Part 1


Kohei's Theme: Village Theme (Ranma 1/2 - Akanekodan Teki Hihou)

     Akane didn't know which of the two events was more surprising: the fact that Kohei had asked for hot water, or the fact that when he was doused, nothing about him changed at all! And yet, he thanked them for it before running into the school. She hadn't noticed it during the morning's incident with Kuno, but, as tended to happen whenever a new transfer student showed up, the school was abuzz with rumors. Akane didn't even know why, but she didn't even consider the possibility that the new student everyone was talking about would actually be Kohei. The vice principal escorted him into that class just as it was time to start. Because they were now in their 2nd year of high school, Akane, Ranma, and Ukyo no longer had Hinako-sensei for their homeroom class. Their new teacher, Ayumi-sensei had transferred from someplace called Gravitron High, which Akane had never heard of. When Kohei was brought into the room, only his green hair and long ponytail made him recognizable as he had changed into the boys' uniform.

     "There you are," Ayumi-sensei said happily then turned to the students, "everyone, meet your new classmate."

     "Nihao," he greeted, raising his hand into the air, reminding Akane (and no doubt Ukyo and Ranma) of Shampoo, "my name is Ikimono Kohei and I come from China on a journey. If it is not fulfilled here, I will be attending Furinkan High School for a month before moving on."

     As the teacher wished him well during his time at Furinkan and everyone greeted him, he took one of the few empty seats in the room, surprisingly close to the front and two seats in front of her. What had caught her attention, though, was although he greeted them in Chinese, his Japanese was flawless. Ayumi-sensei immediately started class, preventing anyone from asking him questions. But that didn't stop Akane from thinking of any. Why would he be looking for Ranma? she thought, And why did he ask for hot water if he didn't change? He seems like a nice guy, defending us from Kuno-sempai's stupidity. But what are his motives?

     Akane wasn't alone in this mind-set. Nearby, Ranma, who was now back in male form, thought, How did he figure out so easily that I fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl? Well, he claimed his village is near Jusenkyo. His answer only raised more questions, Why would he come to Japan? Is it just to find me and challenge me? The kami know I haven't found any cures for my curse here. But that Kohei guy has to be hiding something. At least he got Kuno offa our backs for us this morning.

     Ukyo as well was thinking of questions to ask him that didn't involve the trivial things the other girls looked like they wanted to ask. She felt sorry for him for when they were all going to mob him and ask what he liked, what he did, and who knows how many date offers would be thrown at him. She pushed those aside and focused on her own thoughts. Ranchan seemed a little nervous when Kohei came up to us, and it seemed to disappear after I poured some of the water on him. But why did he ask for that water? I didn't see him change at all. But he took care of Kuno for us today. When she had last seen the Kendo club captain, he was still quite unconscious while Sasuke had to take him down from the wall and carry him to the nurse's office. He'd make a good bodyguard if we couldn't already handle him on our own, and hid a grin.

     Come lunchtime, the weather outside was both sunny and clear, so everyone opted to eat outside. As Akane searched for a place to sit and eat, her friends caught up with her.

     "Akane!" Sayuri called as she and Yuka caught up with her, "why are you going to sit alone?"

     The young Tendo smiled at them, "I'm sorry, I was just thinking about something and forgot to find you two."

     "You've been doing that a lot lately," Yuka stepped in, "are you feeling all right?"

     Akane nodded, "You don't have to worry, I'll be fine."

     "Then come with us," Yuka invited, "we're going to ask Kohei-kun if he wants to eat with us and get to know him better."

     The thought of spending time eating lunch with a boy only reminded Akane of the times she had eaten with Ranma, causing her mood to sink a little as she stared at the ground.

     "I'll pass," she said quietly, "thanks."

     "Okay," Yuka smiled at her, "we'll leave you alone to think."

     "Just let us know if we can do anything to help you out," Sayuri added.

     Akane only nodded again as she watched her two classmates round the building in search of their prey. With how a lot of the girls looked at Kohei-kun this morning, I doubt they'll even be close to the front of the line by now. That little joke prompted her to smile as she took a seat underneath her favorite tree. She'd only opened her lunch box when she was interrupted a second time.

     "Akane-chan?!" Ukyo called in her happy-go-lucky tone of voice as she peered around the tree.

     The seated girl looked up, "Ukyo?"

     "You're all alone over here. Why not come sit with Ranma and me?"

     Another bite was taken out of her good mood, but Akane, having learned a few things from Nabiki, put on a fake smile and declined, "No, I just want to think for a while. You and Ranma have fun."

     "Okay, but if you feel like talking about what happened before school with us, we'll be on the other end of the yard."

     Akane sighed as she watched the girl with the spatula walk back to where Ranma sat. Even though she had admitted defeat, it was still impossible for her to accept defeat at the hands of Ukyo. While Akane was unable to release her true feelings for the cursed martial artist, at least she was being a good sport about it. On the other hand, another of Ranma's suitors, Kuno Kodachi, the Black Rose, had been devising any and every possible way to steal Ranma from Ukyo. Even going as far as trying to paralyze her with one of her strange powders and in many ways, "get rid of her." Fortunately, both she and Ranma were smart enough to always keep an eye out for the lunatic gymnast. Akane only knew that things would have been twice as bad if Shampoo was still around.

     Her thoughts on the events of the past year were shattered as she had incidentally stood up and looked around the tree, down to Ukyo and Ranma. Even though she couldn't hear them, she had a good idea as to what they were saying.

     "Ranchan," she said as she raised a piece of okonomiyaki to his face, "open your mouth and say 'ahhh.'"

     "Thanks, Ucchan, your cooking is so much better than Akane's ever was," he replied as he took a bite.

     "I know. If you hadn't picked me her food would have killed you before long."

     "And you're so much cuter than she is, too."

     "Aw, Ranchan, you're embarrassing me," the playful smack she gave him with her battle spatula was both seen and heard throughout the area.

     While Akane's jealousy had distorted the conversation between Ranma and Ukyo, this is what really happened:

     "Ranchan," she said as she raised a piece of okonomiyaki to his face, "open your mouth and say 'ahhh.'"

     "C'mon, Ucchan, you really don't have to do this," he replied as he took a bite.

     "But I want to, sugar. I feel happiest watching you enjoy my cooking."

     "Your okonomiyaki really is the best, Ucchan. They're as good as you are cute."

     "Aw, Ranchan, you're embarrassing me," the playful smack she gave him with her battle spatula was both seen and heard throughout the area.

     She's gloating over her victory and is taunting me! Akane thought bitterly as her battle aura began to flare. Again, she had yet to accept her complete loss of Ranma, so her over-possessive and jealous nature when seeing Ranma with another girl still existed somewhat. Knowing that she couldn't simply walk over and vent her anger on the pig-tailed man, the tree became the victim of her punch. The winds brought on by the strongest typhoon could not have caused the large plant to shake as hard as it did under the force of Akane's blow. She wasn't surprised to see several leaves fall around her, but a sudden THUMP behind her told her that it was indeed no leaf that had just fallen...

     Ikimono Kohei laid up in a cool, shady tree, observing the leaves and thinking about how he might have finally found the one he had been looking for for the past three months, but a question kept coming back to his head. Ignoring the sound of two girls talking below him, he thought, Why did all those girls start asking about me? What could I possibly have that would send them flocking to me? I don't think they know what commitment they would have made if I had accepted. At least none of them followed me into here. As he thought, his senses picked up something big, What kind of person can build up chi that qui- his train of thought ran out of tracks as the tree suddenly shook violently. Before he could react and grab hold of a branch, gravity took over and sent him to the ground.

     "Ow..." Kohei rubbed the back of his head after he landed on his back, "that was a powerful earthquake," shook it to remove the spots in front of his eyes, and sat up.

     "Kohei-kun!" came a girl's voice from right in front of him, "I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were in there!"

     He looked up at the short-haired girl, thought about what she had just done, and began to laugh.

     "You did that? So that's what the large buildup of chi I sensed before the tree shook. You're a very strong martial artist."

     Akane, not being used to compliments like that, blushed a little, "Thank you."

     "Did I say something wrong?" he asked when he saw the redness.

     "Oh no," she shook her head.

     "Now that I think about it, you were one of the girls who I spoke with this morning."

     "That's right."

     "I apologize, but I never learned your name, or the name of the third girl."

     "Don't worry about it, you were in a hurry," Akane wanted to ask her own questions, but suppressed her curiosity, "you figured out Ranma. The girl with the long brown hair who's with him now," she gestured back to the couple, "is his friend, Kuonji Ukyo. And my name is Tendo Akane. It's nice to meet you, Kohei-kun."

     "It's nice to meet you too, Akane-san," she looked at him questioningly as he tilted his head to the side and looked like he was staring inside of her for a moment before continuing, "there's a lot of tension in you. I can help you get rid of it," and, without warning, stood up, whipped around behind her, not nearly as quickly as he had moved when fighting Kuno, but still fast enough to catch her off guard.

     Akane wanted to get angry at him for pressing several points on her back without permission, but the wave of relaxation that washed over her mind and body prevented her from even feeling the slightest bit of rage. Every negative emotion that she had been harboring in her mind since she woke up that morning was immediately replaced with peace and relaxation. Her physical condition responded in kind as her tense muscles seemed to liquefy and she sat back down, feeling the most calm she'd been in a long time.

     "Wow..." Akane quietly exclaimed as he appeared on the ground in front of her, leaning on one of his knees, "how did you do that?"

     "A simple series of pressure points that lead to full-body relaxation," Kohei explained.

     "I'm impressed, and I feel so much better. Thank you," she didn't hear his response as the words "full-body" and "pressure points" led her mind quickly through a series of events and reminded her of something.

     "That's right!" she exclaimed, interrupting the young man, "there was something I wanted to ask you."

     "Feel free to," he said, not showing any surprise at her outburst.

     "You said you came from China, but your Japanese is perfect. Why is that?"

     "This is something I'm going to explain to Ranma after school, but because you asked me now, I'll tell you enough to answer what you want to know. Yes, I was born in China, but my father was Japanese while my mother was Chinese, so I grew up speaking both languages."

     "Oh, I understand," she nodded as she realized.

     "Is there anything else you would like to know?"

     "No, thank you, I'll listen to what you have to tell Ranma later on."

     "That will work better for both of you, although why will you be there?"

     Rather than make something up, Akane simply spoke the truth, "I was the reason why Ranma had to kill Saffron."

     Kohei blinked and, for the first time she had seen, widened his eyes, "What?"

     "It's true," she sighed.

     "That makes my journey more interesting," he said under his breath as he looked down, "they never mentioned anything about Akane-san being involved."

     "Excuse me?"

     The young China-man looked back up and stared her straight in the eyes, "Akane-san, will you please tell me how that happened?"

     She wasn't very surprise that he'd asked that and, ignoring the pain of the memories (with the added help of his relaxation technique), smiled as she related the tale, "It's a very long story, but I'll give you the important details. It all started with me meeting Ranma as a result of an arrangement between our fathers that-" As she related the many occurrences in her life that happened as a result of her engagement to Ranma, leaving out a few selected parts, especially the details with Kodachi and Shampoo (as they had nothing to do with the present situation), Akane noticed that he listened intently to every word.

     Back on the other side of the field, Ranma had just swallowed the last bite of the lunch that Ukyo had fed him. Aside from his currently tender cheek, he never would have imagined how much the chaos in his life was reduced by finally choosing one of his many fiancés. While his spoken reason as to why Ukyo became the lucky girl was simply that he chose her because he wanted to after thinking about how each of the girls could make his life better or worse, and Ukyo won out with the most positive reasons. While he did realize that she was the best one for him, his true reason, however, was originally and fully because he was nearly responsible for her death, and he realized he wouldn't have been able to handle it. It was at that moment, as he held her unconscious form deep within the bowels of an underground ruin, that he had realized the unconditional nature of her love for him. And he also realized that he was able to return that love and see her as more than his ol' buddy Ucchan as he came to appreciate the sacrifices she made for him, which were far more than anyone else would have made. She wasn't just his ol' buddy anymore, she had become his Ucchan, and he her Ranchan. Their nicknames for each other quickly took on new meanings.

     It hadn't been easy for him, though, because he had had to confront Akane about it, even after announcing his choice to everyone at once. Despite all of the times she had said she hated him or claimed she wished she'd never met him, he had never responded in the same manner. He was just never able to figure out his feelings enough to anyone. But, with a little bit of Ukyo's help, he was able to muster the strength and courage to apologize to Akane for breaking her heart when it became obvious enough for even him to see it.

     Ranma hadn't told anyone this, but soon after the time he realized he was in love with Ukyo, he also realized that he not only loved Akane, but her sisters, Shampoo, and even Kodachi in a different way. To him they had become his family, and they, along with Ryoga, Mousse, and yes, Tatewaki, had helped him to feel at home with a family of friends and rivals, all knit together with the bonds born through combat. It was for this reason he asked to continue to attend Furinkan High School even after moving back home with his mother farther into Tokyo.

     "Ranchan?" Ukyo asked as she snapped her fingers next to his ear, "are you okay, Ranchan?"

     "Huh?" he blinked as he snapped out of his memories.

     "You were spacing out on me."

     "Oh, sorry Ucchan, I was just savoring the taste," anyone could have easily been able to tell that he was lying, but Ukyo always let it slide.

     "Really? Was it that good?"

     "Of course," he then teased, "don't I only have to tell you once that your okonomiyaki is the best?"

     "Nope," she giggled and he could only smile at her. Ranma didn't resist as she leaned in to give him a light peck on the cheek, which had actually been his idea to help her get out of the habit of her showing her appreciation with her spatula when she was complimented. It had been working so far for the small things, but like with the big ones he gave her, like at the beginning of lunch, she still needed work on. But as he turned his eyes over across the schoolyard, he saw something and spoke up, interrupting his fiancé’s approach.

     "Hey," Ranma pointed, "Akane's talking to that Kohei guy from this morning."

     Ukyo turned her head and saw that he was right, "That's funny, Akane was alone when I talked to her."

     "I don't think we'll ever know how she manages to attract strange people to her, Ucchan, but Kohei doesn't seem all that bad. I mean, anyone who stops Kuno from molesting girls is okay in my book."

     "But Ranchan, what if he's going to cause trouble?"

     Ranma's pride surfaced and he smirked, "Then he'll have to answer to me."

     Ukyo sighed, half out of admiration, half out of disgust. His over-inflated ego was the only thing she wished he'd change, but also knew that it wasn't going to happen, so she dropped the disgust half.

     "Just like anyone else who tried to hurt Akane, right?" she asked.

     The long-haired girl widened her eyes as Ranma practically glared at her. Not out of anger, but of sternness.

     "Ucchan," he said seriously, "I've been thinking about this a lot, but do you think anything would have changed if it was Shampoo or you who was taken by Taro, Kirin, or any of those other crazy guys? Do you think I wouldn't have come to the rescue if it was you?"

     Surprised, she slowly shook her head.

     "That's my point," he continued, "they always seemed to go after Akane because: One, she was the fiancé everyone knew about the most and two, she always had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think she has her own curse of being the target of getting kidnapped a lot. But as a martial artist, it didn't matter to me who would have been kidnapped, it was my duty to help her escape." His face showed his calming down, "And Ucchan, I'm just afraid that because you're the one I chose, people who are after me will start trying to kidnap you first. But because it's my duty, you're my Ucchan, and I love you, I would track that maniac to the ends of the earth to help you out of a jam."

     Ukyo's tomboyish attitude wanted to say, "Don't worry, Ranchan, I can take care of myself if that happens, I'm not like Akane," but they couldn't come out. His name was the only thing that managed to squeak beyond her lips as his statement touched her heart and she leaned towards him. Not even a nuclear explosion was going to stop her from kissing him this time, and on the lips. Unfortunately for Ukyo, however, the ringing of the after-lunch bell was enough to deter her. As she dragged Ranma back inside, she heard Akane burst into laughter for some reason.

     Later, in the girl's locker room.

     "Ne, Akane-chan," Ukyo approached the short-haired girl as they were dressing for gym, then whispered, "all of the girls are talking about how you ate lunch with Kohei."

     "I know," Akane sighed, trying to quelch another buildup of anger as she heard everyone around her gossiping about it, "but it was by accident that I found him."


     "He was hiding up in the tree I was sitting under, and a... strong gust of wind caused him to fall out."

     "Oh, really?" Ukyo knew she was lying, but didn't express any sarcasm.

     Akane just nodded and continued, "We just sat and talked, and I don't think he ate a bite of lunch because I was telling him about our lives with Ranma around. And I told him all that when he found out I had a hand in helping him beat Saffron."

     "Oh, I get it now. But do you have any idea why he's so interested in Ranchan and his fight against Saffron?"

     Shaking her head, Akane admitted, "I didn't ask him since he'll explain all that to Ranma after school. But there was something about Kohei-kun that was different from this morning."

     "You think so too? What have you come up with?"

     "I'm not sure. When he fought Kuno-sempai he seemed so aggressive. But with me he was very calm."

     "Maybe it had something to do with his asking for hot water. Ranchan calmed down after Kohei was doused."

     "You're probably right, Ukyo," she finished tying her shoes and stood up, "let's go."

     "One more thing," Ukyo started walking, "Do you know why he was in that tree anyway?"

     Akane tried not to burst out laughing as she explained, "In his village, for a woman to approach a man with handmade food outside of the house is a marriage proposal. He thought all the girls who offered to share lunch with him were asking him to marry them!" Ukyo now knew why she had been laughing so hard at the end of lunch and now joined in an equal manner.

     As the two laughing girls left the locker room, the shorter-haired one calmed down when she pointed out, "Hey, there he is," when she saw Kohei leave the boy's locker room, "let's walk him out to the field."

     "Okay," Ukyo nodded, "but let's also wait for Ranchan," and they moved to intercept him.

     "Some guys just have all the luck," Ranma tried to tune out Hiroshi and Daisuke's mutterings as they changed for gym, but as usual, they didn't yield to his ignoring, "first Ranma gets all the cute girls. Now when he finally picks one, Akane ignores all of us again. Then some new guy shows up out of the blue and she eats lunch with him."

     You knuckleheads are overreacting again, he thought. While Ranma didn't know the complete details as to how Akane and Kohei got talking, he never saw either of them eat a thing.

     "Ranma!" Daisuke whacked him on the shoulders, "are you listening? What are you going to do about this?" He'd had enough.

     "Nothing!" he turned around, "Akane isn't any of my business anymore and haven't you noticed that she hasn't been for a year now! Let her talk to whoever she wants! She's not any prize to be won or possession to toy with, dammit! She can take care of herself, especially now that she doesn't have our parents all over her to fulfill that stupid arranged marriage! It was smart for my mom to have me give Tofu-sensei some of my blood and call him a Saotome just to end that damned thing! Akane is a free girl now, Daisuke, and the only thing that would send me into action is if someone tried to take that freedom away from her!"

     Both of his friends were taken aback by his outburst, which also brought stares from most of the rest of the guys still in the locker room.

     "You've changed a lot in the last year, Ranma," Hiroshi finally said, "when she was still your fiancé you would've just said, 'It's not my problem,' and that was it."

     "Well, I've also thought about things and learned a lot in the last year," he said, again calming down.

     "You're right though, Ranma," Daisuke admitted quietly.

     Maybe there's hope for you two after all, Ranma thought and was just about to head out of the room when the door slammed open into his face and he was trampled by an apparently panic-stricken Kohei, who had left only a few seconds before, but was now hugging the back corner.

     "H-h-h-how can they be allowed to wear something so indecent?" he stammered as all of the guys looked at him like he was crazy.

     Oh yeah, Ranma thought as he continued to see stars, growing up in remote China, he's probably never seen girls in gym shorts.

     Back out in the hall, Akane and Ukyo just looked at each other and asked, "What did we say?"

Burning My Soul (Goemon's Great Adventure)

     When school finally ended, Ranma, Ukyo, and Akane all waited out in the school field, in the exact same place where he had fought Ryoga in their first official duel after he first found him again, as well as the spot where Shampoo had erased Akane's memory of him, along with a few others. He pushed the thoughts of the past aside and focused on his present challenge: he had found a note, obviously from Kohei, in his locker asking him to meet back here. As he was not yet to be seen, Ranma turned his eyes to Akane and guessed that she'd come because she was as curious as he was. He next looked at Ukyo, already back in her okonomiyaki seller's outfit. He knew that she was here for the same reason as him and Akane, but also because she never wanted to let him out of her sight until he went home. His thoughts were halted as a loud shout came from above.

     "Ranma, prepare to defend yourself!" Kohei yelled as he leapt off of the Baseball cage, holding a bucket of cold water. Ranma was easily able to leap aside to avoid the flying kick aimed for his head.

     "Is that all?" he asked as he watched the other, younger man stand up, still holding the bucket, which had not spilled a drop.

     "No," he answered, "I would have expected more from you if that had actually connected." He again wore the same uniform that they had seen him in that morning. Kohei did not beat around the bush as he held the bucket out towards Akane, "Akane-san, hold this please."

     "Okay," she took the bucket from his hands and he continued by raising three fingers.

     "Ranma," he challenged, "fight me for three minutes. After that, I ask that Akane-san splash me with the water and we fight for another three minutes. If I am unable to knock you out in those second three minutes, I will acknowledge your skill as greater than mine and explain why I have come looking for you. But if not, I will return to China and you will never see my face again."

     "Sounds good to me," Ranma smirked and entered his fighting stance, "Ucchan, do you have a watch?"

     "Yep," she replied, holding up her wrist.

     "Okay, you keep track of the fight," and turned his eyes back to Kohei, "ready when you are."

     The green-haired teen nodded as his face retained its seriousness and entered his fighting stance, but this one was different from the one he'd stood in that morning. He balance on the ball of his left foot and placed his right on the left knee, raising his arms horizontally parallel.

     I've seen that stance before! Ranma's brain shouted to him in realization but was unable to voice it as Ukyo yelled "Go!" and Kohei attacked him with everything he had.

     Akane watched the battle in both awe and confusion as the two men locked horns in their battle. So far it had been somewhat of an even match, with Kohei being the one on the defensive side most of the time. But every so often, he would find a split-second opening and attempt to counter, only to have it again blocked. What confused Akane though was that it was obvious that Kohei wasn't moving near as fast as he had against Kuno that morning. It became more obvious as he started taking hits. Ukyo must have noticed it too.

     "Akane," she mentioned, "something doesn't seem right."

     "I know," she responded, "he looks like he's giving it his all while Ranma isn't trying too hard. Kohei-kun looked so much faster this morning."

     "Well, anyone can beat Kuno."

     The two girls said nothing more as they watched the battle unfold. Ranma had just countered a flurry of punches with a spin-kick aimed at Kohei's back, only to find his foot grabbed and he was thrown a good distance. Ranma easily flipped and landed on his feet as he quickly turned around to block another onslaught when Ukyo called time, prompting Kohei to stop halfway.

     "Your holding back is going to cost you if you continue, Ranma," he announced and signaled to Akane to throw the water on him.

     "Here it is!" she yelled as she emptied the contents of the bucket onto the green-haired man. Once again, nobody could see any physical change in his appearance, but as Ukyo again shouted "Go!" all of them knew that indeed there was a different aura about Kohei.

     Ranma didn't even have time to react as his opponent renewed his assault and landed a strong kick to his chest, sending him backwards and onto the ground. He'd never seen anyone move so fast! Other than himself, that is.

     "Ranchan!" Ukyo exclaimed in surprise.

     "I'm okay," he assured as he got up, "this is starting to get interesting. I'll have to get serious."

     "That's exactly what I wanted at the beginning!" Kohei snarled as he shouted as he flicked his wrists, almost in a manner as if he were baring claws, and emitted a low growl.

     Which spring did he fall into? Ranma thought as he planned his next attack. It had now become obvious that he not only knew about Jusenkyo, but had been there as well. I'll just have to match his speed. As Kohei lunged forward again, Ranma positioned himself for a counter attack that hadn't failed him yet, as it especially worked against Herb. He feigned preparation for a high kick before switching legs and making it a sweep. Kohei must have either seen it coming or reacted quickly as he was able to jump over the sweep. Ranma quickly swung around to elbow him in the back, but soon faced another surprise-

          "Shigami no Genkotsu!"

     Kohei shouted as he dodged under Ranma's blow and landed his right fist under his rib cage. Kohei then leapt off of the ground, taking him and Ranma several meters into the air. Ranma smirked as he thought, You're in my turf now.

     Back on the ground, Ukyo was having a hard time watching her champion take more hits than he was giving. She looked at her watch and saw that there were an excruciating 2 minutes, 35 seconds left.

     "The Death-god's Fist," Akane said quietly as she understood where it's name came from as they watched Kohei execute his technique. Her words fell on empty ears as Ukyo wanted to call time, but relied on her gut instinct that told her Ranma would gain the upper hand. Her worry was replaced by a large smile as she saw Kohei attempt to knock Ranma back to the ground, only to be kicked in the back as he grasped his shoulders and flipped over him.

     Kohei was impressed as he hit the ground, hard, managing to soften the landing with his chi before impact. Only one other person had countered his Death-god's Fist technique but hadn't succeeded in knocking him to the ground. This was turning out to be an interesting battle.

     "Well done, Ranma," he complimented as he stood up, "you're the first one to ever fully counter that move successfully."

     "Don't flatter yourself," Ranma replied as he landed and took the offensive.

     "Let's see if you can dodge this!" Kohei shouted as he swiped his hand through the air seemingly much too early as Ranma was still a meter away. But he could hear the girls gasp as his approach was halted when something seemingly invisible struck him in the face hard enough to knock him aside, but not all the way down.

     "What kind of move was that?!" Ranma rubbed his cheek where, with it still being tender from Ukyo's earlier blow, a bruise was now starting to form. Kohei only grinned and he could sense a sudden surge in the Chinese man's ki, but it disappeared as quickly as it had risen. His eyes widened when he noticed a sword appear and disappear with the rise and fall of his energy and realized he sensed the same wave during his attack.

     "That was my Genkaku no Suraisu," Kohei explained simply.

     "Illusory Slice, huh? Not bad," Ranma smirked, "but I know a few ki attacks myself," he ran back into the offensive as both began again to trade blows, each scoring the occasional hit on the other this time for nearly a minute. Ranma's plan worked as Kohei again knocked him back several meters. As he landed on his feet, he briefly charged his ki before unleashing a-

     "Mouko Takabisha!"

     When the blast cleared, Ranma saw nothing where Kohei had been standing. Knowing that he was too good to be hit head on, he immediately looked into the air to see his rival preparing to attack him yet again as he dove towards him with fists extended. Ranma only knew of one attack that was fast enough to counter.

     "Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken!"

     "Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken!"

     If there had been an outside observer on the fight, he would never have been able to tell who was the most surprised of the two boys and two girls on the field as both Kohei and Ranma saw that they had executed the same technique.

     "Where did you learn that?!" both asked after surprise had left them open to strike each other, knocking them back onto their rear ends. The duration of the execution had lasted long enough as Ukyo had hoped when she checked her watch and was finally able to call time.

Title Screen (Lagoon)

     A few minutes later, Ranma sat under a tree with the two girls. Kohei had left to find some hot water and to retrieve an object he said he would need.

     "Really, Ucchan, I'm all right," he complained as she rubbed some salve onto his bruised cheek.

     "Why don't you just start accepting the fact that we're always wanting to help you, Ranchan?" Ukyo asked sternly as she finished the application and placed the cream back into her first aid kit.

     He just sighed, knowing that saying anything would incur the girls' wrath and he would get beaten up again, so he just smiled at her then turned his eyes over to Akane again. She was looked deep in thought as she hugged her knees and stared out over the horizon.

     "Is she okay?" he whispered to Ukyo.

     "I think so," she answered, "she's probably just thinking about your fight."

     "Yeah..." Before Ranma could say anything else, Kohei suddenly returned holding a small bag.

     "I'm sorry to make you wait like that, but it was necessary that I have this," he said, raising the leather pouch as he sat in front of the other three, "but now I will explain why I am here and answer all of your questions."

     "Believe me, we've got a lot. Why-" Ranma said.

     "Go ahead and tell us your story first, Kohei-kun," Akane interrupted.

     "Thank you, Akane-san," Kohei took a deep breath and began his tale.

     I was born 18 years ago in the Amazon village of Ryuchiezu in the Bayankala Range of the Qinghai province of China. However, even though it was an Amazon village, it had been deserted by the Amazon tribe. The people who live there are the descendants of a colony of Japanese exiles who had left the country out of anger because Japan surrendered to the United States following the second World War. My great-grandparents and several people with them refused to allow themselves to submit to the new constitution and economic system that the American General MacArthur introduced. They emigrated to China, but because of the hostilities between the Chinese and Japanese people, they were unable to find a place to settle into. That is, until the leader of their group, my great-grandfather, defeated an Amazon matriarch in combat. As a result, they and their descendants were given the abandoned village of Ryuchiezu to settle into. My grandfather was already alive when they settled. Great-grandfather taught his sons after the way of the Ikimono family style of martial arts, that had been taught to him by his father. We have traced the family style back 50 generations. Soon, my grandfather met and married his wife, another girl who had come with the colony and soon my father, Ikimono Shinji, was born. He too was raised in learning the Ikimono family style of martial arts. As for my mother, she was a full-blooded Amazon from another village. They met one day when my father was on a journey of training when, out of hunger, he stumbled onto a vegetable garden that belonged to her, his future wife and my mother, Ji Lu.

     "[What are you doing, thief?! Are you trying to steal my food?!]" Ji Lu shouted at the young man, who was leaning on a walking staff for support.

     "[Forgive me,]" Shinji said weakly, but in perfect Chinese, "[I have not eaten in days and I didn't know that this was your field.]"

     "[That is no excuse!]" she produced a staff, "[Amazon law says that thieves must die!]" and charged.

     Shinji summoned the last of his strength as the long, green-haired woman attacked...

     "Shigami no Genkotsu!"

     and countered her assault, carrying the two into the air her sending her back down to the ground head-first with a kick. But because he was so exhausted, he failed to reposition himself for landing and both were knocked unconscious upon returning to terra firma.

     After a long time, Ji Lu was the first to awaken. Shinji never felt the woman's arms wrap around him as she whispered the words "Wo ai ni" and kissed his lips for an even longer time before taking him into her home and nursing him back to health.

     "Wo da airen," she nuzzled up to him and never left his side until he woke up.

     Out of respect for the Amazon laws and people, my father spoke nothing against taking Ji Lu as his bride.

     "Wait a minute!" Ranma interrupted, "your dad had to deal with that crazy Amazon law too?"

     Kohei blinked, "You know someone who defeated an Amazon woman?"

     "Yeah, you're looking at him."

     His eyes widened, "Then where is your bride?"

     "It's a long and complicated story," Ranma shook his head, "for now, just keep going."

     It wasn't long after their wedding that I was born on December 7th, the day Japan attacked the base known as Pearl Harbor. My grandfather saw this as a sign that I was to become a warrior strong enough to unite the Japanese and Chinese people together and lead them in a war on the Americans. In order to become that warrior, he insisted that I be trained in both the Ikimono style and also my mother's Amazon tribe's style of martial arts handed down through her family. My parents agreed to the training, but for a different reason. As Father was not as radical as Grandfather, he had forgiven the United States for their bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and blamed Japan for not surrendering before it became necessary. For this he was nearly banned from the colony, but because of me and my training he was not. Both Father and Mother trained me to protect people, not hurt them.

     Being raised by a Japanese father and Chinese mother, I learned a great deal about the history of both countries and grew to love both ends of my heritage. I first expressed the desire to travel to Japan when I was four years old, the same year my sister, Miki, was born. My parents promised me that, when I was of age, we would travel to Father's homeland. The years passed and I quickly learned the techniques and skills necessary to master both fighting styles and combine them. Then came my 17th birthday, one more year before I was of age.

     "Kohei," Shinji stood in front of his oldest child and only son, "you have only one more year before you are deemed a man, and today is the day you must begin your quest to fulfill your namesake so that your training may be increased."

     "What must I do, Father?" Kohei asked, bowing.

     "You must travel to the legendary training ground of cursed springs, Jusenkyo. I know that you will figure out what to do from there."

     "I understand, Father."

     My name means "Warrior armed of the animals," so I interpreted my father's advice to travel to Jusenkyo and...

     "[Jusenkyo has become very popular in recent years, Sir,]" the guide spoke as he led Kohei towards the springs, "[many people have come here to train, only to fall into one of the springs.]"

     "[I don't intend to train here,]" Kohei stated calmly, "[I wish to know which springs had animals drown in them as well as which one is Nannichuan.]"

     "[Ah, I understand, Sir,]" the guide proceeded to point out each and every one by heart, "[This one closest to you is Yaazuniichuan, that contains the tragic story of a duck who drowned there 1300 years ago. Now, whoever should fall into the spring takes the body of a duck. It is a very tragic story. Next is Shonmaoniichuan, that contains the story of a Panda who-]"

     As soon as the guide finished his long explanation, I purposefully dove into every spring in which an animal had drowned. By the time I leapt into the final one, the Spring of Drowned Wolf, my figure had become extremely grotesque. But as I leapt into the Spring of Drowned Man, I regained my human body, but had the added strengths of every single one of the animals.

     "Wait a minute!" Ranma interrupted again, "how did you manage to layer all of the curses like that?"

     "And was the Spring of Drowned Cat one of them?!" Ukyo asked as she realized something.

     "To answer Ukyo-san's question first, yes," Kohei answered.

     "I knew it!" she pointed at Ranma, "Ranchan, that's why I sensed you were so nervous around him this morning, you were picking up the ki emitted from the spirit of that cat!"

     "Hmm, so that was it," Ranma muttered.

     "Is that a concern?" Kohei asked.

     "It doesn't matter, now that I know where it was coming from and that it's so weak, I can handle it," Ranma waved it aside.

     "It's because Ranma is deathly afraid of cats," Akane grinned.

     The pig-tailed one ignored that and asked again, "So what about the layering of the curses? I know a guy who fell into the yeti, bull, crane, eel spring then went back and jumped into the octopus spring to get some tentacles. How did he do that without turning into a complete octopus?"

     "Jusenkyo and its curses have an unusual nature to them. If a man falls into the Spring of Drowned Priest, then jumps back into the Spring of Drowned Man before reverting to his normal self with hot water, the essence of the curse is still present and he will have the mindset of the priest when splashed by cold water. If I had turned back into a man with hot water before jumping into the next spring, the effects from all of the previous ones would have been nullified completely."

     "So, if Ranchan is a girl and he jumps into the Spring of Drowned Man," Ukyo asked, "would he still be as fast as he becomes when in girl form?"

     "He would," Kohei answered, "but if he loses any physical strength as a girl, that would take effect as well."

     "What about someone who jumps into the same spring twice?" Akane asked, recalling the time she kicked Mousse's last bucket of Yaazuniichuan water onto him.

     "Nothing more would happen unless that person had fallen into another spring, even if he is already in cursed form when being immersed again."

     "Okay, I gotcha," Ranma said, understanding everything, "keep going." Ukyo nodded in agreement.

     "Yes," Akane agreed as well, "this is very interesting."

     By the time I finished, my human form had become endowed with over 70 animal's abilities. Just a few would be the strength and resilient skin of a panda, the dexterity and swiftness of a cat, the intelligence and sense of smell of a pig, the stamina and leadership of a duck, the hunting instincts and night vision of a wolf, and so on. I left Jusenkyo and trained within the mountains for the next week to adjust to my new form. My village is about 5 days away and I'd just begun my journey to travel back there after my training when I heard an enormous explosion from behind and turned around to see two mountains had completely vanished.

     "Saffron..." Ranma mumbled.

     I began to run back to the grounds to see what had happened, knowing that a terrible battle had been taking place. I was still a few hours away before the sounds of battle ceased and all was quiet. When I finally did reach the cursed springs, the guide intercepted me.

     "[Sir, it's terrible!]" he exclaimed.

     "[What happened?]" Kohei asked.

     "[A young warrior from Japan has done battle with Lord Saffron of the Phoenix People!]"

     "[Saffron? The ruler of Jusenkyo?]"

     "[Yes! Their fight has caused Jusenkyo to become flooded! The cursed springs have mixed together and have cancelled each other out.]"

     "[How do you know this?]"

     "[Look here, sir,]" the guide proceeded to toss a frog into a few of the former cursed springs. Every time, the green creature returned unchanged.

     I then traveled to Mount Phoenix, where Saffron's followers, whom I was able to peacefully approach, explained to me that he had been defeated by one Saotome Ranma. They wanted to seek him out and kill him, but seeing what he had done to their newly reborn infant leader convinced them otherwise.

     "You don't have to tell me that twice," Ranma sighed, "I could tell they wanted to kill me when I gave that little brat back to Kiima. I'm still surprised they're not after me now."

     "You have nothing to fear from the Phoenix People now, Ranma," Kohei explained, "your battle at Jusendo inadvertantly saved the race as well."

     "You said that the guide told you all of the springs were cancelled out," Ukyo started to ask, "what did he mean by that?"

     "It's like two negatives creating a positive number in mathematics," Kohei explained more, "when the water of two springs touched each other, their curses were nullified. Until Ranma's battle with Saffron, there were exactly 109 springs where something had been immersed. If the spring Akaneniichuan hadn't been cursed, then the entire valley would have been filled with the water of any one of the other springs."

     Akane spoke up quietly, "I'm that Akane who first fell into that spring."

     "I know," he answered, "I figured it out when you explained your involvement in the battle. The floodwaters have not receded fully, so nobody knows what is going to happen when they do."

     "But you still haven't told us why you came looking for me," Ranma stated.

     "That explanation is next," Kohei sighed.

     The news of Saffron's defeat spread through the villages like wildfire spread in a strong wind storm, but only I knew the name of his killer. A year and-a-half later, my family was preparing to travel to Japan so my father, sister, and I could finally visit our homeland, when one man, calling himself Gekijo Hashin appeared at my village and demanded to fight the one who had killed Saffron. When the elder, my grandfather, told him that he did not live in Ryuchiezu, he called my grandfather a liar and began to destroy the village in an attempt to ferret out who he thought was Saffron's destroyer (who I soon found out was me, not Ranma) out of "hiding." My parents, being the best fighters in the village, challenged him, but never knew they had no chance of winning. Hashin is exactly what he calls himself, a violent demigod. Like Saffron, he must be killed quickly before his energy has a chance to replenish. Mother had told me to protect my younger sister, but I disobeyed and ran out to help them defeat him before he could regenerate. I was only able to learn that through the village priest's divine spiritual powers. I had just approached the battle enough for it to be within earshot when-

     "[Is that all?]" Hashin taunted as his blow sent both Shinji and Ji Lu flying back in opposite directions. He was a monster of a man, standing two heads taller than Kohei, the tallest man in the village. His body was easily comparable to a thick tree as most of his muscles were visible under the thin vest he wore over his chest and even under the red, baggy pants tied off with a black sash. He was completely bald except for an unbraided pigtail that ran halfway down his back. His cold, red eyes looked as if they emitted fire.

     "[Your failure and frustration only give me pleasure,]" he laughed, "[but your continued resistance makes me angry! Know the wrath of the gods!]" and began to focus all of his hateful energy into a ball.


     Shinji saw where he was going to aim his blast and immediately ran towards the person he planned on eliminating first.


     Ji Lu shook her head to remove the blurs from her vision and had only gotten up to her knees. Her weapon, a curved sword lay far out of reach. She looked up to see Shinji leap protectively in front of her.

     "Airen! No!"


     Kohei arrived to witness the events with his eyes instead of his ears at this point.

     I had been taught by Mother of the existence of a technique that turned a person's negative emotions into a chi attack called the Shishi Hokodan and was warned never to learn it. As I saw the power of the blast that enveloped my parents and it's barely missing me, I could see why. I could do nothing as my mother's lifeless body was flung towards me. She was the only one I saw, my father's body was vaporized in the blast. His attempt to protect her from the blast had been in vain!

     "Mother!" Kohei cried as he scooped Ji Lu's body into his arms and placed his ear to her chest. She was still alive and breathing, but just barely.

     "K... Kohei?" her voice asked weakly.

     "Yes, Mother, I'm here."

     "I... can't see you... Kohei... I can't see..."

     "It's okay, you've only been blinded. I'll take you back to the village and defeat Hashin for you, just don't die!"

     "Kohei... I see... a light... The light... calls... Ancestors are... coming for me..."

     He realized what she meant by this, "No, Mother! Don't leave me! I need you! Miki needs you! YOU CAN'T GO!!!"

     "You are... strong... Kohei... You are... a man..." she reached up slowly reached up to touch his tear-stained cheek, "Protect... your sister... and allow me... and your father... to rest..." and her body fell limp.

     Those were Ji Lu, my mother's last words on this plane.

     "NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Kohei howled as Ji Lu's final breath sounded in his ears. But he didn't have time to mourn as his angry expression fell onto the murderer of his parents.

     "[What's the matter, boy?]" Hashin taunted as the young man simply walked up to him.

     "[This is for my mother,]" he said, attempting to be calm as he grabbed the giant man's face and kissed his right cheek.

     The Kiss of Death. Given by the Amazon clan to their enemies as a promise to hunt their foe to the ends of the earth and kill them, or die trying.

     Hashin tried to knock him away, only for him to jump back before the blow could connect, "[Who are you to think that you can give me the Kiss of Death and live to fulfill that promise?!]"

     Kohei said nothing as he undid the leather pouch full of water that was tied to his belt sash and poured it on his head. His father's advice upon returning from Jusenkyo echoed in his mind, "Kohei, your abilities have increased ten-fold now that your body is now the house for the spirits of the animals. They have loaned you their power, but you must not abuse it. Only transform to fight if you are about to face Death itself." Now was the time.

     "[I am Ikimono Kohei!]" he declared as the ripple of his transformation traveled through his body, "[son of the warrior Ikimono Shinji and the Amazon champion Ji Lu!]"

     "[Ah, Kohei,]" Hashin grinned, [so you finally decide to come out of hiding, defeater of Saffron.]"

     "[What?! You came attacking my village because you thought I was the one who killed Saffron? You're wrong! It is a man named Saotome Ranma from Japan who defeated him!]"

     "[You are a liar, kid! Everyone who gave me information said that the warrior seen leaving Jusenkyo after Saffron was killed was named Kohei from Ryuchiezu. No Ranma was ever mentioned!]"

     "[Why are you so intent on finding Saffron's killer?!]"

     "[Because it was my destiny to be the one to defeat Saffron when he reached his full power, and you have shattered my opportunity. So if I defeat you, then I will be even greater!]" And without any warning, launched into a flurry of attacks.

     It was the most intense battle of my life and I only survived because of the Jusenkyo effects on my body. Even then, no matter how many times I hit him and with my most powerful attacks, he would always regenerate faster than I could deal any damage. Even though I had the stamina of the greatest hunters, I began to tire.

     "[I'm through playing with you, boy!]" he said as he knocked Kohei back several meters. Just as he stood up-

     "Shishi Hokodan!"

     he found himself facing the same attack that had taken his parents, but a much less powerful blast. Focusing all of his remaining chi in front, Kohei managed to block the blast, but the force of it again threw him back even farther. After being thrown all the way across the battlefield, Kohei's body continued to slide for several meters before coming to a stop. By the time his vision cleared, Hashin was standing over him and readying another-


     Kohei looked around to find any means of stopping him,


     and found his salvation in the form of a rock, and his mother's sword.



     The explosion shattered the boulder and sent enough debris into Hashin that he was distracted from finishing the technique, but the energy ball was still there. Kohei quickly grabbed his mother's blade and threw it through the ball of chi and into Hashin's chest. The imbalance of power caused the power of the blast to reverse against Hashin and sent him flying far over the horizon.

     "I... did it...!" exhausted, Kohei closed his eyes and never expected to open them again. He didn't even hear the two pieces of Ji Lu's sword fall back and land with him in between them.

     I thought I was dying, but I did awake a full day later back in the village. My mother had already been buried, but because my father's body was vaporized by the Shishi Hokodan, she slept alone. The pieces of her sword, the weapon that saved my life, are now enshrined in my home. I also thought that I had killed Hashin, but he re-appeared at the village a week later and demanded that, because he had defeated me, that we give him half of all our increases every month as well as one of the village girls to be his concubine for that month. I immediately prepared to fight him again, but my grandfather held me back, saying that the village would accept his terms because no more lives needed to be wasted. Immediately after Hashin left with his first collection, I confronted my grandfather and rebuked him for allowing that evil man to defile the women like that. He claimed he had no choice, but also that he had a plan. The plan was for me to find Saffron's destroyer, Saotome Ranma.

     "I accepted his plan and left immediately to minimize the number of women he would take. That was three months ago, and I am here now," Kohei concluded.

     Silence swept over the group of four for several seconds as the horror of what he had gone through settled into their minds.

     "That's just awful," Akane spoke first. She looked like she was on the verge of tears, but whether they would be out of pity or pure sadness, he couldn't tell.

     "The Shishi Hokodan..." Ukyo's whisper was barely audible, "who ever thought it could become so powerful...?"

     "Yeah," Ranma agreed with both girls then turned his head back to Kohei, "but exactly why did you come looking for me? Do you want to defeat me to prove your strength so you can gain enough confidence to go back and kill that Hashin guy?"

     Kohei shook his head, "If I killed you that would be a complete waste of a good fighter. I've come to ask if you'll return to China with me so that we may fight and defeat him together. I'm begging you Ranma, I could never do it alone."

     "Wha-?" Ranma took it as a surprise.

     "And before you decline, I promise that I will give you this if you accept," Kohei opened his pouch and withdrew a small vial of water held within. The label on it was written in both Chinese and Japanese, but what was written on it caught Ranma's attention.


On to Part 2

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