Chapter 2: Ryouga and Roses
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
Recap: In the beginning, Ranma and Genma went to Jusenkyou. They started sparring, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse were already engaged in a duel as well. One mid-air collision and a dunking in the spring of drowned man later, we get a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. So Ranma-chan= female. Shampoo-kun= male. Enjoy.)
Part One: Ryouga…
To Shampoo-kun, the problem wasn’t so much that he had to go to school; it was that they were making him wear a boy’s school uniform. True, he was only now starting to build up a real wardrobe that he could wear in either form, forgoing most of the Chinese-style garments he would wear back home, but why did he have to wear the same drab clothing that most of the other students wore? If it had not been for Kasumi’s continuous reassurances that he looked very good in the uniform, he probably would never have relented. But she had been very insistent that he appeared very dashing. Of course he looked good in either form, but it was kind of reassuring to hear him described as being handsome, even if he didn’t like the curse.
Besides, he had wanted to keep a low profile, at least until he could get a cure, so that meant trying to blend in with the indigenous Japanese population. Though no matter how he dressed, the girls still pursued him. He still was not sure of how to deal with them, though he admitted that they at least they had the good sense to realize he was a powerful warrior.
He turned his attention to his two companions as they made their way to school. Akane was dressed in her normal school outfit, but Ranma-chan had still somehow managed to wear her usual red shirt and black pants ensemble. Life wasn’t fair sometimes.
Ranma-chan had pretty much the same viewpoint, though about different things, as she complained continuously from the moment they left home. “Pop and Mr. Tendo are really starting to annoy me. If they try any harder to push us together, I’m going to explode.”
“Don’t look at me,” Akane sniffed. “I’m certainly not encouraging them.” She still disliked the idea of being pushed into a marriage with anyone, and Ranma was just so insensitive sometimes it made her want to scream. If she had to be engaged to him, why couldn’t he be more like the kind Doctor Tofu? There was someone that cared about how others felt.
“You should try harder to tell your dad you want out of it. I know damn well Pop ain’t going to let go,” Ranma-chan complained.
“My dad is just as stubborn as yours,” she assured him. “I don’t think he’s going to budge either.”
Shampoo-kun decided to tune out the rest of the now familiar conversation. He stared at the sky above and thought about their problem. He supposed he could sympathize. If he had been engaged to someone he didn’t like, say, Mousse, he would have gone completely ballistic.
He was still lost in thought of what the hell of being engaged to Mousse would be like when she saw a dark, flying object came down from high above, using the sun as cover. There was no time to react as the object headed towards Ranma-chan and attached itself to her face.
“Ahhh! Get it off me!” came the muffled cry as the redhead tried dislodging her new facial adornment.
Akane got a good look at the flying object that had affixed itself to her fiancé’s face. If she was not mistaken, it looked like a bat. A brief image of all of the horror movies she watched late at night flashed across her eyes. What if it was a vampire bat that was trying to suck out all of Ranma-chan’s blood?
“Stay still! I’ll get it!” Drawing back her book bag, she aimed directly for the object and unloaded a mighty swing.
Fortunately for the bat, it got out of the way of the impending blow, detaching itself from Ranma-chan’s face just as the object reached the apex of its arc. Unfortunately, for the redhead, her face did not get out of the way in time as the quite heavy book bag hit her, knocking her to the ground.
The bat took that as a sign to get out of there and flew off.
It took Ranma-chan a moment to regain her senses. Once they came back, she realized what had happened. “Whad’ya do that for?!”
“I wasn’t aiming for you. I was aiming at the bat. It was attacking you,” Akane explained, annoyed at Ranma’s irritation. She had been only trying to help. “What if it was a vampire bat? It might have been trying to suck out your blood or something.”
Ranma-chan narrowed her eyes. “If getting slugged in the face is the alternative, I’d rather have my blood drained dry.”
“That’s the last time I try to help you,” Akane huffed.
“Ranma! I found you at last!”
All three youths turned to see a teenage boy emerge from the school. He did not wear a school uniform. Instead, he was wearing black pants, a yellow shirt, and a yellow bandanna with black stripes that held an unruly mop of black hair that was dripping wet.
Much to the trio’s surprise, he approached Ranma-chan instead of Shampoo-kun. “It’s taken me years of hell to track you down. You may have run out on our last fight, but you won’t get the opportunity to this time.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“You don’t remember me?” the boy demanded.
“I’m Ryouga Hibiki.”
“Still doesn’t ring any bells.”
The surprise Ryouga felt changed into anger. “How dare you forget me! I remember you! A lot of time may have passed, but I’d recognize those beady little eyes anywhere.” He pointed to Ranma-chan’s eyes for emphasis. “And that jagged nose.” He flicked her nose, earning himself an angry growl. “And those ample breasts.” He poked her in a breast, which was the exact moment in which he realized that particular feature was not something that was consistent with his memory. “Hey! When did you get breasts?”
“It’s a long story,” Ranma-chan mumbled, still bewildered as to how the boy had pierced her disguise.
“Wait a minute! You can’t be Ranma. The Ranma I know is a guy.” Ryouga looked around in confusion, as though he had lost something.
A crowd of students gathered to watch the display. One of them yelled, “That’s not Ranma, you dummy! That’s Shampoo. Ranma is next to her.”
Ryouga turned his attention to Shampoo-kun. “You’re Ranma Saotome?”
Shampoo-kun nodded in answer.
Ryouga looked between the boy and girl again. “But I ran into…” He pointed to Ranma-chan, and then shook his head. “Never mind. You look a lot different from the way I remember you. Still, if you are Ranma Saotome, prepare to die.” He drew a bamboo umbrella from his backpack and pointed it at Shampoo-kun.
The windows of the school were packed as the student population watched the scene unfold before them. Many of the girls looked on in puzzlement.
“That’s odd. Why would that boy challenge Ranma?”
“Yeah. I wonder what he did.”
“The stranger looks kind of tough.”
It was then one of the girls took a step back, a look of apprehension dawning upon her. “Oh my god! What if he isn’t really here for revenge? What if he’s heard about how Ranma has to date whoever defeats him?”
“You mean that guy—,” a second girl began.
“—Might be trying to date Ranma?” a third girl finished.
A fourth girl used that ‘information’ and jumped to a conclusion of her own. “THAT PERVERT’S TRYING TO DATE RANMA!”
Every boy in the school backed away in fear as a series of shouts of anger and facial twitching began spreading outward from that girl and spread to the rest of the female student body in a rippling wave. ‘Ranma’ was meant for them, not for some strange, pervert boy to take away.
Ryouga was used to hearing cries of rage, mostly his own. So when he heard a chorus of curses and howls of anger behind him, instead of panicking, he turned curiously to see what was happening.
Once, during his journeys, he had witnessed a swarm of ants attack a much larger bug, ripping it to pieces by sheer weight of numbers. He had always wondered why the larger bug had not tried to escape, but rather remained where it was and allowed itself to be overwhelmed.
Now he understood as he watched a swarm of girls pour out of the windows and doorways of the school, reminding him exactly of how the ants had swarmed out of their anthill. And like that larger bug, he remained where he was, watching in fascinated horror as the angry host descended upon him. He quickly found himself buried under the wave of humanity.
Ranma-chan, Shampoo-kun, and Akane looked on in shock as Ryouga was thoroughly beaten, then punted several miles away. Looks of satisfaction were on the horde’s faces as they dispersed, pleased that they had ‘saved’ Ranma from falling into the ‘pervert’s’ clutches.
“Some morning,” Ranma-chan said as she and the others entered the school.
The shadows seemed to follow the cloaked figure as it made its way silently through the school. It glanced furtively back and forth, making certain its progress was not being tracked, as it descended some nearby stairs and into the lower bowels of the school itself. The caution paid off, as no one saw it reach its destination: Secret Sub-Basement Four of Furinkan High School. The number itself was unusual, since only two other secret sub levels had been uncovered, and one of them was deeper than number four. But Furinkan was odd in that way.
The figure moved as silently as it could before eventually coming upon a door with a guard next to it. The guard moved to block entry and looked the newcomer over. “Password.”
“Studmuffin,” the figure answered.
“Wrong.” The guard remained where she was.
The figure paused in thought or a moment. “Umm. Beefcake?”
“That was yesterday’s password.”
The figure released a sigh and pulled back her hood to reveal her features. “Look, Sayuri. It’s me, Achika. Let me in.”
“I can’t let you in,” Sayuri informed her.
“You’ve known me since third grade. We used to be best friends.”
“None shall pass.”
“You have to give me the correct password.”
Achika gave Sayuri a menacing smile. “The password is, ‘Knock it off and let me in or I’ll beat the crap out of you’.”
“That’s not the password,” Sayuri objected.
Achika kept smiling. “The last time I checked, I was captain of the high school Judo team, while you failed to even make the track team.”
“Close enough.” Sayuri gulped and allowed her old friend into the chamber beyond.
Secret Sub-Basement Four was actually a very simple place, in spite of what the name implied. The walls were a nondescript gray and made of concrete. There was a set of boilers, which heated the school, located in the back. Close to two dozen wooden folding chairs were set up for the occupants of the room, most of which already had people in them. Achika quickly recognized most of the entirely female residents that were currently seated; the majority of them were captains of various school activities, such as the archery, alchemy, and chess clubs.
To Achika, most of the girls seemed very anxious, a state that mirrored her own. She noted that the only other addition to the room was towards the back, where a projection screen stood up against the wall, and a simple wooden table at which two girls sat. One of the seated girls stood up. Achika recognized her as the captain of the chess club: Nanami Oguya.
“Now that we are all present, we may begin the meeting,” Nanami loudly announced. “As you all know by now, Furinkan has been blessed with the presence of one of the greatest hunks… I mean by a rather handsome student by the name of Ranma Saotome. Not only is he an extremely good-looking individual with green eyes that one could lose themselves in, their hearts burning in passion fo—“
“Ahem!” The girl sitting next to Nanami cleared her throat, interrupting the fantasy before everyone’s attention was lost.
“Right,” Nanami said, concentrating once again on the matter at hand. “Anyway, not only is he handsome, but he’s available, too.”
“I heard he was engaged to Akane Tendou,” a voice called out from the back.
“Akane Tendou has openly said she’s not interested,” Nanami reassured her. “Besides, for some odd reason, he apparently has to date any girl that defeats him. Think of it, girls, he’s a stud that can’t say no. What more could we ask for?”
“Hey,” another voice in the back spoke up. “Isn’t this kind of an immature thing to do? I mean, that’s what we said when all of the guys tried doing the same thing to Akane. Besides, it makes it seem like we’re pretty desperate.”
Nanami gave a tired sigh, not that the protest was unexpected. “Allow me to explain the situation. Lights!” The lights dimmed. Nanami pulled out a tiny remote control and touched a button that activated a hidden slide projector on the far side of the room. A second button ran the first slide through.
“This is Ranma.” The slide being shown had cost Nanami a small fortune, but it had been worth every yen. It had obviously been taken from a high angle, but the quality was exquisite. The picture had been taken in a bathroom. It was a frontal shot of Shampoo-kun, in nothing but his bare flesh, save for the small towel wrapped around his waist. Nanami thought that the most tantalizing thing about it was not the amount of skin being shown, but the hint of more as Shampoo-kun’s hands were obviously positioned to remove the towel from his body. Nanami had offered five times what she had paid for a shot of him sans the towel, but Nabiki had insisted she had not managed to obtain such a picture. Nanami would not have been surprised if Nabiki had just been saving the best ones for her own personal collection.
Nanami’s opinion of the subject of the slide was openly shared by the collection of sighs, wolf whistles, and cheers that came from the gathering of girls.
“Now this is the alternative to Ranma.” Nanami pressed the button again. The next slide showed a picture of a smiling Hiroshi and Diasuke. This time a chorus of boos, groans, and swearing emanated from the audience in response. Girls began hurling spitballs at the screen and demanded Nanami go back to the first slide. She happily complied.
“Okay. We really are that desperate.” The girl that had registered the protest conceded.
“Exactly,” Nanami agreed. “Now I will take charge of the situation. I have devised a strategy which will surely engineer the defeat of our target.”
This time Achika spoke up. “But if we attack him as a group, how do we decide who gets to go out with him? You can’t expect all of us to date him.”
Nanami simply switched back to the Hiroshi and Diasuke picture, waited for the spitballs to make their reappearance, and then switched back to Shampoo-kun.
“So I’m thinking Ranma can average three dates a night,” Achika said pensively.
“Exactly,” Nanami said. “What we have to do is—“
The rest was cut off as the door, and part of the wall surrounding it, exploded inward. Achika reacted immediately, her fists forward, and waited for the attacker to make an appearance. As the dust began to settle, Achika made out not one, but five silhouettes in the hole that had once been a doorway. The captain of the women’s Judo team maintained her stance, confident she could handle whoever the intruders were, at least until the dust settled enough for her to make out their features.
“By the kami,” Achika gasped, her courage leaving her in the face of the overwhelming power set before her. “What are you doing back?”
The leader of the group gave a hearty laugh. “Someone sent us a picture of that gorgeous new student and the conditions for dating him, so we cut our tour short and came back early. And since we have returned, there is little need for your continued presence.” The group attacked, causing the room to explode in fury.
The entire battle lasted under thirty seconds before the two dozen students lay unconscious on the floor. The leader of the group made her way through the prone girls and bent low, picking out a slide from the now shattered projector. She held it up to the remaining unbroken light in the room, examining it closely.
“Magnificent,” she softly breathed. Truly Ranma was a prize befitting one such as herself.
Shampoo-kun sighed in relief as another day of school drew to a close. The whole school experience was proving itself a big waste of time. They were teaching him a bunch of things that he was never going to use instead of practical things. The worst was Japanese history, which seemed to be filled with nothing but the achievement of males. The only subjects she really liked were the English class (which she spoke only slightly worse than her Japanese, she thought with pride) and math, which was easy to understand since it mostly dealt with numbers.
As she met Akane and Ranma-chan, he noticed the same tired expression on the redhead’s features. “How Ranma… er, Shampoo day go at school?”
“Boring,” Ranma-chan said, earning a sniff from Akane and a reprimand that school was important and that she should try harder to enjoy it. Shampoo-kun saw no reason to mention he felt the same way as Ranma-chan.
As the trio made their way outside the main school building and into the yard surrounding the school, they found themselves confronted by a group of five girls in matching outfits composed of blue tops, short yellow skirts, white socks, and black shoes. Each one bore a set of pompoms in their hands. Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun couldn’t help noticing the rest of the Furinkan student body seemed to be giving the group a wide berth.
“Who the heck are you guys?” Ranma-chan asked.
One of the girls moved to the front of the assembly. Ranma-chan noted she was a tall, very attractive, busty blonde. A quick evaluation of the way the girl moved, along with her bearing and demeanor, made Ranma-chan think this was probably the leader.
The blonde spoke, her comments directed towards Shampoo-kun. “Of course. Where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself and the other girls you will be dating from this point onward.” She gave a sweeping gesture towards the girls behind her and began the introductions in a right to left order.
The redhead farthest on the right gave Shampoo-kun a hearty smirk.
A shorter girl, blonde, and the most attractive of the group, placed a hand on her hip and thrust her chest out towards Shampoo-kun.
The tallest of the girls stepped forward. She was a raven-haired beauty with a menacing glare in her eyes that was missing from the other girls.
A chestnut-colored, curly-haired girl waved her pompoms and gave a little cheer. While only being slightly taller than Kaede, she was not quite as attractive as the other girls, though still very cute.
With the last of her girls’ introductions out of the way, the speaker presented herself to the others. “And I am the greatest of them all, Captain Ai Konjou, leader of the Furinkan Cheerleader Squad!”
The group gave out a cheer and struck a collective pose.
Whereas most of the time Shampoo-kun felt only slightly uncomfortable over the longing stares some of the girls gave him, the looks the cheerleader squad gave him made him want to break out in a run. Ai’s gaze was easily the worst, making Shampoo-kun feel as though he was being stripped on the spot.
“You’re even more attractive in person, Ranma,” Ai said as she continued undressing Shampoo-kun with her eyes.
Ranma-chan gave a cocky little smirk. “You got that right.”
“She means Shampoo,” Shampoo-kun whispered in her ear.
Ranma-chan’s smile turned into a frown. She was becoming more irritated by the day over the name change thing. And worse, Shampoo-kun was getting all of the attention when Ranma-chan knew she was more attractive than him, as a guy or a girl. She began to wonder if maybe she should go to school as a guy a few times to take some of the pressure off the Amazon and have the girls flock to her instead.
Ranma-chan turned back to the situation at hand. She gained Ai’s attention. “Let me get this straight. All of you want to date him?”
“Why not?” Ai asked. “We do everything together.”
Akane wore a nauseated look. Shampoo-kun looked at them in disbelief, and Ranma-chan just her head sadly. That was just plain wrong.
“Do whatever you want to them,” Ranma-chan told Shampoo-kun. “They deserve it.”
The Amazon needed no words of encouragement. Being treated like a toy that could be exchanged from girl-to-girl all but ensured a nasty beating for the group. A beating that would serve as a message to the other members of the female student body as well.
Just as he was about to move forward, Akane called out, “Wait.”
“Why?” he asked, eager to get things over with.
“These girls are different,” Akane explained, noticing she had gained Ranma-chan’s attention as well. “They’re dangerous. They haven’t been around because the principal sent them away on a cheerleader tour of the world. The stated reason was that they were to represent Furinkan, but the real reason was because they were becoming too powerful and dangerous.”
Ranma-chan scoffed at that. “And just how are cheerleaders dangerous?”
“They know Martial Arts Cheeleading,” Akane said.
Ranma-chan’s scoff turned into a laugh. “There ain’t no such thing as Martial Arts Cheerleading.”
Ai moved forward. “Oh, but there is, and we have perfected it. We have traveled all over the world, challenging the other schools’ cheerleader squads and triumphing over all of them. Now we stand alone. The pinnacle which others try to reach yet fail to achieve. We are a thing like unto gods.”
“Goddesses,” Megumi corrected.
“Whatever.” Ai gave a dismissive gesture at the interruption.
Shampoo-kun remained unimpressed. Regardless of his curse, he was still the champion of his generation and more than a match for a bunch of foreign, pretty-girl would-be martial artists. He moved forward again and launched himself at the quintet of girls, targeting their buxom blonde leader as the first one to go down. Without her, there was a reasonable chance the others would falter, or at least be thrown off their battle plan. It depended on how important Ai was to the rest of the team.
To Shampoo-kun’s surprise, Ai stood her ground. The surprise changed to delight as he threw a punch towards the blonde, wondering if Akane had overrated the girl’s battle prowess. He threw his fist right for Ai’s smiling face.
Things seemed to go into slow motion as Ai threw herself backward, the fist missing her by barely a centimeter. The move turned into a cartwheel, removing her completely from her attacker’s reach. Shampoo-kun’s eyes began to follow Ai’s backward path, when he realized why Ai had remained motionless until the last second. She had used her body to shield the Amazon’s view of Kyoko and Kaede, who were coming in low on Shampoo-kun. He had already been off-balance from the first failed attack and easily fell prey to the double-shoulder block the girls aimed at his legs. Rather than being knocked backward as the duo simultaneously struck, the girls lifted up and tossed Shampoo-kun high into the air. He twisted in mid-flight and was about to regain his balance, when he understood why the girls had hurled him upwards in the first place. Ayeka and Megumi had already been airborne and were just now coming down from the apex of their leap. Two feet connected with his mid-section, winding him and driving him downward towards the ground.
The only warning he received, that told him something else would connect with him before the ground, was a flash of blonde hair. He only managed a glimpse of it right before a baton struck him in the back hard enough to redirect his airborne course from straight down to one more parallel to the ground. He landed roughly about fifteen feet away.
Ignoring the pain from his chest and back, Shampoo-kun forced himself to his feet with as little of a grimace as he could muster. There was no way he was going to let them know how effective their attack had been. However, the only result that seemed to generate was a grin of pleasure from Ai.
“Oh, a tough one,” she purred as Shampoo-kun once again caught her undressing him with her eyes.
Anger come bubbling to the surface as he once again charged at Ai, but this time veered off at the last moment and went after the girl to Ai’s left, Kaede. The shift worked well enough for him to connect with one blow before the others recovered and fell on him with another well-choreographed attack. Having a better measure of their combat abilities, he was able to block all but three of the blows.
This time he voluntarily backed off, only to quickly attack again before the girls could set up yet another coordinated assault against him. His action did little good. For the one blow he landed on Kyoko, four others struck on all sides. He was forced to back off once again, breathing hard as the pain from the blows he had taken to the stomach throbbed worse than ever.
Ai came to the forefront of the girls once again, her gaze even more predatory than before. “You are a strong one, Ranma. Whole teams have fallen to less than what we have attacked you with. But conventional attacks are not our only technique.” She turned to the others. “Girls! Exploding Pompom Attack!”
Five sets of identical blue and yellow pompoms appeared in the cheerleaders’ hands. They all gave a rousing cheer and leaped into the air, pointing their pompoms towards their target. Tiny blue pellets began shooting outwards, exploding as they struck the ground. Shampoo-kun did his best to avoid the explosions as the ground blew up around him.
Ranma-chan was watching the unorthodox attack in awe when he noticed several stray pellets heading towards her and Akane.
“Look out!” she shouted as she shoved Akane out of the way, and then tried to evade the explosions herself. She managed to avoid a direct hit, but was caught in the blast radius of the explosion, which hurled her several feet.
“That’s it!” she spat as she got up, affording a glance towards Akane to make sure she had not been caught in the explosion. “You guys are way too dangerous to be allowed to roam free. You can hurt someone like that.”
“That someone is going to be you, if you don’t get out of our way!” Ayeka sneered at the impudent remark.
Ranma-chan gave a grin that was anything but reassuring as she cracked her knuckles. “Oh, is that so?”
While Ranma-chan had her ‘talk’ with Ayeka, Kaede returned her attention to Shampoo-kun. She threw a set of pompoms at him. He was about to move out of the way when he realized they would pass on either side of him, missing him by no more than a few inches.
It was as they were about to pass that he realized what a mistake he had made. The pompoms were attached together by a cord, which then proceeded to wrap themselves around Shampoo-kun’s legs like a set of bolos would, effectively trapping him. Kaede gave a cry of delight at finally rendering her foe motionless and ripe for the kill. She leapt high in the air and aimed for Shampoo-kun’s head, only to have her target moved out from under her by a red-haired blur.
Ranma-chan held the Amazon in her arms. She maneuvered it so she had one hand free, and then severed the cord binding Shampoo-kun’s legs, allowing him to regain his feet.
“Time to take care of business.” Ranma-chan dropped into a fighting stance and Shampoo-kun followed suit.
The cheerleaders appeared undaunted as they ran into combat once again. This time, Ranma-chan made a difference as even the group attacks became less effective, the squad receiving as much punishment as they dished out. For five minutes a fierce battle raged before Ai called out to her team to back off, even though they were starting to gain the advantage.
Ai shot a defiant glare towards her opponents. “You have foolishly earned the full wrath of myself and my team. None shall defy us and our will.” She gave a hand signal to the squad, which then set up in a wide line.
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun stared at them, bewildered at what they might be up to. The squad did not have their pompoms out, most likely meaning some other bizarre form of attack.
“It’s time!” Ai gave another hand signal. All of the members took a deep breath and shouted. “THAT’S ALL RIGHT! THAT’S O.K.! THEY CAN’T BEAT US ANYWAY!”
The martial arts cheering attack was unlike anything either had experienced before. The ground in front of and beneath them swelled and exploded, sending them both high in the air. An ungracious landing followed as both hit hard, each stunned. They were barely able to track the squad as they repositioned themselves once more.
Ai moved forward. “Don’t get me wrong, this has been fun, but its time to end this for good. “ She raised her arm dramatically, pointing it skyward. “Witness the awesome power of our new finishing maneuver that we came up with just last week. Furinkan High Cheerleader Final Attack: The Whirlwind Pyramid!”
“I thought you said you watched the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman do this, and we were just copying it,” Kyoko said.
“Be quiet,” hissed Ai. “Form up!”
The girls obeyed. Ayeka and Megumi stood next to each other, backs straight. Kyoko and Kaede leaped upon their shoulders, which was followed by Ai jumping on top of Kyoko and Kaede’s shoulders as well, forming the top of the ‘pyramid.’
“I don’t like the looks of this,” Ranma-chan muttered as she watched the group begin to spin in a circle. Faster and faster the group moved, until they were nothing more than a blurring tornado. Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun continued watching in dread as the miniature whirlwind took off. Both tensed up, though were at a loss as to how to defend themselves from that sort of attack. Higher and higher the team soared, while the duo on the ground waited for an attack to occur. They were still waiting for something to happen when they heard a series of cries come from within the whirlwind.
“I told you we haven’t mastered this well enough to use outdoors!”
“I’m getting really dizzy!”
“Stop spinning. I think I’m going to be sick!”
“How do we stop this thing?!”
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun relaxed as the whirlwind disappeared off in the distance. Akane came up to the duo, scanning the horizon the entire time. “Well, that was anti-climactic.”
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun stood up and brushed themselves off, neither seeming particularly happy.
“That was terrible,” the redhead grumbled.
Akane looked at her, surprised. “What do you mean? You beat them.”
Shampoo-kun joined in. “No. Ranma right. Is bad. They beat selves. We no defeat them. If not mess up, girls win.”
“C’mon. Let’s go home.” Ranma-chan let the way, dejected over the perceived failure.
“My boy was beaten by a bunch of girls. Oh, the indignity of it all!” Genma wailed.
A bonbori was introduced to the top of his head. “There nothing wrong with girl beating boy in fight. Is way things should be.” She left the bonbori were it was as a reminder of that fact.
“You didn’t see them, Pop. They moved perfectly with one another,” Ranma pointed out as he made his way back to the center of the dojo to practice with Shampoo once again. “Me or Shampoo could take any one of them on easy. Probably any two. I might be able to do three of them if that Ai girl wasn’t one of them, but not all five. Even together, me and Shampoo won’t be able to beat them. At least until we figure out some way to break up their attacks.”
“Just take them one at a time,” Genma said.
“It’s not that easy,” Akane said. “They operate as a team and won’t willingly fight separately. It’s like fighting one body with ten legs and arms.”
“There’s some sort of weakness,” Ranma insisted. “No technique is perfect.”
“Maybe if we gang up on them that will work. How about I help out?” Akane said.
Ranma gave her an angry look. “I don’t need no help. I wouldn’t let Shampoo help me except they attacked her first, and she’s their real target.”
Akane scowled back and went to lean against the wall. He didn’t have to be so rude about it.
“I know how you can beat them.”
All eyes turned to Nabiki, who had just entered the dojo.
Ranma was over to her side in a flash. “How? How? Tell me!”
Nabiki gave no outward sign of being moved by the plea. “How important is it to you?”
“Really, really important!”
Nabiki shook her head. “No. I mean how $important$ is it to you?”
Ranma sighed. They reached a monetary agreement and she gave him the information. He was practically bubbling in excitement. If what she had told him was correct, taking down the cheerleader squad was going to be easy.
The next day went along just as they had thought. As Ranma-chan and the others had suspected, the cheerleader squad was waiting for them before school. Also, as she thought might happen, a crowd had gathered to witness the upcoming battle as well. Already Nabiki was circulating the crowd with her friends, taking bets. Ranma-chan did manage to catch someone mentioning that the odds were in her side’s favor. That was a good sign. It meant that Nabiki had confidence in the information she had given.
Ai and the other members of her squad were cheering at the crowd, trying to get them fired up and into the fight. Ranma-chan was annoyed to note that the crowd’s cheers were loudest when it came to describing the squad and what little chance she and Shampoo-kun had of winning.
“Let’s get this over with!” Ranma-chan shouted at the squad, who gave one last rousing cheer before taking their places on the makeshift field of combat.
“Ranma,” Ai said, “We already have a dating schedule picked out for you. Assuming you are still in working condition for tonight, it will be me who goes out with you. Tomorrow it’s Kaede—“
“Hey!” Kaede interrupted. “That’s not fair! You’ll wear him out and my date will suck.”
“I’m the captain, and what I say goes,” Ai said with a hint of menace in her voice. Kaede’s complaints ended with that.
Shampoo-kun spoke up. “Ranma sorry, cheerleaders waste time and make useless schedule. You no going to win fight.”
“We’ll see,” Ai replied as the squad went into their attack positions.
Ranma-chan took note of this and whispered conspiratorially in her partner’s ear, “Look at the way they’re standing.”
“They make it too, too easy,” he agreed.
Much to the surprise of the cheerleaders, the duo took the initiative and attacked. Luck was with the duo as their plan began to work. Shampoo-kun managed to separate Kyoko and Kaede from the others and allowed Ranma-chan to hold the other three off while he sent the plan into motion.
Shampoo-kun allowed the two to double-team him and simply defended himself, content to wait for just the right moment. It came only about a minute into the fight. He at last attacked, slipping a kick past Kaede’s guard. The blow would not take her out, but rather would keep her out of the way for the next few seconds.
Kyoko saw this and went into a defensive posture, intent on waiting until Kaede recovered and the two would begin to attack on concert again. She was taken by surprise when, instead of attacking, Shampoo-kun gave her a loving stare. Her heart all but melted under that gaze.
The Amazon spoke up. “It too bad Ranma no interested in dating cheerleader now. If Ranma was, would date Kyoko for sure.”
“Really?” Kyoko dropped her guard. She had always thought all of the other girls on the team were much prettier than her.
“It true.” Shampoo-kun moved closer, still not attacking, but instead tilted Kyoko’s chin up so she was looking directly into his eyes. “Kyoko is prettiest girl on team.”
“Wow,” Kyoko murmured. She was starting to slip into a fantasy when the recovered Kaede grabbed her and shook her by the shoulders.
“Snap out of it! He’s just lying to you, so you won’t attack him.” Kaede cursed her partner’s infamous gullibility. Besides, she was the prettiest girl on the team
“Kaede should no be jealous just because Kyoko much, much prettier than her,” Shampoo-kun taunted.
Kaede’s face began to twitch as she released her hold on Kyoko and spun in anger towards Shampoo-kun. “What are you, blind?! I am ten times more attractive than that cow!”
That snapped Kyoko out of another fantasy that had threatened to take root. “Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“Simple,” Kaede stated proudly. “I am clearly the best looking girl, not only on this team, but in this entire school. While you are just sort of… there.”
“Well Ranma thinks I’m prettier than you,” Kyoko retorted.
“That right.” Shampoo-kun smiled, confident that was the final move he needed to make.
Kaede’s facial twitching became even fiercer. “Liar! I’m better looking than this cow!”
Kyoko began to tremble in anger herself. “I am not a cow, Thunderthighs.”
“My thighs are not thick! You take that back!” Kaede attacked Kyoko, who attacked right back. The pair completely abandoned their martial arts skills in favor of a good old-fashioned cat fight. Shampoo-kun admired his handiwork for a moment before going to help Ranma-chan.
As Ranma-chan had told her father the night before, even she could not fight off three cheerleaders at the same time, especially with Ai involved. She took a flying leap kick at Megumi, who cartwheeled out of the way to come up next to Ayeka.
“AIRRRRR KICK!” the two shouted together. The redhead was surprised to feel herself struck by what felt like a blow. She had not anticipated on them only needing two people to do the cheering attacks, and she began to wonder if she was going to be able to hold out long enough for either Shampoo-kun to take care of his duo or if Nabiki would move into position. One glance afforded to the bleachers showed that Nabiki was at her prearranged place and the next phase of the plan could take effect. They had not even had to pay her anything, since it was in her best interest to see the cheerleading squad lose, due to the way the bets had been wagered.
Ranma-chan was trying to figure out how to get Ayeka to stop attacking when the cheerleader did it on her own. “You’re good. Why don’t you join us?”
Ranma-chan smiled. Things were working out even better than she had hoped, for a change. “I would, but I wouldn’t want to make you look bad.”
The reply was little more than a scoff as Ayeka said, “Do you really think your martial arts are that good?”
“I don’t mean my martial arts, I mean my looks.” She let that sink in. Seeing Ayeka begin to quiver, she added. “After all, if I were to stand next to you it would make your hips look even bigger than they are.”
“My hips are not big!” That had always been a sticking point of Ayeka Hibishi. When she was smaller, people had always said she had ‘good hips’ which meant they were big. Oh sure, her mother’s friends always said that just meant she would be good at having children, but she didn’t want to have big hips. She wanted to have normal ones, like all the other girls. But every now and then, someone would mention them, then her martial arts cheerleading would come into play as she ‘corrected’ their behavior.
It was time for the second part of the plan: acting sympathetic to Ayeka to redirect her anger away from him. “There is nothing wrong with that. I have a friend named Akane Tendou whose hips are at least as big as yours.”
“HEY!” Akane shouted from her place in the stands. That particular comment had not been part of the plan.
Nabiki sat in the crowded bleachers and watched Ayeka’s still fuming form on the field. The plan had come together perfectly. She squatted out of sight behind Kunou, pulled out a megaphone, and shouted, “Look everyone! Shampoo is fighting the big-hipped one!”
For one brief moment everything stopped. Ayeka slowly turned in the direction of where the comment had come from. Nearly everyone gasped as they saw an intricate network of veins bulge out upon Ayeka’s face. An intensely blue aura shot out from her, almost extending far enough to hit Ranma-chan. The shorter girl made certain to increase her distance from the glowing girl. She was not the only one as Ai and Megumi ran for cover, knowing that it was too late and that the ‘Ayeka Bomb’ was about to explode.
“WHO… SAID… THAT!” Ayeka barely managed to get out.
Nabiki stood up from her position from behind the still as yet unaware Kunou, who had spent the entire time fixated on Ranma-chan, and pointed to him. Nabiki was in motion less than a second later, trying to get as much distance between her and the scapegoat as she could. A moment later, the rest of the student body, save Kunou, ran for their lives as well.
With an incoherent scream, Ayeka leaped towards Kunou like a human missile. Kunou, at last tearing his gaze from his vision of loveliness, noted Ayeka’s approach. “I see,” he said to himself. “My handsome features have captured yet another sweet damsel’s fancy. She approaches me, no doubt, to ask if I would date her. Truly a tempting offer, but alas, my heart belongs only to Akane Tendo and Shampoo. I must refuse this damsel, but gently lest I break her fragile heart.” He stood up and proudly announced, “I cannot date you!”
Ayeka impacted with the bleachers, blowing up the entire thing in a huge blue explosion. Nabiki wondered if those were the last words that the world would hear pass from the lips of Tatewaki Kunou. Once the smoke cleared, she was able to make out Ayeka’s unconscious form next to a teetering Kunou.
“She did not take that very well.” Kunou at last hit the ground, unconscious.
Ai and Megumi looked for Kyoko and Kaede, spotted them, then looked for Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun. They saw them, and then looked at each other.
“It doesn’t look like I’ll be going out tonight,” Ai sighed. Megumi just gave her a weak look, and then paled as an evilly grinning Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun approached them, the promise of violence gleaming in their eyes.
One beating later, a defeated Ai stared mournfully at her opponents. “How did you do it?”
Ranma-chan openly smirked at the girl. “You guys were tough and your technique was impressive, but you have one flaw. Your vanity. Once we learned how conceited you guys were, we concentrated on exploiting that. After a few of you were out of the way, it was easy.”
Nabiki and Akane came over to the victorious duo, each with their own feelings on the matter.
“I cleaned up,” Nabiki said as she continued to count a wad of cash in hand.
“Will we see any of that money?” Ranma-chan asked.
“Look all you want at it,” Nabiki offered as she spread it in a fan in her hand until Ranma-chan turned away in annoyance.
It was Akane’s turn as she spoke through gritted teeth. “There is still the little matter of my hips to discuss.”
“There is nothing little about the matter of your hips,” Ranma-chan said bluntly. Akane was in the mood to reciprocate, and bluntly punted her away.
“Busy day,” Nabiki confided to Shampoo-kun as they finally made their way into the school.
Akane was in a far more pleasant mood, Ranma-chan’s grumbling about ‘violent tomboys who can’t take criticism’ upon the redhead’s return to school all but forgotten. The rest of the day had gone well, everyone pleased at the victory over the annoying cheerleaders. Upon returning home, she decided to go through her katas. She had to admit, Shampoo’s presence had, for some reason, urged her to practice her martial arts harder, forcing her to press through katas that she would have previously just gone through the motions of. She was so focused on practice that she failed to notice her father’s presence until he applauded her when she was through.
“Impressive,” he complimented.
Akane beamed at the praise, not that her father was stingy with his approval, but it reinforced what she had already believed. “Thanks, Dad. I’ve been practicing a lot with Ranma and Shampoo.”
Soun moved forward into the dojo to stand next to Akane. “That’s what I have been concerned about. You seem to spend all of your time either studying or practicing lately. So, I have decided you should go out and have a good time tonight, on me.”
Akane was a bit surprised at the sudden gesture. Still, he was right about her not doing much for herself lately. She hadn’t even had a chance to hang out with Sayuri or her other friends. “Thanks, dad.” Her mind was already racing with what she and the others could do.
Soun clapped his hands in excitement. “I’m sure Ranma and you will have a marvelous time together.”
“I’m sure we wi… wait a minute. What do you mean, ‘Ranma and me?’” Now things were starting to become clear, and Akane was not sure she liked what she was seeing.
As usual, Soun missed the suspicious look now in his daughter’s eyes. “Saotome and I decided that it is about time you two went out on a date. After all, you are already engaged.”
“Not that I had any choice in the matter,” Akane grumbled.
“Now, now,” Soun cajoled. “Give the boy a chance. I am sure that if you spend some time with him, you will learn he is a kind and caring fellow.”
Akane wondered if he was talking about the same Ranma Saotome she knew. “What will happen is that he will eventually say something terrible about me. That’s what always happens. It’s like a reflex or something.”
“Please, Akane. Do it for your father.”
Akane recoiled as she noticed the first signs of tears in Soun’s eyes. The battle was as good as lost now, so she ceded the fight for the evening. “All right, I’ll go.” But she wasn’t going to like it.
Ranma was doing a one-armed handstand as he tried to focus his concentration. Before Jusenkyou, he had little trouble slipping off into a meditative state while upside down. But since then he had been unable to regain his focus. Lately, though, things had changed, and he could feel the edges of a meditative state almost upon him.
“Boy, you look sort of tired.”
Ranma lost his concentration at the sound of his father’s voice. Deciding he wasn’t going to succeed tonight, he came out of the handstand and stood up, so he was looking at his father face to face. “Ah, I’m fine. Horsing around with those cheerleaders barely got me warmed up.”
Genma took off his glasses and wiped them clean. “A martial artist always needs to be in top form. Take the night off, boy. And here’s some money.” Genma held out a small amount of money and all but shoved it into Ranma’s hands.
Almost reflexively, Ranma grabbed the money. Just as he took it out of Genma’s hands, the whole unusual nature of the situation caught up to him. “What’s going on, Pop? You don’t give anything to anyone unless there are strings attached.”
Genma actually had the audacity to sound offended. “Nonsense, my boy. No strings attached. You need a break. Have a good night with Akane.”
Ranma’s eyebrow shot up at that. “And what exactly does Akane have to
do with this money?”
“You need the money to treat your fiancée right when the two of you go out on your date tonight.” Genma placed his arm around Ranma’s shoulder. “Trust me, boy. Women love it when you shower them with two things: attention and money.”
“I don’t want to shower her with nothin’!” Ranma shot back. It figured his father would be at it again. He knew he should have expected it. It had been at least twenty-four whole hours since the last time his father had tried to do something to push Ranma towards her.
Genma tightened his grip. “Akane is your fiancée. You should treat her better. Go out on a date and have fun.”
Ranma wriggled out of his father’s grip. “I’ve got a better idea. Shampoo’s free tonight. Why don’t we engage her to Akane this time and let the two of them go out?”
“Quit joking around,” Genma said. “Just treat her nice and the two of you will get along fine. Besides, Tendou and I made reservations for the two of you at a nice restaurant. This is the only time you’ll get a chance to eat really good food, so don’t blow it.”
“Unlike you, I don’t live for food.” Ranma crossed his arms, satisfied with himself until a loud grumble from his stomach betrayed him. Reconsidering his position, he thought that perhaps it would be nice to actually eat out for a change. And going out with Akane might actually keep both fathers from continuously trying to ram the two of them together. “I’ll do it.”
Genma slapped Ranma on the back, delighted that the boy was finally starting to see reason. “That’s the spirit. Go up and get changed, and don’t worry about asking Akane out, she already agreed to it.” Well, if Soun had done his job correctly, she already had. It was long past time the boy starting taking his responsibilities seriously. Ranma was almost out of the room when Genma remembered one last detail. He fished a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. “Here you go, boy.”
“What is it?” Ranma asked as he eyed the paper suspiciously.
“And exactly what do I need an itinerary for?”
Genma shook his head sadly at his son’s naiveté. “You don’t know the first thing about romancing a girl. Tendou and I put our minds together and came up with this surefire plan to impress her. Take her to all of these places and she’ll thank you for it.”
Ranma rolled his eyes and accepted the paper. There was no telling what the two men had come up with. However, arguing with his father would accomplish nothing. All Ranma wanted to do was eat.
A third dress joined its two companions on the bed. Given Akane’s mood, it was probably lucky it hadn’t ended up in the garbage instead. She felt like just throwing everything in her closet out and giving up. It seemed as though everything she owned made her look like she was fourteen. Technically it was her first date ever, not that she cared what she looked like for Ranma. That was not why she was worried at all. No, she just didn’t want everyone else to think she looked too young.
“Right,” she said out loud. And that settled that. She tried on a fourth dress that looked like it might have a chance of not making her look even younger than she already was.
A rapping on the door stopped any further debates as to whether or not the dress was good enough to wear. “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Ranma,” a low voice said from the other side of the door.
Akane’s eyes snapped to her mirror to look herself over one more time. The dress would have to do. “Come in.”
Ranma opened the door just enough to slip inside before quickly closing it behind him. “We gotta get out of here, quick.”
“Why?” Akane noticed his furtive gestures, and wondered what he had done now.
“Our fathers are setting up a banner and party stuff downstairs for our first ‘date.’ I don’t want them to spoil the mood,” he explained.
Akane stared at him in surprise. “You don’t?”
“Nah,” Ranma shook his head. “All that fiancée stuff will just spoil my digestion.”
So that was what it was all about. “I get it. You don’t want to be seen with me!” Akane snapped.
Ranma stared at her, bewildered at how she had come up with that one. “No, it’s not that. I just want to have a good time and not think about that stuff.”
That had caught her off guard. She had her doubts about him taking the date seriously, assuming he had been somehow forced into it like she had. But now she was beginning to wonder. At least what he said made sense. “I understand. I don’t like being reminded of it either.”
That was a relief to Ranma. He had been halfway certain she would have balked at the idea of keeping quiet. “Then let’s head out the window.” Seeing her agree, he gently picked her up in his arms and jumped out the window. Akane barely stifled a gasp as she found herself floating in midair briefly. Despite the height, she felt safe being in Ranma’s arms. There were no doubts that he would drop her, and that reassurance put her at ease. Maybe things would turn out all right after all.
A surprisingly quiet evening, that was what it was. They had made it to the restaurant without any stray thunderstorms or buckets of water landing on Ranma. No one jumping out of some bushes and challenging him to a fight. No Kunou to glomp either one, or more likely, both of them. No fathers to hassle or just make a general nuisance of themselves. And the food wasn’t half bad either. All of her fears of SOMETHING going wrong on their date seemed to have been unfounded. Ranma had not even said anything rude or insulting the entire time, and it had been well over two hours that the duo had been alone with one another.
Akane decided it was time to let Ranma know about that. She turned to him “Ranma?”
“Murph?” he said through the chicken he had stuffed into his mouth.
Okay, Akane thought. Maybe there was another reason why he had not put his foot in his mouth yet. His table manners were pretty gross, but at least they were having a good time. She decided to leave it at that for now.
“Our fathers picked that one, didn’t they?” Akane asked as the two left the movie theater.
Ranma gave a derisive snort. “What was the giveaway? Was it the fact the story involved a man and his fiancée that didn’t want to be engaged at first, but fall in love and get married later?”
“It was something like that,” Akane chuckled. The experience at the movie theater had proved the same as dinner. Akane was amazed that Ranma had still been hungry, even after eating a large meal. He had gotten a two-gallon tub of popcorn and put so much of the buttery liquid flavoring on it that she was certain she could hear his arteries clog. Besides the constant munching, things had gone okay. It was true that Ranma was not behaving exactly the way she thought guys were supposed to act on a date, but she wasn’t sure exactly how guys WERE supposed to act on a date. Most of the things her girlfriends said they did made it sound like the guys were perverts, something she would have smacked Ranma for if he tried doing anything like that. But actually he had acted like… well, not like a gentleman, but he clearly wasn’t interested in trying anything. Oddly, that put her even more at ease than before.
With those concerns laid to rest, she turned to other matters. “What’s next in the schedule?”
Ranma brought out the itinerary and looked it over again. He still wondered why he was following it, but then he really had no idea of what else to do. “It says we’re supposed to go to a wax museum. That’s stupid. Whoever heard of going to a wax museum on a date?”
“It sounds neat,” Akane said.
Ranma looked at her in surprise. “You think so?”
The whole thing sounded silly to him, but how much worse could it be than the theater? He agreed and the pair of them set off for the wax museum.
Arriving there, they saw that the place was what they had expected. There were wax statues of famous people, movie monsters, politicians, infamous criminals, and infamous magical girls. Ranma had no idea there was ever a ‘Magical Bondage Girl Lashina’ that had stalked the streets of Japan. The way the statue had been dressed had given him chills that ran down his spine, and he wondered if he would have nightmares about her and her ‘Whip of Pain and Pleasure’. He wished he hadn’t come at all.
Akane, on the other hand, had seemed to enjoy the visit. “This place is neat. I haven’t been to one of these in years.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Ranma answered, now somewhat bored. He looked ahead to see if they were getting close to the exit.
“Hmm, that’s interesting,” Akane said.
“What is?” Ranma asked, looking at her to see if he could find what she was talking about.
“Magical Bondage Girl Lashina’s cute animal sidekick, Rugmuncher, looks an awful lot like Mousse. The panda even has robes and glasses just like him. You think maybe it fell into that spring too?”
Ranma was surprised at the resemblance. “Maybe Mousse had a brother or something. Hey! The statue moved. I didn’t know they were animated.”
“They aren’t,” Akane pointed out.
Understanding dawned on Ranma just as Mousse-panda swiped at him with a furry fist. It connected solidly and drove Ranma into several of the politician statues. Recovering quickly, Ranma dodged the next two swipes and landed a solid kick into Mousse-panda’s gut. However, the cursed boy’s heavy form prevented him from being moved by the strike. He lowered his shoulder and charged Ranma, driving him through one of the thin walls separating the statue displays.
Ranma was still on his back, winded for a moment, when he saw Mousse-panda barreling forward at him once again. Ranma knew he wasn’t going to be able to get up before the cursed boy was upon him. He cursed his luck. What a stupid way to die. Mauled to death by a blind panda.
With his goal at long last in sight –so to speak, since his glasses had been knocked around and now rested on his forehead— Mousse-panda bared his teeth at the form before him. It had been luck that he had spotted the accursed Saotome on his way into the wax museum. The plan for substituting his cursed form for one of the statues and lay in ambush had been sheer genius, and it had paid off. Now he would put an end to Ranma once and for all.
Mousse-panda leaped upon the blurry form and sunk his teeth into his neck. Rather than the hot taste of blood he had thought would be there, he met only some kind of gooey substance. Ranma’s flavor was just awful. He quit biting and spat out whatever had been inside Ranma. He then realized that, somehow, Ranma was still standing. He lowered his glasses to see how it was possible. With his vision actually being able to focus, he locked sight on what he had attacked and recoiled, horrified.
Ranma had been changed into a flesh golem.
“Cut that out!” A fist met the back of Mousse-panda’s head, knocking his glasses askew once more. Ranma was grossly insulted that Mousse-panda had mistaken a statue of Frankenstein’s Monster for him.
Mousse-panda recovered enough to charge again. Ranma quickly realized that, while the Chinese youth’s advantage of surprise was lost, the edge in close quarters combat Mousse-panda’s furry bulk gave him combined with Ranma’s lack of fighting room made the fight almost even.
Ranma was trying to figure out how to get past Mousse-panda and outside, when his opponent hurled an egg at him. Sensing the danger, Ranma nimbly dodged out of the way, allowing the egg to hit a wall and explode. Once the dust settled, Ranma saw that there was now a hole leading outside.
“Catch me if you can!” Ranma taunted as he ran outside the hole. Mousse-panda growled in fury and tried following, only to strike the wall next to the opening. After taking a minute to regain his senses, he charged out the hole to attack Ranma once more.
Upon emerging outside Mousse-panda began looking for Ranma, bellowing out in panda talk of what a coward he was for ducking out of a fight. That Ranma had absolutely no idea of how to understand panda never crossed his mind.
“I’m over here!”
The voice was unquestionably Ranma’s. Mousse-panda went around the corner of the building to locate the source of the sound. The side street was unusually dark, but it took only a moment for him to spot his opponent, standing in the shadows of the street, next to a broken fire hydrant that was spraying water around. The only thing he was able to make out was the familiar tuxedo on the shadowy figure’s form.
Blinded with anger, he simply charged forward, intent on mauling Ranma once again. He splashed water from the pool collecting around the figure and leaped onto the figure. Even Mousse-panda was surprised at how easily Ranma fell over. He actually took a moment to look closely at his opponent, rather than attacking him again. The Chinese youth was shocked to see the true nature of his opponent.
It was a mannequin wearing Ranma’s jacket.
“Looking for me, furball?”
Mousse-panda looked in the direction of the voice: directly overhead. He saw that Ranma was hanging upside down from a telephone pole; a wire with sparks shooting out of the end in his hand.
Mousse-panda didn’t have time to react as Ranma dropped the live wire into the pool. The electricity shot through the animal victim, knocking him out.
Ranma knocked the wire out of the water before going down and inspecting the mannequin. He examined the jacket, and then pulled it on as best as he could. “Moron. That was a rental.” He considered what to do with his unconscious attacker. Possibly a quick call to notify the zoo one of their pandas has escaped would work. It would at least keep the blind one out of way for a while, trying to find hot water in a panda pen.
Akane finally located Ranma just as he was finishing the call. She took note of the ruins of what had once been his jacket. Ranma, irritated at the loss of the jacket, spoke up before she could say anything.
“You were a lot of help,” he said sarcastically.
Akane’s temper began to flare. Everything had been fine up to the point they were attacked. “You seemed to have everything under control. Besides, you called me stupid the last time I tried to help you fight him.”
“I don’t call distracting me by calling me an idiot help.”
“Fine!” Akane shot back. “I won’t assist you anymore.”
“Good!” Ranma retorted. “Besides, it’s not like someone as clumsy as you could help me anyway.”
That was it. Akane’s temper snapped. “Fine! If you want to be that way, then this date’s off! Why don’t you just go home?!” She nailed him with a solid uppercut that hurled him away. It sure hadn’t taken long for things to deteriorate quickly. Some date it had turned out to be.
The night air felt particularly good as Nabiki sat on the back porch, leafing through a magazine. Everything was actually quite peaceful, for a change. Peace was something that had been in short supply since the arrival of the Saotomes and Shampoo. Still, excitement also tended to lead to opportunities, and Nabiki Tendou was not one to ever pass up one of those.
Nabiki paused in her casual reading and noted that she was not the only one present. Kasumi was cleaning the dining room table, while Genma and Shampoo were discussing something or other about martial arts as they stood next to the koi pond. Nabiki was about to go back to reading her book when a high-pitched whistling cut the night air. It took her all of two seconds to determine what it was.
“Kasumi, better get some hot water ready. We’re going to have company.”
“We are?” Kasumi asked.
Nabiki pointed up to the sky. Kasumi looked up, and then nodded in understanding as she went to get the kettle.
Shampoo made certain she was far away from the edge of the pond as the airborne visitor made a belly-first touchdown in the pond.
Nabiki held up a white sign with the number ‘7’ on it. Shampoo looked at her quizzically.
“He broke his form right at the end. I think I’m being unusually generous,” she explained.
Shampoo found herself agreeing as Ranma-chan’s form broke the surface of the water, face down. “It look like Akane decide to call end to date,” Shampoo said as she took note of the tiny bubbles that drifted up to the surface from around Ranma-chan’s head.
Genma walked up to the edge of the pond and looked down. “That fool boy. He ruined the tuxedo.” Genma knew damn well he wasn’t going to pay for it.
Kasumi moved to stand next to Shampoo. “I think the number of air bubbles is starting to slow down. Maybe you should jump in and get him out of the pond,” Kasumi told Shampoo.
Shampoo frowned at the water. “Shampoo not want to get wet.” She missed the faint look of disappointment that crossed Kasumi’s face.
“Here,” Nabiki handed Shampoo a boat hook. The Amazon used it to snag Ranma-chan by the back of the remains of the tuxedo’s collar and hoisted her in the air. The redhead shook her head back and forth to try to get rid of some of the water and revive herself.
“So, how did your date go?” Genma asked.
Ranma-chan shrugged. “Well, we had a nice dinner, saw a bad movie, went to a wax museum, got attacked by a nearsighted panda, and then I got sent here courtesy of the Akane Uppercut Express.”
“So the evening went pretty much the way you figured it would?” Nabiki asked.
“Yeah.” Ranma-chan shrugged. At least she had gotten a decent meal out of the deal.
Genma began jumping up and down in joy. “This is wonderful boy!”
Ranma-chan knew she was going to be sorry, but couldn’t resist. “And how do you figure that?”
“You didn’t make Akane mad until the third event of the evening. Your relationship is improving.”
“I don’t consider getting clobbered by my date at any time an ‘improvement.’”, Ranma-chan growled. “And I didn’t do anything to make her angry. She’s just got no control over her stupid temper.” She let herself off the boathook, accepted Kasumi’s kettle of hot water, and went inside to change. Now that he was male once again, he wondered why on earth he had ever accepted an engagement to anyone. Women were nothing but trouble.
“Cheez! Dis guy weighs a ton!” Kamiya exclaimed.
Fuji repositioned himself so he could get a better grip on his load. “You know, I don’t think this guy is one of ours.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I don’t remember any of our pandas walking around with a set of robes,” Fuji said as he set Mousse-panda down long enough to open the door to the panda pen. As the door opened, the five pandas currently in residence turned to see what was going on. Fuji and Kamiya greeted them, and then unceremoniously threw their new ‘animal’ into the water.
The cold liquid woke Mousse-panda. His head shot up in time to see the steel door shut. It took him a moment to awaken fully, and then do a quick examination of where he was. Given the fact there were other pandas in with him, it was safe to assume he was in a zoo of some kind. The area he was in was full of plants, bamboo, and long grass. Actually, it was a very realistic replica of the sort of environment that pandas would live in. For a moment, he actually considered resting there and allowing some of his strength to be restored. Pride prevented him from considering it for long. He was a man, not an animal, and would not allow himself to be caged.
Mousse-panda noted that the pandas watched for a moment, and then began to move around, shifting some of the bushes and rocks. Undoubtedly his arrival had awakened them and they were trying to find something to eat, he assumed. He ignored them from that point onward and put his problem to mind. Realizing that if he tried to escape the pen as a panda someone might try to recapture him, he elected to change first. He whipped out a tea set and burner from his robes and began heating up some water.
It was as he was heating the water that he felt something tap him on the shoulder. He turned to see that one of the pandas was offering him a cup filled with a substance that gave off a rich scent. Mousse-panda looked at the other pandas and noticed that they had indeed been looking for something to eat. Only instead of bamboo, it was a rather large platter of delicious looking pastries, which they had uncovered. That they were wearing napkins on their laps and eating daintily did not escape Mousse-panda’s notice.
They had also apparently gotten out a large silver machine and were pouring themselves cups of a dark brown substance that was similar to the one that he was being offered. It took Mousse-panda a moment to identify the machine and the contents. So, the panda was offering him an espresso. How… sweet.
He tried fanning the flames of the burner in a panic, praying it would heat up faster.
Part 2: …and Roses
Shampoo-kun trudged back home, the events of the day at school falling away behind him. He was starting to get used to being attacked every morning. Whether that was cause for concern or celebration, he could not say. At least it was helping him stay in shape.
Upon arriving, Shampoo-kun heard the sounds of two girls conversing from the living room. He walked into the room, only to find Akane talking to a girl whose face was bandaged up. The uniform of the unknown female identified her as being from Furinkan, however. He tensed up, just in case it was some kind of unorthodox ambush.
Shampoo-kun overheard Akane saying, ‘Well, if it’s for the school, I guess I’ll have to do it.’ That piqued his curiosity.
“What going on?” Shampoo-kun asked as he leaned against a wall and watched the two girls.
The girl got up to depart, giving Shampoo-kun a sweet ‘good-bye’. That left Akane to explain things. “She needed help. She belongs to the Furinkan Gymnastics Team. They have a match coming up with St. Hebereke. The star on that team is some nutcase called “The Black Rose.” She ambushed our team before the contest, so they couldn’t compete. From what I understand, she does that to all her opponents, so she’ll win all her matches by default.”
Shampoo-kun processed that rather unusual information. “So why they come to you? You no gymnast.”
Akane shrugged. “Well, it’s Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics. She explained how it works to me. You have to use weapons to take out your opponent during the match and since I’m one of the few martial artists she knows, she came to me. It’s for the pride of the school. I can’t say no.”
That made sense to Shampoo-kun. He went to get some hot water and let Akane go to the dojo to practice. After talking with Kasumi for about an hour, Shampoo’s curiosity won out and she went to the dojo to check up on Akane. She wondered how the girl was doing and if she was adapting well to the new weapons.
Akane sighed as she tried using yet another one of the gymnastic tools the girl had left her. She knew she could do better with the hoop. After all, she couldn’t possibly get tangled up in it like she had with the ribbon. It had taken her nearly half an hour to untie the knot she had somehow formed when she accidentally hog-tied herself with it.
It was as she found herself stuck in the hoop for the third time that Shampoo entered the dojo. After taking in the bizarre scene, she asked, “Why not let Shampoo help Akane with weapons? Shampoo learn when very young, so should be able to teach Akane okay.”
“Sure.” Akane said, proving herself a quick study and learning some of the basic ways that the ribbon and clubs could be used as weapons. Unfortunately, her enthusiasm did not make up for her lack of grace. As she tried one of the more difficult maneuvers, she slipped on one of the medicine balls that had been lying on the floor and twisted her ankle.
Shampoo felt it several times before giving Akane the verdict. “Shampoo think it sprained, not broken. Akane should go see doctor and make sure, though.”
“Great,” Akane said sadly as she allowed Shampoo to help her to her feet. “How am I supposed to fight when I can’t even walk?”
“No can stand, no can fight,” Shampoo confirmed.
“But I promised. I have to be able to fight.”
Shampoo thought about that for a minute. “Shampoo fight. Then Akane no have to worry.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
Shampoo nodded. It was her school too. Besides, she was better at fighting than any other girl at the school, except Ranma, sort of. And just how dangerous could someone that named themselves after a flower be?
Akane returned from her check-up from Doctor Tofu. He had confirmed Shampoo’s diagnosis of the sprain, but she was still sort of happy from seeing him again. It had been too long since she had had an excuse to come by, and of course the visit had been far too brief. He was sweet, kind, and just perfect, even if he did go to pieces around Kasumi.
Dropping by the dojo, Akane saw that Shampoo was still practicing while Ranma watched nearby with an idle eye. He saw Akane’s bandaged foot and came over immediately. She was a bit surprised by his concern, and found herself thinking that even though he was not as nice as the doctor, he did have his moments. They were few and far between, but they were there.
Seeing Shampoo was doing far better than Akane had, and not wanting to have to be reminded of that painful fact, Akane decided to retire early. She went up to her room, using the same amount of caution she usually did. Occasionally some schoolgirl would still try to sneak into the house to ambush Shampoo-kun and mistake Akane’s bedroom for Shampoo’s. Things had been improving, but Akane knew better than to drop her guard.
Her caution paid off as she spotted a few telltale strands of black hair sticking down from the rafters in the ceiling over her bed; the girls’ favorite ambush spot. Without hesitation, she rushed over as fast as she could with her bad ankle, and made a tiny one-legged jump, grabbing the hammer-wielding figure that had been hanging in the rafters. She grabbed onto the figure by the neck of her leotard and hurled her into the floor, hard. Akane took note that the ambushers were starting to become more risqué in their style of clothing.
Kodachi Kunou picked herself up off the floor, stunned that her ambush had backfired so badly. She had done some basic background research on her upcoming opponent and had intended to fairly knock her out before the competition. However, nothing in Akane’s background indicated she was good enough to get the jump on Kodachi the way she had.
“How did you know?” she asked Akane as she rose to her feet.
“Come on. This is the third time this week one of you has used that place as an ambush spot. And I’ll tell you the same thing I told the others. This is not Ranma’s room!”
Kodachi underestimated how winded she was from the earlier fall and was caught off guard as Akane managed to land a fist hard enough to knock Kodachi out of the window and high into the night sky.
Mousse felt like laughing now that he had come upon a brilliant plan that would eliminate Ranma once and for all and set Shampoo free. All he had to do was wait until Ranma was asleep, then run him through with a sharp weapon. True, it would have been far more embarrassing for Ranma to be defeated in personal combat, but being locked up in a panda pen was too humiliating. Saotome had to pay.
“Oh, Shampoo!” Mousse cried out, unable to contain his emotions at being so close to achieving his dreams and marrying Shampoo. At last she would be marrying a worthy man.
He looked upwards to the heavens, praying to the gods that Shampoo would be his by the end of the night, when he noticed something unusual. “That’s odd. I don’t remember it being a full moon out tonight. Wow! It looks really big, too.”
Kodachi’s rear end struck Mousse squarely in the face.
The Black Rose sat up, pleasantly surprised that her landing had been nowhere near as hard as she had feared. As she started to rise to her feet, her hands felt something soft. A glance beneath her and discovered why her landing had been so mild. A man had nobly thrown himself under her in order to break her fall.
Kodachi’s heart fluttered at the boldness of the strange man who had saved her from possible death. She managed to get a good look at his face and her heart nearly leaped out of her chest. He was incredibly gorgeous, his eyes being his most handsome feature. She had dreamed of such a moment all of her life. What incredible fortune she was having this night.
Mousse’s glasses had been knocked off his face again, so he was forced to use his hearing and sense of touch to figure out what had fallen from the sky and landed on him. A gasp escaped from what was still laying on him, a gasp too soft to be a man’s. As he sat up, his hands brushed up against a soft, yet firm, mass in the chest area of the girl that had been sitting on him. There was only one woman on the face of the earth who would have leaped upon him with such unbridled passion.
“OH, SHAMPOO!” he glomped onto his ‘love’ for all he was worth.
Kodachi was deliriously happy. The gorgeous man was already showering her with his affections. It was a dream come true. “What is your name?”
Mousse’s head jerked up. Shampoo didn’t recognize him? That was cause for concern. “It’s me, Mousse.”
“Mousse-sama.” She pronounced his name slowly, savoring the way the words rolled off her tongue. Even his name was perfect.
Mousse’s concern doubled. That was not Shampoo’s voice. His hands searched the ground, quickly discovering the location of his glasses. He put them on, getting a better look at whom he had grabbed. “You aren’t Shampoo.”
Kodachi’s hands were behind her back as she arranged a special present for her man. “I have no shampoo to give you, but perhaps these will do.”
The Black Rose brought a bouquet of her namesakes forward from behind her back, and thrust them into Mousse’s face. He had only a moment to admire them before the bouquet emitted a cloud of paralyzing gas causing him to freeze up. Kodachi leaned over the prone Chinese boy. “Mousse-sama, are you ready for that which will seal our destiny?”
Knowing the feeling that was already in his heart, and subsequently not needing an answer, she cradled his head in her hands and leaned over to kiss him. Just as her lips were about to meet his, a foot unceremoniously punted her off the roof and into the night sky.
Akane watched the Black Rose’s silhouette cut across the moon before fading off into the distance. “And don’t come back! You hear me?!” She crossed her arms and was about to leave when she realized there was another visitor to her abode. It took her a moment to recognize the boy she had seen more often as a panda then a human. “You’re that jerk that ruined my date last week! Well, I’ll tell you the same thing I told your girlfriend!” She appreciated him remaining motionless, allowing her to line him up with her good foot and get the best distance when punting him away as well. She was on target as she hit him right in the rear end and sent him even farther away than Kodachi. “Don’t come back either, you hear?!”
Akane returned inside, wondering what else the night would bring. She wasn’t even in the tournament anymore and was still getting attacked by lunatics.
Ranma looked over the scene in the gymnasium of St. Hebereke. The bleachers of the large arena were packed with students from both St. Hebereke and Furinkan, as well as other faces that were familiar to him. Kasumi, Soun, and Genma sat together with ‘ringside’ seats along the floor. Kunou was located a little ways off in the bleachers behind them. There would be plenty of people to witness the fight on hand. He decided to drift back to the dressing room to see how his ‘fighter’ was coming along.
Akane examined Shampoo closely and stifled her thoughts of jealousy. So she looked better in a leotard than Akane. Fine. It’s not like that was the sort of outfit Akane ran around in anyway. She had to admit, the dark purple bodice and light purple arms and legs of the outfit seemed to mix well with the color of her hair. She was going to look fine in her upcoming match.
Akane still had some reservations. “Are you sure you want to do this as a girl? You are taking a bit of a risk, with your curse and all.”
“Can no go in as boy.” Shampoo said. “Besides, no other person can do. Unless want Ranma.”
Akane began giggling uncontrollably, causing Shampoo to stare at her in confusion. “What wrong, Akane?”
“I just pictured Ranma in leotards.”
Shampoo sat there for a moment, confused as to why that would be the cause of amusement; that was until the picture of it formed in her mind. She began joining in the giggling, barely aware of the knock on the door. Both her and Akane found it almost impossible to even manage an ‘enter.’
Ranma strolled in. The two girls both went dead silent upon his entry. Ranma began to wonder what they thought he had done now, when they pointed and started laughing twice as hard as before.
“What?” he asked, hands on his hips. That seemed to only set them off more as tears started falling down their faces.
“Fine,” he grumbled in a dull roar that was completely missed by the two girls. “If that’s the way you’re going to be about it, I’m leaving.” He slammed the door shut behind him. Who cared if Shampoo won anyway?
It took the girls almost a full minute to bring their laughter under control. Once they calmed down, they headed to the ring. They moved cautiously, watching out for any more of Kodachi’s sneak attacks, like the bouquet full of sleeping gas she had sent to Shampoo’s room, which she had narrowly avoided. Their caution was unwarranted as both managed to make it to the ring without any problems.
Shampoo went to her corner as the other joined her. Akane was acting as her coach. Ranma was acting as her trainer, even if he had only helped her a little bit. And Nabiki sat on a stool as her manager.
“Why Mercenary Girl manager?” Shampoo asked.
“Are you kidding?” Nabiki said. “Do you have any idea how much money I make off our little venture at school? If your identity is blown, I can kiss my cash, as well as my reputation, goodbye.” Visions of Shampoo turning into her male form in the middle of the match, and all of the girls that had lusted after ‘him’ turning on Nabiki, had haunted her the last few days. There was no telling what the female student population of Furinkan would come up with in retribution, though Nabiki’s imagination came up with several possibilities. The most persistent one was about being drawn and quartered by sumo pigs.
Nabiki shook off the memory and held up a kettle of hot water for Shampoo to see. “That’s why I have this, just in case.”
“Well, as long as your heart is in the right place,” Ranma grumbled, suddenly glad that no one had tried to get him into that ring.
“Here she comes,” Akane said, ending the chatter among them.
Everyone watched as Kodachi was lowered from the roof on what appeared to be a swing. She was already dressed in a leotard. A black rose was held in her mouth. She delicately removed the flower and spoke. “It is time. Are you prepared for your downfall Akane—“ She stopped abruptly, realizing that Akane Tendou was most assuredly not the one in the ring. It took her a moment to spot her in Shampoo’s corner. She then smiled at Akane. “A substitute. How underhanded. I admire your sneakiness, Akane Tendou, but your subterfuge will avail you not.” Upon being set down, she turned to Shampoo. “And what is your name, lavender one?”
Shampoo had planned for this. She already had the false name picked out. “Am Shampoo Saotome.”
Various murmurs began throughout the Furinkan crowd. “Shampoo… Saotome… What could it mean?… Is she related to Ranma?… Looks like him… Strong family resemblance… She’s gorgeous… It’s not fair to have two family members so beautiful.”
One among them paid very special attention. “Interesting,” Kunou said. “She bears the same name as my beloved Shampoo, though her appearance is clearly different from one of my true loves. Still, to be related to the accursed Ranma Saotome is burden enough.”
“Hey, Ranma’s down there too,” Sayuri, who was behind Kunou, said.
Kunou began looking around. “Where? I see him not.”
“I mean Ranma, Shampoo’s brother, not the Ranma that’s Shampoo’s bro…” Sayuri trailed off, realizing just how ridiculous she sounded trying to explain things.
Kunou managed to piece enough of it together. “He is related to my Shampoo?”
“Yes. He’s related to the redhead, not the purple head. I think.” Her own head was now starting to hurt.
That was all Kunou needed to know. He pulled out a bouquet of flowers and rushed over to Ranma, the bouquet thrust forward in his hands. He called out ‘Ranma!’ once, gaining the pig-tailed martial artist’s attention. That had the effect of causing Ranma to panic, wondering how Kunou found out about the secret.
Kunou shoved the flowers towards Ranma. “Give these to your sister. Tell my love I shall meet her after the match to date her.”
Ranma’s relief gave way to disgust as he realized Kunou really was still giving them to him.
“Thank goodness he didn’t get me any,” Akane muttered under her breath. She found another bouquet thrust into her face this time.
“Akane Tendou, these are for you. Let us date after the match,” Kunou offered.
Ranma felt his temper rising. “And just how do you date two girls at once?”
Kunou gave a weeping, pained look. “It is difficult, but neither can exist without my presence for overlong. A burden for myself, I realize.”
Ranma and Akane’s disgust doubled.
“Did you get me any?” Nabiki asked, holding out her hand.
Kunou stared at her in confusion. “Why would I get flowers for a mercenary such as yourself?”
Kodachi took note of the disturbance in the corner of her opponent. “Brother dear. Why are you in the enemy’s camp?”
“I apologize, my sister,” Kunou shouted out. “However, I am forced to use intermediaries for contacting my beloved.”
All four of the people in Shampoo’s corner looked at Kunou in shock. “She’s your sister?”
Kunou bowed his head shamefully. “She is indeed my twisted sister. The depraved Black Rose, Kodachi Kunou.”
Ranma turned green, the horrifying thought of having someone like Kodachi also lusting after him entering into his mind for a brief second. Some things were best left unimagined.
With a momentary lull in the revelations, one other decided to make his presence known. Mousse leaped down from his hiding spot among the steel beams supporting the ceiling and landed next to Akane.
“Shampoo. I heard about this fight and came to help you.” He embraced Akane.
“Let go of me, you jerk!” she shouted as she tried wiggling out of his grasp.
Realizing he had made a mistake, he let go of her and began speaking to one of the corner posts. “Fear not, Shampoo. I will protect you.”
“Put on glasses, stupid Mousse,” Shampoo said from her position in the ring, wondering if the match was ever going to start.
At the name of one of his true loves being called, Kunou began to look around. “Where is my beloved?”
“He means Shampoo Saotome, not Shampoo.” Akane’s head began to hurt, and she wondered if it had really been so long ago things had been less confusing.
Kodachi’s eyes alighted upon Mousse, and she began jumping up and down in glee. “Mousse-sama. You have come to witness my victory. I am so moved.” Her hands moved behind her back. A moment later, she brought forward a bouquet of her own. “Here. Some more flowers for you.”
Mousse placed his glasses on and identified what was in her hands. He recoiled, and then used a throwing ax to show his appreciation of the gift, cutting it in half. “I don’t know what your game is, but stay away from me.”
Kodachi’s eyes began tearing up at the rebuke. “Mousse-sama, how can you say such things?”
Rather than answer, Mousse finally spotted the Shampoo he was looking for. He jumped up into the ring to be at her side. “Shampoo, my love.” He never got a chance to latch onto her as he immediately got thrown into the mat for his troubles.
That move made it all fall into place for Kodachi. “You wicked, wicked girl! You have somehow cast a spell on my beloved. How dare you try to force apart two lovers.” She poised dramatically before Shampoo and made her declaration. “I will make a deal with you. If I defeat you, you will release your hold over my Mousse so that we may be together and you will relinquish any claim you may have on him.”
Picking himself off the mat, Mousse scoffed at her. “You will never defeat Shampoo. She is invincible and my situation is secure.” He got out of the ring and took a seat next to Ranma, intent on watching the match for his life unfold.
Shampoo began to tremble in indecision from the unexpected situation that had suddenly fallen into her lap. If she simply threw the fight, she would lose Mousse forever. To be rid of his lifetime of attentions seemed too good a chance to pass up. But there was still her pride to think about. She had never even considered throwing a fight in her entire life. And she had promised Akane, when she said she would fill in for the injured girl, that she would try to win. Still, the idea of getting rid of Mousse ate away at her. She broke out in a sweat and grabbed her head. “Is too hard decision to make!”
“Throw it, girl!” Genma shouted from ringside. For him there was no choice. To keep from getting hit by Mousse again, no sacrifice was too great for him to make.
“Don’t do it!” Akane shouted, understanding how tempting it would be to her if there were a chance she could get rid of Kunou in a similar manner.
Shampoo looked to Ranma for the deciding vote.
Ranma shrugged. “It’s a no-lose situation. Do whatever you want.” Besides, if he made a deciding vote and things did not work out, he would get the blame.
Pride won out over getting rid of the years-long problem. She looked to Mousse. “No matter how much it hurt,” she grumbled.
Kodachi saw Shampoo tense up. It didn’t matter to her; she would win Mousse one way or the other. “Prepare for your downfall,” She bragged to Shampoo before turning once again to the handsome visage of her beloved. “Mousse-sama, we shall be together soon. OHHOHOHOHOHOHO!”
The Black Rose’s last ‘HO’ had barely left her mouth before she attacked. She elected to employ her ribbon, hoping for an early victory. Shampoo dodged the whip-like attack and retaliated with one of her own. Kodachi avoided the attack so gracefully that it appeared she had not even been trying to dodge.
“You call that an attack?” Kodachi sniffed. “This is an attack.” She switched from ribbon to pins, hurling the first one at Shampoo, which she dodged. A second pin was batted out of the air by Shampoo’s ribbon. For the third one, Kodachi chose a somewhat bent pin that, instead of heading towards Shampoo, sailed wide.
“Crazy Gymnast Girl no can throw straight.” Shampoo said, failing to see the club arc like a boomerang towards her back. Akane tried to shout out a warning, but it was too late; Shampoo was struck in the back of the head, momentarily stunned. Kodachi pressed her advantage and switched back to her ribbon, wrapping it around Shampoo’s ankles. With a tug Shampoo ended up on her back, and was then spun around in the air.
“So long, harridan,” Kodachi said as she released her hold on Shampoo sending her flying through the air and narrowly over the top rope. She turned her attention to Mousse, whipping out a make-up kit and started to apply it to her face.
Shampoo knew she only had seconds to react before being hurled out of the ring. Almost by reflex she managed to grab the top rope with her hands and hung on, twisting in midair in order to use the momentum of the swing to spin between the top and second ropes. Once she revered her momentum, she released her hold on the rope and went shooting back into the ring, her feet pointed to Kodachi like some kind of human missile.
Kodachi hurled the make-up kit to the floor and went into a defensive posture, silently cursing Shampoo for avoiding certain defeat. “You must use a weapon to attack. Bare handed attacks are prohibited.”
“Shampoo know. Ball!” she shouted.
Akane was ready as she hurled a medicine ball at Kodachi’s stomach. It arrived a split second before Shampoo, allowing the Amazon to kick it into Kodachi’s stomach, rather than her feet. The effect was still the same, as Kodachi found herself gasping for air after the attack.
“A good…” Kodachi gasped for breath. “…Attack. Let us see how you deal with this. Hoop!”
One of Kodachi’s seconds threw a hoop to her, which she snagged by placing her arm through the middle of the circle. She then hurled the hoop like a Frisbee. Shampoo sensed something wrong with the seemingly innocent weapon and jumped over it. She watched as the hoop went past her and sailed into the crowd, heading directly for Genma. He barely had enough time to get his legs up when the hoop sliced through the legs of the chair he was sitting on, causing him to fall on his rump.
Mousse heard the ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahh’s going on, but couldn’t figure out what it was about.. “I can’t see anything.”
Ranma picked up his chair up and spun it around, pointing it in the right direction. “Would you please put your glasses back on, panda-boy?”
“A good idea,” Mousse placed them back on his face, and then realized whom he was sitting next to. “Ranma, you enemy of women. I don’t know how you managed to substitute that bokken wielding idiot in your place, but I will get you this time.”
Ranma looked at him in confusion. “That happened two fights ago. Why didn’t you complain about it last time? You should be angry about your electro-shock treatment now.”
“Because pandas can’t talk, you fool!”
Ranma considered that for a moment. “Why don’t you use signs?”
“That is the most stupid thing I ever…” Mousse stopped for a second to truly consider that. “You know, that just might work.” He pulled a wooden sign and some markers from out of his robes and sat on the ground. It took only a moment for him to write on the board. Once finished, he held it up for Ranma to read. *This is actually pretty easy. How’s this?*
Ranma stomped on his head, driving it into the sign. “Don’t do it when you’re human, moron! Only when you’re a panda!”
Mousse picked himself up, the light gleaming off his glasses, allowing no one to see what was behind them. The look gave him a sinister appearance. “You will pay for that indignity, Saotome.”
A set of cat’s claws was upon Mousse’s wrist in an instant and he slashed at his foe. Ranma decided to take the fight away from Akane and Nabiki, and chose to run under the ring. Mousse took the bait and quickly followed. A moment later everyone was treated to the sight of two dozen girls in leotards run out from under the ring.
“Why, whatever were they doing in there?” Kodachi said. Remarkably she actually managed to sound as though she was surprised.
There were sounds of fighting from under the ring. A moment later, Ranma, and then Mousse, emerged. Mousse looked around for Ranma, somehow losing sight of him despite not being six feet away.
It took him a moment to spot a blurry form. “There you are, Ranma!” He hurled a dozen knives at a blur that turned out to be Kodachi.
She barely avoided the barrage. “Mousse-sama. That’s me you are throwing at.”
“Sorry.” He looked around and spotted another blur. “There you are Saotome!” He once again hurled a bunch of knives, this time at Shampoo.
Shampoo dodged the incoming volley. “Stupid Mousse! You throw at Shampoo.”
“Forgive me, Shampoo.” He drew back to throw at another blur. Now with Shampoo identified, it was only process of elimination. “There you are, Saotome!”
Shampoo decided to end the whole mess before he accidentally skewered someone who could not get out of the way in time. “Mousse, you want help Shampoo?”
“Of course.” He nearly wept in joy. Shampoo needed him at last.
Rather than waiting for him to get into the ring, Shampoo wrapped her ribbon around him and unceremoniously dumped him on his head in front of her. She then picked him up by his ankles, held him upside down, then started dropping him head first into the mat while maintaining her hold on his ankles. Every time his head hit the mat, objects came out of his robe. Knives, axes, chains, pole arms, duck potty training seats, and a Chrysler Cordoba all fell out before Shampoo finally saw what she wanted.
Kodachi was outraged. “You harridan! Do not harm my Mousse!”
Shampoo looked at her in confusion. “What hairy den?”
“It’s like a harlot,” Kodachi explained.
“What har lot?”
Kodachi felt her anger build further. “Don’t you understand anything? How about this, Bimbo?”
“Shampoo not bimbo!” she shouted out. “Besides, Shampoo done with stupid Mousse anyway.” She released her hold on his ankles, dropping him on his head. She reached down and picked up an egg that had fallen from his robes.
“What are you going to do with that? Hard boil me to death?” Kodachi said in amusement.
Shampoo gave a feline-like grin. “Not exactly.”
She hurled the egg at Kodachi. The Black Rose watched as it landed harmlessly at her feet. She had just enough time to smirk at Shampoo before the egg exploded. Miraculously, Kodachi found herself blown backward against the ropes, rather then through them, though her leotard was thoroughly singe-covered.
Shampoo picked up another egg and hurled it too.
Kodachi was ready this time. “Oh, no you don’t. If you use my Mousse, I shall use your Ranma.”
Ranma was caught off guard as Kodachi’s ribbon wrapped itself around him, binding his arms to his side. He found himself hurled up in the air and into the path of the egg.
Shampoo yelled and leaped forward, hoping to get to Ranma before the egg. Seeing she wasn’t going to make it, she lashed out with her own ribbon, hoping to snatch the egg out of midair even as she was airborne as well. She was partially successful as she batted the egg off its target, but failed to snare it as it hit the ring. It caught both her and Ranma in the explosion. The detonation knocked Ranma loose from the ribbon, but he quickly discovered the shockwave hurled both he and Shampoo up into the air and clearly out of the ring.
Just as they were about to hit the floor, a powerful stream of water hit both of them, the pressure from it pushing both of them back into the ring.
Akane kept her fire hose’s blast of water directly on them, watching the pressure force the duo back into the ring.
“Are you insane?” Nabiki shouted.
Akane couldn’t understand what Nabiki was complaining about. “I’m just pushing them back into the ring.”
“You‘re using cold water!”
Akane stared in horror at the stream of water that had once served as salvation was now close to condemning both of the people caught in it. Looking hard, she could just make out the cursed forms of Ranma and Shampoo. Their forms would still be obscured to any others that did not know what to look for, but once Akane cut the water, it would be all over. Things became worse as she realized that, in spite of both Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun’s best efforts to swim against the flow, both of them were going to be hurled out of the ring by it.
“What do we do now?!” she yelled to Nabiki.
Thoughts of self-preservation filled Nabiki’s mind. They had only one shot at keeping the truth from being discovered. “When I say kill the hose, kill the hose.” She grabbed her kettle of still steaming water and tried timing the cursed duo’s progress in the stream. “Now!” she shouted as she hurled the kettle.
The timing was perfect as the kettle of hot water burst over them right at the instant the stream of cold water stopped flowing. Both of them changed back into their normal forms, the steam from the hot water obscuring the transformation. None in the audience realized what had actually happened.
Shampoo and Ranma landed in the ring. Shampoo turned to Ranma. “Ranma leave. Is Shampoo fight.”
Without a word of protest, Ranma got out of the ring. The moment he was out, Shampoo shouted to Akane to throw her the bonbori. The Amazon easily snatched them out of midair.
Kodachi was impressed by the turn of events. She had been certain that Shampoo would have been finished. Her opponent was a stubborn one; she gave her that.
Kodachi turned to one of her own corner women. “Boom ball!” She easily caught the gunpowder-filled medicine ball, then turned and threw it at Shampoo.
Instead of dodging, Shampoo batted it back, just like a baseball, with her bonbori. The ball sailed back to its original pitcher, forcing Kodachi to duck as the ball narrowly missed her and exploded just outside of the ring.
Kodachi was relentless as she elected to try her clubs again, utilizing ‘the attack of a thousand clubs.’ She hurled dozens of them at Shampoo, who spun one of her bonbori so quickly that it acted as a shield, deflecting the pins away before any of them could reach her. Even as her makeshift shield protected her, Shampoo worked her way closer to Kodachi until she was within striking distance. The Black Rose stopped hurling her clubs, giving Shampoo the opening she needed. She swung at the gymnast, only to stare in surprise as Kodachi leaped over the bonbori swung at her and used the other one, which had been upraised to strike a second blow, as a springboard into the air. While she was airborne and aiming for the top of one of the corner posts, she called for another razor hoop. The moment she touched it, she redirected its direction towards Shampoo. The Amazon didn’t have time to react as the hoop severed one of the bonbori at the handle. In order to make up for the loss, Shampoo pulled out her ribbon, keeping the other bonbori in hand.
In the time it took Shampoo to draw the ribbon, Kodachi already had hers in hand and attacked. She was on target once again as the ribbon wrapped up Shampoo’s arms. Kodachi watched in amusement as Shampoo dropped her remaining bonbori to the ground.
“This match is over!” Kodachi tried whipping Shampoo around, like last time, but the Amazon braced herself, her superior strength holding out and allowing her to remain upright.
Kodachi was off-balance for a moment, which was all the opportunity Shampoo needed. She lashed out with her foot, kicking the bonbori like a soccer ball. Her aim was true as the unexpected attack took the Black Rose on the head, stunning her for a second. A flick of the wrist and Shampoo’s ribbon wrapped itself around Kodachi’s ankles. From there all it took was a single swing and the stunned gymnast went flying out to the floor.
“AND THE WINNER OF THE MATCH IS: SHAMPOO SAOTOME!!!”
Kodachi shook her head, the terrible words still ringing in her ears. After taking a moment to recover, she gracefully took to her feet and approached Shampoo, who had gone over to receive congratulations from her corner people.
There was a moment of tension until Kodachi spoke to Shampoo. “I will honor our pact. Mousse will be yours forever.” She turned to Mousse. “Farewell, my love.”
“THIS SHALL NOT BE!”
Everyone looked to the ceiling as the voice rang out over the PA system. Suddenly, the lights went out in the gym. After a moment of darkness three spotlights came on. One was centered upon Kodachi, another on Mousse, and the third on Ranma.
Tragic love music began playing over the PA system as Ranma brought a microphone to his lips.
“How can this be?” he asked. “How can we allow this beautiful, single black rose among a field of red to be unclaimed? She has fought long and hard for her love, and to have him taken away by fate is too much to bear.”
Women in the stands began to cry as they felt their hearts touched by the tragedy.
Ranma continued. “But this fate can be avoided.” He pointed to Mousse, who suddenly found himself the focus of everyone’s attention. “Only a heartless and cruel man could be capable of casting off this vision of loveliness. You are not cruel and heartless, are you, Mousse?”
Shampoo moved next to Mousse and whispered in his ear. “You not heartless, right, Mousse?”
“No! No! I’m not heartless!” He found himself at a loss of what to do as Ranma approached him, Kodachi’s hand in his as he led her to the Chinese boy.
“We knew this,” Ranma gestured boldly. “You are a man of great honor and know what to do when a situation like this arises.”
Clearly having no idea what to say, Mousse simply blurted out, “Of course I do.”
Shampoo moved up behind him. “Then go to rose girl.” She pushed Mousse from behind, sending him right into Kodachi. He took a step back after nearly bowling her over.
There were tears in Kodachi’s eyes as she stared at Mousse. “Oh, Mousse, my love.”
A ribbon snaked out from Shampoo, tying the two together. That gave Kodachi the opportunity to place her head on Mousse’s chest. “Mousse-sama, you hold me so close.”
“That’s only because we’re tied up!”
Ranma came to the center of everyone’s attention again. “And now that they have declared their love for one another. It is time for these two lovebirds to be alone for a while. Perhaps a trip far, far, away.”
All eyes turned to the speaker, Kunou.
“I have not had my say in this family matter. Do you think that I would allow my sister to travel abroad with a man such as this?”
“There’s some pictures of Shampoo and Akane in it for you,” Ranma whispered into Kunou’s ear.
“Sold! I mean…” He walked over to Kodachi and Mousse, placing a reassuring arm around the tied up pair. “Sister, I see this man has stolen your heart and given you a happiness which glows in your eyes. Who am I to come between two whose fates are linked together?” He turned to the crowd. “I give my blessings to this relationship!”
A rousing cheer rose from the audience.
“Thank you, brother.” Kodachi said softly.
Mousse began to panic, wondering how the situation had spiraled out of control so quickly. Wasn’t he supposed to be with Shampoo forever now? “But I don’t have any money for a trip!” he protested.
Ranma gave a sinister smile. “Leave that to us.”
Ranma, Genma, and Shampoo grabbed a huge shipping crate and threw it over the two ‘lovebirds. Various destinations, such as New York, Hawaii, Siberia, and Timbuktu, were written on the side. Once it was securely over the pair, they proceeded to nail it shut at blinding speed. All three of them picked up the crate and tossed it onto the back of a waiting pickup truck. After giving the driver a considerable sum of money, he drove off to the airport at top speed.
Genma was practically in tears. “It’s true.”
“It finally happen,” Shampoo said with stars in her eyes.
Ranma stood there, trembling. “We’ve finally lost that moron, and we got rid of that psycho gymnast to boot.”
Akane looked on as the three linked arms and started dancing in a circle to the tune of ‘Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.’
“Excuse me, ma’am. This is Nerima.” The cab driver offered to get out of the car and open the passenger door for her, but she waved him off.
“I’m not so old I can’t still open a door or two. That should be a couple more… well, it should take a while longer anyway.” She paid the driver, then opened the door and got out of the car.
“Are you sure you’ll be able to find a place to stay?” the cab driver asked. “I can take you to a couple of nice places with good rates.”
“No need,” the older woman assured him. “Though it’s nice to see you showing proper respect to your elders.”
“You remind me of my own grandmother. I hope you find your granddaughter. You take care, ma’am.”
“I will,” she said as he drove off. Once he was out of sight, she turned and began to walk the streets of Nerima. The trail had been hard to find, but eventually she had tracked down the man who had sold the ship tickets to a purple-haired girl and her two traveling companions. From there she had followed the trail to Nerima, which she seemed to instinctively believe was their actual destination. Deep in her gut, she suspected she would find Shampoo staying somewhere in the district. And if there weren’t a good reason for it, there would surely be hell to pay.
To be continued.
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