Chapter 3: The Hunters
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 email@example.com
What’s gone on before: In the beginning, Ranma and Genma traveled to Jusenkyou for the first time and started to spar, not realizing a duel was already occurring between Shampoo and Mousse. One mid-air collision and dunking in spring of young drowned man later, we have a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. So Ranma-chan= female Shampoo-kun= male. Last chapter had Ai Konjou and her cheerleader squad trying to get a date with Shampoo-kun. Also, Kodachi made her first appearance and fell for Mousse. After a challenge gymnastics match, Mousse and Kodachi ended up locked in a box and shipped around the world. Of course, there was that problem with a mysterious bat…
Shampoo-kun’s head darted to the left. No one was there. It seemed there was a movement out of the corner of his eye. He was a blur as his head darted to the right. Again, no one was there either. He spotted a nearby trashcan with a lid on the top. Racing over to it, he drew back his fist and ripped off the lid. There was only garbage inside. He turned skyward.
“Exactly what do you think they’re going to do? Hang glide in and attack you?” Ranma-chan growled at his paranoid companion.
Shampoo-kun continued scanning the skies, using the lid to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun. “Not know. Girls is too, too tricky. They try using nets three days ago. When that no work, they try land mines. When that no work, they try pit trap. Maybe is time for air attack.”
Akane and Ranma-chan looked towards one another and shrugged. The day at school had been without any major disruptions, making both hope they would get one of those too-few days where nothing ‘interesting’ happened. Things had tapered off since the cheerleader attack the previous week, and nothing had been heard from about Mousse or Kodachi. There were no detectable menaces around to bother them. Ranma-chan let loose with a sigh of relief.
“Incoming!” Shampoo-kun shouted as he raised the lid before him, the angle high and to the sky.
Ranma-chan looked up just in time to see a bat dive-bomb and attach itself to her face. “Get it off me! Get it off me!” The muffled cry came as she tried getting her fingers underneath wings that had formed a death-grip around her head.
Akane held back, remembering the results of the last time she had tried to help her fiancé with that particular problem. Shampoo-kun held no such reservations as he drew back the trash can lid and aimed for the bat.
History repeated itself as the bat detached itself and narrowly avoided the lid, while Ranma-chan’s face did not as she took a solid hit to the jaw. Shampoo-kun cringed as he drew the lid back and surveyed the damage. Regret shot though him as he saw the glazed look the girl’s injured face held. He examined the lid, and noticed that it now bore an indentation in the shape of Ranma-chan’s face. A pretty good one, too. He considered it worth keeping and hanging on his wall.
Ranma-chan recovered, taking note of how the now male Amazon admired his handiwork. “Whadya hit me for?!”
“It was accident. Was trying to hit bat.”
Reaching a hand into her shirt, Ranma-chan pulled out a long sheet of paper and several colored pencils. She proceeded to scribble on the paper, and after a few moments, held up her work before Shampoo-kun. On it were two figures, an ultra-kawaii chibi version of Ranma-chan’s face, and next to it was a picture of an evil-looking, monstrous, blood dripping from the fangs, bat. Ranma-chan then pulled out a pointer and proceeded to explain.
“This is me, Ranma Saotome,” she used the pointer to indicate the chibi-face. “And this is a bat.” The pointer switched to the bat. “See the difference? Ranma. Bat. Bat. Ranma. Ranma. Bat.” She punctuated each of the words by going back and forth between the pictures.
Shampoo-kun watched intently. He then leaned forward, grabbed Ranma-chan by the ears, then pulled them out as far as he could and tried flapping them like bat wings over the smaller girl’s protests. After pulling them up and down a couple of times, he let them go. “Shampoo understand difference now.”
Ranma-chan rubbed her ears and was about to unleash a verbal tirade against ‘dumb Amazons’ when a whirring sound interrupted the attempted reprimand. The Amazon barely got out of the way as a red bamboo umbrella came hurtling towards him. It was open, and spinning like a flying top, and Shampoo-kun narrowly avoided it by leaping into the air and above the unusual missile. Much to his surprise, it spun in a long arc and returned to its source, as though it were a huge boomerang. Akane, Shampoo-kun, and Ranma-chan all looked to see that the person that had caught the umbrella was indeed whom they had suspected: Ryouga Hibiki.
Ryouga folded the umbrella, and then pointed it at Shampoo-kun. “You really have no honor do you, Ranma? How low can you be? I knew you were a coward when you ran out of our fight, but now you have women doing your fighting for you. And to think, I once thought you were worthy of being challenged by me. I’m almost disgusted at the idea of dirtying my fists with you.”
Shampoo-kun paid little attention to Ryouga’s ranting. “You talk or you fight?”
“I’m ready to fight, unless you’re going to sic those two girls on me.” He pointed at Akane and Ranma-chan with the umbrella.
Akane told him she wouldn’t interfere while Ranma-chan remained silent. Seething rage filled her as she listened to the slanderous lies Ryouga had unknowingly leveled against her. She NEVER needed women to fight for her. Ranma Saotome needed no one to do her fighting for her. How dare Ryouga accuse her of such things, even if he was really accusing Shampoo-kun. And it hadn’t happened that way anyhow.
Akane caught the redhead’s rumble of, “No one fights my fights for me.” Akane watched in confusion as Ranma-chan ran away with neither a word nor a backward glance. She was about to follow, but then the fight between Shampoo-kun and Ryouga began. Akane found herself torn between following the fleeing girl and making certain nothing bad happened to Shampoo-kun, or Ryouga, for that matter. Since it appeared it was more likely she might be needed at the scene of the fight, she elected to stay and hoped Ranma-chan would be all right.
One of the objects of Akane’s concern had headed to the nearest restroom she could find. Without thinking, she rushed into the men’s side —which luckily was vacant— and went to the sinks. The first one had an ‘out of order’ sign on it, but the one next to it worked fine as she ran some hot water and used it to revert to her true form. Once male, Ranma rushed outside and back to the fight. Upon arriving, he was pleased to see that neither opponent had landed a serious blow on the other.
“Stop fighting!” Ranma shouted. Both fighters responded by breaking off their attacks and looking at the speaker. Ranma’s attention was riveted on Ryouga as he said, “I’m the Ranma you’re looking for… what’s your name again?”
“Ryouga Hibiki,” he answered with a growl. As Ryouga looked the ‘other’ Ranma over, he found himself admitting that the new one looked a lot more like the boy he remembered than the guy he was currently fighting. He pointed to Shampoo-kun. “Everyone says this guy is Ranma.”
For his part, Shampoo-kun remained silent, allowing Ranma to deal with the situation the way he wanted. The Amazon had no desire to beat up any of Ranma’s old foes, especially since he had more than people after him enough to make up for the loss.
“I’m Ranma Saotome, the guy you’re looking for. It’s easy to tell the difference between me and the other Ranma you’re fighting. I’m the really good-looking one.” Ranma missed the glare Shampoo-kun shot him as he continued, “Now who are you and why do you want to kill me?”
Ryouga’s mind was in turmoil from the conflicting information. How could there be two Ranma Saotomes that went around with one another? Perhaps it was some sort of trick the real Ranma was using to throw Ryouga off on his quest for vengeance. Maybe neither one was the real Ranma and these two were running interference. Actually, that seemed to make a whole lot of sense. Except for the fact he kept on homing in on these two people when he wanted to find Ranma. There was one way to be certain.
Ryouga pointed accusingly at the new Ranma Saotome. “If you’re the real Ranma, then you’ll know why I’m hunting you down.”
“If I don’t even remember who you are, how can you expect me to remember why you’re hunting me down?” Ranma answered.
Ryouga was at a loss. He decided to try and give Ranma a hint. “It’s the bread. Remember, it was back in junior high. We used to fight over bread at lunch.”
“Nope. Can’t say it’s ringing any bells.” That really wasn’t the best reference point. All the lunches Ranma had ever eaten sort of blurred into one for him.
“You have to remember,” Ryouga prodded further. “You’d humiliate me every day by snatching the last piece of bread from out of hands.”
There was something about the bread that jogged Ranma’s memory. Now that he thought about it, he sort of remembered something about having to pass by some guy every day to get at the last piece of bread at the school lunches, but they weren’t really fights, at least not to Ranma. The guy had been more like an obstacle than anything else, which sort of made it like training. Training was something that was much easier to recall. “Okay. I kind of remember something about having to fight for bread ever day and someone tried to take them away from me—“
“You took them from me!” Ryouga shouted.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ranma waved him off, annoyed at being interrupted. “Anyway, I remember. So what do you want me to do, get you some bread to make up for it?”
“This isn’t about the bread, at least not anymore,” Ryouga said. “It’s about you running out on the match I challenged you to for stealing my bread.”
Akane and Shampoo looked at Ranma in surprise. Akane spoke first. “You ran out on a fight?”
“I did not!” Ranma protested. Now he remembered what had happened. As usual, he was being portrayed as the bad guy again when it was definitely not his fault. “I showed up and waited three days for that jerk to come. But he didn’t show. And since I was kind of hungry, what with only having rainwater to keep me alive for three days, I left.”
“Ah ha! You admit that you are a coward!” Ryouga shouted triumphantly. “I came on the fourth day and you weren’t there. You ran out on the fight.”
“It was in a back lot two houses away from you!” Ranma snarled. “It shouldn’t have taken even you that long to find it! I figured you weren’t gonna show up.”
“That’s no excuse,” Ryouga said.
“Of course it is!” Ranma snapped back. “My life didn’t revolve around waiting for you to figure out how to go twenty feet in a straight line.” Ranma began to calm down. The whole thing was becoming ridiculously silly, even by his standards. “Look, it’s obvious we just missed each other and neither one of us ran out on the fight, so why don’t we let bygones be bygones?”
“Never!” Ryouga shouted back. “It’s not about bread anymore. It’s not even about you running out on the fight. It’s gone far beyond that now. Because of you, I’ve seen hell and lost my manhood. My life’s been forever ruined thanks to you. Prepare to die!”
There was no further talk as Ryouga sheathed his umbrella and charged at Ranma. Twice he took roundhouse swings with his fists and twice Ranma dodged the blows. Leaving himself open, Ryouga then took a fist from Ranma to the stomach. In reaction, he just stood there and smiled at Ranma.
Ranma reevaluated his opponent. Hitting Ryouga’s stomach was like punching a rock. As difficult as that made things, it also made Ranma sort of glad. It meant that he didn’t’ have to hold back.
Ryouga threw two kicks towards Ranma, again hitting nothing but the air. Once more Ryouga left his midsection open, though this time Ranma’s punch managed to wind him a little. Changing tactics, Ryouga drew his umbrella and attempted to connect with three quick jabs. Again, Ranma effortlessly got out of the way. It was as Ranma dodged the third blow that Ryouga saw something that enabled him to come up with a quick plan. All it would take was once more jab.
“An umbrella has got to be the most stupid weapon I have ever seen,” Ranma taunted, sticking his tongue out as he evaded the fourth thrust.
“Is it?” Ryouga said back. When Ranma had simply tilted his head out of the way of the fourth thrust, it had set him perfectly, just as Ryouga had hoped. With a flick of the wrist, the umbrella opened up, while still being behind Ranma. Ryouga pulled the umbrella back to him, drawing Ranma, who found himself caught up in the opened part of the umbrella, in close. As Ranma was involuntarily thrust forward, Ryouga applied a solid headbutt into Ranma’s forehead.
Years of training took over for Ranma as he recoiled from the blow. He braced a hand on top of Ryoga’s head, before the lost one could react, and then jumped up, connecting with both knees to Ryouga’s jaw. Even Ryouga found himself stunned by the blow and backed off. Ranma used the opportunity to back off too and leapt into a nearby tree.
“Okay, I’ll admit that an umbrella is only the second most stupid weapon I’ve ever seen,” Ranma shouted below.
Rather than seem concerned, Ryouga pulled off a bandanna and began twirling it around.
Ranma watched as Ryouga loosed the bandanna, the fabric somehow becoming razor sharp as it hit the tree branch Ranma was standing on, severing it. The unusual nature of the attack caught Ranma flat footed as he unexpectedly found himself dropping like a rock. He didn’t have a chance to hit the ground as Ryouga took his turn to connect with a punch and struck Ranma’s jaw. The force of the blow sent Ranma sailing over a nearby wall and out of sight. There was no hesitation in Ryouga as he jumped over the wall, and was quickly followed by Akane and Shampoo-kun.
Upon reaching the other side, the others realized that the wall that Ranma had gone over bordered the zoo. Specifically, a panda pen. Ryouga paid little attention to the surprised pandas, which were running around trying to hide an espresso machine and tea service. Only Ranma was on his mind and he thought he had just caught sight of someone in a red top leaping over the far wall and into the zoo proper. Shampoo-kun and Akane followed hot on the heels of Ryouga.
Ranma had found a flat open space on one of the pathways of the zoo and prepared to make a stand. Instead of being confronted by Ryouga directly, he found the umbrella open once more and hurled in his direction. Again, he barely got out of the way of the unusual attack as it returned to Ryouga’s hand.
Ranma silently cursed at Ryouga as the bandanna-clad youth closed the distance and swung the umbrella at Ranma again, forcing him to give ground. If Ryouga had not had the umbrella, things would have been a whole lot easier. It was as he considered on how to get rid of it that the idea occurred to him.
Shampoo-kun looked in confusion at Ranma. He had played around with the bonbori early on, saying something about that if girls could use them, then he could too. The Amazon had loaned them to him, and he quickly adapted to their use. Ranma was nowhere near as skilled in using them as Shampoo-kun, but he was good enough. Now he wanted one for the fight, which made little sense to Shampoo-kun since all it would do, despite his skill, was slow him down.
“Come on!” Ranma urged as he evaded another blow or Ryouga’s and backed away, giving him some space from him.
That set Shampoo-kun into motion as he threw the bonbori towards Ranma. The throw was on target as Ranma snared the weapon. He then turned towards Ryouga and shouted, “You know, that stupid umbrella would probably be dangerous if you weren’t so lost that you couldn’t even throw it straight.”
“I’ll show you!” Ryouga snarled as he again opened the umbrella and hurled it at Ranma. All Saotome could do was smile as he threw the bonbori at it deflecting it off target and hurtling it well away from both him and Ryouga.
It took a moment for Ryouga to realize how he had been set up. Instead of getting angry, he just scoffed. “You think that’s going to save you? I don’t need that to finish you off.” Ryouga went over to a nearby tree that was about the size of a telephone pole. He looked at with determination, took a deep breath, and then embraced it.
Ranma was about to make a crack about Ryouga being a ‘treehugger’ when he realized that the lost one was pulling up on the tree as well. “There is no way he’s strong enough to do that.” Ranma was considering hitting Ryouga, just to keep him from throwing out his back from his futile effort, when the ground began to bulge at the base of the tree. Earth began to fall away as the bulge grew, until a network of roots revealed themselves as the tree was pried out of the ground. Now Ryouga wielded the tree as though it was a huge battering ram.
“Here’s where you get yours, Ranma,” he gasped out as he thrust the base of the tree towards Ranma.
Ranma was so in disbelief at Ryouga’s display of strength that he almost allowed himself to get hit by the first thrust. After the first attack snapped him out of his stupor, Ranma easily evaded the second blow. Ryouga was not given a third chance as Ranma jumped onto the tree and traveled down its length, kicking Ryouga in the jaw.
Pressing the advantage, Ranma struck Ryouga several times. The offensive was fleeting as Ryouga recovered from the attacks and landed several blows of his own. Ranma again decided to get some range from his opponent by leaping backwards through the air once more and getting time to formulate a new plan of action.
Ryouga watched in anger as Ranma tried ‘running’ from the fight again. In response, he pulled several bandannas off and began spinning them around in his hand. “Ranma, you coward! You don’t get away that easily.”
Ranma found the path of his leap suddenly shared with a number of hurled bandannas. He shifted his body in mid-air, evading the attack, but finding himself forced to crash through the skylight over the top of one of the zoo buildings. He brought his arms in front of his face, shielding him from the glass as he broke through it and found himself plunging downward a surprising distance. Ranma looked down to see that he had crashed over a huge tank of water and was descending rapidly towards it. Fortunately, there was a steel beam that was directly over the center of the tank, no more than four feet or so above the surface. It extended from one side of the tank to the other. Ranma was able to land on the beam with ease.
Ranma started to look for a way out of the tank, when Ryouga came in through the hole in the skylight that Ranma had made upon his entry. Just as easily as Ranma had done moments before, Ryouga landed on the beam next to him.
“Nowhere to run now, Ranma,” Ryouga said as he cracked his knuckles.
Ranma smirked back. With his sense of balance, it was going to be easy to knock Ryouga into the water. “You’re asking for it, pal.”
Just as the two prepared to renew their duel, the occupant of the tank they were suspended above decided to make an appearance. Jumping up out of the water and over the metal beam they were standing upon, Ryouga and Ranma got an up close and personal look at the twenty-eight foot fish that called the tank, ‘home.’
“SHARK!” Ranma and Ryouga both cried out in panic.
“I suggest a temporary truce,” Ryouga quickly blurted out, his eyes tracking the movement of the shark as it cut through the water, obviously building up speed as it circled around the tank.
“Agreed.” Ranma and his father hadn’t been harassed by any sharks when they had to swim to China, but it had still been something that had been in the back of his mind when he had made the trip. Just seeing ‘Jaws’ before had not helped either.
Both of the men tensed up and prepared to leap when the shark made a sharp turn and headed directly for the beam. This time when it jumped, it hit the bottom of the beam, shaking it enough to cause both Ranma and Ryouga to end up in the water.
Ranma had just enough time to grab a breath of air before hitting the water. As he hit, the curse activated itself and it was a red-haired girl whose head broke the water. She was looking around, trying to locate Ryouga, when she spotted the dark shape a dorsal fin as it began circling around its floating ‘visitor’.
“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” She shouted at the top of her lungs. The beam was too high for her to reach, and there didn’t appear to be any platforms or doors with which she could use to escape. She was trapped.
As she finished her quick survey, she noticed that the dorsal fin had stopped circling and now made a straight line for her. The huge jaws of the shark opened and prepare to dine on its ‘Saotome snack.’ Ranma-chan froze for a moment as the shark lunged for her.
The rows of teeth the shark showed off as it opened its mouth wide captivated Ranma-chan’s attention, so it was only with her peripheral vision that she spotted a blur hit the shark from above. The impact was enough to make it twist its head to the side and miss Ranma-chan, though its body brushed against the small girl’s and shoved her through the water. It was that contact that broke Ranma-chan out of her paralysis.
She looked around to see that the object that had hit the shark was now floating in the water next to her. “Shampoo, what are you doing here?”
“Saving Ranma from shark,” Shampoo-kun said.
“Okay. Now who’s going to save you from the shark?”
Shampoo-kun followed Ranma-chan’s pointed finger. Already the shark shook off the blow Shampoo-kun had landed with his bonbori and was circling around both of the floating meals. The cursed Amazon found he didn’t have an answer and began to panic.
Fifteen feet above the water, at the top of the tank where people could look down and observe the shark swimming, stood Akane. She felt helpless as she tried thinking about what to do. Upon running into the building, she and Shampoo-kun figured out where the busted skylight was and raced to the shark tank. They arrived just in time to see Ranma fall into the water and have his curse triggered. It only took them an additional second to spot the shark as it began to circle Ranma-chan. Akane’s first impulse was to dive in and help rescue her fiancé, but she stopped herself just in time as she remembered that she not only couldn’t swim, but had all of the buoyancy of a rock. So it fell to Shampoo-kun to jump in and make the save. But it had only been a temporary respite as the shark was unaffected by the blow and now instead of one, it was two people that needed to be rescued. That meant it was up to Akane to save the day.
She looked around, trying to find something that could be of use —like a spear gun to shoot the shark or a dead cow lying around to feed it— so it wouldn’t try to dine on any of the swimmers in the tank. The only thing she found was a length of rope that had been left coiled on top of a large open box that had ‘do not open’ written on the side. Akane hoped it was long enough, and that she had enough time, as she grabbed it and rushed back to the side of the tank. There was no time was to tie the rope onto anything, so she dropped one side into the tank and held onto the other one, hoping she was strong enough to do what had to be done. The thrown end uncoiled downward until it hit the water. It reached.
“Grab on to the rope!” Akane shouted as she braced herself against the safety railing circling the top of the tank.
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun both turned at the sound of the voice and spotted the rope. They swam as hard as they could, watching as the rope get closer while praying all the time that the shark was still circling and had not closed the distance to them.
As they reached the rope, Ranma-chan ordered Shampoo-kun to go up first, promising she would be right behind. The boy did as he was told and began scampering up the rope. Ranma-chan took a moment to look behind to see if she could spot the shark. The dorsal fin had disappeared from the surface of the water; that was not a good sign.
Shampoo-kun was more than halfway up the rope before he paused a moment to look at his companion. Ranma-chan’s word had been good as she trailed right behind Shampoo-kun on the rope. He was about to look upward and estimate the distance he had left to climb when the water beneath them fell away and the huge maw of the shark erupted from the water. It had gone underwater and built up speed as so that it could propel itself upward and reach its fleeing prey. Now it was Shampoo-kun’s turn for awe to mix with fear as she saw two rows of sharp teeth head up towards her and Ranma-chan, intent on getting one last shot at grabbing a quick meal.
He stopped climbing and threw his body as far to the right as he could, hoping his male form had enough mass to shift the rope far enough to the side to prevent the shark from reaching either one of them in its leap. The rope’s shift seemed to take forever as they began to move to the left, even as the shark’s body closed the distance between them. Shampoo-kun’s muscles strained to somehow twist the rope even farther to the right as the shark came to the height that Ranma-chan was at and brushed against the bottom of her feet with the side of its jaw. That was all the contact it got as it and passed by up and beyond the duo. Shampoo-kun was paralyzed with fear as the huge jaws passed within a foot of his own position of the rope, going slightly above her head before beginning its downward plunge.
As the shark passed Ranma-chan, and hit the apex of its arc, anger at the creature’s actions flooded her being. How dare it try to eat Ranma Saotome? In retaliation, she leaned outward and lashed out with her own teeth, sinking them into the creature’s dorsal fin and ripping out a small chunk of it as the shark began to fall back towards the water.
Ranma-chan spit out the piece as the shark hit the water. “Yuck! I hate sushi.”
“Quit horsing around and get up here! I can’t hold this thing forever!” Akane shouted from her position at the railing. Neither one of them was particularly light, and her arms were beginning to feel the strain of supporting both of their weight.
The duo hurried up the rope before the shark got a second chance. As they made it above the railing, all three collapsed in exhaustion.
“Are you guys okay?” Akane gasped out
Two voices gasped out ‘yes’ as they continued to come down from their physical high. It was as Ranma-chan continued to lie on her back that she suddenly cried out, “Ryouga!” She shot to her feet and looked over the side of the railing towards the water far below.
The other two joined him at the side, eyes also scanning the surface of the water. “We didn’t seem him. You were the only one in there,” Akane said
“Is true,” Shampoo-kun said in agreement. “Ryouga no in water when Ranma was.”
“He was there,” Ranma-chan insisted. Her eyes scanned the length of the tank, but there was no sign of him, not even a bandanna. “Shark must of eaten him whole before it went after me. Poor guy. And it was all over some dumb bread.”
All three gave a prayer for the dead. Not knowing what else to do, they turned and left the aquarium. As they departed, none of them spotted the black shape that detached itself from its hiding place on Ranma-chan’s back. The creature shook off some water, and took off into the air and through the hole that was in the skylight.
“…And we no see strange boy anymore. Ryouga must have get eaten by shark,” Shampoo said as she finished relating the events of a few days ago to Kasumi.
Kasumi sighed at the poor boy’s fate, though she couldn’t understand how a shark that was less than thirty feet long could swallow someone whole. She was glad the others had come out of it unscathed.
It seemed there was something new almost everyday as time went on. Certainly things had not been that interesting when Kasumi had gone to school. It seemed there were a variety of new people making their presence known in and around Nerima, and most of them seemed attracted to either Ranma or Shampoo, or both.
That was why it seemed to be such a nice idea to ask Shampoo if she wanted to go shopping with her. It would give the Amazon time to relax and do something normal, outside of the schoolwork she complained so bitterly about. Shampoo had jumped at the opportunity immediately and the two of them had set out for the market. Currently they were outside, looking over some of the streetside vendors’ wares. Sometimes they offered very good deals on food, clothing, or even bamboo shoots for Mr. Saotome.
Asking Shampoo along had proved to be a good idea. In spite of the differences in culture and lifestyle, the two did have some things in common. Among them was the ability to cook. Shampoo did seem to know a great deal, especially for one that counted herself a warrior. Kasumi did prove more knowledgeable, and was surprised at how close Shampoo paid attention to some of the dishes she mentioned and asked for some clarification on how to prepare them.
And then there were Shampoo’s insights on what she thought of Japan. Kasumi found herself intrigued by the way Shampoo saw things. So much of it involved awe, at least in the early parts of her arrival in Japan. Shampoo had never been far from her village. She was aware of cities and what they looked like —there were more than enough books with pictures that described the world outside of Joketsuzoku— but reading about them was nothing when compared to experiencing them firsthand. Most of the awe from those early days had disappeared as Shampoo became more used to the world now surrounding her, but there was still a little bit of wonder when she talked about the city.
Shampoo had also seemed quite happy to share her observations with Kasumi. She hadn’t really talked about them with any of the others. Ranma wasn’t really that interested, Nabiki couldn’t have cared less, and Akane didn’t seem to have much time. But when it came to Kasumi, she had the time, so when Shampoo talked, she listened.
They had only been shopping a little while when Shampoo excused herself, telling Kasumi that she wished to look for some clothes at one of the nearby stores. After waving good-bye, Kasumi took a moment to look at the sky. She had heard on the news that there was over an eighty percent chance for rain today, but somehow she had forgotten to bring an umbrella with her on the trip to the market. The sky had been overcast when they had set out, and at first Kasumi believed she and Shampoo would have been rained on, but now it was beginning to clear up, and it appeared there was going to be no chance of rain today. Kasumi was unaware of how her brow creased ever so slightly at that. The crease disappeared as she returned to looking at the prices of vegetables.
Shampoo’s fingers played over the fine shirt on the rack. It was Chinese in style, which met with her approval. She might not have been in her homeland any longer, but she could still dress like it. Besides, Japanese fashions generally were not to her taste. Some dresses and blouses were all right, but given a choice she would stick with what she knew best.
Going out shopping with Kasumi had been a good idea. Aside from Ranma, there really wasn’t anyone she spent time with, and as nice as Ranma usually was, there were times when she simply didn’t feel like being in his presence. That meant being alone, but that could get boring very quickly as well. Akane was all right, but she tended to have other interests that took up her time. As to Nabiki, Shampoo would rather have been alone than have to risk hanging around with the girl and becoming involved in one of her schemes.
Kasumi was a different matter. There seemed to be few people the eldest of the Tendou daughters spent time with, and outside of keeping house, she did not seem to do much else. There were times when she visited some doctor and occasionally came back with books, but beyond that there seemed to be little in the way of outside interests. True, the two had little in common, but Kasumi had always treated her nicely, very nicely in fact, and Shampoo felt inclined to reciprocate.
The idea of a woman keeping house instead of fighting was hardly an alien concept to Shampoo. In many ways, Kasumi sort of reminded Shampoo of some of the non-warriors that were in the village. Many of the village women were not all that different in manners from her, though many of them tended to be more forceful in personality. There were many that were not involved with the training warriors had undergone. Farming, crafting, keeping house like many of the village men were what some women did, just like Kasumi. Oh, some of the non-fighters might aspire to take a warrior’s vows and gain respect that way, but for the most part there were many families with very few warriors in their ranks and they would remain that way for generations. Shampoo easily pictured Kasumi in a similar role.
Shampoo had rarely spent time with those sorts of women, since they lacked the prestige the warriors carried, but her great grandmother had made certain Shampoo understood that though they were not warriors, they were still worthy of respect, for they did the jobs that needed to be done. Jobs the warriors would have been doing otherwise. That was a lesson Shampoo did learn, and thus never derided anyone because of their job. Better they do some undesirable task than she herself having to do it.
And now Shampoo found herself in the company of a homemaker, and enjoying it. They had exchanged cooking tips, of which Kasumi was far more knowledgeable than Shampoo, among other things. Shampoo found Kasumi actually seemed interested when the Amazon mentioned what she thought of Japan. It had turned into an unexpectedly pleasant day.
“[Hello there, Shampoo. Fancy meeting you here.]”
If there was ever a moment in Shampoo’s life when she felt true terror, it had been upon hearing that voice come from behind her. She began to turn around. A small part of her mind cried out to remain where she was, for if she did not turn around, then what was there would not harm her. But she ignored such flighty thoughts and turned to see it was as she feared. The old woman was perched on her staff, as was so often the case when she wanted to talk to someone eye-to-eye. It was small surprise that, even in the months since Shampoo had left her home, her great grandmother Cologne would not have changed.
She stared at the old woman, wishing the events of the past few months had been nothing but a dream and she would wake up now, save and sound in bed and everything having been a dream, but they were not and she did not. Her paralysis lasted only another moment before her survival instincts caught up and forced her to take the only option she could come up with.
Shampoo turned and ran.
Cologne looked on in surprise. It was true that Shampoo had disappeared from Joketsuzoku without a word, and it had taken over two months to track her wayward great granddaughter down, but never had Cologne thought Shampoo would look so terrified of her own great grandmother and flee as she had just done. The elder waited a few moments to see if Shampoo would stop and turn, but when she kept running at top speed and threatened to get lost among the crowd, Cologne took the only option available to her and began hopping along on her stick in an effort to catch up to her fleeing offspring.
Kasumi heard a commotion come from her right and was surprised to see Shampoo rushing towards her very quickly. She was about to greet the Amazon when Shampoo, not slowing down for an instant, grabbed Kasumi by the arm and dragged her along.
Kasumi found it difficult to keep up with Shampoo, and was more pulled along than anything else. As they raced up the street, she saw Shampoo pause long enough to grab a glass of water from off the table of an open-air café and dart down an alleyway with Kasumi in tow. After running only a little distance down the alley, Shampoo at last stopped.
Kasumi at last had a chance to catch her breath and was about to ask what was going on, when Shampoo threw the water over her head. Kasumi’s heart skipped a beat, as she was suddenly confronted by the much taller and handsome cursed form that was so close to her. Even as her mind tried to sort out exactly what was going on, while finding out she didn’t seem to mind being dragged into an alleyway anymore, Shampoo-kun wrapped his arms around Kasumi and drew her close. The action scrambled what little chance she had of trying to say something coherent, and when Shampoo-kun tilted Kasumi’s head up, then lowered his head so his lips met hers, the last cognizant thoughts left her mind.
Cologne rounded the corner and looked towards the alleyway. For the briefest of moments she had completely lost sight of Shampoo, and was worried that she had lost the trail. But as she her eyes scanned the street, she thought she caught a glimpse of purple rush into an alleyway. Cologne hopped off at top speed; confident she could catch Shampoo, even if she was running as fast as she could. With any luck the alley might even be a dead end, which would trap Shampoo and then the explanations as to her great granddaughter’s bizarre behavior would be forthcoming. That she would go all the way to Japan without explanation was inexplicable. That she would also flee in terror from her own great-grandmother defied anything Cologne could come up with. There were occasions when Cologne liked figuring out a mystery; this was not one of them.
Cologne hoped into the alleyway and spotted the two people nearby. With a hop she closed the distance to the couple. After a second hop she gave pause. The clothing on one of the figures was correct, but that was all. The figure that bore the same style of clothing Shampoo had been wearing was a good bit taller than Cologne’s great granddaughter. And had the wrong shade of coloring to the hair. And was male. Also was the fact was that he was busy making out with the young woman in his embrace, and judging by the way the young woman’s hands were playing up and down the man’s back, was doing a good job of it.
Cologne allowed the lovers their privacy and hopped back out on the street. It was just her luck to lose track of Shampoo in the crowd. And now that she had wasted her time by following the young couple, she had most likely lost Shampoo altogether. Still, if her young charge were still in Nerima, it would only be a matter of time before Cologne caught up to her. There would be no more escapes for Shampoo.
Kasumi’s face was still pointed upward, even after Shampoo-kun broke off the kiss and looked towards the mouth of the alley. It had been just as the books had said. She felt light-headed, was unable to think clearly, was barely able to stand upright, and couldn’t seem to maintain any coherent thoughts. It was like she had a concussion.
Kasumi shook her head clear of that thought. The medical books she borrowed from Dr. Tofu had indeed said that those were the symptoms to look for when diagnosing a concussion. It was true that the kiss had left her with all of those symptoms, but from the few romance novels she had read when she was younger, those were also the characteristics of enjoying being kissed by someone that really knew how to do it. It was odd how so many of the attributes of each were the same.
She focused her thoughts on Shampoo-kun, and as her head cleared, the full effects of what had just transpired fully hit her. Kasumi had just been kissed by a girl. Well, a girl that looked, and felt, and was essentially a man when it happened, but was really a girl. Although it didn’t feel like a girl’s kiss, but more like a man’s kiss. At least that was what Kasumi thought, even though a man had never really kissed her. But Kasumi was certain that if she had been kissed by a girl she would never have kissed back, even if technically she had been kissed by a girl and had kissed back, although that was more of an automatic reaction rather than any planned kind of thought.
She tried regaining her composure. Her thoughts were still horribly erratic, but she managed to get out, “Ah, Shampoo. Why did you just kiss me?”
Shampoo-kun turned to her, fear wide in her eyes. “Great Grandmother here.” And Shampoo-kun began to explain what that meant for him.
After Shampoo-kun was finished with his tale, all Kasumi could say was, “Oh my.”
It was almost an hour later before Shampoo-kun and Kasumi made their way back to the Tendou house. Kasumi had gotten over the full implications of what was in store for Shampoo-kun, and some of the things that were going to have to be done to protect him from discovery. That meant informing the rest of the household of what was going on.
Even as Kasumi tried making plans for what to do next, her mind also raced with coming to terms with the kiss. Shampoo-kun had assured her it was done solely to camouflage him from Cologne, and not in any actual interest he might have in Kasumi, which should have reassured her but instead evoked a feeling of disappointment. That bewildered Kasumi, since she knew that she definitely did not want girls to kiss her. People would get the wrong idea about her. It was all terribly confusing.
She gave up on that line of thinking and instead helped Shampoo-kun round up everyone in the Tendou house. In very little time everyone had taken a place around the dining room table and the discussion began.
Shampoo-kun found himself feeling guilty as he tried to figure out how to begin. It was true he should have mentioned something about the circumstances surrounding him before now, but there just never seemed to be a good time. That, and he was uncertain of how the others would react to his revelations. Still, there was no longer any choice in the matter. He gave off a deep sigh, and began the story.
“Shampoo great grandmother track Shampoo down and now she in Japan.”
Everyone just stared at her.
“So?” Nabiki finally asked.
Shampoo-kun elaborated. “If Shampoo Great Grandmother find Shampoo, then she make her go back to China.”
That caught Nabiki’s interest as she shot to her feet. “You can’t do that! Just tell her no!”
Ranma shrugged, trying to figure out why his time was being wasted like this. “Yeah. It ain’t like she can force you to go.”
“You not know Great Grandmother.” Shampoo-kun shook his head.
Ranma scoffed. “What’s she going to do? Run over your feet with her wheelchair until you give in?”
Shampoo-kun looked at Ranma in confusion. “Great Grandmother no use wheelchair. Great grandmother is leader of peoples and very great fighter. No one is as good as her. Not even Ranma.”
Ranma looked at her in disbelief. Where did Shampoo-kun get off telling him some geriatric old coot was a better fighter than he was? It was an insult. “Yeah, right. You’re crazy. Old people ain’t a threat.”
As the last word left his mouth, he found himself confronted by Genma and Soun who were on their knees before him in obvious fright. Genma spoke first. “That’s not true, boy. Old people can make you do terrible things.”
“Like steal food,” Soun added.
“Or skip out on bills,” Genma pointed out.
“Or steal women’s underwear.”
“Or distract authorities so they can get away with crimes.”
“Or chain you to a tree and starve you as a form of training.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Akane asked as Genma and Soun reached a near-hysterical level of behavior.
Akane’s voice seemed to shock the two fathers back to the real world. They comforted each other with the fact that they would never have to undergo such training ever again.
“We only mean that hypothetically, of course,” Soun explained.
“Anyway, boy, don’t underestimate old people,” Genma concluded.
“Yeah, right,” Ranma snorted in disgust. No old person would be able to take him in a fight.
Shampoo-kun cleared his throat so that he could regain everyone’s attention. “Ranma no understand. Not supposed to refuse Great Grandmother. She leader of village and everyone has to follow her.”
Ranma looked at her in confusion. “You never mentioned that to us.”
Shampoo-kun began to feel the first vestiges of guilt begin to affect him. He had hoped Ranma would not have cared about that. The Amazon looked towards Kasumi for reassurance. The eldest Tendou daughter gave Shampoo-kun a sympathetic look and nodded her head, indicating he should continue. “Shampoo not tell many things. Shampoo sorry, so she tell now. Shampoo tell Ranma and Pop about how she mighty warrior in village and can no go back because boy.”
Ranma began to relax a bit. This was information he knew. “Yeah. I kind of figured it’s got something to do with how you guys are all girls and now you’re a man, so that could kind of be embarrassing or something.”
Shampoo-kun found himself shifting nervously. “There more to it than that. Is against law for Amazon to become man. Even if not warrior, can still no turn into man and get Nanniichuan curse. Is one of Amazon’s most sacred laws. No one break it in over three hundred years.”
“It was just an accident. No one can blame you for that,” Akane said.
Shampoo-kun found himself shuddering as the full consequences of what he had done came to the forefront again. ““That no makes difference. Is no excuse for becoming mans.”
“And what happens to someone if they get hit with a Nanniichuan curse?” Soun asked.
The Amazon composed himself as best as he could. “One of two things. Either banishment or death.”
The others looked on in shock. Kasumi placed her hand over Shampoo-kun’s in an effort to comfort him.
“If it was an accident, they’d banish you, right?” Akane asked, not feeling very confident about the answer.
“If Shampoo had gone to home right away, maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. But since Shampoo run, is no chance of that now. If they find Shampoo has boy-type curse, is death for sure.”
“If your great grandmother is the leader, can’t she protect you?” Nabiki asked.
“No,” Shampoo-kun shook his head. “Even if she could make them banish Shampoo instead of kill, it would no work. Great grandmother being leader is worse that way. One cursed with Nanniichuan is expected to kill self to make up for grave crime that was done. If warrior banished instead of kill self, then dishonor fall on family. Great grandmother would not want family to suffer for Shampoo mistake, and Shampoo not want family to suffer either,” she added.
Nabiki considered everything that she had heard. “Well, I think the answer’s simple. She doesn’t know you’re a guy, right? So just remain one until she leaves.”
“That not work,” Shampoo-kun said. “Great Grandmother not leave now she know Shampoo here. She stay until find, and eventually she figure out what going on. Great grandmother is very smart. She figure out eventually.”
“Well, we won’t let her take you,” Akane slammed a fist on the table. She turned to Ranma. “Isn’t that right?”
Ranma looked up at her, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. “Yeah, I won’t let her get Shampoo,” he said distractedly.
After that, the meeting broke up and everyone but Kasumi and Shampoo-kun went their separate ways. Kasumi remained behind to continue to reassure the Amazon that everything would be all right.
Shampoo-kun eventually left Kasumi’s side, feeling a little better after receiving such heartfelt sympathy. However, his mind eventually turned to the other he would have to confront. Someone that might not have understood why he had done what he had done. After getting some hot water, it took Shampoo only minutes to locate Ranma. Apparently, after he had left the meeting he went to the dojo and had begun working out. He was sweating appreciatively and moving through his katas quickly, but it was obvious to Shampoo that there was an intensity in the patterns that wasn’t usually there. It could have meant many things, but there was one in particular that Shampoo feared was the cause.
Before the Amazon could say anything, Ranma spoke. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Even as he asked the question, he continued uninterrupted through the katas.
“W… Why not Shampoo tell you what?” Even Shampoo realized she didn’t sound the least bit convincing.
If Ranma noticed, he gave no indication of it. “About your grandmother, and the real reason why you left the village.”
It was just as she had feared. Part of Shampoo wanted to say it didn’t matter and try to play off the whole situation as insignificant, but she knew it wouldn’t work. She began her explanation as best as she could, fearing it would make no difference anyway. “Shampoo knew could no stay in village when fall into spring. Had to go away. Far away. When meet Ranma, she know you from far away lands. You offer to help Shampoo, so Shampoo accept offer and go with you. If Ranma find out travel with Shampoo might bring trouble, Shampoo think you not want her go with you. Then Shampoo all alone. Is no one else that can help. Shampoo not know what to do if that happen.”
Ranma continued with his katas, moving even more quickly through them, as he said, “Fine. Why didn’t you tell me after you got to know me?”
“Shampoo not know how to tell since she no tell before. Maybe think it seem like Shampoo use Ranma only to get to Japan and Shampoo not do that. Shampoo like being around Ranma. Shampoo not want to have to leave, so not say anything.”
Ranma’s voice became louder as he continued his kata. “You should have trusted me. Pop I could understand, I don’t trust him half the time, but me? Have I ever done anything to make you think I would ditch you because of a little trouble?”
“No,” Shampoo answered, fear trickling into her voice as she felt Ranma getting progressively angrier by the moment. There was nothing Shampoo felt she could come up with that would satisfy Ranma’s anger. Nothing.
Ranma hid nothing as he moved with even more speed through the katas and sounded even angrier than before. “So, even after you knew you could trust me, and I wouldn’t run out on you, you still didn’t feel the need to tell me?”
Shampoo’s voice began to crack. “Shampoo explain to Ranma, not know how to tell to make you understand.”
And at last Ranma halted, stopping in mid-motion in one of the katas. It was in the middle of a high ax kick that Ranma stopped, his foot remaining high in the air, unwavering. His voice was smooth and lacking any anger whatsoever as he said, “You told Kasumi.”
Shampoo looked at him, stunned. “What you mean?”
Ranma remained as motionless as a statue. “I watched Kasumi the whole time you were telling us about your grandmother. She wasn’t surprised in the least. She already knew all about it. You already told her.”
Shampoo had no idea of what to say. How could she tell him that she had to tell Kasumi because she kissed the girl, and couldn’t have left it at that? “Telling Kasumi was no for same reason Shampoo not tell you.”
Ranma at last dropped his leg down. He turned to look at Shampoo-kun, anger evident on his features. “So what you’re saying is, you trusted somebody that you’ve known for only several weeks, more than someone you’ve known for several months.”
Shampoo felt like crying. It was turning out worse than she imagined. She had guessed that Ranma might have been angry with her for not telling the truth sooner, but this was completely unexpected. He was positively enraged. And with the pain that had already been plaguing Shampoo since her great grandmother’s return, the pain from the knowledge that someone she loved would probably send her to his death, she began to break down. Tears formed in her eyes as she stammered out. “Shampoo not know… don’t know how…” And she ran off, exiting by shattering one of the dojo walls in her haste as her sobs trailed behind her.
Ranma felt his anger disappear almost as quickly as Shampoo had run off. Guilt began replacing the anger, as he immediately felt sorry for his behavior. He tried forcing the guilt away since it was just plain wrong. He had every right to be angry for Shampoo lying to him like that. As mad as he was at being kept in the dark, he didn’t think he would have been so angry if Kasumi had not obviously known about it beforehand. How could Shampoo show more trust in Kasumi than him? Even he was surprised by how much that detail had bothered him.
The debate about remaining angry at Shampoo, or letting it go and maybe hunting her down, was interrupted when Akane came in through the hole in the wall. She took a good look at it, and began putting two and two together. “What did you do to Shampoo?”
Ranma heard the accusation in her voice, as though he were the bad guy. “I didn’t do nothin’.”
“Then why was she running from you and crying?”
The stress of the whole situation began to tell on Ranma as he said, “Look it’s between Shampoo and me! All right?”
“No it is not all right!” Akane snapped back. “She’s under a great deal of pressure and your doing whatever it is you’re doing to her isn’t helping things. Whatever you’re arguing about can wait until later.”
“I just found out about it! I couldn’t let it pass.”
“That is so typical of you,” Akane snorted. “If you have a problem then you have to solve it, no matter who gets trampled on in the process. Your father’s right. You do only think about yourself.” She turned to leave. “I am going to help Shampoo, because, unlike you, I do care about other people.” And without a backward glance she walked out.
Ranma stood there, looking at the hole in the wall. Akane was wrong. He wasn’t the bad guy here, Shampoo was. But even so, he began to consider the words Akane had said.
Akane ran through the neighborhood, looking for Shampoo. Following the trail was actually easy, as Shampoo had apparently been so overcome with emotion that she left a trail of broken walls behind her, making ‘doors’ in anything that was in her path. Eventually the trail ended at the top of a small office building with a water tower on the top. What was even more surprising was that Shampoo was in her normal form, sitting out in the open for the whole world to see. As Shampoo turned to see the newcomer, Akane got a good look at her face. Shampoo’s eyes were red-rimmed, obviously from crying. Whatever Ranma had done had upset Shampoo even worse that Akane had imagined.
Akane’s heart went out to her as she talked in soothing tones. “It’s dangerous for you to be out like this until we take care of this grandmother business. Why don’t we get you some water so you can change?”
“It not matter Great Grandmother find or not. Shampoo no care anymore,” Shampoo stared off in the distance.
“And why is that?” Akane asked.
“Ranma hate Shampoo.”
So that was what it was about. Akane was surprised at how strong a reaction Shampoo was having to whatever words had been exchanged between her and Ranma. “Look, Ranma has all the sensitivity of a rock. Don’t pay any attention to what he says. Whatever it is that’s got him angry at you is no big deal.”
Shampoo shook her head. “Ranma right to be angry. Shampoo know do bad thing but not fix it. So should be punished.”
“And do you honestly believe that your grandmother finding you is the solution to the problem?”
Hesitation creeped into Shampoo’s voice. “Shampoo not know what to think. Never been in situation like this. Not know how deal with it.”
Victory was at hand. Akane saw that she had gotten through to Shampoo. All that was left was to get her out of the public eye so they could discuss things in private. “Look, we’ll go inside, change you, and talk about it. O.K.”
Shampoo nodded her head in agreement, feeling better at the brief talk Akane gave. Just as she got up, she saw the figure that now stood a little distance behind Akane. The gasp Shampoo gave out attracted Akane’s attention. She turned around to see what it was Shampoo was staring at. Much to Akane’s surprise, it was a gnome on top of a stick.
Cologne cleared her throat. “Please stay. I have a few questions to ask.” The tone was polite, but held an undertone of command to it.
Akane looked at the old woman closely. She didn’t appear harmful, but there was something about her that made Akane cautious anyway. Still, the conversation was civil, at least for the moment. “So you’re her grandmother?”
“Yes. And you are?”
“I’m Akane Tendou.”
Cologne gave a brief bow from atop her staff. “I am pleased to meet you. Now if you’ll excuse us, I have a few things to discuss with my great granddaughter.”
Akane made certain Cologne would have to go through her to get to Shampoo. “I’m sorry but she really doesn’t want to talk to you right now. Why don’t you go back to China and wait for her to work things out? I’m sure she’ll come back when she‘s ready.” Akane didn’t have any real hope for her proposal, but she felt she had to try. She did tense up, expecting things to change at any second.
There was little in the way of an outward change involving Cologne, but both Akane and Shampoo could feel the irritation creep into the elder’s voice. “Shampoo is coming with me. She has many things that she still has to do. Starting with telling me why she came to Japan.” She turned to Shampoo and began speaking in Chinese. “[It took a long while to track you down Granddaughter and I am not pleased. Why are you in Japan?]”
Shampoo found the courage to answer. “[I cannot tell you, Great Grandmother. Forgive me.]”
Cologne’s patience was at an end. She had tried being polite. She had tried being understanding, yet her own flesh and blood was defying her with little hesitation. Something was going on, and Cologne was damned if she wasn’t going to get to the bottom of it immediately. “[Shampoo, You will do what I say. Come here!]”
Akane grew frustrated at being unable to follow the conversation. “I don’t know what you two are talking about, but Shampoo is staying here. Got it!”
Cologne turned to Akane, a hint of menace in her eyes. “This is none of your business, Akane Tendou. If you seek to interfere with Amazon matters, you will be dealt with in Amazon fashion.”
“Just try it!” Akane got into a defensive stance. She didn’t know how powerful Cologne was, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to take Shampoo anywhere without a fight.
“Stay away from them!”
All three sets of eyes turned to the newcomer. Akane and Shampoo both said, “Ranma.”
“Looks like I got here just in time.” Ranma had reluctantly admitted to himself that Akane had a point. No matter how angry he was at Shampoo, he could have waited to deal with it. Besides, it was going outside as a girl that had placed her in danger, and he had been a little bit responsible for getting her angry enough to do that. Although it was also Shampoo’s fault for not thinking more clearly than that. Now it appeared Shampoo’s great grandmother had indeed found her wayward charge. And if Shampoo had not been exaggerating, Ranma knew it would fall to him to save the day.
“Look, Granny,” Ranma warned as he approached Cologne. “Shampoo doesn’t wanna go with you and that’s final. So why don’t you just hop along back to China before we have to send you there.”
Shampoo watched in horror as, instead of attacking, Ranma placed his hand on Cologne’s shoulder. Cologne’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly as she placed her own hand on top of Ranma’s and with a flick of her wrist, hurled him fifteen feet away, causing him to land on his back.
His pride damaged far more than his body, Ranma returned to his feet and rushed to the attack, now more than aware of his opponent’s martial arts abilities. “You’re a tricky old thing, aren’t you? Well you won’t fool me a second time.”
Cologne casually dodged his first two attempted blows, slightly impressed by both the skill and speed with which he delivered them. For his troubles he received a swat between the eyes from Cologne’s staff. The blow was sufficient to cause Ranma to back off for a moment.
“You have potential… Ranma, was it?… You’re pretty good,” Cologne informed him.
Ranma was unable to tell if she was being serious or if she was mocking him. In either case, he prepared to attack her again. “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”
Ranma attacked using all of his abilities, but his frustration rose, as the old woman seemed to evade or block all of his attacks with ridiculous ease. Slowly, she began to retaliate, each one of her carefully chosen blows landing on their mark. Even as she fought Ranma, she kept one eye on the other two girls nearby. She saw Akane, and much to Cologne’s surprise, Shampoo, wince every time Cologne landed a blow on the boy. After hitting Ranma several more times to be sure, she temporarily broke off the attack by hurling Ranma away from her once more.
Cologne turned to Shampoo. “I think I understand now. Shampoo, did this boy defeat you in combat and make you come to Japan as his wife? You should have told me. I would have had a long talk with him about the merits of Joketsuzoku. He is a good one, an excellent fighter. Good-looking as well. There would have been no shame in losing to him.”
Shampoo felt her cheeks become warmer at the mere suggestion that she and Ranma were married. “Shampoo not fight Ranma. He not husband.”
Cologne let out a sigh. She had been so certain that was what had happened. “Then why did you come to Japan? There are many important things for you to do back home. You don’t have time for vacations.” She smacked the attacking Ranma to the side.
“Shampoo can no tell.”
Ranma’s temper had hit the breaking point. The old woman was carrying on a conversation with someone and treating him like he was an annoying flea. “Quit talking like I’m not here and fight, you old ghoul!”
Cologne took his advice and casually tossed him through one of the chimneys on the roof. Seeing the blow had sufficiently stunned Ranma enough to keep him out of the way for a while, she turned back to Shampoo. Much to Cologne’s surprise, Akane now stood between her and her goal.
“It’s my turn now.” And with that as her battle cry, Akane attacked.
The ancient Amazon deflected her attacks even more casually than she had Ranma’s. Nonetheless, she found herself impressed once again. “Not bad, girl. I didn’t know Japanese women could fight as well as you. Ever consider becoming an Amazon? We are always willing to embrace those that can fight.”
“No, thanks. I’m happy at home,” Akane said as she tried to get through Cologne’s defenses. Although she did find herself flattered by the offer. Most people didn’t seem to take her martial arts skills seriously anymore. At least not since Ranma and Shampoo had hit town.
“That’s too bad,” Cologne said as she allowed Akane to overextend on a punch and maneuvered behind her. A quick touch to a pressure point on the back of Akane’s neck caused her to collapse in a heap. With the last defender out of the way, Cologne turned to Shampoo.
“Did you hurt her?” Shampoo asked.
“It was nothing more than a pressure point attack,” Cologne explained. “[Now, Great- Granddaughter, where were we?]”
Shampoo looked the scene of carnage over. Even if she could bring herself to fight her great grandmother, she wouldn’t have stood a chance. Before today, Shampoo would have insisted that if her great grandmother had found her, she would have fought with everything she had to keep from being forced to go back to home and her death. But now, she found her spirit faltering, especially with what had gone on with Ranma earlier in the day. It was time to show her great grandmother the truth and see what would come about.
“[I can show you why I left.]” Shampoo walked under the nearby water tower that was on the roof. With a quick jump, she brought her fist upward and shattered the bottom of the quarter-filled tank. The water was torrential as it poured from out of the bottom of the tower and drenched Shampoo, temporarily obscuring her from view. As the last of the water fell from the tower, Cologne got an unrestricted view of her ‘great granddaughter.’
Cologne stood there, mouth agape. There was nothing that could have prepared her for the horror her eyes beheld. Now Shampoo’s previous behavior made perfect sense. A Nanniichuan curse. How could it have happened? No Amazon had received the curse since before Cologne was born, and now it had happened to her very own great granddaughter. A sinking feeling in Cologne’s stomach made its presence known. The feeling was so great, it was as though the elder had found out Shampoo had died. In truth, it might have been better if such a thing had occurred. Now, with a Nanniichaun curse and the dishonor that would follow, Shampoo might have been given a fate even worse than a simple death.
Cologne’s mind was still reeling from the starling revelation when a blow struck her fully in the back of the head. For the first time in one hundred years, she had completely dropped her guard, and it was at that moment that the recovered Ranma chose to strike as hard as he could. One solid blow was all it took to crumple Cologne over and cause her to fall to the ground, unconscious.
Ranma looked over the prone body, barely convinced that he had won so easily. He had been certain the old ghoul was going to dodge the blow. That he had connected so effortlessly came as a shock to him. Then his ego kicked in and reassured him that he would’ve won anyway; so a lucky break just made the inevitable arrive more quickly.
Shampoo-kun rushed over to examine his great grandmother. That she had discovered the truth meant nothing; he still cared for her. “Sorry, Great Grandmother,” he said too quiet for the others to hear.
The pressure point move wore off of Akane as she regained her feet and joined the others. “What do we do now?”
Ranma placed his hand to his chin in thought. After a few moments, it came to him. “I got an idea.”
Cologne awakened from the dreams of plying the Indian Ocean as a privateer, just as she had in her youth. She was surprised, since she had not had that dream in well over a hundred years. It was as she opened her eyes that she discovered that the smell of brine was not exclusive to her dreams. Sitting up, she found herself on the open seas on a large raft with several crates of food on it. There was, however, no sign of either sail or motor with which to propel the craft. Once she found her staff had been also placed on the raft, it didn’t matter. She immediately placed in the water and, using a modified kachuu tenshin amaguriken, spun it like a propeller. In moments she was speeding along on the ocean almost as quickly as if she did have an engine.
Returning to civilization, and then Japan, would take a while, but it was just as well. She needed time to not only let the newfound information concerning Shampoo’s curse settle in, but exactly what she was going to do about it. Whatever course she would take, she knew it would not be an easy one. And it would not bode well for Shampoo, no matter what.
The diminutive figure pulled itself out of the cave and into the cloud covered day. After being trapped in the blasted thing for a decade, a lighting bolt had finally shattered the huge boulder that had been blocking the opening. It took the small man several minutes to reorient himself, now that he was aware of his freedom again. It was as he was still reorienting that he recalled the nature of how his imprisonment came about. Those two ungrateful students of his were going to pay for being so inept and not using enough explosives. If a person intended to eliminate his enemies, he had to do the job right. That was what he had taught them for so many years, and now they had disappointed him one more time.
Happosai sighed. A master’s work was never done.
To be continued.
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