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A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
by jimra

All characters are owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video, and I make no claim to them in any way.  They are used without permission, but I hope no one minds.

<Chinese Dialog>

Prologue: How it all began

Tendo Soun and Saotome Genma sat quietly beside the small campfire.  The sleeping form of Happosai, master of the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, was lying in a sake soaked, drunken stupor beside the flames, oblivious to his students' intentions.  Simultaneously, Genma and Soun nodded, and Soun quickly splashed his long time friend and companion with the cold water of the fire bucket.  The metamorphosis no longer even fazed the stoic martial artist, and a two meter tall panda rose where Genma had been sitting.

Moving with the silence only years of devotion to the Art would yield, the two students quickly stuffed their master into one of the many empty sake casks and tied it with both chain and sacred rice rope.  Once the cask was secured, the large panda lifted the cask with ease as Soun lit a torch from the flames of the slowly dying campfire.

Leading his friend into the hills with the same silence, born of both fear and reverence for the venerable martial artist and hentai contained within the cask, Soun headed for the cave he and Saotome had chosen for their master's final rest.  The rocky ground and steep paths presented no problem for the trained martial artists, and they soon found themselves at the yawning mouth of darkness.

Chosen for its remote location and slightly unstable walls, the cave seemed an ideal place to bury their master and their memories of the terrible things they had done at his behest, and the panda quickly set the cask down for a final treatment.

Soun pulled the small orange blocks from his pocket along with the means to detonate them and quickly attached them to the cask.  Once his task was complete, Tendo stepped away from his friend, and wasting neither time nor movement, the panda lifted the cask and threw it into the gaping mouth of the cave in one swift motion.

The two soon-to-be former students knew that they had only a few short minutes to move the sanctified boulder into position before the charges detonated, and they quickly threw all of their considerable strength into the task.  The great stone seemed to move with agonizing slowness, but they managed to push it into position with a little time to spare.  Tendo, knowing that his friend would rather be human when they said farewell to their beloved and hated master, quickly removed a small thermos from inside his gi and poured the contents over the panda's head.  Moments later, his human friend stood by his side once again, and they waited for the explosion that would inevitably rock the mountain that they stood upon.

The two martial artists, stoic as they might be, still covered their ears as the earth shook, and for a moment a brief look of fear crossed both faces when the boulder they had so carefully consecrated for this very purpose rocked as though it might roll away.  However, the shaking ceased before the boulder was able to move any appreciable distance, and the now former students heaved sighs of relief as tears of both joy and sorrow made paths of moisture down their faces.

"At last, Tendo-kun," Genma said in a voice so filled with emotion that it would be impossible to describe.  "We are free at last."

Soun answered his friend in kind.  "Yes, Saotome-kun.  At long last."

The two martial artists turned quietly to the stone that would be a marker for their fallen master and bowed one last time in respect for his teachings and wisdom in the martial arts.  Neither former student had wished for this outcome for their master, but it had become apparent that the ancient hentai had to be stopped for the good of all human-kind.  Especially the female side of the species.

"We are sorry, Master," Genma said in a quiet voice.  "We wish there had been another way, but you always refused to see the moral decadence that had consumed your mind.  We forgive you of your crimes and pray that you find the rest you deserve."

"Goodbye, Master."  Soun's voice almost cracked with emotion as he said his final farewells to the master they had trained under for innumerable years.  "We always hoped you would see what you had become and would return to your old ways.  I hope that you can forgive this…"

Saotome placed a hand on his long time friend's shoulder and led the weeping man away from the tomb.  The men had already discussed what they would do once the master had been stopped, and now they would have to go their separate ways for a time.  They had trained long and hard, and now they wished to build families in order to secure the future of their art.  They had already agreed to meet at the grave of Happosai once more in exactly one year, and then, each would tell the other how they had fared in this latest of quests.  However, for the rest of this night, they sat by the fire and drowned their sorrow and happiness alike in what was left of the sake.

Over the last year, life had been good to Saotome Genma, and he was presently leading his fiancée, the beautiful, dark-red-haired Nodoka, through the mountains toward his meeting with Tendo Soun.  Nodoka was a very traditional woman, and she wore a kimono even into the rugged wilderness that was the mountains of Japan.  As a token of their love and their pledge to marry, she carried a long, silk covered bundle on her back.  Genma was the last surviving Saotome of his branch of the clan, and any other relatives were distant enough not to matter.  As such, the bundle Nodoka bore into the mountains was the Saotome clan blade, the honor of the clan itself.

As the couple finally approached the campsite where Genma and Soun had sat the night of Happosai's death, Genma spotted a medium sized tent and a small fire already burning cheerily in the old fire pit.  A chill breeze reminded the martial artist that both night and winter were approaching, and he gently urged his fiancée to move with greater speed as now the goal of the long journey from Tokyo was in sight.  Nodoka graced him with an indulgent smile, and indeed, she managed to move a bit faster.

Presently, a man emerged from the tent followed by a young, black-haired woman.  Tendo Soun raised a hand in greeting, waving enthusiastically, to his old friend and training partner, and Genma returned the wave with equal fervor.  The old friends embraced as they reached one another, and no few tears were shed at the meeting.  However, there were introductions to be made, and neither man wished to leave the other in the dark regarding the women present at the meeting.

"Saotome-kun!  It is so good to see you again!" said Soun in a voice filled with elation.

Genma, responding in kind, said, "Well met, my old friend!"  Taking the initiative, Genma began the introductions.  "Tendo-kun, I would like to introduce to you my fiancée, Nodoka.  Nodoka-chan, allow me to introduce my long time friend and training partner, Soun."

Soun turned to the traditionally clothed woman and bowed deeply.  "I am honored to meet the fiancée of my oldest and dearest friend, Nodoka-san.  It is my sincerest wish that the two of you lead a happy and fulfilling life together."

Nodoka responded with her own bow, and replied, "I have long awaited this meeting, and Genma has said nothing but good things about you, Tendo-san.  It is I who am honored to meet you."

"You are too kind, Nodoka-san," Soun said happily, and this emotion only increased as he continued.  "Saotome-kun, Nodoka-san, please allow me to introduce my wife, Kimiko."

Genma was utterly speechless as Soun continued the introductions, and he barely heard a word of it until Kimiko herself was speaking.

"I am honored to meet you Saotome-san, Nodoka-san," she said in a light voice and a bow.  "It is good that old friends stay in touch."

Both Genma and Nodoka returned the bow and stated how they were honored to meet her, and soon, with the formalities completed, the campsite was filled with good-natured laughing and the sounds of stories being told.  Genma, with a few additions by Nodoka, told the story of how he had traveled to Tokyo after last seeing his friend, and how he had met his beloved fiancée.  Soun and Kimiko responded in kind, telling the story of how they had met and fallen in love.

"I wish you could have been at the ceremony, Saotome-kun," said Soun as he finished his story.

"Don't worry, Tendo-kun," replied the other man.  "We knew what we were getting into, going off on our own.  I'm sorry I missed it, too, but nothing can diminish the joy I feel at our meeting and your good fortune."

Smiles continued well into the night, and the men continued to talk for some time after the women had retired to the tents.  The martial artists spoke of many things, and it seemed as though the year they had spent separated had only strengthened their bonds of friendship.  Presently, Genma began speaking of the master.

"Tendo-kun, when do you want to go pay respects to the master?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"Actually, Saotome-kun," Soun replied in an equally quiet voice.  "I think now would be the best time."

Genma nodded his head sagely, and without further comment, both men stood and began the short trip from the camp site to the consecrated boulder that marked the master's grave.  The trail had changed little in the year since they had buried Master Happosai, and they followed it in the darkness without problem.

The boulder was unchanged from the day they’d left it, cold stone with a sacred rice rope coiled around it, ofuda liberally entwined in its length.  According to the Shinto priest from whom they’d bought the small paper wards and the rice rope, together they should hold against a greater oni for at least two hundred years without renewal.  Even so, the men quickly checked the rope for fraying and the ofuda for any damage before beginning their prayers; it would not do for the corrupted master to break free of the bindings, regardless of the near certainty that he was dead after a year in the cave.

Once they assured themselves that the tomb was secure, both men bowed deeply and stood in quiet introspection and prayer for some time.  Both dwelled upon both the good and bad qualities their master had possessed, and they preferred to remember the strict but kind man they had known before he had become an utter hentai and an enemy of women, though sometimes Genma thought that the master had just been holding back his urges when he was younger.  Tears ran from their eyes once more as the pain of what they had been forced to do returned.

After a time, Genma turned to his old friend.  "Tendo-kun, I just had an idea.  Don't you think that the Master would have wanted the schools joined once more?"

Soun thought about that for a moment.  "I suppose you're right, Saotome-kun, but I'm not sure how we can accomplish that…"

"Ah," replied Genma, his voice increasingly excited.  "I have the perfect idea.  If we can, let us have our children marry, and join both our houses and the school!"

"That's brilliant, Saotome-kun.  It's a deal!"

The two martial artists stood before the tomb for a while longer, but the somber mood had left them.  So, having paid their respects to the master, Soun and Genma turned and left the monument.  The stone stood cold and solid, the sacred rice rope unbroken.

Genma waved goodbye to his old friend in a somewhat tearful fashion, but that was to be expected.  They had spent only a week together before the two martial artists went their separate ways once more, and he had a somewhat difficult duty to perform.  Though, for now, Genma was content with the knowledge of where his friend had taken up residence.  It seemed that Kimiko had inherited a traditional house in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, and Tendo was planning to build a dojo on the grounds to teach the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu and a few other styles.  Secure in the knowledge of his friend's address, Genma knew that he would never lose touch so completely for so long again.

As the other young couple passed out of sight, Genma began to reflect on his duty — that is, his duty as a Saotome.  It is hard to forget that you have a shape shifting curse as your family legacy when all it took was some water to trigger the change.  Thus far, Genma had kept Nodoka blissfully unaware of his curse and of her duty should she decide to actually marry him after what he had to tell her.

The young martial artist sobered rapidly as his thoughts entered that area of his memory, and he remembered, as a child, about gaining his curse.  His father, just another link in a chain of Saotome martial artists stretching back to feudal Japan and his clan's samurai traditions, had explained that it was every Saotome's duty and birthright to claim another form.  This included those that married into the clan, and that was the part that Nodoka would dislike even more than his ability to transform into a panda.  Steeling himself for what he considered to be near certain rejection, he called to Nodoka.

"Nodoka-chan," he said quietly.  "Could you join me by the fire?"

The smiling face of his fiancée emerged from the remaining tent as she called, "What do you need, Gen-chan?"

Genma grimaced slightly at the name, but since they were in private, he had no real cause to be upset.  Thus, he covered the grimace by setting two kettles onto the fire.

"Please," he said politely.  "Join me by the fire, and bring some tea."

After hearing Genma repeat his request, Nodoka, traditional as she had been raised, did not question her husband-to-be, and shortly there after was sitting quietly beside Genma.  The man she loved did not speak as he pulled the two kettles from the coals and used one to make the tea, and she thanked him when he handed her a steaming cup.

For a long moment, Genma sat in quiet introspection over his cup.  He stared into the green depths of the tea, taking occasional sips, and Nodoka waited patiently for him to clear his mind and speak.

"No-chan," he said after some time, his quiet voice seeming loud after the long silence.  "Please know that I love you with all of my heart, and nothing will ever change that…"

At this, Nodoka was beginning to worry.  Genma rarely spoke this way, and when he did, it was usually regarding something in his past.  Something that he believed that she would not like or not approve of.  However, traditional or not, she loved the man beside her, and that was evident when she spoke.  "Gen-chan, please do not doubt that I feel the same for you."

"I do not know if you will feel that way after what I have to say, but I thank you none the less," he replied, his voice troubled and his eyes averted.

Becoming very worried indeed, Nodoka decided that he would tell her what he wanted her to know in his own time.  Any rushing on her part would only drive the man to delay longer, but still, she wished that he would just spit it out.

Genma was silent for but a short time before he began again.  "I will not lie to you, No-chan.  There is more to marrying me, marrying a Saotome, than the simple vows and ceremony.  My family holds a curse as both duty and birthright, and anyone who joins the clan, through any means, must take part in this curse."

Nodoka frowned slightly as he stopped for a moment.  She wasn't sure what Genma was talking about, but she knew that she could and would walk through hell barefoot to be with him.  However, before she could become angry with him for doubting her love and loyalty, Genma continued in that same troubled tone.

"First, before you see the curse, I will tell you of how I acquired it.  When I was a boy of only five, my father and I left home on a training mission.  His purpose, as stated to my mother when we left, was martial training and preparation for the duty that I must fulfill as a member of the clan.  We traveled all over Japan as I learned all manner of fighting techniques, and I learned to love the Art.  Just before my tenth birthday, we left Japan for China.  We traveled for some time, but in the end we entered the Training Ground of Accursed Springs, Jusenkyo.

"The valley was covered in mist, and all I could see were the bamboo poles sticking out of the dense fog.  As we approached, a man, known as the Jusenkyo Guide greeted us.  After a quick talk, he welcomed my father back, and invited us to stay with him for the duration of our training.

"My father and the Guide spent several days telling me of the springs, and of the curse given to any who enter their mystical waters.  Later, in the right of passage to enter the Saotome clan as an adult, I battled my father over the springs."

Genma paused a moment to collect his thoughts, and Nodoka sat, staring in wonder as the man she loved opened up to her as never before.  She remained quiet and patient as the martial artist meditated for a few moments, and then Genma finally continued.

"The result of falling into a spring is a shape shifting curse that triggers when one comes into contact with water; that is, every Saotome has a 'cursed form,' which is activated by a splash of cold water.  The curse can be reversed, though not cured, by a splash of hot water."

Nodoka stared at the man she loved for a moment in utter amazement, and quickly, before he could lose his nerve, Genma said, "My cursed form is a giant panda, and I shall now demonstrate it for you."

Grabbing the fire bucket, Genma doused himself as quickly as he could manage, which was very quick indeed since he had trained as a martial artist all his life.  Nodoka drew back as the metamorphosis took hold, and rather than the man she had given her heart to, a two meter tall panda was now sitting next to her.  Instinctually, she drew back in fright, and the panda, with a sad look in its eyes, reached for the kettle of hot water.  However, Nodoka had other plans, and intercepted the large paw.

"Gen-chan," she said quietly, as she pulled herself into the panda's lap.  Her arms encircled as much of the panda as she could manage, and she buried her face in the soft fur covering its chest.  Hesitantly, the panda's fuzzy arms encircled Nodoka, and they sat that way for a long time, panda-Genma simply holding his fiancée.

Finally, panda-Genma lifted Nodoka off of his lap and set her gently back in her original seat.  He reached over to the kettle he had set aside earlier and poured the warm liquid over his form.  The water was only barely hot enough to trigger the change after so long, but in a moment, Genma sat before Nodoka in his human form.

"Gen-chan," Nodoka said before he could speak.  "I don't love your body.  I love you and you alone.  The outside form doesn't matter as long as the spirit within is you,"

The love in her eyes was apparent, and she was almost smiling as she spoke.  Still, there was something in his eyes that told her that he had said more than she thought he had, and as she went over all his words that night, something tickled her thoughts in a somewhat unpleasant way, like she was missing a meaning somewhere.

"No-chan," he said, again uncertain.  "Do you remember what I said about the curse being both duty and birthright to the Saotome clan?"

"Of course," she replied, almost brightly.

"Well," said Genma, becoming more hesitant.  "That means _all_ Saotomes must take part in the curse that is our heritage."

"Well, of course I understand…" Nodoka began, but she trailed off as the meaning became clear.  "You mean that I'll have to go to this Jusenkyo place and become cursed myself should I wish to marry you, ne?"

Genma sighed heavily; she was almost correct.  "You do not have to do so before we wed, should you still wish to, but you must before you can be accepted as a Saotome."

"This will take some thought, Gen-chan," replied Nodoka.  "Allow me to think while we travel."

"Travel?  Where?"

"To Jusenkyo, of course."

Two months, one wedding ceremony, one plane ride, three bus rides, and a long hike later, the fog-shrouded valley of Jusenkyo presented itself before the young newlyweds, Genma and Nodoka.  Nodoka watched her husband as a small smile of contentment crossed his weathered face, and then, she looked nervously toward the dark bamboo poles protruding from the ever-present mists.  Genma set an easy pace as they moved down the winding trail, and as he did, Nodoka could see his confidence growing.

"Love," he said.  "You have one great advantage over one born or adopted into the clan.  Have I told you what that is yet?"

Nodoka thought for a moment and answered, "No, I don't believe you have, anata."

"The great advantage you hold, by marrying into the clan, is the right to choose your curse."

Nodoka mulled over this information as they made there way toward the Guide's hut, the rest of the trip made in silence.  As they approached the hut, a short, stocky man exited the single door and began to walk in their direction.  Genma's smile widened and he called out, <Nihao, Jusenkyo Guide!>

The man seemed puzzled at first, and well he might be; who would think that an obviously Japanese man would speak fluent Mandarin Chinese?  Soon, however, the puzzled look melted into one of happiness.

<Nihao, Saotome heir!> the guide called back enthusiastically.  <Do you bring a potential wife to receive your clan's birthright?>

<We have already married,> Genma replied with a smirk when they had reached conversational distance.  <We are here simply to complete the ceremony.>

The guide's face lit with greater happiness, but regardless of his delighted mood, he still intoned formally, <Then welcome back to Jusenkyo, Saotome heir.>

Nodoka, not knowing Chinese, much less this esoteric Mandarin dialect, was somewhat lost, and she said, "Anata, what is he saying, and for that matter, what are you saying?"

Both Genma and the Guide looked somewhat embarrassed, and the Guide apologized first, "Apologies, Ma'am.  Here in Jusenkyo, we no get many visitors what cannot speak Chinese, and it has been long time since Saotomes have come.  Here, Ma'am, you come to Cursed Training Grounds: Jusenkyo.  Welcome!"

"I'm sorry, love," said an apologetic Genma after the guide finished speaking.  "I became caught up in the moment."

Nodoka first turned to the Guide and thanked him for the welcome, and then assuaged her husband's guilt with a kiss.  The Jusenkyo Guide, respectful of privacy, looked away.

"Please Sir, Ma'am," said the Guide after a few moments.  "Come inside.  You must be too, too tired from long journey!  Please, come rest."

Both Genma and Nodoka thanked him for his hospitality and followed him into the hut.

Night had fallen over the peaceful valley of Jusenkyo, and Nodoka was asleep on the Guide's only bed, generously offered to the Saotome couple.  Genma and the Guide stood under the light of the moon and looked out across the multitude of peaceful springs, quietly contemplating what would begin the following day.

<Have you explained the process to her yet?> asked the Guide, puffing contentedly on his long-stemmed pipe in the cool evening air.  <She must understand what rights, responsibilities, and risks she assumes,>

<I have explained some of it,> answered Genma.  <I was saving the rest for tomorrow morning, and she had some time to sleep.>

The Guide showed a small smile around his pipe stem.  <Yes, Saotome heir.  That is probably best.>

The two continued to contemplate the springs late into the night, and the silence of Jusenkyo allowed them the peace to do so.

As the morning sunbeams lanced through the window over the Guide's bed, Genma was honestly still trying to sleep, the importance of the day lost in his weary mind.  His arms were still curled around Nodoka as she finally woke, and she snuggled closer to wake him with a kiss.

Once the best type of wake up call was done, Genma dragged himself from bed, and while Nodoka watched, he began his morning training on the bamboo poles protruding from the Jusenkyo pools.  He exhilarated in the absolute freedom of leaping from pole to pole while performing complex kata; the pure balance of the moment was a wonderful thing.

Nodoka, still watching from the edge of the training grounds, began to worry that her husband might acquire another curse from the pools, but the Guide, as though he could read her mind, put those worries to rest.

"You worry," said the Guide.  "Do not.  Once touched by springs, no affect ever again.  Is true, no even cause change in original curse."

Nodoka let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, and began to watch Genma in a different light.  The fluid grace of his movements and the complexity of his combinations were like mid-air poetry in motion.  He almost seemed to be dancing to a tune few could hear: the very heartbeat of the universe itself, and that, in and of itself, was enough to lend a mesmerizing effect to the kata he performed.

As his morning training session drew to a close, Genma danced back toward the Guide's hut; however, when he noticed Nodoka watching, he became unnerved.  The result was a dunking in one of over a hundred springs in the Training Ground.

The Guide walked up and, with a look of mock severity, said, "Too bad, you fall in Maonichuan, spring of drown cat.  There, very tragic story of cat who drown in spring one thousand two hundred year ago."

Genma couldn't help laughing as he sat in the cold, knee-deep water, and the Guide joined him in the hilarity of the moment.  However, the seriousness of what was to happen today sobered his laughter after a moment.  The Guide threw a towel to him as he climbed out of Maonichuan, and he looked toward his wife as he dried himself.

Nodoka, having witnessed the entire event, had laughed right along with the men; however, she was the only one still trying to hold back the crystal sound.  Both Genma and the Guide had become serious, and this went a long way to ending her need for laughter.

Genma solemnly walked to his wife and took her hand.  "The Guide has reminded me that I must make everything about the curse clear before you accept becoming a Saotome."

Nodoka nodded, and Genma began to explain the springs in a clear, serious voice.  "Each of these springs has had a tragedy happen there: something drowned to imbue the spring with the essence of anything from a grasshopper to a human.  Some springs affect only the body or mind, and some affect both, but there is no need to worry about not knowing what lies within.  The Guide knows all of the springs and all of their effects, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

"Now, you must understand that you will have little to no control over the transformation, that it is the temperature of the water that will determine your form.  You will also seem to attract water after you've acquired a curse.  This isn't an effect of the springs…  I think it's some sort of cosmic law of irony…  Do you have any questions, my love?"

Nodoka thought for a moment, and then asked a question Genma hadn't thought of before.  "What will this mean for our children?"

Genma, not having considered this before, looked to the Guide for answers.

"Children no affected by curse," said the Guide.  "Unless both parents have curse of same species.  Also, female lock in form of conception for duration of pregnancy and for some week after."

Nodoka let out a small sigh of relief.  She had been worried that her children would be cursed from birth, but when she thought about it, she supposed it wouldn't matter.  The children would be Saotomes, and consequently, they would also have to journey here and be cursed to become adult members of the clan.

"Gen-chan?" she said, her voice small though not weak.  "I've always wanted to know what it would be like to be a fox."

Genma smiled at his wife and held her close, but the moment couldn't last.  She had made her decision and the Guide was already leading the way to the Spring of Drown Fox.  Genma held her hand in a tight, comforting grip as he followed the Guide, and Nodoka walked bravely forward.

After walking nearly halfway around the whole of Jusenkyo, the Guide turned and headed directly toward the center.  Genma and Nodoka followed, and Nodoka became more and more nervous.  Finally, the Guide stopped and waved an arm toward a pool; still, he did not speak.

"Do you have any questions?" Genma spoke quietly into her ear.  "Are you sure you want to do this?  That this is the right one?"

Taking hold of herself and her queasy stomach, Nodoka looked into her husband's eyes, those blue chips of ice that she had fallen for first, and she said, "No questions, and yes.  I am ready."

Genma said nothing, but his small smile was enough encouragement as he released her hand.  Nodoka took a deep breath, and the Guide, once again seeming to read her mind, turned away.  Nodoka shed her kimono and carefully laid the silk-wrapped Saotome clan blade atop the neatly folded pile of clothing.  With one last look at Genma, his cheeks still showed a slight blush at the sight of her she noted with some amusement, she slowly descended into the pool.  The water swirled about her as though a strong current in a river, and the moment she reached an ankle depth of water, she was swept into the center of the now churning pool.

The sensation of the transformation was nothing like she expected: a feeling of cold numbness filled her body as the change began.  Then her body began to shift.  Bones shrank and changed shape, muscles became wiry and melded themselves to the new size and shape of the bones, and soft fur grew over her body as the hair on the top of her head became short.  Most interesting was the feeling of suddenly having a tail.  In truth, the change occurred in the span of mere moments, less than the blink of an eye, but Nodoka did not believe that she would ever become used to the strange sensations.

Suddenly, strong hands were drawing her slowly from the waters of her rebirth as a fox, and she looked up to see Genma's face.  He was holding her gently and petting her with a soothing hand.  After a few more moments, the Jusenkyo Guide stepped forward with a small bottle, and after giving it to Genma, he left the young couple and strode away from the Spring of Drown Fox without looking back.

Genma set her on the ground with all the caring of a father to his child, and then he poured the contents of the bottle over Nodoka's lithe form.  Again, the feeling of the transformation overcame her, and she was once more human, if naked.  Immediately, Nodoka wrapped her arms around Genma and, as he whispered quiet, soothing nothings into her ear, held him close.  One thing came through all the nonsensical whisperings, and she smiled as Genma said, "Welcome to our clan, Saotome Nodoka."

Genma and Nodoka spent several more days with the Guide before taking their leave of Jusenkyo, and Nodoka learned a great many things about the Cursed Training Ground and the area around it.  Nodoka also proved to be a quick linguistics study, and she had reached a minimum level of proficiency with the local dialect of Mandarin Chinese.  While not enough for a real conversation, she could get her point across.

After leaving Jusenkyo, the couple did not travel directly back to Japan, but rather, they took their time and treated the trip as the honeymoon they had never shared.  Finally, after three months of wandering China, the couple returned to Japan and their modest home in the Minato ward of Tokyo.

As both lived in Tokyo, if far apart by city standards, Soun and Genma made certain that their families managed a good deal of time together.  When they had arrived back in Tokyo, Genma was pleasantly surprised that Soun's wife, Kimiko, was pregnant.

The families remained close as time wore on, and Kimiko gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who the proud new parents named Kasumi.  A little over a year later, Kimiko became pregnant once again, and though Genma and Nodoka were happy for their friends, they secretly were envious of them as the two Saotomes remained childless.  Nodoka would often travel to the Tendo home to help take care of little Kasumi while Kimiko was pregnant with her second child, and Genma and Soun would go out for drinks.

Finally, Kimiko gave birth to another girl, this one named Nabiki.  Both families shared in the celebrations of a new child.

Only four months after Nabiki was born, Nodoka finally became pregnant, much to both her and Genma's joy.  This happiness spread to the Tendo home, and scarcely a month later, Kimiko was pregnant once more.  The two women exulted in the event, and the men celebrated twice as hard.  The months passed, and Nodoka approached her due date….


To be continued.

Author’s notes: This covers a lot of ground, certainly, but do we really want to know more?  Rewriting the existing chapters is hopefully the gateway to writing new chapters, and I do have a number of chapters outlined for this fic (something like eighteen, I think).  Later, all.

Chapter 1
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