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Monday, 04 May 2020 09:55

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Monday, 04 May 2020 09:07

Ranma ½ is the property and invention of Rumiko Takahashi. The following story is not produced for any monetary or personal gain. Keep in mind the journey is almost always more interesting than...

Sunday, 03 May 2020 22:13

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Chapter 15: Switch

Ranma-chan waved at the people who had come to see her off. There weren't many. Most of the martial artists she knew, as well as the Emperor, Masayo, and the Shogun were either in the midst of negotiations with the Republic or on the border dealing with the Oni invasion. Those who remained were mostly considered either non-essential or independent.

"Come back soon, Ranma! We'll miss you," called the little girl from the edge of the circle waving her hand in farewell.

"Don't worry little one. I think she has incentive to come back," the Tengu said, patting the girl on her back.

"Yeah, Komar, sure I'll be back. Just have to finish a few things," Ranma-chan said.

"If you're quite finished I need to finish this circle," grouched the young man in a traditional Summoner's robe, "There's a war on and I'm sure my services are needed far more elsewhere.

"Don't forget to expect my... brother in about a day," the redhead replied.

"Yes, yes. I'll be here. Goodbye," with no further warning the man finished the circle and with a flash of light, the martial artist disappeared.

Ranma-chan appeared in a similar circle. The room looked familiar and it took only a moment before he glumly realized that this was the Tendo guest room he used to stay in. The bare walls and floor showed that his few possessions had been moved elsewhere. However, despite this, the room wasn't empty. A feeling of dread filled him as he saw the crowd surrounding the circle.

"Airen back! Take Shampoo to date?" the exuberant blue-haired girl cried out as she leaped into Ranma-chan's arms. "Why Ranma girl?"

"Why is that barbarian draping herself around Ranma's sister? I thought we were here to see Ranma," a puzzled Cindra asked.

Jess looked over at Ukyou and whispered into her ear, "How come no one told Cindra about the curse?"

Ukyou looked disinterestedly at the princess, "She's not as bad as Kodachi, but her attitude stinks. Only Nabiki spends any time with her and that's mostly to collect rent."

"That's so sad," Jess said.

"Well, a jackass is a jackass. As soon as she stops the 'princess' stuff the sooner people will talk to her. Actually, I think Kasumi's been talking to her as well, when she isn't studying for that doctor or nurse stuff..."

"Ranma! I can't believe it! You're back five seconds and you're already hanging over all the girls!" I don't know why I actually missed that idiot, Akane thought to herself as she prepared her standard countermeasures.

"Ah! My pigtailed goddess. It has been an eternity. I have sorely missed your presence. Come away with me and we can leave the foul Ranma Soatome behind."

"Argh! Nabiki! I bet you did this!" said foul Ranma Soatome shouted.

Not only is this fun to watch, but Ranma shouldn't have let Ryouga get away with sleeping in Akane's bed, Nabiki thought to herself, a slight smile playing on her lips. Her eyes widened a moment later as she saw Akane douse Ranma-chan with a bucket of cold water. Or attempt to.

She froze in mid-throw, the prematurely arrested bucket instead overrunning onto the floor. However, Ranma-chan overbalanced caught in an embrace from Shampoo while trying to avoid a hug from the deranged samurai. She fell forward onto Shampoo, causing the Amazon to drop into the expanding puddle of water. Naturally, Shampoo did not long retain her human form, leaving a wet bedraggled feline hanging on to Ranma-chan's neck. Although Ranma-chan valiantly attempted to fight the haze of fear descending onto through her meditation exercises, she was distracted from her attempt by the impact of a frozen Kuno who had finally tipped over from his outstretched pose. Ranma-chan's precarious control finally broke and she ran screaming through the door, with a frantically meowing Shampoo around her neck.

"I never figured out why she just doesn't let go," Ukyou sighed as she began to run after her fiancée.

"Amazons never let go of what they consider theirs," muttered Nabiki sourly to herself as she looked around at the mess. Perhaps the amusement value wasn't quite worth the effort fixing the circle would require.

Later that day Nabiki finally managed to get Ranma alone in her room, temporarily away from the madness that had returned with Ranma. He was once more in his male form, a fact that he was immensely thankful for.

"Well? What's the big deal? You've been glaring at me all night," Ranma asked nonchalantly. After all, what could she possibly be angry about? He hadn't even been around for the last few weeks.

"Alright, mister, perhaps you can fill me in on a little detail. Like why you've been letting Ryouga sleep with Akane for the last year?" the angry girl growled at the pig tailed boy.

"Ryouga? Heh, heh, heh. I... I... have no idea what you mean, Nabiki," Ranma stuttered in panic, at a loss in how to proceed.

"Now, now, Ranma, no need to lie. I found out that you knew P-chan was Ryouga. Now why didn't you tell Akane?" she said, while looking darkly at Ranma.

"It's about honor! I swear I didn't have a choice!"

"I think I'll need a little bit more explanation than that," coaxed Nabiki.

"Well, when I first found out Ryouga had a Jusenkyo curse I promised that I wouldn't tell anyone about it. How was I supposed to know that he'd start sleeping with the Tomboy."

"Is that all?"

"Isn't that enough? But no. Later, I also found out that I was the one that had accidentally pushed Ryouga into the pool," he said dejectedly.

"How did you find out about the curse anyway?"

Ranma paused a moment trying to reconstruct the events from almost a year ago. "Well, I think Ryouga umbrella was knocked away in the first fight out on the lawn. When I saw the empty clothes I naturally thought of Jusenkyo. So, I found a dog in the back yard and brought it inside, thinking it was Ryouga. You should have seen it. It had an evil gleam in its eye, I thought for sure it was him."

"Hey, I remember that! I always wondered why you had brought the neighbor's dog inside. So after you found out Ryouga was the pig you made the promise?"

"Heh, heh. Now that I think of it, I think I made it to the dog. I didn't even think about the pig until I dumped it in the bathtub," Ranma's face turned red as he recalled the events.

"Wait a minute. This word of honor of yours was given to the neighbor's dog?"

"It's not what it sounds like! It's the spirit of the promise that counts! A true martial artist..."

"You forgot that you gave your promise to a dog, didn't you?" Nabiki smirked.

"..."

"Pathetic."

"Hey! I tried to make up for it! I kept trying to get Akane to stop sleeping with the little pervert. She's just never figured it out. Keeps telling me not to pick on P-Chan."

Nabiki nodded in thought, Akane could be a little obtuse when it suited her. It certainly explained the senseless violence between the two rivals. Could it be that some small part of Ranma's life was based on some skewed logic, as opposed to sheer random chaos?

"I figured out a way to keep him from pulling another P-Chan thing. Got him a set of bracers like mine so he doesn't change any more. Told him that if he ever slept with Akane again I'd tell her."

"Despite your promise to the neighbor's dog?"

"Enough with the dog! It was a really busy night, I was tired. I forgot, okay?"

"So, I can assume that if Ryouga ever does this again you'll deal with it?"

"You bet! A man needs his rivals to keep him on his toes, but Ryouga needs to be a man about it."

"As opposed to a pig?"

"Heh! Yeah. Hey if you know about P-Chan why haven't you told Akane?"

Nabiki thought about the possible answers to that question. In the end, her pride forced her into one. "No one ever paid me for it," she simply said.

Ranma gave her a disgruntled sidelong look. What a cold-hearted bitch.

 

 

Ranma stood in the circle once more looking out into the basement of his manor house. In front of him were even fewer people than had seen him off. There was the sour-faced Summoner who had activated the circle the day before and an old woman. The old lady sent chills down his spine, as he reflexively looked around for water. Of course, there was no water. There would only be water when he was unaware of it. It seemed the nature of the curse was to be oblivious to the presence of water, as well as attracting the stuff.

"Hello. I am Ueda, the Shogun's grandmother. I was asked to perform a service for you," the elderly woman stated in a dignified tone. She squinted at him as if seeing something odd that she couldn't quite pin down.

Ranma's eye's widened as he recognized the woman he had met on the way to Kyoto.  "Hey. My name is Ranma. My sister mentioned that you may have a way to get me through the gate."

"Ranma? I thought that was the girl's name?" the priestess asked, somewhat suspicious.

"Erk. Her name? Ha, Ha! That Ranko! We're twins... yeah, that's it! Twins! Some people say we might as well be one person! Heh, Heh! Sometimes Ranko takes it a little too seriously and uses Ranma as a nickname. Confuses everyone back home too," Ranma looked sideways at the old woman, while apprehensively rubbing the back of his neck.

"That may explain why you two have almost the same aura. Very unusual. I've never heard of that, even in twins."  The woman glared at Ranma as if this quirk was his fault. Due to the fact that it was indeed his fault, this had the effect of making him extremely nervous.

"Well, look at the time," Ranma said, reflexively looking at his bare wrist. "Let's go over the plan. Need to help Lazlo and all that."

"Yes. I suppose so. Ran... ko mentioned that you might be able to send us information about our enemies if we were able to insert you into the Shogunate forces."

"Yeah. I can contact... Lazlo, and they can in turn leave messages in the circle. I need more than just to sneak into the Shogunate though. They have some sort of gate that I'll need access to."

"Hmm. We have made several contacts with the Shogunate forces. One of them wished to defect. Apparently, they have been sending small groups of their elite soldiers through for some sort of magical enhancement. He is on the list to be sent. Only half of them ever come back, but when they do they are incredibly powerful. Strong, supernatural strength and endurance as well as the seeming ability to cast certain spells. I don't like having to deal with traitors and cowards, but it seems that taking this man's place may offer you the best hope," she said distaste evident in her voice.

"How am I supposed to pass myself off as this guy? I don't know anything about him or the Shogunate?" Ranma pointed out the most obvious flaw in plan he had noticed.

"That is the most pressing drawback. However, it's not as serious as it may initially sound," the old woman turned away heading towards the stairs while still speaking. The Summoner had long since left, tired of having his time wasted. "Once you are on the other side of the gate you will most likely be surrounded by strangers. Not just people you don't know, but people the person whose identity you'll be borrowing won't know. Faking ignorance in that fashion won't be difficult. As for the impersonation beforehand... I know an excellent psychic who can imprint the basic information needed as long as he has access to a willing donor. We'll simply make this a condition of our acceptance for our little traitor."

"Psychic? Imprint? Wait a minute! I don't want anyone messing around with my mind!" Ranma angrily declared.

"Don't worry. He's very good. The chances of anything going wrong are negligible. Besides, it's only temporary. It will fade away in a few days, by then you'll be on the other side of the gate, away from anyone who thinks they know you and you should remember enough to know who to salute, if not their names," she said in a chiding voice. "Don't you trust me?"

"I ain't gonna do it! I can sneak in on my own and take my chances!" Ranma firmly stated.

"What a pity. It seems I am cursed to deal with honorless cowards in my old age," she sighed wearily to herself.

"Honorless coward? I ain't a coward! You take that back!" Ranma shouted his battle aura flaring to life around him.

"Well, what else do you call throwing away your best chance of success because you're afraid of a few psionic tricks. Your country... er, city, is depending on you and you're going to throw it away for a little paranoia. I fear I've lived past the age of heroes. I remember some truly great men..." she seemed likely to continue along this vein for some time until Ranma cut her off.

"Hold on a minute! Let me think!" Ranma commanded. To his mind, it wasn't the least bit paranoid to think that someone might use access to his mind to either learn his secrets or try to enslave him. Even those he considered friends probably wouldn't give much more than a second thought before giving in to such temptation. Then again, according to Thoth, Anhur, and Nabiki the mission he was on was vital to the entire megaverse. He had to admit he'd rather storm the place but had to realistically consider his chance of success. It would be years before he was good enough to do that.

"Fine. But if I find that this guy did anything funny, he's toast. I also want his promise on his honor," Ranma cracked his knuckles in anger. He hated being forced into positions like this. "Where do I meet him?"

"You'll meet him at the border of the Shogunate. He'll lead you to the meeting with the defector. After that, you should know all you need to... temporarily at least. Do you need help getting to the meeting place? I know you have never been on the island before."

"Yeah, right. Hmm. I can travel faster alone. If you give me a good map I should be able to do it. I've traveled a lot as I grew up. It is through real roads? I won't have to cut across some crazy woods, right?"

"No. It is easily accessible. No major roads, since there is no trade between us, but the way is clear."

"Great. When do I go?" Ranma asked, anxious to leave the presence of the troublesome old woman. It was odd, young women jumped at him and old women tormented him. It must be the price of being so popular. It was a burden but certainly better than being ignored.

"I'll need to contact our agents, but I can have things in place in three days. I'll come by then. Until then, you can enjoy the hospitality of your sister's home."

"I'll treat it like my own," Ranma reassured the retreating woman.

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