Chapter One: The Task at HandEdit
Ranma woke. Groggily he sat up and stretched his arms.
Scratch that. She stretched her arms.
To Ranma's surprise, she had woken up not in her bed like she had expected, but on the side of the road, and in girl form. The wet feeling of her clothes hugging her skin had explained her current form, but she couldn't figure out for the life of her how she'd gotten there.
She recognized the stretch of road she was on, and immediately set home, almost completely sure that either Akane or her own father had something to do with it.
She was equally as surprised to find out she was not in her nightwear, but her usual style of clothing. A blue chinese style shirt with wooden ties, and black elastic pants.
It must have been the confusion, but she didn't see the figure running down the street at a moderate speed until the two of them bumped together forcefully.
Getting up and rubbing her head, Ranma apologized.
"Sorry about that," she said without looking up. She was too distracted at the moment to notice anything.
The girl got to her feet and smiled. "That's alright. I don't think I was looking where I was going."
Ranma recognized the voice immediately. She looked wide-eyed at the source.
"A..Akane?" She blinked.
Akane blinked in return. "Do I know you?"
Ranma stood and stared. When had Akane grown her hair long again?
"Hello?" Akane waved her hand in front of Ranma's face.
Her mind drifted to the events of the previous night.
She put two and two together and came up with an answer.
"I've started over." She looked at her hands.
Ranma blinked. Now was not the time to be muttering in front of Akane. "Sorry. No, I just... uh... recognized you from school..."
"Oh? You go to Furinkan?"
Great. Just the question he needed. Time to think quickly. "No. I.. uh... I plan to, though. I'm actually between schools right now."
Akane blinked. "Oh. Alright, then. I'll see you around, I've got to get home and get ready for school!"
Ranma frowned. After Akane had gone a good distance, she glared at the sky.
Quietly, she began to speak. "Listen to me, you washed up excuse for a God. Get down here. Now."
There was no answer.
"Do you want me to shout?"
Still no answer.
"WELL?!" she shouted.
"Okay, okay. I'm here. Yeesh," a voice came from before him. "What is it? I was trying to put the moves on Athena!"
"What the heck is going on?!" she yelled at him.
"What, you don't remember?"
"Of course I remember! But what the heck am I doing back here?!?"
"Back here? What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb. You know what I mean, you time- travelling freak!"
"Time travelling?" He laughed. "Boy, you've been watching too much science fiction, young Saotome."
"Then why the hell doesn't Akane recognize me? Why is her hair long?"
"Well, because you never got into that fight with Ryouga that ended in chopping her hair up in this reality."
"I said, you never--"
"I KNOW WHAT YOU SAID!"
"But you said--"
"I meant what you mean by 'this reality'."
"Oh. Well, thats simple. In this reality you never fell into Jusenkyo, and in turn, Ryouga never fell in, either."
"I never fell into Jusenkyo?" she asked.
"THEN WHY THE HELL AM I A GIRL!?!"
"Hey, calm down. I said in this reality you never fell in. But you're not from this reality."
"You expect me to replace the Ranma of this world with you? That would be killing, and that's.. well... just icky."
"Are you telling me theres another me floating around out there?"
Aizen Myoo nodded.
"And I've got to set this other me up with that Akane?"
"And in this reality, the other me never fell into Jusenkyo?"
"This oughta be a cinch." She smiled. "But what's in it for me?"
"You get to go back to your reality."
"Are you serious? I've got nothing going for me there! I've got a curse, more fiancees than you can shake a stick at, hot-shot martial artists are showing up every other minute to challenge me for something or other. Heck, why don't I just stay here?"
Aizen Myoo looked at him skeptically. "Because that would be wrong?"
Ranma scoffed. "Forget it. I ain't doing nothing. I can do just fine by myself."
"Oh, did I forget to mention that I'd remove your curse?"
Ranma blinked. In a split second, she was up to Aizen Myoo's face. "Where did you say I lived?"
Ranma smirked. She would have eventually come around to matching the other Ranma with Akane to get back to her world. Even if it was weird, it was home. And the place she was in, now that she thought about it, seemed alien.
He was somewhat surprised to hear that he lived at his mother's house. Knowing his father, he never would have brought him there if he could help it.
But what she saw next surprised her even more. Her father was mowing the grass.
She blinked at first. He wasn't wearing his gi and bandanna, but a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. His glasses had been traded in for a pair of shades.
She smirked as he leaned towards the fence. This was a rich sight to behold.
Fortunately for Ranma, her father noticed quite quickly that someone was watching.
"Is there something I can help you with, Miss?" he asked.
Ranma looked confused for a second. She thought she actually sensed a hint of respect in his voice.
"Um, yeah. I was told this is where Ranma Saotome lives?"
Genma visibly sunk his shoulders. "Yes, but he's at school today." He pulled off his shades to get a closer look at her. "Have we met?"
Ranma shook her head.
"Are you sure? You do seem awfully familiar..."
"I'm pretty sure. Ranma goes to Furinkan, I assume?"
Genma blinked as Ranma ran off into the distance. He blinked again when he noticed her jump up on a fence and continue to run just as fast.
His final blink came when he realized she had called him 'Pop'.
"Ranma Saotome?" Hinako Ninomiya called out. "Is he late again?"
"I think he's sick today, Teacher." Daisuke pointed out.
"Oh. Alright, then." She marked down his name and continued.
"Here!" she called out.
"Hey Akane?" The girl beside her called. Akane looked over toward her friend.
"Yes?" She looked at Sayuri questioningly.
"Some fancy moves this morning, Akane. It only took you half the time it usually took to beat Kuno."
"I know, I was just so close to being late, I didn't want to risk anything."
"Yeah, I noticed you were a minute later than usual. What happened?"
"I ran into a girl this morning. It was kinda strange, really. She acted as if she knew me, but I didn't know her."
"Maybe she's one of those stalker girls. You know. The ones that swing 'both ways'?"
Akane scoffed. "That's just what I need. A fan club from both sexes."
"Either way, your sister still beat the odds."
"Nabiki always manages to do that. I'd throw a fight one of these days just to spite her, but I already know the consequences."
"Well, you'll find a boy you like someday, Akane."
Akane scoffed again. "Not bloody likely. Boys are perverts."
"Not all of them, Akane." Yuka chimed in.
"Well, most of them. And they all go to this school."
"I don't know. There are a few boys that don't seem perverted."
"Well, who doesn't try and attack you every morning?"
Akane blinked. There were only a handful of boys in the school that never tried to attack her. None of them really interested her.
"It's hard to keep track of. All of them look the same."
"What about that Ryouga guy? He's kinda cute. I wouldn't mind going out with him."
"I dunno, I hear he's got a pretty bad sense of direction."
Yuka shrugged. "Does it matter? He's cute."
"What about those guys he hangs out with?" Sayuri asked.
In the back row, a small form which nobody knew, slouched further into his desk.
"I meant Saotome."
"He's kinda cute. But he's a bit of a wimp."
"Do you guys ever talk about anything but boys?" Akane asked, visibly annoyed.
Yuka and Sayuri took the question seriously. For all of two seconds.
"Nope!" they both chimed.
Ranma headed up the stairs and around the corner.
She paused just as she saw the homeroom number. The place she most imagined the other Ranma would be.
She took a peek in.
"Can I help you, Miss?" the teacher called from the front. Ranma smirked as he realized who it was.
"I'm looking for Ranma Saotome," She told her.
"I'm afraid Ranma is home sick today. You'll have to find him there."
Ranma blinked in confusion. "I just came from his home. He's not there."
Ms. Hinako blinked. "Okay then. I'll just have to mark this down."
Daisuke glared towards Ranma.
Still unsure why Ranma wasn't there, he ducked his head out of the room. He'd need to find a way to keep better track of him.
He smiled as he realized the best way.
He ran towards the 11th grade wing.
"Honestly, Kuno-baby. You'd think by now you would have realized that you're no match for my sister."
"Indeed, Nabiki Tendo. Although I am much for than a match for her, I cannot bring myself to defame her feminine ways in public."
Nabiki looked at him skeptically.
"Excuse me?" a voice called from the door.
The teacher looked up at the source.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I need to speak to Nabiki Tendo."
"Very well. Nabiki, see to this please," he instructed her.
Normally, if it were any other student, the teacher would have refused. But he was well aware fo her business within the school and even further. Also the fact that she had a very compromising picture of him which involved two maracas, a container of K-Y jelly, and a jackhammer motor.
"Something you need?" Nabiki asked her.
Ranma smiled. "I need your help."
"Help doesn't come cheap."
"Name your price, Nabiki."
Nabiki looked at her skeptically. "Cash or other?"
Ranma blinked. She didn't have any cash on her. "Other," she replied.
"What do you need?"
"I need enrollment into this school, but I can't use my real identity."
"So you need some...?" She gestured for him to continue her sentence.
Ranma shook his head in annoyance. "I want some fake documents."
"That's what I needed to hear. Alright. This won't come cheap. Any name in particular?"
Ranma thought for a moment. He would have to enroll as a girl, lest it become confusing between the two.
"Any preference on a last name, Ranko?"
She thought again. She obviously couldn't use Saotome. And when she had gone under 'Ranko Tendo' before, the circumstances had been completely different. Even now, Nabiki would probably look on in confusion.
"Very well. I dub you Ranko Satohara."
Ranko Satohara smiled.
"Now we discuss the price."
Ranko Satohara winced.
"Nothing big. You just work for me for one month's time."
"Informant. If I want you to find out something about someone, you'll find out all there is to know for me."
"Even if the someone is you."
She winced again. She knew how good Nabiki was at telling if someone was lying.
"Anything else, Miss Satohara?"
"One more thing. Information."
"One extra week of work per article."
"I only need info on one person."
"Two weeks, and I'll tell you all you need to know about them."
"Good. Miss Satohara, you've just been hired."
"What do you know about Ranma Saotome?"
"Reason why you want to know about him? Personal, business, or other."
"Personal, I guess."
"You don't plan on stalking him, nothing like that?"
"No. GOD no. Nabiki, how could you even ask that?"
Whoops. Ranma scolded herself. A little too familiar there.
Nabiki didn't seem to notice it. "Any specific information you need?"
"Just one thing. Where is he?"
"Then he's either with Ryouga Hibiki, or he's at the game shop."
"He skips school often, either to goof off with Ryouga, or play video games if he can't find him."
"Great. If he's with Ryouga then I don't have a chance on finding him."
Nabiki laughed. "Sounds like you know Hibiki, then."
"I'll have the documents ready by tonight. I'll tell you what, I'll see if I can save you the trouble of having to enroll yourself, a freebie."
"Great. Thanks a lot, Nabiki."
"One more thing."
"You have a uniform... Right?"
"Of course, you don't plan to wear those clothes to school tomorrow, do you?"
"Yep, room 1-A. Be here on time, Ranko Satohara."
Ranma could only blink.
"Hey, Ranma. I thought I'd find you here," Ryouga chimed.
"Hey Ryouga. What's up?"
"How's the tournement coming along?"
"Pretty good... I'm in the semi-finals."
"Yup. Come on man, I'm the master. Nobody can defeat me."
"I dunno, Ranma. If I ever bothered to learn, think I might stand a good chance against you?"
"Are you serious? I'd beat you into submission like the rest of these jokes."
"Well, the rest of these jokes have almost no experience, Ranma."
"Well, the semi-finalists have skill. I'll beat them and take the all-Japan record."
"Good luck, Ranma."
"Who else can pull of a ki attack with such ease?"
"I dunno, that guy Makoto seems pretty good."
"That guys got more muscle in his head than his arms."
"But he's good."
"All you hafta do is outsmart him, and he's done for."
"Well, still. I wouldn't tell him that to his face. He's a pretty big guy."
"So? If he wants to beat on me just cuz I beat him in a fair game of DoA, then so be it. Just goes to show how much muscle he has."
Ryouga shook his head. "Ranma, I'm not always gonna be around to save you from your mouth, man."
"Nah, he's too stupid to do anything about it."
"Ranma. Drop dead knockout at seven o'clock."
"Oh jeez. Not another girl."
"Come on, Ranma. You could take a few pointers from me."
"I don't need pointers, Ryouga."
"Hey. She's coming over here."
Ryouga was right. A drop dead gorgeous girl wearing a blue chinese style shirt which hung loosely from her shapely body had just walked into the shop, and was heading directly for them.
Ryouga was the first to speak. "Hello there."
The girl nodded. "Hey." She looked towards Ranma. "Ranma Saotome?"
"Eh?" He asked, pulling himself away from his game.
"You can't be serious," she muttered.
"You're Ranma Saotome?"
"Yeah. There a problem with that?"
Ranko shook her head. Standing in front of her was a poor excuse for a person.
It was Ranma, all right. She could tell from the face. Even the pigtail was there. But the muscles were gone.
In front of him stood Ranma Saotome, heir to the anything goes school of martial arts. A second hand wimp.
"You need me for something?"
Ranko snapped out of it. "I'm your new classmate. Ranko Satohara."
Ranma nodded. "How'd you know to find me here?"
"I'm Ryouga Hibiki. Nice to meet you," Ryouga said, and bowed.
Picking up strange vibes from Ryouga, Ranko backed away for a second.
"Any particular reason for looking for me?" Ranma asked.
Ranko blinked. She had to think quickly. "I uhh... I know your parents."
"Really? I've never seen you around before."
"Well, no. My uhh... Grandfather was pretty close to your dad."
Ranma blinked for a moment. "My dad? Funny. I never heard of him having friends."
Ranko nodded nervously. "Yeah, sure. They go way back."
Ranma tilted his head. "That's funny. Oh well. Nice to meet you, Ranko." Ranma smiled.
"Yeah, nice to meet you," Ryouga interupted. "Say, if you're Ranma's new classmate, then why aren't you in school?"
Ranko smirked. "And why aren't you two in school?"
Ranma stammered. "I... uhh... I've got a... day pass! Yeah, that's it. I got a day pass!"
Ranko narrowed her eyes. "A day pass from school? To go play video games?"
"Yeah, sure," Ryouga continued, "I got one too... I'm his.. uhh... trainer. He's going for a the all-Japan competition."
"For a video game?"
Ranma beamed. "Yup."
Ranko looked at the box in front of them. It was your normal, everyday arcade game, Dead or Alive was the title.
"You don't know much about real martial arts, do you?"
Ranma blinked. "Not really. Why?"
Ranko shook her head. "No reason... just... just wondering."
"I do. I'm one of the best fighters in the school!" Ryouga smiled.
Ranko nodded. "Uh huh."
Ranma smiled. "Yeah, there's Kuno, and then there's him."
"Hey, I can lick Kuno any day of the week!"
"Sure, then why don't you try?"
"Cuz he keeps saying whoever can beat him will be worthy of the hand of Akane Tendo. I don't want her."
"Amazing. Ryouga Hibiki doesn't want a girl."
Ryouga hit Ranma lightly on the side and then motioned towards Ranko.
Ranma smiled. "I meant... uhh..."
Ranko shook her head. "Don't matter. Shouldn't you guys head to school? Theres something I've gotta do... I'll uhh.. talk to you guys later."
Ranma nodded. "Sure. See you around."
Ranko just kept shaking her head and walked away.
"I don't know about you, but I'm going to school tomorrow."
"You're not even in my class."
"Like I care. I'll be closer to her."
Ranma smirked. "She's kinda cute, ain't she?"
"Kinda? That's like saying Tokyo is kinda big."
"And you would be the best judge of that, Ryouga."
"I'm gonna get a date with her."
"A date?" Ranma laughed. "Somehow, I don't think she'd go out with you, Ryouga. She doesn't seem your type."
"You saying you could do better?"
"No, that's not what--"
"No, you're saying you have a better chance with her than I do!"
"Well, she did come here to find me."
Ryouga narrowed his eyes. "Fine, wanna put some money on it?"
Ranma narrowed his eyes. "A bet?"
Ranma turned around. "What are the stakes?"
"I win, you have to challenge Kuno publicly."
Ranma's eyes went wide. "Are you crazy? Kuno? He'll make mincemeat out of me!"
"Afraid you'll lose?"
"No, and I'm not going to. Fine. I accept. I win, and you have to become my slave until the end of the year."
Ryouga smirked. "You're on."
Ranko sighed. This was going to be a lot harder than she had anticipated. She had expected Ranma to at least know a bit about the art. But none at all, AND friends with Ryouga was too much.
But she placed that behind her for the moment. She had things to prepare for. There was no way in hell she would wear a Furinkan uniform, let alone a GIRLS uniform to school. But she also had to arrange a place to sleep for the night. In the wilderness, sleeping outside was fine, but she was in the city.
She would have to arrange a room. There was only one way she could think of.
Truthfully, she thought of several ways. First and foremost, at the Tendos'. She thought she could find her way into their home and have some bedding. At least for the night.
She cancelled that idea as she realized she had already imposed enough on Nabiki. Then she came up with a bright idea. The one person she knew more than anyone in her life.
Genma Saotome. Her father.
That train of thought had eventually led her to the home she had been to earlier, where a sweaty Genma Saotome had been mowing his front lawn.
She walked up to the front door and knocked.
Nodoka opened the door, expecting to see some sort of saleman, or neighbour. She did not expect to see the girl who stood in front of her.
The girl seemed flustered for a moment, as if she had not expected to see Nodoka.
"Mrs. Saotome?" the girl asked.
Nodoka smiled and nodded. "Yes, that's me. Can I help you?"
"I'm... I'm the uhh... the grandson--daughter! Grand-daughter of an... an old friend of your husbands."
Nodoka blinked. "An old friend of my husband? Who might that be?"
"Uhhh... master Happosai."
Nodoka's brow lowered. "Who?" Her tone had taken a decidedly lower pitch.
"Master Happosai. I'd expect your husband to know who I'm talking about."
Nodoka sighed. "Genma, dear. Come here for a moment."
A slight grumbling from the other room produced her overweight husband. "Yes, honey?"
"Do you know someone by the name of Master Happosai?"
Genma jumped. "Don't say that name!"
"Master Happosai? Why not?"
Genma flinched again. "Honey, please!"
"Mr. Saotome?" the girl standing at the door asked.
Genma looked at her for a moment. "Weren't you here earlier this morning, looking for Ranma?"
The girl nodded. "Yes, and Master Happosai is my grandfather."
Genma's eyes widened. "He's... your grandfather?!"
The girl nodded.
Genma scooped her from the doorway and brought her inside, nervously looking around outside.
"Where is he?" Genma asked. "He's not... out, is he?"
The girl looked deep in thought for a moment. "I don't know, actually."
"Genma, dear?" Nodoka asked. "Who is this person?"
"I could go get him, if you'd like. There are only two places he could be."
Genma waved his hands in front of him. "No no no! No need for that."
"Nodoka, remember where I was during Ranma's first five years?"
Nodoka nodded, and then stared. "HIM!?"
Genma could only nod.
"Excuse me?" the girl interupted.
"Sorry, dear. Go on."
Ranko sighed. "Well, I'm new in town, and I'm starting school at Furinkan tomorrow. I just wanted to meet Ranma before I started. But now it looks like I'll have to go back."
"Back where, dear?" Nodoka asked.
Ranko blinked. "Uhh... Kansai."
"I wasn't aware the Master had any children. What was your father's name, child?" Genma asked.
"Uhh... Garter Belt."
Genma nodded. "She's telling the truth. That sounds like the master."
"You have nowhere to stay?"
Ranko shook her head.
"What is your name, dear?"
"Ranko... Ranko Satohara."
"Ranko? How strange. Our son's name is Ranma. What a coincidence."
"Yeah. A coincidence." Ranko laughed.
Nodoka looked up in thought for a moment. "I suppose we could put you up here for a little while. You would have to sleep in the guest room. There's no bed in there, but we have a futon."
Ranko lit up. "Really?" She feigned excitement. "You could do that for me?"
Nodoka smiled. "Of course, dear. We're not going to let you go back to Kansai that quickly!"
"Wow! Thank you, Mrs. Saotome!"
"Of course, dear, you will have to help with the housework."
Ranko flinched. "That's... okay."
"Have you met Ranma yet?"
"Yeah, I ran into him."
Nodoka smiled. "You know, he is single."
Ranko flinched again. "Really?" she forced out.
Nodoka smiled. "Why don't you run and get your things? I'll set up the guest room!"
"Thanks a lot, Mrs. Saotome! You won't regret this!"
Ranko jumped up and ran out the door, not even thinking about things. She was happy because she had found a place to stay, without imposing too much on the wrong people.
She paused when she realized she didn't have any things.
"Oh crap," she said.