Summary: Ranma's efforts to cure his curse have succeeded. Well, for half of him. There's a short, red-haired girl with his memories and his identity running around as a side effect. She's stuck in his shadow, watching him live the life that she had wanted. Yet life and love moves on. Will she be able to cope?
Notes: So I've been thinking about writing one of those Ranma being split into male and female parts for a while now. The first part is finally coming into place. This should turn out to be a rather long one if anything goes according to plan (it probably won't).
I also wanted to experiment with the "How We Got Here" story frame. And as you can tell, from the difference between the prologue and the first chapter, there's going to be mood whiplash in this story. A lot of it. I've wanted to write a slice of life style story for some time now, but naturally the only way to make it not dull is to include variations on mood. So there will be dark, introspective and angsty chapters, as well as more light-hearted and fun ones, as the story progresses through Ranma-chan dealing with having her life ripped away from her.
And no matter how hard people try to help her (and they will, this isn't a throw the girl half away like trash story), nothing can change the fact that there can only be one Ranma in each person's life. So Ranma-chan has to find a way to step out of her own shadow, and be her own self and not just an imitation of what she once was.
The story is currently Rated T for mild adult themes. Some violence, some romance, some teenagers being teenagers. The rating could go up in the future, depending on how later drafts develop and feedback.
Prologue: The Start is Where the End is Leading You
"This sure is some rescue party," said Ranma, "Anyone got any bright ideas?"
The black-haired young man spoke brashly as he ran through the backwoods illuminated only by pale moonlight, but the subtle quirk of his smile and ever so slight waver in his voice betrayed his macho front. He was dirty, covered with the sweat and grime of a day long running battle, while his clothes were practically in tatters. The rips in his red silk shirt revealed an array of bruises, cuts and scratches all-over his body.
And he probably looked the least worse for wear of the Nerima wrecking crew. Genma braced himself on a walking stick, hobbling to keep up with his running allies. One eye was swollen shut, and his glasses were cracked. Soun followed closely after, his clothes and hair singed. Mousse and Shampoo staggered behind him, supporting each other's weight.
At the end of the caravan, Ukyo struggled to keep up, carrying Konatsu's unconscious body piggy-back. In between ragged, panting breaths, she shouted, "We're not going to be able to escape at this pace! Ranma-honey, do something!"
Meanwhile, Akane (the rescuee of this little expedition), ran in the middle of the pack, shrinking in shame as much as one can possibly do when running for their life. All of this trouble was for her sake, and she certainly didn't feel worthy of it. All this suffering to rescue her…it was almost unbearable.
"Argh," Ranma growled, digging deeper for more strength to carry on. "Damn it, I hate to admit it, but I really wish that Ryoga was with us on this one."
"Well, he's not, and wishing he was won't get us anywhere," replied a familiar voice. A voice that had once been his.
She took up the rear guard of their group, keeping a careful eye for pursuers as they flew like a bat out of hell away from their doom. Her silk shirt hung in tatters around her shoulders, revealing the once flawlessly smooth skin of her chest, now covered with bruises and scabs from battle. A ripped black sports bra was the only thing left preserving her modesty.
Her most striking feature was her fiery red hair, braided into a long queue that reached her mid back. Her hair still burned brightly even in the moonlight.
In spite of her exhaustion, she remained alert and vigilant, searching for any sign of their pursuers. They had maybe a ten minute lead when they had first made their escape, judging by the disorganization among the guards, but undoubtedly that lead was shrinking, with how exhausted they were. Someone could catch up at any moment.
As they crossed a narrow rope bridge over a deep, misty chasm, Ukyo suddenly lost her footing. She skidded to a halt on the far-side, groaning with pain and frustration. Konatsu was jerked backed to consciousness by the impact, crying out in shock as he lay in a tangled heap with the okonomiyaki chef.
The red-haired girl winced at her friend's awkard tumble. "Ucchan!" she cried, before coming to her aid. As she disentangled the half-conscious male kunoichi from Ukyo, and started to check them both for serious injuries, the rest of the party gathered around them. For what seemed like a short eternity, nothing but the sounds of ragged panting filled the cool night air. Finally, Ranma-chan breathed a sigh of relief. "Looks like just a few scratches. You'll be fine."
"Shampoo no can keep this up much longer," said the very exhausted Amazon. She awkwardly braced herself on one foot, breathing raggedly as Mousse took the opportunity to bandage her ankle.
Everyone nodded in silent agreement.
Even the ever arrogant Ranma seemed to have been knocked down a few pegs. Everyone looked a bit frustrated and scared by the present circumstances. The looks on their faces almost broke the pig-tailed girl's heart. She silently helped Ukyo and Konatsu to their feet before taking a moment to scan the terrain.
The chasm was deep and broad, and the mist made attempting to jump it suicidal in a combat situation for even the most adept martial artist. The bridge was narrow enough that only single-file was the only comfortable way to attempt to cross, and it had enough play to challenge someone's balance. It was perfect.
"The way I see it, we've got two options," she said, "Either we keep trying to run and hope to out last them, or…" she motioned to the bridge, "one of us stays behind and holds them off as long as possible."
"But that's suicide!" said Mousse.
"I know," she replied, "and that's why I'm—"
"It's not if I do it!" cried Ranma, cutting off his distaff counterpart. "You guys go on ahead. I'll show those bastards why Saotome Ranma never loses!"
Ranma-chan sighed, facepalming with indignation. She knew that cocky jerk well enough to know that either the gravity of the situation hadn't really caught up with him, or he was putting on up a front even after all this.
"Boy, if you think we came all this way to rescue your fiancée just so you could play Benkei at the bridge, you've got another thing coming!"(1) said Genma. "Besides, I'm just a burden to you running. I'll hold them off."
Whereas Ranma's words were simple youthful bravado, Genma's confidence was different. Though Ranma-chan was still a little bit irked from having been cut off and ignored, hearing her father act fatherly, and lay his life down to defend his child brought a small smile to her face. Perhaps the old man wasn't so bad after all. Still, she couldn't imagine him putting up too much of a fight like this.
"Old man, you are in no—"
Soun cut her off this time. "Nonsense Saotome! You've already done so much to help rescue my daughter, staying behind is the least I could do to repay you. Besides, I've been injured less than you."
"Daddy, wait just a minute!" cried Akane.
The argument raged on for another minute, with each of the men demanding the honor of staying behind, while Ranma-chan kept getting cut off everytime she tried to speak. She suspected that it was just a play of male egos, because they weren't (totally) insane. They all had a lot to live for, and no one wanted to have to die if they could help it. An entirely unblameworthy position.
Finally, Ukyo cried "Enough!" and slammed her combat spatula on the ground in between the arguing men. Finally, silence. "If we can't resolve it like this, then we'll just draw straws."
Finally, Ranma-chan had the chance to speak. "This is unnecessary Ukyo. It was my idea. I should be the one to do it."
"No, I think we should let fate decide," her masculine counterpart replied.
The rest nodded in agreement. Letting destiny solve the argument seemed like a fair enough way out.
"I'm not drawing against you…" she half-whispered. Even now, after all they'd been through, she felt like she wasn't being taken seriously. Their chauvinism was aggravating, and she felt rather ashamed knowing that until a few months ago, she was no different.
"You better, because I'm drawing against you," chided Ranma.
Ukyo had quickly chopped up some straw from the long grass by the trail. As she prepared the lengths of straw, Ranma piped up again, "Yo, Ucchan," he said, "Why are there six and not five?"
"Because I'm the one who fell and cost us valuable time. I'm not some honorless martial artist who is gonna let someone else die for my mistake." She finished, and held out her hand to him. "You first, Ranma-honey."
Ranma drew first, as offered. Ukyo then offered it to Ranma-chan, and then to the rest of the group first-come, first serve. They drew one by one, comparing the lengths of their straw. A pit formed in Ranma's stomach as he gasped in shock. In his hand was the shortest straw. Fate had chosen him. After all this, now was his time to go? It felt kind of stupid to be killed by such a little piece of straw.
"Oh no…" said Ukyo before her mouth started to flap wordlessly. Since his relationship with Akane had turned so much more serious, even inevitable, in the last few months, she had given up chasing after him. But she never stopped loving him for a single moment, and now she'd killed him. Even after she'd given him the first pick, he still drew the short straw.
The look of horror on her face was matched only by Genma's. "Boy, if you think—"
"Pops, shut up," Ranma said sternly, "You said you'd raise me to be a man among men, and that's what I am doing right now. If you won't treat me like a man, then what was this all for?" Ranma clenched his fists in anger, partly at Genma and partly at fate. "You guys better go. They'll be catching up soon.
Soun pulled Genma down along the path, as the party grimly accepted fate. Konatsu seemed to be lucid enough to run now, so Ukyo ended up carrying Akane along bodily. She wasn't about to let the tomboy do something stupid and double the tragedy.
"You guys go on ahead, I'll catch up," cried Ranma-chan.
Mousse lingered to make sure she didn't do something stupid too. It was bad enough for his beloved Shampoo to have to lose one Ranma, and since the unlucky duckboy had resigned himself to at best being number two in her heart, he'd be damned before he'd let Shampoo lose both of them. That would just be senselessly tragic.
Ranma-chan put a comforting hand on her counterpart's shoulder, though it felt a bit awkward thanks to the height difference. Comforting someone larger than you just looked strange. "Hey, Ranma," she said.
That got his attention. She had always made it a point to never call him by name, and he had always done likewise. Their shared identity made it too threatening. "I guess this is what they call 'self-respect'" he joked with himself.
"Ranma," he replied, "I know you know that you can't be what I was for Akane…but I still want you to look after her and love her for me. She's going to need you."
Ranma-chan sighed, closing her eyes. With her exhaled breath went all of her fears and doubts. "That won't be necessary," she said. He sensed something wrong that instant. But she was a coiled spring of determination. In an instant, she released all of that energy for one purpose, too fast for him to react.
Lightning fast blows struck pressure points on his shoulders, torso and head. Instantly, his arms were numb and paralyzed, and his head was spinning with dizziness.
Mousse was too shocked to react immediately.
"Y-you…you uncute tomboy!" Ranma shouted, "What are you doing!"
"Stopping you from making a mistake," she replied. The cheer in her voice was unsettling.
Ranma was struggling to stand straight, but he kept shouting at his counterpart and trying to headbutt her in retaliation. She nimbly dodged all of his strikes while he growled at her, "I don't like it, but it's my destiny!"
"You idiot, even before I did this, you were more injured than me. Besides, after all that I've suffered through for you to be cured, it would be just too damn tragic for you and Akane to never get married."
"Ranchan, have you gone mad!?" cried Mousse, finally rushing to intervene.
In that moment, Ranma was stunned by her words, and looked his counterpart in the eyes. Why was she smiling? Were those tears of joy in her bright blue eyes?
In that instant of vulnerability, she struck again. She punched him hard just below the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him as he doubled over onto her arm. Her fist slipped inside his shirt, depositing something in one of the internal pockets. "Give this to Ryoga. Make sure he gets it."
Ranma gasped for air, coughing out "Why?"
"I'm controlling my own fate. You take care of yourself, bro." She chuckled. They really were brother and sister now, in spite of their continued mutual protest of the idea. She kissed him on the forehead, then shoved his limp body into Mousse's arms. "Goodbye."
There had been a touch of sadness in her otherwise happy voice. And it infuriated Ranma as Mousse started dragging him away. He'd tried to treat her right (after come convincing), but he'd royally sucked at it. It took him far too long to realize what she was going through, and how he and nearly everyone else had inadvertently made it worse. If there was anyone who deserved to live, it was her. And yet here she was, laying her life down for him without a second thought. She had turned away, and was walking to the bridge to prepare to defend it to her lost.
Having finally caught his breath, he cried "Ranma, I'm sorry…"
She glanced over her shoulder at him, smiling. "I'm not…it had to be me." She flashed that all too familiar Saotome Ranma cocky grin. "Someone else might have gotten it wrong!"
Mousse pulled him away, supporting his dizziness as they ran to catch up. Neither of them spoke a word to each other.
Chapter 1: Identity Crisis
Several months earlier…
"Ugh…could you get the number of that bullet-train that just hit me," croaked Ranma, just coming to. For the moment, there was no recollection of where or when this was happening. It was like coming to with a bad hangover at a three day long bender.
Not that Ranma would have known what a three day long bender was like at this point. As wild as the aquatransexual's life had been, binge drinking wasn't part of it. And for those of you reading this, I would hope you wouldn't know from first-hand experience what that kind of dull, throbbing pain, centered mostly in the head but still radiating out through the entire body. Or the sense of delirium that is produced from having your ability to form memories shutdown for some time and still impaired. But I digress…Saotome Nodoka would hope that her virtuous man-among-men son didn't have that experience, so who are we to disappoint her?
Oh right, Ranma's predicament! There was some stirring, as blood started to return to the extremities, and the heart started pumping more vigorously. And some moaning, just loud enough to be barely audible, because even in a catatonic state Ranma tries to cling to manly stoicism.
"Oh, she's coming to," said a voice that Ranma didn't recognize at the moment. Some other sounds started becoming apparent in the general din. The crackle of wood in an open fire, and the gentle rustling of wind in the trees.
The sounds were becoming clearer. Another voice, well at least it sounded like another voice, there was no way of knowing at the moment, said, "Do you think we should tell her?"
"Tell her…what did he mean by that?" Ranma thought. The gears started turning in the brain, and finally the firing of synapses made the right connection, and a memory bubbled to the surface. They had traveled way out of East Asia, all the way to the Pyrenees, in Europe! It was on the border of France and Spain…or was it Italy…ugh, his grasp of geography outside of East Asia was pretty fuzzy. Another name came to mind…La Brèche de Roland. They were looking for a monastery near some spring near that place.
A long way for a cure. But some reliable sources *cough* Cologne *cough* had believed that the resting place of some magical sword was there. A sword that could cut through curses.
More memories came floating back. It had been a long damn training trip. Genma had insisted that they travel there the hard way, so that they could further hone their skills in exotic lands far from comfort. After all, the life of a martial artist is filled with peril…and long journeys apparently. They had arrived after two months of hard travelling, meeting a group of strangely dressed…were they monks? Well, they didn't look like much of any religious figure that Ranma was used to, not even the Catholics that were a somewhat important presence in Japan. While his memory of geography was hazy, he did manage to remember that Europe was predominantly Christian, and this part was supposed to be Catholic.
They had further been confronted by language barriers. None of the monks spoke any East Asian language, and though it had been improving over the trip, Ranma's English skills were still subpar. And while English was the closest thing to a global lingua franca, these monks didn't seem to have gotten the memo. Only one at the monastery spoke English, and he was away for several days.
Which meant several days of boredom. Because their first attempts to train or spar within the abbey walls had been meet rather vigorously. Though neither Ranma, Ryoga nor Genma spoke a word of whatever languages these people were using, it seemed pretty clear that they didn't want any violence going on.
At least the boredom was mutual. Because the monks seemed to take every opportunity they could to play with the three martial artist's curses, splashing them with cold and hot water as fast as they could boil more hot water. They seemed particularly intrigued by Ranma's…intrigued enough to want to check to make sure her breasts were real, and her new figure wasn't an illusion.
Ranma almost managed to respect their wishes about violence in a house of God. Almost.
Finally, the prodigal monk returned, and after a long awkward conversation, which pitted Ranma's heavily Japanese accented English against the monk's heavily Basque accented English, they found out that the sword was in a cavern under a nearby shrine, and a bit more about it.
Oh yes that sword. Good ol' magical artifact sword…if only Ranma could remember its damn name. Whatever. It could cut through anything, even curses. All it would take is a single prick, and even the most evil of curses would be separated.
The last thing Ranma remembered was arguing with Pop and P-Chan over who'd get to use it first. An argument won, to her eternal shame, thanks to female form sad puppy eyes. So she'd pulled it from its mantel, and then cautiously used to prick her finger. Which was harder than it sounds, because the millennia old sword was, like most of its depictions in legend, not only an (anachronistic) bastard sword, but also ridiculously sharp. The monk had warned, without a hint of humor, to be careful not to cut herself in half, or anyone else for that matter.
And then this. Cured at last! Wait a minute, what did they mean about "tell her?" you're asking. Fanfiction may run often on wish-fulfillment, but did you really think it would be that easy? At any rate, Ranma realized that too.
"Wait a minute!" she said to herself, bolting upright. As she opened her eyes, she saw three figures sitting before her, near the cavern entrance. The figures were blurry, and as they slowly came into focus, she saw her male self, looking right back at her kind of sheepishly.
Ranma-chan did the only thing a reasonable person could do. She screamed bloody murder.
1. In the original version, I had Genma use the idiom "Horatius at the bridge," a reference to Publius Horatius, a junior officer in the Roman Republic who famously held the Pons Sublicius in a delaying action against the invading Etruscan army until the bridge could be dismantled. Grievously wounded for it, his legend became the source of the idiomatic phrase. I did not know any analogues in East Asian cultural history, but fellow Ranma 1/2 author Pata Hikari (if you haven't read their works yet you should because they are quite talented) pointed out an equivalent tale of the samurai Musashibo Benkei, who held a bridge to his lord's castle alone against a host of three hundred men to buy his lord time to commit honorable suicide. Since it fit the setting more, I've edited it in.