Sailor Moon Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction ❯ Happi's Redemption ❯ What is This Feeling ( Chapter 6 )

[ 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 6
What is This Feeling?
The travelers stopped when they were a short way from the Joketsuzoku border late that afternoon. They made camp in an isolated clearing. So as not to give their position away with smoke, Ranma used a small one burner camp stove. He had used ordinary camp fires with dry wood from the forest before.
The stove burned with a blue flame that didn't give off any visible smoke and not much light. This allowed them to cook before it got dark. They didn't want to use the stove after dark because low light wasn't the same as no light and the flame would be visible in the dark.
Having had a day to recover from her transformation, Noriko found that her ki was returning to the levels they were before when she had been Happosai. In fact her ki reserves seemed to be greater than they had before. She speculated that it was due to her now having a female body to go with her female soul.
Now that her ki was back to the level it had been at before she could use it to enhance her movements in speed and strength. The drawback to that with her weaker muscles was that overuse of ki to boost her movements could strain those muscles. That kind of boost would have to be used sparingly.
She gave it some thought. If need be, Noriko could raise an impressive battle aura. It wouldn't quite come up to the level of power that Ranma could manifest, but for a simple display, she could do enough to be intimidating. If it came to a fight she could still throw Happo Dikarin, her ki enhanced firecrackers. She could also do the ki draining move she had taught to Ms. Hinako.
That brought her to another train of thought. Teaching that technique to the young girl had saved her life. The problem was that it made her something of an outcast. Noriko would have to devote some time to finding a way to turn the girl to normal. It would likely be tricky to do.
If she was going to be correcting past mistakes, she should give consideration to the name of Pantyhose Taro. Would he even accept a new name when it came from a young blonde woman instead of a shriveled up old gnome? That was a problem to think about later.
She thought about the things she had stolen from the Amazons. While it was true that the Amazons hadn't been using the stuff, that didn't change the fact that it was theirs. Maybe now that she had a new body and a younger brain she might be able to remember what she did with all of the items she had taken. Recovering most of them would likely be hard but that was also something to think about later.
For the Nanban Mirror, she figured she would give it to Cologne when they got back to Japan. Knowing the old crone, she'd probably say it was too little, too late. Oh well, it was mostly just a gesture anyway.
As the sun dropped below the horizon Noriko couldn't avoid a slight shiver. Without a campfire it was rather cold in the mountains of China. Unbidden, another of those girlish thoughts came to her mind. She pictured Ranma sitting next to her putting an arm around her to warm her.
Unfortunately for Noriko, Ranma wasn't receiving any telepathic messages. He went to his tent and said, “With no fire for warmth we'd better get into our bedrolls.”
It was with some difficulty that Noriko resisted the urge to pout. Even if she used to be an old man, she was a young girl now and she felt the strong urge to snuggle with a cute boy. She was surprised at herself for feeling that way, but decided to embrace the feeling. She was going to be a woman for the rest of her life, after all.
Suppressing her feelings, she followed Ranma's suggestion. She still had to wonder why she was reacting this way after three centuries of being a man. Not just any man at that. She had been one of the most perverted men alive (or at least that was her reputation.)
As she lay in her tent she thought about that. It was true that as a man she had groped lots of women. She had acted like the worst kind of lecher. The thing about it was that, like she had told Ranma, it had been a game, playing a part. She had never truly felt lust for the women she groped, even if she pretended that she did. Watching women on TV and looking at pictures in magazines had been for the purpose of staying in character.
At least she didn't think she felt lust for those women. She re-examined her feelings in the new context of her new female body. Had she really felt no attraction to the women? Did she really get no thrill from looking at the pictures?
A thought occurred to her. She remembered the “mental exercise” that Ranma had requested of her. Since it was still fairly early and Ranma didn't seem to be in the mood to talk right now, she would try a somewhat broader form of mental exercise.
She called up a memory of being Happosai groping on the ample assets of Ranma's female form. It was an easy memory to call upon as she had groped Ranma the most of any woman. She remembered that beyond the absorption of ki it had been fun. She had enjoyed it more than just playing a part should have allowed.
Hmm. She decided to try and bring her imagination into play. In her mind she changed her perspective so that instead of the tiny body of Happosai, she was now imagining what it would be like for her as Noriko to fondle Ranma's sizeable breasts.
Huh? There was an odd feeling of warmth in her body, but strongest between her legs. In addition to the warmth there was a kind of tingling sensation that she felt in her own breasts. Wait a minute! Were her nipples getting stiff? She had never experienced it before but had read plenty about it. She was getting aroused while thinking of groping Ranma's girl form.
She dismissed the memory and took a deep shuddering breath. That was… different. Apparently she had actually gained some pleasure when groping women when she was Happosai. It hadn't been truly sexual before and that was likely because her own sexuality had been so thoroughly messed up by the spell and the curse. She had found male ki to be repellant and so had stayed away from any kind of intimate contact with men and boys. To be sure she had fought with and sparred with plenty of men but that was different.
It would take more of a mental effort but she decided to try the exercise Ranma had requested. She pictured herself in her current body being groped by her own former self. It was an effort but she eventually got the feelings right. The emotional reactions were pretty much as Ranma had described them. She shuddered as she cast the image from her mind.
After that she felt dirty, like she wanted to take a bath or shower to wash away the feelings. Oh Ranma, I'm so sorry for subjecting you and all of those other women to that. I didn't know what I was doing. There was no way she would ever be able to make it up to all of the women she had ever groped as Happosai, but she would try to make it up to Ranma if he would let her.
Unbidden, a thought came to her mind. She remembered how she had felt when Ranma had held her as he leapt from tree to tree. She had felt so warm and protected. Not sure why she was doing it, she conjured up in her mind the image of herself again being fondled. However this time it was male Ranma's hands on her breasts. The feeling was very different. Again she felt the sensations of arousal. In the image in her mind she pictured Ranma's hands on her bared breasts. It felt good.
The fantasy in her mind began to escalate in intensity. Instead of just touching and groping her breasts the dream Ranma was massaging one of her breasts and his other hand went behind her back as he leaned in and kissed her. It was a deep passionate kiss with dueling tongues. A moment later Ranma pulled back and moved down, his tongue sticking out in preparation to lick one of her nipples.
Noriko's eyes snapped open. She was panting and found her own hands were massaging her breasts. She looked out the opening of her tent toward Ranma. Fortunately, he didn't seem to have noticed what she was doing. Somewhat reluctantly she removed her hands from her breasts.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? Was she just having a sexual fantasy where Ranma was making love to her? That's sure what it seemed like.
Well! That mental exercise was certainly educational. It would seem that before as a misplaced woman in a man's body she was confused and didn't really know what to do with her sexuality. Now that she had a woman's body she learned that she was likely bi-sexual. She found thoughts of Ranma's female form arousing and thoughts of being touched by his male form were even more arousing.
She didn't even know if Ranma knew how to make love to a woman. From the way the boy reacted to teasing, she suspected that he didn't know. That would fit with the way Genma would have raised him. The bald idiot wanted to raise his son to be the greatest martial artist of his generation. That would probably have meant teaching that sex was a “distraction from the Art.”
She shook her head when she considered that. It seemed the height of stupidity to teach the boy something like that when engaging the boy to marry multiple fiancés.
Dismissing that thought from her mind she turned her thoughts back to her own sexuality. As a man she had been confused. As a woman she was apparently bi. Not only that, she was sexually attracted to Ranma in both forms. That was unexpected. True, in female form Ranma was a hot little number and as a guy he was really a hunk.
She caught herself. What was going on here? She was doing it again. Not only was she acting girlish, she was thinking almost like a slut. She'd been a girl for only a day.
Wait a minute! Maybe that had something to do with it. Could the fact that she was a girl for the first time in centuries be causing her hormones to go into overdrive? She'd have to be careful how she acted around Ranma. She'd have to exercise restraint while around him, at least until her hormones leveled out. Until then the poor boy was at risk of Noriko attempting to rape him.
Noriko couldn't stop herself from thinking that Akane had better watch out. If she didn't start being nicer to Ranma, Noriko might just take him away from her. If the boy should become the lover or even the husband of the Grand Master of Anything Goes, that would certainly qualify as “joining the schools” as the two idiot fathers kept babbling about.
Huh! Married? To a man? Where did that thought come from? Those hormones must really be messing with her mind. After three hundred years as a man and only one day as a girl and she was already thinking about getting married? It would be a very good idea to try and stay away from such thoughts until she had time for her hormones to reach some level of normalcy. If she had to make any kind of long term decision about it now, there was a very good chance she would choose badly.
She settled into her bedroll and tried to turn her mind to neutral thoughts. Maybe a meditation technique would be what would purge the sexual thoughts from her mind. At least it should work long enough for her to get to sleep.
The meditation worked. She was able to calm herself enough to sleep. When she woke the next morning she didn't clearly remember any of her dreams other than they were full of images of herself and Ranma nude and in all sort of interesting positions.
When Noriko got out of her tent in the morning it was a major effort to keep from blushing when she looked at Ranma. She told herself it was just the hormones and the only reason she was fantasizing about him was that he was the only guy near.
While he was working at breaking camp, Ranma noticed Noriko seemed oddly flustered as she went about a kata. He asked, “Is anything wrong?”
She decided to go with a partial truth. “I had some dreams that troubled me. It's nothing to worry about.”
He looked doubtful but wasn't going to argue with her. “If you say so.”
After a cold breakfast they started off through the trees. Again Ranma carried Noriko who was able to distract herself from sexual thoughts by concentrating on scanning ahead with her ki senses.
It seemed that the Joketsuzoku were determined to catch the pair on their return trip. They had to stop several times while they waited for patrols to move by on the ground. This delayed their travel so that they were only two thirds of the way by the time night fell. The pair ended up spending the night in a tree.
That was a terribly uncomfortable night for the both of them. In the morning when they woke up it took them a while to work out the stiffness. However they did receive some respite. Apparently the Amazon leaders believed they had a better chance of intercepting them on the border that led to the valleys they had come from. The patrols were light in the direction they wanted to go.
Thanks to that, Ranma and Noriko passed the border of Joketsuzoku territory well before midday. It was while they were still in the Joketsuzoku territory that they were caught in a rain shower. For once Ranma wasn't terribly upset. She would have had to change anyway, and they had been doing well to have avoided water splashing for as long as they had. Maybe it had something to do with staying female so long on the trip out.
When they stopped for the night they camped a good distance off from the main trail. They figured that the Joketsuzoku might send searchers on the trail. They were able to spend the night undisturbed.
Now that the Joketsuzoku were behind them, they walked along the trail at a more leisurely pace. They no longer felt the urgency of being chased. Their ki senses were not able to detect any pursuers.
It was a little before lunchtime that the two travelers reached the village of more modern Nichiezu. At the edge of the village they were met by a tall woman in a police uniform.
The woman bowed to them and said, “Greetings Miss Tendo. It would seem you have completed the business that brought you to this remote region of China. The Matriarch of our village requests that you honor her with a visit. She would like very much to talk to you.”
Ranma turned a questioning look on Noriko. The former man shrugged. She didn't know what this was about, but didn't think it a good idea to refuse. Although the request was politely worded, there was the hint that the police woman could cause them trouble if they didn't comply.
The travelers were led to a modest house. Like other residences in this village, it was a house and not a hut like some of the places of the Joketsuzoku village had been. When the policewoman knocked on the door, they were met by a polite young woman who led them into the living room.
The room they came to looked like the living room of an old person. Every flat surface had doilies on them and dozens of old framed photographs. Some of the photographs featured the owner of the house at a younger age, while many showed people who were probably old friends and family members.
The owner of the house was an elderly woman. She was of short stature by which it should be understood she was only slightly shorter than Rannma's girl form. She was not a shriveled up troll-like figure the way the elders of the Joketsuzoku appeared. Ranma had met the old woman briefly on their way through the village before. The woman's name was Lo Shen, if she remembered correctly.
Speaking unaccented Japanese the old woman graciously offered, “Please sit and make yourselves comfortable. Would you care for tea?”
Ranma looked at Noriko who answered with a shrug. The red haired girl bowed her head politely and replied, “Thank you, tea would be appreciated.” The two young women sat in comfortable chairs.
The old woman smiled and said, “Miss Tendo and I met briefly on her visit to our visit a short time ago. I told her at that time my name is Matriarch Lo Shen. I ask that you pronounce it that way instead of the Japanese habit of turning it into `Lotion.' If you say it that way, it could be confused with Elder Lo Shun of the Joketsuzoku.”
The matriarch's assistant left the room to get the tea things while the policewoman bowed and left as well, headed toward the front door. Ranma didn't doubt that the woman would likely stay by the door where she could return if needed.
Ranma nodded and said, “I remember. After all, it wasn't that long ago. I must admit to a little curiosity. When I came through your pleasant little village before you didn't pay that much attention to my companion and me. I was wondering why you seem so interested now.”
The older woman gave an enigmatic smile. “Do you mean aside from the fact that the companion traveling with you now appears to be a different person than the one you came with before?”
Ranma glanced over at Noriko then back to Lo Shen. “Yes, aside from that.”
The Matriarch smiled again. “I'm curious to hear the explanation as to why this young woman is with you now when your traveling companion before was an elderly man of unusually small stature.”
The redhead launched into the prepared story. “My grandfather didn't say anything when we were here before, but he was ill, dying in fact. Some time ago he had visited this region and had found an area that he decided would be his final resting place. This was in a valley about a day's travel beyond the lands of the Joketsuzoku.”
She paused. When the Elder gave a nod to indicate she should go on, she continued. “Tendo Noriko is my cousin. She had agreed to meet with us at the valley. She traveled by a slightly different route and joined us there, but too late to speak to grandfather. He passed just as Noriko arrived. Together we buried his remains and headed back to civilization.”
She continued, “While we were moving through the lands of the Joketsuzoku, Noriko suffered an accident. She lost her pack that contained all of her clothing, supplies and camping gear. She has been forced to share my supplies. Also in her pack that was lost were her travel documents.”
At this point the young woman returned with a tray, which she set on a low table in the middle of the room. The others paused in their conversation while the young woman poured tea and passed cups to the elder and her guests.
After Ranma took a sip from her cup she took a moment to look at the cup. She took another sip and said, “That's really good tea, thank you.”
The elder chuckled lightly. “The tea you have been served is called Amazon Blend and is the main agricultural export of our village. We grow all of the leaves for it on the lands around the village. Because we have limited land on which to grow our tea leaves, this blend of tea is hard to come by and fairly expensive in the outside world.”
She took an appreciative sip from her own cup before setting it aside. “Thanks to the popularity of our tea, the people of our village have been able to purchase the many modern conveniences that we enjoy and those of the Joketsuzoku don't. They tend to look down on the people of our village as weak and soft.”
Ranma considered that. After a moment she commented, “I notice that your police officer seemed to move in a way consistent with martial arts training. She didn't seem weak or soft to me.”
The elder smiled. “We don't take offense at the words of our sister tribe. They live in more primitive conditions than we do and feel the need to speak of that as if it were a virtue. Their village is in such a remote region that it would be difficult for them to have regular commerce with the outside world. That and the fact that they seldom leave their village is probably one of the only reasons that the government of the People's Republic allow them a warrior culture.”
“Oh?” Ranma was curious.
The elder nodded. “The government is content to let the world think that the Amazons, Musk and Phoenix are nothing more than legends. As long as they stay in their own remote region and fight only between themselves, the government leaves them alone.”
“While the best warriors of any of those tribes would be more than a match for a soldier of the PLA in a one-on-one fight, as a people they can't hope to match modern weapons. A few bombs dropped from a plane and they would die without ever seeing the faces of their attackers. Their leaders know this and keep their warriors reigned in.”
She sighed. “Even if we came from a warrior people in the past, our little village here is not a community of warriors. We are farmers who have as warriors the police force. In addition to modern techniques, our police are trained in all of the old ways of fighting. There are not enough of them to fight a war and that is the way the government wants it. They don't object to our strange ways of letting women be in charge as long as we go along with them in other ways.”
The elder took a sip of her tea to give her guests a moment to absorb her story. Then she said, “The reason why I have asked you to my home has to do with a telephone call I received.”
The travelers gave her curious looks but didn't say anything. The elder felt some further explanation was in order. She said, “It is too costly to string telephone wires over the rough terrain between here and the Joketsuzoku village and they won't allow the construction of microwave relay towers. However, they have not totally disdained the use of modern technology. While they are not happy about satellites in orbit, they are willing to take advantage of them. They have a satellite telephone.”
Ranma and Noriko didn't think they would like to hear what the elder had to say, but the continued to politely listen.
The old woman said, “Elder Soap called from the Council chambers. She had a rather fantastic story to tell.”
Lo Shen paused to take another sip of her tea before continuing. “She said that the God Killer, Saotome Ranma, was traveling with Happosai the famed thief and pervert. Those two were supposed to have come through our village and through the territory of the Joketsuzoku on their way to carry out some bizarre plot. They had no idea of the specifics of the plan, only that water from the Nyaniichuan spring was needed to carry it out.”
The elder looked back and forth between the two women in her living room before continuing. “Elder Soap also said that the two travelers might have a cover story. That story went along the lines that the old pervert was dying and needed the cursed water to stay alive.”
The elder frowned slightly. “I don't like the Council in Joketsuzoku village dictating to us here. They said that we were to try to detain the travelers or at least notify the Council if they passed.”
She shook her head. “I may not be as old as Soap, but I'm still more than a hundred years old. Among other things, that means that I'm not an idiot. A girl who matches the description of Saotome Ranma's Jusenkyo cursed form passed through our village basically carrying a small old man who matched the description of Happosai. Even if the man was more than 300 years old, it is said that he was sustained by magic that allowed him to be quite active and vigorous. Yet the old man traveling with the girl earlier was weak and had to ride on top of the girl's pack.”
The old woman now looked at Noriko. “Now the same girl is back here and her traveling companion is no longer an old man, but a girl of about the age that Nyaniichuan would change the old man into. With what I am looking at now, I'm inclined to believe the `cover story' was the true one.”
Noriko looked at their hostess and came to a quick decision. She felt an instant liking for the old woman and was sure she could trust her. The blonde said, “You have guessed correctly. I was Happosai, although I will claim that name no longer. Now that I have been given a new lease on life, I am taking the name Noriko as a tribute to an old friend and mentor.”
Ranma interrupted, “Are you sure you want to tell her that?”
The blonde gave an affirmative movement of her head. “You don't get to be as old as I am without being able to get a feeling for people. I feel certain we can trust Lo Shen.”
The Elder smiled. “I thank you for the trust you place in me. I suspect we have much to discuss. If it agreeable to you I will ask Jin Rei, my assistant, to prepare lunch for all of us.”
Ranma was feeling hungry and readily agreed. Noriko agreed as well.
Apparently the young woman who took care of the Elder had anticipated the request because she had already prepared food for the guests as well as her employer. Shortly plates were brought in for each of the people in the living room.
Between bites Noriko related the tale of the Cruel Man and how Happosai came to be as he was. She also related the story of how his ability to absorb female ki finally began to desert him after centuries of life. She told of how she had come into possession of the Amulet of Ortiz and the desperate travel though China to get to the stashed bottle of Nyaniichuan water before Happosai's condition deteriorated to the point where Ranma couldn't sustain him with her ki any more.
Lo Shen leaned back in her chair as she considered what she had heard. By the time Noriko had finished her tale, they had all finished their meal and Jin Rei had cleared the dishes. The Elder shook her head. “Quite a story. Yet I have the strong feeling that it is true even if it seems utterly fantastic. That the lecher, pervert and panty thief Happosai was born a girl sounds impossible. Still, I can sense that you believe it.”
The elder studied Noriko for a time. Finally she said, “I am probably not as good at this sort of thing as elders like Kho Lon and Soap, but I have a pretty strong sense that you are truly a female spirit in your female body. I sense that you are comfortable with your self in a way that a man's spirit would not be. I can sense that young Ranma is still uncomfortable with her female body, but perhaps becoming less so over time. Am I right?”
Ranma shrugged. “I guess I'm getting used to it. If I'm going to be stuck changing for the rest of my life, I'm going to have to get used to it. To be honest, changing into a girl isn't as terrible to me as it was at the start. You can bet I'll never tell my Pop about that, though. I still really hate constantly getting splashed with water and I hate being in wet clothes.”
The elder nodded with a sympathetic expression on her face. “I can well understand that. It might interest you to know that I have heard that there is magic that will change the trigger for human form Jusenkyo transformations from water to will power.”
Ranma sat up in her chair. “Will power as a trigger to the change? I've never heard of that before?”
The Elder nodded. “Understand that I don't know the magic myself, but I have heard that there is such. You must understand that it is not a cure.”
“Why not?” A puzzled redhead asked. “If the transformation is controlled by will power, why would anyone ever will such a change?”
“I wondered that as well,” confirmed the Elder. “It was explained to me this way. While the curse isn't a living thing it can act as if it were. If it decides too much time has passed since the last time you have been in cursed form, it will do what it can to trigger the change. When the trigger is water it will magically attract water even to causing it to rain out of a clear sky or making water to flow uphill.”
The aquatransexual gave a rueful chuckle. “I had wondered about that. So how is it different when the trigger is will power?”
The old woman replied, “When the curse decides that too much time has passed since you were in cursed form it will wait until you are distracted or sleeping and transform you. You could be daydreaming or your mind wandering in some other manner, but that is enough for the curse to work the transformation.”
The redhead frowned. “That sounds like it might actually be worse. At least it can be possible to dodge splashes or use an umbrella to stay dry in a rain shower. To avoid your mind wandering would need really strict mental discipline. It would take me some time to accomplish that.”
The Elder nodded. “I would be willing to bet that by the time you could learn that level of mental control, you would be sufficiently accustomed to the change that you would no longer care.”
Noriko chimed in, “You were complaining because your girl form is shorter than your male form. You now know that's because this form is the equivalent of 13 years old while your male form is 17. Outside of magic to age your female form, the only way for your girl form to get taller is for you to spend more time as a girl. On top of that, if you spend more time that way, you'll get used to it so it will no longer seem so terrible to you.”
Ranma turned to Noriko and asked, “Do you know magic that could age my girl form?”
“No, Ranma,” she replied. “I don't know such magic. Likely, you'll just have to resign yourself to spending more time in your female form.”
Lo Shen spoke again, “I was told that the way to avoid transforming at random moments of inattention when the trigger is will power is to simply pick times when you are in your alternate form. An example would be to sleep while in female form. That would decrease the waking time you would need to spend that way. If you work it right you can avoid transforming when you are not prepared for it. Indeed, doing that would have reduced the number of water accidents.”
In a wistful tone Ranma asked, “I'd never be a guy in girl's clothes? (That's really embarrassing.)”
“If you work the scheduling of your girl time right,” the Elder responded. “With will power as the trigger, you wouldn't accidentally transform.”
Ranma frowned. “That sounds good. But if you don't know how to work the magic, why do you bring it up?”
The older woman explained, “I can't work the magic, but I know the name of a sorceress who lives in Japan who can. I don't have an address for her, but I do know what city she lives in.”
“That sounds great,” enthused Ranma.
“When we get back, I'll help you find her,” promised Noriko.
Her manner sobering, Ranma asked, “Could I ask you something?”
“How can I help you?” Lo Shen responded.
“Does anyone in the village have a computer with a webcam?” Ranma wanted to know.
The older woman looked surprised at the request. “My granddaughter Po Shen, has a computer that is equipped like that. Why would you need it?”
Ranma explained, “Well, you can understand why Noriko's old passport won't work for her now. I was thinking that if we could email a picture of what she looks like now there is a girl we know that can help to create a new passport with her current appearance. She could mail it to us here. Once we have that we can go back to Beijing and book a flight back to Tokyo.”
After thinking for a moment the elder nodded. “I could see where that might be preferable to you being smuggled out of the country.”
Casting a speculative look on the blonde, the elder said, “Miss Noriko, you are the Grand Master of your own martial arts style, are you not?”
“Yes,” Noriko confirmed. “Grand Master of the founding school of Anything Goes Martial Arts, also know as the school of Indiscriminate Grappling. I tend to prefer the first name, because some people get the wrong idea about what is meant by the second name.”
“Good!” The elder said, “I know how you can earn your room and board while you wait for your documents to arrive in the mail.”
Noriko quirked an inquiring eyebrow.
“You can give our police officers advanced training in martial arts,” she explained.
The blonde protested, “We wouldn't be here long enough to give anyone a complete course of training.”
The elder wouldn't be put off. “True, but in the time you will be here you can teach them basic techniques they can practice after you leave.”
The former man considered that. “I suppose that would work.” It had been a very long time since she had taught a class. It might be kind of fun.
Ranma chose that moment to ask, “What will you want me to do to pay for the bed I'll sleep in and the food I'll eat?”
Lo Shen tapped a finger on her chin for a moment. Finally she said, “I was watching your face while Noriko was telling of your journey. Something in your expression has given me an idea. Tell me, how did you react when Ei Linah addressed you as `honored healer'?”
“Huh?” The redheaded girl was confused. She didn't know what that had to do with anything. Still she wanted to give an honest answer. She said, “Actually I kind of liked it.”
The Elder nodded in a thoughtful manner. “You do realize that she called you that because the way you were caring for Happosai was the sort of thing one of their healers would do?”
The girl considered that. “I guess it was. I didn't really think about it like that.”
The old woman cast a measuring gaze on the redhead. Finally she asked, “Tell me child, have you ever considered doing anything with your life other than martial arts?”
Ranma was surprised at the question. “It's all I've ever known. My father took me away from my mother at the age of five and spent the next ten years training me in martial arts. I've become one of the best martial artists of my generation, maybe the best. There was a cost to that, though.”
“Oh?” The elder asked, “Tell me more about it.”
The young boy who was currently female gave a condensed version of the story of the training trip and some of the insane training. When she was finished, the elder shook her head. “Your father sounds like a fool. You may have come through the training a skilled martial artist, but it sounds like it was only because of a combination of your high intelligence, native skill and luck. The training techniques you describe could have crippled or killed you and most likely have left emotional scars.”
At Ranma's answering nod, the elder inquired, “Did your father even ask if you wanted to be a martial artist?”
Rather than give a snap answer, Ranma thought about it for several moments. Finally she said, “Now that you mention it, I don't think he ever did. He always just sort of assumed that it was what I wanted. After being told that I was going to be the best, that's what I thought I wanted too.”
Her manner extremely serious, the Elder said, “You are young enough that you could still choose a different path. I want you to think carefully about this. If you were free to pick your own way, what would you want to do instead of or in addition to martial arts?”
“In addition to?” That was an interesting way to put it. Suddenly Ranma thought about Dr. Tofu. There was a multitalented man. He was a doctor, a chiropractor, expert on traditional and alternative medicine and skilled martial artist as well.
Ranma replied, “Back home there is this doctor I know. He's really smart and knows medicine and martial arts. I'd kind of like to be like him. I don't know if I'm smart enough for that, though.”
Noriko broke in, “Don't sell yourself short. I happen to know you can learn martial arts techniques incredibly fast. Sometimes you can learn them just by seeing them done. When Ryoga attacked you with the Shi Shi Hokodan you created the Moku Takabish, your own variation. If you're smart enough to do that, you are smart enough to learn medicine. You just have to get more serious about your schooling.”
“I don't know…” Ranma trailed off.
Lo Shen nodded. “Unlike our more primitive sister tribe, we don't just have a healer here. We have a doctor who is has a medical degree and is licensed and certified. However, there are times when she complains that she is overworked. She has asked that I find her an apprentice to work with her and learn medicine. I've already found a young man who seems to have the aptitude and interest. I was thinking that I could assign him to work as Rin Se's assistant and for you to help during the time you are staying here.”
Ranma thought about that. “I'm still going to need to spend at least some time training. I can't let my skills get rusty.”
“I don't think that will be a problem,” responded the Elder.
The redhead paused in thought. “At most we're going to be staying here two or three weeks. How much medicine am I going to learn in that time?”
“Not much,” conceded Lo Shen. “What you should learn in that time is if you really like the work and if you have an aptitude for it. When you get back home you can decide if you want to pursue it.”
The aquatransexual nodded. “When you put it that way, I guess it's worth a try. I'll do it.”
Author's Note: Hormones may or may not have been what got Noriko to start looking at Ranma as boyfriend material. (It's just her theory, after all). Still, that's not what will keep her doing it.
Ranma's interest in medicine came about sort of as a whim. I just wrote in Ei Linah calling Ranma "honored healer" but that made me wonder if that could be Ranma's true vocation. I decided that I was going to run with it.