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
Chapter 1: Beginnings
The present: Nerima, Japan
Kasumi turned from the food she was preparing to stare in the direction the voice had come from. She wondered what her father could want and hoped it was important enough to warrant the delay in dinner that was going to happen because of the interruption. Still, there had been more than a little hint of excitement in his voice, something out of the ordinary. Kasumi paid attention to things like that. Sometimes, out of the ordinary things would mean she’d have to adjust her actions in order to make sure everything was done when it should be. From the meals to the cleaning, it was her duty to see to it that everything functioned smoothly within the home. It was a joy, of course, but sometimes it became difficult in spite of the ease that she usually demonstrated before her family.
Turning off the burner, she went into the living room where her father’s voice had come from. As she walked to it she heard him call for Nabiki and Akane’s as well, making it a family meeting. That could have meant any number of things. Usually her father was a creature of habit, but every once and a while he could be unpredictable. Mentally she prepared herself for a disruption in her schedule, hoping there would be enough time after dinner to get the cleaning done.
As she sat down, she noticed Nabiki was in a kimono of all things. Odd that she had decided to wear something so… traditional. Perhaps her younger sister had some idea of what the meeting was about.
Akane came in a moment later, mopping sweat from her brow from her workout. Earlier, Kasumi had heard the sounds of bricks shattering, and reminded herself she would have to clean up the dust that would be left behind in Akane’s wake. At least her youngest sister was responsible enough to clean up the big pieces, but somehow she always seemed to leave the smaller pieces behind.
She shifted her thoughts to what was happening before her. Kasumi smiled pleasantly at everyone as she and her sisters sat at the table and looked to their father. For all of the poise he tried to maintain, there was a hint of barely controlled excitement in his eyes.
Soun looked over his daughters carefully. How soon one of their lives was going to be changed. “A friend of mine is coming to visit with his son. It’s our intention that one of you marries him.”
As caught up as he was in the moment, he barely noticed the varying reactions of his daughters:
Nabiki: Interest, especially if he was cute.
Kasumi: Concern that he was older, since younger men were so… young.
Soun knew whichever one Ranma picked, the girl would be overwhelmed with joy; after all, it was Genma’s son. Why wouldn’t she be? That he had never seen Ranma before (and in mentioning that fact the girls seemed somewhat annoyed, even the previously interested Nabiki) made no difference, either. Genma would have raised his son on the path of a true martial artist, and therefore would be a more than acceptable husband.
As the discussion was about to continue, a loud crash came from the front door. Automatically Kasumi was on her feet first, concerned that if something had been broken she would have to fix it. Habit at Kasumi’s taking charge of the situation made the others relax and allowed her to examine things alone.
As Kasumi made her way to the door, her mind was awhirl with the sudden turn of events. The whole situation was something to seriously consider. Which one of them was going to marry Ranma? Akane had seemed to show an unhealthy aversion to boys recently, so perhaps it would be best if she were engaged to Ranma in order to help her get over that problem. On the other hand, Nabiki seemed interested as well, and she had not been dating anyone lately either. Yes, no doubt it would be one of those two. Ranma might be able to help them in any number of ways. Somehow Kasumi doubted if he was the sort of man she was looking for.
As she turned the corner she saw what the disturbance had been. There was a gaping hole in the wall, next to the door, with a small pile of rubble next to it. There were also three people now inside the house, undoubtedly having entered through the previously mentioned hole. All three of them were in a small circle, one of them with his back to her. The first one that caught her attention was the tallest and heaviest of the trio. He was an older man dressed in a simple white gi and wearing glasses. The second person appeared to be Akane’s age, a girl with short red hair and wearing a red Chinese-style shirt and black pants. She was speaking in an agitated voice to the one with his back to Kasumi. Even from behind, she was fairly certain it was a man. There was something about his posture and the broad definition of his shoulders. He was about three inches taller than Kasumi, and wore a pink and purple outfit that seemed to be of a Chinese design as well. Long black hair was tied back in a ponytail that reached mid-way down his back. None of the three seemed aware of her presence at first, too intent on paying attention to the boy.
The girl was continuing her reprimand. “…told you to let Pop or me open doors. You’re too destructive.”
Kasumi heard the boy say ‘sorry’. Further admonishment from the redhead stopped as Kasumi realized that the girl had at last spotted her.
“We got company.” She indicated towards Kasumi with a nod of the head. The other two also looked towards her, the boy at last turning around to see who was behind him…
And years of suppressed hormones suddenly came bursting forth all at once, striking Kasumi squarely between the eyes. Before her was one of the most handsome men she had ever seen in her entire life, and he was looking at her. Unbelievably she felt heat rise to he cheeks as she noticed him examining her, an examination that was returned in kind. She found herself continuing to admire his fine features, lost in the moment, until she realized that at some point the red-haired girl had moved forward and was now waving a hand in front of Kasumi’s face.
“Hey, sorry about the doo… I mean wall. You all right?”
That snapped Kasumi out of it, though she found herself reluctant to pull her gaze away from the young man “Yes. I’m fine,” she managed to get out. Why had her face gotten so warm? “Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll clean it up later.” Instincts started to take over as she calmed down. They were guests, which meant she needed to be a proper hostess and take them to her father. She indicated they should follow her to the interior of the house. It was much to her delight that the boy came forward to walk alongside the girl, both following closely behind their guide.
If she had believed her mind was in a whirl before, now it was a veritable hurricane. Her thoughts raced as she tried to understand the situation. Why was the handsome man —and the other two with him— at her house? Could they have been the guests her father was expecting? The older man might have been about the same age as her father, it was hard to tell since he had no hair, but it was a distinct possibility. And if that were the case, that would mean the handsome boy was most likely Ranma.
The boy one of them was going to be engaged to.
Suddenly Kasumi felt her heart race as more possibilities began to form. Was she right? Was he Ranma? He did appear a bit young, but perhaps she had been a bit hasty in condemning all younger men. It was simply not proper to stereotype an entire age group for being immature. Ranma appeared very mature for his age, from what she had seen so far.
She was about to ask the youth if he was Ranma when the quartet entered the living room and came upon her family. All three of the Tendous seemed to perk up with the new arrivals.
Soun was up in an instant, shaking the hand of the older man and crying with emotion. “Saotome! It’s good to see you again. You haven’t changed a bit. Except for the few extra pounds. Heh, heh.” He poked Genma in the ribs for emphasis.
Kasumi found that she almost had to restrain herself from sighing with relief. So it was her father’s old friend. That meant the boy had to be Ranma. That was… nice. She turned to observe her sisters’ reactions to the situation. Akane seemed considerably less angry as she looked over the newcomers, though it was obvious she was still somewhat suspicious.
Nabiki, on the other hand, was a very different story. She only gave the other two newcomers cursory inspections as her gaze lingered on the boy. She actually licked her lips as she hungrily took in Ranma’s form. “Not bad at all,” she said loudly enough for him to hear.
Kasumi was shocked at her sister’s behavior. To ogle at their guest was just plain rude. She did hold back the reprimand that came to mind though. Ranma might have gotten the wrong idea and thought her to be a stern woman. She was very nice and pleasant and would let him know that through her actions. Besides, Kasumi was pretty certain Ranma had caught sight of the way he was being sized up, and appeared to be eyeing Nabiki warily.
Soun, temporarily done with greeting his old friend, at last turned his attention to the two new youths that were still taking in their surroundings. “Hello,” he said politely and bowed.
“Hello,” the redhead replied as she bowed in return.
The black-haired boy took a moment to observe his companion’s reaction, and then mirrored it. “Nihao.”
Soun approached the boy and looked him over with a smile, seeming to approve with his stare. “So this must be Ranma. A fine looking young man, Saotome.”
At that point the redhead leveled an evil stare at the Genma. “Pop, you’d better tell them.”
Genma’s reaction was to shift nervously as he cleared his throat and looked towards the ceiling. “Well…” he trailed off.
Soun plainly ignored both of the speakers. His entire attention was centered on one thing: the youth who would be one of his daughters’ future husband. He placed a hand around the boy’s shoulders and gently pointed him towards the three girls. “Allow me to introduce you to your prospective brides. Kasumi, age 19. Nabiki age 17, and Akane, age 16. All of them are more than worthy to become your wife. Which will it be, son?”
Kasumi sensed the urgency of the moment and looked her two sisters over. Akane still seemed suspicious of the whole situation and continued scowling a bit, though her gaze had seemed to soften to a grudging admiration when it fell upon Ranma. Still, she seemed unlikely to say anything.
By contrast, Nabiki appeared very eager, possessing a gaze that Kasumi recognized all too well, having lived with it the majority of her life. Nabiki now had the ‘MINE!!!’ look in her eyes. Kasumi had been able to identify it since her younger sister was about three and had gone around proudly proclaiming that every object she could get her hands on was hers. Their mother had insisted it was just a phase she would grow out of, but Kasumi couldn’t think of the time when that might have happened. Nowadays Nabiki was just more discriminating and hid it better, usually.
But that wasn’t fair! Kasumi had seen him first. She should have been the one to have first choice at him. Nabiki shouldn’t be so greedy and try to take everything for herself. It was wrong.
Just as Nabiki started to open her mouth, the words came tumbling from Kasumi. “Father, since I am the oldest, I believe it is only right that I accept the engagement.”
There. It was out. For the first time that in recent memory Kasumi had taken the initiative and tried to get what she wanted. She found her heart fluttering as she gave the brightest smile she could at Ranma, her new fiancé. Much to her delight, after a moment of evaluating her, he smiled warmly back, causing a deep blush to rise to her cheeks once more. She hoped he didn’t find her too forward, or desperate, in proclaiming a desire to be engaged to him, but it really was for the best. Nabiki was just wrong for him. Men didn’t really want girls like her sibling, or so Kasumi thought. No. They preferred women who were nice and pleasant and would take care of a house and home. She was best suited for that, and therefore best suited for Ranma.
Akane and Nabiki both stared in shock at their sister’s declaration. After the initial surprise, Akane relaxed. It wasn’t like she wanted to be engaged to a boy anyway, even if this one wasn’t totally bad looking. He was probably a pervert, just like the rest of them. That also meant he had better be VERY careful around Kasumi, or Akane would take care of him just like she did the other perverts that continually harassed her.
Nabiki took an opposite train of thought. She had wanted Ranma for herself. There was a definite potential for something there. He was good-looking, had a great body, and if he had a decent personality as well, hey, she could be quite happy with such a guy.
“I thought you said you didn’t like younger men,” she reminded her sister. “They’re so… young’.” She did a passable impression of Kasumi.
Kasumi moved closer to her fiancé. “Ranma happens to be very mature.”
Nabiki raised an eyebrow at that. “And just how can you tell? He hasn’t said two words since coming here.”
“A woman just knows these things,” Kasumi assured her sister as she smiled again at her new fiancé, who once more returned the smile. For the first time in a long while she felt as though she were truly alive. Excitement was something that had been missing from her life for far too long.
Soun began crying, not a full-fledged waterworks, but a small one full of pride. “Kasumi, you do your father proud.” He turned to his new son-in-law. “Boy, you’ve done well for yourself. Kasumi has taken care of the family since her mother died. She is the one best suited for making you a good home. You are a lucky man, Ranma.”
The boy furrowed his eyebrows at that and pointed to himself. “Shampoo.”
Soun looked confused. It took him several seconds to make sense as to what the boy was saying. “Oh, I see. Kasumi, our guests have no doubt traveled a long time on their journey and desire to clean up. Why don’t you show Ranma where the bathroom is?”
Kasumi quickly grabbed her fiancé’s hand to lead him to the bath. The boy resisted for a moment to look at the redhead.
The girl took in the situation and waved the boy on. “You’d better go with her. It wouldn’t hurt to get cleaned up. Pop and I will explain everything.” The girl turned to Genma and gave a stare that was even more intense than the last one. “Won’t we, Pop?”
Genma started sweating profusely at that and began looking for a way out. Experience had taught him that it never hurt to have a planned escape route when things went bad, something that seemed to happen frequently.
Soun’s attention had been so riveted to Ranma from the moment he stepped into the room that it was only now that he realized there was more than one youth that had accompanied his old friend. “Saotome, you didn’t tell me you had a girl too. How old is she?”
“Sixteen,” Genma said quickly. That answer wasn’t one that would get him into trouble.
“Pop.” The girl’s voice carried a warning tone.
Soun missed the exchange and considered the information he had just been given. “Then she and Ranma are twins. Why didn’t you tell me? What’s your name?”
“Ranma,” The girl said, gauging the reaction in Soun’s eyes.
Soun began scratching his chin. “You gave your son and daughter the same name? Isn’t that a bit confusing?”
“POP!” The girl’s temper began to flare in earnest as she turned on her father. It really was all his fault. She certainly didn’t want to be the one to have to explain the mess he had made of the situation.
Akane finally stood up, intrigued by the situation. That her sister was happily engaged was nice; Kasumi deserved to be happy. However, what was far more interesting to Akane than some dumb boy was the girl that had accompanied him. From what little she had seen, the female, ‘Ranma-chan,’ seemed to possess the careful step of one trained in combat. “Do you practice any martial arts?”
Ranma-chan seemed a bit startled by the change of subject, and then puffed out her ample bosom. “Of course I do. I’m the best.”
Akane wasn’t about to let a boast like that go unchallenged. “Let’s go to the dojo out back and spar.”
Ranma-chan went from her boastful stance to a more subdued one. “I don’t fight girls.” She seemed to think twice about saying that as she looked around, and then quickly added, “most of the time.”
Akane observed the strange behavior and wondered what the shorter girl meant by the unusual statement. “But you’re a girl.”
“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain,” was all Ranma-chan offered in response.
“I see,” Akane sniffed. “You’re afraid you’d lose.”
Ranma-chan took a step forward. “Why you…”
“Ahem!” Genma cleared his throat, making his presence known. “You go on with the girl. I’ll explain everything here.”
Ranma-chan looked incredulously at Genma. Some instinct told her he would explain instead of running, for a change. Taking a chance he was actually showing some backbone, she elected to follow Akane to the dojo.
Akane thought it was going to be great. Not only did the new girl know martial arts, but if she was half as good as she seemed to think she was, it was probably going to be a decent fight. There weren’t many people that could give her a real workout anymore. She could defeat her father regularly, not that he ever fought back, and then there was Kunou, but he was a pervert and she didn’t enjoy fighting him, and aside from those two there wasn’t really anyone else. Now it appeared that might be changing. And Ranma-chan seemed nice enough. Maybe they could be friends.
Kasumi enjoyed the warm feeling of ‘Ranma-kun’s’ hand as she led him to the bath. His hands were large and callused, and encompassed the entirety of her hand. Despite the size, his grasp was delicate as he allowed himself to be ushered to the bath. Kasumi discovered an urge within her to play her fingers along those calluses. She was having such strong feelings of attraction towards her fiancé, that she became concerned at her own behavior. It would be better if she calmed down. Certainly it was nice to be engaged to such a handsome and strong man, but she should try to get to know him as a person first. Surprisingly, for the first time in years, she began fantasizing what it would be like to lie back in a man’s arms and enjoy his gentle embrace as they talked in idle conversation.
She snapped out of the half-formed dream as they arrived at their destination. “And here is the bathroom, Ranma.”
He pointed to himself once again. “Shampoo.”
“Yes,” Kasumi nodded happily. “There’s plenty of shampoo in the bath.” It appeared another nice attribute of her fiancé was that he was very concerned about good hygiene.
Ranma looked at her, obviously wanting to say something, but apparently uncertain of what to say. After a bit of struggling he seemed to get an idea. “You come in, wash back,” he said firmly.
Kasumi nearly fainted at the proposition. Her fiancé found her attractive. That she was desirable to him, and that he made it known so early on, relieved her. There had been a very great fear that he might change his mind about being engaged to her and wouldn’t find her appealing at all. Certainly no one ever suggested she was, but that was clearly not the case here. Not at all.
“Al—“ she clamped her hand over her mouth and mentally gave an ‘oh, my!’ She had almost accepted. She couldn’t do that. It was wrong, or at least too soon. Even though she found herself becoming excited at the idea of seeing Ranma without his shirt on.
She removed her hands from her mouth. “I meant to say, I can’t do that. We’ve just been engaged and such things should not be done until after a proper wedding.” Part of her mind actually chided her for the refusal and proclaimed her a coward. They were engaged, so it shouldn’t matter. She really had to get some distance from her fiancé and try to regain her composure. Her behavior was not proper at all, and she didn’t want to make a bad impression on Ranma. Of course, he was the one that had offered to have her bathe him, and she really should comply with her fiancé’s desires. Relationships were a two-way street, and one had to…
She shook her head again to free it of such thoughts. It was time to get that needed distance from him, and quickly.
Ranma gave a defeated look and entered the bath, alone. She waited until her fiancé closed the door behind him before gaining the strength to leave. Perhaps having a quick wedding would be a good idea. There really wasn’t any point in dragging things out. She began to mentally make a list of all the things that would be needed as she made her way to the laundry to wash clothes. One thing was certain; it was going to be one interesting engagement.
Akane had become angry in short order. It wasn’t because her opponent wasn’t as good as she hoped. On the contrary, she was quite skilled. Akane had gone easy on Ranma-chan at first. When the redhead dodged the first four attacks without trying, Akane stepped it up a notch. Still the girl evaded without a problem. Akane stepped up the intensity until she was at the maximum of her abilities, and still her opponent avoided being hit.
And that was the problem. All Ranma-chan was doing was dodging the attacks and not fighting back at all.
“Stand still and fight!” Akane took another swing.
Ranma-chan ducked the blow. “I already told you, I don’t fight girls.”
“I’ll make you fight!” She swung again.
Ranma-chan let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. You asked for it.”
As Akane threw another blow the shorter girl leaped over her opponent’s head and twisted in mid-air only to land directly behind Akane in one fluid motion. Having full access to the youngest Tendo’s unprotected back, Ranma-chan shoved her forward and to the ground.
“I win,” Ranma-chan declared smugly.
Akane got up, looking ready to kill. Almost as quickly as it appeared, the look of anger vanished only to be replaced by a smile.
“You’re pretty good,” Akane complimented as she brushed herself off. “I’m glad you’re a girl. I don’t think I could stand losing to a boy.”
Akane missed hearing the “Oh, great,” that Ranma-chan muttered under breath.
Further discussion was cut off as both of them heard a loud crash come from the direction of the house. Ranma-chan and Akane looked at each other in surprise, then rushed to investigate. It took them only moments to enter the house and see that the loud noises had come from the living room. Both of them entered to bear witness to a scene of carnage before them: the living room was in shambles, multiple weapons on the end of chains were lying around, Soun lay unconscious upon the ground, and a panda wearing a set of white robes and glasses was beating up Genma.
Akane stared at the scene in horror. “What th… We’re being attacked by a panda!”
“Mousse!” Ranma-chan shouted out.
Akane looked in confusion at her sparring partner. “No, it’s a panda.”
Ranma-chan shook her head. “I mean it’s Mousse.”
“And I’m telling you it’s a panda!”
“No. No. No. Trust me, it’s Mousse!”
“What are you talking about? Do you see any antlers on it? Of course not! That’s because it’s not a moose! It’s black and white and furry and is a panda! P—A—N—D—A!”
“I didn’t say it was a moose. I said it was Mousse!”
“I know you said it’s a moose! That’s what I just said you said! What are you, stupid?!”
“I am not stupid, you uncute tomboy!
“What did you just call me?!”
The panda had stopped beating on Genma and watched the exchange with a careful eye. Once the argument lost its entertainment value, he shot out several chains from the sleeves of his robes, effectively entangling Ranma-chan and Akane.
Ranma-chan found herself unable to escape, her struggles only making the chains tighter. She looked at the similarly trussed up Akane and snapped, “I could have avoided this if you hadn’t been distracting me!” She rolled over and looked in the direction that the boy she had entered the house with had gone. “SHAMPOO!!!”
“Now is not the time to worry about your hair, you egotistical jerk!” Akane vowed to beat Ranma-chan senseless just on general principle now. Once she beat up the panda for attacking her father, anyway.
Down the hall, Kasumi’s ears picked up the faint clamor and turned away from with the washing machine. From the volume of the noise, it sounded as though the others were having a party. Why hadn’t someone told her about it? She hadn’t had any time to prepare any food. As she left the clothing behind and started down the hall, she found herself wondering what kind of foods Ranma liked. It was the first day of their engagement, and for such a festive occasion she would surely have to make his favorite dish and prove her culinary skills.
Kasumi went to the bathroom door intent on only asking her fiancé what he would like to eat and for no other reason. Especially not for a chance to see him only partially clothed. Just as she raised her hand to knock, the door suddenly flew open and a purple-haired girl emerged, wearing nothing but a look of concern. The girl ran past Kasumi without a word and hurried towards the living room
Kasumi remained exactly where she was, motionless. Her hand was still held up so as to knock on what was now nothing but empty space and her smile was frozen. There had been a strange naked girl in the bathroom with her fiancé. How… not nice.
Downstairs, the girl rushed into the room only to see the panda enthusiastically jumping up and down on Ranma-chan, causing the redhead to gasp out in pain each time.
“Mousse no attack Ranma and Pop! Fight Shampoo!” she shouted, gaining Mousse-panda’s attention.
“That is a panda!” Akane shouted from off to the side where she had been discarded, still wrapped in chains.
Mousse-panda and Ranma-chan both looked at the new arrival and promptly dropped their jaws at her lack of clothing. Shampoo moved in while her animal opponent was distracted and connected with a clear uppercut, belting him through the roof and very far away.
Shampoo estimated that Mousse-panda’s trajectory would land him somewhere in Hokkaido. “Why Mousse no leave us alone? Is all his fault anyway.”
“ARE YOU ALL BLIND OR CRAZY?!!! THAT WAS A PANDA! A PANDA! PANDA, PANDA, PANDA! AHHHHHHHHH!!!”
“First, Shampoo, let’s call what just attacked us a panda,” Ranma-chan said as she closed her eyes. “Secondly, could you put something on?”
Shampoo gave out an “Aiyah!” as she suddenly realized she was in the buff. She grabbed a nearby tablecloth and wrapped it around herself as the others began to disentangle themselves from the chains. Just as everyone finished up, Kasumi and Nabiki finally entered the room.
Kasumi cleared her throat. Despite being distraught over the disappearance of her fiancé, and who had last been in the bath with him, she would deal with the situation in a calm and pleasant manner.
“Excuse me, miss? You. The tramp with the purple hair that was naked in the bath with my fiancé. What did you do with him?” Kasumi, heard her family gasp at her choice of words, and admitted to herself that it hadn’t sounded quite as nice as she had thought it would.
Ranma-chan walked over to her now conscious father. “Pop, you’re explaining this before it gets worse. Not that I’m sure how it could get any worse.”
Genma reluctantly assented. The room was fixed up enough so that everyone had a place to sit as the explanations began. Ranma-chan, Shampoo, and Genma sat on one side of the table, across from the Tendos. Ranma-chan stared expectantly at her father, waiting for him to start. It took only a few moments of that withering stare for Genma to work up the courage to begin.
“It all started a little while ago while we were on our training trip. We arrived at the magical training grounds of Jusenkyou…
Genma crossed his arms as he smirked at his son as both stood atop the poles above the springs of Jusenkyou. Genma paid as little attention to the Guide’s continuing ramblings as did Ranma. All they were concerned about was that they were indeed at the training grounds and that each one wanted to prove his superiority to the other. Nothing else mattered.
“Time to see what you’ve learned, boy.” In spite of his sizable girth, Genma easily balanced himself atop his pole as he confronted his son.
“You’re dead meat, old man!” Ranma smirked back as he balanced himself on top of his pole with an ease that rivaled his father’s.
With their banter complete, they began sparring with one another, each getting a feel for their new battleground as they launched attacks at one another. As intense as their concentration was, neither fighter noticed that there was already a fight occurring on the other side of the springs, the two combatants quickly working their way closer to where the two Saotomes were fighting.
Shampoo, armed only with her bonbori, backed off from another volley of weapons from Mousse’s sleeves. She had to give him credit; by issuing his marriage challenge to her, and requesting the battleground be at Jusenkyou, he had given himself an advantage (not that he stood a chance of winning, she assured herself). But his superior agility and long range attacks forced her to back off for a moment, at least until she could find an opening with which to knock him unconscious.
Accepting the challenge while her great grandmother was away might have been unwise, but there was no way she was going to back off from the idiot and give him the opportunity to proclaim her afraid of him, even if he had no right to issue the challenge again for her hand so quickly. Whether it was at Jusenkyou or at the bottom of the ocean, there was no way she would ever back off from the oaf, or allow him a victory of any sort over her. The fight would end the way the other one had, with her standing triumphantly over his beaten form.
Ranma had his entire concentration focused on the large man before him. At last he had seen an opening, and was fully prepared to launch himself in the air and knock Genma down. He even had the spring he was going to knock his father into picked out. All he had to do was jump off the pole behind him.
Shampoo had her entire concentration focused on the blind idiot before her. At last she had seen an opening coming up, and was fully prepared to launch herself into the air and knock Mousse down. She even had the spring she was going to knock him into picked out. All she had to do was jump off the pole behind her.
As wrapped up as they were in their upcoming ‘victories’ neither combatant paid any attention to what was behind them. Both went for identical moves from opposite directions, colliding with one another when they went for their respective leaps. Upon the collision Shampoo’s bonbori went flying far away as each of young martial artists ended up knocking the other one from the skies and into different springs.
Genma leaped to the top of the pole next to the pool Ranma had fallen into. Mousse did likewise on the one next to the pool Shampoo had fallen into. Both men looked on in concern
Ranma-chan sat up in her pool, gasping for air.
Upon seeing her, Mousse proudly placed his hands on his hips and laughed at the girl. “<I have beaten you at last, Shampoo. Now, since it was an official marriage challenge, and I am clearly the victor, you have to marry me! I promise to make you the happiest woman in the world!>”
The now male form of Shampoo-kun broke the surface of the water and leaped up from his pool, straight to the boasting Mousse. “<The fight’s not over yet!>”
Caught off-guard by an attack from an unexpected direction, Mousse took a solid blow to the chin and went flying off the pole and into a different spring. Effortlessly, Shampoo-kun then landed on the pole Mousse had been on and admired his handiwork. How could the blind fool count him out when he had taken but one accidental tumble into some water? He deserved a beating if he thought that was all it took to take out a warrior of Shampoo’s abilities.
Mousse-panda sat up in the pool, surprised at the sudden turn of events. He had been so certain he had won. And why did he feel so waterlogged all of a sudden?
The Jusenkyou Guide finally came out of hiding once all of the splashing had stopped. He had known that was going to happen. They always ignored him and rushed headlong into the magic waters, always ending up getting cursed. Sometimes he thought it was a miracle that he himself hadn’t been turned into a bandicoot a long time ago.
The Guide looked to Mousse and shook his head pitifully. “You fall into Shonmaoniichuan. Very tragic story of panda that drowned in pool over 2000 years ago.”
Mousse-panda looked down at his form and understood why he felt so waterlogged; fur absorbed water really well. His attempts at crying out in distress came out as nothing more than unintelligible grumbles.
The Guide walked over to Ranma-chan’s still soaking form. “And you fall into Nyanniichuan. Very tragic story of young girl that drowned in pool over 1500 years ago.”
That seemed to snap Ranma-chan out of her stupor. The sudden physical change at last registered with her and she opened her gi, getting a very close look at the new additions to her chest.
The Guide paid no attention to the cries. Almost everyone screamed upon learning they were cursed, except for the victims of the Spring of Drowned Mute, of course.
He hopped up to a pole that was next to the one Shampoo-kun was currently located on. “And you fall into Nanniichaun. Very tragic story of young boy that drowned in pool 1500 years ago.”
Shampoo-kun felt his chest, at last understanding that his shirt was not quite as tight across the middle as it used to be. Still in shock, he felt a new addition of his own and looked down his pants to see what else had been substituted.
“Is all Mousse’s fault!” Shampoo growled as Genma finished telling the tale.
Ranma-chan identified a different source for her problems. “This is all your fault, old man!”
It was small surprise to her that Genma had begun to sneak away when his tale was finished. He had moved too slowly though, as Ranma-chan grabbed him by the collar and threw him into the koi pond in back. Genma sat up wet, but otherwise unchanged.
“If I had any sense I would have thrown you in that Spring of Drowned Yeti Riding Bull While Carrying Crane and Eel or something!” Ranma-chan lamented.
Genma crawled out of the pond and tried to dry himself off. “Is that any way to talk to your father?”
Soun stared intently at his friend. “Saotome. Are you sure this isn’t some ploy to get out of marrying one of my daughters?”
Genma nodded sagely at Soun. “Allow me to demonstrate.”
Genma headed into the kitchen and came back bearing a kettle of boiling water. He unceremoniously dumped the contents on Ranma-chan, whose body changed to that of his male form.
“That’s too hot!” Ranma shouted in pain.
“Let me help you cool off, boy.” Genma picked up Ranma by the collar, just like his son had done earlier, and tossed him into the pool. A soaking wet redhead sat up.
“He really does change sexes!” Akane shouted, stunned.
Genma nodded in shame at his son. “It’s true. And Shampoo is the same way.” He picked up a glass of water, which had somehow mysteriously avoided destruction, and dumped it on Shampoo, changing her into her male form.
“And now for the change back.” Genma grabbed the kettle of hot water once again and moved to pour its contents on Shampoo’s head. A fist met his face at the halfway point.
“Shampoo no feel like change now. Pop keep water.” Shampoo-kun removed his fist from Genma’s face and dumped the scalding water over Genma. He looked on, satisfied that Genma was writhing around in pain.
“Let me help you cool off, Pop.” Ranma-chan rushed over and threw Genma into the pool once more.
Nabiki had watched the entire proceedings with a critical eye. At last she got up and walked over to Ranma-chan. She poked the redhead in the breast with a single finger.
“They’re real, all right,” Nabiki commented.
“Please stop that,” Ranma-chan said as the middle Tendou continued to poke the breast for emphasis.
With her initial experiment complete, Nabiki went over to Shampoo-kun and felt between his legs. “These are real too.”
Shampoo-kun looked down at Nabiki’s offending appendage. “No touch there.”
Kasumi came forward, shocked. “Nabiki, stop that! That is my fiancé!”
“That means it’s my job.” Kasumi’s hand replaced Nabiki’s as she groped Shampoo-kun. “They are real. I think.”
Shampoo-kun escaped the fondling and darted out of reach. “No touch Shampoo!
“Oh, relax.” Nabiki said. “She is your fiancée. It’s perfectly natural for her to feel you up.”
Shampoo-kun stared in confusion and at last and broke out his Japanese to Chinese dictionary. He looked up the word fiancée and read the translation.
“Aiya! Shampoo not marry girl! Shampoo girl!”
“You look like a boy.” Nabiki tried for one more quick grab at Shampoo-kun again, but he evaded the move. “Felt like a boy. You sure?”
Soun sighed. “Then I guess we’ll have to call off Ran… I mean, Shampoo’s engagement.” And he had been so impressed by the boy too.
Shampoo-kun breathed a relieved sigh while Kasumi looked disappointed. So much for her engagement. She was nowhere near liberal-minded enough to approve of those kinds of relationships among others, let alone being involved in one. Even if Shampoo was awfully attractive as a male. And she had so been looking forward to the idea of an engagement to him, or rather, her.
Ranma-chan was still scowling at her father when Soun placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her towards the Tendou sisters.
“So Ranma, which do you prefer?”
Ranma-chan looked at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Which one do you want as your fiancée, my girl… er, boy?” Addressing his future son-in-law was getting to be somewhat tricky.
“I ain’t getting engaged to nobody,” Ranma-chan said defiantly as she crossed her arms across her chest.
“How typical. Always thinking of yourself,” Genma scolded. “Why don’t you take other peoples feelings into consideration?”
“Because other people ain’t getting engaged! I am.”
“It’s a matter of honor, boy,” Genma assured him. “We swore you’d get engaged to one of the girls, and I meant it.”
An idea suddenly entered Ranma-chan’s mind. “Engaged, huh?”
Soun and Genma answered with a quick, ‘yes.’
What indignant anger had been present in the girl disappeared. “All right. Engaged it is.” The emphasis was on the ‘engaged’ part. No one said anything about actually going through with a marriage, which she most certainly was not going to do with any strange girl she had just met.
Soun beamed happily at Ranma-chan’s sudden change-of-heart. “So which one is it, my boy?”
“I think one engagement a day is enough for me, father,” Kasumi sighed. Even as a boy, Ranma just didn’t seem as interesting as Shampoo.
Nabiki saw the direction the conversation was taking. There was no way she wanted to be engaged to someone that switched sexes likes that. She spoke quickly before her father tried settling on her. “Akane is the same age and hates boys to boot. They are obviously a perfect match.”
Akane looked at Nabiki in surprise. “Now wait just a minute—“
Soun cut her off. “I believe that would be for the best. After all, we wanted to join the two schools and Akane is the best martial artist in the family.”
“She’s the best?” Ranma-chan asked in surprise. “Hey, that’s too bad.”
“Why you rotten…” Akane clenched her teeth in anger at the insult. In about half an hour, Ranma had easily beaten her during their sparring match, called her uncute AND flat-chested, deliberately confused her by calling a panda a moose, (or was that Mousse?), was a sex-changing weirdo, and now insulted her fighting abilities. Her anger hit the breaking point as she struck Ranma-chan with a mighty uppercut that sent the redhead through the ceiling.
Genma nodded approvingly. “See? They already act like a married couple.”
Soun nodded in agreement, and that settled it. Ranma and Akane would be engaged to one another. What a joyous day it had been. It was just unfortunate the other engagement hadn’t worked out. It would have been quite the coup to marry off two daughters in the same day.
Thing settled down remarkably by nightfall. The Saotomes were given a room. Both Ranma and Genma looked forward to having a roof over their heads and a warm place to sleep. Settling in was no problem since each had only a single backpack full of items to call their own.
As Ranma started to drift off, he thought about all that had happened during the day. He had watched Shampoo nearly married off to a girl, had to reveal his curse to others, and been engaged to a girl that didn’t even seem to like him. The only nice thing about the whole situation, aside from the fact he was going to stay in one place for a change, was that things couldn’t get any worse.
Shampoo had been relieved when Ranma gave a brief explanation that she was their traveling companion, and had nowhere else to go. Hearing that tale of woe, Soun allowed her to stay with them as long as she needed to. A small, little used storage room was converted for Shampoo’s use.
The Amazon thanked Soun for the offer of a room and quickly gave her new chamber the spartan appeal she was used to. All she needed was a futon and a small dresser to place what little clothing she carried in. Twin bonbori and her sword were laid within easy reach of her bedding, which completed the arrangement. She took off her jade hairpieces and set them down next to the sword. All that she now owned was next to her.
She stared at the ceiling above her as she lay down on the mat. It was nice to sleep under a roof once more, and not have to put up with Genma’s snoring, and to not have to worry if it was going to rain and have her wake up as a male if the shelter she constructed failed to keep the water out. She did miss her home, but with her curse, and the specific consequences of falling into Nanniichuan, she could not go back. Not until she found a cure of some sort.
She allowed other memories of happier times to fill her, not that Ranma (and even Genma, in a way) weren’t nice. It was all very exciting, and she was getting to see a whole new world, that she would otherwise not have visited, thanks to them. It was the damned curse that complicated everything. She had even been almost married to another woman! At least that situation had been corrected with some effort. It was unfortunate that the nice Japanese girl, Kasumi, had seemed hurt by the whole thing, but Shampoo really hadn’t meant to lead her on. And Kasumi had seemed to recover rather quickly. She had even been happy to help Shampoo convert the closet into the bedroom. Shampoo promised herself she would try to assist the girl if she could. Even back home, there were not too many people that treated her as nicely as Kasumi Tendou did.
Shampoo drifted off to sleep, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
After several hours of Soun’s bawling, Akane at last accepted the engagement, although very reluctantly. Giving in was simply the best way to silence her father, and the man would have dehydrated himself if he had kept up that level of crying. She was decidedly not pleased with her new status, or her fiancé, but she kept the opinion to herself, simply avoiding Ranma as much as she could. If there were some way out of the predicament, she would figure it out. In the meantime, she tried to adapt to the situation as best as she could.
There was no way she was going to marry Ranma Saotome, though. No way, no how.
By the next day things had settled down and plans for the future were made. Ranma was enrolled into the Furinkan High School (with a great deal of complaining about exactly why he had to go to school anyway), as was Shampoo (with almost as much as complaining since she thought she knew enough already and didn’t want to spend time in such a boring place). By the morning of the next day, it was an annoyed Shampoo that made her way to the front door, waiting to be taken to school.
Nabiki engaged the girl in conversation, learning as much as she could about one of their new houseguests. She had learned a bit about Shampoo’s home, how it was a matriarchal society and such, but most of what Shampoo had talked about was what had happened after she and Ranma had met in China. The main reason she was traveling with him was because apparently Shampoo was something of an outcast due to the curse, although Nabiki didn’t understand why. The middle Tendou daughter was forced to assume it had something to do with the fact it was a tribe of women, and that being cursed as a man meant loss of face or something. There were other things Shampoo was much more willing to reveal, however.
“So this Mousse has been chasing you since China?” Nabiki asked.
“Yes. Mousse not know when to leave alone. Mousse stupid and think Ranma kid… kid… take Shampoo away against her will. Mousse not accept Shampoo come because she want to.”
“Where is that pervert?” Akane stomped her foot in irritation. She had told him to be at the door promptly by seven-thirty. Shampoo had the decency to be waiting there five minutes early, but Ranma was nowhere to be seen, and it was already seven forty. They were going to be late if he didn’t hurry.
“I’m out of here,” Nabiki said as she looked at her watch.
“Wait for us,” Akane insisted.
“No can do, sis. I got people to meet. Besides that’s your fiancé and his friend. You should be the one to walk them to school.” And with that Nabiki ran out of the door.
As Akane began muttering more expletives, Ranma at last ran to catch up to them, dressed in his red top and black pants.
“Here I am,” Ranma announced happily.
Akane just rolled her eyes. Did he expect her to throw a party? “We’ll be late for school. Come on.”
Ranma looked tentatively outside. “Ain’t it supposed to rain today?”
“It rained last night,” Akane explained. “But most of it dried up already. Now come on!”
The trio hurried onward to the school, Ranma and Shampoo continuing to grumble about the whole situation. About halfway there, Ranma sprang up onto the fence and began walking along it. Shampoo followed up a moment later and easily kept pace. Akane simply scowled at their antics. Already both were acting weird again.
“Listen you two,” Akane warned. “Remember, you’re registered as Shampoo girl, Ranma boy, got it?”
“Yes,” they said in unison.
“And none of that perverted sex changing stuff, or I’ll pretend I don’t know you. Got it?”
“Yes,” they repeated
The trio arrived at school with time to spare. It was as they were across the street, Ranma and Shampoo taking a moment to stare at the school’s main building, when Akane noticed two of her friends on the other side of the road. It was Sayuri and Malia; the latter being one of the new friends Akane had made shortly after Yuka had had her nervous breakdown, the poor girl. The two of them were about to enter the schoolyard. Akane decided if she was going to have to hang around Shampoo and Ranma, it was probably best that her friends were introduced to the newcomers first.
“Hey, you guys!” Akane shouted at the girls.
The two girls started to turn around at the same moment that a long truck passed by and splashed Ranma and Shampoo with water from a nearby puddle. By the time the truck finished passing, the transformations were complete. A male Shampoo and female Ranma now stood next to Akane.
Sayuri and Malia made their way over to Akane and looked curiously at her two new companions. “Who’re your friends?” Sayuri asked.
Akane’s eyes had been fixed on her friends the entire time, never looking once over to either of her new houseguests or noticing what had happened. “Meet Ranma Saotome and Shampoo.”
The girls stared longingly at Shampoo-kun. As one they said together, “He sure is cute.”
Something about that made Akane cautious. Neither of her two friends were that forward, and Ranma wasn’t that good-looking. Certainly not ugly, not at all, but to have both of her friends make such bold statements in front of veritable strangers was odd. She turned to examine Ranma more closely, to see if there was some striking characteristic of his she had missed, when she at last saw what had happened. It took great restraint not to facefault in surprise. The duo had not even been able to make it to school without changing into their cursed forms.
“So, Ranma, do you have a girlfriend?” Malia asked through starry eyes.
Shampoo-kun shook his head. “No.”
“Are you looking for one?”
Shampoo-kun didn’t quite know how to answer that one. He was certain that he misunderstood some part of the question. Surely not another woman was coming onto him. Twice in three days was too much.
Ranma-chan made the save as she grabbed Shampoo-kun away from the girls and into the schoolyard. Akane followed close behind.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” Ranma-chan said.
“Me neither,” Akane agreed. “They’re usually quiet and kind of shy.”
“That ain’t what I meant!” Ranma-chan snarled. “We gotta change back.”
“It’s too late for that now. They think that Shampoo’s you and you’re Shampoo. If we try changing you back, they’re going to know something’s up. And there’s no wa—.”
Akane looked up in anger at the approaching pack of boys. They had shouted her name in unison, and as one they charged forth at her. Akane squared her feet as she prepared to meet the rush. “Oh, great. So much happened this morning I forgot. I hate this!”
As the last words left her lips she rushed forward, attacking the first several youths and dropping them in seconds. Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun were stunned at the sudden attacking horde, and that its focus seemed solely on Akane. After the first few seconds, in which Akane felled close to ten of her attackers, the duo recovered.
“We better help her out.” Ranma-chan prepared herself to enter the fray. Akane may have seemed more than a tad angry at times, but to be jumped by an entire gang at the same time was wrong, even if there was some off-hand chance she had actually done something to earn their scorn.
“Don’t interfere. It’ll just upset her.”
Ranma-chan turned to see Nabiki emerge from a group of nearby girls.
“What do you mean?”
Nabiki shrugged. “Just that she goes through this every morning. And she hates it if anyone implies she can’t take them all on by herself.”
Ranma-chan stared at her in confusion. “A gang attacks her every morning?”
“Close enough. Now c’mon.” Nabiki indicated she should follow her to the school’s entrance.
Ranma-chan did as Nabiki suggested, though she kept a close eye on Akane’s fight. Shampoo-kun followed right on the shorter girl’s heels. It was only another minute before Akane finished wading through the group of attackers and approached the entrance herself.
Ranma-chan took a moment to admire Akane’s handiwork. None of the pack was injured badly. They had just been ‘temporarily subdued’. Only a high caliber of martial artist could manage such a feat. Perhaps she had judged Akane too harshly in their first encounter. “Not bad. Why do they attack you every morning?”
Akane stared angrily at the crowd of fallen foes. “Some moron said that anyone that wanted to date me had to defeat me in combat first. Since then, I have to fight my way to school every morning.”
“That’s stupid,” Ranma-chan said
“Shampoo agree. Should make official challenge one on one, like back home, if want to prove worth to date.”
Nabiki heard that particular statement and got a calculating look in her eye.
Ranma-chan looked in surprise at his companion. “You gotta fight for dates there, too?”
Shampoo-kun had no chance to answer as further questions were cut off by a bokken-wielding figure.
Tatewaki Kunou stood before the four students, his eyes centered on the girl of his dreams. “Once again you have defeated all those that would seek to date you, Akane Tendou. Now you must face the greatest challenge of all: Tatewaki Kunou. He who is known as the ‘Blue Thunder’ of Furinkan High.” He raised his bokken high in the air, which was followed by a crash of thunder as lightning flashed dramatically in the background.
Akane, long used to the second round of the fight, moved to attack, thankful that Kunou hadn’t gone into his full ‘flowery speech’ mode. Just as she was about to move forward, Ranma-chan placed a restraining hand on her shoulder.
“Let me handle this one.” The redhead tried to move in front of Akane.
“I can take him,” Akane said, irritated, and made certain Ranma-chan did not get in front of her.
Ranma-chan shook her head. “He’s different from the others. He’s dangerous. I can tell.”
“I can handle him like I always do. Quit trying to interfere with my life, jerk!”
Ranma-chan’s irritation began to mirror Akane’s “How dare you call me that, you violent gorilla!”
Kunou stood back for a moment, transfixed by the argument that was developing. The fiery-haired beauty was arguing with Akane over who had the right to date with him. What a joyous day! The handsome visage of Tatewaki Kunou had captured yet another damsel’s eye. And the newcomer was truly a beauty, whose strong features rivaled the fierce passion that was Akane Tendou. But it was all so horribly wrong for two such ravishing creatures to quarrel over him. The answer to the problem was clearly obvious for one of such wisdom as himself.
“There is no need to engage in such rivalry over me. I would see no pain come to either of you. I shall allow both of you to date me!”
With that bold proclamation he leaped forward to embrace the duo, who were arguing so intently that neither noticed the assault. Fortunately, Shampoo-kun did notice and struck Kunou in the face before he reached either of his intended targets. The upperclassman slumped to the ground, stunned.
“We no have time for this. Be late for class.” Shampoo-kun dragged Akane and Ranma-chan into the school building at last, leaving Kunou behind.
Akane breathed a sigh of relief as she got to her homeroom. It had been close, but they had managed to make it on time. If Ranma-chan had made her late with that argument over Kunou, she would never have forgiven her fiancé, not that she wanted him as her fiancé.
Now she looked on as Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun stood before the class. Akane couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the guys were ogling Ranma-chan. But the real surprise was that the girls were making an even bigger spectacle of themselves. Almost to a girl they were making obvious goo-goo eyes at Shampoo-kun, leaving Akane to wonder whatever happened to dignity. She didn’t go chasing after every good-looking guy that was around. Didn’t chase after any of them, actually. And if any of the girls discovered the truth about Shampoo-kun, well, it would serve them right if they were going to act like a bunch of love struck fools as well.
Godai-sensei examined the newcomers. He hadn’t been at Furinkan long, and had yet to get used to the… odd tendencies the students had that all the other teachers seemed to blindly accept as normal, and that he would dub anyone ‘odd’ was quite the feat considering what his neighbors were like. At least the two new students appeared like they would be typical, except for a lack of school uniforms.
He cleared his throat and began. “Class. I would like to introduce two new students.” He turned to Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun. “Introduce yourselves.”
Shampoo-kun looked toward the class and pointed a finger at himself. “Am Shampoo.”
“That’s funny,” Godai said. “I could have sworn it said Shampoo was a girl.” He began looking over the admission papers that were buried somewhere on his desk.
Ranma-chan nudged Shampoo-kun in the ribs with her elbow.
Shampoo-kun picked up on the gaff immediately. “Oh, right. Am Ranma Saotome. Not Shampoo.” He turned to his companion and pointed to Ranma-chan. “That Shampoo.”
Ranma-chan bowed. “I am Shampoo…ummm…”
“Just Shampoo,” Shampoo-kun supplied.
“Right. Just Shampoo.”
Akane felt like burying her head under her books. The two idiots were going to blow everything. She just knew it.
The rest of the day went somewhat more peacefully. Ranma-chan, now known as ‘Shampoo’, and Shampoo-kun, now known to the student body as ‘Ranma’, sat next to and in front of Akane, respectively. Aside from practically every girl staring at the Amazon, the day went smoothly as the new students tried to figure out exactly how their school worked. Neither was overjoyed about the situation, but school actually did not seem quite as bad as they had feared. However, it was going to take both of them a lot of work to catch up to the rest of the students. And for Shampoo-kun, understanding the language well was an added difficulty he didn’t care for.
By lunch, both Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan were glad for the break. They sat with Akane, who had finally managed to relax somewhat when nothing else went wrong during the day. As the three began to eat their lunches, Nabiki came by and sat down among them.
She carefully took in the new students appearances before asking any question. Both seemed to be doing well, although Nabiki did notice a lot of the girls were staring at Shampoo-kun when they thought he wasn’t looking. More information that could be put to good use was categorized.
“So, what do you guys think of school so far?” Nabiki asked.
Shampoo-kun made a face at that. “Have trouble understanding teachers, and girls keep making funny faces at Shampoo.”
“She means ‘Ranma’,” Ranma-chan said as she rolled her eyes. “I think it stinks. I haven’t been here a whole day and I’m bored already.”
“If you paid attention in class it wouldn’t be boring,” Akane said. She had kept as close of an eye as she could on her two charges. Shampoo-kun at least seemed to be trying to understand, but after an hour, Ranma-chan made virtually no effort at all to follow the teachers.
“If it wasn’t so boring I could pay attention. How do they expect to keep someone’s interest if all they do is stand there and talk?” Ranma-chan complained again.
Nabiki headed off the possible disagreement. Already it seemed Akane and Ranma-chan were getting on each other’s nerves with virtually no provocation. She turned to Shampoo-kun to change the topic. “So what was this about having to fight like Akane?”
Shampoo-kun suddenly became far more animated. “In Amazon village, mens and womens go on dates. But most womens prefer strong mens to be with, much honor in strength. If woman seem reluctant to go out with man, then man try to prove worth to woman by challenging them to duel. If man wins, then woman have to go out on date with him.”
“Can a woman refuse the challenge?” Nabiki asked, captivated by the tale.
“Yes,” Shampoo said, then scoffed. “But real warriors no back off from challenge. If woman seem afraid of man, others make fun of her. And if mans can prove worth, it good idea to go out with him. Might make good husband.” Shampoo-kun nodded approvingly at that.
“That’s stupid,” Ranma-chan commented and gained a cross look from Shampoo-kun.
Nabiki leaned closer to Shampoo-kun. “Can only guys challenge?”
Shampoo-kun looked confused at her. “What mean?”
“Can girls challenge guys?”
Shampoo-kun looked bewildered at her. “Most mens not stupid enough to refuse woman if she ask on date, not if mens knows what good for him.”
Nabiki’s eyes took on a devious glint. “But what if the guy does refuse?”
Shampoo-kun shrugged. “Then woman can challenge him to go on date. Man can no really refuse challenge. Not unless he want really great shame, or has communicable disease.”
Nabiki gave a Cheshire cat-like grin at that statement.
Akane shook her head sadly. “I agree with Ranma. That’s stupid.”
“Yeah,” Ranma-chan commented. “Next thing you know, the guys at this school might do that for some uncute tomboy.”
“Exactly!” Akane agreed. “Guys at this school might…” she trailed off as she realized Ranma-chan was looking intently at her the entire time she made the statement.
“Why you! RANMA NO BAKA!!!” She caught Ranma-chan right on the jaw and sent her through the window, attracting everyone’s attention.
Sayuri walked over to Akane. “Why did you call Ranma a baka then hit Shampoo?”
Akane temporarily found herself at a loss for words.
Nabiki made the save as she idly explained that Akane, ‘missed her intended target.’ With that said, she got up and went back to her homeroom. The plan was right on her fingertips. She just had to see if she could make it work.
Ranma-chan made it back before classes started again, and the rest of the school day went by uneventfully, marred only by the dirty looks Ranma-chan gave Akane. Once it ended and the trio returned home, the first thing the two cursed youths did was grab some hot water and change.
Shampoo took great delight in returning to her real form at long last. There had been times when both she and Ranma had had no access to hot water and spent a couple of days in their cursed forms, but it still felt bizarre to spend so much time in her cursed body. And if she were going to start spending all of her days as a boy, she would savor every minute of those times when she didn’t have to be one. Now that she was free of her cursed form, she felt a great reserve on energy fill her. It took her only a moment to decide how she should use that energy. “Ranma want spar with Shampoo?”
“Yeah, sure.” Ranma nodded enthusiastically. He too felt like blowing off some steam at being cooped up all day with nothing interesting to do.
“I thought you didn’t fight girls,” Akane said.
Ranma became a little sheepish at that. “Shampoo’s different.”
“Well, she’s a guy half the time.” That, combined with the fact that the first time he told the purple-haired Amazon he ‘didn’t fight girls’ she took it as a personal slander against all Amazons and beat the tar out of him, convinced him he should never say those words in her presence again. And he would always qualify their matches in his mind as ‘just sparring’ and it wasn’t really fighting. And Shampoo was a guy half the time too, so it wasn’t the same thing as fighting a girl that wasn’t cursed. He still didn’t fight girls.
Akane just scowled at the answer, causing Ranma to give a frustrated sigh. “Never mind. C’mon Shampoo. Let’s get going.”
Akane watched as the two began to walk away. A feeling of being left out suddenly overwhelming her. “Can I come too?”
“Sure. If you think it will do you any good,” Ranma said as he continued on.
Akane growled at the comment, but still followed the duo to the dojo. She wanted to do something, and even if she was having trouble getting along with Ranma, sparring could still be fun.
Since Shampoo had challenged Ranma first, the two of them began. To Akane, it seemed that despite calling it a sparring match, neither one of them held anything back. Each moved with an even mix of grace and power that found Akane quickly becoming jealous of. In all her years of training, she still lacked the sort of effortless flowing of motion from one movement to the next that the duo demonstrated. True, she had all the power she needed, but as much as she hated to admit it, her grace needed a lot of work.
Akane began paying closer attention to the fight itself. In the opening moments, Shampoo managed to press Ranma hard, even going so far as to put him on the defensive a few times. As the fight progressed, Ranma became more aggressive as he took the measure of his opponent and began fighting back. Several times Shampoo almost managed to regain the initiative, but before long those opportunities went from few to non-existent. Eventually she found herself heavily on the defensive, Ranma focusing his attacks on the few holes he found in her defense. Close to twenty minutes of intense sparring passed before Ranma at last managed to win the match.
The moment the match ended, both combatants collapsed on the ground, breathing hard.
“That was tough,” Ranma managed to gasp out. “You did a few new moves on me.”
Shampoo had as much ease speaking as Ranma had. “But Ranma still better than Shampoo.” The Amazon waited a few minutes before feeling confident enough to take the next step. She turned to Akane.
“Akane want try now?”
In spite of being somewhat in awe of what she had just seen, Akane stood up and accepted the offer. Once Shampoo knew she was almost up to her full fighting skills, she began to spar with Akane.
Akane counted on the Amazon being slow; after all, she had just been in a grueling battle in which she had lost, but as the fight began, Akane knew that that had not been enough to reduce her opponent’s skill level significantly. Akane found herself defeated in less than two minutes. She slumped to the floor, depressed. Before she had been the best martial artist in the whole of Nerima. In the space of three days she found herself a distant third.
Shampoo looked the depressed girl over. It was obvious she was unhappy over losing, but what could a single Japanese girl expect when confronting one who was a champion of the Amazons? Still, Shampoo felt there was something she could do to help the one who had given her a roof over her head.
“Akane have good strength and skill. Just need work harder,” Shampoo assured her. “Make deal with you. Same deal Shampoo have with Ranma. Shampoo help you with Amazon techniques if you help Shampoo with Anything Goes Martial Arts.”
“Sure,” Akane said enthusiastically, then thought about what was just said. “Wait a minute. Ranma is teaching you?”
Shampoo nodded. “Ranma and Pop teach Shampoo their fighting techniques, so Shampoo teach hers back. Is even trade that make all of us better warriors.”
Akane looked quizzically at her. “Why do you call Mr. Saotome Pop?”
Ranma interrupted the answer Shampoo was about to give. “Back when we first met Shampoo her Japanese was really bad, even worse than it is now.” He missed the dirty look Shampoo shot in his direction. “She heard me call him Pop and thought that was his name. She just calls him that ever since. He doesn’t seem to mind.”
Akane at last felt the time was right to ask the question that had been nagging her since the other night. “Why do you travel with them?”
Shampoo gave her a depressed look. “Shampoo have nowhere else to go.”
Ranma noticed the change in emotion. Shampoo always got that way when she thought of her home. He still didn’t know the full details of why she couldn’t go back, but he respected her privacy. Besides, he liked having her around. It beat the heck out of having to put up with his old man all the time. At last he had someone his own age to talk to, even if communicating with her was difficult. And that she knew martial arts, was good enough to press him every time, and he could learn new moves from her, was great.
Ranma felt the urge to cheer her up. He had seen that look way too many times for his liking, though it had been appearing less frequently of late. “Hey, like me and Pop said, you can stay with us as long as you want. We’re happy to have you.”
Shampoo cheered up at that. “Shampoo thank Ranma.”
“It ain’t nothing,” Ranma said dismissively, suddenly uncomfortable with the gratitude.
“We’re happy to have you here as well,” Akane added.
Shampoo looked surprised, then smiled at Akane. “Thank you very much.”
Ranma decided to change the topic. Things were getting too sentimental for his taste. “Now, why don’t you show us how you do that move? You know, that kick you do in mid-air.”
A couple of hours after a vigorous sparring session, the trio entered the house and cleaned up, in much better spirits than before. Akane even relented on her opinion of Ranma a little. He wasn’t all that bad, especially when talking about martial arts. He was a bit egotistical about it, which was annoying, but overall it had been time well spent.
All three were feeling hungry and they went to the kitchen to grab something to eat.
“Hey, Kasumi! Is dinner ready yet?” Akane knew it was early, but she was just as hungry as her guests and hoped there was at least an appetizer lying around.
Nabiki’s voice came out from around the corner. “Kasumi left to return some books to Dr. Tofu. She said she’d be back in time to make dinner.”
Akane couldn’t believe her luck. Now she had a chance to impress her new friends. “I’ll cook us dinner.”
“You no mind?” Shampoo asked.
Akane was practically bouncing with joy. “No, I love to cook. Just wait until you see what I make for you.”
Ranma and Shampoo thanked her and left her alone in the kitchen, unaware of the terrible mistake they had made.
An hour later, everyone but Kasumi and Akane found themselves sitting at the table, waiting for dinner. They didn’t have long to wait as Akane entered from the kitchen, bearing a tray.
Soun looked nervously at what was on the tray. “A… Akane, did you make this?”
“Yep!” she happily showed it to him.
In contrast to her father, Nabiki stood up calmly and stated, “I just remembered, Daddy asked me to help fix the roof.”
“He asked you to do that two months ago,” Akane pointed out.
“Which means I had better get on it.” Nabiki left the room without a backward glance.
“I have to teach some students.” Soun said as he quickly got to his feet.
“Dad, you don’t have any students.”
“Time to get some then.” Soun was out of the room in less than a heartbeat.
Genma scratched his chin. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say they are leaving to avoid your cooking.”
“They are,” Akane reluctantly admitted. “Some people think I’m a pretty bad cook, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better since the last time I made something. I’ve been practicing really hard.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” Ranma reassured her. “It can’t be as bad as Pop’s cooking.”
Shampoo nodded her head in agreement. “Pop cook awful.”
Genma looked stunned. “I didn’t hear you complain, boy.”
“That’s because you never listened to me!”
“Then you’re willing to try it?” Akane looked on in hope.
The trio nodded, much to her delight. She knew she had made them a meal they would never forget. With as much flair as she could, Akane set down the tray with the dish on it.
Shampoo looked at the tray. “Oh. Akane cook armadillo for us.”
“That’s not an armadillo,” Akane corrected. “It’s cod.”
“What’s this armor plate on it?” Ranma asked as he poked it with a fork. He had thought it was turtle of some kind.
“Those are noodles.”
“They look a bit hard,” Genma said as he too evaluated the dish. “Are you sure you followed the recipe?”
“Yep.” Of course she had. It was one she had made up. She indicated that the trio should dig in.
The three looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Ranma and Shampoo believing that at the worst it would rival Genma’s cooking.
Ranma attempted to cut through the armorlike substance with a knife. Seeing that didn’t work, Shampoo went to her room to recover her sword and brought it down hard on the armor. The tremendous blow was enough to crack the shell. However, as she withdrew her blade, she noticed there were nicks and chinks missing from it. She began wondering if trying the food was such a good idea.
All three of them received their servings and took a bite at the same time. Akane watched them expectantly, waiting for the accolades they would (hopefully) bestow upon her.
Genma began gagging, Ranma belched smoke, and Shampoo turned green. Those were not the reactions Akane had expected
Shampoo managed to shake off the effects first and grabbed Akane by the collar. “Why Akane poison Shampoo? Shampoo thought we friends.”
Akane got out of the grasp and stared at Shampoo. “Poison? You have got to be kidding.” To prove her point, she took a bite of the substance. Upon swallowing the bite, she fell over and passed out. Fortunately, Shampoo, and the recovered Ranma, caught her before she hit the ground.
“Guess even she doesn’t know how bad she cooks,” Ranma said as she made certain Akane was all right.
A little while later, Kasumi returned home. Dr. Tofu had acted silly once more, which was just what Kasumi needed to cheer her up. She had enjoyed the doctor's goofiness so much that she had lost track of the time, and realized she was going to be serving dinner late. She had rushed home as quickly as she could, to what was a disturbingly quiet house. It wasn’t until she made her way down one of the halls that she saw Soun and Nabiki looking into the Saotomes’ makeshift bedroom.
“What’s going on?” Kasumi asked.
Nabiki turned to her sister. “They tried some of Akane’s cooking. She tried some too, but she’s feeling better now. Guess she’s building up a resistance to the poisoning.”
“Oh, no! I’d better help Shampoo.” She paused a moment, realizing what she had just said. “And the Saotomes as well, of course.”
Living with Akane and the results of her attempts at cooking made Kasumi prepared for such event. She had all of the material she needed to settle their stomachs. Nabiki couldn’t help noting that Kasumi helped Shampoo first and doted on her the most.
The next day, as the recovered duo made their way to school, they were still irate that no one had warned them about Akane’s cooking. When Ranma noted that Nabiki had left ahead of them again, Akane just said she had given some mysterious answer about having to meet some people.
Upon arriving at school, Akane prepared herself as she saw that the boys were waiting for her, as usual. She watched them carefully. They were about to make their move when a group of girls, twice as large as the boys, appeared directly behind the first group. Voices began to erupt from the new female crowd.
“There he is!”
“All right! He showed up!”
“You’re right. He is good looking. I’m sorry I wasn’t here to introduce myself to him yesterday.”
One of the girls stepped forward.
“Ranma, is it true?”
Shampoo-kun looked at the crowd in confusion. It took a moment for him to remember that on school grounds he was ‘Ranma’. “Is what true?”
“That if someone defeats you in combat you have to date them?”
Shampoo-kun stared at the girl in bewilderment, wondering where she had heard that particular piece of information. “Yes, but Sh… Ranma no can date you.”
Nabiki was suddenly at the Amazon’s side. “Au contraire, you can and you do.”
Shampoo-kun couldn’t understand why Nabiki was saying such a thing, until it all fit into place. So that was who had informed the girls of that little rule. Shampoo-kun suppressed the urge to pound the annoying girl. She wasn’t a warrior and Ranma might get into trouble if Shampoo-kun started beating up the people they were staying with, even if they deserved it.
The Amazon began whispering, “But no can go out with girl, Shampoo girl.”
“Not now you aren’t,” Nabiki reminded him as she brushed her hand against his crotch. “You’re a boy. And you said if a girl challenges a boy, they have to accept or it’s a great dishonor. Besides it won’t matter unless you lose. Surely a tough Amazon like yourself can take on a bunch of untrained girls and beat them easily.”
As reluctant as he was to admit it, backing down simply wasn’t his style. It was a matter of pride that he show the world that a single Amazon warrior, even when cursed to a male body, was more powerful than a handful of weak Japanese girls.
“Well, is it true?” one of the girls asked as she bit her nails in anticipation.
“Yes. It true.”
A sudden cheer broke out from the horde of females as they raced forward and trampled the group of boys in their haste to attack Shampoo-kun. Suddenly the Amazon wasn’t so sure taking on close to fifty combatants at the same time was such a hot idea after all…
Shampoo-kun stood motionless, chest heaving, as he caught his breath. He was going to have to reevaluate his opinion on how ‘weak’ Japanese girls were. It appeared they weren’t really all that different from Joketsuzoku warriors who saw a man that caught their eye; they just didn’t go about quite as heavily armed. The female students had fought like a pack of rabid dogs over a bone in their efforts to defeat Shampoo-kun. They had been a tenacious lot, and Shampoo-kun would have admired their determination if he hadn’t been the bone of contention.
The quick check to evaluate what damage had been inflicted on him by the horde was interrupted by a loud declaration.
“So, Saotome, truly you have proven that you possess no honor!” Kunou raised his bokken before him. “That you would beat up defenseless women so that they would fall into your clutches gives release to my righteous anger!”
“Is that righteous anger, or lustful envy, Kunou-baby?” Nabiki asked from the sidelines.
“Be silent, woman, lest you make me lose my place!” Kunou face contorted as he tried to remember where he had left off. “Now it falls to me to defend those too weak to defend themselves! I would smite thee!”
Shampoo-kun found himself immediately set upon. Under ordinary circumstances he would have been able to dispatch Kunou with ease, but having previously fought an unexpected battle royal with close to fifty girls had left him considerably weakened, making it far closer to an even fight.
Ranma-chan watched the battle with a close eye, also realizing the fight was going to be far closer than it should have been. The time spent with Shampoo-kun had given Ranma-chan enough insight into the Amazon’s mind that he would react just as happily at someone interfering in his fight as Ranma-chan would. She had to find some excuse that would allow her to interfere with the fight while maintaining the Amazon’s pride.
“Got it!” she whispered under her breath, then said much more loudly, as though reading lines for a script. “We don’t have time for this. We’ll be late for class, we can’t afford to get into trouble.”
She back-kicked Kunou in the head and sent him flying towards Akane, who reflexively caught him.
Kunou’s fury died when he saw into whose arms he had landed. “Ah! Akane Tendou. To go to such great lengths to save me leaves me no choice. You may date me.”
“No, thanks.” She belted Kunou high into the sky and sent him far away. Seeing no other combatants, the group headed to their classrooms while there was still time.
The next day found the cycle repeating itself. The only differences were that the boys, who had been trampled once again, complained quite loudly that getting beaten up before facing Akane was just not worth it and vowed to give up their morning ritual. The fight with the horde of girls didn’t last as long either. This time Shampoo-kun had come prepared by warming up beforehand and brought his pair of bonbori.
And, of course, much to the delight of everyone, Kunou appeared.
“Once again it falls to me to defend the honor of those too helpless to defend themselves! I would smite thee!”
“My turn.” Akane rushed over to Kunou and hit him into Ranma-chan, who reflexively caught the flying kendoist.
“Ah! Shampoo. To go to such great lengths to save me leaves me no choice. You may date me.”
“Couldn’t you at least come up with an original line?!” Ranma-chan proceeded to belt Kunou into the stratosphere as well, making certain to point out to Akane that she had bashed him a lot farther than the youngest Tendou had the previous day.
Akane sat down and enjoyed her lunch away from Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun. She was still fuming at the redhead for grumbling about Kunou using the same line on her as he had on Akane. ‘After all, I’m much better looking than you are. I just think he could have said something a lot more flattering,’ Ranma-chan had said.
After that blatant insult, Akane wanted nothing to do with the Ranma-chan for a while, so she ate with two of her other friends. As she dined with them, she took note of the bandages on their faces.
“Why did you guys attack Sh… Ranma anyway?”
Sayuri gained a wistful look. “Well, he is the most handsome guy in the school.”
Chisa, a new transfer student Akane had made friends with, gained an equally far off look. “I just love the way he refers to himself in the third person.”
“Besides, if the boys can do it to win a date with you, why can’t we do it for some really cute guy?” Sayuri said.
“Yeah! Equal opportunity!” Chisa said.
Sayuri suddenly became serious. “That reminds me, Akane, just what connection do you have with Ranma?”
With the name ‘Ranma’ being said, her thoughts drifted to what had happened to her since the water-changing fiancé had entered her life. That caused her to forget the name change as she answered the question seriously. “Our dumb fathers decided to engage us, but I hate it.”
Chisa suddenly looked hopeful. “Well, if you two aren’t getting along, would you mind if we go out with Ranma?”
“I don’t care about him! I don’t!” Akane snapped, then shouted out. “The whole school could date Ranma! It doesn’t matter to me!”
Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan turned to the disturbance. Ranma-chan muttered under her breath about losing the engagement as some kind of defense to keep the girls off of the Amazon’s back.
“You didn’t have to shout it out so loud.”
“I told you I’m sorry,” Akane said sincerely. “It slipped my mind for a moment.”
“Yeah, well poor Shampoo’s going to pay the price,” Ranma-chan continued to scold.
Not wishing to hear the duo continue squabbling the entire way back, Shampoo-kun tried to change the subject. “Shampoo always used to think not need school, that it make person weak. Training is what supposed to make warrior strong, but Shampoo fight harder in school than when train.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Ranma-chan said, and then caught a glimpse of movement from above.
“Look out!” She grabbed both of her companions under her arms and leaped out of the way, just in time to avoid a girl that jumped down from some wires above the street, from bringing a giant club down on top of them.
“Darn!” the girl cursed. “I almost had him.”
Ranma-chan recognized the Furinkan School uniform the girl was wearing, but could not place the face. “Why did you attack us?”
“I wasn’t trying to attack you, Shampoo,” the girl reassured her. “I was trying to hit Ranma.”
The girl shrugged. “I figured if I could ambush him I’d knock him out and date him, but you had to pull him out of the way. Don’t tell me you’re interested in him too. Are you?”
Ranma-chan suddenly became defensive. “Of course not! I don’t date guys!”
That got him a whack in the back of the head from Shampoo-kun.
“I meant I’m not dating someone like Shampoo, I mean Ranma. Not that he isn’t a great guy, errr, sort of.”
The girl looked suspiciously at Ranma-chan. “So does that mean you only date girls?”
The girl raised her eyebrows. “So you’re a lesbian?”
“I am not a lesbian!” Ranma-chan shouted.
“But you just said you date girls.”
“Yes. I mean no. I mean…”
“You mean you go both ways, like Ai?” the girl asked.
“Who’s Ai?” Ranma-chan asked, trying to remember if he had heard the name somewhere in school or not.
“Someone that you will hopefully never have to meet,” Akane said as she grabbed Ranma-chan by the arm and took her away before she made the situation even more confusing.
“So does that mean she’s interested in Ranma, or maybe me?” The girl gave a shudder at that as she turned to see Shampoo-kun had remained behind. “Oh, are you going to walk me home?” the girl said, full of hope.
“No, but Ranma in nice mood, so help you home. Which way is house and how far is it?”
That was close enough for the girl, who told the Amazon how far away it was and pointed in the direction.
“Ranma think he got it. Bye-bye.”
Shampoo-kun punted the girl in the direction of her house. There was no way he was going to allow ambushes like that to go unpunished.
Shampoo-kun caught up to the others. “Shampoo think Japanese girls too persistent. Remind Shampoo of Mousse.” He was about to continue on when he noticed the other two had stopped in front of him. “What wrong?”
Akane pointed to the rope snare that was lying in the middle of the road. The rope led down to a closed manhole cover.
Ranma-chan just shook her head in disbelief. “Who would be stupid enough to fall for that?”
Mousse jumped down from the roof of a nearby building and landed in the street, setting down in the middle of the rope snare.
“That was a rhetorical question,” Ranma-chan mumbled under her breath.
“At last I have found you, Saotome. You have eluded me for the last time.” To his credit, Mousse had his glasses down for a change and was pointing at the correct figure. “For abducting Shampoo—“
Shampoo-kun shook his head. “Ranma no abd… abde… no take Shampoo against will!”
“For callously cursing her with Nanniichuan—“
“That Mousse’s fault for making fight at cursed spring!”
“For poisoning her mind against me—“
“Shampoo no like Mousse before she ever meet Ranma!”
“For taking advantage of her innocence—“
“Shampoo not innocent!”
Ranma-chan, Akane and Mousse all gave him a surprised stare.
Shampoo-kun took a moment to reevaluate what had been said. “Shampoo mean she not taken advantage of by Ranma. Shampoo innocent.”
Mousse breathed a sigh of relief, and then continued. “For all of these unforgivable crimes, prepare to die!”
It was at that moment that the rope snare was pulled upon as it wrapped itself around Mousse’s ankle. Caught off-guard by the attack from an unsuspected quarter, he found himself dragged through the manhole cover and into the sewers. A moment later, the sounds of a woman striking someone with instruments of blunt trauma came from below.
“At last I have you, Ranma! Now you must date me!”
“I’m not Ranma! What are you, blind?!”
“That disguise can’t fool me! Fall!”
The trio still above ground left in disgust. There were no further ambushes as they made their way back to the Tendou house.
“I can’t believe we were attacked like that,” Akane said as she opened the door to the house and announced the students’ return.
“No need worry,” Shampoo-kun said casually. “We safe at home now, except for girl behind door with baseball bat.”
It took a moment for what Shampoo-kun said to actually register with him. Only quick reflexes saved him from being struck by the powerful swing the girl leveled at him. As he sidestepped the blow he lashed out with his fist, connecting with the girl’s jaw and knocking her out.
The trio made their way into the living room only to have the table seemingly launch itself at Shampoo-kun. As Shampoo-kun deftly caught the table Ranma-chan leaped over it and knocked out the girl that threw it.
“Okay, the house is swarming with girls desperate to get a date,” Ranma-chan said as she took a quick look around the room. “Good thing I didn’t go to school as a guy. They’d come after me twice as hard. Hehehe…”
Her laugh trailed off as she saw the two scowls her companions gave. Shampoo-kun because he felt offended by the implication that Ranma was more handsome than him. Akane just on the general principles that no one should be that egotistical.
“Great. Let’s see if there are any more surprises.” Ranma-chan said, hoping to make the duo stop staring evilly at her.
A sweep of the house revealed four more girls lying in wait. After disposing of them, the cursed ones grabbed some hot water and went back to their real sexes. The trio reconvened in the living room, where Nabiki and Kasumi waited for them.
“How the heck did they get in here?” Ranma grumbled. Fighting wasn’t the problem; it was the idea that he was never going to have a moment’s peace if he didn’t have some place he could rest safely.
“Oh, I let them in.”
Everyone looked incredulously at Kasumi.
“Why?” Akane managed to get out.
Kasumi continued smiling pleasantly. “They asked if they could ambush Ranma. They were so polite and nice I just couldn’t say no.”
“I can’t believe you did that,” Ranma said, irritated.
“I can’t believe you didn’t charge them,” Nabiki said just as irritably.
“You do realize they really mean Shampoo, don’t you?” Akane pointed out.
Kasumi’s hands suddenly darted to her face in shame. “Oh my! That’s different. I can’t let them do that.”
“How is it different they attack her instead of me?!” Ranma growled as Kasami began apologizing to Shampoo.
“How indeed?” Nabiki added as she carefully watched her sister.
The doorbell rang, interrupting further conversations and causing everyone to look at it suspiciously. Ranma got into a battle stance. “It could be a trick. I say we don’t any chances. Let’s take ‘em out.”
“Now, Ranma,” Kasumi scolded. “It’s impolite to attack someone without finding out why they are here for first.” She went up to the door, the other following closely. “Who is it?”
“Floral delivery,” the male voice on the other side said.
“Oh well, that’s all right.” Kasumi opened the door and let him in.
The deliveryman held out a beautiful bouquet of flowers and read off a card. “Flowers for Akane Tendou.”
Akane was immediately enchanted. “Oh, they’re beautiful.” She tipped the man, then read the card. Enchantment became annoyance in the blink of an eye. “Oh, they’re from Kunou.” She slammed the door in the deliveryman’s face.
A moment later, the doorbell rang again.
“Who is it?” Kasumi asked again.
Everyone, save Kasumi, looked confused at the door. It did sound like the same man’s voice.
It was indeed him bearing yet another bouquet. “Flowers for Shampoo.”
“That me.” Shampoo took them.
“Why didn’t you deliver both of them before?” Akane asked the man.
He shrugged. “I didn’t know they were for the same house…”
Shampoo read the card and subsequently became as disgusted as Akane. “These from Kunou too. That mean they for Ranma-Shampoo, not Shampoo-Ranma.” She handed the flowers to Ranma.
“ …Or from the same guy,” the deliveryman finished.
Ranma thanked Shampoo dryly for the ‘gift’.
“He sends flowers to a man and woman living in the same house? Weird.” The deliveryman left.
Akane just looked at Ranma, then said sarcastically. “You look so cute with those flowers in your hand.”
“Hey, at least he didn’t waste them on a violent thug like you this time.”
“Why, you!” Akane picked up a vase and hurled it at Ranma. The throw was on target as it crashed into his head, breaking easily and splashing water on Ranma and Shampoo, who was standing close behind him. Both of them changed just as the doorbell rang again.
Kasumi let the deliveryman in for the third time. “Flowers for Ranma.” he held out a bouquet of decidedly dead flowers.
Shampoo-kun took the flowers and read the card. “These from Kunou too. Says want to fight Ranma behind school two days from now.”
“I’ll kill him,” Ranma-chan growled.
Akane sighed. “He means Shampoo.”
At last the deliveryman realized that Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun were wearing the same clothes, but were different sexes. He looked at Ranma-chan. “Weren’t you a guy before?”
“Yeah. So?!” Ranma-chan snapped.
“Never mind.” He handed Akane back her tip and ran to his truck as fast as he could. His mother had been right. The floral delivery business was full of nothing but weirdoes. He felt he was in luck as the next one sounded like it was okay, and Tomobiki was really close to where he was, too.
Ranma-chan tossed the three sets of flowers in the trash and asked Shampoo-kun if he wanted to spar. Shampoo-kun readily agreed, and the two grabbed some hot water went to spar. After cooling off for a bit, Akane joined them.
The session had gone on well, but only for a brief time. They had only been sparring for ten minutes when Nabiki entered and promptly threw a bucket of cold water on them.
“Whad’ya do that for?!” The constant changing back and forth was really starting to get on Ranma-chan’s nerves.
Nabiki began her explanation in a tired voice, as though stating something Ranma should have known. “Shampoo gets jumped every day by a bunch of girls while she’s in her cursed form. She should get used to fighting in it. Since she’ll be fighting girls, you should be one so it’ll help her.”
Both of them looked at Nabiki suspiciously but agreed. It did make sense, although there was just something wrong about Nabiki being the one to point it out.
“Thanks for looking out for us, I guess. Even if you are responsible for the whole mess,” Ranma-chan said as she and Shampoo-kun began to spar once again.
“I’ll be doing more than looking out,” Nabiki said under her breath as she left the room. Once out of sight, she grabbed one of her cameras and hid under one of the windows next to the dojo. She started taking pictures of Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun sparring, just as she had in the past with Akane. Oh, how grateful she was at the delivery of the two sex-changing martial artists into her hands. Ranma, and especially Shampoo, were really starting to grow on her.
Hours later, Ranma reviewed the day as he headed for bed. The constant attacks made school significantly more interesting, but he could feel they were going to wear pretty thin rather quickly. At least he wasn’t the center of attention. Of course, he also felt a little down because of that too, but it appeared to him that the whole situation was more trouble than it was worth.
Genma’s voice drifted from the living room where he was playing shogi with Soun. “What do you think you’re doing, Ranma?”
“Heading for bed,” Ranma shouted back as he opened the door to his room while still looking down the hall in the direction of where his father was. “Is that all right?”
Ranma had been so distracted by his father annoying him that he failed to notice the metal poker swung at his head by the girl standing behind the door. The blow connected solidly, knocking him unconscious.
The brown-haired girl began jumping up for joy. “Yes! I got you now Ran…” she trailed off as she looked at the prone figure before her. It was not Ranma. She was looking about in confusion, wondering where the real Ranma was, when Genma walked to the bedroom.
“What’s going on?” he asked, mentally berating the boy for falling asleep in the doorway. Stepping over him was inconvenient.
“I thought I heard you call out Ranma’s name,” the girl said.
“Of course I did,” Genma said as he pointed to his son. “That’s Ranma.”
Something inside Genma’s mind suddenly clicked. The clothing the girl was wearing was familiar, and both Akane and Ranma had told him what the situation was at school. He didn’t like it, but the last thing in the world he needed was for everyone to know that Ranma was cursed to turn into something that was less than a man among men.
“Are you from Furinkan?” he asked, hoping against hope he was wrong.
The girl nodded her head.
He had to think fast. “Then this Ranma is Shampoo’s brother.” He picked up the unconscious Ranma by his shirt collar to show to the girl. “He most definitely is not Ranma Saotome.” Genma had to pat himself on the back for his quick thinking. He had managed to get out of that particular predicament fairly easily. Now all he had to do was tell the others at the first available opportunity.
The girl looked incredulously at Genma. “He’s Shampoo’s brother?” she took a closer look and had to admit, there was a very distinct resemblance between the two of them. “Tell him I’m sorry for knocking him out.” She headed further into the house in search of her quarry, the ‘real’ Ranma Saotome.
Her wanderings eventually led her to the kitchen, where Kasumi and Shampoo were sitting and talking peacefully. Upon seeing Shampoo for the first time, she noticed the strong resemblance between her and the Ranma she wanted to go out with. “Hello, ah, who are you?” she asked Shampoo.
Like Genma Saotome before her, Shampoo forgot about her secret identity. “Am Shampoo.” Almost as soon as the words left her mouth she realized the horrible mistake she had made. She knew she had to think fast. “Am Shampoo Saotome. Ranma Saotome sister.”
Whereas the girl had been somewhat confused with the ‘Shampoo has a brother named Ranma’ bit from before, now she was absolutely bewildered. “Let me get this straight, Ranma has a sister named Shampoo and Shampoo has a brother named Ranma?”
It had to be the biggest coincidence in the world. “You do look a lot like your brother.” And with that, the girl walked off, terribly confused. She didn’t even realize that she had failed to find the Ranma she had been looking for, so she moved on.
The events going on downstairs had gone unnoticed by Akane. After a quick bath she headed directly for her bedroom and laid down, intent on doing nothing but catching up on her sleep. As her head hit the pillow, her eyes looked upward just in time to see a girl with jet-black hair hanging up in the rafters, mallet in hand.
“I’ve got you now, Ranma!”
The girl released her hold almost the instant Akane lay down. The youngest Tendou barely had enough time to get out of the way of the descending mallet as the girl hit the mattress with her club.
Akane slapped the mallet out of the girl's hands then grabbed her by the shirt. “What on earth do you think you are doing?”
“This isn’t Ranma’s room?” the girl asked.
“I’m sorry, then.” The girl tried to bow in spite of the fact she was still being held by the collar by Akane.
“At least you got one thing right,” Akane said as she belted the girl out the window.
“Where’s Nabiki?” Ranma-chan asked as she, Akane, and Shampoo-kun made their way to yet another day of school. The headache that had been bothering Ranma-chan the night before was gone. If she hadn’t known any better, she would have sworn that someone had hit her in the head with a lead pipe or something.
“She left early again today,” Akane answered, though why she had left so quickly was a mystery. It was just as Akane had been waking up that she heard her older sister say good-bye and left the house.
As the trio arrived at school, they saw a podium and microphone set up in the schoolyard. Dozens of girls, and Kunou, stood in front of the structure while they looked on with keen interest at the speaker at the podium.
“What’s she up to now?” Akane said as she watched Nabiki go through a microphone test, then begin.
“I have here pictures of the handsome and bold Ranma in intense physical workouts.” Nabiki held up the photos for all to see, giving them just the barest glimpse of the quality of the shots. In a flash they disappeared from view as she cleared her throat. “Now who will start the bidding for these once in a lifetime photographs?”
“I bid 500 yen,” one of the girls cried out.
Kunou looked on in irritation as the scene unfolded before him. Obviously the accursed Saotome had ensorcelled the girls into worshipping false idols of the youth. What audacity he had to engage in such behaviors before one as mighty as the great Tatewaki Kunou. One other explanation was also needed.
“Why have you summoned me here, Nabiki Tendou? I have no desire to purchase pictures of the accursed Ranma Saotome.” Unless it was to use them as target practice for his bokken thrusts.
“I also have pictures of Akane and Shampoo.” A different group of photos appeared in her other hand.
“Sold! No price can be too much for portraits of my two true loves.”
“Music to my ears, Kunou baby. Music to my ears.”
“I think I see why Nabiki is leaving early,” Ranma-chan commented dryly.
“Is she always like this?” Shampoo-kun asked Akane.
“Pretty much,” Akane sighed, although there was going to be some discussion as to the selling of photos of her without any express consent on her part.
“At least the auction has all of the girls’ attention and gives us the day off,” Ranma-chan pointed out as the trio entered the school with no delays, for a change.
Shampoo-kun looked over the streets carefully as he made his way home. The school day had gone on without any major problems, for a change. However, Akane and Ranma-chan had been snagged into cleaning the classroom after school, which meant Shampoo-kun was going to have to make a go of it alone. That was cause for concern since girls now had the tendency to try to ambush him every step of the way home. The only good thing about the whole situation was that at least he was getting extensive training in his trap detection skills. Some of the things the girls came up with were downright creative, and made Shampoo-kun stay on his toes.
“Shampoo have no doubt. School make for better warrior than before,” he said as he took a long roundabout way to his new home. By some miracle, he didn’t have to deal with a single female the entire way. He just hoped the same could be said for the next day when he had to risk returning from school once more.
Despite Kasumi’s repeated assurances from the day before about not letting any girls in the house, Shampoo-kun entered carefully and began a quiet inspection of the building. He didn’t have to search long since the moment he placed his foot on the first step leading upstairs a dozen armed girls came charging after him.
The Amazon ran away at top speed. He had just enough time to cry out, “hot water!” to Kasumi.
Kasumi handed him the hot kettle she had going, and he quickly poured the contents over his head in time. The ‘strike team’ of girls arrived just as the transformation was complete.
“Where did Ranma go?” one of the girls asked.
“Him go that way.” Shampoo pointed outside. “If hurry, Japanese girls might catch.”
One of the girls thanked Shampoo as the group headed out in pursuit of their prey, much to Shampoo’s relief.
It was no more than ten minutes later when Ranma-chan and Akane finally arrived home and were informed of what happened.
“How did they get in this time?” Akane asked.
Kasumi looked Shampoo straight in the eye. “I didn’t do it. I swear.”
“Shampoo believe Kasumi. Also not sure how annoying girls get in.”
“Don’t look at me,” Ranma-chan said defensively before anyone started blaming her, like they almost always did.
Nabiki walked past during the quartet’s discussion, happily counting a large wad of bills in hand. It took only a moment for her to sense all of the eyes that had turned towards her. “What?”
“Where did you get the money?” Ranma-chan asked suspiciously.
“I remembered to charge an entry fee for the Ranma festivities today.” Nabiki waved the bills towards everyone for emphasis.
“How could you—“ Ranma-chan found her accusation cut off by Kasumi of all people.
“Nabiki, I am very cross with you.”
That Kasumi had said such ‘harsh’ words directed at her immediately caught Nabiki’s attention. Surprisingly, she found they stung far worse than any insult she could remember, and she had heard many epithets directed towards her over the years.
“You… are?” It was not so much that Kasumi appeared angry, as much as displeased, and once again Nabiki found herself squirming under that gaze.
“Yes, I am,” Kasumi answered. “Shampoo and the Saotomes are our guests. I want you to treat them with honor and respect. You are not to allow anyone else in to ambush Shampoo.”
Nabiki’s instincts begged her not to give in, that it was way too lucrative a deal to just ignore, but her sisterly instincts came to the forefront. Kasumi’s continued happiness outweighed what material gains she could make in pricey ambushes.
“All right, I will.”
“Thank you, Nabiki.” Kasumi’s expression went back to its normal happy one.
Nabiki found herself rather pleased that she had done what most would consider the ‘right’ thing. Who said she couldn’t stand on the moral high ground? She could do the right thing when it mattered.
Besides, there were still plenty of other ways to make money off of Shampoo.
Shampoo-kun had assumed the Saturday Kunou challenge match behind the school was supposed to be a private affair that would have nothing more than perhaps a handful of spectators. After all, it wasn’t as though it was any different from the usual morning encounters with the bokken wielding fool. That was why it was such a surprise to see temporary bleachers, packed to overflowing with students, set up behind the field. From where he stood, Shampoo-kun could see Nabiki and her band of cohorts working the crowd, taking bets on the outcome of the fight and selling concessions at prices worse than most movie theaters. Shampoo-kun made a mental note to never underestimate the very tricky ‘mercenary girl.’ She had a mind like a steel trap, especially when it came to money. It was difficult to believe that she could be related in any way to the kind-hearted Kasumi, who was sitting in the crowded bleachers, waving at Shampoo-kun and wishing him luck.
Akane, who stood next to Shampoo-kun, looked at the spectacle that was before her and shook her head sadly. It was going to be the usual massacre. Why that would excite anyone was beyond Akane. The whole thing was nothing more than a tribute to the skills of her sister’s promotion of the fight that had been built up the day before in school.
It was nice to see Nabiki had apparently warmed up to the idea of having houseguests.
Ranma-chan, who also stood next to the other two, felt the same way. She looked across the field at Kunou. He was already pontificating about what he was going to do to the ‘Foul Saotome’ (and the day might have been coming when Ranma-chan herself was going to take exception to that remark. She was the real Saotome, after all.) It was going to be a massacre.
Kunou was ecstatic at the turnout for his most magnificent match to date. Even the usual turnout at the school’s kendo matches never netted this big a crowd. “Ah! To hear the student body cheer me on is bliss.” He came out of his fantasy to listen to what rousing cheers were being shouted in his name.
“This is where you get your arrogant head kicked in, Kunou!”
“I hope Ranma breaks your arms!”
“I hope he breaks your mouth!”
“If you lay one hand on Ranma, you’ll be sorry!”
Kunou began seething at the vile words being spat out by the student body. Saotome had somehow ensorcelled the crowd against him. Yet another crime against his noble personage. Would the insults never stop?
“You will pay for this indignity, vile sorcerer!”
Ranma-chan just shook her head. How could anyone possibly be that clueless?
Shampoo-kun warmed up quickly, and the two opponents headed to the middle of the field to begin the duel. Even with the fight being against someone so ridiculously foolish, the Amazon felt his blood rush and nerves stand on edge. It was just like the tournaments back home. That it was Japanese people instead of Joketsuzoku warriors made no difference. Cries of excitement were the same in any language.
He took a deep breath to regain his focus. It fell into place in an instant, and his bonbori came up into an attack position.
Kunou opened with a flurry of strikes that Shampoo-kun easily blocked. Shampoo-kun’s counter came following tight on the heels of Kunou’s offensive. In spite of his ‘buffoon’ status, his skills at armed combat were considerable, and he managed to parry all of the strikes.
The battle went back and forth like that twice before Kunou saw an opening in Shampoo-kun’s defense and took advantage of it. A lightning fast strike managed to knock one of the bonboris out of Shampoo-kun’s hand.
“Ah, ha! I have disarmed you.” Kunou moved in for the kill.
The trap Shampoo-kun had laid was successful. Kunou’s bokken went flying as Shampoo-kun knocked it out of his hands.
“How dare you disarm the great Tatewaki Kunou?!”
“How dare you bludgeon the great Tatewaki Kunou into unconsciousness?!”
He managed to stare at the bonbori, still planted on his head, for two more seconds before passing out.
Shampoo-kun found his hand raised high in the air by the announcer and declared the winner. A smile found its way to his face as he basked in all the glory. In the days that he had found himself under the roof of the Tendou Dojo, he had been engaged to a girl, started school, been declared a male before the student body, had been challenged by dozens of females who sought to date him, and been attacked by a poetry spouting buffoon.
It appeared he had somehow been blessed/cursed with living in interesting times. It was all kind of fun, in some perverse sort of way. He thought he could grow to like Nerima.
He looked at the tall structure before him. It might have been Tokyo Tower, or maybe it was the Eiffel Tower. He had come across both in his travels, and they looked enough alike to him.
“But it isn’t Nerima, and that’s the only place I need to find.” And once he located it, vengeance would be his.
He looked around once more and tried to decide on a course of action. He could ask for directions again, but that almost never worked. However, the alternative…
“No! I have to do it, no matter how degrading it is. Revenge is all that matters.” He looked sorrowfully at the fountain that was next to him. He gave one last thought to resolve what he was about to do. He was ready.
“I’m coming for you, Ranma Saotome!”
And with that Ryouga Hibiki jumped quite willingly into the fountain.
To be continued.
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