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A Horse is a Horse; Unless ...
By Coutuva

 

*Author's note - this episode follows "Of Curses and Dragons."
All *Real* Ranma 1/2 Characters copyright Rumiko Takahashi, and
are used without permission, hopefully to entertain.



A Horse Is A Horse; Unless...
----------------------------------------------------------------


Ranma walked over to the barn housing the 'club' horses, intent
on picking out his mount for the day. At Akane's insistence, the
two of them were about to embark on a day-long ride through the
bush country out behind Nerima Ward.
As he stepped through the large door, he glanced about for
a suitable horse, hoping to find a good strong one with a slightly
feisty attitude. Slowly, he walked down between the stalls,
stopping and talking to each horse in turn until he came upon one
in particular.
Standing with it's head against the bars of it's stall door
was a 15 three or four hand Arabian mare, with a brilliant white
blaze across it's forehead.
He was struck by the look in it's eyes, and how it followed
his every move through the barn. He walked over to it's stall and
slid the full door back, then hooked up the chest strap, allowing
the animal to step forward and stick it's head out.
The horse immediately stepped up to Ranma and nodded it's
head, then nuzzled the saddle hanging from the stall door. Ranma
smiled, and patted the large animal's withers affectionately.
"How can I refuse an offer like that?" he commented, and
led the animal into the grooming area crossties.
Since there was nobody else in the area, and Ranma was a
bit impatient to get on the trail, he flipped off his backpack and
opened up the tack closet. Looking it over briefly, he pulled out
the grooming tray with the name that matched the stall from which
he had taken the horse.
"Geisha, eh? Neat name... let's see how pretty we can make
you today, Geisha," he stated, beginning to brush the animal down.
The horse responded by turning as far as the ties would let it, and
trying to nod.
"Easy, Girl... you'll just hurt yourself doing that," Ranma
commented softly as he reached up and stopped the horses head. As
he held onto the halter, he swore he could see the animal's eyes
go misty for a moment, but shook it off as a mistaken impression.
Just at that time, Akane stuck her head through the barn
door and called to Ranma. "Hey! Get a move on, Ranma! We're
about to leave!" she chided, giving him 'the look'.
"Hai! I have to tack her up first... Give me just a few
more minutes!" Ranma replied from behind his horse. The horse,
meantime, turned and glared at Akane with it's ears lowered.
"Ano... you know how to do that?" Akane asked, quite
surprised.
"You bet! I used to do this to earn money to eat. Pop
arranged it, of course," Ranma replied, changing brushes.
"I shouldn't be surprised... especially about someone
with a name like yours," she jibed, grinning. "Okay... just
hurry, I don't want to leave without you."
"Yeah, right... I'll be there."
With that, Akane turned and left the doorway. Ranma
continued to brush the horse down, eventually bringing a deep
lustre to it's coat. Standing back a couple of feet, he tossed
the last brush back into the tray, and happily admired his
handiwork.
"Looks like I've still got it," he smiled, leaning
toward the horse's face. "And you look just gorgeous," he
stated, patting the animal's jowl. Almost as if reacting to
what he said, the horse trembled slightly at his touch.
Taking the hoof pick from the tray, Ranma quickly looked
after the animal's hooves, then swept away the dirt he removed
from them. He could have sworn that the horse was deliberately
moving aside as he swept, as if to get out of the way.
"I've been away from this too long..." he mumbled,
hanging the broom up.
Removing Geisha's saddle and blanket from it's bar
outside the stall, Ranma carried it over to the animal, and
placed it on the holding hook. He then retrieved her bridle
from the tack closet, and looked at it unhappily.
"This bit is in bad shape... let's see if there's a better
one around here," he commented to himself, not noticing the
horse nodding it's approval.
Upon fixing the new bit he found into the bridle, he
quickly slipped it on the horse, and adjusted it appropriately.
He noticed that the noseband was far too tight, and that the throat
latch was almost broken.
"Kuso, they don't look after things too well here, do
they?" he remarked absently, tossing the reins over the horse's
head. As he reached down to retrieve the martingale, he stopped
for a moment and regarded the animal levelly.
"You don't need this, do you?" he asked of it, holding
the free end of the strap in the horses view. The horse tried to
shake it's head, but the crossties only allowed so much movement.
"I thought not. Just behave yourself, and I'll take it
off," he continued, unbuckling the straps. That done, he shook
out her saddle blanket and tossed it over her back. Once it was
in place, he hefted the saddle onto it, attached and tightened
the girth, then stood back to make sure it was all on properly.
"Okay! Looking good, girl!" he announced, rubbing
the horses' forehead. "Let's join the party," he continued,
unhooking the ties and leading the horse toward the door. The
horse nickered happily in response.
Once outside, Ranma was disappointed to notice that
everyone else was gone. Upon asking the hand walking through
the yard where they went, Ranma set the stirrups and climbed on
the horse, intent on catching up to the rest of the group. In
the back of his mind was the fact that Akane was not an
experienced rider, and he was a bit worried about her.
Urging the horse into a fast canter, Ranma headed out
toward the hacking trail that the others had taken, and scanned
the path ahead for some sign that he was getting closer to them.
After a few minutes, he could see fresh tracks on the soft dirt,
so he pulled Geisha back to a walk, knowing he'd catch up
eventually.
Feeling a bit more relaxed, he settled back in the
saddle, and looked about himself at the marvelous open spaces.
He missed this kind of scenery, being stuck living in the middle
of town like he was. Geisha, for her part, seemed to know the
trail well, and followed it with little guidance from Ranma.
Noting that, he let the reins rest on the saddle to give the
horse her head.
As they rounded a long, lazy curve in the trail, the
trees opened out to reveal a small lake, shimmering like silver
in the morning sun. Across the water, Ranma could make out the
rest of the party, and noticed that Akane was poking along behind,
pretty much as expected. Smiling to himself, he guided Geisha
over to the edge of the water, where he jumped off and went to
get a drink. Geisha joined him, moving in very close beside him
to get her drink. Ranma reached over and patted her neck,
telling her she was a good girl. Geisha responded to him,
nodding her large head, then nudging Ranma's side playfully.
Unfortunately for Ranma, Geisha's nudge caused his foot
to slip, and he ended up sitting in the water, giving the horse
a not so friendly look.
As onna-Ranma stood up and shook herself off, Geisha
raised her head at the commotion, and as soon as she saw
onna-Ranma, her big brown eyes went wide. She started to
whinny excitedly, pawing the ground with her foot. She kept
looking right at onna-Ranma all the while, almost as if she was
trying to communicate something.
Ranma jumped from the water and snatched Geisha's bridle
by the D-ring, and tried to settle her down. As she held on to the
horse, she noticed that it kept bumping her ample chest with it's
nose, then would look up at her and whinny again.
"Hey, you..! Leave those alone! That hurts!" onna-Ranma
protested, stepping back from Geisha.
Geisha looked at her for a moment, flicked her ears, then
lowered her head. If Ranma didn't know any better, she would have
thought the horse understood her.
She didn't have long to ponder that thought, however, as
Geisha whinnied at her again, then stepped forward and began to
nudge her back toward the water.
"Hey! I'm already wet...!" Suddenly, it occurred to her
what was bothering the horse. Pushing the animal's head back, she
set herself and looked it in the eye.
"You're upset because I changed, aren't you?" she asked,
noting how silly the question sounded.
To her surprise, the horse nodded an affirmative.
"Well, get used to it. I change into a girl when I fall
in cold water. It's a curse, okay?" she continued, still feeling
rather silly about the entire conversation.
Geisha, however, reacted to the statement in a manner that
totally stunned her. The horse immediately reared up, whinnied
loudly, then dropped to all fours and nodded furiously.
Ranma, not quite sure what to make of the situation,
stepped back slowly so as not to be in the way of the thrashing
animal. She kept a wary eye on it though, knowing from experience
that horses can do a lot of damage if provoked, or if one was dumb
enough to be in the way.
Geisha continued to jump and whinny, until she noticed that
onna-Ranma was slowly moving back from her. Stopping in mid-jump,
she settled back to the ground, looked at Ranma, nickered quietly
and lowered her head.
Cautiously, Ranma approached her from a wide circle to the
side, and finally took hold of her bridle again. As she did, she
noticed what looked like deep sadness in Geisha's dark eyes, and
what strongly resembled tears gathering in them.
"What's wrong, girl?" Ranma asked, patting Geisha's
withers again. "You don't like me being a girl?" she put forth,
grinning.
Geisha turned and looked up at Ranma, puffing a long snort
through her lips, the sound resembling a resigned sigh.
Deciding that all was well for the moment, Ranma walked
Geisha over to a stand of small trees, and slip-knotted her to a
convenient branch. That done, she glanced about herself to make
sure no other riders were around, and promptly flung her shirt off
over her head and wrung it out. Geisha's eyes opened wide again,
and she turned her head away from the sight.
"What, girl? Never seen a topless woman before? Okay,
I'll cover up," Ranma stated, grinning. "I don't think I've ever
seen such a sensitive horse," she observed, slipping her damp top
back on. "But, don't worry girl... No more surprises, I promise."
she continued, hugging Geisha's neck tightly.
"Wait... can't promise that yet. I have to change back to
a guy before we catch up to the gang. These people don't know
about this, and it would be kinda hard to explain a Chinese girl
showing up on the horse a guy was supposed to be riding," Ranma
added, winking at Geisha.
Geisha turned and looked at her, nodding gently.
"Okay, then... I need to light a little fire," Ranma
indicated, rooting through her backpack for matches.



Akane kept looking back down the trail for Ranma, with the
unfortunate effect of turning her horse every time she did. The
guide had to keep coming back to straighten her and her mount out,
which added to Akane's already high frustration level. She was more
worried than upset with Ranma, although she kept thinking about
him in the barn, and how he seemed so at home working on the horse.
This still struck her as odd, as he had never mentioned his
experience in the area, nor had he ever even mentioned an interest
in riding.
In fact, had it not been for Kasumi finding the newspaper
ad for Trail-Riding, and then offering to take the kids for the day,
she might never have known at all.
As an afterthought, she found herself wondering what other
secrets he may have, but quickly forced such thoughts out of her
head. Had this been 10 years ago, she would have had her mallet
out by now, but she was his wife, and she trusted her husband
implicitly... most of the time.



Onna-Ranma took the pan full of lukewarm water off the
fire, and carried it carefully into the growth of brush behind
the clearing. A few seconds later, the now male again Ranma
stepped from the bush, carrying an empty pan.
Geisha looked at him over the tree branch she was tethered
to, and immediately began to paw the ground and whinny again,
unable to do much more. As Ranma looked back at her, he held
his finger to his mouth and mimed the "Shhh!" motions to her.
Geisha, meantime, kept nipping and pulling at the slipknot
until finally she managed to loosen it. Once free, she walked
quickly around the tree, and headed straight for Ranma. Ranma,
seeing the wide-eyed horse coming, dropped the pan he carried and
leapt into the tree.
To Ranma's surprise, Geisha ignored him and began
mouthing and nuzzling the empty pan excitedly. Finding it
uninteresting, she turned her head and looked up at a startled
Ranma, and whinnied loudly at him in a manner that felt
uncomfortably like he was getting told.
"What's your problem? If you want a drink, the water's
*that* way!" Ranma yelled, pointing toward the lake. Geisha only
looked blankly back at him, her eyes seeming to shimmer, somewhat
like Akane's did right before she started to cry. That really
perplexed him, and he jumped down from his perch to confirm his
suspicions.
Sure enough, when he walked up to Geisha's now-downcast
head, he lifted her chin to see tears actually trailing down her
face.
"Kuso... I wish I knew what this was all about.
Something's definitely not normal here, and it's bugging the
hell out of me," he stated, grumpily. Geisha didn't react this
time.
Picking up the pan and shoving it back into the pack,
Ranma mounted up and urged the now somewhat less-than-enthusiastic
Geisha into a fast walk, then brought her up to a full gallop to
try to catch up to the rest of the group.
Within a few minutes of hard riding, he pulled up behind
Akane, then moved up beside her.
"Oh, so you decided to join us... I was beginning to
wonder," Akane stated, dryly.
"Akane... something strange is going on here, and this
horse I'm riding has a lot to do with it," Ranma began, trying
to keep his voice low.
Geisha, still breathing hard from her run, turned and
looked at Akane again, ears laid back. When Akane glanced at
her in response to Ranma's statement, she snorted and turned
away.
"I see... trying to blame your problems on a horse now,
ne Saotome?" Akane replied, shooting him a grin and a sideways
glance.
"No! Akane, I'm serious. I fell in the lake back there,
and Geisha here freaked on me. She did it again when I changed
back. Something weird is happening, and she's in the middle of it."
"Well, we'll see about that. We're going to be stopping
up ahead for lunch, so you can tell me all about it then. I'm
just glad you're finally here... this is supposed to be a day for
us to be together, you know," Akane replied, icily.
Ranma was about to defend himself, but when he saw Akane's
face, he thought better of it. He resigned himself to dealing
with this new mystery alone, and sighed audibly. Geisha chimed
in with an indignant snuff, then quieted down completely.
During the lunch stop, Ranma tethered Geisha away from
the other horses, and pulled her saddle off. Since she was the
only one that did more than a loping walk, he felt it best to let
her rest a bit. As well, he made sure she got some of the hay
left for them and a good drink before he went to have his own
lunch. As he turned to walk away, he patted her neck and smiled
at her, despite his thoughts about her actions earlier.
"Okay, Geisha... You chow down here while I do the same,
and we'll see how things go this afternoon. I just hope you're
going to behave."
Geisha looked over at him and nodded, then nuzzled his
arm gently. Again, he smiled and patted her before finally
walking off. Geisha watched him go, making her sighing noise again.



"What were you saying about that horse, now?" Akane asked
as he sat beside her.
"I dunno, Akane... I thought I noticed something different
about her back in the barn, and what happened on the trail only
convinced me more. It really started when she knocked me into the
water, and I changed. She started rearing and whinnying, almost
like she was trying to tell me something. Then, when I changed
back, she did it again," he related, thoughtfully.
"How did you change back? I don't remember any restrooms
or such back there."
"I lit a fire and warmed some lake water. Then I just
ducked behind the trees and dumped it on myself. No problem.
It was when I came back out as a guy that Geisha went after my
water pan."
"Went after your water pan? Why?"
"I dunno... I thought she wanted a drink, but she'd just
had one."
"Hm. Better watch her, Ranma... I think she might be a
little nuts."
Ranma's eyes narrowed at that statement. "No, Akane...
I think it's just the opposite. She's trying to tell me something.
I just wish I could figure out what it was," he replied, biting
his sandwich.
"She thinks you're cute... that's what it is," Akane
asserted, smirking.
"Sure, Akane... Just like you, ne?" he answered, winking.
"Luckily for you, yes," she agreed, leaning over and
kissing his cheek.
After lunch, Ranma walked back over to Geisha with Akane
tagging along out of curiosity. When he got to the horse, he
pulled off her bridle and let her turn out in the large field
they were at the edge of. Geisha took full advantage, running
off into the tall grasses and letting it all hang out. Ranma and
Akane got a great laugh out of her actions, watching her run,
chase butterflies, jump around and just generally be a clown.
Eventually, she wandered back over to Ranma and wedged
herself cleanly between him and Akane. As she nuzzled his arm,
Akane walked around in front of her, and reached up to pat her
nose. Geisha would have none of it, and faked a bite at Akane's
hand, ears laid back against her head.
"Yow!" Akane exclaimed, pulling her hand back.
"Easy, girl... none of that. You bite, you go home!"
Ranma chided, giving the horse a stern look.
Geisha lowered her head again, but still kept an eye on
Akane.
"You okay?" Ranma asked, looking over Akane's hand.
"Hai. She missed. I see what you mean, though... she
is a bit different, isn't she?" Akane commented, glancing at
Geisha, who she thought was glaring back at her.
"Glad you're not hurt. Okay, I guess I better get you
set back up, ne Geisha-chan?" Ranma stated, retrieving her
bridle from the tie-pole.
"Geisha-chan? You keep that up and she'll follow you
home," Akane commented, raising an eyebrow. Ranma shrugged
sheepishly in response. "I can't help it... I think she's cute,
even with the attitude," he responded, patting Geisha's neck
affectionately.
Geisha immediately raised her head and nodded, snorting
haughtily in Akane's direction. She then nuzzled Ranma's side
while throwing a look at Akane.
"Looks like she agrees," Akane commented, dryly.
"Hai... I think so. Okay, lets get this show on the road.
C'mere, Geisha..." he began, reaching the bridle around the
animal's head. Once he had it fitted, he quickly put her saddle
back on, and stood holding her reins while he checked it for fit.
"Well, Ranma... I best get back to my horse now, too.
Everyone else is starting to mount up... Kiss me, you fool." Akane
commented, walking up and hugging her hubby. As Ranma went to kiss
her, Geisha promptly wedged her big head between them, forcing
them apart.
"Hey...! Watch it, will ya?" Akane sputtered, angrily. "I
swear, Ranma, that horse is jealous!" she spat, wiping her blouse.
"I don't think so," Ranma replied, reprovingly. She
probably just wants a hug, too," he continued, smiling. Geisha
lowered her head and placed it against Ranma's chest in response,
casting a hard glance at the fuming Akane. "See?" he indicated,
rubbing the horses jowl.
"Well, if was anything but an animal..." Akane began,
briefly feeling hardwood in her hand.
Geisha raised her head and looked full-on at Akane, snorting
indignantly.
"Same to you," Akane responded, levelly.



During the early part of the afternoon's ride, Ranma simply
rode quietly alongside Akane, thinking all the while about Geisha's
strange behavior. He liked the thought that the horse had a
personality, but the more he rolled it over in his mind, the more
it seemed that Akane was correct... she was being jealous. And on
top of that, there was still the issue of her behavior at the lake.
Ranma still couldn't make any sense of it, which only served to make
it more curious.
By the time they reached the mid-afternoon watering stop,
Ranma had a headache from all the thinking he had been doing.
Tethering Geisha to a tree, he wandered over to where Akane sat
and touched her shoulder gently.
"Hiya, cutie... wanna go 'Rumble in the Jungle'?" he asked,
wearing his best lecherous grin.
"If we were alone..." she winked in response, "You'd get
the 'rumble' of your life."
"Hm... Now that's more like it. I assume you're feeling
better?"
"Hai... I was being Baka back there, wasn't I?"
"No... I don't think so. Something's with that horse, and
I intend to figure it out. In fact, I have a headache from trying,"
he commented, rubbing his forehead.
"Well, don't hurt yourself," Akane admonished, grinning.
"Thanks... I needed that."
"Oh, C'mere you..." Akane said, reaching up and pulling Ranma
down into a very affectionate kiss.
Geisha, meantime, who had been watching from her tree,
immediately whinnied and began to pull hard at her reins. Ranma
heard the commotion, and looked up in time to see her break her
throat latch and shake off her bridle. Rearing up, she whinnied
again, looked right at Ranma and broke into a run.
"Kuso! I knew it! Akane... stay here! I'll go get her!"
Ranma shouted, leaping after the animal.
"Ranma...!" Akane called after him. "Be careful..." she
continued quietly, biting her lower lip.



As Ranma bound off after Geisha, he noticed that she was
not in a full gallop, and even seemed to be checking occasionally
to see if he was still behind her. Curiosity piqued, he
deliberately held back to see where the merry chase was leading.
After a lengthy course through the trees, Geisha abruptly
turned and ran over toward the stream that flowed nearby. Without
hesitation, she ran right out to the middle of it, and braked to
a complete halt. Turning, she looked back for Ranma. Not seeing
him immediately, she whinnied loudly until he showed up.
Ranma landed on the shoreline and walked up to the edge
of the stream, hands on his hips.
"Okay, Geisha... I don't know what your game is, but it's
time we had an understanding. I'm really getting tired of this!"
he shouted to the horse, angrily.
Geisha simply nodded, still standing in the middle of the
stream.
"Get back in here! C'mon, Baka! I can wait all day if
I have to!"
Geisha stubbornly refused to move, whinnying and nodding
almost as if to taunt Ranma. Finally, she started toward the
opposite bank, and Ranma immediately leapt after her. As he made
his first bounce, Geisha stepped off the wash she had been standing
on, and immediately sank to her chest in the much deeper water
behind it. She whinnied in panic, the sudden drop startling her.
Ranma picked up on her distress, and adjusted his angle
of descent to land near her. He had hoped to avoid the water,
but it was too late for that.
Upon splashing down beside the horse, onna-Ranma swam
over to her, and wrapped her arms around Geisha's neck.
"Okay... turn, Geisha... Turn, girl... this way... back up
on the wash. C'mon... you can do it..." Onna-Ranma cajoled,
trying to steer the panicking animal back to solid ground. After
a few tense moments of thrashing, Giesha's hooves finally caught
bottom, and she clawed her way out of the stream, onna-Ranma
still dangling from her neck. Once they were out, she dropped off
the horse and shook the excess water off herself.
Turning to regard Geisha, who stood quietly except for her
heaving sides, Ranma shot her a condemning glance.
"C'mon, you baka horse... we have to get back to dry land
so I can change before everyone else shows up," she stated,
anger still edging her voice.
"What was your game, anyway? Follow the leader?"
Geisha, uncharacteristically, didn't respond at all,
preferring instead to simply look at the ground.
"Hrmph. That's all you have to say for yourself? Kuso,
you are one damn stubborn animal," she continued, looking for
something to hold on to in order to guide Geisha back to shore.
After rigging one of the shoulder straps from her backpack
to Geisha's saddle, and using the other to bind her nose to it,
Ranma lead Geisha back to the shoreline, and let her loose. Giesha
seemed to understand that Ranma was not in the mood for any more
games, and simply stood quietly near her.
Ranma dug her matches out of the pack, thanking the stars
that they were waterproof. Next, she quickly gathered some twigs
and driftwood to make a small fire, over which she placed the pan
once again.
"Never figured I'd be doing this again so soon..."
onna-Ranma complained, casting a glance at Geisha.
Geisha returned her look, then slowly walked up beside
her and attempted to nuzzle her arm. At first, deciding that the
horse was just trying to suck up, Ranma resisted it by trying to
dodge. However, the look in Geisha's eyes and the determination
of her efforts won Ranma over eventually, and before long she was
hugging the animal again.
"Kuso... it's like you have the same tricks as Akane... I
can never stay mad at her, either," she commented, patting Geisha's
flank.
"Okay... looks like my water is ready. I'll be back in a
minute... don't do anything stupid," she admonished, waving a
finger at Geisha.
As onna-Ranma walked over to the trees with her pan, she
thought distantly about what had taken place in the last few
minutes. It had occurred to her during the initial chase that
Geisha seemed to want to be caught. That, combined with the
standoff at the stream made it almost seem as if the whole thing
was planned.
Onna-Ranma's face contorted as she crunched that thought.
She didn't want to believe it, but it would fit right in with
Geisha's other behavior today.
The more she thought about it, the more it added up. This
animal was trying to say something, and it had to do with water,
and possibly even...
"No...! It couldn't be..." onna-Ranma said out loud,
stopping in her tracks and turning to face Geisha.
Without a second thought, she flung the contents of her
pan at the startled horse, and promptly face-faulted.
Before her now stood a naked, brown-haired, western-appearing
girl. She seemed a bit older than onna-Ranma, and at the moment
was totally stunned at what had just happened.
The saddle she once bore now lay around her ankles, which
convinced the dumbfounded onna-Ranma that she was not seeing things.
The girl slowly looked at herself, a wide smile washing
across her face as she realized she was no longer a horse. She
looked wide-eyed at Ranma for a split-second, then collapsed to
her knees, crying.
After a few uncertain moments, Ranma spoke first, being a
little more used to this sort of occurrence.
"Ohaio Gozaimasu. I am Saotome Ranma. Ano... do you speak
Japanese?" she inquired, bowing and hoping for the best.
"H- Hai," the girl replied, holding her throat.
"I'm glad. Let me find something for you to wear," Ranma
replied, walking carefully toward the girl to retrieve her backpack
from the saddle.
"Th... Thank you for f-f-freeing me..." the girl croaked,
having obvious difficulty with speaking. Ranma looked at her
curiously as she pulled an oversized t-shirt from the backpack and
handed it to her.
"Say... how long have you been a horse?" she finally asked,
noticing the girl's unsteady balance and cautious movements as she
stood up to slide the shirt on.
The girl looked at the ground and cleared her throat, then
looked at Ranma sadly.
"T..T..Two - Two Years," she finally answered, tears still
rolling down her flushing face.
Ranma's jaw dropped. She couldn't imagine being trapped
as a horse for that long, especially since it was so easy to
change back.
"You're kidding... Why?" Ranma blurted, still shocked.
"Tell you... after drink?" the girl croaked, regarding
Ranma imploringly.
"Oh, damn... Sure! One sec..." Ranma sputtered, realizing
that she had been too curious to notice the poor girl's horribly
dry throat. She grabbed a thermo-mug from her pack and filled it
quickly, then ran it over to the now trembling girl.
"Here... I'm sorry... I was a bit stunned there, I
guess," onna-Ranma explained, skritching her head. "I just can't
understand why you've been like this for two years, when it's so
easy to change back."
"Ahhh... That feels better," the girl replied upon
draining the mug. "I guess I owe you a lot, Saotome Ranma..." she
began slowly, trying her best to bow gracefully.
"Ya... don't worry about it. Do you feel okay?"
"Hai... much better. I haven't seen this body for so long..."
"Tell me what happened... why were you stuck?"
The girl's face flushed again, and her eyes became very sad.
"My name is Elysse Rialto... My family and I were visiting China two
years ago, and my baka brother knocked me into a pool at this place
called 'Ju-sen-kyo'. I changed into a horse, and then panicked...
I ran off into the hills to hide from my family," she related,
sadly. Tears again began to flow down her flushed cheeks as she
spoke, and, without thinking, she raised her arm a bit and rubbed
her face on it to clear them. Suddenly, she realized what she had
done and looked at onna-Ranma sheepishly. "Gomen ne.. old habits die
hard, I guess..." she stated, shrugging.
"Huh... so you were never told how to reverse the curse.
Kuso... that must have been awful, thinking you were permanently
a horse," onna-Ranma sympathized, quietly.
"Hai... it was a nightmare. I was captured, sold, worked,
sold again, beaten... It's horrible being treated like that, and not
being able to do anything about it," she continued, anger edging
her voice. "Until you came along and I discovered that you were
changed like me, I really thought my life was taken from me...
forever," she explained, looking at Ranma through tear-soaked eyes.
"Well, I'll help you any way I can, Elysse... But, I have
to change back myself first. I'm normally a guy, and that's what
I want everyone to see if they come looking for us. You rest here
a moment, and I'll heat up some more water."
Elysse nodded her agreement, then sat carefully on the
side of the upturned saddle. Ranma could tell that she was pretty
stiff and most likely still getting used to having her real body
back. Ranma knew it would be a tough trip for a few days, but
figured that she'd eventually be fine.
Ranma quickly heated up another panful of water, and this
time didn't bother going and hiding to change back. As soon as the
temperature of the water was good, she dumped it over her head,
and breathed a sigh of relief.
"That's better. I'm back to me again," he stated, shaking
the water out of his hair. Turning back to where he thought
Elysse was, he was startled to find her standing right beside him.
Before he could react, she wrapped him an a passionate hug.
"I owe you my life, Saotome Ranma... And I can never thank
you enough," she gushed, and kissed him full on the lips.
Right on cue, from out of nowhere he heard the familiar
bellow... "RRRRAAAAANNNNNMMMMMMAAAAAAAAA!"
A split-second later he was unconscious on the ground, a
purpling, mallet-imprinted bump rising from his head.



Later, Ranma groaned as he gradually returned to the world
of the aware, his head aching from the massive mallet strike. As
his eyes opened, he discovered he was back at the ranch house, and
both Akane and Elysse stood over him, regarding him worriedly.
"Gomen ne, Ranma!" Akane blurted as soon as she saw
signs of life. "It was an impulse reaction...!" she explained,
taking the prayer stance.
"UURRhhh... Akane, that thing is deadly..." he moaned in
response, raising a hand to his throbbing skull.
"I explained everything to your wife, Saotome-san. After
she stopped chasing me with that mallet, that is," Elysse chimed
in, grinning at Akane.
"Oh really? And you're not mad anymore?" Ranma asked,
weakly.
"No... I understand what happened, and Elysse told me why
she kissed you. I'm really sorry I clobbered you so hard, Ranma...
I just couldn't help myself."
"It's okay, Akane-chan... I should have told Elysse I was
married a little quicker, I guess," he countered, his voice still
weak.
"Well, I'm sorry I caused you so much trouble..." Elysse
added, bowing. "I was just so happy to be freed of that damned
awful curse."
"You're not totally free, Elysse..." Ranma injected from
his prone location. "The curse works like this... cold water turns
you to the horse, and warm water turns you back. That goes for
rain, accidental splashes, pools... you name it. This is with you
for life, I'm afraid."
Elysse simply stared at Ranma, trying to get her mind around
what he just said.
"Remember... I changed back and forth twice already. It's
the same for you..." Ranma continued, quietly.
"And for me..." Akane added, smiling sweetly.
"You mean..." Elysse stammered, staring now at Akane.
"Hai. I change into a man."
Elysse reached her overload point with that statement, and
promptly crumpled to the ground.
"I think she took that rather well..." Akane commented,
leaning down to aid the passed-out girl.



Once Elysse recovered, she had herself a good cry over the
events of the day, and Ranma felt his heart go out to her. He knew
how much trouble he had with his curse when he was first afflicted
with it, but couldn't imagine how Elysse was going to deal with hers.
Akane also felt sorry for her, and invited her to stay with
them at the Dojo until they could arrange to contact her family in
Canada. Elysse gratefully accepted, unable to believe her luck.
For the first time in over two years, she was looking forward to
life again.
As they headed back toward the city, Ranma suggested that
they stop at a clothing shop and get something more suitable for
Elysse to wear, which delighted Akane. When they arrived at a
small boutique, Akane almost dragged the poor girl in, always
anxious for an excuse to shop.
Ranma, who had been consigned to approval duty, sat
patiently outside the dressing rooms while Akane fussed over
Elysse. When they stepped out, Ranma swallowed hard at the change
in their new friend. Thankfully, Akane was to preoccupied to
notice his reaction.
Elysse pirouetted before the mirrors, reveling in the
feeling the new clothing gave her. It had been far too long since
she had been a real girl, and she felt almost drunk with excitement.
Akane had outfitted her in a very feminine full dress, with
matching white hose and low black shoes, topped off with snug white
gloves. The pastels of the dress matched perfectly with Elysse's
natural color, and the combined effect left Ranma shaking his head.
Elysse couldn't stop thanking them, bowing repeatedly and
asking over and over if they were sure they wanted to do this for
her.
Once they were finally able to get her away from the
mirrors, Ranma paid the 50,000 yen bill, and shoved the receipt
in his pocket before Elysse could see it. It was a small price to
pay to give her so much happiness, he thought to himself.



At the Dojo, Elysse immediately asked to take bath while
Akane made supper, which prompted Ranma to remind her not to use
any cold water. She looked at him for a second as if she wanted
to say something, but then excused herself and left for the bath.
Once she drew the door closed behind her, she leaned back
against it, fighting back the tears that she knew were coming.
Ranma's caution had reminded her that she still bore her curse,
and would have to lead a very different life from now on. Wiping
her eyes, she ran a bath and stripped off the new dress, carefully
folding it before placing it on the stand.
For a few moments, she stared at her naked form in the
mirror, as if still trying to convince herself that she really was
a girl again. She noted that her body was slightly different that
she remembered it, in that she seemed taller, and her chest looked
a bit fuller. Hoping it wasn't just her imagination, she continued
to inspect herself until the tub filled to the level she wanted.
Climbing into the steaming tub, she sank to her neck and
luxuriated in the soothing warmth, and let her tears flow unabated.
She felt both ecstatically happy and profoundly scared,
uncertain of what her future would now hold. One thing she was
sure of, however, was that she owed Ranma a debt she could never
even hope to repay.
As she pondered that thought, she closed her eyes for a
moment, thoroughly enjoying her first warm bath in two years.
Eventually, her mind began to wander as she soaked up the warmth,
soon going back to her first meeting with Ranma. Her face flushed
as she remembered how handsome and strong he looked, and how there
was something about him that told her she could trust him.
Had she been in human form, she was sure she would have
fainted when he first touched her.
Thoughts of his gentleness as he tacked her up, his
strength as he held and guided her, and his caring desire to help
her all combined to generate a different kind of warmth within her,
and she soon found herself becoming 'overheated'.
Wistfully, she sighed, wishing she could have had just
a little more time alone with that incredible man, so she could
have expressed her true feelings toward him. Again, she felt her
face flush as the possibilities ran through her thoughts.
A small pang of guilt abruptly intruded on her pleasant
reverie as she thought of how she had treated Akane, especially
after how kind the woman had been to her once her story came out.
When she had first seen Akane, she had assumed she was no more than
a sister, or even a meddling girlfriend, and was thoroughly
shocked to discover that she was actually Ranma's wife, and that
they had two children.
That discovery, however, didn't change how she felt about
him. He was still the most perfect man she'd ever met, and she
silently thanked whatever god was listening for bringing them
together.



During supper, Elysse related her story to her benefactors,
weaving a tale of two years of misery at the hands of various
'owners' in both China and, eventually, Japan. She had all but
given up hope of ever being human again, and remarked that she
still had to pinch herself to believe that she had really
changed back.
She also commented, rather bitterly, on how ironic it was
that she had spent so much time preparing for her fateful vacation,
learning Chinese and Japanese so she could act as an interpreter
for her family, only to end up not even being able to speak for
two years.
Ranma listened intently, reminded somewhat of his own
thoughts in the beginning.
"You'll learn to live with it. It took me a long time, but
I finally made my peace with it... especially after trying... and
failing... to undo it," Ranma added, thoughtfully.
"Hai... that's how I ended up getting cursed. Only in my
case, I knew what would happen, but I did it anyway," Akane chimed
in, grinning slightly.
"You did?" Elysse responded, incredulously. "Why would you
do it on purpose?"
"Ranma almost drowned when he tried to reverse his curse,
and I dove in after him."
"Ano... and she can't even swim," Ranma inserted, winking
at his wife.
Elysse looked at her hosts in silence for a moment,
considering the exchange she had just heard. It was incredible to
her that these two people took their curses so lightly. It was as
if it was nothing out of the ordinary to them.
Having finished eating, Ranma looked at the clock and smiled
slightly.
"Elysse, where in Canada do you live?" he asked
thoughtfully, turning to regard the still perplexed girl.
"Ahh... Ontario. A little town called Phoenix," she replied,
smiling at the memories of home that the question stirred.
"Do you still remember your home phone number?"
"Hai... I do, even though I never thought I'd ever get to
use it again."
"Well, tell it to me, and I'll call your family. I imagine
they'll be happy to know you're still alive," he continued, walking
toward the phone.
Elysse jumped up happily from her mat at the low table, and
immediately glomped Ranma's arm as he picked up the phone. Akane
pretended not to notice.
Elysse rolled off the area code and number as Ranma dialed,
and they waited impatiently for the overseas connection to go
through.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, a voice answered on
the other end.
"Ohaio Gozaimasu. My name is Saotome Ranma, I calling from
Japan," he began, in his best fractured English. Abruptly, he
turned to Elysse in a panic. Covering the receiver, he whispered
urgently to her. "What's your family name again?"
"Rialto..." she whispered back, grinning to herself.
Ranma nodded and cleared his throat. "Is this home Rialto?"
he asked, grimacing at his mangling of the language. Elysse stifled
a nervous laugh.
On an affirmative response, he continued. "Your child is
with us. Rialto Elysse?"
The scream that erupted from the phone nearly blew Ranma's
eardrums through his head.
Elysse immediately recognized her mother's voice, and
begged for Ranma to hand her the phone. He complied willingly, his
head still aching from Akane's earlier caress, and now aching even
more.
"Mom...? It's me! Elysse!" she began, her voice already
cracking with emotion. Ranma, wiggling a finger in his ear, smiled
and stepped back, allowing Elysse some privacy.
"Gives you a good feeling, ne?" Akane commented as he
walked back over to her.
"Hai," he responded, looking back at the excited Elysse
as she chattered away. "It really does," he continued, smiling.



Elysse's parents immediately wired money, plane tickets,
food and several large gifts for the Saotomes, so grateful were
they to finally have their long-lost daughter back.
Much to Elysse's surprise, the guide at Jusenkyo had
immediately explained her curse to her family. Try as they might,
though, they were unable to find her after she bolted from the
grounds. After two weeks of looking, they had to give up the
search to return home, having run out of money.
Elysse was so relieved that *she* didn't have to explain
it that she almost cried. Having to tell them about the curse
was the one thing she dreaded about seeing them again, and with
that out of the way, she was now even more anxious to be on her
way home.


Standing in the departure lounge at the Tokyo Airport two
days later, Ranma and Akane each hugged Elysse goodbye, and wished
her a good life and prosperous future. Akane thought she noticed
her hugging Ranma a little *too* gratefully, but under the
circumstances let it go unmentioned.
Tearfully, Elysse made her way out to the plane, all the
while looking back for Ranma. As she finally stepped into the
plane, she turned and waved happily one more time. The Saotomes
responded in kind, feeling equally happy for her.
Settling into her assigned seat on the plane, Elysse
looked out her window, searching the large Terminal windows for
one last sign of Ranma. She caught a glimpse of him as he was
turning to leave, and smiled despite the building ache in her
heart.
"Ranma Saotome... I'll see you again some day. Count
on it," she vowed to herself, silently.



=================================================================
END - A Horse is a Horse; Unless... A Ranma1/2 FanFic by Coutuva


Comments Welcome, Flames Extinguished!
coutuva@vecdev.com

 

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