Ranma's Ascension - Chapter 4
By Mike Breslau

Disclaimer: Better folks than I own most of the characters that appear in this scribbling. The original characters (you'll know them when you meet them) in this work are mine, all mine! (But you can borrow them if you'll treat them kindly.)

As promised, we develop our parody of Sailor Moon fanfiction further here. NO RANMA-IN-A-FUKU, I promise!

Akane was awakened in the morning by a barrage of machine-gun fire in an echo chamber-or at least that's what it sounded like. She looked out the window to confirm her suspicions. The noise was coming from the dojo. She threw on a robe and hurried outside as the rest of her family was beginning to stir.

At first, she thought the dojo was empty. On closer inspection, the room was filled with flickering glimpses of something moving extremely fast. Covering her ears, she shouted, "Can you keep it down? People are trying to sleep out here."

The blurs in the dojo resolved into The God of Martial Arts and Ryoga in his hybrid form. Ryoga was sweating, Ranma was not. They had been sparring at supersonic speeds, and the shock waves were the source of the sound that had awakened the Tendos.

Ranma put a hand behind his head and looked sheepish. "Sorry about this. I reinforced the dojo, but I forgot to soundproof it."

Ryoga put an arm over Ranma's shoulder. "Thanks, Ranma, I haven't ever had a workout this good." He looked happy.

Ranma replied, "Thanks, buddy. I really enjoyed it."

"Just how fast were you guys moving?" Akane asked, "I could barely see you."

"About Mach seven or eight, I imagine. It was quite invigorating," answered Ranma.

Ryoga was surprised. "Were we really that fast?" Ranma nodded.

Akane paused, then hesitantly asked, "Ranma, would you train me in martial arts? For real, I mean."

Ranma's earlier attempts to train Akane had seemed more like teasing than training. He didn't know any better then, and she had found it extremely frustrating. Ranma gave Akane a loving look. "Sure, I'd be glad to. After school?"

Akane nodded, and hoped she hadn't bitten off more than she could chew. No way was she ready for Mach seven!

Ranko went to school as a girl, complete with a regulation girl's uniform. She didn't make a fuss about the Ranma/Ranko distinction and answered to either name. Naturally, this caused considerable speculation and gossip among the student body. By the end of the day most of their classmates had chalked it up to 'more Ranma weirdness' and gone about their business.

Tatewaki overheard the student's excited gossip and he became even more emotional than usual. "My red-haired goddess is here without that vile sorcerer Saotome, yet his foul enchantments continue to conceal her from my eyes." For once in his life Kuno was actually correct.

There was no overt trouble until it was time for Physical Education. Akane and Ranko entered the girl's locker room and got a hostile reaction from several of the occupants.

"I am not changing clothes with that boy in the room!" exclaimed Yuka.

"What to you have that she doesn't also have?" asked Sayuri, trying to be reasonable.

"That's not the point. He's only here to peep at us. That's why he came to school as a girl today," responded Yuka.

Sayuri, still calm, observed, "Pound-the-pervert Akane, the school's boy-hater, is here with Ranma and she doesn't seem disturbed."

Yuka quieted down somewhat. "I still don't like it." Addressing Ranko she continued, "Saotome, you don't have a locker in here. Go where you belong, in the boy's locker room."

"I don't need a locker," replied Ranko. She snapped her fingers and her school uniform was instantly replaced with gym clothes. Ranko sauntered out the door to the gym with a slight smile on her face.

"How did she do that?" Yuka wondered, unaware that she had substituted 'she' for 'he.'

Akane paused in changing her clothes to speculate. "Perhaps she used Mousse's hidden weapons technique, or a locker in hammerspace, combined with Amiguriken speed."

Ever-observant Sayuri remarked. "Ranma's been acting like a real girl today. I noticed the difference almost as soon as I saw her."

Another girl observed, "I think Ranma goes out of his way to do the unexpected. If she were to turn into a kangaroo I wouldn't be the least surprised."

During PE Ranko performed at a level just slightly above everyone else's. She was still the best in the class, but she didn't want to rub it in. This encouraged the other girls to do their best.

After PE Ranko was the first one into the showers. Yuka came in and saw the steam rising from Ranko's body. She was using hot water and didn't change into a boy.

"What happened to your curse, Ranma? Are you stuck as a girl now?" Yuka asked.

Ranko beamed at her. "When you master a Jusenkyo curse it becomes a blessing, Yuka. I can choose my own gender now. It's an opportunity most people never have."

Other girls were joining them in the shower now. "That's right," said Sayuri enviously, "All of us are stuck in our birth forms and never get to see how the other half lives. I wish I could change gender when I wanted to."

"Especially during 'that time of the month,'" interjected another girl.

"Be careful what you wish for," Ranko responded with a knowing smile, "You may get it."

Shampoo-tiger and the Moon Cats quickly arrived at the scene of the battle. Artemis looked a little green. "Don't do that!" he complained.

Luna looked pale. "Or at least warn us first." The smaller cats struggled to recover their feline dignity.

Shampoo changed to her human form so she could get a better view. She saw shoppers fleeing in panic as hundreds of seven-foot tall golems blundered around, causing chaos and destruction wherever they went.

General VHS wasn't kidding when she said she had an army of a thousand faceless minions. Unfortunately, she had overlooked the fact that 'faceless' meant they had neither eyes nor ears. Her 'soldiers' staggered around like blind drunks as they attempted to destroy anything they chanced to encounter-including each other. In spite if this handicap, they made up in numbers what they lacked in intelligence, and the general's plan might have succeeded.

Shampoo saw five girls clad in brightly-colored fuku striking theatrical poses, making pompous speeches, and launching magical attacks against the invaders. They were dispatching the faceless minions easily enough, but still more zombies were pouring into the square through a shimmering dimensional gateway.

Shampoo pointed to the golems and asked Luna, "What are those?"

"They're youma, monster agents of the negaverse." Luna rushed off.

Shampoo indicated the fuku-clad heroines and asked Artemis, "Who are the girls fighting the youma?"

"Haven't you heard of the Sailor Senshi? They're the famous warriors for love and justice. Excuse me, please." Artemis leapt away to get a better view.

Shampoo watched for a minute and came to a conclusion. "Those 'Senshi' will never win at this rate. They need help, preferably mine." She paused as she seemed to hear Ranko's voice in her head, offering a suggestion. A gleeful expression appeared on Shampoo's face. "I like it, I like it."

Most of the civilians had vacated the square, giving the remaining combatants (those who could see) a clear view. Shampoo grabbed a ball-point pen from her purse and held it aloft. She shouted, "Brunswick Automatic Lane Power Make UP!" One sparkly nude transformation sequence later Sailor Bowling Alley stood where Shampoo had been.

Sailor Bowling Alley wore a fuku of woodgrain-patterned cloth edged with black trim. Instead of a bow in front, she wore a golden brooch with a pattern of ten black spots arranged in a triangular array. She also wore a small black half-mask that covered her eyes. Naturally, she wore bowling shoes instead of the high-heeled boots of the other Senshi.

Sailor Bowling Alley leaped into the fray. She clobbered one of the youma over the head with a bowling pin that looked remarkably like a bonbori. The youma broke into two symmetrical halves, which turned to dust as they fell. She shouted, "Split!"

The newest senshi struck another youma, who turned to dust. "Strike!" Feeling emboldened, she struck two more youma, one with each hand. They also died a dusty death. "Strike two!" she called. Spotting three youma in a cluster fighting each other, she caught them in a pincer movement between two opposing bowling pins putting them out of their misery. Mixing sports metaphors, she shouted, "Strike three! You're out!"

"Sailor Bowling Alley?" asked Sailor Moon incredulously, "You've got to be kidding!" She dispatched two more youma, but it was clear that she was growing tired.

Sailor Mercury took a moment to consult her computer. "She may be unconventional, but she's effective. I hope she's really on our side." She returned to battling the enemy. "Shabon Spray."

Sailor Bowling Alley fought her way closer to the other Senshi. She overheard Sailor Mars say, "The only good youma-Fire Soul!"

Sailor Jupiter completed the thought. "...is a dead youma-Jupiter Lightning."

Sailor Moon said, "There's no such thing as a good youma!" while dispatching another invader.

Sailor Bowling Alley heard Ranko's voice in her head making another suggestion. With a mischievous expression on her face, she contradicted Sailor Moon. "Of course there are good youma-watch me prove it." She removed her brooch, held it aloft, and shouted, "High Calorie Escalation!"

A myriad beams of golden light emerged from the brooch, each targeting one of the remaining youma. The invading soldiers morphed slowly into large rectangular blocks of ice cream covered in rich dark chocolate and impaled on flat wooden sticks with rounded ends. These were enclosed in large paper wrappers imprinted with the words, "Good Youma Ice Cream Bar. Vanilla Flavor. Net weight 100 kilos."

General VHS did not escape the golden rays. She was hovering over the sunniest part of the street and was heard to wail, "I'm melting...I'm melting..." before falling silent forever.

The senshi stopped in shock and stared at the spectacular sight before them. Finally, Sailor Moon broke the silence. "Are those safe to eat?"

Sailor Bowling Alley replaced her brooch, grinned widely, and dusted off her hands. "Of course they're good to eat. I always do good work," she answered proudly.

Sailor Venus admonished, "Come off it, Moon, even you can't eat an ice cream bar that weighs more than you do."

"Maybe not, but I'd love to try. Besides, fighting youma makes me hungry."

"You're always hungry, Moon," observed Sailor Mercury.

"I see my work here is done," said Sailor Bowling Alley. With that she jumped high over the nearby buildings and out of sight. When she finally came to rest on the border of Nerima Shampoo transformed into her tiger form, stood upright and flexed her biceps. In a fine Amazonian imitation of another famous talking tiger, she exclaimed, "I'm Grrreat!"

Where was Sailor Pluto while this was going on? She was making out hot and heavy with Doctor Who and really didn't want to be interrupted. Thirty thousand years of celibacy was quite enough, thank you.

In Asgard Kamisama, Freya, and Peorth were watching the events on Midgard.

Kamisama was laughing aloud, something none of the goddesses could remember ever happening before. "Sailor Bowling Alley! Who said 'there's no new thing under the sun?' That was marvelous..."

Freya smiled. It was good to see Him so happy.

Peorth giggled. "I have it all down on tape. I can't wait to show the others."

"What kind of tape?" asked Freya. They usually used Yggdrasil's storage for keeping records.

"Why, VHS tape, of course," answered Peorth with a wide grin.

Another round of laughter filled the room.


Ranma and Skuld were having a training session in her apartment in Asgard. The elegant appearance of the room was spoiled by parts, tools, and half-completed projects littering every available horizontal surface.

"Debugging is an important part of every deities duties," Skuld explained. "I'm going to be your teacher because I'm one of the best debuggers around."

Ranma was puzzled. "Isn't debugging something computer guys do? I don't know nuthin' about computers."

"We're all 'computer guys,' Ranma. We keep Yggdrasil, the computer that runs the universe, working smoothly. Should Yggdrasil malfunction or make a mistake it manifests as a bug. Zapping the bug fixes the problem, but if they're not stopped they can change the nature of reality itself."

"An' that's bad, huh?"

"Very bad," answered Skuld. She presented Ranma with a mallet similar to her own, but slightly larger and a darker shade of red. "This is your personal debugging tool. Keep it with you at all times. You can store it in a subspace pocket as long as you can still get it out quickly. Understand?" She sounded like a sergeant giving the "this is your rifle" speech to a new recruit-and in a very real sense, she was.

"It's important. I got it," answered Ranma. He hefted his mallet. "Nice balance. How does it work?"

"Every bug contains a synopsis of the computer problem that caused it. When you strike the head of the bug with this tool a mechanism in the mallet reads this information and figures out how to fix the problem, then it modifies Yggdrasil appropriately. On rare occasions, the tool makes a mistake and more bugs appear, but swatting them usually cures the problem completely."

"Neat! But that means we can't just kick the bugs, or throw lightning at them..."

"Right! Don't swing it in here, you might break something. We're going to a training hall to teach you how to use it."

The training hall turned out to be a large cubical room with mirrorlike floor, walls, and ceiling. Skuld explained, "This room is a holosuite, Ranma. It can simulate any place or situation that we ask for. Everything that you see or touch in here, no matter how lifelike it appears, is an illusion-except you and me, of course. Now try swinging your mallet to get a feel for it."

"Already did that," said Ranma, sounding bored.

"You mean that little bit you did earlier was enough to learn how to swing it?"

Ranma nodded.

Skuld gestured and a blue marble appeared on the floor and began rolling in an erratic fashion. "Okay, see if you can hit that," Skuld challenged.

"Nothin' to it." Ranma swung his hammer casually with one hand and nailed the target on his very first try.

Skuld blinked, and then remembered that she was talking to the God of Martial Arts. The debugging tool was essentially a weapon-of course he would be good at it. She decided to plunge ahead. "This is no ordinary hammer, Ranma. If you press this stud, the handle can extend up to twenty times its normal length." She demonstrated how to use that feature. "Press this other stud and the handle retracts. The harder you press, the faster it goes."

"Cool!" said Ranma.

Skuld produced four more target spheres at various distances from them. "Try to hit these now."

Ranma took four swings and hit all the targets. "Hey, that's neat."

Skuld pressed on with the lesson. A motionless bug appeared on the floor (imagine a cross between a bunny and a spider, only uglier.) "This is your target. Aim for its head, and show it no mercy." The bug began to skitter around at high speed.

Ranma watched it for a moment, fascinated by its erratic motion, then he swung and nailed it.

Skuld began to wonder if she could teach Ranma anything-he seemed to be a natural at this. She signaled for a change of scenery. The two deities appeared to be standing in an enormous chamber filled with shiny metallic cylinders and transparent, glowing cones. Cables and laser beams ran in every direction over their heads, connecting the odd devices together. There was a faint humming sound and a smell of ozone. "This is a typical data storage room," she explained, "and a favorite site for bugs to appear. Watch me."

Three dozen bugs appeared at random and began to hop about. Skuld donned a high-tech visor and proceeded to hunt down the critters. It sometimes took two or three swings to swat the elusive things, but she still got them all in less than a minute. A big grin of satisfaction appeared on her face.

"Now it's your turn," Skuld said. Three dozen bugs appeared.

Ranma had noticed how she was programming the holosuite. He doubled the number of bugs and made them move faster. Then he sprang into action and finished in less time than Skuld had taken.

The Goddess of the Future goggled at this display of skill. "You didn't miss even once!" she exclaimed, "And it looked like you were holding back so you wouldn't show me up."

Ranma put his hand behind his head. "Was I that obvious?"

Skuld threw up her hands. "This class is over." Then she bowed low and adopted a pleading pose. "Master, would you teach me how to swat bugs? Please?"

Ranma looked nervous. "I ain't had much luck teaching martial arts-it's so easy for me that I can't explain what I do." He realized that this was a challenge, and Ranma never declined a challenge. "I'll give it a try, Skuld. Let me watch how you do it and I'll see how it's different from what I'd do."

Two dozen bugs appeared and Skuld ran around chasing them while Ranma watched intently.

"You have a little problem and a big problem, Skuld. The little problem should be easy for you to fix. You're aiming at where the bug is, not where it's gonna be when the hammer hits. I would guess that you, of all people, could look a little into the future and see where it's gonna be."

"Why didn't I think of that?" the goddess wondered. "What's the big problem, then?"

"You're holding and swinging the handle with your hands. That's not good enough."

"How can I use the debugging tool without holding the handle? Do you want me to use telekenesis?"

"That's not what I meant. You hafta forget about the handle, forget about your hands. Concentrate on the head of the hammer-where it is and where it's going. That's what's really important. All the rest-the handle and your hands-are just means to an end. Don't hold the hammer, be the hammer. You have to make the tool a part of your body so that it moves just like a finger or a knee does. The head of the hammer should move by your volition; the mechanics of making it move hafta be automatic, subconscious."

Skuld thought that was almost poetic, given the crudeness of Ranma's speech. "Oh, I see, I think. How do I get there?"

"Practice. Keep swinging and focus your attention on the hammer head. When the handle and your arms disappear, you're there." A stationary blue target sphere appeared on the floor near her. "Hit that ten times in a row, and concentrate on the head of the debugging tool."

Skuld took ten swings, trying to make each attempt better than the one before it.

"That's good," said Ranma, "but I have a suggestion. When you begin your swing, try for speed and accuracy, not power. When you're almost at the target is when you try for power. Wasting force on the empty air is useless. You'll get less tired that way."

Skuld looked at him appreciatively. "Thank you, Sensei."

Ranma put his hand behind his head and thought,"Sensei, huh? I could get used to this."

Ranko and Akane were in the dojo preparing for her first lesson. Ranko had enlarged herself slightly so she was the same height as Akane.

"Why are you a girl?" Akane asked. "I thought Ranma was the martial artist."

"I know everything that Ranma does-we are the same person. This way I can move like a girl and you'll find it easier to copy my examples."

"Oh," said Akane. "Does that mean I'll be at a disadvantage training male students?"

"There will be a slight disadvantage, but a good sensei can overcome that. I'm doing it this way because I want to do the best job possible. Now watch me carefully." Ranko moved through a beginner's kata with fluid grace.

"My father taught me that one when I was a little girl," protested Akane.

"If you hadn't noticed, you're not a little girl anymore. Your strength-to-weight ratio has changed, your mass distribution has changed, and even your bones are not the same shape as they were then. Now let's see you do it."

Akane performed the kata, trying to match Ranko's graceful moves. Her sensei watched her carefully.

Ranko said, "Akane, you did it like this," and she imitated Akane's performance. "I did it like this." Ranko performed the kata correctly. "Notice the difference." There were only slight differences between the two versions. "Now try it again."

As Akane repeated the kata Ranko kept up a running commentary. "Keep your left elbow a little higher...straighten out your neck...don't overreach...that's good." Without being asked, Akane did the kata again. Ranko had fewer corrections this time. "Keep your foot pointing forwards...straighten out your wrist...not so jerky...you're getting it."

Ranko called a halt when Akane had finished. "You've almost got it down perfectly, Akane, but you are holding your muscles too tight. You'll get overtired or hurt yourself if you can't loosen up."

"I always hold my muscles tight," replied Akane.

"Yes, and that's part of the reason for your clumsiness. Also, you're not breathing efficiently."

Akane bristled. "I am breathing properly, Sensei. I take slow, deep breaths, emphasizing my diaphragm, not my ribs."

"That's true enough. You're inhaling properly, but for maximum efficiency you need to exhale more completely. You waste nearly ten percent of your lung capacity by not exhaling fully. Take five minutes to meditate and practice breathing, and then try again."

After two more repetitions Akane had it down perfectly. Ranko congratulated her and told her to do it five more times.

"Five times?" Akane protested, "Why?"

"Okay, ten times," answered Ranko. "Akane, your brain knows the moves now, but your muscles haven't memorized them yet. In a fight, your brain has to concentrate on strategy and trust your body to handle the tactics reflexively. You have to be able to do this without thinking, and that requires lots of repetitions. We'll practice this again tomorrow, only a little faster."

Akane grumbled, but she repeated the kata ten more times. She wasn't tired because she had managed to loosen up.

"Now we spar," said Ranko. "Go only as fast as you're comfortable with. We'll both use only the moves in the kata, but in any order that makes sense."

"Are we going to spar for real, with hitting and all that?"

"Certainly, student. You needn't worry about hurting me."

"I'm not worried about hurting you," Akane thought, "I just hope I don't bruise too badly."

They bowed to each other. Ranko called, "Begin!" and they began to spar.

Nabiki peeked in a few minutes later to see how they were doing. Her jaw dropped in surprise. She ran into the house yelling "Everybody! Come to the dojo. You gotta see this." She ran to get her movie camera. The Tendos dropped what they were doing and hurried outside.

Kasumi watched the sparring for a minute and exclaimed, "Oh my! Ranma's performed another miracle-Akane is actually graceful."

Nabiki started filming. She muttered, "They've put the art into martial arts. This is almost balletic."

Soun looked on in admiration. He noticed that Ranko was staying just a little bit beyond Akane's level of skill, thus encouraging her student to surpass herself. Naturally, he wept for joy.

Shampoo entered the Nekohanten wearing a mile-wide smile on her face. "Grandmother... Grandmother..."

Cologne appeared, hopping on her staff. "What is it child? I have seldom seen you so cheerful since we left our village."

"Ranko gave me a wonderful gift today. Grandmother. Watch this." Shampoo raised her pen and shouted, "Brunswick Automatic Lane Power, Make UP!" One sparkly transformation sequence later the new pseudo-senshi stood revealed. She pirouetted to better display her new costume.

Cologne could sense the magic surrounding her great granddaughter. She covered her face with her hands as her body shook uncontrollably.

Xian Pu couldn't tell whether Cologne was laughing or crying. "Grandmother?" she asked tentatively.

Ku Lon uncovered her face, her eyes moist with tears of mixed emotions. "Yes, I suppose it is a wonderful gift, but it is very unamizonian. We don't use magic to enhance our fighting skills, daughter. You realize that you do look somewhat silly this way, yet I can tell that it makes you happy."

"This magic does not improve my fighting skill, but it does give me a degree of protection. Think of it as lightweight armor. Amazons are allowed to wear armor."

"I see." Cologne nodded. "You have my blessing to use it, but be careful not to disgrace us Amazons or the regular senshi. Use this gift to protect people and do good deeds, but do not use it in amazonian combat."

"Of course, Grandmother. I will not dishonor our tribe or the Sailor Scouts."

Kasumi had prepared a fine dinner because the Tendos were having company. Genma, now a guest and no longer a freeloader, and Nodoka were visiting their old friends. Less than the usual amount of chaos prevailed because Ranma and Akane had agreed to be married soon and had warned the grownups not to interfere.

"I'm impressed at how much Akane has improved after just one lesson," observed Soun. There were several murmurs of agreement. Genma felt proud of his son/daughter.

Nabiki asked, "Ranko, this wasn't your first time teaching, was it? We never saw you train anybody before, but obviously you've had experience."

"Yes, I've had experience," Ranko replied, "I've trained two war gods and a warrior goddess, among others."

"Why would a war god want martial arts training?" Nabiki asked, intrigued.

"Ares had too high an opinion of himself-sort of like Kuno on steroids-so he challenged me to a fight. I fought him barehanded and whipped his ass, despite his sword and armor. Instead of holding a grudge, he was impressed and asked me to train him. He's not a bad sort, really, even if he is a war god."

The prevailing good mood was shattered as the resident pervert bounded through the door. "What a haul!" Happosai exclaimed. When he caught sight of Ranko sitting at the table, he dropped his sack of stolen undergarments and launched himself at the redhead. "Sweeto!"

Ranko sighed, stood up, turned around to face the old pervert, and transformed into the God of Martial Arts. Happosai found himself suspended in mid-leap and unable to move.

"Happosai, you are a great disappointment," Ranma began, "Your behavior brings discredit to me, and yet you are too good a martial artist for me to merely disown you."

"How can I bring discredit to you, you young pup? I am your master!" Happosai was indignant.

"You never were my master, Happosai. I am the God of Martial Arts, so you are in my domain and I am your master."

Happosai was wicked, but he wasn't stupid. He noted Ranma's body language, his garb, and especially his aura of tremendous power. Ranma was telling the truth-this changes everything! Happosai began to sweat big-time. "What are you going to do with me?" He was gently lowered to the floor and released from his paralysis.

Ranma wore his trademark cocky grin. "First, I'm going to change your relationship to ladies' underwear. Your 'silky darlings' will make you itch and break out in hives; you won't be able to get any ki from them anymore."

"Why not just kill me now?" wailed Happosai, "You know I need that female ki to balance my own-I'll die without it."

"I won't let you die yet, old man, death is too good for you. I'll give you an alternate source of the ki you need. When anyone feels sincerely grateful to you and thanks you of their own free will, then you will get a charge of feminine ki."

The old pervert was aghast. "You mean I have to be good for the rest of my life? I can't do that! I don't even know how..." He trailed off into incoherent mumbling.

"Not just good, but noble, Happosai. It's not a curse, it's a blessing. You'll discover that making other people feel good is very satisfying. Once you get the hang of it you'll thank me."

Happosai cried. "How could you be so cruel? Making me be good! It's unthinkable. It's inhumane! It's unfair! I want my mommy..." The ancient pervert was having a tantrum just as a small child would.

Soun and Genma stood up and offered a round of applause to Ranma. In a moment the other diners joined in-this was the best news they had heard since Ranma and Akane's nuptial plans were announced.

Ranma turned around and sternly addressed the others. "Don't thank me yet. You guys will have to dispose of his stash of pilfered panties. I know it's supposed to be his job, but he can't even go near them now."

Happosai cried even more loudly. "Don't get rid of my treasures, my loves..."

Akane asked, "Can't you just magic them back to their rightful owners? It's not fair to make us clean up his mess."

Ranma looked grim. "Who kowtowed to Happosai and never stood up to him? You are all complicit in his evil because you never objected or resisted."

Genma complained, "Happosai is too powerful. If we had stood up to him he would have trashed us soundly."

"A martial artist's life is fraught with peril," Ranma quoted in Genma's own voice.

Genma grumbled. Ranma turned back into Ranko, sat down, and resumed eating.

The Sailor Senshi gathered at the Hiyakawa shrine in their civilian identities to discuss the events of the recent battle.

"What do we know about Sailor Bowling Alley?" Usagi asked. "If she's on our side, that's great, but what if she isn't?"

Luna spoke up. "When we met her she appeared to be another Moon Cat. She introduced herself as 'Xian Pu, an amazon warrior of the Joketsuzoku, but most people call me Shampoo.' Then she turned into a talking tiger, then into a nearly grown girl, and finally she transformed into Sailor Bowling Alley."

"If she has that many identities, she may have even more that we don't know about," observed Artemis.

"Ami, what does your computer have on Xian Pu?" Usagi asked, "It could give us a valuable lead."

Ami consulted the Mercury Computer. "It says she's one of the better martial artists in Nerima. She's very honorable by her own rules, but those rules are not those of our society. She works at the Nekohanten restaurant, and she loves to fight."

A respectful silence filled the room. "I've heard of the martial artists in Nerima, but I always discounted those stories," Minako said in hushed tones, "Nobody could be that good."

"No wonder there are no youma attacks in Nerima," Usagi said.

"She's not the best fighter in Nerima, but she's much better than us in a melee," Ami said. "I didn't see her use magical attacks until that last one."

Usagi said, "Do you suppose we could ask her to train us in martial arts? Or ask one of the other Nerima fighters?"

"Oh, please," answered Rei, "We lead pretty full lives already. With school and monster attacks and homework, who has time for more lessons?"

A sigh filled the room.

The sun had set, and the house was relatively quiet. Ranma and Akane were in Akane's room having a serious conversation.

"I'm getting nervous, Ranma" Akane began quietly.

"Pre-bridal jitters?" asked Ranma.

"Well that too, but my main problem is that I'm afraid I won't measure up to your expectations."

Ranma raised an eyebrow.

"I used to be considered the best fighter in the school, and I was sought after by so many boys. I hated the way they tried to get my attention, but it was nice to be wanted. Then you came along. You were so much better than me, better in martial arts, better in cooking, better in sewing, better in swimming, better in everything, and you even were a cuter girl than me. You teased me and called me names. Your friends came soon afterwards, and they were better fighters than me too-and those girls were cute . I was knocked off my pedestal. I thought I couldn't compete with any of the new crowd."

Ranma explained lovingly, "Akane, I teased you because that's the only way I knew to express affection. The only role model I had for ten years was my baka father, and he belittled me constantly. I don't do it any more because now I know how hurtful it can be."

Akane continued, "I expressed my jealousy by hitting you with my mallet or anything else that was handy. Not the best way to win your affection. I'm so sorry now."

"Actually that was a good way to get me to love you. After ten years with only panda-baka for a parent abuse was the only form of affection I'd known. I let you hit me because it showed that you cared. None of your rivals would hit me, so I chose you. Fortunately, I've grown up some since then."

"Then you ascended, and became so much better than you had been before. Now you're not in my class-you're not in anybody's class anymore. How do I know that you won't get tired of me and run off with some goddess... or even a god? I feel so inadequate."

"Akane, never try to be better than somebody else; that only leads to frustration. You're not somebody else, you are Akane, my beloved. Instead, strive to be better than you are now; that's the way to success and happiness." Ranma looked straight into her eyes. "Out of all the girls and boys on Earth and in heaven, you are the only one I want to marry. Doesn't that suggest something important?" Speaking seriously, he appeared to change the subject. "Akane, what gender are you? What gender am I?"

"I'm female and you're currently male. Isn't that obvious?"

"Almost everybody makes that mistake. Akane, nobody is male or female, every person is a blend of masculine and feminine qualities, mentally and physically. Every man has an x chromosome. Men have mammary glands and nipples, though they're not good for much. Every woman makes testosterone in her glands, and women even have a rudimentary prostate gland. Everybody is sexually attracted to both genders to some degree. It's normal and it's healthy. A minority of people are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, but there is no sharp boundary for those categories either. There is an enormous range of gender identities; there is no such thing as pure male or pure female."

"Okay, that's interesting, but why do you bring it up now?"

"I was born with a normal boy's body, but my father ruthlessly suppressed any sign of feminine traits so I would become a 'man among men.' I grew up abnormally lopsided-not a man, but a caricature of a man, a macho parody of a man. You saw the result, and you hated it. Heck, even I hated it - it wasn't what I wanted to be. If it hadn't been for Ranko I would probably be certifiably insane-extremely gender imbalanced. My girl side is excessively feminine to compensate-she tries to make me balanced. Now my personality contains a highly male component and a highly female component, but they're not well integrated. Are you with me so far?"

Akane nodded.

"You are a girl with less than the usual feminine qualities and more than the usual masculine qualities for a female, my lovely tomboy. That means you're more centered, you're better blended than other people are. You and I complement each other-you are strong where I am lacking, and vice-versa. We make each other whole-we need each other to be all that we can be. That's why I want to marry you and nobody else-well, that and your beautiful smile."

Akane asked, "Do you mean to say that you don't want your other fiancees because they're too feminine?" She didn't know whether to be pleased or insulted.

"Yes, with the possible exception of Ukyo, who passes as a man. I don't need a feminine girl, I am one. 'Kane, I feel that I can communicate better with you than with other people because you're both masculine and feminine."

"But we used to feud and fight continuously before you ascended..."

Ranma smiled at her. "Just another way we are alike-headstrong, big ego, and don't like to be pushed around. If it weren't for our parents insisting, we would eventually get along with each other very well, just as we're doing now."

Akane stared at Ranma with tears in her eyes and joy in her heart. "I love you so much, Ranma. You sure know how to make a girl feel good." They embraced each other warmly.

Author's cogitations:

My hard drive is stuffed with all the Ranma-becomes-a-deity stories that I can find. Many of them have Ranma permanently female, e.g.: Goddess of Sex (The Accidental Goddess), Goddess of Luck (Ah! My Ranma One Half!), etc. This story follows that hallowed tradition somewhat, but I felt Ranma wouldn't be Ranma without some gender changing. In this tale Ranma finds that being female is more useful than his male aspect, and he acquiesces to that reality. By not fighting it, by accepting his unique condition, Ranma grows more mature and stronger than he could be if he kept resisting it. Even a deity cannot be effective if he's uncomfortable with his own true nature.