Chapter 3: Revelations

At first the day had seemed like any other to Hikaru Gosunkugi, other than the fact that he had woken up on the floor still wearing his clothes from the day before. He shrugged off the minor annoyance and got ready for school like on any other school day. He was, however, a little more depressed than usual, as he had assumed that his spell had failed like all the others, which meant he had to face the fact that Akane Tendo, now Akane Saotome, was forever lost to him.

He managed to arrive at school a little early and so decided to stupor for a while sitting against a tree for a few minutes before he needed to head to class. He was so absorbed in his own misery that he failed to notice when Akane was once again assaulted by a large percentage of the male student body, an event that hadn't occurred for over a year. He finally took notice, though, when he heard the confident, unmistakable voice of girl-type Ranma saying, "Man, you sure are popular with the guys around here."

Gosunkugi stared in awe, as not only had Saotome shown up to school in girl form, a rare occurrence in itself, but he was actually wearing a Furinkan High girl's uniform, something he had previously only done as part of a disguise, which made no sense at the moment. As he watched his newest confrontation with Kuno, he realized the Kuno was somehow unaware of whom he was threatening. Although Kuno never had understood Saotome's curse, he couldn't have just forgotten about his "pig-tailed goddess." Furthermore, the situation unfolding was eerily similar to the day Saotome had first transferred to Furinkan High apart from her current gender.

As Kuno's special effect sounded in the sky, it came to him what must have happened. His spell had actually worked! The Tendos now believed Saotome was truly a girl, while everyone at school had forgotten him completely. If Saotome were a girl, he couldn't marry Akane, and Akane would no longer be in love with him. He lost control for a moment, as he shouted out, "Yes, it worked! It actually worked." He quickly calmed down as he realized his mistake. He panicked for a second, as it had appeared that Saotome had glanced his way after his outburst, but he relaxed when Saotome ignored him and issued her challenge to Kuno.

He listened as Saotome, Kuno, and Akane set up the terms for the upcoming duel. He grinned, as he realized another golden opportunity had been dropped in his lap. As usual, Kuno wouldn't stand a chance against Saotome, but hardly anybody else was yet aware of that fact. Nabiki Tendo had long ago stopped taking bets on their extremely predictable mismatched fights, but the situation had now changed. It didn't take long to find one of Nabiki's friends asking for bets on the fight. He wagered a good majority of his life savings and watched with glee as Saotome mopped the floor with Kuno once again, this time even more entertaining than usual, having done it as a cute redhead in a dress. (He mentally slapped himself as he chastised, 'You can't think like that. He's still a guy.') After the vice-principal broke things up, he went to class happier than he had been in a long time. 'Finally, everything is going right for me.' He would change his mind by the end of the afternoon.

Now that school was over, Gosunkugi had his first chance with Akane. He would have to start slowly and build her trust through friendship first. After all, the aggressive way certainly didn't work with her as Kuno and those other perverts had proven. It took him a little longer than he had hoped to secure his belongings and reach the front of the school after his last class, but he was rewarded as he saw Akane leave through the front gate. Even better, she was alone.

He ran after her to catch up, starting to shout out her name, "A-Aka-," when someone grabbed him. His stomach did a flip as he was dragged through several fast leaps in the air before being dropped to the ground among some bushes behind the equipment shed. He looked up and started to tremble, as Saotome was standing over him without another soul in sight.

He had expected an angry look on Saotome's face, but it instead held a cheerful grin. Maybe his secret was still safe after all. Once she began to speak, however, he almost wished Saotome had discovered his secret. "Hello there, handsome. I'm sorry about the unprepared trip, but I just had ta getcha alone with me." She batted her eyes attractively as Gosunkugi gulped. "You're Hikaru Gosunkugi, right? I'm Ranko Saotome, although you probably already know that by now. Anyway, I've been watching you, and I think you're kinda cute in your own way."

Gosunkugi heart began pounding in his chest at this unnatural flattery. "S-Saotome, I-I-," he managed to stutter until she placed her fingers to his lips. "Please, Hikaru, don't be so formal. Just call me Ranko." She then giggled in a way that Saotome would've never been caught dead doing in his male form before continuing. "Is it true that you practice voodoo? I think that's so cool! I'd love it if you would take me out for some ice cream right now." She spoke in a way that would've melted his heart had she been an actual girl asking him out. Instead, he was only getting more and more creeped out by the second.

He began sweating as he started scooting away while trying to find his voice. Saotome was having none of that, however, as she pounced on him and pinned his back to the ground. His face went pale as his eyes focused for a second on the rather large pair of mounds hanging in the air over him, only to look into Saotome's face as she continued her torture. With a seductive smile on her face, she went for broke. "It's okay if you don't want to go for ice cream. I can think of some fun things we can do right here, and they work better in private, anyway." She lowered her face towards his with puckered lips, making it very obvious what she wanted to do.

Gosunkugi broke out of his shock as he realized what was about to happen. Screaming, he pushed her away hard and rose to his feet. Using a tree for support, he panted heavily as he caught his breath. He glared at the confused looking redhead climbing to her feet and finally found his voice. "D*** it, Saotome. What the h*** are you doing? You're not supposed to be affected."

Ranko's face now held her trademark cocky grin as she pouted, "What's the matter, Hikaru? Any other guy at this school would've jumped at the chance to date a beautiful girl like me, and they'd be over the moon if I were to throw myself at 'em like I just did with you." Suddenly, the timbre of her voice switched from the seductive one she had been using to the one she normally used. "It's almost like you think I'm really a guy, but that can't be it, can it?"

Gosunkugi gulped as he realized what was really going on with Saotome's strange behavior. On the slight chance that she was talking about something other than his spell, he tried for some plausible deniability. "Saotome, I d-don't know what you're talking about? I'm just really sh-shy around g-girls."

Ranko grabbed him by the front of his uniform jacket and lifted him in the air. "Cut the c***, Gosunkugi. Yesterday, everyone knew I was a guy with a girl curse, well almost everyone, and I had been living with the Tendos and attending school here for well over a year. Today, everyone thinks I'm a girl including my own parents, while the Tendos and nearly everyone here thinks they've never met me before. I know this is your fault, so spill."

Gosunkugi squirmed in Ranko's grip, as he foolishly responded, "I'm sorry about your gender issues, but I don't see how you can blame me. A shrink would be able to help you more than a failed voodoo practitioner like me." He was rewarded for his efforts with a quick punch to his gut.

Ranko's began glowing a little as she acidly responded, "Make another cute remark like that, an' the next blow is goin' where the sun don't shine. I know you remember what I do, and I know you musta caused it. When I was goin' after Kuno, you were happier than I've ever seen ya, shoutin' about somethin' "working." I knew you were involved once I heard about the large bet you placed in my favor on the fight, somethin' you wouldn't have known ta do if you were under the spell like everyone else. Your motive was obvious, so I just waited for you to make your pathetically predictable move on Akane to grab you for our little chat.

Gosunkugi knew the jig was up as he silently cursed himself for making those foolish mistakes. Curiously, he asked, "If you knew as far back as this morning, why did you resort to all that creepy flirting?"

Ranko grinned as she replied, "Three reasons: First, it was a way to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you do remember me as a guy. Second, it was fun watching your squirm in response to my advances. Third, you had it coming after what you did."

She turned with Gosunkugi still in her strong grip and began walking back towards the school entrance. "You are gonna behave while I take you home. I still remember where ya live from when you challenged me with that stupid battle armor. Once we get there, you are gonna explain ta me exactly what your spell did and how to break it. Meanwhile, until I can break it, you're gonna stay the h*** away from my girl."

Gosunkugi gathered up his last remaining courage. "Why should I help you? I finally got a spell to work, and now you can't marry Akane, while I now have another chance. I'm not just going to give that up."

Ranko's glare was menacing as she locked her gaze onto his. "Because if you don't help, you will be my favorite punching bag until you change your mind. Normally, I have a reason when I fight someone. This will no longer be true as far as you are concerned. I will beat you up as often as I can. You won't know where or when I'll strike next. Not only will you be suffering a ton of physical pain, but I'll have you so worried and paranoid that you won't be able to think straight even when I'm not around. Once you tell me everything I need to know, I won't hit you until you give me another reason to do so."

Gosunkugi's face went whiter than a sheet as he lost control of his bladder. "You're bluffing," he hoarsely whispered in desperation.

Ranko's face was expressionless as she responded in a deadly serious voice, "I won't go this far seeing as Akane's life isn't in any actual danger, but you should know that I killed the last guy who tried to take Akane away from me." Gosunkugi could tell by looking in her cold eyes of blue steel that she wasn't lying. He knew he had no choice but to reveal everything. He nearly lost his lunch from all the roof-hopping Ranko was doing as she dragged him away to his own house.

Once they reached the Gosunkugi home, they entered Hikaru's room through his window. After giving him a minute to rest, Ranma got down to business. "Alright, where's this spell you cast. I wanna know exactly what it did."

Gosunkugi walked over and picked the spellbook off the floor, still open to the correct page. "Actually, Saotome, the spell doesn't work under set conditions. The spell is designed to accomplish a certain task, but how it goes about doing so is up to the discretion of the spell itself depending on the circumstances of the targets used in the spellcasting.

"Those targets bein' me and Akane?" Ranma guessed.

"Yes," confirmed Gosunkugi. "The spell is meant for someone who has lost his love to a rival. By including the names of the rival and the lost love in the appropriate parts of the incantation, the spell is designed to break up the couple by rewriting the memories of everyone except for the rival and the spellcaster, you and me, into a plausible alternate view of reality that would best keep the targeted couple apart. The spellcaster is then free to try his luck at winning his love all over again. Apparently, the best method in this case was to take advantage of your curse to make everyone think your girl form is your natural birth form."

Ranma turned this explanation over in her mind. "Why would the spell leave the memories of the rival untouched? Sure, it's an extra form of revenge havin' him know how he's been screwed, but it's only askin' for trouble for the spellcaster as you're already aware." She cracked her knuckles for emphasis.

Gosunkugi sighed. "Despite your heavy experience in the matter, you still don't know much about how magic works, do you Saotome? Basically, even magic requires energy to work. For example, although a simple transformation doesn't take much, your magical curse uses up energy whenever it's invoked, either from your own body, the water used to activate it, the air around you, or most likely a combination of those factors. Likewise, a voodoo spell uses the energy found in the spell's ingredients and the spiritual and physicals energies of the spellcaster to cast its magic."

"Just think about what this particular spell had to do? Although it wouldn't have bothered with anyone who has no contact with Nerima, it had to alter the memories of hundreds, maybe thousands of people, in addition to the various minor physical alterations needed to corroborate the altered memories. The spell's creator had to save energy where he could, and the savings are particularly large when you consider how much more energy it would've taken to alter your mind about the situation compared to the average Furinkan High student or other Nerima resident . As it is, I was barely able to pull off the spell and was knocked out for over half a day."

Ranma accepted this and moved on. "So the spell is mostly altered memories? Everything that's happened in my life has still happened, right? It's just that nobody outside of this room remembers it."

"That's correct," Gosunkugi confirmed. "As I was saying, the spell also has power over physical space but only within certain limits and only where needed to grant credibility to the altered memories."

Ranma thought it over for a few seconds. "So that's how I suddenly found myself in a cab and in different clothes, heading to the Tendos' with my parents the moment the spell was cast. I'm guessing that rebuilding my mom's collapsed house was outside the spell's limits, so it instead incorporated an alternate story behind it into everyone's memories."

Gosunkugi added, "I should point out that computer data seems to also have been affected, otherwise someone would've noticed the name Saotome as already having been registered at Furinkan High. Also, your birth and registration records must have been modified to reflect the gender change, as it would've come up with your new school registration."

Ranma sighed. "Great, now even the government thinks I'm a girl. Alright, how do we fix things? There'd better be a way to break the spell."

Gosunkugi looked over at the other side of the page in his spellbook. "Don't worry, there always is. It's a necessary component of a voodoo spell to include a method to reverse it. Otherwise, it couldn't work in the first place. Let's it is. 'The jilted rival must win back the heart of his lost love. Once they have proven their love for each other, the true memories will be returned.'"

Ranma shook her head at how difficult this was going to be. "Well, I do enjoy a challenge. So how do we prove our love? True love's kiss?"

Gosunkugi smirked. "What do you think this is, a Disney movie? This is real life, not a fairy tale or a manga series. No, a kiss isn't good enough. Only one thing is: consensual sexual intercourse. Good luck with that, Saotome."

Ranma's jaw dropped. When she recovered a few seconds later, she quickly snatched the spellbook away and started reading the page for herself. "Gimme that book! You've gotta be missing somethin'. Forget a challenge. This is nearly impossible! How the heck am I supposed to convince Akane to not just fall in love with but sleep with someone she thinks is another girl?! I could try to tell her the truth, but there's no way she could ever believe me. The only good thing about this is we're still technically married, so at least I have no problem with sleeping with her."

However, Ranma was soon forced to conclude that it read exactly the way Gosunkugi had described, including the footnote providing the definition of "proving love." The footnote did go on to comment that there would always be a way to accomplish it, but she had no idea what that could mean.

"Wait a minute, Saotome," Gosunkugi complained. "I thought my spell stopped your wedding. That's the whole reason I cast it when I did."

"You idiot!" Ranma replied as she threw the book down in frustration. "Can't you even read a wedding invitation correctly? We scheduled a late morning wedding and early afternoon reception. Your spell didn't take effect until after we tied the knot."

"D*** you, Saotome!" Gosunkugi cursed. "Why'd you have to marry Akane before I could cast the spell?! Even if I could somehow get her away from you and win her love myself, I can't marry another man's wife. I suppose I could kill you first, but let's face it, you have a better chance of convincing Akane to bang a chick than I have of ever pulling that off."

Ranma grabbed the front of his jacket once again. "What was that, Gosunkugi?" she growled. "Don't forget that part of our deal is for you to stay away from Akane. I don't like guys who knowingly hit on my wife. Mark my words: deal or no deal, you're gonna pay for this out of your hide, someday, you miserable parasite."

Gosunkugi whimpered. "But I've done everything you asked. You promised you wouldn't pound me if I helped."

Ranma grinned. "I only promised that I wouldn't hurt you. Somehow, someday, I will break your spell, and when I do, there won't be a single place on this planet where you'll be safe from Akane's wrath." She quickly jumped out the window and began roof-hopping home, leaving behind a frightened Gosunkugi who was now wishing he had never cast that spell.

Ranko entered the house still thinking about the ultimate challenge that lay ahead for her when she heard Kasumi's voice calling from the kitchen. "Ranko, is that you?"

"Yeah, it's me," she responded as she removed her shoes. "I had ta take care of somethin'. I told Akane I'd be late.

"She told me," Kasumi replied. "Do you think you could help me in the kitchen for a while? I could use some help getting dinner ready on time."

"Sure thing, Kasumi," Ranko answered. "Just give me a couple minutes to get changed first." She went up the stairs to the room she now shared with Akane. She was grateful to find the room empty, as she wasn't ready to talk to Akane after what she had just learned. She wasted no time in removing her feminine clothing, except for the bra which was a necessary evil according to her mother, and changing into her boxer shorts and usual Chinese style of clothing. With a forced smile on her face, she retraced her steps to the main floor and went to help Kasumi in the kitchen.

After borrowing one of Kasumi's aprons, Ranko worked alongside Kasumi, although there didn't seem to be as much for her to do as she thought there would be. After a few minutes, Akane came in, obviously having been working out in the dojo. "Oh, Ranko, you're home. Did you get done what you needed to do?"

Ranko's smile became genuine as she answered, "Yeah, it was no big deal." Ranko's heart nearly skipped a beat as Akane smiled in return.

Kasumi flashed a gentle smile of her own. "Akane, why don't you go take a bath while we finish making dinner? I'd like to get to know Ranko a little better while we have time some alone together." Akane nodded and left the room.

As they continued to work, Kasumi started up a new conversation. "Ranko, first of all, I need to thank you for what you did for Akane at school today. She was so excited to tell me all about it when she came home. I haven't seen her this happy in a long time."

"I'm glad I could help, Kasumi," Ranko replied. "It was disgusting and dishonorable what they were doin' to her. Nobody gets away with hurting my friends if there's something I can do about it." 'And especially when they go after Akane,' she finished in her mind.

All of a sudden, Kasumi turned around with a serious look on her face and moved into a slight defensive stance, one Ranko noticed would allow her to quickly start moving if needed without appearing too much out of place. Looking Ranko in the eyes, she got to the real reason she had arranged this private talk. "Ranko," she began in a less expressive tone of voice that sounded strange coming from her. "You haven't yet given me any reason to think poorly of you. However, something extremely strange is happening, and I know you're somehow involved. If you intend to harm my family, I will do whatever I can to stop you."

Ranko surprised herself at how relieved she felt. She just now realized how nice it would be to have someone to talk to (other than Gosunkugi, of course) about this whole mess. Even better, Kasumi was the one person in the whole household with whom she felt somewhat comfortable discussing her relationship issues. It had been Kasumi who had listened to and comforted both Akane and herself (separately, of course) the night after the failed wedding attempt, which had given them the courage they needed to discuss their relationship themselves the following night. She just hoped Kasumi would believe her.

First, she had to find out how much Kasumi already knew. "Believe me, Kasumi, you have nothing to fear from me. However, you are correct that something weird is happening, something I intend to fix. How did you know?"

Not moving from her stance, Kasumi replied, "I've noticed several strange things since you and your family arrived yesterday. For one thing, you know your way around this house too well for someone who's never been here before. When you went to change before sparring with Akane in the dojo, you took your suitcase straight to the guest room, which I moved to Akane's room after it was decided you would be sleeping there. You also knew your way to the bathroom when you were done sparring." Ranko did a mental facepalm for making such foolish mistakes.

Kasumi continued. "When your parents were sharing stories about your, um, interesting life, I realized that a few things didn't add up right. I don't always keep up with current events, but I should've heard about huge public events like a winged minotaur fighting an asura in the sky in broad daylight, or a pair of Chinese twins erecting a gigantic construct of poisonous plants. On top of that, what our fathers said about Happosai made me realize something. While I remember everything Father said as being true, I somehow can't recall any details such as specific instances of when he's molested me. That kind of thing tends to stick in a girl's mind. It's like my memories are only half-formed, and I also don't understand why I've never realized this before now."

Kasumi shook her head as if to clear it of mental cobwebs and continued with her next point. "Today, while doing the housework, I noticed the rough shape of this house and the dojo. There has been a large amount of repair work done, a lot more than I remember being necessary. While Akane has caused some damage over the years, we've otherwise managed to properly maintain the compound, yet all of a sudden, it looks like our property has been used as an fighting arena for the last year or two, including what looks like the repairs of several large holes in the walls." Ranko gulped, as she had always felt guilty about the damage she had directly or indirectly done to the poor house and dojo.

"Then there's one last thing that makes me convinced you know something about this in addition to your uncanny familiarity with this house. Whenever you look at Akane, you get this look in your eyes. I can't tell exactly, but your eyes are full of happiness whenever you see her, like you've known and cared for Akane for a long time. It's not the look of someone who just made a new friend the day before. I noticed it again when Akane just came in from the dojo. You were looking troubled and trying to hide it, but when Akane walked in, your face lit up with a real smile, and your eyes had that look in them again. Just what exactly is going on?"

Ranko was extremely impressed with Kasumi's deductive reasoning. She knew that Kasumi was more intelligent than she let on, but she had severely underestimated how much she paid attention to the things going on around her and how well she could think things through. She resolved to show Kasumi more respect for her mind from now on. "You know, it's funny how most people just dismiss you as this happily oblivious homemaker, yet you're actually quite brilliant in your own way. You'll do well in college once ya finally get an opportunity to attend. I thought that if anyone would be able to figure it out, it would be Nabiki."

Kasumi blushed at the compliment. "I would like to attend college someday, but my family needs me too much right now." She sighed in disappointment. "I don't think you have to worry about Nabiki. While she is smarter than me in general, her thinking is actually quite limited in some ways. She's the kind of thinker who places too much emphasis on what she can detect with her senses and has trouble thinking outside-the-box. Yesterday, before you and Akane joined us, she absolutely refused to believe anything your parents were saying about magic and the more superhuman aspects of your martial arts until she saw your father's transformation for herself. Anyway, that's enough stalling. You need to give me some answers now."

Ranko sighed in defeat and thought for a moment about where to begin. "Basically, I'm the main victim of a voodoo spell cast by one of my rivals, if you can call him that, which has altered the memories of everyone who knows me into accepting an alternative version of events. The truth is my name is really Ranma Saotome, I'm a boy cursed to turn into a girl, and me an' my family have been livin' here for the past year an' a half."

Kasumi stared at her, no him, in shock. While she had expected magic to be involved somehow, this was just too crazy, yet it explained everything. She looked into Ranma's deep blue eyes and saw the seriousness in them. After what she had done for Akane and with what she now saw in her eyes, she somehow knew she could trust this Ranma and the strange story he was telling. "I believe you," she said at last as she relaxed her stance and went back to fixing dinner. "Although I don't remember anything about you before yesterday, I can already tell that I can trust you. So why exactly did you move in with us the first time? Was your house really destroyed?"

Ranma let out a breath she had been holding. "Well, it was, but that was less than a year ago, and only my mom was living there. Pop and I had been living here for months before she joined us."

"Why would she have stayed by herself for so long?" Kasumi asked.

"Well, you see," continued Ranma, "when I was six years old, Pop had this crazy idea that in order for me to fulfill my potential as a martial artist, I needed to be separated from my mother's love or some such nonsense, so he wanted ta take me on a long training journey away from Mom. As you can imagine, Mom wasn't too thrilled 'bout the idea. She only let him take me after he signed a certain contract and also added my hand print to it. It said that Pop promised to raise me to be a 'man among men,' or me an' him would both commit seppuku."

"Oh my!" gasped Kasumi. "How horrible! Still, I'm sure she wouldn't have actually enforced such a terrible contract."

Ranma sighed. "Actually, she took it very seriously. She would've done it if she'd a judged me unmanly. I'll get back to that, but I've got some other things ta mention, first. Anyway, for ten years it was just me an' him, constantly training, at times even bein' abused by Pop's obsessiveness or just plain stupidity. He never even mentioned my mother the whole time. I had assumed she was dead. Meanwhile, Pop kept shoving his sexist c*** down my throat about women bein' weaker, you can't hit girls, and guys ain't supposed ta show their emotions, culminatin' with gettin' us cursed at Jusenkyo. As ya probably figured out by now, I actually fell in the Spring of Drowned Girl, and my transformations occur just like every other Jusenkyo curse: cold water to transform, hot water to change back." Kasumi's opinion of Mr. Saotome began falling by the second as she continued to listen.

"Pop was scared about what Mom would think about the curse considering our contract, so he stopped writing to her at that point. When she tracked us down here after a few months, we would hide in plain sight in our cursed forms whenever she would visit, passin' ourselves off as your cousin, Ranko Tendo, and her pet panda. Thankfully, when she did eventually discover the truth, she had been around me long enough to realize that I had fulfilled the contract by my actions despite having an unmanly curse that I don't have much control over."

"That still doesn't explain why you came here," interrupted Kasumi.

"Well," continued Ranma, "shortly after Jusenkyo, Pop decided it was time to head back to Japan and meet up with your father. Do you know about an old agreement our fathers made before we were born about joining the branches of the Anything-Goes School?"

"Yes, I remember." answered Kasumi. "They promised to one day join the Schools through an arranged marriage of their children." Kasumi stopped stirring her pot as the realization hit her. "You and Akane?" she asked.

"That's right," confirmed Ranma. "Pop dragged me over here to engage me ta one of you girls, and you an' Nabiki both dumped Akane off on me."

"Oh my, I'm sure she wasn't happy about that," said Kasumi with an amused look on her face.

"That's an understatement," agreed Ranma. "It didn't help that she had just accidentally walked in on my male form in the bathroom. I did try ta keep that from happening again this time but to no avail. Anyway, I wasn't very happy about bein' forced into an engagement either, so we didn't get off to a good start, especially with my foot-in-mouth disease developed over the way Pop had raised me, and her tendency to lose her temper and clobber me over the littlest things. Further complicating the situation were the three other girls who were chasin' after me; a childhood friend who Pop foolishly arranged another engagement with, a Chinese Amazon who considered us engaged accordin' to her tribe's crazy laws after I beat her in combat, and a crazy stalker. Meanwhile, Akane was still the most desired girl in school, particularly where Kuno was concerned."

"However, despite all our problems, we did quickly become close friends in our own kind of way. I don't know about Akane, but I started having romantic feelings for her within the first couple a weeks, back when I helped her get over her crush on Dr. Tofu. Unfortunately, whenever we started getting close, either our idiot fathers would ruin things tryin' to get us married off as soon as they could, or we'd get scared and slip into denial on our own. Either way, I'd shoot off my mouth, and we'd just get into another argument."

"It took ten months of dancin' around our feelings until somethin' big happened to cause a breakthrough. We were both finally able to admit our feelings and become an official couple. Five months ago, we agreed to get married on our own terms, and yesterday we got married shortly before the spell was cast. I guess I should've expected somethin' ta happen, but why can't anything ever go smoothly in my life?"

Kasumi didn't know what to say, as tears started to fall from her eyes. The story was just so tragic. For a year and a half, her sister and new brother-in-law had fought their way through innumerable obstacles to find love only to be cruelly separated now. She started sniffling as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. "That's just so sad. Who would be so cruel as to do this to you, and what exactly did he do?"

Ranma sighed. "I just found out myself. I discovered the culprit at school today, and I paid him a little visit before I came home. His name is Hikaru Gosunkugi, an amateur voodoo practitioner and one of Akane's more persistent suitors before we got together for real. He cast a spell that modified the memories of everyone but me an' him into what you now remember, effectively breaking up my marriage in order for Gosunkugi to have another shot at Akane. The only way to return things to normal is ta win Akane's heart all over again to the point where she'll agree ta make love, a nearly impossible quest under the circumstances. The spellbook claims there's a way ta do it, but such a solution is news ta me."

Ranma might have imagined it, but for a moment there appeared to be a twinkle of victory in Kasumi's eye, but it was gone as soon as it had appeared. Kasumi smiled and said, "You know you can't give up, right? You two have gone through too much to find happiness just to quit now. I'll help you out however I can. Just tell me if you need me to do anything for you."

Ranma smiled for the first time since Akane had left the room. "I know. I intend to beat this. Ranma Saotome never loses. Thanks, Kasumi. I really appreciate your support."

Just then, the doorbell rang, indicating Dr. Tofu's arrival. Kasumi went to greet her fiance, having finished preparing dinner during their conversation. Before long, everyone sat down to eat.

After dinner, Nabiki approached Ranko and handed her a folded, hand-written note. "Kuno-baby asked me to give this to you."

Ranko opened what appeared to be a challenge letter. "To the fiesty Ranko Saotome: Please come to the second field of Furinkan High School tomorrow afternoon at 4:36 PM."

"Sounds like a duel," commented Akane from over her shoulder.

"You know, Kuno's a real sore loser," added Nabiki. "He's out for blood."

Akane started to get concerned. "Maybe it's best you didn't go."

'Oh no!' thought Ranko. 'I remember this now. Failing to show up won't change nothin'. Well, I've a day to figure out how ta handle this. I certainly don't want Kuno chasing me around again while I'm tryin' to get close to Akane.' She voiced some of her thoughts out loud. "I don't think it'll matter to someone like him. I'll have ta face him again eventually, so I might as well get it over with."

The next afternoon, Ranko arrived at the meeting place a little early and smiled as she hid a kettle behind a nearby tree. Kasumi had come up with an excellent plan, almost certain to convince Kuno to back off without being too awkward if he spread the story around school.

She approached the field, and soon Kuno appeared as well, spouting his usual bad poetry. He soon got to his point. "It is now 4:36 PM, the moment when the sunset is at its most beautiful. For it is the rising young star of the high school kendo world who shines before you. They call me the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High. It is I, Tatewaki Kuno, who has beckoned you to me."

She played along as if this were the first time this were happening. "Hey, where's that stick you're always wavin' around?"

"I have no need of it," answered Kuno.

"Pretty confidant, ain't cha?" replied Ranko.

"Confident enough to give you...this." Kuno quickly tossed an item through the air in a blur, which Ranko snatched easily in her hand. Just as before, it was a bouquet of red roses. Kuno started walking away as he said, "Ranko Saotome, I love you." He turned his head back towards her as he said this, which was Ranko's cue.

Ranko quickly tossed the bouquet to the ground and stepped on it. She called out, "You despicable pig! You were torturing Akane through your deluded method of trying to date her. Why would I have any interest in you? I hate you! I wouldn't date you if you were the last man on Earth!" 'Which would mean I'm either dead or living with Akane on a space station or moon colony,' she added to herself. She added the final touch to her performance. "Why cancha just leave me and Akane alone?" She turned and started running away while making sobbing noises as if she were breaking into tears.

This was a little too much for even Kuno's deluded mind. He turned and began to pursue her, as he called out, "Miss Ranko, please wait!" However, he soon found his path blocked by an athletic-looking pig-tailed boy, whose appearance and clothes reminded him of the crying girl who had just fled from him.

The boy snarled at him and angrily asked, "Are you the jerk who's been givin' my little sister a hard time? Nobody gets away with makin' her cry while I'm around."

Kuno gulped at the angry look in his eyes. "Y-You're Ranko's older brother?"

The boy put on a cocky grin. "That's right. The name's Ranma Saotome. If you thought my sister was hard to handle, you ain't seen nothin' yet. I'm even better than she is. In fact, I taught her everything she knows about martial arts."

At this response, Kuno knew he was in trouble. He quickly bowed himself to the ground. "My apologies, honorable Saotome. I myself have a younger sister, so I know how you must feel. I never intended to make the young lady cry. I merely wished to express my feelings of passion for the untamed yet beautiful red rose in both our lives. If perchance you might let me speak with-" Kuno was cut off as his face was struck with a vicious right cross.

"YOU F****** IDIOT!" Ranma yelled. He pulled Kuno off the ground and slammed his knee into Kuno's groin. "Ranko has already made it perfectly clear that she wants nothin' to do with a perverted scumbag like you, and what you did to our friend Akane was probably illegal! If you bother either of them again, I'll force you to stay away from them by means of an extended hospital stay! Do I make myself clear?!" He tossed Kuno to the ground.

"Yes," squeaked Kuno, who was doubled over in pain. 'One day I will defeat you and get my revenge for this humiliation,' thought Kuno. 'With you out of the way, I will once again be able to pursue my two lovely godesses.'

Ranma turned to leave but stopped and turned back. He watched as Kuno struggled to his feet. "One more thing, Kuno. This is for Akane and my sister! MOKO TAKABISHA!" Kuno screamed as he was enveloped in a large blast of ki energy, which sent him flying across the school grounds. 'Man, I've always wanted to tell him off like that. If this doesn't convince 'im, nothin' will. I'm sure he'll try to come after my male side for revenge, but he can't fight what he can't find.'

Ranma started heading for home, grabbing the now empty kettle and the discarded bra as he passed them, happier than he had been since before this whole mess started.

Author's Notes: So is this what you expected was going on with Gosunkugi's spell?

As you probably noticed, starting with this chapter, the narration will now be switching between the names "Ranko" and "Ranma" depending on what is appropriate for the situation.

My apologies if I've contradicted any real life voodoo practices, but magic isn't real in our world, and the mechanics of it were never explained in Ranma canon, so I reserve the right to make up whatever rules I want for this fiction.

You may have noticed that Kuno's invitation read a little differently from Ranma canon. I had to give Ranma until the next day, as he would've otherwise missed the meeting after talking to Gosunkugi and Kasumi. If you want an in-universe explanation, consider it an application of the "butterfly effect." As for the time of day difference, this story is taking place at the opposite half of the year from when it originally happened, so the sunset occurred earlier this time.

By the way, I've updated all of the previous chapters with some minor fixes.

It might be a while until I release the next chapter, as I want to do some work on "Leap Year" first and maybe do a one-shot story as well.