Sailor Moon Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction ❯ Happi's Redemption ❯ Transformation ( Chapter 5 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Happi's Redemption
A Ranma One Half Fan Fiction
By Michael A. Ivins
Ranma along with all of his friends, enemies and acquaintances are the property of Takahashi Rumiko. I'm just borrowing them for my own amusement and hopefully that of my readers. Sailor Moon and the Senshi aren't mine either. Please don't sue me.
This story takes place after the end of the manga.
Chapter 5
Ranma turned the bottle upside down and let the water gurgle out. She had expected to see a change and was not disappointed. The body of the little man began to grow and shift. Before long there was a scream. Happosai's voice had always been rather high for man but the character of the voice was definitely taking on feminine tones. Also heard was the sound of ripping cloth.
The redhead exclaimed, “Oh, Kami-Sami! I didn't think about your clothes.”
A feminine voice shouted, “Get it off, get it off! It's strangling me.”
Ranma rushed to help, saying, “Oh calm down you big baby. You just got too big for what you were wearing.” Mostly it was a matter finishing the tearing that had begun when the small body had changed to more normal proportions. It was perhaps fortunate that the Master's clothing was old and worn.
When the new girl was free of the constricting garments she sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. She commented, “This is something else we didn't plan on.”
Ranma also sighed. “Well, stand up. Let's have a look at you. Hopefully you won't be so big that you won't fit into one of my outfits.”
Before she stood up the new girl said, “Noriko.”
She answered, “I don't want to be Happosai any more. I've been thinking about it a lot on the trip here. I'm starting a new life here. The witch and I traveled for 20 years together. She was my friend and mentor. I feel it would be a tribute to her if I could take the same name.”
Ranma nodded in acknowledgement. It seemed like a good choice. Now if only the rejuvenated pervert didn't do anything to dishonor the name.
As Noriko stood, Ranma took out her flashlight and used it to illuminate the naked girl. She was taller than Ranma, not as tall as Kasumi, but just slightly taller than Nabiki. Her hair was a soft honey blonde that fell to her shoulders in an unruly cascade. Her eyes were a beautiful shade of green. Her face was beautiful, about equal to Ranma's own face. There were some fading red marks where the old clothing had pressed into the expanding flesh.
Ranma moved the beam of the light down and said, “Ghah! Does Nyaniichuan give big boobs to every cursed girl form?”
The blonde looked down at her chest. “Oh, wow! I suddenly feel this strong urge to grope myself.”
“Yeah, well control yourself for a little while longer,” Ranma advised. “From your height and build you should be able to wear one of my guy outfits. With that rack the shirt may be a little tight. It's the best we've got for now.”
From her pack Ranma pulled out pants, a shirt, boxers and a tank top. She also pulled a spare pair of shoes. She tossed these to the other girl.
Ranma said, “So, if you want to grope yourself please do it in your tent. I know there are girls who like to do that a lot, but I'd rather not watch.”
The new girl pouted cutely. “Awe, come on, Ranma. Don't you want to help me learn about my new body?”
The redhead just looked at her travel companion with one eyebrow raised. Finally she said, “I see. That sounds like more of that sick sense of humor I mentioned earlier. So are you permanently female now or are you going to change into a wrinkled old man with hot water?”
Turning serious with the serious question, Noriko said, “Nope, I'm permanently female. In turning me female and young the curse and the spell interacted and canceled each other out. I could take a hot bath and stay like this.”
Ranma nodded. “So from what you told me, your curse was attached to the spell. That means it should be gone now too, right?”
When Noriko nodded, Ranma asked, “Does that mean the amulet goes back to being a magical defense?”
Noriko frowned. “I don't know. It should, but it's possible that it was drained of its magic with all that just happened. I can't feel any magic in it, but that doesn't prove anything. My own magic will take some time to adjust to the new body. My ki already feels strong.”
The redhead scrutinized the other girl now and said, “Yeah, your ki seems strong for a normal person, a little low for a martial artist. I think it is building up. I don't know if it will get as strong as it did in your old body. After all you did have a long time to build up your reserves.”
“Good point,” the blonde conceded.
Ranma was studying the blonde's face in the firelight. “You know, you look closer to Kasumi's age than mine.”
The blonde girl seemed to ponder that for a while before answering. “As I understand, that's how the Nyaniichuan works. Since I was 305 years old the oldest the curse could make me was 19 or 20.”
In a grumpy tone the redhead groused, “So it's just me that gets turned into a kid.”
Noriko said, “You're going to have to get used to looking younger than your true age. Your different forms will only age when you are manifesting that form. Basically that means your girl form will only age when you are female and your birth form will only age when you are male.”
Ranma's eyes went wide. “Are you saying that the curse has doubled my life span?”
The blonde shrugged. “If you don't die by violence before your full span.”
The redhead seemed to be having trouble with this concept. “Are you saying I actually got something good out of the curse?”
Noriko asked, “Does it have to be all bad?”
In a slightly angry tone Ranma replied, “Well, they do call it a curse for a reason.”
Now in a philosophical mood, the blonde said, “Like many things in life, it could be a curse or a blessing. The difference is in how you deal with it.”
Ranma asked, “Is this one of those `if life hands you lemons, make lemonade' things?” She sounded annoyed.
The former man nodded. “I suppose it is.”
“How can changing into a girl and being a water magnet be a blessing?” Ranma demanded.
Noriko tilted her head in thought. “Well, I can see how the water magnet thing would be an annoyance. Being in wet clothes is not comfortable. The random timing of the changes must surely be inconvenient too and probably embarrassing. On the other hand when you eventually get married you will be much better able to relate to your wife.”
The redhead nodded, “Because I've experienced being a woman myself?”
The pigtailed girl shook her head. “I don't know. Akane always seems to think the whole girl curse thing is perverted.”
The new woman said, “Uh… you do know I was joking when I spoke of groping myself, don't you?”
Ranma frowned. “And how am I supposed to know that? You're still sitting there naked, after all. And you doing that kind of stuff with your female body would seem perfectly in character for you.”
Noriko looked down at her bare breasts and realized that she was, in fact, still naked. She grabbed the clothes Ranma had thrown her and stood up to put on the boxers and tank top. She hesitated to put on the other clothes. “I'm not sure if I should put the other stuff on if we're going to go to bed soon.”
The younger girl advised, “Better put `em on. If the Amazons do come we might have to run at a moment's notice. Do you really want to run through the back country of the Chinese mountains dressed like that?”
“Good point,” the taller woman conceded. The pants were a fair fit if a bit snug in the hops, but the shirt was sized for Ranma's male form. Noriko's ample bosom did strain the buttons. She unfastened the top buttons for the sake of comfort. At the same time she marveled at the concept of having cleavage, something she never before really expected to have.
Noriko did feel like giving a piece of advice to her traveling companion. “You know, after all of the problems Akane had with Kuno and the morning fights, she probably isn't the best judge of what is and isn't perverted now.”
The younger girl surprised Noriko by saying, “I've sort of come to realize that. But if I'm ever going to get married to her, I'm pretty much stuck living with what she thinks is perverted.”
The blonde woman wasn't sure why she was even getting into this but asked, “Do you love her?”
Ranma stayed silent for a while before setting a pot on the fire to heat some water for supper. Finally she spoke again, “I used to think I loved her right after the whole thing with Saffron. I thought she loved me too, but mistrusting me, calling me a pervert and hitting me with a mallet are funny way of showing it.”
The older woman nodded. Deciding a change in subject was in order she said, “I'm going to need to train to strengthen my new body. I'm pretty sure my ki will be as strong as before, but my muscles are still fairly weak. I'm also feeling a little unbalanced. I'm more than twice as tall as before and top heavy with these breasts. Will you spar with me when it gets light?”
The redhead shook her head. “I'm willing, but I think we should wait on that. It might be better to get going as soon as we can in the morning after breakfast. We don't know that the Amazons plan to come after us, but it might be safest to assume they will.”
“They seemed reluctant to get into a confrontation with you after they learned who you are,” observed Noriko.
The younger girl shrugged. “I guess I sort of have a reputation. They think someone with the strength to kill Saffron could destroy their village and kill everyone in it. I don't know if that will be enough to keep them at a distance. It all depends on how badly they want you. I guess it's a good thing they don't know that I'd never do something like wipe out their village.”
“Yes, a good thing,” the woman agreed. “Still, it would be best to avoid a confrontation. I wouldn't be much help to you until I get used to my new body and train. I can't realistically think that I would be properly able to defend myself yet.”
Ranma took a cup and dipped out some of the heating water. She splashed herself, changing to male. He said, “The Amazons will be looking for a red haired girl and a little old man.”
Noriko nodded. “They wouldn't be expecting a black haired teenaged boy and a…” She paused, then pulled some of her hair around to look at in the firelight. “I'm a blonde? Anyway, they wouldn't be expecting a black haired teenaged boy and a blonde haired young woman. You'd still have to change back to a girl when we get anywhere they're going to check your travel documents. What are we going to do about travel documents for me?”
The younger man sighed. “I can think of a couple possibilities. One would be to get back to Japan the way Pop and I did after we first got the curses.”
Noriko looked slightly alarmed. “You don't mean to swim back, do you? I don't think this body is strong enough to swim that far.”
“No,” answered Ranma. “We swam to get to China from Japan. Pop couldn't swim it as a panda because the wet fur weighed him down. We took a cargo ship. We worked for our passage. Pop tried to get out of any work and leave me to do it all, but the captain wouldn't allow it. I think that was the hardest I've ever seen him work.”
The older girl laughed. “Serves him right. What was your other possibility?”
“I was thinking about that first Amazon tribe we visited to get the supplies,” said the pigtailed martial artist. “They seemed pretty modern. I was sort of hoping that someone there would have a computer with a web cam. If they do, we could email a picture of your new face to Nabiki and she could get a new passport made for you. Then she could mail it to us at the village.”
The blonde was surprised again. “You know how to use a computer?”
Ranma snorted in amusement. “You said it yourself, there is more to life than martial arts. Ever since the fight with Saffron I've been going at school work like it was a martial arts challenge. Nabiki's even helping.”
Her expression skeptical, the older girl asked, “How much is she charging you for that?”
The boy shrugged, “She's charging me ten percent less than a night school would charge for the same lessons. After all, if she was to charge more, I'd just go to the night school.”
“We'd have to stay with those Amazon's until the new passport could arrive,” observed Noriko. “What will we do while we wait?”
The boy shrugged. “They seem like nice enough people. They were willing enough to help out a girl and old man before. Maybe they'd be more willing to help out two girls this time. I'm willing to work in exchange for a place to stay for a while.”
“How will we explain the fact that you were with an old man before and now you're with a young woman?” The blonde wanted to know.
Ranma explained, “We tell them that you, Noriko, met us in this valley. The old man died here (which is sort of true) and we buried him there. We then tell them we are going back to Japan together.”
The blonde nodded. “The only part of that that isn't true is the burial and we could even say that it was true in a purely symbolic sense.”
“I have a thought on that, the symbolism, I mean.” Ranma said thoughtfully.
The other woman looked interested. “Oh, what did you have in mind?”
The redhead grinned. “Just a little ceremony in the morning. We bury what's left of your old clothes. At the same time we say goodbye to Happosai.”
The older girl grinned, “I like it. I really do think Happosai is dead and I'm a new person. When we're burying the clothes we can also bury my pipe. I find that the thought of smoking that thing now makes me feel slightly ill.”
Ranma frowned. “I'm pretty sure it's not a male/female thing, `cause the old ghoul smokes a pipe.”
The older girl shook her head. “I can't explain it. I find I don't like the idea of drinking sake either and I used to love the stuff.”
“Looks like you'll have a lot of adjustments to make,” commented Ranma.
The blonde just grunted assent as Ranma dished up the food. When the woman took a taste of the rice she looked surprised. She then took a sip of the instant soup Ranma had made and her eyes got even wider.
Ranma noticed and asked, “Is something wrong with the soup? It's a cheap instant mix. You know, one of those you just add hot water to.”
The older girl was looking at the metal mug that contained her soup. “No, nothing is wrong with the soup. Quite the opposite, in fact. The soup is delicious. Even the rice tastes good. I think with the new body I must have got new taste buds. I don't think I've really tasted my food this much in a long time.”
The young man nodded. “That makes sense. That's probably why the idea of smoking and drinking don't appeal to you now.” He suddenly grinned. “If you think instant soup tastes good, we've got to get you back to Japan where you can have one of Kasumi's meals.”
Noriko shook her head. “It would seem I just thought I was tasting Kasumi's cooking. Somebody once told me that your taste buds wear out as you get older. I didn't really pay attention to it, but I guess I have proof that it's true.”
In a sarcastic tone the pigtailed martial artist said, “Great, something to look forward to when I get old.”
The older girl shrugged and went back to enjoying her food. She reasoned that she should enjoy it now while it was still new. Likely in a week or more she wouldn't find the soup so exceptional.
After they ate Ranma smothered the fire under dirt. He wanted to be sure that his eyes were adapted to the dark if the Amazons decided to sneak up on them under cover of darkness. He didn't really think they would, but felt it was better to be safe than sorry.
The next morning after breakfast Ranma pulled a folding shovel out of his pack and started to dig. He paused in his work to look at his traveling companion. Noriko was doing tai chi katas that placed their emphasis on balance. This was his first chance to see the transformed Happosai in the sunlight. She was worth looking at.
The impression from the previous night was borne out. She was about the same height as Ranma's male form, blonde haired and beautiful of face and figure. The body Nyaniichuan had given her looked moderately athletic but likely not nearly as fit as she would have liked. Her balance was still a little off because her performance of the katas was a little wobbly, but she seemed to be improving as he watched.
She was still wearing one of Ranma's shirts but with the top buttons undone to give room to her impressive bosom. While Noriko's breasts were actually larger than those of Ranma's girl form's, in proportion to her taller body, they about the same as Ranma's.
Ranma suddenly realized that he had been checking out Noriko like any pretty girl and turned back to digging. Sure, she was pretty and moved well, but this was Happosai for crying out loud.
When he had the hole deep enough, he called over to the young woman. “Hey Noriko, you want to do this ceremony now?”
The girl stopped her kata and walked over. She picked up the bundle of ripped cloth and looked at the hole. She commented, “I'm not sure if I should get rid of the pipe yet. I could still use it as a weapon even if I don't smoke it. I don't much care for the smell of it, though.”
Trying to consider the pros and cons of the situation, Ranma asked, “Do you actually need the pipe or do you just find it useful?”
Noriko thought a moment, “I guess I don't really need it, but it is useful.”
The boy nodded, “If you don't like the smell, then you should get rid of this pipe now and pick a new one that hasn't been used later. That way you'd still have your weapon but be rid of the smell.”
She nodded. “Good idea.” She pulled the pipe from her pocket and set it on top of the bundle of cloth then gently set the whole thing down in the bottom of the hole. She just stared for a few moments. Finally she said, “By this action we are saying goodbye to Happosai. He will never be seen again and I'm sure few, if any, will miss him. I can confess now that he was not a nice person but he did have reasons to behave the way he did. By burying this remnant I commit myself to also bury those behaviors of his that so annoyed people. I may forget sometimes and fall back into my old ways from time to time and I request that you remind me when you see me doing that.”
Ranma nodded. He then bowed his head and said, “Goodbye Old Freak. You were a serious pain in the ass but you did teach me some things. I won't miss having you groping my girl form. The jury is still out on the new girl, but I'm willing to give her a chance.”
Noriko inclined her head in acknowledgement. She had been given a new life and planned to make something of it.
The two stood for a time in silence. Finally Ranma looked up and Noriko gave him a nod. He nodded in reply and began filling in the hole. Before long the only thing left to show where the “remains” of Happosai were buried was a patch of freshly turned soil. Ranma idly wondered what the Amazon's would think if they dug up the pipe and bits of torn clothing.
Ranma eyed the sky for a moment. There were a few light, fluffy clouds, but nothing that threatened rain. His luck couldn't run so good that it would stay that way for long. He quickly struck camp and crammed everything into his pack.
Noriko reasonably pointed out, “Now that I'm a full sized person, I could carry some of that.”
The boy shrugged to settle the pack. “Then I guess this is an area where we didn't plan ahead properly. I'd let you carry some of this, but we only have the one pack. Neither of us thought to bring an extra one.”
The girl paused and chewed her lower lip for a moment. “Could… I try to carry that pack?”
The pigtailed martial artist studied his traveling companion. She looked fit, but nowhere strong enough to carry the pack more than a step or two. While he could argue the point, a demonstration would likely be much more effective.
He took off the pack and held it so Noriko could put her arms through the straps. When she seemed to have the pack positioned properly Ranma let go of it. The blonde woman staggered but managed to stay on her feet.
“Damn!” she swore. “This thing is heavy. Do you have training weights in there?”
The boy shook his head. “Just the usual stuff.” He pointed out, “You have a whole new body. I wouldn't expect that body to be as fit as someone who has trained for years. I'd say you're doing good to even stand up with the weight of the pack. Try walking with it.”
She took a hesitant step and followed it with another. It looked like she was making an enormous effort. A look of frustration came to her face. Finally after a few more steps she made a peremptory gesture and asked, “Help me get this off, please.”
Ranma walked up behind her and lifted the pack enough so she could slip out of the straps. The girl rubbed a shoulder where the strap had pressed down on it. “That settles it! When we get back to Japan, I'm going an intense program of strength, flexibility and speed training. To be in a body that is this weak is intolerable.”
Ranma sighed. “For now just try to work with what you have. Before you can start on that program we need to get somewhere where people aren't going to try and capture or kill us.”
“You do have a point,” she agreed.
Ranma put the pack back on and they headed out. As they went, Ranma probed ahead of them with his ki senses, looking for any people. Ranma set a brisk pace, but not so fast that Noriko couldn't keep up. What he was going for was a speed of travel that would push the new girl a little and work on building her endurance.
When they had reached about halfway through the next valley, Noriko was shocked when Ranma suddenly grabbed her and leapt into a tree. Because of her martial arts experience she didn't cry out or fight against Ranma. She figured there must be a reason for his actions. When they were in the tree she whispered, “What's going on?”
Even before he could answer she sensed the reason ahead. There was a party of Amazons coming up the trail. They didn't seem to be looking at the ground, so it seemed likely they weren't trying to track the travelers. Likely they were just going in the direction that Ranma and Happosai had last been seen traveling.
As the group of five warriors drew close to the tree where the travelers sheltered, their conversation became audible to those hiding. One of the women said, “Even if they did come this way, what would we do with them if we find them? Saotome may be a `mere' male but he's too strong for just our little group.”
Another scoffed, “We're some of the strongest of the tribe. What hope can one man have against us?”
The first speaker responded, “We're talking about the man who killed Saffron. An Elder would have a hard time fighting this man. How much better do you think you would do? Anyway, from the report we have Saotome is traveling in his Jusenkyo cursed form.”
The second warrior was still not convinced. “So? Right now she's a weak Outsider female. She's still no threat.”
The leader of the group shook her head. “Whether she's a threat or not, we must follow our orders. If we do meet up with them, we are to first talk to them. We are to fight only if persuasion fails.”
A third warrior asked, “Saotome said the old man was dying. What if he has died? We can't punish a dead man.”
The leader replied, “Then we ask to see his grave. We need proof of his death. If he truly is dead now then his punishment is in the hands of the gods and not for mortals like us to concern ourselves.”
There was a chorus of agreement to that as the group passed out of hearing range up the trail.
Noriko thought about asking Ranma to let go of her but she was enjoying the feeling of his strong arms holding her. She wanted to scold herself for feeling that way. She had been a woman for less than a day and already she was starting to react in a feminine way. That shouldn't be happening. Noriko had been male since she had been only a month old. She had never learned how to be a girl.
The fact that she was reacting this way raised some interesting possibilities. During the time she had been a man the only relationship she had ever had with a woman had been with Cologne. Other than hugging and kissing, there had never been anything physical to that relationship. At least she didn't think martial arts sparring counted.
She had thought the reason why no romance had ever developed with any other woman was due to Happosai's small stature and gnome-like appearance. Maybe the real reason for it was because of her own feelings. Could it be that she had been attracted to men and just buried that feeling down so deeply that she hadn't recognized it for what it was?
She wasn't sure what to think about that. On the one hand maybe it would mean that adjusting to being a girl would be a lot easier than she had thought it might be. On the other hand after three centuries as a male, a part of her strongly resented the necessity of becoming a woman. She wasn't sure what to think.
A moment later Ranma jumped to the ground and set Noriko back on her feet. He didn't notice the distracted look on her face as he said, “Well, that looks like they're just trying to search in the direction we were going. They don't seem to be looking for footprints and stuff.”
Noriko frowned and said, “If they are being thorough they might have sent a second party of trackers along. They would be following the footprints, bent grass, broken twigs and that sort of thing. Because they need to see those signs they will be traveling slower.”
Ranma nodded. “It should be harder to track us when we are traveling in the trees. I know you were complaining about being baggage before, but your new body isn't strong enough yet to jump between trees. Would you object to being carried?”
“Object?” After she had just been thinking about how enjoyable it had been to be held by strong male arms? Doing a fine job of acting she said, “I guess I can put up with it if I have to. I really need to train when we get back to Japan.”
Something in the girl's tone caused Ranma to look at her searchingly. Was something bothering her? She seemed oddly nervous or something about the prospect of being carried. Misinterpreting her demeanor he told her, “Don't worry about anything. I won't drop you.”
Oh, good. He's given me an excuse for acting foolish and girlish.” The blonde said, “That's alright. I trust you.”
There was something in the woman's tone that seemed… off. The pigtailed martial artist couldn't quite figure it out. Something was still bothering the girl but he was reasonably sure it wasn't a fear of being dropped. Inwardly he shrugged. He'd try to puzzle it out later. Right now they needed to get out of territory which was, if not actively hostile, could still be classified as unfriendly.
With that thought in mind, Ranma scooped up the blonde girl and leapt back into the trees. He took no particular notice that Noriko put her arms around his neck. After all, it made sense that she would want to hang on if she was nervous about being carried. It didn't seem to make a lot of sense for the girl to be nervous when she had been riding on the top of Ranma's pack as the little old man. That was another puzzle to ponder some other time.
Ranma tried to stay in the trees as much as he could. The few times there were no trees close enough he jumped down onto boulders that would not show much trace of their passage.
It was a couple hours later that Ranma again stopped in a tree. He stood on a branch with an arm around Noriko's waist to keep her from falling. It didn't occur to Ranma to wonder why the blonde was submitting to this treatment. If he had been in girl form he would have protested that he didn't need any of that kind of help.
In a few moments a group of three Amazons appeared. They were looking carefully at the trail. Not trusting the branches and leaves of the tree to conceal him, Ranma engaged his invisibility when they got closer.
One of the Amazons said, “This is useless! We've lost the trail. All we're doing now is going in the same direction as our quarry was last going.”
Another of the group chided, “Are you willing to concede defeat to that male?”
“Humph!” The first speaker responded. “I'll tell you what I'm willing to concede at this point. That's that women in general are superior to men in general. I would also be a fool if I didn't recognize the fact that there may be some rare individual men who could be superior to other men and even to general run of women. I'm not saying that an exceptional male would be superior to an exceptional female.”
The second woman looked in surprise at her companion. “You must be feeling really frustrated if you would say something like that.”
“Arrgh!” The woman ground out. “It's just that this Saotome person is sneaky and clever.”
The third member of the group complained, “What I can't understand is why they're going this way in the first place. There's nothing out here. No people live here.”
The first woman shrugged. “Maybe they wanted to get away from people.”
The third woman nodded. It would make sense.
The first woman said, “Saotome and the old pervert would have had time to finish whatever they came to do by now. Likely they're heading back by now.”
The second woman nodded. “If that's the case then the patrols in our territory will catch them.”
The leader of the group was in a pessimistic mood. “Catching them doesn't necessarily mean holding them. Ei Linah's squad caught them and let them go because Saotome was too strong for them.”
The second woman (she had blue hair) frowned at that. She said, “Do we even know what they came here to do? I mean, they traveled here from Japan and that is a long way to go just to tramp around in the woods. If they were trying to get Nyaniichuan water like Elder Soap said shouldn't they be going to Jusenkyo or trying to raid the storehouse?”
The pink haired leader frowned back. “I know. It doesn't make any sense. In this direction there's nothing but trees and grass. There are no people, no ruins of old cities, no treasures. Until you get out of the mountains there is nothing worth bothering with.”
The blue haired woman reasonably pointed out, “Well, there must be something or Saotome and the old pervert wouldn't be going way. I can't believe they are just going this way to leave the mountains. If that is what they wanted they could have completely avoided going through our territory.”
The third member of the party had blonde hair. She said in a speculating tone, “We know that the old man stole some of our treasures many years ago. It is possible that he stashed one or more of them in one of the valleys along this way. Maybe they came this way to retrieve something he left behind years ago.”
The pink haired leader rounded angrily on her blonde companion and started to say, “That…” She paused and her angry posture relaxed. “Actually, that makes more sense than anything else I've heard. Come on, let's go. The trees thin out enough ahead that they'd have to go back to the ground. We should be able to pick up the trail again.”
The trio headed off down the trail, not realizing how close they had come to their quarry. When they were out of sight, Ranma dropped his invisibility.
Noriko commented, “Well, they were right about one thing. We did come this way to get something that I stashed. I don't think they would call it a treasure, but it was a very valuable to me.”
Ranma nodded. “It saved your life. That would make it a treasure for you.”
The young woman sounded thoughtful. “It did more than save my life. After more than 300 years it made me what I was originally born to be. As a man I was one of the greatest martial arts masters but I can admit now that I wasn't a very nice person. Now that I am a woman, I intend to correct that.”
Ranma smiled at the woman. “I'm glad to hear that. If that's really what you want to do, I'll give you whatever help I can. When we get back I'm sure Kasumi will want to help too. I'm not too sure about Akane and Nabiki probably won't help unless you pay her.”
The blonde frowned, “I'm betting that Soun and Genma won't be too helpful. I must admit to poor judgment with them. There were times when I was more than a little crazy in my training methods. They are the type to hold a grudge.”
The pigtailed boy nodded. “In anything outside of the Art my Pop isn't the brightest person. I'll just have to try and make him see that his grievance was with Happosai and Noriko's a different person.” He absently cracked his knuckles and got an expression his face as if the idea of “educating” his father appealed to him.
Noriko pointed out, “Well, we do know one thing from listening to the trackers. They are still patrolling back in Joketsuzoku territory.”
Ranma wondered, “Would giving back the stuff you stole get them to back off?”
The blonde woman looked sad. “It might if I still had all of that stuff. Most of the things I took turned out to be useless for what I wanted. I either threw them out or traded them for other magic artifacts while looking for something to cancel my curse. That's how I got the Amulet of Ortiz.”
The young man looked worried. “You didn't keep anything?”
She shrugged. “The only item I still have with me is the Nanban Mirror and it's of limited usefulness because it's broken. You'd really be taking your life in your hands if you try to use the Mirror in its current condition.”
Now puzzled, Ranma asked, “Why did you keep it if it's broken?”
Noriko shook her head. “I was sort of hoping I'd find a way to fix it. When the Mirror is working properly and used right it is a powerful tool. It is just tricky to use.”
The pigtailed martial artist nodded. “Since the mirror is no good to you right now maybe you could give it to the Amazons. They might be willing to accept it as a gesture showing that you've reformed.”
The blonde woman started to snicker. “Re-formed? Oh, yes. I've truly re-formed.”
Ranma rolled his eyes. “That's not how I meant it.”
The young woman controlled her amusement with some effort. “I'm sorry, I couldn't help that. Well, I don't know if I'll ever be able to fix the Nanban Mirror so it wouldn't be a sacrifice to give it up.”
Her hand went to the front her shirt. “I didn't get it from the Amazons, but I'd be willing to give them the Amulet of Ortiz as a gesture. I've gotten what I needed from it. I could see where it might be useful as a magic defense, but I'm sure I could live without it. Maybe the Amazons will accept it in place of some of the other stuff I took.”
The black haired boy said, “We'll keep that as an option if they catch us. I think it would be preferable to violence. I'd also prefer it to trying to scare them off like I did the last time. They don't know that the only way I'd fight them is to defend if they attacked.”
Noriko nodded. “For now let's just try to avoid any confrontations.”
He grunted in agreement as he scooped her up in his arms again and leapt to the next tree. By mutual agreement they let Noriko take care of the ki scan of the area, while Ranma concentrated on moving them along. That freed Ranma's concentration for picking his way through the trees
Author's Note: Happosai is a woman now. You had to know I would make her beautiful. It adds to the potential complications. Ranma has noticed how good Noriko looks and Noriko likes being held in Ranma's arms. Is it Ranma or would Noriko react that way to any man?