AN: I did not write this, all credit goes to Duncan Zillman. The only change I made was to fix spelling and grammar errors.
People in the street looked on with awe as the giant panda threw a flurry of punches at the small red-headed girl. Dodging nimbly, she flipped down the rain-slicked street, avoiding all of them.
"Getting slow, old man!" Then she counterattacked. The girl launched punch after punch and numerous kicks, but the panda just blocked them, growling and snarling all the while. Just when it looked like the panda was about to get the upper hand (paw?), the girl zipped in close and grabbed a massive furry arm. While an unbelievable show of strength, she flipped the panda over her shoulder and sent it crashing into a traffic sign before finally coming to rest against a storefront.
The girl looked on for a few moments to ensure the panda did not rise to continue the attack. Satisfied that the panda was out of commission, she hefted her pack and started back down the street. "Now is no time for fiancees, I m going back to China!"
As the cute red headset off, the panda rose silently and grabbed the sign. Sneaking up behind the girl, he plastered her into the ground. Tossing the girl onto one shoulder and the backpack onto the other, the panda headed in its initial direction. Seeing all of the staring faces, the panda gave a few good growls, and everyone became very interested in something else.
Tendo Soun looked at the postcard with the picture of the Chinese panda on it and wept. It finally was happening, after all these years.
A quick look in the kitchen: "Kasumi!"
A quick look in a bedroom: "Nabiki!"
A quick look in another bedroom: "Where is that girl?"
Akane jogged up to her room, got changed, then headed down to the dojo for some serious violence. Several smashed brick later, a satisfied looking Akane wiped her brow and calmed down. There was nothing like the destruction of property to make you feel good unless it was beating up boys!
Nabiki looked at her younger sister and smiled. "You know you'll never get a husband if you keep acting so weird."
When Nabiki said that their father had an important message, they both headed inside, and Akane got washed up.
Soun was sitting in the living room with his three daughters explaining the good news. "When Kasumi was first born, my old friend Saotome Genma and I decided that if possible, one of our children should marry. Genma was our master s other student, and this marriage will allow the couple to take over the Tendo dojo, and continue our families' great tradition. I have not heard from Genma for a long time because his wife died in childbirth, and he left on a training trip soon after. But I just received a postcard saying that he will be here any minute and will be bringing his son Ranma!"
For several moments silence greeted his statements, then all three daughters burst out.
Kasumi: "I hope he s older than me. Young men are so boring."
Nabiki: "I hope he s cute."
Akane: "What do you mean were engaged already! We've never even met him!"
While Akane continued to browbeat her father, Nabiki turned with a concerned expression to her sister. "Kasumi, if they decided on this when you were born, that means that Ranma wasn't born yet. Do you understand what that means?"
Kasumi put her hand to her mouth and looked shocked. "Oh my. Does this mean Ranma might be a girl?"
Everyone just stared at Kasumi.
Nabiki explained slowly and carefully. "No, the postcard said son. Not even Daddy would be silly enough to get boys and girls confused. It means that Ranma will be younger than you."
Relaxing Kasumi smiled happily. "Oh my, that s nice. I like younger men."
"Say, Pops, before we arrive, shouldn't we get some water.. we don t want to scare them turning up as a girl and panda."
A slight commotion at the front door indicated the arrival of guests. Just on time too. Their punctuality boded well for the future.
Soun went and got their guests while his daughters waited. Shortly he returned with a heavyset man in a white gi, and a very handsome young man wearing loose-fitting Chinese style clothing. The man bowed to them, and the boy just looked embarrassed. "I am Saotome Genma, and this is my son: Ranma."
After a nudge by his father, Ranma looked at the girls arrayed before him and was shocked. To have had three such beautiful daughters, Mrs. Tendo must be a lovely lady. Ranma looked forward to meeting her. He never really had a mother. "Hi, I m Saotome Ranma. Sorry about this."
Waving his arm Soun indicated his daughters. "This is my eldest daughter Kasumi, 19, Nabiki 17, and Akane 16. Take your pick, and she will be your fiancee."
Their father s words stunned the girls for a moment. Taking advantage of the sudden silence, Nabiki put her plan into motion. She knew she wanted a wealthy man for her future, and no wandering martial artist was going to be able to maintain her in the way she desired. Grabbing her sister's shoulders, Nabiki pushed her forward. "You should marry Akane!"
Kasumi also placed a supporting hand on Akane s shoulder. "Yes, certainly Akane."
While Ranma stood there, feeling that his whole future was being decided for him, Akane spoke out, demanding to know why. Kasumi turned to Nabiki and echoed Akane s question. Nabiki just smiled. "Well, I've got other things planned. And you're the only one here that can do Martial Arts."
Shifting her glare to Kasumi, her big sister simply smiled at her, happy that the matter had been resolved. "Oh, Akane. It will be a beautiful wedding! You look so lovely in white."
Ranma settled the issue by turning around to leave. "Listen, Pops: I've only been looking for 12 years, I need more time. Now is not the time for fiancees. I m going back to China. Besides, why do I need a tomboy like Akane, I already have a b-"
Genma muffled his son with his fist. Akane meanwhile had jumped to her feet and was glaring at Ranma. "Oh, s tomboy, am I?"
Ranma looked at her then turned his back. "You are, aren't you? Even I m more of a girl."
Swinging the table like a club, Akane knocked Ranma to the floor. Genma merely nodded. "He had that coming."
Ranma woke up later that afternoon. Looking around in surprise at his unfamiliar surroundings. A quick check confirmed that they were _his_ surroundings, despite a cool cloth on his head. Kasumi and Nabiki were sitting there watching over him. Actually, judging by the way Nabiki looked at him, he wasn't sure if looking was all she did. Kasumi smiled her most radiant and tried to cheer him up. "Don t worry about Akane, Ranma. She s just a little psychotic. It runs in the family."
Nabiki glared at her sister, but Kasumi failed to notice. "Oh nicely done, Kasumi. You might as well try and scare him away completely!"
Kasumi looked blank for a moment. "Are you sure? I mean "
Ranma looked up at the sisters. "Err. Don t worry. Um, I d better see Akane and apologize for that tomboy remark."
Nabiki watched with a slight look of envy as Ranma walked out. He really was well built.
Ranma knocked softly on the door to Akane s room. When she answered he went in, looking at the floor as he tried to muster the right words. "Um, Akane. I err I didn't mean anything by that tomboy remark. It just sort of you know. Pops only told me about this today, so. well, I mean ."
Akane finally took pity on him. "Ranma it's OK. Say, you were supposed to have been training for a while weren't you?"
Ranma looked up and grinned when he noticed Akane had changed back into a gi. "Yeah. A bit."
"Would you like to spa?"
Akane faced Ranma from across the room. He just stood there, a slight smile on his face. When she took up her stance, he didn't move. He still didn't move when she challenged him, and still didn't move when she started to attack. His father straining must be pretty sloppy if this was the sum of Ranma s technique. "OK, I'll just go easy on you at the start."
One, two, three, Akane snapped punches at Ranma. Without seeming to move, all of the blows missed their target. A couple of kicks and some punches later, Akane was wondering what had happened to her today. No matter how she moved, Ranma managed to dodge them, the whole while he was simply holding his hands to his sides, smiling slightly. At least she had forced him to move now, but all of her blows failed to elicit more than a step or two.
I must be telegraphing my moves, she thought. "This time for real!"
With a lunge, Akane charged across the dojo at him. With him backed up against a wall, Akane launched a blow he couldn't simply dodge from. But he did. Without seeming effort, Ranma leaped over her, tapping him lightly on the back of the head as her own fist smashed into the wall.
Staring back at him they both laughed. "Wow! You're really good. It s a good thing your a guy. Bad enough that you beat me, but I d hate to be beaten by a girl. At least I m still the best at that."
As Akane walked out of the dojo, Ranma felt his hopes drop. Martial Arts were everything to her, now she was really going to hate him.
Ranma was unpacking things in the room that they had given him and his father when Kasumi came in. "Ranma, would you like to take a bath now? The waters warm and no one is using it."
Feeling a little nervous, Ranma looked at the tall girl and gave a small smile. "Thanks, Kasumi, but not now. I'll wait a bit."
"Oh, come now, Ranma. You've been training with Akane, haven't you? You must be all sweaty. You'll feel completely different after a bath."
Ranma was completely cowed by her pleasant manner. How could anyone refuse someone as nice as Kasumi? "All right. I just need to be able to make sure no one interrupts I'm a bit shy."
Kasumi smiled and explained the 'occupied' sign, which Ranma had not known about. Another problem with being on the road my whole life. Makes me wonder what else Pop hasn't told me about. "You could also try singing in the bath. That way even if someone doesn't notice the sign, they will hear you first."
"Kasumi, you a genius!" Giving the girl a quick hug, he took the towel she offered and went for a bath.
Kasumi felt a hot flush beginning to cover her all over. "Oh, my!"
A short while later Akane wandered up to the bathroom. She was half undressed before she even noticed the sounds coming from the bathroom. Singing. Oh, it must be Ranma, since I saw his father downstairs. Hang on! That's a GIRL singing! Getting dressed, Akane started hunting the house for some support.
The first person she saw was Genma because their room was almost opposite the bathroom. "Mr. Saotome! I think there's a strange girl in our bathroom!"
Genma paled visibly at this. "Have you seen her?"
"No, I just heard her singing. I thought I'd better tell some of the others before I tossed her out."
Genma began to laugh. Holding his sides as he almost bent double. Thank goodness. I'm surprised that my son is so dumb as to sing in the bath, especially in a house full of strangers. At least Akane did not _see_ who was doing the singing. "No, no, Akane. That's just Ranma. He likes to sing in the bath, and he can have quite a high singing voice sometimes. I assure you that he is still the man that you were engaged to. Ha, Ha! No one but Ranma in there. I'll just tell him to shut up. Ha, Ha! Excuse me, Akane."
Genma dashed into the bathroom, and Akane followed, listening at the door. She could just make out voices. It was definitely Genma talking to a girl. Then there was a splash and she heard Ranma yelling out: "Sorry, Akane. I'll be out in a moment."
Akane backed off and waited till the Saotome clan finished up and came out. Watching both the men, she quickly dashed into the bathroom. No-one else. I could have sworn it was a girl's voice.
"What do you mean I gotta go to school?"
"Well if we're going to be staying here for a while, you need to get used to it. You also need to get an education."
Ranma looked around for some support, but Nabiki was dressed and already heading out the door. Mr. Tendo did not look like he was going to be much help, he was settling down to prepare the shogi board for a battle against Genma. Ranma was just about to see if Kasumi would back him up when he heard Akane's voice from the front of the house.
"What do you mean _I_ have to walk him to school I'm not walking with an insensitive jerk like him Don't say that he's my fiancee, he could just as easily be yours All right, all right. Gee Nabiki, I'll get him."
When Akane walked into the room, Ranma was trying to look conspicuously busy. "Come on, Ranma. We're going to be late."
"But I don't have my bag packed." Suddenly a school bag appeared in his hands.
"And I don't have my lunch." Before he could finish the sentence, Kasumi was handing him a lunch box.
"And and Oh, all right!"
Ranma followed Akane out of the house, and they walked down the street. Akane lead the way, and she started berating him for walking in on her while she was having her bath that morning. "I don't know how I can be engaged to an insensitive jerk like you. You just walked right in. Did you get a good look?'
Ranma retaliated in kind, slinging back verbal barbs. "Uncute tomboy! If you'd bothered to use the occupied sign, there wouldn't have been a problem! How dumb can you be!"
When Akane tossed a few more harsh words at him, he leaped to the top of the fence. A true Martial Artist used every opportunity to hone his skills. Balance was a vital skill, and being able to run on a fence was something he did in every town he entered since he was six. "And what do you think you're doing up there? Showing off?"
Ranma stuck his tongue out. "Blaaarh. Training. I need to be good at balance for fighting. Makes you quick on your feet. Not that you'd know about that!"
"Oh great, so now you're an insensitive jerk, who shows off all the time, and a pervert. You sure took a good look at me this morning!"
Ranma's battle aura flared, but since he slowed his walk, Akane did not notice a thing. "What did you call me?"
Akane ignored him and continued. "Ha, so that's what you are! A pervert! I bet you did it deliberately."
Ranma walked along just behind her, battling valiantly with a desire to pound the life out of her. "Don't call me that!"
Hearing him so close behind her, Akane turned and completely misread the situation. Here he was, right on her heels, hands raised to grab her. She was right, he must be some sort of sick pervert! Sixteen years on the road with his father must have bent his mind. Ohh, and she was engaged to him! Dancing around him she cried out and poked him. "Pervert! Pervert! Pervert! Perve "
Then he was gone. One moment he was there, screaming 'don't call me that' and 'it's not my fault', the next he was gone. Looking down the road she saw him in the distance. Wow! He is fast! Even when she ran, Akane had no hope of catching him.
So it went that Ranma was early to class. Grabbing a seat as far from the front as he could, he simply gave the evil eye to anyone who looked at him. Akane, as usual, scraped in with only seconds to spare. After the teacher had him introduce himself, Ranma returned to his seat and held his head in his hands. Outside the rain began to fall. Perfect. Now I'm trapped here.
Eventually, the teacher reprimanded him, but Ranma continued to wallow in his misery. The one person who seemed to care, and she's the same as everyone else. It just wasn't fair. Ranma had reached this, the highlight of his musings for the eleventh time when the teacher sent him to the hall. At least this way he would not be in the same room as Akane.
Ranma was enjoying the pain of holding buckets when a tall student dressed in traditional Kendo garb came up to him in the hallway. "Are you Saotome Ranma?"
"Yes I am, now go away."
"I am Kuno Tatewaki, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High School. I refuse to allow you to continue this travesty. I challenge you: If you lose you shall renounce your engagement to the fair Tendo Akane!"
Suddenly the doors and windows burst open, full to overflowing with students. "Is it true?"
"You can't have Akane."
"But I love Akane."
"Is it true, Akane?"
Ranma defended his innocence to deaf ears, as did Akane. They probably could have spent the whole day there if not for the fact that Kuno decided to launch his attack. With a quick slash, the bucket Ranma was carrying split, splashing water everywhere. Ranma yelped and jumped back, dodging the next attack. Students were pouring out of classrooms. To watch as the newcomer gets beaten by Kuno.
Ranma looked around and saw too many innocent people. If they fought here, someone other than Kuno was going to get hurt. With a quick sidestep, Ranma was past Kuno and running down the hall. "Challenge accepted, Kumo! But let's take this fight outside."
"That's Kuno, you fool! And I shall gladly fight you where ever you would choose."
With that, Ranma leaped out the window. A three-story fall was nothing for a student of Anything Goes Martial Arts. What was a problem was the large swimming pool that he was about to land in. Fantastic. Not even at school for the whole day and I can't keep it a secret. With a resounding splash, both Ranma and Kuno landed in the water.
Ranma held his breath and tried to swim to the opposite side of the pool. If I'm fast I can be out of here before anyone sees anything. Ranma was just about to leap from the water when he felt Kuno grab him from behind. Ranma gasped when he felt him grab around his chest. Kuno gasped when he felt what was definitely a female breast in his hands.
With a scream of rage, the now female Ranma leaped out of the pool, slamming a surprised Kuno onto the concrete and jumping into the security of the bushes. Kuno looked up at the sky and wondered. A breast. Definitely. A female breast. This could only mean one thing. That coward Saotome had run off, leaving some poor defenseless girl in his place. "Saotome! Enemy of women! I shall defeat you!"
A couple of people looking at the pool thought they saw something funny about Ranma, but it just didn't seem possible. Everyone looked out for Ranma that day, but he never returned to school.
Akane returned home to find her family gathered downstairs. Soun was playing Shogi with Genma, Nabiki and Kasumi were in the kitchen chatting. When Genma saw her, he left the Shogi board and motioned him out to the dojo for a quick talk.
"I don't know what happened at school today, but Ranma came home before lunch. Care to fill me in?"
Akane looked down at her feet. After a day staring guiltily at his desk, she felt sorry for the things she had said that morning. Moving to a new school can be hard enough, especially if you just been engaged to a fiancee that teases you incessantly from when you wake up. Looking up at the large man who was waiting patiently for her to explain, she sighed. "Ranma got into a fight at school today."
Genma smiled. "That's my Ranma! Always training, even at school. I should think that he would be even more eager to stay if he can fight some of the pupils. I know I would."
Akane sighed again, she was getting better at this sighing business. "Yes, well, he fell into the pool during the fight, so I suppose he wanted some dry clothes "
Too busy watching the floor, she didn't notice the way Genma stiffened at the news. That was why the boy had sneaked in the kitchen before saying hello. "And everyone saw it I imagine."
"Well, no. He sort of took us by surprise, and by the time anyone was able to see, he had already left the area."
Genma sighed. Akane sighed (it was her line, he was just trying it on for effect). "And I teased him on the way to school."
"Ha, ha! That just builds character."
"Yeah, but I think he got upset when I called him a pervert. I was just so mad from when he walked in on me this morning."
Genma took her by the shoulders and looked her over. No breaks, not even any sign of bruising. "You know, I do believe Ranma really likes you, Akane."
Snarling she jerked away from his hands. "Well, he's got a funny way of showing it. That perv-"
Genma clamped a hand over her mouth, silencing her insult. "Let me put it this way. You are the first person I know that has been able to call him that and walk away. The last time was six boys from a previous school, and he ended up hospitalizing three of them. Ranma's a nice boy, but please, that's one word that you have to take it easy on. He's very touchy about it."
Genma left her to digest what he had said. After a while, she straightened up, the headed for Ranma's room. If she had hurt him that badly, then the least she could do was apologize. Knocking quietly, she entered when she heard a grunt from inside. Ranma was lying on his futon, watching the ceiling. Looking closely, she was sure he seemed to have been crying.
"What are you here for? Come to rub some salt into my wounds? Looking for a few quick laughs at the freak's expense?"
Akane was quite taken aback by the venom in the words. Now, she knew he didn't like being teased, but this was a bit extreme. "Ranma. I just came to to to talk. I didn't mean what I said this morning."
Ranma still refused to look at her, apparently, he had t even heard what she said. "And let me guess. You've come with a nice glass of cold water, and Nabiki's behind you with tea, and you're all going to have such a laugh at the freak, right? Right? RIGHT?"
Akane went from confused to shocked at Ranma began shouting. Without seeming to move he was sitting in front of her, his hands tightly grabbing her arms. "Well, where is everyone? Or are you trying to get me outside so the whole class can watch it again? You people make me sick!"
Ranma fell back on the futon. "Well, I'm not going. At least Kasumi didn't mind. I just walked in the kitchen and grabbed the kettle. All she did was watch briefly and say 'Hello Ranma-Kun'. Maybe I should marry her and not you. At least she doesn't mind what I am."
Ranma went back to sulking with his eyes closed. Akane looked and thought she could see tears forming at the corners of his eyes. Yes, definitely tears. "Ranma, I'm here alone. Everyone is downstairs. I don't know why everyone in the class would want to see you, but it's just me. Nabiki and Kasumi are in the kitchen talking. And if you want to marry Kasumi after what I said to you this morning, then I understand."
Akane hung her head, ashamed that she could hurt a guest so badly. Ashamed that the man that would someday be her brother in law would always hate her for childish words said in anger. Ranma finally sat up and looked at her. Lifting her chin with a finger he searched her eyes for deceit or lies. "You're really here about what you said this morning, aren't you?"
"Of course I am. Why else would I be here?"
Ranma searched her face again. "You really don't know. I thought when I fell in the pool that everyone would know. But it seems that it was only that idiot Kuno, and he sure got a good feel. Akane, I think I owe you an explanation. When I'm finished, well, I'll let you decide if I should ask Kasumi if she would prefer to be my fiancee."
Ranma moved off to the bathroom, only to return a few moments later with a couple of glasses of water. "My mother died in childbirth, so Pops raised me as his only child. A child that was going to know all he ever did about Martial Arts, and then more. Right from the word go, it was training and fighting. Before I could walk, he was teaching me to block and teaching me to balance and be strong. "When I was four we were traveling through China. It was a pretty relaxed time of life. I'd walk for a while, then Pops would carry me. In the evenings, we would train for a while, and he would cook dinner. "We came across this place called Jusenkyo, the cursed training grounds. Except then we didn't know it was cursed. It was this nice looking place. There were over a hundred of the little pools, each with a bamboo pole or two in them. Perfect place to practice your balance right? If you fall, you land in the water and don't get hurt.
"Needless to say, at four, I didn't last long before I fell in. Well, Pop's basically a good guy, so he immediately jumped into the spring he was on, planning to rescue me. Then we found out why Jusenkyo is a _cursed_ training ground. You see, when Pops gets hit by cold water now, he changes into a Giant Panda. "Very tragic story, you see. 2000 years ago a giant panda drowned in that spring, now whoever falls into the spring takes the body of a giant panda. Coldwater causes it, hot reverses the effect.
"Realising he had a similar problem with me, he tracked down the man who was the guide for the place. He just hadn't seen us come, so he didn't warn us. When he saw my problem, he suggested a spring which may reverse it. It almost worked."
Akane's mind began to fumble at the story he had told. "So you're telling me if I throw a glass of cold water onto your father, he changes into a giant panda. Yeah, right. But even so, if it cured you, why are you so touchy?"
Ranma was used to this sort of reaction. Unless people saw it first hand, they didn't tend to believe it. "No, I'm not cured. You see, to cure me they threw me into the opposite spring. I've been tossed into both spring of the drowned girl, and spring of the drowned boy. It should counter the effects, right? "Wrong.
"The curses clash you see. They don't mix or nullify. They clash. Sometimes it's one way, sometimes the other. Someday I can get hit by cold water and become a boy, some days a girl. Normally it will stay a particular orientation for 24 hours or so, but no guarantees."
Ranma looked at Akane watching him with disbelief. OK. Tipping half a glass of cold water over himself, he sighed. Nothing happened. Tipping half a glass of hot water caused Akane to gasp in surprise and almost fall over. Ranma looked down. Yep, a girl all right. Now she was shorter, lighter, bustier, and even had bright red hair. But it was still the same Ranma. She gave Akane a wry smile.
"Sorry I didn't tell you sooner. People just tend to react better when they know me first, then find out. I didn't want to keep it from you. Really."
Akane breathed deeply, trying to contain her shock. People shouldn't be able to do that sort of thing. "Um Ranma, what sex _are_ you?"
"Heh. It's usually Ranko when I'm a girl; it prevents confusion. And the answer is: I don t know."
"YOU DON'T KNOW?!"
"Akane, I was four years old. You don't care what sex you are at that age. For twelve years I have been constantly changing from male to female and back. I just don't know I also don't care."
"How can you not care? I mean you know you could be it might oh dear "
"When I was about six, I asked Pops what I was. He said he didn't remember and asked me why I wanted to know. I never asked again, because I could never think of a reason why. Twelve years, Akane. That's how long this has been occurring to me. I went through puberty as both a boy and a girl. Can you imagine what it's like to walk past a good looking couple on the way to school? One day the guy makes your heart pound and your knees go weak. The next you're a guy, and certain features on the girl get all your attention.
"I change sex almost every day. I've learned to deal with it. What I want to know is, can you deal with it? If you want to be my fiancee, I will do everything in my power to be a man whenever I can. But I must warn you, I'm also a girl. If you don't think you can cope, I'll go see Pop and Mr. Tendo, and ask Kasumi if she would be interested."
Akane took the glass of cold water and upended it over her. She became him, and the loose-fitting Chinese clothes fit a bit tighter. "Ranma. I can't promise anything. It's a lot to take on. It's a big surprise. But if you're willing to tolerate me, I want to try and be your fiancee."
Ranma smiled and looked relieved. "Thank you."
"Ah, just one thing about Kasumi. Could you do me a favor and explain all this to her. I don't think she accepted it quite as calmly as you believe. You see, Kasumi has a little problem too As a matter of fact, Dad's not entirely balanced either. Kasumi is what's called schizophrenic. She has a hard time relating memory, imagination, and real-life sometimes. She on some fairly serious medication sometimes, so occasionally she's a little spaced out.
"Um, I kind of think she probably took one look at you as a girl and decided to ignore it. After all, people don't just change sex do they? I suspect she's upped her dosage a bit tonight, so tomorrow may be a better time."