Subject: [FFML] [Fanfic][Ranma] Cursed
From: "Richard Lawson" <nouma@msn.com>
Date: 11/8/2006, 7:28 PM
To:

Over the years, as I've stopped writing Ranma fanfics, requests for copies 
of my old stories have dwindled away.  I used to get requests for "Thy 
Inward Love" or my Nuku Nuku fanfics on a regular basis, but that's pretty 
much stopped altogether.  That's not a bad thing, there's much better stuff 
being written on much more recent anime/manga.  After all, "Ranma 1/2" is 
over twenty years old now.

I still get requests for one particular fanfic, though.  I wrote "Cursed" 
over a decade ago and immediately didn't like it.  It had a major plot hole 
and I was never really able to adequately capture the mood I was trying to 
portray.  So dissatisfied was I with it that I never posted it to 
rec.arts.anime.creative and took it off my web site.

If it served any useful purpose, it inspired Gary Kleppe to write the 
excellent "Pools of Horror".  I've always greatly enjoyed that story, which 
was much better than "Cursed".  The final scene between Kuno and Akane is 
one of my favorite moments in Ranma fanfiction.

Anyway, after yet another series of gentle nudges from people who wanted a 
copy of "Cursed", I dusted it off.  I tried to cover the plot hole I created 
and tightened it up a bit.  I still am dissatisfied with it, so any and all 
suggestions y'all might have would be quite welcome.  There's just something 
fundamental that's missing from this, and I can't quite place my finger on 
it.  Any comments, criticisms, and outright flames would be greatly 
appreciated.

So, without further ado:

---

Cursed

By Richard Lawson

Based on an idea by Benjamin Franz


Ranma woke up slowly, as always. Sleep was one of his favorite things in the 
world, and he begrudged its end.

He patted his chest instinctively; one could never be too sure what one's 
gender was in the morning. He was thankful that it was male. Much as he had 
come to almost like his other half, he still thought of himself as a guy and 
preferred to remain in that form as much as possible.

He sat up and looked over at his father. He currently took up a lot of the 
floor space. Ranma grumbled to himself; why Pop would spend so much time as 
a panda remained an utter mystery to him.

Fortunately there was a cure to that. Ranma got up, put on his workout 
clothes, and walked down to the bathroom. Everyone was still asleep except 
Kasumi, whom he could hear humming softly to herself in the kitchen. He 
entered the bathroom, got a bucket, and filled it with warm water. Returning 
to his bedroom, he sloshed it around a little, relishing the buildup.

Ranma was about to splash it on his father when he paused. He realized that 
he wasn't much in the mood for fighting this morning. Ranma shook his head, 
then set the bucket on the floor in case Pop wanted to use it when he woke 
up.

Sighing, Ranma wandered down the stairs. If he wasn't going to work out this 
morning, he had a lot of time and nothing to do with it. He heard Kasumi 
humming again, shrugged, and went to join her in the kitchen.

Kasumi looked up from where she was lightly beating some eggs. "Good 
morning, Ranma-kun." She beamed at him.

She always beamed, Ranma thought with a smile. "Watcha doing?"

"Preparing breakfast. Eggs and bacon and toast this morning."

Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Western-style?"

"Variety is good, not just for the people who eat it, but for the person who 
makes it, too."

Ranma nodded. "Yeah." He watched with interest as she took the bowl with the 
eggs and placed it on the counter. She already had some bacon cooking in a 
pan, and she used a fork to turn them over. Ranma examined the color of the 
side of the bacon that had already been cooked, and compared it to the color 
of the uncooked bacon, filing the difference for future reference.

Kasumi noticed his interest. "Do you want to learn more about cooking, 
Ranma-kun?"

Ranma shuddered. "No thanks." He couldn't forget what his mother had once 
told 'Ranko': "Someday you'll make a good wife." That was the last thing 
Ranma wanted to be.

He quickly turned and practically fled from the kitchen, feeling Kasumi's 
eyes on his back.

He nearly ran over Akane in the hallway, who was yawning while squeezing 
Ryoga tightly to her chest. Ranma narrowed his eyes as he glared at Ryoga. 
He'd been spending far too much time as 'P-chan' lately, using it as an 
excuse to fondle Akane as much as possible. Ryoga would try to explain it 
differently, of course, but all Ranma saw was a dirty pig.

"Ranma, you leave P-chan alone," Akane said with her usual glare. Ranma 
shifted his eyes to Akane's angry visage. If only she knew. He was so 
tempted to tell her, but he couldn't. Still, the frustration he felt at 
times like this was enough to make him want to beat up on something. Or yell 
at Akane.

He opened his mouth to do the latter when all of his anger drained away.  He 
did not want to get into another fight. He slumped his shoulders and sat 
down at the kitchen table. Akane, after staring at him in vague surprise for 
a few seconds, sat down next to him.

The rest of the family arrived, including Ranma's father, still in panda 
form. Ranma snorted in disgust. Pop ignored him and drank some tea, a 
somewhat difficult task without opposable thumbs.

Kasumi served breakfast. Ranma noticed that she had placed a strip of bacon 
to either side of the scrambled eggs, and had put the toast at the top of 
the plate. It was a pleasing presentation, and Ranma silently congratulated 
her on it.

He picked up a piece of bacon, bit into it, then turned to Ryoga with an 
evil grin. "This could be you."

Ryoga's eyes were very wide. Akane growled and banged Ranma over the head 
with a bokken she'd acquired somehow. "Stop teasing him, Ranma!"

Ranma frowned, not liking the fact that he was in the middle of a 
disagreement. Before he could think of what to do, Ryoga suddenly squirmed 
out of Akane's one-armed grasp and ran out of the room.

"Now look what you've done," Akane cried in dismay. She ran after Ryoga.

Ranma frowned, feeling uneasy about making Ryoga and Akane feel bad. He 
shook it off and finished breakfast.

Akane joined him as he was about to leave for school. She glared at him but 
didn't say anything. They left the house together.

The air was crisp but not cold this morning.  Ranma jumped on top of a 
fence, easily finding his balance. After a couple of blocks, he felt silly 
and jumped down. Akane raised an eyebrow at him. He looked at her and 
shrugged. He faced forward again just in time to get splashed.

Someday, Ranma was going to have to learn to pay special attention whenever 
she passed this woman's house. She could almost swear that the woman waited 
until she came by before washing her walkway in the traditional manner. 
Ranma tried to glare at her, but couldn't work up the irritation.

Akane tsked at him. "Do you always have to do this to yourself, Ranma? We 
probably have time to go to Tofu-sensei's and get some hot water for you."

Ranma sighed. "Let's not bother. We don't want to be late again. Besides, 
everyone at school knows about me anyway." She adjusted her clothes and 
continued on.

They arrived at school well before the bell rang. Ranma went to her seat and 
sat down, patiently awaiting the beginning of class. Some of her friends 
were exchanging crude jokes over by the window, but Ranma didn't feel like 
joining them.

Hinako-sensei came in and everyone settled down. She smiled brightly. 
"Today, we continue our study of the Shi Jing.  Everyone open your books to 
page two-seventy-four."

A soft sigh passed through the class. Ranma contributed; why Hinako thought 
there was any value in studying ancient Chinese poetry she had no idea. She 
mentally shrugged her shoulders and opened her textbook, flipping through 
the pages.  Each poem was written in Chinese with a translation alongside 
it, often with many alternative interpretations.  Ranma shook her head; why 
couldn't the Chinese just say what they meant?  Instead it was murky and 
stupid.

"We'll start with Sacrifical Odes of Zhou." Hinako looked around the 
classroom.  Her eyes lit on Ranma and narrowed when she saw his bored 
expression.  "Saotome.  Begin reading."

Ranma felt frustration building inside of her.  She looked longingly out the 
window.  Wouldn't be hard to just leap outside and run as far away as 
possible.  Forget school, forget engagements with stupid uncute tomboys and 
just explore the world.

Again, though, Ranma just couldn't build the necessary enthusiasm to 
actually carry out the plan.  Not to mention that Hinako was probably the 
only teacher in school who could actually stop him if he tried to leap out 
the window.  With a deep, heartfelt sigh, Ranma looked back at the text.  At 
first the words refused to come, but then they snapped into place and Ranma 
began to read.

"Solemn is the ancestral temple in its pure stillness.
 Reverent and harmonious were the distinguished assistants.
 Great was the number of the officers.
 Assiduous followers of the virtue of Wen.
 In response to him in heaven,
 Grandly they hurried about in the temple.
 Distinguished is he and honoured,
 And will never be wearied of among men."

Ranma felt herself getting more and more into the poem. She could almost 
hear the music, feel the harmonics of the other singers as they joined in 
the song.  She began to move on to the next stanza when Hinako interrupted. 
Ranma looked up at Hinako, blinking, not quite getting what Hinako was 
saying.

Hinako repeated her question.  "Ranma, what are you doing?"

"Er..." Ranma looked down at the text, then back up at Hinkao.  "What you 
told me to do, right?"

Frowning, Hinako tilted her head to the side.  "But... when did you learn 
Chinese?"

"When?"  Ranma shook her head.  "Never.  I don't know Chinese at all."

She was about to make further protestations when Akane leaned towards her 
from the next desk.  "But you were speaking Chinese.  When you read the 
poem, you sang it in Chinese."

Ranma blinked at Akane, then looked down at the poem.  She'd been reading 
the translation, not the poem itself, hadn't she?  The poem was gibberish, 
she didn't know any Chinese.  Well, maybe a phrase or two.  Like that part 
there.  And that part.  And maybe that line.  The more she stared at the 
poem, the more she understood until suddenly the entire song was crystal 
clear.

"That was very nice, Saotome," Hinako said encouragingly.  "You have a real 
gift.  But please, read the poem in Japanese so we can all understand."

Ranma looked at the translation, and to her shock she couldn't understand it 
at all.  It looked like gibberish.  She furrowed her brow and concentrated 
on it fiercely, and slowly the meaning became plain.  Haltingly she read 
through the translation, fighting the temptation to look at the Chinese text 
for help. She had no idea what the hell was going on.

When she was done, Hinako moved on to someone else to read the next part. 
Ranma sat back, mentally exhausted.  Akane tried to give her an encouraging 
smile but Ranma dropped her eyes, unwilling to meet Akane's gaze.  Something 
very scary was going on but there was no reason to involve Akane.

Ranma somehow made it to lunchtime and then practically fled the classroom. 
She ran outside and jumped high into a tree, not wanting to be disturbed. 
Something very odd was happening to her, and needed time to think.

With an effort, Ranma tried to think in Chinese. As she did, she felt an 
urge to climb out of the tree and eat lunch in a respectful manner. Ranma 
shook off the urge, finding that her knowledge of Chinese seemed to drain 
away at the same time.

Ranma thought about it all through lunch. The most likely answer seemed to 
be that Cologne or Shampoo had done something to her, made her think like a 
Chinese person would. If Ranma forgot how to speak Japanese, then Shampoo 
would be the only choice Ranma would have for a wife. At least, that's how 
their twisted minds worked.

Nodding to herself, Ranma decided that she needed to pay Cologne a visit. 
She jumped out of the tree and ran towards the Nekohanten. The rest of the 
school day be damned; she needed to find out what that old hag had done to 
her.

She approached the restaurant and slowed. It was closed. Ranma knew that it 
should be open; lunch was a busy time for them. Ranma made her around the 
back and found the rear door unlocked.

Ranma entered the kitchen. The first thing she noticed was Mousse, in duck 
form, sitting in a cage. She expected him to start honking loudly, asking 
for release. Instead, he stared at her calmly, resting quietly. Ranma 
frowned at him, then climbed the stairs to the second floor.

She heard Cologne speaking rapidly in Chinese, sounding both angry and 
distraught. Ranma listened carefully, and soon found that she was able to 
understand.

"This is not how a warrior behaves. Get over here this instant. You know 
that Son-in-law can't stand you like this. You don't want to disappoint him, 
do you? Shampoo!"

Suddenly, with a crash, a door was flung open. Shampoo, in cat form, ran 
down the hall towards Ranma. Ranma froze, terrified. Shampoo slowed to a 
halt directly in front of her, and meowed inquisitively.

That was enough for Ranma. She turned and ran down the hallway herself, 
stopping only when she smashed into the wall. She turned around and stared 
in fear at Shampoo, who hadn't moved from where she'd been previously.

Cologne, meanwhile, was sneaking up behind Shampoo. Ranma was too terrified 
to warn her, and Cologne was able to grab Shampoo by the scruff of her neck. 
Shampoo yowled. Cologne touched Shampoo on the forehead, causing Shampoo to 
go limp.

Cologne looked over at Ranma. "Son-in-law."

Ranma could only quiver.

Sighing, Cologne produced a kettle of water from somewhere. She poured it on 
Shampoo, who turned human.

The fear left Ranma almost instantly. Relieved, she looked at Cologne. 
"Shouldn't you put some clothes on her?"

Cologne stared at Ranma. "What did you say?"

Ranma frowned. "It's indecent to expose her like that."

Cologne looked down at Shampoo, then turned and walked down the hallway. 
Ranma followed, determined to see that Shampoo was properly taken care of.

They entered what must have been Shampoo's room. Ranma helped Cologne put a 
robe on Shampoo. Then Cologne began strapping Shampoo to the bed.

Ranma stared at her, aghast. "What are you doing?"

Cologne paused, looked at Ranma steadily for a minute, then continued tying 
down Shampoo. "If I don't do this, she'll try to turn herself into a cat as 
soon as she wakes up."

Ranma growled. "Stop it. It isn't nice to do this to someone."

Cologne paused again. "Why don't you make me?" The words were not a 
challenge, just a simple question.

Ranma blinked, suddenly wondering about that herself. She felt no desire at 
all to fight Cologne. Just as she'd felt no desire to fight with her father 
or Akane. "I, uh, just don't think you should."

"I see." Cologne resumed tying Shampoo to the bed. At one point, she 
indicated with her staff that Ranma should move aside so that Cologne could 
get by. Ranma grimaced and stepped back.

When Cologne was satisfied, she turned to consider Ranma. "Join me, Son-in- 
law. We need to talk."

Ranma walked behind Cologne, trying to work up the courage to demand some 
answers from her. They went back into the kitchen, where Cologne went about 
making some tea. Ranma examined her closely, watching how she prepared it, 
trying to make sure she slipped nothing extra into it. She had a slightly 
different way of making tea than Kasumi did, and Ranma noted the differences 
and decided she'd have to try it both ways herself and see which worked 
better.

Cologne offered her a cup. Ranma thanked her politely and began sipping it, 
watching as Cologne poured herself a cup. They sat at one of the tables in 
the darkened restaurant.

Ranma sipped her tea, impatiently waiting for Cologne to begin. Cologne was 
just watching her closely, a thoughtful look on her face. Finally, Cologne 
spoke. "How do you feel, Son-in-law?"

Ranma drew her head back. "I feel fine. I want to know what you did to 
Shampoo."

Cologne lowered her eyes. "I suppose, in a way, it is my fault. I was the 
one who suggested we go on that training trip."

"Which training trip?"

"The same training trip you and your father took."

Ranma raised her eyebrows. "You mean the one to Jusenkyo?"

Cologne nodded. "I thought the old legends were just that. I didn't know 
they spoke of truth. And even then, I still didn't believe all of what the 
legends said. Now they are coming true, and I've damned my 
great-granddaughter."

Ranma felt a horror rise in her. "What do you mean? What have you done to 
her?"

Cologne sighed. "The spirits that created each of the cursed springs did 
more than infuse the springs with their forms. The infused them with their 
very essence. I didn't understand all of the ramifications of that until one 
morning earlier this week, when I discovered Mousse, sitting quietly in his 
cage, sleeping. This surprised me since I had not placed him there. I turned 
him human and he performed his required tasks for that day, but when the 
restaurant closed he turned himself back into a duck and prepared to spend 
the night in the cage again. I asked him not to, and forced him to turn 
human and go back to his room. And yet, when I looked in on him in the 
morning, he had turned himself into a duck again and spent the night 
sleeping under his bed. I tried insisting that he stay human, and he would 
become human long enough to perform his duties. But at all other times he 
would become a duck.

"I stopped worrying about him the morning I discovered Shampoo lapping milk 
out of a bowl." Cologne closed her eyes, and Ranma saw something she'd never 
seen in Cologne before: pain. "I was very angry, and turned her human, and 
told her never to do that again. She seemed embarrassed, and apologetic. And 
then the next day she came up to me and dropped a dead bird at my feet, 
purring loudly."

Ranma quivered. "Are... are you saying...."

Cologne nodded. "Shampoo fell into the spring of drowned cat, and is now a 
cat. Mousse fell into spring of drowned duck, and is now a duck."
Cologne opened her eyes and gave Ranma a sad look. "You fell into the spring 
of drowned woman, and are now...."

Ranma leapt to her feet. "No!" Horror washed up and down her spine, to lodge 
into her stomach as cold lump. "I'm a guy!"

"Are you?" Cologne, as quick as lightning, grabbed the tea kettle, ran up 
Ranma, and dumped it on her head.

Ranma flinched. "Whatcha do that for!"

Cologne looked at him curiously. "Do you want me to get some cold water?"

"Yes!" Ranma glared at her.

Cologne simply stared back at him.

Slowly, Ranma realized what he had just asked for. He collapsed back into 
his chair, trembling.

"As I thought." Cologne resumed her seat. "It seems to be a little different 
with you, Son-in-law. It's more than you just wanting to be a woman. You're 
assuming the personality of the woman who fell into the pool."

Ranma blinked at her. "What?"

Cologned nodded. "Do you realize, Ranma, that we have been speaking in 
Chinese? Not just Chinese, but an ancient dialect?"

Ranma thought back over the conversation. He stared at Cologne, wide-eyed.

Cologne sighed. "It's getting worse. Yesterday morning, Mousse refused to 
assume human form, even to work. Today, Shampoo has been using all of her 
skills to prevent me from splashing her with hot water. She is still as 
intelligent as she used to be; she just wants to remain a cat all the time."

Ranma swallowed, trying to think intelligently. "Why should it have happened 
to us all at the same time? I mean, Shampoo was cursed a long time after I 
was. Mousse, too."

"I myself have been wondering that. The legends say that the... change in 
perspective... takes much longer to happen then it apparently has. Now that 
I think on it, I can see how it has been changing all of you, very slowly. 
Shampoo actually never did object to becoming a cat, and seemed to enjoy her 
cursed form more and more. Mousse actually joined a circus, using his cursed 
form to perform tricks. And you, Son-in-law... you used to react so 
violently to being called a woman. Yet, I've seen you spend more and more 
time as a woman, and no longer do you react violently to being turned into 
one. In fact, you seem to enjoy it. You've been changing more than your 
physical form. You've been slowly, very slowly, coming to accept yourself as 
a woman."

Ranma gulped, wanting to object. However, he could remember all too clearly 
how he'd spend hours, even most of several days, as a girl, trying to 
accomplish some task or other. Cologne was right; he'd come to be less 
repulsed by the thought of occasionally turning female. In fact, he'd come 
to... like it.

"The rate at which the change - the desire to remain in your cursed forms - 
has been slowly accelerating, until these last few days have seen you all 
wish to remain permanently in your cursed forms. As to why it's accelerated 
so much, and why it's happened to all of you at once, I can only theorize 
that it is because we have so many curses in such close proximity, 
interacting on an almost daily basis. You, Shampoo, Mousse, Ryoga, Genma. 
Your curses reinforce each other, and have come into synch. Perhaps if you 
were all to separate, you would revert to your base personalities. I think, 
however, that it is too late."

Ranma drew a deep breath, trying to find some hope. "Do you know of a cure?"

Cologne's eyes dropped to stare at the table top. "The legends say that the 
curses of Jusenkyo are irreversible and permanent."

Ranma leaned forward onto the table, holding his head in his hands. The 
horror had given way to something worse: absolute despair.

Cologne spoke softly, sadly. "I will try everything I can, Son-in-law. I 
want my great-granddaughter cured. I had been grooming her to be my heir in 
the Amazon tribe. Now her whole ambition is to chase birds and mice. I will 
try to bring back the Shampoo we both knew. If I succeed, I will use the 
same techniques on you." Cologne looked up at me. "Will you let me?"

Ranma fought back the urge to say no. "Please try. Even if later I say I 
don't want you to, ignore me and change me back anyway. I'm giving you 
permission now to use whatever force you need to." Ranma lifted his head and 
looked into Cologne's eyes. "Please."

Cologne nodded. "I understand. I hope I can find a cure." Cologne grimaced 
and looked down again. "I am not optimistic. The legends speak of no cure, 
and many have been tried over the centuries. I quite frankly don't even know 
where to begin. For now, I will take Mousse and Shampoo back to China and 
see if any of the others in my tribe have greater knowledge."

The sound of a horrified shriek cut through the restaurant. The shrieking 
continued, and Ranma stared at the ceiling. "What's wrong with her?"

Cologne sighed. "Do you remember how you felt, back at Jusenkyo, when you 
found yourself in a body that was not yours?"

Ranma gulped, remembering the horror and hearing it echoed in Shampoo's 
screams.

Cologne jumped down from the table. "I had better try to calm her down. I 
will let you know if I find a cure." She paused, and looked him in the eye. 
"Good luck, Son-in-law." She left the dining room.

Ranma sat there long enough to hear Shampoo shriek again. Then he leapt to 
his feet and fled the Nekohanten, carrying the sound of Shampoo's horror 
with him.

***

Ranma burst into the dojo, breathing heavily. He'd run all the way to the 
dojo and had still been unable to escape whoever it was that was inside his 
head.

He could feel her now, wanting to find some cold water and possibly a nice 
dress and couldn't she do something better with her hair?

Ranma shouted in frustration and hit the wall with his fist. He buried it 
six inches into the plaster, and felt shame that he had made such a mess.

Ranma grunted and pounded the wall again and again, trying to ignore that 
part of him that wanted him to stop and clean up the mess and stop acting 
so... so...

..unfeminine.

He fell to his hands and knees. What kind of woman had she been - the one 
who had drowned all those centuries ago? She seemed to be a Kasumi type of 
feminine. Passive, doing housework, serving her family, abhorring violence. 
Ranma shuddered; that was *not* the kind of woman he particularly liked.

He liked Kasumi, though. Everyone did. They respected her and paid attention 
to her and she made life good and wholesome for everyone. What was so bad 
about that?

Ranma beat his fist against the ground, using the pain to focus his mind. It 
was *her* again, trying to make him think what she wanted him to think. He 
was not like Kasumi, he did not want to be Kasumi. If he had to be a woman 
why couldn't he be like... like...

..Akane.

Ranma winced, remembering all the times he had called her unfeminine and a 
tomboy. What he had overlooked, what he was only now coming to realize, was 
that she was female in her own way: confident, aggressive, assertive, and 
expressive. He'd made fun of her for being like that. Yet none of those 
things altered the fact that she was a woman. Now he knew that Akane was the 
kind of woman he liked. And he was losing that, losing that part of him that 
liked Akane that way. Losing the part of himself that maybe even more than 
liked her.

Ugh, but she was so outspoken. So rude. She didn't keep her place, didn't 
stay quiet like a woman should. He would have to talk to her, see if he 
could get her to be a little more ladylike.

Ranma grit his teeth. There she was again, trying to sneak in and alter who 
he was. He was not Kasumi. Even Kasumi wasn't as bad as this person was. He 
was not going to give in to her, not going to become her. He would fight it. 
He was stronger than Mousse, stronger than Shampoo. He'd hold onto himself 
until Cologne found a cure.

And yet, he could see it. See himself acting demure and passive. He could 
see himself wanting it, wondering how he could ever have wanted to act any 
other way. And as much as that terrified him, he could see his resistance 
turning to despair. He could fight all he wanted, but it would make no 
difference. In the end he was going to be... *her*.

Ranma wrenched his mind away from that. Never give up. Never stop fighting. 
That was the spirit of the School of Indiscriminate Grappling. He would not 
stop trying. Until the day he died.

He slowly sat up to see Ryoga watching him. Ryoga as a pig. Ryoga as he had 
been for the past week or more. A sad realization came over him, that he 
would probably never see Ryoga as a man again.

"You know, don't you?"

Ryoga nodded.

"It's happened to you, hasn't it?"

Ryoga nodded again.

Ranma started crying. "Oh buddy, I'm so sorry. I didn't know, this morning I 
didn't know. I'll never tease you again, I promise. Only, don't you want me 
to get you some hot water?"

Ryoga warily edged away from him.

Ranma hastily waved his hands. "No, no, I won't, I promise." Ranma tried to 
stop crying and found that he couldn't. "Oh buddy, I'm losing it. Can you 
help me? Please, don't forget who I am. This is me, I am Saotome Ranma, I'm 
a guy!"

Ranma found that he was shouting. He stopped, embarrassed at his outburst. 
Ryoga looked at him, apparently sympathetic. Ranma leaned forward to peer 
into Ryoga's eyes. "You won't forget me, will you?"

Ryoga shook his head. Yet at the same time, his eyes seemed to hold a sad 
knowledge that what he remembered wouldn't matter.

Ranma leaned forward again, to rest his head on Ryoga's. Together, they 
shared the misery of their curses.

"Ranma, I told you not to tease P-chan!" He felt something strike him and 
send him flying across the room. He hit the wall and slumped to the ground.

Akane scooped up Ryoga and glared at Ranma. "It isn't enough that you hurt 
his feelings this morning, now you have to beat up on him?"

He opened his mouth to say that he hadn't been beating up on Ryoga. "I'm 
sorry," he found himself saying instead.

Akane looked at him, slightly disgusted. "Are you crying? From a little hit 
like that?"

Ranma wanted to explain what was happening to him, and to beg Akane for her 
help. "I'm sorry," were the only words his mouth seemed to be capable of 
saying.

Akane's disgust was more evident. "C'mon, Ranma. I hate it when you act all 
cute and stupid."

"I'm sorry." No, that was wrong, stop saying that. "I'm not." I'm not 
acting, I need your help. Please Akane, help me. Ranma struggled to get the 
words off his lips.

Akane grunted and looked around. She spied a bucket of water next to the 
door of the dojo and grabbed it. "If you're going to act like a girl..."

Ranma stared in horror at the bucket. At his damnation. He could barely hold 
on as he was. Whoever Saotome Ranma was would be lost in that bucket of 
water. He held his hands in front of him and shook his head, a feeble 
protestation, the best he could do.

"...you may as well be a girl!" The water flew through the air.

Ranma opened his mouth. "NO!" He used the last part of who he was to cry his 
despair into the air as the water hit him.

And changed him.

She felt her body change and rejoiced. Peace settled over her. At last, she 
was back to who she was. Who she was supposed to be. It had been a struggle 
to shed the remnants of the awful person she used to be. But he was gone, 
and she remained, and she would be the best kind of person she knew how to 
be.

She got to her feet and bowed to Akane. "I'm sorry if I upset you. Please 
forgive my rudeness."

Akane stared at her quizzically. She said something, gibberish that didn't 
make sense. Ranma frowned, trying to follow the words. They just didn't mean 
anything to her. Ranma shrugged. Japanese would probably come back to her 
eventually. If it didn't, she could learn. She had time.

Meanwhile, she had to clean up the awful mess she'd made. She began clearing 
away the larger chunks of debris, ignoring the angry and frightened 
gibberish Akane was yelling at her. Ranma went into the house to get the 
broom and dustpan she knew Kasumi kept in the closet. Akane followed her, 
sounding more and more desperate. Poor Akane. Akane would come to understand 
her, eventually. Then she could begin teaching Akane how to make herself 
more attractive to men. She would make a good wife, with a little help.

She smiled at Akane, and wondered why Akane was crying.

~*~

(the end) 


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