A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author’s notes: This was inspired by ‘The Masks We Must Wear” by Bob Barnes and ‘Tangled Web” by Gary Kleppe, as well as the other spin-offs that were done of them. Lime warning: this story has suggestive content, but it is not descriptive.
There was no one in Nerima that did not notice how the heat picked up as the afternoon progressed. The summer months were the worst once the humidity rose to an almost unbearable degree, as it had now. And, as so often happened in unbearable heat, tempers flared worse than usual as tensions ran high. Passion, rage, pleasure, and all of the more powerful emotions ran to the fore and screamed at others to be given their release, as the heat fed them. And those that had the most passion, and the least knowledge of how to deal with those feelings, were the young. It was they that suffered the most, even in somewhere like Nerima.
And it was on one of those streets of Nerima that Akane Tendou and Ranma Saotome walked at a slow pace.
“It sure is hot,” Ranma commented, mopping the sweat off his brow.
“Well, that was certainly original!” Akane snapped.
Ranma paused in his walk. The only emotion he gave was one of irritation. “What’s wrong with you now?”
Akane stopped, returning the look. “As if you didn’t know. How could you let me get kidnapped again?! That was the fourth time in the last six months!”
“How the heck is it my fault that a bunch of stupid guys want to marry a dumb old tomboy, anyway?”
“You’re supposed to protect me. What kind of a life are we going to live if you let every lunatic that calls himself a prince cart me off every other week?”
“Defeating Terick wasn’t easy!” Ranma shouted back. “There were some rough spots here and there!” It was the first time since the battle three days ago against the self-proclaimed High Lord, Terick Shoi, that Ranma admitted it had been difficult. The truth was he had nearly died at Terick’s hands. Only the battle against Saffron had been worse.
Surprisingly, Akane downplayed it. “Come off it, Ranma. You win in the end. You always win. Even if someone gets a lucky break and beats you once, you always bounce back and take them in the end.”
“Yeah, well, of course,” Ranma said, pride lacing his voice. “But it still ain’t easy.”
Akane seemed to relent a bit. “Okay. Thanks for saving me from the nutcase. I appreciate it.”
Anything further was cut off by the ringing of a bicycle bell and a mighty “NIHAO!!!”, which was followed by an Amazonian glomp on Ranma.
“Get off of me, you crazy Amazon!”
“You take Shampoo out on date, yes?”
“I see how it is!” Akane had grabbed a bucket of cold water from who knew where. “You rescue me one day, and come onto Shampoo the next! I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun! You two have a good time, and here’s some water to send you on your way!”
The water hit cleanly. Once the shock of the change left, Ranma-chan felt the still glomping cat on the back of her head. A scream of “CCCAAATTT!!!” filled the air as she took off at top speed, failing to dislodge the feline that remained on her perch.
“Serves you right, jerk!” Akane mumbled as Ranma-chan ran out of sight. Akane was just about to turn away when she spotted Ukyou, spatula drawn, on the street in the opposite direction Ranma-chan had just fled. The okonomiyaki chef gave a baleful glare in the direction Ranma-chan had gone then turned around and headed back in the direction of her restaurant. Akane figured the heat must have been getting to Ukyou too, since it appeared she had decided pursuit would be a waste of time and left without a word.
Akane turned back in the direction the fleeing duo had gone, when a chain wrapped her up from behind, pinning her arms to her sides. It took only moments for her to react, and she struggled in the tight embrace. But it was all to no avail; the chain held fast.
“Not again,” she growled. There was no need to follow the chains to their origin. She knew who was wielding them as sure as Kasumi knew how to cook food.
“I have you at last, Ranma Saotome!” Mousse shouted out proudly.
“I am not Ranma, you blind twit!”
“You’ll never take Shampoo from me!”
“I’m not Ranma and I don’t want Shampoo! I’m Akane.”
Mousse adjusted his glasses, trying to get a better look at his victim. For a moment there was a doubt on his features, but the moment passed. “You think throwing on a wig and making your voice higher is going to save you? Don’t be stupid. Who do you think you’re dealing with, Ryouga? I won’t fall for that pathetic trick!”
“Ryouga is a heck of a lot better than you are, you idiotic waterfowl! Now put me down before I get really angry!”
“Your threats mean nothing to me, Saotome.” And with that he gave a tug and Akane was hurled effortlessly up to the roof. Hooking her under his arm, he leaped off across the rooftops, laughing almost as hard as Kodachi and loudly proclaiming that ‘Ranma’ was now his.
On the roof of one of another nearby building, Cologne sighed. Another typical day in Nerima. Her great-granddaughter screwed up once more, and Mousse was going to be beaten within an inch of his life by Akane, just like the other times he grabbed her. It was odd how his survival instincts hadn’t kicked in yet.
Mousse really needed a new prescription. His vision was getting worse, even with his glasses. In the last couple of months he had abducted Nabiki twice, Ukyou three times, Ryouga once, and Akane a whopping seven times in his efforts to snare Ranma. The poor fool never even came close to his actual target anymore.
A second sigh escaped her lips as she recalled events from no more than two hours ago…
Cologne entered the kitchen to see Shampoo humming to herself as she made a batch of ramen. Taking a chance, Cologne looked over the ingredients on the counter next to the stove.
“Shampoo, what are you doing?”
“Shampoo make ramen for Ranma,” she sighed dreamily.
The elder picked up a bottle next to the stove. “You’re using mind-control mushrooms again.”
Shampoo nodded enthusiastically. “Shampoo make Ranma admit he loves Shampoo this time. Then airen and Shampoo can get married.”
Cologne took a deep breath to calm herself. If she could maintain a stoic face and emotionless voice with the council, she could do it with her own great granddaughter. “Shampoo, those magic potions do nothing but backfire and alienate Ranma from you, and even if it does work, it’ll only be temporary. Once it wears off, he’ll dislike you even more. Don’t use them.”
Shampoo shook her head. “It work this time. And once Ranma admit feelings to himself, Ranma admit them to everyone else. And then Shampoo can hug him, and he kiss Sham—“
Cologne cut off the fantasy that was starting to take root as her temper really started to fray. This was the same conversation she had with Shampoo more than a dozen times. “He won’t admit he loves you until he actually does. You have to change the way you act around him or you’re never going to win his heart. It’s like when you embrace him. You know how much he hates it, so why do you keep doing it?”
“Ranma always happy to see Shampoo,” Shampoo said, as though confused about what her great grandmother was talking about. “Ranma shout out enthusiastically when Shampoo grab him.”
“ARE YOU STUPID?! HE”S YELLING AT YOU TO LET HIM GO!!!” Cologne thanked the gods no other elders were around to see her lose her temper with one so young.
“Ranma only do that so Akane no hit him.”
For the briefest of moments, Cologne considered throwing Shampoo into the wall. However, she regained her temper and decided to switch tactics instead. “Would you please start using personal pronouns? You’ve been in this country for nearly a year and you still haven’t improved your language skills since the first few months. How long can it take to learn saying I, me, he, she, and words like that?”
“It very hard to learn all that.”
The elder took a deep breath. “It’s not that hard once you master the basics. Even Mousse speaks the tongue fluently, and you’re a lot smarter than him.”
Cologne was beginning to wonder about that. Early on, Shampoo had seemed very bright and attentive. It was one of the reasons she was happy to choose Shampoo as her successor and the future leader of the tribe; but in the last three years that normally bright attentiveness had been replaced by an almost vacuous distance. The purple-haired girl began acting irrationally and had difficulty learning new things. At first Cologne was afraid Shampoo had been struck in the head and was brain damaged, but a careful examination that was physical, magical, and involved using chi discovered nothing out of sorts. Whatever had changed Shampoo was a part of her. She still could learn things, but it seemed to take her forever, and she just couldn’t seem to figure out how to handle Ranma.
Hypnotic mushrooms had been worth trying once, but after Ranma’s vehement protests over the treatment, Shampoo should have apologized and tried to make restitution to him. Given the boy’s weakness around girls, he would have accepted it and things would have snapped back to normal. Instead, she tried those tactics several times, and in each instance it backfired and angered Ranma. Then there was the glomping. It was painfully obvious he despised being jumped on and embraced, yet Shampoo seemed to ignore the signs and continued as though it would somehow bring her closer to Ranma instead of increasing the distance even more. She was never going to win the boy over at the rate she was going.
The other fiancées were no better. Kodachi’s unbalanced behavior or Ukyou’s subtle manipulations were far from winning Ranma over, but for some odd reason the boy had taken a shining to the Tendou girl, never mind the fact that she struck him often enough to make even the stern elder cringe. As often as he put his foot in his mouth, even he didn’t deserve to be smacked around like that. Cologne doubted if he enjoyed the beatings. She had seen him several times after Akane had “dismissed” him for some wrong, real or imagined, and he always seemed horribly saddened by the girl’s actions, yet he always went back to her. There was no doubt in her mind; if the boy chose Akane, their relationship was going to have a bitter end.
Cologne concentrated on the matter at hand, keeping control of her chi. She went to Happosai for an example at control. If she could tolerate his perversions, she could be patient with her great granddaughter. “Since everything you’ve done has failed so far, why don’t we try a different tactic? Try just talking to him. Ask him how he’s feeling without hanging all over him. You might be surprised at the results.”
Shampoo openly thought about it and decided to try Cologne’s idea. At least she said she would.
But Shampoo botched it up again. She glomped tightly onto him the moment he was in sight, and when Akane turned her into a cat, rather than running away from Ranma so he wouldn’t go into a panic attack, Shampoo held onto him even tighter, the stupid girl. She was never going to lead the village the way she was going. At least she hadn’t tried to kill Akane since that fight with Tarou. In fact, Shampoo had gone so far as to save her during the Kunou’s Phoenix incident. That at least put her on good ground with Ranma. Too bad the bombing of the wedding served to set her back.
Perhaps it was time to go home. Japan was having an undesirable effect on Shampoo’s training and she was becoming more foolish as time went on. If that continued, the consequences would be grim. The dishonor of leaving Ranma behind, and getting nothing in return, would make Shampoo’s path to leadership difficult. In truth, it would be nearly impossible for her to achieve the greatness she was destined for. “Retraining” at Jusenkyou was bad enough, but the things Shampoo would have to do to regain her honor would be nearly impossible. No. Not an acceptable solution.
That left one of two other courses of action. One was to have someone defeat Ranma for Shampoo’s hand. Ryouga would be a likely contender. All it would take is Shampoo showing a little affection towards him, and the lost one would end up wrapped around her little finger. Then Cologne would set up Ranma to take a fall; either hit him in a weakness point while he slept, or hit Ryouga with the Aggression Point, and then have the fight occur. Either one was a near guarantee of victory. If Ryouga weren’t used, then it would be someone else who was powerful. Mousse was a totally unacceptable solution. Aside from the fact she despised his family with a rage that could barely be contained, the boy was the equivalent of the village idiot.
Cologne was not about to lose all that she had gained. Shampoo was going to lead the village, no matter what. It would not be lost. She put hundreds of years of work into raising the weakest family in the village to the strongest one, and the reins of power would not pass from it in her lifetime. Once Shampoo was leader and married there would be no chance of that. However, if Shampoo didn’t change her ways, she was never going to win Ranma and take him back to China (and if the two married, he was going to come; Shampoo had to go back no matter what), drastic steps would have to be taken. There was a surefire way to get Ranma to love Shampoo no matter what, but it would result in an early death for him, and Cologne was reluctant to use it. The alternative was a way to boost Shampoo’s intelligence so she could become smarter and realize how she should go about winning Ranma and start taking her role as the next village matriarch more seriously. The problem with the method was that it would take close to four months and might leave her a little… unbalanced. Just a tad, really. But sometimes you had to break a few eggs to get the job done.
Cologne took several minutes of meditation to bring her blood pressure down. It was becoming obvious her great-granddaughter was a complete moron. Well, not complete, just very foolish. Yes. That course just might have to be taken. Cologne was not going to last long enough to see her only great granddaughter’s children grow old enough to take on the role of matriarch. If nothing changed, she would have to take those steps in about three months time, by her reckoning.
She was too tense. There was only one thing left to do to relax her; only one course of action to take. If any of the elders back home caught wind of what she was doing, she would lose some honor. It was supposed to be desirable to become an elder and their appearance was a mark of great respect, as though looking like a dried up troll was desirable.
Cologne went to her room and undid the magic seals on her chest. No one, not even Shampoo, could open it without knowing the exact technique one had to use to undo the seals. She grabbed her bag and left the Nekohanten via the roof. Even if someone saw her, they would assume she was cooking up some plan to help or marry Ranma. No one would suspect the truth.
She made certain she was well away from Nerima, not that anyone would recognize her anyway, before coming to a stop. Once she was out of sight on a high rooftop, she took off her short dress. Maybe she didn’t have to worry about being noticed. Anyone seeing her now would be struck blind anyway, at least at the moment. She went into the bag and pulled out a vial of water and quickly threw it over her head. Now only Happosai, and perhaps the others that went through the Naniban mirror, would recognize the statuesque blue-haired woman that stood before them. Instant Nyanniichuan really worked miracles. Using it in this fashion was considered unbecoming to a venerable elder, but there were times when one needed to throw propriety out the window, and it wasn’t as though anyone knew what she was doing. Quickly she donned the halter-top and short mini-skirt that made up the outfit she had purchased shortly after realizing her stay in Japan was going to be for a while. Short white boots completed the look as she tied her long hair back in a different style than what she used so long ago. Even Happosai wouldn’t recognize her now.
She repacked her belongings and stuck them under a ledge. She then leaped down off the roof and went up to the door of a nearby dance club. The club was nowhere near as busy now as it was during the evening, but she needed to do visit it now and relieve her stress. The bouncer recognized her immediately and gave a bright smile as she entered the establishment. The bartender waved happily as she sat down at the bar and gave her the usual. As she suspected, it was only a minute before a handsome-looking fellow approached her and began to engage her in small talk. She let him go on for about fifteen minutes before she cut to the chase.
“Let’s go back to your place.”
They never resisted that one. It was nice to know she still had the touch.
Ukyou returned to her restaurant, disgusted with Ranma’s actions for the day. If he wanted to hang around the bimbo, fine. Ukyou Kuonji had better things to do. A smile softened on her lips as she entered her establishment and saw that there was already a guest present.
“You let yourself in?” Ukyou asked as she made her way into her restaurant.
Nabiki Tendou nodded her head. “Yes. I have a very important proposition to make.”
Ukyou locked the door to the front. Okonomiyaki business would have to wait. After making certain the windows were also secure, she approached Nabiki, circling around her like a shark smelling blood. “What sort of a proposition?”
“I see,” Ukyou said as she stopped in front of Nabiki at last. “I thought we already had one.”
“Not like this,” Nabiki said seriously. “I mean a more lasting one. One involving a long-term commitment. One that can become official once you are finished doing what you have to do.”
“That’s quite a step you’re proposing. Being in a merger means I lose some of my independence.”
“The same holds for me,” Nabiki reminded her.
Ukyou shook her head at that. “Does it? I know how much you like being in control. Are you really willing to give up some of that which you so carefully guard?”
Nabiki nodded. “I trust you not to take advantage of me.”
Ukyou smiled at that. “I’ll need to think about it. I think it’s a bigger step for me than you think. At any rate, I’ll need some sign of your good faith.” Ukyou moved closer.
“What do you propose?” Nabiki asked, fairly certain she already knew the answer.
Ukyou drew her face next to Nabiki’s, leaving no more than a centimeter between the two. “A kiss.” And with that she brought her lips together with the middle Tendou daughter. Both of them opened their mouths and allowed their tongues to intertwine with one another for what felt like a year. Ukyou was the first to break off the contact.
“I’m hungry,” she said as she brought her hands up under Nabiki’s skirt and proceeded to hike the school dress up.
“What did you have in mind?” Nabiki said as she raised her arms and allowed the dress to be lifted over her head and thrown in a heap on the floor. She stood clad in a simple white bra and panties. She tried to save Ukyou some time as she moved her hands behind her to undo the clasp on the back of her bra.
“Damn thing’s stuck,” she growled as she continued struggling with it.
“Allow me.” Ukyou drew one of her mini-spatulas from her bandoleer and arced it downward, slicing through the front of the bra without touching Nabiki’s flesh. The front of it opened, allowing Ukyou full access to Nabiki’s breasts.
“You’re paying for that,” Nabiki warned, while smiling the entire time. Little displays like that always turned her on. But Nabiki was surprised again when Ukyou placed a hand around her waist and pulled her forward.
“Well if that’s the case, why don’t we go for a complete set?” Ukyou’s hands trailed around to Nabiki’s bottom and she grabbed the white panties. One quick jerk later she ripped them clean off.
Now Ukyou stood, still fully clothed, while clutching the now nude Nabiki. The middle Tendou was surprised yet again as Ukyou effortlessly changed her grip and lifted Nabiki, almost as though she was weightless. Nabiki was reminded of the power Ukyou had, and felt herself becoming more excited.
“Time for dinner,” Ukyou said as she made her way to the grill. “My taste is running towards something rather exotic, I think.”
“You still haven’t told me what you’re in the mood for,” Nabiki purred seductively in Ukyou’s ear, taking a moment to nibble on an earlobe.
“A Tendou style okonomiyaki, with everything on it.” Ukyou placed her burden on the metal surface of the turned-off grill. She reached under the counter and began pulling out the ingredients, setting them in their proper places, as she made ready to prepare the cuisine.
Nabiki remained motionless as the ingredients were slowly poured over her body. Ukyou was always imaginative and full of surprises. This was a new one and was quickly proving itself to be quite enjoyable. The sauce poured over the front of Nabiki’s body, the liquid creeping into places where no one other than the okonomiyaki chef was allowed to go. More ingredients followed as they were placed over the entirety of her form, making an indescribable mess. After Ukyou set down everything she wanted, twin spatulas were out in a flash. Much to Nabiki’s enjoyment, Ukyou danced around the surface of her body, the cold metal turning her on by touching all of the right spots while Ukyou occasionally ‘sampled’ things with her tongue, making sure the “feast” was being prepared properly. Ukyou was relentless in her ministrations, leaving Nabiki to silently wonder where she had learned this particular skill.
After nearly twenty minutes and an orgasm for the okonomiyaki-flavored girl, Ukyou at last crawled upon the grill. She still fully clothed as she rested on her hands and knees, staring at Nabiki from between the “meal’s” legs.
“What are you going to do now?” Nabiki breathed as she came down from the previous high.
“I told you,” Ukyou reminded her. “I’m hungry. Now I’m going to eat.”
Ukyou lunged forward and began doing exactly that. Nabiki allowed her mind to go back to how this all had began before her thoughts could be interrupted…
Nabiki had received word that some guy at an all boy’s school was looking for Ranma Saotome and was willing to pay good money for it. Arranging a meeting at a restaurant near the boy’s school to discuss the amount of money the information might be worth had been easy. Nabiki was more than pleasantly surprised to see a rather handsome fellow waiting for her in the reserved booth. Introductions were made and the two began to talk business.
It was the usual story; someone wanted to beat the crap out of Ranma for “personal” reasons. Nabiki was pleased that Ukyou was very civilized and polite in his manners; two things most people around her lacked. As the two concluded their discussion and settled on a price, Ukyou finally asked a question.
“Want to go out?”
Nabiki sized up the boy once more. He had potential, but he was going to have to impress her better than that. “Why would you ask a girl like me out?” Nabiki knew what was going to come next. Some remark about how attractive and irresistible she was and how the boy could impress her like no other, not that too many guys tried it on her. Not with her reputation as an ice queen.
“You seem pretty intelligent and aren’t afraid to show it. I admire those qualities in a woman.”
Nabiki was more than pleasantly surprised by the statement. She knew her head shouldn’t have been turned by such flattery, but she just couldn’t help herself. “It’s on you?”
Ukyou gave a smile that really caused Nabiki to swoon inside. She always did have a weakness for guys with androgynous faces like that. Despite her attraction, she played it cool and the two set out for some dancing and ice cream afterwards. During the entire time Nabiki found herself increasingly enjoying Ukyou’s company. He was charming, attentive, forceful but not arrogant, intelligent, and seemed to admire Nabiki for who she was, not what she looked like. At the end of the date, the two exchanged a deep, and for Nabiki, surprisingly passionate kiss.
“Do you want to go out tomorrow?” Ukyou asked as he came up for air.
Nabiki continued playing it cool. Just because she liked the guy was no reason to lose control. She pretended to consider it before saying yes. She did stipulate that Ukyou should pay for everything, which sat fine with him. The two went out the next night and the night after that. Nabiki found herself thanking the kami for meeting someone like Ukyou. All the boys at her school were jerks or morons, or in Kunou’s case both, but Ukyou wasn’t like that at all. He didn’t stare at Nabiki’s chest or grin lasciviously at her. He spoke intelligently and demonstrated a remarkable amount of class towards her. He enjoyed her displays of intelligence and encouraged them. In essence, he treated Nabiki like a person, and not an object. For the first time since he arrived at their home Nabiki was finally glad Ranma showed up. If not for him she would never have met Ukyou.
Nabiki began talking about if they should call themselves a couple once the transfer to Furinkan was complete. That was when Ukyou became serious with her.
“I’m going to be forward here,” Ukyou warned. “Why do you like me?”
Nabiki felt more than a little uneasy about the nature of the question. It was totally out of the blue. “Why do you want to know?”
“It’s important to me. Do you like me for who I am or what I look like?”
Nabiki thought that the girl was supposed to ask that sort of question. “I like you for who you are, not that you aren’t incredibly handsome.” If Ukyou hadn’t seemed so serious, she would have kissed him to prove the point.
Ukyou didn’t answer, but rather brought Nabiki into a tight embrace and kissed her fiercely. “I hope you mean that. You mean a lot to me. Whatever happens, I just wanted you to know that.”
That set off all sorts of warning signs in Nabiki’s mind. “Is this about the fight tomorrow? Are you afraid Ranma’s going to hurt you? I might be able to tilt things in our favor, free of charge.” In that one sentence Nabiki realized that she had just admitted to herself she was in love. How had that happened so quickly?
Ukyou shook his head. “It’s not that, but it’s too hard to explain. Like I said, I just hope you meant it.”
No matter how hard Nabiki tried, she couldn’t get him to open up. The two parted company and met at Furinkan the next day; the day that proved to be the most confusing in Nabiki’s life. The fight had gone on as Ukyou had wanted, but the shock from the discovery that Ukyou was a girl was complete. It took nearly a week for Nabiki to semi-recover from it, and even then she was uncertain of what her reaction were going to be when she confronted Ukyou.
Nabiki stopped by Ucchan’s and met with Ukyou. Once the chef realized who her visitor was, she closed up the place, allowing the duo the privacy they needed.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Nabiki found her voice cracking, despite the fact she promised herself she would preserve her usual cold exterior. She cursed Ukyou for somehow getting to her so quickly.
“It’s not the sort of thing you talk about when you’re on a date. Generally, ‘oh, by the way, did I mention I’m really a girl,’ tends to ruin the mood.”
“That was why you asked me about why I liked you. You were going to reveal your true sex to Ranma in that fight no matter what, weren’t you?” Nabiki asked.
“Yes, but I honestly thought I would win, and I thought he knew I was a girl. I guess he really is stupid, though. As to asking you that question, it was the only way I could think of to maybe hope you would like me, even though I wasn’t exactly the sort of person you were looking for.”
“You can say that again,” Nabiki replied acidly, then felt a pang of guilt when she saw Ukyou flinch at the statement. She tried to maintain her composure. She needed to know everything. “Were you using me to get in close to Ranma or something?”
Ukyou took on a pained expression. “Of course not. I mean, I know your family honor is at stake with Akane having to marry Ranma and all, but I didn’t use you. I meant everything I said when we went out. I really am attracted to you. You’re just so…you. I don’t know how to say it, but in the short time I’ve known you you have grown to mean a lot to me.”
“So you’re, what, bi-sexual?” Nabiki asked.
“Nope. I only like girls.”
Nabiki nearly fell over in shock. “Then what’s up with you gushing all over Ranma?” Nabiki was surprised at the venom in her voice. Even through the shock of the discovery, seeing Ukyou fawn over Ranma had hurt. “You want the engagement back. You said so yourself. Are you planning on marrying Ranma while having me on the side, or is this some twisted way of trying to keep my family’s honor?”
Ukyou went silent for a few minutes before giving Nabiki an intense look. “If I tell you what I’m really after, you have to swear to never tell anyone. Can you promise me that?”
“What is it this time? You had a sex change operation? You’re married to an Amazon? You like animals, too?”
“Please, Nab-chan!” Ukyou pleaded. “I’m being serious. I want you to know the whole truth, but no one else can know. You’re the only one I would trust with this, and I want to show that I do trust you.”
Nabiki cursed Ukyou for using that name. Even now she felt her heartbeat pick up from the phrase. No one had ever called her that before, and certainly no one trusted her. “I promise.”
Ukyou was visibly relieved. “First, this is not about Ranma or any feelings of ‘affection’ I have for the that piece of shit.”
Nabiki raised an eyebrow at that. “You sure changed your tune in a hurry. You were gushing at his ‘cute fiancee’ comment as soon as he made it.”
Ukyou smiled. “He made it too easy. I was wondering how long it would take to have him say something that would get me back into his good graces, and he did it within minutes of the fight. Of course, my real feeling to that comment was to bash his face in, but I need him too much.”
Nabiki could not help noticing the venom in Ukyou’s own voice when talking about Ranma. “If you hate him, why are you sucking up to him and pretending to be interested?”
“Oh. I hate him all right.” Ukyou spat. “He abandoned me. He left me in a ditch like a worthless piece of garbage, and made my life a living hell because of that. Maybe he didn’t know what was really going on, but if he were a true friend, he would have found out why I was chasing after him. And if he is so arrogant that he thinks just saying I’m cute would really get me back in his good graces, he deserves to have his face flattened. He should still be on his knees, begging for forgiveness and asking me to marry him right now. After all, it is the ‘honorable’ thing to do for stealing my dowry and abandoning me. But no, he’s playing some sort of game with me and Akane, and I guess those other two girls I hear so much about. Well, I intend on winning this little competition. Ranma will marry me!”
“Why are you so bent on having him marry you if you don’t even like him?” Nabiki asked again.
“For the simplest thing in the world: money,” Ukyou saw Nabiki perk up at that. “Look at this restaurant. Haven’t you asked yourself how a mere school girl can own an entire restaurant at her age?”
“I did wonder about that. An inheritance maybe?”
“Not exactly,” Ukyou said. “It’s a bribe.”
“From my father. The Kuonjis own a chain of restaurants in Hokkaido. We’re filthy rich now, or perhaps it’s more proper to say my father is filthy rich. You see, as his only child I stand to inherit the entire chain upon his death. Or I would if it wasn’t for the fact he cut me out of his will.”
Nabiki was visibly shocked. “Why would he do that?”
“Because his daughter is a living monument to his shame,” Ukyou spat out. “I was dumped by my fiancé and it was all MY fault. Father made certain I grew up with that fact in mind. He made my life hell, too. So now he lets me know last year that I’ve been cut out of the will unless I make up for my dishonor and marry Ranma Saotome. At first, I said to myself ‘no way’! I found out a few years ago that I prefer girls. It might have to do with what Ranma and my father did to me while I was growing up, or maybe I’d have turned out this way anyhow. I’ll never know for sure since they screwed me up so bad by treating me like dirt. What I do know is that I do not want to spend my life with a man. I would have stuck with that decision except that the more I thought about it, the more I realized I deserve my family inheritance. It’s mine! I should get it all! It’s what that piece of crap that raised me owes me! So I made a deal with my father. If I marry Ranma, I get half the restaurants now. There’s no need to wait for him to die. I can be rich now. Want to know how much I’d be worth?” Ukyou asked.
Nabiki said yes and whistled at the amount. It was way more money then she could ever hope to make.
Ukyou now took a chance and moved up close to Nabiki. “I don’t care about Ranma. As soon as I’m married to him, and the ink on the papers transferring ownership of those restaurants to me dries, I’ll get a divorce quicker than you can say ‘I love okonomiyaki’. That way Akane can marry the bum if she still wants to, and your family honor will be intact.”
Nabiki absorbed everything that was said as quickly as she could. It was all so unexpected. Still, there was something to be said on her part. “I’ll let you on in a little secret too. I don’t care about the so-called ‘family honor.’ There was no way I was going to marry that jerk and I don’t like the idea of him marrying Akane either. He’s insensitive, strings other women along, and treats her terribly. So I’ll help you get Ranma, no matter what. It’ll serve him right to get married and then dumped. Let’s see how he likes being led on for a change.”
“Thanks,” Ukyou said sincerely.
There was one sticking point though for Nabiki though. “Where does that leave us?”
Ukyou sighed, the strain evident in her voice. “I lied to you about what I was. I want to continue a relationship, but only if you’re willing. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand and still want you to come to me if you need anything. I really do care about you.”
“I’ve never considered a relationship with a girl before. I need time to think about it.” Without another word, Nabiki left Ucchan’s and headed home. It was a lot to consider, both good and bad, but after a week’s time she came to a decision…
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” As she arched her back in ecstasy, Nabiki delighted in how Ukyou still knew how to push all the right buttons, even after all that time.
“I’m going to drop some food off to Dr. Tofu.”
“Have fun, Kasumi,” Soun said as he continued playing shogi with Genma.
The two fathers waited ten minutes after Kasumi left before getting out the brochures and browsing through them once again.
“Terick didn’t quite have the effect we desired. I was certain the two would admit their love,” Soun said.
“Unfortunately, you’re right,” Genma agreed as he continued reading through the brochures. “Ah, ha! Here’s a contender. A lord of a Greek island that’s reputed to be one of the most powerful men alive. It says he’s even beaten Herb twice.”
“Sounds like a possibility. Let’s do some background checks on him before finding out if he’ll be amicable to the idea.”
The plan the two fathers had really was quite simple. Every time Ranma saved Akane from some kidnapper, the two grew closer together. The more dangerous the opponent, the two grew closer still. So Genma and Soun decided to actively recruit such people. Ki-Rin was the first, and then there was Toma, and a host of others followed. Saffron was the trickiest, due to his tremendous power, but it only took a little convincing since he was quite the practical joker and enjoyed a challenge. He even came up with a convoluted scheme and engineered it so he appeared to be young, so that he would catch Ranma off guard. Once Ranma proved his mettle in combat, Saffron feigned defeat at an appropriate time and pretended to revert to his “true” form. Akane had never been in any danger. Saffron employed a series of spells that made it appear Akane would die if Ranma failed, but in truth would only have entered a deep sleep. Afterwards, he even sent a thank you card to Soun and Genma for providing him with such entertainment.
The two fathers hoped the next opponent would be the one to get Ranma and Akane to admit their love. They were starting to run out of potential candidates.
Kasumi had grabbed her bag and a plate of cookies and went directly to Tofu’s office. As she got there, a smile blossomed on her face. She continued watching with an amused expression as the patients bolted out of the office. They always took off like a bunch of scared rabbits when she came calling. It was only a few moments later that the doctor himself came out and started to ask for the next patient. Then he laid eyes upon Kasumi, his glasses fogged up in an instant.
Kasumi expression changed from amused to serious. “Now, now, doctor. Do you see anyone else in the room?”
Dr. Tofu pointed to a skeleton on his left.
“That’s Betty-chan, doctor.”
Tofu looked down at the ground in shame. “I’m sorry, mistress.”
Kasumi allowed a hint of displeasure to carry in her voice. “I am disappointed in you, Doctor. Go. Prepare yourself for me while I change.” Kasumi watched him open a door and exit the room. “That’s the coat closet, Doctor.”
Tofu exited the closet and smiled sheepishly before going to the proper room.
Kasumi sighed as she pulled all the blinds down and made certain the doors and windows were locked. Everyone should have known the office would be closed as long as she was there, but it was pointless to take chances. Once finished, she began to change clothes, taking out the outfit from the bag she had been carrying. As she began putting it on, she wondered what the others would think of her. Undoubtedly all save her father would be shocked.
It took only moments for her to finish with the body portion of the outfit by lacing up the black leather bodice. Next came the knee-high leather boots with the stiletto heels she slowly slipped on over her legs. Black leather gloves completed her ensemble. She did a rundown of the equipment she brought with her this time, pulling out a small rider’s crop and examining it. That might be the way to start things off. As she started to head to the back of the office, she paused in front of the full-length body mirror next to the scale. Carefully she examined her reflection. Yes, Kasumi did look like her. An errant thought occurred as to how her father would react if he saw her now? She had a feeling he would approve, since it would be sort of hypocritical of him to chastise her for it.
Kasumi allowed her thoughts to drift back to the past and how it had all started for her. Growing up, little Kasumi had worshipped the ground her mother walked on. She could do no wrong in Kasumi’s eyes, no matter what she did. Kasumi tried to be just like her. She learned to cook, clean, and sew at her mother’s side. When people told little Kasumi she looked just like her mother, she would jump up and down in joy. Hours would be spent in front of a mirror trying to duplicate her mother’s perfect smile, the one she always seemed to wear, but Kasumi couldn’t quite match it. Something was missing.
Things went on as normal until, one time little Kasumi woke up in the middle of the night and went to get a drink of water. As she passed by her parents’ bedroom, she heard odd sounds coming from within. She had been told that her parent’s bedroom was a place she was forbidden to enter, but the unusual nature of the sounds had been too much for Kasumi to ignore. Curiosity won out as she approached the room and the sounds became clearer. The door was open just a crack, allowing her to see everything inside.
The sight before Kasumi was shocking. Her mother was dressed up in an odd leather outfit with some kind of whip in hand, while her father was on his hands and knees, completely naked. Her mother was in the process of smacking her father on his behind with the whip. At first, Kasumi figured her father must have done something very bad to merit that kind of punishment. Her father was bawling his eyes out. Kasumi was about to go in to ask her mother to stop when she did so of her own volition.
“Do you want more, honey?” her mother asked as she stroked Kasumi’s father’s bottom.
Little Kasumi figured her father would refuse. Who would want to be punished? But her father surprised her by begging for more. That didn’t make any sense to Kasumi. Why did her father want that sort of thing? It made him cry. Then she remembered a conversation she had not that long ago with her mother. Kasumi mentioned that her father seemed to cry an awful lot. Her mother explained that her father cried happy tears, which was a bit unusual, but nothing to be concerned about. She told Kasumi that she would understand when she got older.
Now Kasumi understood what her mother meant. Right now her father was crying happy tears. It was so nice of her mother to do that for him. What she was watching must have been what fathers and mothers did to one another to make themselves happy. Little Kasumi decided to watch on, intent on learning what she should do to make men like her father happy. After her mother smacked his bottom a few more times, she inquired if he wanted to be disciplined further. So that was what her mother was doing. Discipline.
Her father was enjoying it so much he begged for more. Her mother gave the warmest smile Kasumi had ever seen, and then retrieved a bottle of some gooey substance and a long narrow object the likes of which Kasumi had never seen before. What her mother proceeded to do with the objects seemed like it should be painful, but her father continued crying happy tears while asking for more. Once they finished Kasumi rushed to her room and lay back down, memorizing everything that had happened.
During the following nights the door was closed, but little Kasumi often heard her father cry out in joy many, many times. For a brief while, Kasumi considered telling her mother what she had witnessed, but knew she probably would have been punished for staying up so late. So she remained quiet, and every now and then she would get lucky and the door was opened enough that she could watch and learn more things to do when she met a man like her father.
Then disaster struck and their mother died. Kasumi was the oldest and tried to fill her mother’s role, but she never felt she was up to the job, no matter what the others said. It did not matter how hard she tried, she could never duplicate that smile her mother had. Something was still missing and Kasumi felt incomplete. She wanted to be able to smile like her mother did.
When the time came, her father was too heartbroken to remove her mother’s things from their bedroom. Kasumi elected herself to do the task. It was heartbreaking in a lot of ways, but it had to be done, and mother always did what had to be done. As she went through everything and packed it up, she came across a rather large box that was stuck under the bed. Kasumi opened it and discovered her mother’s outfit and ‘toys’ that she used on her father. Looking upon the leather outfit, Kasumi could not help but try it on. It didn’t fit, she was much too small, but she swore she would grow into it someday. So she took the box and hid it in her own room, waiting for the day she would be big enough to wear it with pride.
As the years passed by and puberty struck, she at last became interested in members of the opposite sex. However, the vague hints she would drop about her tastes, to the boys that appealed to her, were always met with disdain or rejection. It seemed boys were too appalled by that sort of thing. Perhaps it was more mature men that enjoyed that form of entertainment. She was beginning to give up hope when she noticed Dr. Tofu had started behaving strangely around her. It took only a little probing to discover he was very attracted to her. When she hinted that she would like to ‘discipline’ him, he agreed without hesitation, though she suspected she could have asked him to jump off a cliff and he would have agreed to it. That very day she tried on the outfit and discovered it was the perfect fit. From that first session onward, his glasses would fog up and he would lose coherence around her. He really was a joy to discipline. He was responsive to everything, even shedding happy tears for her. It had to be love she felt.
Kasumi shook herself out of the reverie and looked at her face. As she gazed at it she realized something; her smile was now identical to her mother’s. The smile widened as she at last discovered what had been missing all those years from her own smile. She was delighted and quickly went into the room to see that Tofu had indeed prepared himself correctly, for a change. He was on one of the examining tables, the one that could be quickly converted for their personal use, and ready for her. She finished locking up his free hand and caressed his body with the crop, watching him practically cry in anticipation of what she was going to do.
“I’m feeling very affectionate today. I think we should use the gag. After all, we wouldn’t want people to know exactly why your glasses fog up.”
Kasumi grinned once more with a smile identical to her mother’s.
Ryouga looked to the skies above. He was lost again, just like he wanted to be. He had left Akari’s farm a few days ago, and truly did not want to return. Akari really was a sweet girl, but it would never work out between the two of them. It wasn’t just the pig fetish she had, which really and truly disgusted him; it was the other thing that had become obvious to him in recent weeks. It was the truth he had finally admitted to himself. He tried denying it for years by pretending to be something he wasn’t, but each time he failed miserably. He just didn’t have the strength to deny what he was, no matter how wrong others said it was.
He now accepted why he hadn’t tried to do anything with the very willing Akari. He recognized why he passed out at the sight of nude or near nude women. He now accepted the real reason he claimed he wanted Akane yet never made any real passes at her. He understood why he made such painfully obvious blunders around her and refused to speak his heart to her. He knew why he continued sleeping with her as P-chan, knowing all the while she would eventually learn the truth and hate him. It wasn’t because he wanted Akane’s attention. No. He had now accepted the real reason he sought out Ranma for so many years.
Anger over bread? Hardly. Standing him up for their match that Ryouga was late for? That was a major part of it, but not for the stated reasons everyone thought. It all came down to one thing. The hanging out with Akane and provoking Ranma. The constant attacks on Ranma. The four years on the road searching for him. All of them were for one thing. All of them were desperate attempts at gaining Ranma’s attention. And why did he want Ranma’s attention?
“BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, RANMA SAOTOME!!!” he shouted to no one in particular.
He should have suspected that and given in. Subconsciously his feelings would not be denied. That was why he “fell” for the obvious girl disguises Ranma wore; he secretly craved the adoration Ranma gave him during those times, even if Ranma was in his cursed form when he did it. That was the real reason Ryouga teamed up with Ukyou to use the “Cave of Lost Love”; to take Ranma away from Akane, not the other way around. If only Ryouga had not tried so hard to deny his feelings, he could have had Ranma already. That koi rod incident would have been perfect, and Ranma would have been his. But he was still angry with Ranma for evoking such feelings of lust for another man, and the rage helped blind Ryouga to his true desires.
No longer. Now that he had admitted the truth to himself and could say it out loud, all he had to do was figure out a way to win Ranma’s heart without freaking him out. Ranma did not seem to have any reservations coming onto Ryouga during the times he used some fake girl disguise, so perhaps Ranma was denying his true feelings as well and those were the only times he could shower Ryouga with the affections he wanted to give.
There had to be some way to win Ranma’s heart and show him that love could go beyond physical constraints. Perhaps secretly locking him in girl’s form would be required. That way all of the unworthy girls would leave Ranma alone and Ryouga would be the only one left, staying at his side through all the chaos. After all, what other guy would want some girl that had previously been a man? Once Ranma could admit he loved Ryouga the lost one could “miraculously” find a cure and the two could be together, just the way it should be.
Now all he had to do was figure out a way to do it.
Happosai looked back and forth across the plaza once more. With his highly refined perception abilities, he was confident there was no one around. But he couldn’t take chances. If Soun or Genma got wind of what he was about to do, Happosai’s reputation was out the door. As it was, he regarded himself as fortunate that the others didn’t already know about his weakness. There was more than enough evidence of it, with the arrival of Kurumi and Natsume, as well as Hinako, though he had covered his tracks there with the stealing the nurses’ undergarments. Still the others should have been able to put two and two together. But his perverted hobbies kept anyone else from seeing the obvious, and that suited him just fine.
If the others knew of his real Achilles Heel, he would become a laughingstock. A master that was seen as soft and showed such tendencies would be shrugged off as weak and not worth learning from. Lukkosai and the others he trained with might even be able to use his weakness against him. No, it had to remain a secret. If Ranma or the others found out, he could never live it down.
He made his way silently to the hospital’s back entrance. They would admit him; this was the time of the week he made his appearance. He paused long enough to say hello to one of the familiar orderlies that was wheeling a patient to one of the operating rooms before making his way into the part of the hospital he was seeking. It took only a moment for him to bounce into the room where everyone was waiting expectantly for him.
“HI, GRANDFATHER HAPPI!!!” the young children all shouted at the same time.
“A hearty hello to all of you.” He greeted each one personally, ruffling hair and saying how much better the children looked from the last time he had visited. Once finished with the greetings, he grabbed a chair and sat in the middle of the room, pulling out his pipe.
“Now, now, Grandfather Happosai, you know there’s no smoking in the hospital.”
“Of course, Nurse Yuki.” Happosai gave a mock sigh as the children all laughed. It was a joke between the two of them. Each time he arrived, pulling out his pipe was the first thing he did after sitting down and the nurse would always chide him while he pretended to be put off. It always seemed to amuse the children that even someone as nice as him forgot the rules just like they did.
“Now what story should I tell you all today?” Happosai said. This was what he truly lived for, one of the all too few bright moments of his life. Whenever he saw a child in trouble or feeling down, he would always try to cheer them up. It didn’t matter who they were, just that they needed help. No one was there to help him when he was growing up.
As much as Happosai pretended to enjoy his lifestyle, it was all a sham. With no one to raise him, he had to make it on his own, and in turn picked up a lot of bad habits and tendencies that made him the person he was today. He hated it. It ruined his chance of a relationship with Cologne, perhaps the one person in the world who had loved him despite his faults. He had few friends, save other martial arts masters, and those were more like rivals. No, he was essentially alone, with only Saotome and Tendou being anything even remotely like family, and they hated him. It was with good reason, but still, what sort of a family was that?
But if mistakes were made with him, he was damned if he would allow any child to have the same miserable life he had. He would do anything to cheer them up and help them try to have good lives. Like when he gave Hinako the powerful chi-draining technique so she could have a normal life. Or the two orphans he had come across in his travels, Natsume and Kurumi. He gave them a purpose and direction to live their lives. Soun was a good man and could have helped raise them to be good people, just like he had his own daughters. But by the time they found the Tendou Dojo and Happosai arrived they had already been a misunderstanding and the two felt the need to set off to the world once more, without the guidance Happosai wanted them to have under the care of Soun. He failed them, but perhaps there would come a time when he could help them once more. They had grown into beautiful girls, almost irresistible in fact.
He shook his head. It was time to help the children. He began telling them a tale which would lift their spirits and perhaps help them on their way to becoming better people. He always made certain the stories he told were about hope, and that the children should never lose it.
Mousse had Akane wrapped up tightly in chains and hung from the ceiling of the deserted building he was using.
“At last! You have fallen into my clutches. Now there is no escape!”
“Who said I wanted to?” Akane asked as she continued dangling.
“Why, Ranma. If someone heard you they might think you were coming on to me.” Mousse placed his hands on Akane’s midsection and slowly worked his way up. “Ranma, you feel different.” His hands roamed upwards until they settled on her breasts. “Hmmm. Yes. These are smaller than I expected, but that’s good, since I can tell by feel alone they are perfect.” Gently he squeezed them as he spoke, lust evident in his voice. “Yes, unquestionably prefect.”
Akane’s aura flared. “LET…ME…DOWN…NOW!!!”
Mousse removed his hands as though they had been burned. “Imsorryimsorryimsorry!” he rambled as he released her from her chains, allowing her down on the floor.
A hammer was in Akane’s hands in a flash. Mousse went down on his hands and knees before her. “Please forgive me! I went too far and should never have touched you. Do whatever you want to me, just don’t hate me. Please!” he began crying.
Akane looked at his prostrated form and tossed the hammer aside. Her aura disappeared as quickly as it came into existence. Immediately, she was on her knees next to him, gently cradling his head to her chest. “I don’t hate you, Mousse. Don’t ever think that. As long as you’re honest with me, I could never hate you. I just don’t like that kind of touching when I’m helpless.”
Mousse eased his tears. “You mean you forgive me?”
“I’m not Shampoo, baka,” she teased. “Let me show you how much I forgive you.” She began kissing him deeply, passionately, then gently guided him from his sitting position to a prone one on the floor. She moved on top of him and straddled his hips as they continued to kiss.
Her lips felt so good. Mousse couldn’t help but remember what fortunate turn of events led up to that moment…
Shampoo was gone, again, off to see the lying Casanova, Saotome. It was the same thing over and over again. Saotome would entice Shampoo in some way, then mock Mousse by pretending to show little or no interest in Shampoo. Then Mousse would get so angry he would attack and Saotome would degrade and humiliate him before his love goddess. Then she would laugh at him for being weaker than Ranma. It was the same blasted thing over and over again. He could practically hear the laugh track playing in his head.
It was time to do something different. Frontal confrontation never resulted in anything other than a pounding, but just because he was physically better didn’t mean Saotome didn’t have weaknesses. For one thing Ranma was stupid, as well as arrogant, and had an insufferable amount of pride. That was where Mousse could beat him. All the blind one had to do was outmaneuver Ranma. Hurt him the way he hurt Mousse. And what better way to do that then to do the same thing he had done to Mousse today? He would kidnap one of Ranma’s girls and turn her against him. That would fix Ranma. There was the choice of girl, though. Shampoo couldn’t be used. Ukyou didn’t quite feel right. Kodachi, well even Mousse would admit Saotome would be relieved if Mousse abducted her. That only left one other. The one he claimed he didn’t like but would rescue at a moment’s notice no matter how difficult it was.
But there was a problem with abducting Akane Tendou. Mousse would need time alone with her to win her heart. Winning her over wouldn’t be a problem. When it came right down to it Ranma treated her like dirt and she hit him for his insensitivity all the time. All Mousse would have to do was lavish attention on her like he did Shampoo. He would be lying to her, naturally, Shampoo was the only one he could love, but Akane wouldn’t know that. And after he won her over, Akane would be his and Saotome would know what it meant to have a loved one wooed away. Who knew, perhaps it would even serve to make Shampoo jealous. Then she would be his at last.
The abduction went surprisingly well, much better than the first time he tried to kidnap her and ended up with a stuffed pig. His vision might not have been good, but at least it wasn’t quite that bad anymore. He’d only myopically miss things about one out of three times.
Akane was alone when he grabbed her. Mousse tried to reassure her that he had no evil intentions, and that he needed to talk to her in private but in a way which she couldn’t leave until he finished what he had to say. She wasn’t happy about it, but relaxed a bit as he made his way to an abandoned building and chained her up and hung her by the rafters.
“I thought you said you wanted to talk!” she snapped.
Mousse prepared himself as best as he could. The plan he had mapped out to win Akane’s heart wouldn’t fail him, even if it never seemed to work with Shampoo. “I do. Akane Tendou, I have something of the utmost urgency to tell you!”
Akane rolled her eyes. “What is it? A cure for Ranma? A way to take Shampoo back to China and out of my life?”
“No. I just needed to say, I love you!”
Akane’s jaw nearly dropped in shock. It took her almost a full minute to recover. “Quit pulling jokes, Mousse. You love Shampoo.”
This was the hard part for Mousse. “No longer. She treats me like dirt, and at long last I have grown weary of it. All I have ever done is care about her and do everything she asks, yet she rejects me out of hand. I don’t care about her anymore.” It hurt him so much to say those words. But Shampoo would understand, since it meant the two of them would eventually be together forever.
“Y…you’re just saying that because you’re upset. Once you calm down you’ll go back to her.”
“Never,” he declared. “What do I have to go back to? Getting water dumped on me and ending up being locked in a cage so she can torment me? What kind of a life is that?”
Akane’s voice sounded flustered. “It does sound bad. Does she really do that to you?”
He was gaining her interest. He could feel it. “All the time. It’s like hell, and only recently have I come to realize that. It was as though a veil was pulled from over my eyes and I could see clearly for the first time in my life.”
“That’s wrong,” Akane said, hate in her voice. “She shouldn’t do things like that to you. You do deserve better. Oh how I hate her!”
“Yes. I do. Don’t I?” Mousse found himself feeling a little better about himself. It was nice to hear someone side with him for a change. No one ever did that. Not here or back at home. Everyone just called him a blind, obsessive oaf, never seeing the true him.
“B…but why did you say you love me?” Akane asked, her voice starting to quiver.
“Because I do.” This was another hard part. He had to come up with some believable reasons for this. “Seeing you made me realize that there are women far better than Shampoo in this world. You’re the only one around here that cares about others. Everyone else is caught up in their own little world about how things should be, but not you. You don’t go around forcing yourself on people. You don’t manipulate others to do your bidding. You always try to be honest and open and do the right thing. You don’t attack others, except Ranma, and he deserves it for the way he treats you. You’re kind and caring, and forgiving to a fault. I’ve seen that side of you. Others might not realize it, or take it for granted, but I don’t. You’re the only truly worthy woman here.”
“You’re just saying that,” she mumbled, her voice not backed by any force. “I’m not really that good.”
“Yes, you are. It’s Ranma’s fault that you think that way. He doesn’t know what a lucky guy he is having someone as pretty and as thoughtful as you as his fiancee. Instead he leads a series of women after him to feed his ego while ignoring the one that’s always there for him. He doesn’t deserve someone like you. You deserve someone who would appreciate you for who you are, not what you aren’t.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that,” Akane protested even more weakly than before.
Mousse continued. “It doesn’t matter that you can’t cook very well, all that’s important is that you try to show your affection by doing things like that; it shows you care. But Ranma ignores that and deliberately goes out of his way to hurt you by saying mean things instead of just thanking you for trying so hard. The way he treats someone as wonderful as you is disgusting. I would give my eye for someone to treat me like that, which is why I fell in love with you. I know I’ve kept it a secret, but I couldn’t help myself any longer. You’re too wonderful for me to deny my feelings anymore. I need to be open with you and tell you how I feel.”
It was then he heard something peculiar. It almost sounded like a sniffle. Then he heard another. Then it came bursting forth in a deluge.
Mousse panicked. Somehow his plan had backfired, though he wasn’t sure how. “Why are you crying? I’m sorry! Please don’t cry.” One thing Mousse and Ranma had in common was a desire to avoid making women cry. Now Mousse felt more guilty than he had in recent memory.
“I… I’m crying because you said you love me,” she sobbed.
“Why would that make you cry?” Surely she wasn’t THAT repulsed by him.
“Buh… buh… because, I think I might love you too. WWWWAAAAA!!!”
Mousse nearly fell over, stunned. He hadn’t expected a reaction that fast. “You do? When did that happen?” he asked.
Akane composed herself slightly. “Almost from the first day I met you. When you came out of the sky like a white angel and I saw your handsome face I was really attracted to you, more than any guy I’ve ever met, not that it was love at first sight, or anything. But then you started going on about Shampoo this and Shampoo that. All you ever talked about was her, so I just figured you couldn’t have any feelings for me, so I tried not to think about it. And then when you came by the second time, you mistook a stuffed pig for me. That hurt!”
“Well, I often mistake one thing for another. I have bad vision, you know.”
“Yes, but it still hurt that someone I thought was attractive thought I looked like a pig!”
“You don’t look anything like a pig!” Mousse insisted. “That was completely my fault.”
Akane sniffled some more. “Then you tried to change me into a duck!”
Mousse felt terrible now. He really had gone too far that time. “I’m sorry. I should never have involved you in my war with Ranma. I’m glad my plan failed. I would hate to see you as a duck, too.”
Akane stared at him, her eyes red with tears. “You’re apologizing to me?”
“No one ever apologizes to me.”
“Well, I am.” And it definitely made Mousse feel better. He should have done so long ago. “After all those things I did, how could you still care for me?”
“Because you’re the only one here that is loyal and true around here. No matter what happened, or how horribly Shampoo treated you, you never stopped caring about her or telling her how you felt. You are always so open with your emotions that I couldn’t help but admire you. I want to hear a man tell me he loves me. I don’t want to have to assume he does. You’re like that. I always thought that if you loved me, not an hour wouldn’t go by that you didn’t tell me how much you cared about me. Ranma’s never like that. He isn’t open about anything. No matter what we go through, or how hard I try, he never shows he cares.”
“But don’t you love Ranma?”
Akane seemed to deflate a little. “I used to think so. I think I did. Maybe I still do, a little. He has his moments when he’s nice, sometimes very nice. But they’re just that: moments. They either never last long or it takes moving the world to get him to show even the vaguest hint of anything. Most of the time he says mean things to me or doesn’t take me seriously. He never opens up and I can’t get in a serious discussion with him. He’s immature. Egotistical. Won’t back down from a challenge, no matter how ridiculous it is. Has the sensitivity of a rock. Adores the attention the other girls lavish on him. And never looks at things from my point of view.
“The curse is a problem too. I might be able to live with him turning into a girl, but I wouldn’t like it. I’m not the least bit interested in girls that way. And then there’s the way he acts when he’s a girl. Usually he’s all right, but every now and then he seems to enjoy it. He’s even worn dresses on more than one occasion. He says he’s only done it to trick Ryouga or something like that, but I think there’s more to it than that. And then there’s when we’re together. I swear he somehow brings out all of my worst attributes without even trying. Sometimes it scares me how angry he can get me. He’s just able to push all the wrong buttons and he’s not even trying. It’s like it’s an instinct with him.
“What I’m trying to say is, I know now it would never work out. At the best of times I think I might love him. At the worst of times I hate him. But too much of the time I just end up tolerating him. I don’t think I’d ever be truly happy in a marriage like that.”
Mousse was shocked. It made sense to him, but he never thought Akane felt that way. “What about Kunou?” Mousse offered. “He says he loves you all the time.”
“He also talks about how much he loves his pig-tailed girl in the same breath!” Akane snapped. “How could anyone love a two-timing fink like that? You aren’t that way. There’s only room in your heart for only one person.”
Mousse felt himself blushing. It was true. He could never do go after more than one girl at a time. But there were other considerations. “What about Ryouga?”
“What about him?” Akane said. “Ryouga’s even worse than Ranma when it comes to showing emotions. I think he’s had a crush on me since before you showed up, but in all of that time he’s never said a word. I’ve sort of encouraged him to open up in the past, but he just gets all flustered and runs away. I even went out with him when Ukyou thought she was being all cute in setting us up to go out with one another, like I couldn’t see through that transparent little ploy, but all he did was act shy and chase Ranma. I mean, even Ranma’s more open and true to his emotions than that. And then that one time I asked Ryouga out on a date, during that whole waterproof soap incident when Ranma was dressing up like a girl and hanging all over Shampoo. He nearly killed me because he was so deliriously happy. I said it then and I’ll say it now, I feel sorry for any girl that ends up going out with Ryouga. He might be basically a nice guy, but he’s just such a wimp when it comes to showing his emotions that I would never really be happy with someone like him either.’
“But you’re different. There aren’t any secrets or doubts when it comes to you. You’re so open and sincere with your emotions that I would always know where I would stand with you. And I know you would try to help me if I needed it. And you’d be honest and not lie to me, just like you are with Shampoo.”
“Yes,” he said quietly. “I would.”
“That’s why I hate Shampoo so much more than the others,” Akane almost snarled. “She would get on my nerves anyway with her superiority complex, and the way she acts like a tramp around Ranma, but the way she treats you is disgusting. You deserve to be treated like a man, not like a piece of useless garbage. You should be cared for because you’re so honest and open. She’s an idiot. She had you and tossed you aside like you were nothing when I would have loved to have someone like you. And now there is! At last there’s someone I can really love who loves me! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me feel.”
Mousse remained silent for a few moments before speaking. “Akane, I’m going to say a few things you aren’t going to like.”
Akane’s joy faded as rapidly as it arrived. It was something in his voice that caused the bottom of her stomach feel like it was going to fall out. “What is it?”
Mousse found his throat going dry, as though what he was about to say was the hardest thing that would ever pass from his lips. “When I captured you and told you I loved you, I was lying. I just said it to win you away from Ranma and hurt him.”
Akane was silent for a moment, only the sound of the chains clinking together breaking the silence. The silence was broken by a low moaning, that was almost a wail. “No. Oh, no.”
Mousse stopped before the tears began to flow. He was amazed by the tenderness he felt as he gently cradled Akane’s chin and tilted it ever so gently upward so she would be looking him in the eye. “Now I… I don’t know. You’ve said a lot of things I never expected. No one ever said they cared for me. No one. Now you claim I’m your ideal man and that you’ve been interested in me all this time. I’m not sure what to think about that. I think maybe I actually meant a lot of things I said about you. All of them were true, except the ‘I love you’ part. You have a lot of admirable qualities that no one else seems to appreciate, but I do. I… I really need someone to care about me, and I know you can be really caring. But there’s still Shampoo. I know I love her. I do, but…” He trailed off before continuing. He couldn’t put that part in words. Akane was so different from Shampoo, yet there was something about her. Perhaps he was falling under the spell she cast that seemed to draw so many men to her. If so, it was a not an altogether unpleasant feeling.
“I’ve told you all of this because I don’t want to lie to you. I’m going to let you down now. If you want to hit me, I’ll understand. I’m used to it.” He undid her bonds and watched as she rubbed her wrists and got the circulation going through them again.
She gave a flat stare towards him. “What do you want to do now?”
He thought about it. “I’m not sure. All of a sudden, everything I thought I knew is all wrong. I’m confused about everything, including how I feel.”
Akane’s look remained firm. Her tone carried authority as she spoke. “I’m not interested in someone that wants to try to decide between two women. If you want to have any kind of a relationship with me there will not be any going back and forth. I’m not playing any more games with guys that have more than one woman attached to them.”
“I understand,” Mousse said, and then left. Somehow, it seemed as though his plan had completely backfired, as his plans often did. But this time he was not left with a feeling of frustration that usually accompanied such failures.
It turned out to be no choice at all. For the first time in his life he had the option of having a relationship with a woman who would accept his affections and would return them, or he could continue pursuing someone that had scorned him for a full decade and would continue to do so. Even as blindly obsessed as he was, he knew there was only one choice to make.
It was two weeks later when he “mistakenly” abducted Akane when she was alone, yelling out to the world that she was Ranma. He ran with her, taking her to a quiet corner of the park where he told her that, now and forever, she was the one. The tears of joy she cried made him weep as well, and for the first time in so long Mousse began to feel a form of contentment that had been missing from him in his entire life.
After their mutual declaration, they decided they had to keep the relationship secret so Ranma, Kunou, and Ryouga wouldn’t try to kill Mousse, as well as preventing Soun and Genma from trying to stop the two of them from getting together. Akane started treating Ranma worse than ever in the hope that he would call off the engagement. That way Akane wouldn’t be the bad guy when she refused to accept it back this time. She knew it was mean and unfair to Ranma, but in the long run it would make both of them happier than if they were forced together.
Mousse ceased his thoughts about the past as Akane detached her lips from his and raised herself up while continuing to straddle his hips.
“I’m ready, Mousse,” she said softly.
“Ready for what?” he asked, totally bewildered.
“For this.” She started to remove her blouse.
“You don’t have to do that,” he said, and meant it, despite how fast his heart raced.
“I know that, baka,” she said playfully. “I want to do it.”
The smile she gave him melted his heart, as well as his resistance. As she tossed her blouse aside, and started to unclasp her bra, he realized just how wrong the fool Saotome was. Akane was no uncute, unfeminine, tomboy. Shampoo’s beauty paled in comparison to the woman astride him. Even a blind Mousse could see Akane was the most beautiful creature in the world.
Ranma-chan ran. Five miles passed with the cat attached to the back of her head, screams of terror accompanying them the entire time. As they passed the outskirts of Nerima, Ranma-chan veered suddenly to the left to relatively isolated, and deserted building. She made a straight line for the fire escape and run up it, not pausing until she made it onto the roof. She made one circuit around the edge, continuing to scream at the top of her lungs. Once the circuit was complete, she ran to the center of the roof and calmed down as though nothing had ever been wrong. Gently, she eased Shampoo-neko off her head, placing her softly on the top of the gray concrete of the roof. She went to a heating duct, calmly detached the grill covering it, and reached inside, pulling out a large bundle. She undid the wrap around it and pulled out a gas powered hot plate, a bottle of water, and a purple and pink Chinese outfit. Once the water was heated, she used it on herself. Then she placed the outfit on the ground and allowed Shampoo-neko to crawl inside it. Once she was in place, hot water was poured on the cat.
It took Shampoo several moments to reorient herself to the world as she made certain all of her limbs were sticking out the proper holes. Once her head was through the neck, she turned towards Ranma, only to see he had already sat down in a ball. He had brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. Shampoo remained where she was until she heard the first gasp of breath.
“It’s okay, Ranma. You can let it out now.” She waited a moment to see how he would react. It seemed to be bad this time.
A second gasp escaped, then a third that was all too close to the second. It was a bad one. Shampoo eased herself over and wrapped her arms around him. Hopefully, he would draw strength from her presence. “It’s all right. We’re away from the others.”
“I hate it,” he whispered softly, eyes still staring off in the distance, focused, but not anything in their path.
Shampoo thought she knew what he was talking about. “What did she do to you this time?”
“Sh… she hit me,” he was practically sobbing as he said that. At last he closed his eyes, though tears threatened to fall from behind the lids.
Shampoo figured it must have happened earlier in the day. She wondered what was different about it this time to produce such an overwhelming response. “She always hits you.” And sometimes he even deserved it, but she was here for support, and that kind of a statement might have some disastrous results with him in his current state of mind. Besides, everyone else dumped on Ranma. She wanted to be the exception.
“I saved her,” he said softly. “Not twenty-four hours after I risked my life for her, and she hit me just for telling her I didn’t want to eat her cooking.”
Shampoo knew he was glossing over things, he always did that, but after what he had done for Akane just a short time ago, that was still going more than a bit far, even for her. “It was wrong of her to do that. She should have thanked you for risking yourself like that and accepted the criticism.”
“She caught me right in the ribs. It’s still sore from where Shoi hit me.” Ranma pulled himself into Shampoo’s embrace. “It was bad, Shampoo. Real bad. There were a couple of spots where he nearly killed me. It was like Saffron, but on a smaller scale, and Akane wasn’t in quite as much danger, but he was vicious. I nearly died.”
“I’m sorry, Ranma,” Shampoo whispered in his ear. “If I had known I’d have helped. I would have even brought Mousse along, but you left without contacting us. There was no way I could have known.”
“I know. And I survived, but it just keeps getting worse. I don’t know how much more I can take. It seems like they all hit so hard anymore.” He held onto her arms tightly now, savoring the contact and tried to make himself strong.
Shampoo remained where she was. This one was very bad, perhaps the worst yet. More often now it seemed that every time they met he would break down. She understood why, now. He needed the release. Besides, wasn’t she at least partially responsible for his current condition? She was far from the sole person responsible, but responsible she was. She allowed her mind to recall the night she first discovered what unintentional damage she was doing…
Shampoo had wandered out of the Nekohanten to enjoy the night air. It was one of the last things left that she could enjoy. Before leaving she threw some water on Mousse and locked him in his cage to ensure the pest wouldn’t bother her. Of course he might have minded his own business, for a change, but why take the chance? If she had her way about it she would have sent him back to China, and if he refused to leave, she would have put him in a body cast and shipped him herself. But her great grandmother wanted to keep him around and torment him. Sure, he made it easy by being such a blind, obsessive moron, but Shampoo’s violent streak didn’t run that deep and she would have preferred he was simply sent away.
But who was she to question her great grandmother’s wisdom? The same wisdom that had forced Shampoo into the tenuous situation she found herself in; a situation that was showing the signs of a strain that threatened to bring everything down around her head. Her great grandmother was getting impatient, and Shampoo could only stall for so long before the old woman would interfere again. Shampoo did not want to have to rely upon Mousse to foul the old woman’s plans up, and it would be difficult to get word to Ranma without it looking suspicious. Maybe she should do something to catch Ranma that would look impressive, but she could easily doom to failure by fouling it up, just like those idiotic hypnotic mushrooms and other handful of exotic drugs that she had used.
As hard as she tried, she just couldn’t seem to shake the feeling there was no way out. She hoped that a walk in the night air would give her an idea. So she strolled along the riverbank, moving quietly so as not to disturb anyone, and tried coming up with some solutions.
It was as she neared a bridge that she caught the sound of someone sobbing nearby on the riverbank underneath it. From where she stood at that moment, she could not be seen by the person. It really wasn’t any of her business, but curiosity won out as she sneaked quietly up and listened while peeking around the bend and tried to make out who it was. The sobbing increased slightly, and for the briefest of moments she thought she knew who it sounded like, but that was absurd; he never cried.
She clung as tightly to the shadows as she could, trying desperately to see who it was. The full moon overhead was bright enough to mask whoever was under the bridge in shadows. In the darkness, she could just make out a silhouette that appeared to be a male and sitting under the bridge. She had just caught sight of black pants at the edge of the moonlight when she noticed the silhouette seemed to be holding a short, but sharp, bladed instrument. The hand moved enough to allow the reflection of the moonlight off the water to cause a gleam on the edge of what was unquestionably a blade. A tanto, if she was not mistaken.
A louder sob came from the figure, as Shampoo now knew for certain who it was, impossible though it seemed. Shampoo recoiled as the figure started to point the blade to his stomach. What was the fool thinking? Shampoo knew she probably only had moments to react. She made her presence known by walking into full view of the figure, the moonlight allowing him to see her clearly.
The figure reacted almost immediately, the dagger disappeared behind his back as he shot to his feet. “What are you doing here?”
The bizarre circumstances made Shampoo present a calm and collected demeanor instead of the bubbly one she usually employed when around him. “Shampoo out for a walk. Now can ask Ranma same question. What you doing here, Ranma?”
He struggled to come up with an answer as Shampoo slowly drew closer. “Umm, just looking at the river. Right. Just looking at the river.”
“Oh,” Shampoo murmured. “Then why you crying, Ranma?” Now that she got a good look at him she saw that he looked like a wreck. Dark rings, apparent even in the moonlight, were under his red-rimmed bloodshot eyes, making it appear he had not gotten sleep in a week. His posture was that of abject failure, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Never had she seen him like that. She had never seen anyone carry the look of total defeat he wore upon him.
“I ain’t crying!” he snarled, in spite of his appearance. “You were hearing things!”
“Yes,” the Amazon agreed. “Shampoo hear sobbing and crying. That what things Shampoo hear.”
“It must have been a kid that was running by. I saw some kid just a moment ago and it was probably him.”
He must have been really out of it to think that one was going to fly. “Shampoo understand. Was child who was out at midnight all by himself and sound just like you.”
She switched tactics. “What you doing with knife?”
Panic overcame him. “W… what knife? I ain’t got a knife. You’re seeing things now too, you crazy Amazon!”
Shampoo moved right next to him. “Then you no mind if Shampoo take a look at what behind your back.”
As she tried to circle around him, he kept pivoting, keeping his body between her and the blade. His reflexes were slow and Shampoo was able to fake moving left, then turned right and saw the blade in all its glory. Her voice carried a far more serious tone. “Why you try to kill self, Ranma?”
Realizing his deception was finished, he dropped his facade and became angry. “You wouldn’t care! No one cares! Just let me finish what I have to do and you can return home. The old ghoul told me if I die you could go back home without further dishonor. You can’t marry a corpse, after all.”
Aside from the shock of hearing Ranma talk like that, a cold voice in the back of her head, the one that sounded so much like her great-grandmother, informed her that his death was the last thing she needed. It would ruin everything. God, how she hated that voice. She turned to her far more forceful voices in the front of her mind. They agreed vehemently that Ranma should live. She would base her choice on those voices, and not the silent one that whispered so loudly in her ear.
“Shampoo no want to return home because airen dead.”
“I ain’t your airen! So you don’t got to worry about it!”
“Then Shampoo not want you to die because you is Ranma. Being airen or not airen have nothing to do with it.”
That caused him to hesitate for a moment as he tried to come to grips with what she just said.
Shampoo had never seen Ranma sound so defeated. Nowhere near it. He was invincible. Everyone knew that. She took the initiative once more. “Why you try to kill self?”
“You don’t care,” he almost sobbed. “No one cares. Just let me be.”
“No,” she said softly.
“I SAID LEAVE ME ALONE! LISTEN TO ME, FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE!”
“No,” she said just as firmly as before. “Not unless Ranma tell Shampoo what wrong. If Ranma do that, and Shampoo think reason you want to kill self is good, then no try to stop you.”
He looked at her in open shock of that statement. “You’d let me die?”
“Only if good reason,” she said. “Sometime warrior have to sacrifice self for others or to keep honor. If Ranma have to kill self for those reasons Shampoo no going to stop. Not want Ranma to die, but can respect warrior death.”
“You’d let me kill myself?” he asked, still unbelieving.
“Like Shampoo say, only if it right thing to do. If you not have good reason, then Shampoo not going to let Ranma die.”
He absorbed the information, all the while looking at Shampoo in a very confused manner. Eventually he seemed to come to a decision. “Fine. You want to know why I want to kill myself. It’s because I can’t take it anymore. None of it. Not my enemies that try to beat me up because I exist. Not the strangers that don’t even know me who want me dead because I’m good at martial arts. Not my so-called friends that treat me like I’m some kind of object instead of a human being. And not my family, who set up my entire life to be what they wanted, and who promised to kill me if I don’t turn out exactly they way they think I should turn out. It’s finally all caught up to me. If I can’t have any control over my life, at least I can have some over my death! Now go away! The least you can do is grant me some peace and quiet so I can get this over with.”
Shampoo shook her head. “That not warrior reason to die. That stupid coward reason to die. Shampoo no allow that.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“Maybe, if you thinking clearly and at full strength, but Shampoo think you look tired and no think straight. Shampoo think she can cause enough problems you not get chance to kill self. Wound bad maybe, but not kill.
Ranma’s voice sounded tired as he began pleading. “I’m exhausted, Shampoo. I can’t fight anymore. Please let me do this.”
“No.” She was running out of things she could say. In truth, she was fairly certain he could kill himself if he did try hard, but if he didn’t really want to do it he might hang onto her threat as an excuse to go on. It was up to her to come up with one. “Why you no tell Shampoo you feel this way? Shampoo be happy to help.”
“Yeah! Right!” he snorted as some of the old Ranma came back in his voice. “You have been so understanding of my feelings and so helpful, I don’t know why I didn’t go to you first.”
“Ranma, Shampoo would help,” she insisted.
“Yourself, you mean.” he said derisively. “You just don’t get it, do you? You’re part of the problem. You run around hanging onto me, trying to drug me to admit my ‘true feelings’, and never listen to a word I say. Yeah, you’d be a big help since you’re such a great listener, unless I say something you don’t want to hear; then you’ll ignore it just like you always do. Just like everyone else.”
“You mean you no talk with Akane or Spatula Girl about this?” That was a surprise. She thought he actually liked them, somewhat.
“Oh, right. Like Akane is so understanding and ever listens to anything I have to say. She just sees me as someone forcing her into something she doesn’t want to do. She reflexively blames me for everything that goes wrong, no matter what happened and even if it’s obvious I ain’t to blame. And then she hits me when I tell it like it is. She can’t handle the truth. With that kind of thoughtfulness I think I’ll go over and tell her everything.
“And then there’s good ole’ Ucchan. She listens to what I have to say even worse than you do. She’s almost as bad as you. She may not try to drug me, thank God, but she manipulates me better than you do. She tries to use our past relationship against me by twisting vague promises I made when I was five so I’ll do what she wants. Or she sets up Ryouga and Akane on a date to get her out of the way, or tries magic like that stupid Tunnel of Lost Love. Did you know when Happosai hit me with that stupid moxibustion point, she was happy I was powerless? She saw it as an opportunity for the two of us to get married and slipped into one of those stupid daydreams. She was really putting my wishes first and foremost in consideration. I love how she always thinks of my feelings first,” he spat out.
“I mean, she scares me. My father didn’t take her with us, so she spends years denying what sex she is, starts crossdressing, vows vengeance, and tries to kill me. All over some misunderstanding that happened when we were five. Then I call her cute once, just once, and she turns all nice and wants to marry me again, just like that! Years of changing her life were thrown out the door because I said one word. She’s insane! I’m not surprised she bombed my wedding, I’m just happy she didn’t try to kill me before that. And lord only knows what’s she’s going to do if I end up trying that again.
“And then there’s my wonderful family. The father who made me into some kind of living weapon by ensuring I could never have a life outside of martial arts. The caring he displayed when he kept tying me up and throwing me into pits of starving cats. He moved me around so I didn’t have any roots and no friends. He made it so there was nothing I could do other than what he wanted all the time. I don’t even like martial arts any more. I hate them! But it’s all I know, so I keep doing it, cause I don’t think I can do anything else, and it’s all thanks to him.
“And then there’s the mother who loved me so much she let my father take me from her for years on some vague promise that I would grow up to be a ‘man among men’, never mind how screwed up her idea of a ‘manly man’ is, or she’d kill me. Oh, she may say she wouldn’t do it now, but she sure as hell took that katana with her wherever she went for an awful long time. Now of course she tries to step in like she never missed a beat. And then I have to get married to a girl they decided on because they think it’s a good idea and made a stupid promise before I was born. Nice to know my feelings were always the first thing on their minds.”
“You is right,” Shampoo agreed. “They not worthy of your attention.”
“SHUT UP!!!” he shouted. “You’re the worst! At least that laughing hyena, Kodachi, is deluded and can use that as an excuse for her behavior. What’s yours? I understand you have to be here and marry me because of your stupid law. But you just have to jump all over me, no matter how many times I tell you to get off of me. Then there’s the times you tried drugging me. You’ve tried drugging me! How the hell are you supposed to earn my love doing that?! You listen to what I have to say even less than Ucchan. Whenever you turn into a cat you still hang around me even though you know I might go into my neko-ken. And then I’m paranoid that you might go psycho one of these days and decide to make good on that Kiss of Death you gave Akane when you first arrived, or that you might change your mind and try to kill me. Thanks a lot for all your ‘help!’ With all that is it any surprise I want to end it all?!”
As his anger died, Shampoo saw the depression step in again. She was going to have to do something desperate to shake him out of his suicidal intents. The cold voice in the back of her head made its presence known by telling her it was time to let him in on some truths and to see how he dealt with them. This time she listened to it. “Has it occurred to you I might be intentionally doing all that to keep from marrying you?”
It took him a minute to focus on what she said. “What are you talking about?”
“Let me tell you a little story about a girl from a village in China,” she began. “This girl grew up as a member of a very prestigious family, and was expected to carry on the family traditions. Like you, her life was chosen for her, and she was trained in every way imaginable. Unlike you, she enjoyed the martial arts immensely; it was the other studies she did not like. You see, she was chosen to be the next representative for her generation to lead her tribe. There was only one problem with that: the girl discovered at a very early age she did not want to lead. She might have possessed the necessary tools to do it, but her heart wasn’t in it. But that excuse would not work with her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother. Three generations of family were damned if the next in line would try to shirk her responsibilities. When the girl tried to remain adamant about not taking that particular course of life, the women of her family made very certain the girl understood the consequences to her would be most severe, and she would be made to serve anyway. So she remained silent after that, realizing there was no way out for her. She tried pretending she was stupid, but even that didn’t work. The family was too adamant to give it up. The girl had to lead.
“Then a miracle happened. The village girl won a tournament and became champion, but during the tournament an outsider girl came to the village and began eating the champion’s first prize. As the winner of the tournament set her eyes upon the outsider girl, an idea came to her. If the champion lost to the outsider, the champion would have to give her a Kiss of Death and chase her across the face of the earth to hunt her down and kill her. It was the perfect excuse to get out of the village and under the watchful eye of her family members, so she decided to throw the fight.”
Ranma interrupted at this point. “You mean I didn’t win? You threw the fight?”
Shampoo shook her head. “The champion didn’t have to. The outsider girl caught the champion off-guard and she lost legitimately, not that the champion really cared. The idea of giving a Kiss of Death for losing a fight is stupid as far as she was concerned, but it would prove to be a useful tool. So she gave the kiss and deliberately gave the outsider a head start. If she hadn’t, how would she be able to leave the village?”
“I always wondered why you let us get away,” Ranma mumbled.
Shampoo was delighted to hear the curiosity on his voice. That was the Ranma she knew. “Yes. And the village girl always made sure the outsider was never caught. Oh, the girl would pursue the outsider and make her think the champion intended to kill her, but that was simply to prod the outsider onward and further away from the village itself. The champion could have picked off the outsider at just about any time, but even if she could kill the outsider, it would just mean she would have to go back. The village girl was determined the outsider survive.
“Eventually the trail led to Japan, much to the village girl’s delight. There was a whole new world before her, far away from the responsibilities that were forced upon her in China. Then it got even better. An outsider male defeated her and she could now marry. It wasn’t so much who it was as much as what he represented. She could now stay in Japan. In hindsight, it was delusional for her to believe that, and it ended up not mattering because the boy turned out to be the outsider girl. It was that night the village girl learned she could not kill, no matter how much the betrayal hurt. So in anguish, she left Japan and went back to China. If the outsider knew her life was in no danger, the hunt was over and there was nothing left for the village girl.
“She returned to China and was punished for the failure to kill the outsider girl by immersion in the waters of Jusenkyou. Eventually, the girl told her great-grandmother everything that happened and they figured out what was really going on with the boy. So, much to the girl’s delight, she was allowed to return to Japan. There was a problem though. The girl’s great-grandmother went along to ensure success and to take the future husband back to China. The village girl was not happy about that. The longer she was in Japan, the longer she was away from China. So she decided to only make it appear she was trying to win the boy, using stupid tricks that were never going to win him. She also made certain none of the other girls got him either. As long as he didn’t choose any girl, things would remain as they were and the village girl could stay in Japan. That was all the village girl was really interested in.”
Ranma looked at Shampoo in open disbelief. His whole world had just been turned upside down. “You’re speaking really well. You’ve been able to speak fluent Japanese from the beginning?”
“No.” Shampoo shook her head. “At first I was just as bad as I sounded. Over time I got better, but I never let great-grandmother know so she’d think I was stupid and maybe she’d give up on the idea of making me leader. I wish.”
At last Ranma was able to absorb everything. “So I was right! You’ve been using me even worse than I believed!”
Shampoo nodded her head.
That confirmation was all it took as Ranma started to glow blue and took a menacing step towards her. “YOU BITCH! I’M NOT YOUR FUCKING TOOL!!!”
That was not good. Given Ranma’s mental state, there was a realistic chance he might lose control and lash out at Shampoo, at least hurting, and possibly killing her. Nonetheless, she stood her ground. “I had no idea what damage I was doing. I honestly believed you were able to take everything in stride. I may not love you, Ranma, but I don’t want to see you end your life. In a way I sort of like you. You are one interesting boy.”
His glow started to go away. Depression returned, but not like before. The edge that had been there before was now lost. He was obviously not suicidal any longer, though still utterly defeated. “Are you going to tell anyone what happened tonight?”
“No.” Shampoo noted how lost he sounded. He was in terrible emotional shape, and even if he didn’t try to do anything tonight, it was only a matter of time before he snapped again, and the next time Shampoo might not be there to talk him down. The cold voice inside told her now was the ideal time to bind him to her will. She was going to need allies in the upcoming months, and he would be an ideal one. Rather than give into it, she refused to listen. Any choices she made would be based on her conscience, not on using Ranma like she had for so long.
“Ranma. Now that I know how you feel, and you know how I really feel about you, why don’t we come to a truce? I’m like you and don’t have any friends here.”
“And you want me as one now? How do I know it ain’t some trick?”
Shampoo shook her head. “Only time will tell. But ask yourself this, if you were prepared to kill yourself, what else do you have to lose?”
He couldn’t seem to answer that one. His face went through denial, anger, frustration, defeat, and finally acceptance. “If I catch you trying to use me…” he let the threat trail off.
“I give you my word I won’t. I can’t think of anything else to give you, or I would. Please trust me this once.” The cold voice in her head was silent now. She didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing.
Ranma seemed to accept that and went back home, alone. A couple nights later, the duo met under the bridge again and began talking to one another, as well as venting their mutual frustrations. Plans were made for frustrating the potential suitors, as well as Ranma hinting around Cologne that his view in Shampoo was softening a tiny bit. They both hoped that would keep her off Shampoo’s back and prevent the old one from trying anything dangerous to snare Ranma.
It was difficult to meet away from the others’ prying eyes, but as the weeks passed, the duo learned how to get some private time with one another. Once Ranma fully trusted Shampoo, they even struck a deal to help him get over his neko-phobia. Shampoo changed into a cat around Ranma, keeping a great distance away, while he became used to her presence. It took almost four months of constant attempts, but his phobia was reduced to the point unless he was actually attacked by a horde of cats, or a large one, like a tiger, he wouldn’t panic and run away.
At first, the change in Ranma was obvious. At last there was someone he could open up to and talk with. Much to Shampoo’s surprise, she found that having someone she could confide in helped ease her burden as well. As time passed, she found herself actually thinking fondly of Ranma. It wasn’t love, but there was the possibility that it might become that in time if it was allowed to blossom.
However, after the first few months, things took a turn for the worse once again. Attacks against Ranma actually increased and the opposition became more and more skilled. There was also the problem of the two being able to meet. So many people wanted Ranma’s time for themselves, there were very few opportunities when both he and Shampoo could meet. Mousse still watched Shampoo like a hawk, and Cologne was not much better. And they still had to maintain the appearance of Ranma disliking her, lest things came to a head with all the friends, foes, and suitors alike.
As the time passed the pressure began to build up on Ranma more and more. Once again he became morosely depressed. The only times that he was happy were when he was at Shampoo’s side, and even then it wasn’t always enough to shake him out of it.
“Let’s run away together.”
That snapped Shampoo out of her reminiscing. She gave him a pained expression. “We can’t, Ranma. My great-grandmother, Mousse, Mr. Tendo, your parents, Ukyou, Kodachi, Akane. None of them are willing to let you or me go. They would hunt us down to the ends of the earth to bring us back or gain revenge against me for taking you away. Nowhere would be safe from them. Nowhere.”
His voice began to quiver. “I… I can’t take it much longer. I need to get away from them. To get away from here. Even being with you isn’t enough any more, not with how little time we get alone. Twice a week isn’t enough. I need you,” he pleaded.
The voice inside her head soothingly told her he belonged to her now, though it questioned exactly what it was she truly had. She shut it out. Now she had a decision to make. Events were reaching a crux and it was time to make a choice that would have repercussions for her entire future. “How much longer can you hold out?”
Ranma shook his head. “If things don’t get worse, another five months. After that I won’t be able to take it anymore.”
She understood what he was alluding to. He would try ending it all once more. She recognized the signs in him from that night and thought he was being unusually generous. He would be lucky if he could last more than three months. She was going to have to come up with a plan. A complicated one, which was going to take months to set up. It was the only chance they had for escaping the Mobius loop they were trapped in. And if the plan failed, she would be dragged back to China while Ranma, more likely than not, would die by his own hand.
“Give me three months,” she whispered in his ear. “Then we can make one desperate attempt to leave everything behind. Can you do that for me?”
He nodded. “I can keep it together for that long. What’s the plan?”
“It’s better that you don’t know, for both our sakes. You just concentrate on dealing with everything they throw at you and I’ll take care of you. Do you believe me?”
“Yes,” he said softly. “Shampoo, can you say it yet?”
The voice told her to lie to him and tell him what he wanted to hear. NO! She wouldn’t do that. She would not treat him like she had been her entire life. “I care about you very much, but we’re under a lot of stress. I won’t let myself fall in love with you until we’re clear of this entire mess. It could still all come crashing down around our heads, and if I loved you and lost you it might break me. I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that to happen.”
Surprisingly she saw him perk up a little as a bit of the real Ranma returned. “Well then, I guess we’ll have to get out of this, won’t we?”
She found herself smiling in response to the haughty arrogance. “Yes. I guess we will.” And maybe then she would allow herself to fall for him, but not before. Still, there was one gesture she could give him for encouragement. Something for him as well as for her.
Shampoo leaned over and kissed him on the lips. His hands were all over her in an instant as she felt him kiss back and he did it pretty damn well for someone that claimed he had never done it before. Maybe she would have to sample a little more as added incentive to succeed in escaping everyone’s clutches. He took the initiative, easing her back and still kissing as he added even more incentive for her and her plan.
Yes. Just a few more months and it would all be decided, one way or another.
Author's notes: Well, that’s the main story. I…what’s that? What about the Kunous? Surely they have some secret as well? Well, all right. If you must know it, but I warn you, advance at your own risk.
And now for something completely different. ^_^
(The Tale of the Kunous)
Kunou gave his fellow kendoists his “intensity stare”. They had become lax in their training of late, and he was going to put a stop to it immediately. Today.
“All rise!” he commanded. Just as he decided what poem to use to launch into his tirade against the sins of sloth, he felt a low vibration emanate from his pocket. Curses! It would happen just as he was about to start. Time to employ the usual excuse for a quick dismissal.
“I can take it no longer!” he declared as he pointed his bokken to the ceiling of the gym. “I must once again lay my eyes upon the beauteous Akane Tendo and the pig-tailed girl. You may practice on your own.” And with that he took off at top speed for his home.
Kodachi Kunou was in the middle of gymnastics practice when she felt the faint vibration from her earring.
“I can bear it no longer! Ranma-sama, your beautiful Black Rose shall come for you. OHHOHOHOHOHOHO!!!”
The rest of the girls watched as Kodachi skipped gracefully off, ribbon twirling behind her as she departed.
The siblings arrived at the Kunou mansion at the same time. Once inside Sasuke met them as they made their way to the center of the house.
“Nice to see you two made it here so quickly,” Sasuke commented as he led the way.
“I would hardly be late for such in important thing,” Kunou commented dryly. “I simply wish I had more time to help my club members. Their skills are beginning to atrophy without my constant guidance.”
“I know exactly how you feel,” Kodachi said. “I was in the middle of gymnastics practice as well, brother dear.”
“Oh, how I loathe the act I must portray for the outside world,” Kunou complained as he continued walking. “If only there was some other way to divert suspicion from our activities.”
“Ah, to portray the much-thought-of deluded Kunou siblings. It is almost enough to make me wish I truly was deranged,” Kodachi said sarcastically.
“We all have burdens we must bear, keiki,” their father said as he hurried to catch up to the trio.
Kunou scowled as his father approached. “Must you always play the buffoon, father?”
He held his hands up innocently at the comment. “When you get to my age, boy, you tend to enjoy acting a little wild. I kind of like acting like a refugee from a Gidget movie.”
“Wild is not exactly the way I would describe our lifestyle,” Sasuke said as they at last made it to the center of the house. Four security systems were deactivated, the final two being fatally charged ones, as the group of four made their way into the secret rail system built beneath the house. The security systems went back up as they entered the rail car and relaxed as best they could. Within moments they took off down the singular track.
Kodachi noticed her brother looking exceptionally depressed. “What troubles you, brother dear?”
Kunou softened a bit at his sister’s concern. “It is this sham I have to put forth to the world. I know what we do is important, and the need for secrecy paramount, but I play such a senseless twit that I fear I will never know true happiness again. As much as I use that tomboy, Akane Tendou, to waste my attentions on, and her fiancé, that idiotic Saotome, as another buffer, I cannot help but think how much better my life would be if I could just be normal, like I used to be.”
Kodachi sighed in agreement. “I know what you mean. Pretending to be in love with that water changing man, and the constant unbalanced behavior I have to go through with everyone, has made my life cold as well. No one likes me anymore.”
Kunou watched as she began laughing, the girlish little giggle that she had always possessed, not that insane cackle she employed to frighten others. It had been too long since he had last heard that laugh. “What is that strikes you as so amusing, sister?”
“I was just thinking of the irony of our situation. We must place a veil over others’ eyes so they cannot see the masks we wear.”
“If anyone knew our alter-egos, Nerima would be attacked immediately by a Dragon Turtle or some other pleasant engine of destruction. How would you like to live with the knowledge that everyone you grew up with died because of who you are?” Sasuke asked.
“No need to be catty,” Principal Kunou said. “We all know there is no one else that is trusted enough to fill our roles until a new generation of fighters can be trained. Unless you want to leave the world in the enemy’s hands.”
All shook their heads no. They knew what the stakes were, even if the rest of the world could not be allowed to know what role the Kunou family served in its safekeeping. The rail car came to a stop and the quartet emerged. As Kunou made his way to the far side of the chamber his wrist communicator beeped.
“Yes?” He knew who it was.
“I’m already airborne. I’ll be joining you once you’re in the air,” a voice answered.
“Understood.” Kunou turned off his communicator and look to the others as well as their ship. “Time to transform.”
The others took the cue as their wristbands began to glow, and triggered the changes in their outfits. In the blinding light none could see the molecular transformation, as their everyday wear became their uniforms for combat. Sasuke seemed to lose weight as Principal Kunou gained it. Their forms shifted and they appeared almost as exactly like whom they were supposed to.
Kunou now wore the stylized outfit of the codor.
Kodachi now wore the stylized outfit of the swan.
Sasuke now wore the stylized outfit of the swallow.
And the principal now wore the stylized outfit of the owl.
If any other had been present, they would have seen the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman before them.
Kunou thought about their situation as they boarded the Phoenix. Two years ago they had been an almost perfectly normal family. Then one day the call came from Dr. Nabu that changed their lives. He and Kunou’s father had been the best of friends, but it was no social call that time. Nabu informed the principal that he was the only one Nabu could fully trust and that all of the Kunous’ help was desperately needed. Nabu revealed to them that all but one of the members of the Gatchaman team, Ken Washio, had been killed in battle with the intergalactic menace called the Galactor. However, that knowledge was kept secret from the enemy organization. It was feared that if they ever discovered the truth, the Galactor would strike with everything they had and take the earth for themselves.
Nabu knew it would take over a year to find and train new people that could be trusted to become the new Gatchaman team, so others would have to be called on to fill the roles temporarily. That was when his thoughts turned to the remarkable Kunou family. He knew of the abilities possessed of each member and the fact they were nearly physically identical to the dead members of the team. There was also no one else he could trust to not abuse the potential power the new Gatchaman team would possess, so he begged for their assistance. They accepted, understanding that the role was only a temporary one. To throw suspicion away from anyone that might make a connection between the Kunou’s and the Gatchaman team, the family began to display eccentricities to keep prying eyes away from them.
Emergency training was used and the quartet adapted quickly to the new roles they were given. Nabu was convinced that, in time, they would be better than the original team had been. The earliest missions proved to be the most dangerous, but the four fill-ins did their work to perfection. Just as a new team was almost ready, disaster struck and the Galactor attacked, killing every single one of the trainees. The temporary role became an even longer one, and more acts of madness were required to keep anyone from suspecting the truth.
The Phoenix made its rendezvous with Ken’s ship and the group’s leader met with his team once more.
“Let me fill you in on the mission parameters,” Ken began. “Kaste is up to his tricks once more. He’s planning to unleash a virus that is designed to kill all of the crops in the American mid-west. It’s up to us to take him down.”
It was another fine day in the life of the Kunous.
Author's notes: Told you it would be different. ^_^
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