It's a Girl
Chapter 2 - What now?
by Lerris Smith
Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma 1/2. This piece of work is purely for entertainment purposes.
Author's Notes: This is the second chapter of "It's a girl". I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for those who reviewed the first chapter. I truly hadn't intended to write a second chapter so soon, and yet I did mostly because of the reviews.
"Dang it Sana. You know as well as I what this means." The room was simple with an old stone table in the center a couple feet off the ground. A few dozen brown robed figures surrounded the table.
"Peace Ken. I know what it means. It is one of our purposes after all." The word purposes seemed to be given special significance. "We have overcame trials in the past. We shall overcome the new ones as well."
"But the prophecy..."
"The extinguishing of the lord of fire's flame shall announce her to the world. She shall be gifted with hope to balance the darkness that comes, yet that hope shall be denied, and still will she save us." Sana paused for a moment to ponder his own words. "A grim prophecy and with the word reaching us of Saffron's death, it seems to be upon us."
"Yes, I just wish we knew more. Bah, prophecies, they never work out quite like they sound, and almost always confuse more than enlighten."
"Yet no one is willing to walk forward in total darkness when they have even a poor candle."
Morning came and Ranma had a smile on her pixie like face when she woke up, although she couldn't quite figure out why until she thought of the odd events of last night. I don't know what was stranger. The bombed wedding, or Nabiki kissing my girl side. On second thought, the wedding wasn't all that surprising. Ranma felt like she should feel guilty or disappointed or something about the wedding or lack of yesterday, but she didn't. Sure the wedding was a mess, but hardly notable compared to last month when Akane almost died at Phoenix mountain. Of course few things really compared with that.
Ranma wondered why she hadn't been wakened by a bucket of water or being thrown in the koi pond by her father. The second question was answered by the lump that seemed to have collapsed on the pallet next to her. I suppose alcohol is good for something after all.
Ranma stretched and yawned and wondered just when she got wet. I thought for sure I went to bed male. Ranma yawned again as she exited the bedroom door and began her trek to the bathroom. Nabiki was glancing at the hallway monitor and once again squashed a little bit of envy that a boy made such a cute girl, even doing something as simple as waking up.
Ranma was careful to check for the sign outside the furo and seeing that was missing, she also knocked. After waiting another half a minute, she walked in and washed off quickly following by a short soak in the furo. After the change to what she believed was her birth gender occurred, he sat and tried to find a few moments of peace. It was odd but he felt slightly unsettled in the nice warm water. Perhaps I'd better hurry up before Shampoo cat jumps through the window again. He shivered slightly. That Amazon didn't play remotely fair. If it wasn't for the fact that he felt a bit like a prize in her quest, he might have been tempted, well more than he already was anyway. Fortunately, those temptations were short lived enough for him to again remember how men were treated in her village. Even if he stayed a girl most of the time, he suspected they would still think of him as a guy.
Ranma stepped out of the furo and looked up only to see Nabiki staring at him with a towel wrapped around her statuesque body. Ranma suppressed a smile fractionally too late for Nabiki to fail to notice it.
"Um, Nabiki. I put out the sign." Ranma thought about it and concluded this must be the sixth time Nabiki has done this. Well, at least, she doesn't bring out a mallet like the tomboy. She just pretends I don't exist.
"Odd, I didn't see it."
"Well, I had better go get dressed." A small smirk could be seen to grace the middle Tendo daughter's face as she sat down to wash off for the second time this morning.
Ranma smiled. It was ironic that it was more fun being toyed with for Nabiki's amusement than spending time with any of his fiancées. Ranma had thought about mentioning it to Akane at one point, but immediately discarded the idea for obvious reasons. Of course, Nabiki knew he would never bring any of it up, since everyone would just assume he was at fault, thus the secret was safe, and Nabiki was amused. Still, that kiss last night was something else. He just hoped no one ever found out about their little game, especially the part where he had kissed back, since Ranma doubted Nabiki really wanted to be in the crossfire.
The panda in human form and the human waterfall made it to the breakfast table, and oddly enough they seemed to be mostly recovered from yesterday's post crashed wedding mourning session at the local tavern. Ranma suspected some bit of obscure martial arts knowledge that they hadn't seen a reason to inform him of.
"Boy, when are you gonna sort out your dang fiancée problems so you can marry Akane?"
Ranma was glancing at Nabiki when his father started to speak. He noticed her focus on him almost as if she was curious what he would say or perhaps how he would handle it. He hesitated just enough to suppress his first reaction, and to remember what kind of response his first reaction would ordinarily earn.
"I am not marrying that pervert!" Akane regretted the words as they were leaving her tongue. Odd, Ranma normally would have said something about never marrying a tomboy by now.
Ranma, wished he was half as good as Nabiki with words. He said the only other thing that came to mind. "If I knew how to do that, I'd have done it a long time ago!" Ranma couldn't quite prevent raising his tone a little at the end.
"What do you mean? Just tell them your not interested. How hard can that be?" said Akane.
Ranma sighed. Perhaps he could repay Nabiki a little for her fun. "Nabiki you have someone keeping track of me most of the time. Just how many times do you think I've said I'm not interested in Shampoo or I only like Ukyo as a friend?"
Nabiki's lips compressed a little. It was rare for Ranma to think, and somewhat annoying for him to involve her. "5000 yen."
Ranma forked over the cash. That seemed to cause Nabiki another surprise.
Nabiki counted it out quickly then slipped it in her purse. "I'm not sure of the exact number, but from what I know I'd tend to guess 150 or so for Shampoo and maybe 100 for Ukyo."
"But..." Akane's mind failed to come up with more words.
"It doesn't matter. It's his duty as a martial artist to solve the mess and marry Akane."
Ranma was sweating now. Beating the crap out of his father was ever so much easier than winning an argument of words with him, especially when he never really listened. Still, Nabiki was still watching him while pretending to be focused on her breakfast. He had to admit she did it very well, but he was trying to be more observant since Phoenix mountain. That had been too close. Also he just couldn't figure out that girl, and for some reason he wanted to. Inspiration struck and he replied, "You know, your right. I think its time for I went in search for a true master in Martial Arts Fiancee Handling."
Ranma started for the stairs as Nabiki started choking on her rice.
"Why yes, the legendary art of how to deal with multiple fiancées. I knew there was something I had neglected in your training. Why, as soon as you learn that we can have the wedding."
"The schools will be joined. Oh happy day."
Nabiki covered her face with her Napkin and made a mental node to get back at Ranma. Causing me to laugh while I'm eating is just rude. Still it was nice to see Ranma almost managing to win a fight without beating his target till it stop moving.
"Akane dear, shouldn't you be packing?"
"Hey, why would I want to go along and search for some screwball martial arts master?" Akane privately wondered if Ranma was making it up, but then it was Ranma and there was that Martial Arts Finger Painting guy last week. Akane really wished Ranma had taken that challenge.
"It's your duty. Besides don't you want to help Ranma so you two can be married?"
"Come on sis. I'll come with you. If there is a martial art to deal with fiancées, I have to see it."
Akane frowned. It had been a strange couple days. "Um, okay I guess. At least we have the summery off."
Akane and Nabiki went upstairs.
"Say Saotome-kun, just what is Martial Arts Fiancee Handling?" asked Soun.
"Why its the ancient art first taught in Egypt to Cleopatra herself.."
"You don't know either do you? Oh well, they are leaving together."
Nabiki knocked on Ranma's door with Akane a few steps behind looking very much like she did not want to be there.
A distracted call to come in came through the door.
Nabiki looked around and focused on what appeared to be Ranma finishing the last ties on his backpack.
"Um, what is going on?"
"Why Ranma-kun, your in luck. Akane volunteered to go help you look, and well I just had to find out about Martial Arts Fiancee Handling." The sarcasm was obvious to everyone in the room, except perhaps Akane, who was still near the entrance and didn't seem to be paying much attention.
Ranma seemed confused for a moment and ended with a slight frown. "You do know that I made that up right?"
Akane's suddenly focused on Ranma as if trying to figure out something. She then seemed to grow confused.
Nabiki glanced back to make sure Akane closed the door. "Oh, are you saying the great and honorable Ranma Saotome lied? Tsk. Tsk. What is the world coming to?" Sarcasm dripped heavily from Nabiki's words. "I'll tell you what. You have a small grace period after the chaos from yesterday where the others will be hesitant. If you find us someplace nice to go, I'll help you two figure out the fiancée mess, and since I'm along, if word gets out, people will be less likely to think you two decided to elope."
"Nabiki, are you feeling okay?" Akane reached out to feel her sister's head.
"I'm feeling fine Akane."
Ranma was kind of in Akane's camp here. "So, what's in it for you?"
Both Ranma and Akane just continued to wait, although they were having doubts Nabiki would say anything. "Okay, fine, if you really must know, I want some training in the art. Nothing insane or anything, just enough to get out of trouble. Considering how much yen you owe me, that is the least you can do.
"I don't hit girls." he said defensively.
Nabiki picked up a glass of water from the dresser and tossed it on him. She then punched Ranma in the gut. "Ow, jeez what are you made of? Nevermind that. You are a girl right now are you not?"
"But I'm a boy on the inside. I'm not a real girl."
Akane looked back and forth, still trying to figure out this odd conversation and half looking for a way to get out of this mess. She had put the wedding behind her except for a general feeling of relief that it didn't work out and worry that Ranma would find out that she was relieved. No, the bombed wedding hardly counted beside almost dying at Phoenix mountain.
Nabiki got a predatory look in her eyes and decided to go for broke. Her reaction should let her know either way and such information might be useful. "Oh, yes, your a genuine 100 boy, that just happens to have a period every now and then."
"No way, that's impossible." gasped Akane.
Ranma looked pale. Just how did she find out? "I don't know what your talking about." The words came out so rushed and emphatic that he might as well have added that he lied.
Nabiki laughed. "You are so easy to manipulate. I wasn't sure until you confirmed it. Now if you want to keep that little piece of information a secret..."
Ranma, in an eager voice said, "I know just the place for training. The tomboy can come too since she can take a hit better than you and it might be better to start with her and um, just don't tell anyone okay?" Ranma shook off the odd thought that she shouldn't feel embarrassed about her female forms bodily functions.
Akane was somewhat torn between annoyance and happiness. The annoyance was for the tomboy comment and the happiness was that it sounded like Ranma was finally going to train her. Of course it took Nabiki threatening him and she was just included as an afterthought. For that matter, the idea that Ranma could conceive a child was just too creepy to think about. She did her best to put the thought out of her mind.
"Sure anything you say Ranma-chan." Ranma respected strength and Nabiki had certainly handled the situation well. Her smile while slightly intimidating was still sexy as hell. She hoped Akane wasn't paying close attention lest she have to deal with Mallet-sama.
Luck would seem to be in Ranma's favor since Akane failed to notice the byplay between Ranma and her sister. Ranma ended up helping Nabiki pack, since she wasn't as familiar with camping as Akane and Ranma were.
Nabiki was at a bit of a loss to explain her actions to the others. She knew the true reason, for she had learned not to lie to herself at least. She had only to look at Tatewaki and his sister to see where that path ultimately led. The real question was what to do about it. No, that wasn't the real question. The ultimate questions were Akane and Ranma. From the answers to those questions everything else depended and she was fairly sure that they themselves weren't sure of the answers. If Ranma and Akane truly loved each other, well she had not known Ranma to ever give up on anything he truly wanted. Attempts to force him to do so always ended in disaster. Here she was, setting up this mess, because it might never happen if she just asked, but if she tried to blackmail, no questions would even be asked.
She still thought it odd. She had never been attracted to women before, and to be honest she wasn't attracted to any now, well except for Ranma, and while his girl side oozed cuteness, his guy side was pleasant to view as well, particularly when he practiced the art. Ranma was annoying that way. He turned everything upside down and inside out. It was annoying, frustrating, and exciting.
Nabiki broke out of her thoughts as she tried to figure out what Ranma had just said. After a few seconds she figured it out. "Yes, that should be everything. Thanks, Ranma-kun." She pondered and once again resisted the temptation to flirt too overtly. The fiancée war had made him very suspicious of such things and a hug almost freaked him out. Things were so complicated since Ranma came. Perhaps this trip would resolve a few things, but with Ranma involved, she wasn't willing to bet on it.
Just yesterday had been take one of her wedding day and today she couldn't help but be relieved. She had been willing to go through with it because Ranma always said how he wanted a cure, and she was sure that Ranma would never betray her or leave her. She could see it now since Jusendo. It was spelled out in actions that could not be misinterpreted, no matter how much she didn't want to see. Yet wasn't a marriage supposed to be something more? Did she love Ranma Saotome?
"Where are we going?" asked Akane from her seat next to the window. Ranma had taken the isle seat on the bus and Nabiki was just across the isle.
Ranma glanced to his right. The tomboy seemed pensive. "It's a surprise."
"Oh, just what kind of a surprise is it?" asked Nabiki.
Ranma glanced left and pondered how to answer the question. He had to admit it was hard to pick a location that everyone would like, or at least not hate, especially when he had no money and wasn't sure about the other two. The whole trip made him uneasy, yet his original plan still worked, if not quite as well as he could have hoped. Everyone should be somewhat comfortable and fed at least. Beyond that things were murky. "A good surprise, I hope."
Akane's unease about this whole trip was bubbling near the surface adding fuel to her legendary temper. "It had better be!" she added in a semi loud sarcastic tone.
"Well there is plenty of food obtainable there and while it might take a bit of work, there is shelter there that should be adequate. To be honest its been almost four years since I've been there."
"How long until we get there?" asked Nabiki.
"About another 20 minutes on this train, then about an hour on the next. After that we will have to walk for several hours."
Akane still had a hard time getting used to the speeds trains traveled. This one was doing over 150 miles an hour or so the conductor said. Wherever they were going, it was a long ways away from Nerima.
Nabiki arched an eyebrow. "Your deliberately avoiding a direct answer, and doing a decent job at it." She smiled and then added with a sweet yet sarcastic tone, "Will wonders never cease?" She then resumed in a more normal tone, "Relax, I'm not going to sell our location to anyone."
That caused two heads to spin her direction.
Ukyo considered stopping by to see how Ranchan was doing, but he had seemed so angry yesterday. Then again, she had been throwing some of those explosive baked goods at Akane. She wondered if Ranma would believe her if she said, temporary insanity. Seeing her dream die was certainly enough to drive anyone crazy. No, it would be better to give Ranchan some space, some time to forgive her. At least they had stopped the wedding, and somehow, she couldn't bring herself to regret that one bit. It just felt wrong somehow.
Shampoo was having similar thoughts to the Okonomiyaki chef, with the addition of a few about how dang annoying Amazon laws were. Of course the object of her quest was just as annoying, and frustrating. Why did everything have to be so hard?
"Is it much farther?" asked Nabiki for the 20th time. You said a couple of hours. While Akane wasn't in Ranma's superb physical condition, she was very fit, and keeping up with the pace they had set for Nabiki was nothing to her, even with her pack. Ranma had already shouldered Nabiki's.
"We are going slower than I thought we were. At this rate, it is still a few hours away and I wanted to get there before sundown." Ranma paused in thought. It would be safer if they could avoid camping here. This forest was more wild than he cared for, especially with Nabiki and Akane here. He turned to Akane. "Time to start your training." He unshouldered Nabiki's pack and handed it to Akane.
"What is this for?"
"The extra weight will help you increase your endurance, and well, the only way I can think of to get there in time is if I carry Nabiki for at least part of it." He said the last part very fast as if trying to get it past Akane without incident.
Akane just stared at him for a moment and then said, "Oh, okay."
"What do you mean carry? I can walk."
"Not fast enough. Look, anytime you feel up to the pace we are setting I can set you down and you can get some training in, but I really don't want to stop and camp here. There are a few poisonous snakes and things that while very rare I'd rather not risk.
"You brought us somewhere with poisonous snakes? Geez. I knew I shouldn't have trusted you Saotome." She, of course, completely overlooked the fact that coming along was her idea.
Akane had shouldered the pack and nodded her readiness. Ranma scooped up Nabiki in his arms as he still had his pack on his back.
"Hey!" complained Nabiki. Of course on the inside, Nabiki was thrilled. This was fun, and way easier than walking after all.
They managed a medium jog for almost an hour before Ranma called a halt and set Nabiki down. "Let's walk for a bit. Nabiki can carry her pack for awhile." Ranma waited for Nabiki to get her pack and then stepped over to Akane and motioned for her to give him the pack. He noted that Akane's posture stiffened and then wilted. Her breathing was labored and she had difficulty giving him the pack. "Just take it slow and easy tomboy. We are getting close."
After another 1/4 mile it was evident that Akane was not recovering as fast as he hoped. Walking should have allowed her to recover and slow down at a measured pace, but it seemed she really was exhausted. He glanced at Nabiki and noted that she was a little tired, but nothing compared to Akane. He reached down and picked the Tomboy up in his arms. Her body seemed to wilt as she settled into a comfortable position.
He thought they had almost a mile left to go when Nabiki asked, "How can you do that? Your carrying at least twice again your own weight and have been doing it much of the way."
The tomboy was asleep by then and Ranma did not begrudge her that. "Partly it is just my physical training."
"And the rest?"
"Some martial artists gain the ability to go beyond their normal physical limits by learning to use their ki. My ki reserves are good, but this trip will tax them more than I'd like."
"Then why did we go so far out? Surely there was some place closer that would do as well."
"Oh, you mean there is something Nabiki Tendo can't figure out? I'd have thought it would be obvious."
Nabiki thought about the path they had taken. They had criss crossed streams, and walked on a lot of hard packed ground. Nabiki really had no idea where they were anymore. It hit her then. That was the point. "You are making sure that no one can follow us, and possibly even making sure I don't know where we are so I can't phone it in."
A quickly suppressed smile passed over Ranma's face. "Perhaps, but would it be so crazy to want to spend at least part of our summer break without hearing, 'Ranma, Prepare to die. Ranma, you take Shampoo on date? Ranma, for destroying Shampoo's happiness, you will die. Ranma, because of you I've seen hell. Ranma, I've got a new bra just for you. Oh, why have I been cursed with such a dishonorable son. Son in law this, son in law that.' After all, it's hardly my fault I got a couple more members to this expedition than I originally intended on."
Akane had woke up just before Nabiki's conclusion, but had chosen to remain asleep. It was so comfortable here. Akane had to mentally agree to pretty much all of what Ranma said, although she would miss P-chan.
Silenced reigned for the final minutes before they arrived at their destination. The shrine was ancient, yet Nabiki could see people in loose brown robes sweeping and tending the surroundings. Nabiki wondered if there was another reason for coming here, yet she was glad to see that they likely wouldn't need the tents after all.
Ranma stopped suddenly and sat Akane down. Akane focused on standing. She realized that he must have know she was awake. "Akane, please don't get mad," Ranma's words sounded rehearsed. He continued, "but I need a promise from you."
"What promise?" asked Akane warily.
"I need you to promise that while you are on shrine grounds you will not let your temper cause you to accidentally break anything. If you get mad at me we can leave and sort it out, but we cannot break anything here, or we will be forced to leave."
Ranma hated to make the request, but the monks here would not put up with the kind of damage that happened at the Tendo house, and this place was important to him, or at least he hoped it was. Given what happened last time he was here, he figured he was lucky to be invited back.
"I promise." Her promise came easier than he thought it would.
"This place is not precisely a secret, but they value their privacy and the peace here a very great deal. I'm sure you can understand that." He said the last while looking at Nabiki who nodded.
A bald middle aged monk approached. The hood of his brown robes flapping mid way down his back. "Ranma, you have returned and have brought guests." He looked around a bit. "I trust you did not bring.."
"Pops has no clue where we are now. After what happened before it was obvious he would not be welcome here again. I just hope the invitation you gave me before can extend to at least given these two a place to sleep while we are here. I had intended to come alone, but things were complicated."
"He means that if he blew us off and left without us, then he was afraid I'd have the entire gang tracking him before he could get away." chimed in Nabiki.
Akane and Ranma were once again surprised at the candor of the middle Tendo daughter. Akane pinched herself.
"Those who come in peace are always welcome here. Tell me, have you come to cure that?"
The girls ears perked up as they renewed their focus on the conversation.
"Cure? I hope so. I hope so, but even if I can just manage to hold off the fear for a minute or so it would be a great help."
Akane whispered, "the nekoken" to which Nabiki nodded unconsciously.
"We know little about the nekoken, but we know a great deal about the spirit and it is part of our purpose to heal those that we can heal."
The monk seemed slightly troubled. He was missing something. Something important, yet it continued to elude him. "Come supper time has passed long ago, but there should be some leftovers that can be heated. Then I will show you to your rooms."
Nabiki and Akane went through the stew they reheated as if it was manna from heaven. Ranma hid a small smile. The stew was good, but Kasumi's cooking was better. The smile was for the two women before him. Both were disheveled although it looked like Nabiki had found a little more time to try to salvage her hair. Still, it almost seemed that the hard trek brought out a small glow in each of them.
Before long the monk, who had yet to give his name was walking them to their rooms. "I'm afraid the two young women will have to share this room. My room is across the hall. There is space for Ranma there. They opened the door to reveal a plain bare room with a brick floor and simple window overlooking the valley. You will have to use your camping gear, as supplies such as those are hard to come by here.
They had decided to unroll the tent and cover the stonework floor where their sleeping bags would go. It was hoped that the extra layer of insulation from the cold floor would help. Akane yawned. It had taken longer than she would have liked to setup. An answering yawn came from Nabiki.
"So just why did you come sis?" asked Akane.
"To figure it all out." answered Nabiki followed by a yawn and sleep. Akane was a bit disappointed in the answer. She had hoped for more by asking when her sister was too tired to guard her response too much. Just what was she going to figure out?
Sana looked upon the pigtailed form as he fell asleep. There was still something odd about him that he couldn't quite place. Suddenly his aura shimmered and he shifted into a smaller fire red haired young woman. Sana said a quick prayer before resuming his study. So you have been to Jusenkyo, yet this spontaneous change makes no sense. He continued to stare and analyze the young womans ki patterns until he finally figured out what was odd. Her ki was more feminine than masculine and that should be impossible. Jusenkyo changed the form not the underlying spiritual essence. In the case of male or female transformations the body would naturally make more masculine or feminine ki to compensate and provide a rough sort of balance, but he had never heard of the balance tipping so far. Just what has happened to you?
Author's Notes: If anyones curious, I originally posted my first chapter just to see if anyone cared for the idea, and well I hate to let ideas go entirely to waste. This chapter continues the story, and tries to delve a little into peoples motivations. I realize I'm making Ranma a bit more mature than he really is. The same for all the main characters really. Unfortunately, if I'm to treat the topic somewhat seriously, the characters have to remain somewhat serious. I suppose in a perfect world I'd also channel more of Ranma's bad grammar but it seems a poor idea to focus on writing that way, since its apt to carry over to other work.
Romantic relationships fixed in this chapter: 0 Friendships gained or improved, even if only a little: 3 Mystical temples in the middle of nowhere: 1 Mysterious monks who can read ki signatures: 1 Vague mysterious prophecies mentioned: 1 Number of people in Nerima that are apt to want to know where Ranma is: 9 Number of mothers obsessed with manliness: 1
At any rate let me know what you think. This is kind of a branching chapter. Oh, if anyones curious, I rather doubt their summer vacation will stay completely uneventful.