got..." She
gestured at her ample chest. "... *this* goin' on. Even without the
curse I'm hardly marriage material anyway."

        "*I'll* say," Akane growled.

        "Akane!" Kasumi exclaimed. "How can you say that about Ranma?"

        "You can do whatever you want, Kasumi, but there's no way I'm
marrying a, a, a sex-changing pervert like him!" No one noticed Ranma's
pained flinch.

        "Akane, that's enough! He can't help having this curse!"

        "Well, don't you think he could have helped seeing me naked?!"

        "But he was already in the bath when you went in, wasn't he? It
isn't as if *he* walked in on *you*!"

        "It's *different* when a girl sees a boy!"

        "Personally," Nabiki commented lazily, "I don't care what
happens as long as I don't have to marry the guy. No offense to him, but
marriage isn't on my schedule yet."

        "I wonder, Akane. If you were cursed to become a boy, I hardly
think you'd be able to handle it better than Ranma has."

        "I can't believe you're taking that pervert's side!"

        The argument went on for a few more minutes. Soun was the first
to notice, tearing his gaze from his daughters' battle long enough to
say, "Ranma? Where did he go?"

------

        "God... I don't think that coulda gone *any* worse." Outside the
house, Ranma tugged at the straps of her backpack absently. "So much for
stickin' around here. Guess I'd better get movin' now." She stared up
into the rain and wiped her wet hair out of her eyes.

        "Ranma! Where are you going?"

        "Back to China," she mumbled. "I'm gonna help my father; maybe
the Amazons'll let him go early. After that... I guess I'll... try to
find a cure for the curse." Ranma started to leave, but Kasumi's hand on
her arm stopped her.

        Kasumi pulled Ranma under the overhang, where she and Soun
already stood. "Ranma... wait. I know your introduction was a little
eventful, but it's only been one night. Why don't you stay here to wait
for your father? We don't mind, and Akane will warm to you in time."

        Ranma was struck speechless. "Do... do you really want me to
stay?"

        "Of course we do, Ranma," Soun put in. "I can tell that you're a
good man, and we'd all like to get to know you better."

        Ranma's shocked expression slowly shifted into a warm smile.
"Thank you. Thank you both," she said. "You don't know how much I
appreciate this."

        "Really, Ranma, it's our pleasure. Now you get out of those wet
clothes and take a nice, hot bath." Kasumi led Ranma back into the
house. "I'll clear out the guest room for you, if you'll give me your
backpack."

        "Okay, I'll do that." Ranma smiled meekly and turned her
backpack over to Kasumi (who stumbled a bit trying to lift it). "Thanks
again, Kasumi." She left for the bathroom.

        Nabiki leaned around the corner. "Ranma's not leaving? Where's
she -- er, where's he going?"

        "To take a bath and change back." Kasumi tugged at the backpack.
"Would you help me with this?"

        Nabiki stared at Kasumi for a few seconds. "Um... Sis, did you
forget? Akane went to take her bath just a minute ago."

        "Oh, dear. Ranma, wait! Don't --"

        They could hear the slap even from several rooms away. The girls
and their father all winced.

------

        Ranma just lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, a red
handprint prominent on his cheek. 'This is gonna be a *miserable* three
months.'

        Kasumi sighed. 'Poor Ranma... He's going to have a hard time
adjusting.'

        Nabiki shook her head. 'Poor guy... But he's probably going to
make me a lot of money...'

        Akane sulked in the corner of the room. 'I'm never going to
forgive that pervert!'

        Soun sighed and returned to his newspaper. 'At this rate, the
schools will never be united.'

        The events that followed would, eventually, prove exactly three
of these five thoughts wrong.

------------------

Author's Note
        Well, here I go starting a huge fanfic project! Considering my
work ethic with this sort of thing, the logical conclusion is that I
must be a fool. ^_^() I welcome any and all comments, good or bad, as
long as they aren't just mindless insults. (Mindless *compliments* are
acceptable. ^_^) I'm hoping to continue this story for a long while --
I've actually got an idea for how to adapt the Shishi Hokodan storyline,
so of course I'd have to write a lot to reach that point. As I write
this, I've got plot outlines and vague ideas for the next eight
chapters. Wish me luck.

Thanks are due to:
* Everyone involved in the Ranma Scan Project
  http://www.techserv.curtin.edu.au/ranmascan/
* Chris Rijk, whose excellent Ranma � FAQ helped me out with timeline
  issues
  http://www.wot-club.org.uk/RanmaFAQ/
* Douglas MacDougall, for his translated map of the Tendou house
  http://www.dougmacd.net/ranma/house.html
* AnimeInfo.org, whose guide to the Cursed Springs helped with the
  flashback
  http://www.animeinfo.org/featured/ranma/ranmasprings.html
        Also, I should confess that I was inspired in some ways by
another alterverse, "Cursed Love" (the definitive Akane-is-cursed-too
story, I feel), by Fio-chan:
  http://www.angelfire.com/anime3/fiochan/fanfics/series/cl_main.html

------------------

[Scene: Akane is in the dojo practicing; Ranma slowly steps over to her
 from the door]

AKANE: I can't believe Dad wanted to engage us to a sex-changing
       pervert!
RANMA: I wish you wouldn't call me that.
AKANE: Why shouldn't I?

[Scene: Akane, in a school uniform, rushes out the door; Ranma blinks
 and stares after her, apparently a bit surprised]

RANMA: Can't you... give me another chance?
AKANE: Maybe... Anyway, Nabiki and I have school tomorrow.
RANMA: School? Is it alright if I come along?

[Scene: on school grounds, Akane beats up a series of boys coming at
 her while an amazed Ranma and bored Nabiki look on]

AKANE: Fine! But you'd better not get in the way of my morning fight!
RANMA: Your WHAT?!
AKANE: Next time on Inherit the Earth: "First Day at Furinkan! Has Kunou
       Met His Match?" We'll see you there!


             .---Anime/Manga Fanfiction Mailing List----.
             | Administrators - ffml-admins@anifics.com |
             | Unsubscribing - ffml-request@anifics.com |
             |     Put 'unsubscribe' in the subject     |
             `---- http://ffml.anifics.com/faq.txt -----'