The old crone stood off to the side of the walkway in the park, her staff cradled in the crook of her arm, holding an open book in her hands. To the occasional passerby it appeared she was casually reading a book. The passers-by were wrong. There was nothing casual about her reading. The book was written in Chinese and entitled “The Laws of Joketsuzoku.” Cologne found the passage she was looking for and read:
Cologne closed the book and sighed,
“The things one must do to uphold honor.”
Chapter 7: Severing the Ties That Bind
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
What’s gone on before, (or what you need to know to enjoy this fic.) In the beginning, The Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou and began to spar, not realizing that Shampoo and Mousse had already began a duel there as well. One mid-air collision, and quick dunking in Spring of Young Drowned Man later, there is a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. [Ranma-chan= female. Shampoo-kun= male. Enjoy.] Shampoo elected to travel with Ranma to Japan and ended up briefly engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up, Ranma became engaged to Akane. On the first day of school, water and confusion mixed resulting in everyone thinking Ranma-chan was Shampoo and Shampoo-kun was Ranma. Last chapter, Ranma-chan got blackmailed by Furinkan’s deranged director into being Juliet in a play. Ranma-chan talked Shampoo-kun into becoming Romeo so he wouldn’t have to kiss a guy. After electro-shock acting lessons, incompetent stagehands, and attacks by everyone to cripple Ranma-chan, the play went on, becoming a success. At the end of the chapter we learned that Cologne had returned and summoned RanRan and LinLin to Japan to “help” with their big sister…
Part I: Severing the Ties That Bind
Akane and Shampoo walked through the park on what most would have considered a typical, if somewhat humid, day. The weather was just enough to keep most people indoors, yet both of the girls felt the need to be outside despite the conditions. ‘Not nice’ weather was hardly the sort of thing to keep aspiring martial artists inside.
They had walked for about half an hour when Akane broke the silence first. “Don’t you just love days like this?”
Shampoo just nodded her head.
Akane continued, despite the silent response, “So, it’s been several months now. What do you think of Japan?”
Shampoo seemed lost in thought as she finally spoke, “It very nice. Especially like Tendos for helping Shampoo. It not home, but no place is.”
Akane’s tone changed from the conversational one to a more apologetic one. “I’m sorry about the way I acted during the play. I didn’t mean to hurt you; I was mad at Ranma.”
Shampoo turned to Akane, slightly irritated, “Ranma just doing part. Should no be angry with him.”
“Whatever.” Akane didn’t sound convinced as she looked away from Shampoo. “So, what was kissing him like?”
Shampoo’s response was curt, “Shampoo no kiss Ranma. Too busy fighting. Then everything explode.”
“What about after?”
“Shampoo not kiss Ranma after. Shampoo only try kiss Ranma for play.” Her tone became more irritated. “Why ask so many questions?”
Akane continued staring off to the side, her face away from Shampoo. “No particular reason.”
Satisfied the youngest Tendo was not going to press further, Shampoo and relaxed and the duo continued their walk. They covered little additional distance before spotting someone neither wanted to see.
“<Greetings, Granddaughter,>” Cologne said formally. She was in the middle of the path, standing on her staff and obviously waiting for them.
Akane dropped into a fighting stance. “Great. She’s back.”
Cologne gave Akane in amused smile, and then continued, focusing once more on Shampoo. “<It is time to go back, Xian Pu. I command it.>”
Shampoo gave a hurt expression. “<And then what, Great Grandmother?>”
“<We will try to cure you of your… condition.>”
“<And if we fail, what then?>” Shampoo asked. “<Do I throw myself upon my sword in order to beg for the forgiveness of the council?>”
“<If it becomes necessary. What other choice is there?>” The matriarch’s tone became more commanding. “<I have trained you to be our next leader. One of the first rules I taught you is that we are not above the law. How dare you fail me this way! I thought I raised you better than that!>”
Shampoo remained unmoved. “<I cannot go back. I can solve this problem if I have more time. I’m sorry.>”
Cologne scowled. “<So you refuse?>”
“<I have no choice,>” Shampoo answered softly.
As she finished her declaration two figures burst from the shrubs, weapons drawn, and raced out directly into the path of both Shampoo and Akane. Shampoo immediately recognized them as her Amazon ‘sisters’, RanRan and LinLin, and panicked.
“<What are you doing here?>” And why were they in Japan? Surely her great grandmother had not brought them just for her.
The girls looked at Shampoo, expressions of pain on both their faces. RanRan was the first to speak, “<I don’t believe it, Xian Pu.>”
LinLin continued, picking up where her sister left off. “<Neither do I. I thought the Elder must have been mistaken when she said you refused to obey her order to go home.>”
RanRan continued, the girl finishing her sister’s thoughts. “<But now we see it’s true. You disobeyed her right before our eyes. You must have committed some terrible crime to hide here in Japan.>”
That surprised Shampoo. “<You don’t know what I did?>”
“<The Elder did not see fit to tell us. Listen. If you come with us now, maybe they’ll let you off easy,>” LinLin began speaking more softly, her pain evident. “<You’re our big sister. We have looked up to you almost all of our lives. You’re the idol for all the girls our age.>” LinLin’s look was almost pleading as she watched for Shampoo’s reaction.
RanRan voice matched the pleading of her sister. “<We want to follow in your footsteps. You are the strongest and bravest warrior, and you’re going to lead the village. You’ve never disappointed anyone. We always considered it a great honor that you gave us such attention. Everyone else is jealous of us.>”
It was LinLin’s turn. “<But now you risk throwing it all away because you’re afraid of coming back. That’s not the Xian Pu we know. The one we know is strong and not afraid of anything. The Xian Pu we know would give beat up anyone that would even suggest she was a coward. Please, come back with us. Face your punishment like an Amazon. Don’t throw away your honor.>”
Shampoo shook her head. The two girls couldn’t understand. They were too young and foolish, though as Shampoo thought that she suddenly remembered her great grandmother describing her that way as well. She reassured herself that there was a difference, even if she couldn’t say exactly what it was. “<It’s not my fault. I didn’t want it to happen. I don’t want to die because of some stupid accident.>”
“<What accident?>” RanRan asked. “<Did you kill Mu Tze? He was a pig, and deserved to die for trying to make you his wife when he was so weak and unworthy. I don’t know why you didn’t cripple him years ago for the way he constantly harasses you!>”
Shampoo’s voice became much softer as an almost painful look entered her eyes, “<Even Mu Tze doesn’t deserve death for what he did to me. He wasn’t unworthy. I just didn’t love him.>”
LinLin was visibly confused, “<Love? What difference does that make? You’ll marry a strong man,. That’s what all the warriors want, and since you’re the most powerful you will marry the strongest. You’re very lucky. RanRan and I will get weak husbands compared to yours.>”
Shampoo wondered how they could speak that way. Love had a very important role in life. How could they not understand? “<There is more to a husband than strength.>”
RanRan’s look changed from confusion to disbelief. “<What are you talking about? Strength is everything. It is what makes an Amazon what she is. Nothing else matters besides honor and strength. That is why you have to come back. For honor. Show that you are strong. Face your punishment.>”
Tears of anger started forming in Shampoo’s eyes. “<Even if the punishment is wrong? I am still the same person I was since… before the accident. Everything I was, that made me what I am, is still the same. That has not changed. I should be judged for what I am, not by my appearance, not for being what others expect of me.>” She prayed they would listen to her words. She wasn’t certain if she could bring herself to fight them.
Her hopes were fleeting as RanRan started to become angry, confused at Shampoo’s behavior. “<That is not for you to decide! The council will judge you. No matter what the judgment is, it will be the right one. That is what makes Amazon law so special. It is always right. Look, if they choose death for you, LinLin and I would be honored to be your seconds.>”
Shampoo eyes widened in surprise. “<You sound almost enthusiastic about helping me to die.>”
“<We would be saddened by your death, but happy to carry out the law.>” LinLin added soberly. “<It is our way. That’s what makes us so much better than everyone else. We are willing to do whatever it takes to make our people stronger. There is no room for weakness, like the one you are demonstrating to us now.>”
RanRan’s voice rose to an angrier level. She pointed accusingly towards Shampoo. “<You say you have not changed, but that is a lie. Before you left you would never have even thought for a moment of doing the things you do now. You speak in defiance, and of love, as though those were important things in life. You sound like a weak outsider, and nothing like the big sister we held most dear. You have changed, Xian Pu. You are weak and a coward.> Her tone changed to that of a command. “<Come back to China. Now!>”
Shampoo shook her head in disbelief. Why were they turning on her like this? In the past they had nearly worshipped the ground she walked on, always trying to be more like their ‘big sister’. Yet both were acting like she was some kind of enemy. “<I will not. I have done nothing wrong.>”
“<Please.>” LinLin was almost inaudible as she pleaded with Shampoo.
LinLin lowered her trident and slashed it across the palm of her hand. Slowly she squeezed her palm until blood dripped to the ground. Tears were held back as she forced herself to say words she never believed would cross her lips. She was going to lose one of the most important things in her life. “<For your actions this day. For the defiance you show to our elder and leader. For the cowardice you show in your unwillingness to go back home and accept whatever judgment the council would give you. For all these crimes, you are my sister no longer. This I swear on my blood as an Amazon.>”
RanRan drew her belt knife and made the same vow with as much pain as her sister had. LinLin brandished her trident in Shampoo’s direction.
“<Dead or alive, you come with us now.>”
Akane had listened intently and followed none of the speech. Seeing LinLin motioning with her trident, Akane decided that she had stayed in the background long enough. Finally she spoke up and let the others know she was there. “How many times do I have to tell you people she is not going back to China?”
RanRan’s attitude changed to that of a lethal predator. Now she was confronted with someone she cared nothing about. “Soft Japanese girl get hurt if stand in way of Amazon justice. Go run away home.”
Akane became indignant at that. How dare the little girl call her weak! “Think again.”
Shampoo was boiling in rage and in tears. There was only one person responsible for helping to tear a part of her life away from her, isolating her further from her people.
“<This is all your fault, Great Grandmother! You’re the one who brought them here! You knew this would happen! You knew I would not go back! Now, thanks to you, I have no sisters. DAMN YOU!!!>”
She could contain her rage no longer as she launched an attack at Cologne. The elder remained calm in the face of the assault. “<Now that is foolish, great granddaughter.>” She vaulted over the charging Shampoo and tapped her on the back of the neck with her staff. Shampoo went down as her muscles locked up. “<The boy’s protection does not extend to you if you attack me directly.>” She gazed sadly at Shampoo. If only the whole messy business could have been avoided. Now what had to be done was to take Shampoo back to China and try to get a cure. Were the gods willing, Cologne could get her hands on some Nyanniichuan and make the horrible fiasco just go away. Then they could all go back home and try to go back to the ways they had before. If not…
Akane tried to run over to Shampoo but was blocked by the pair of young Amazons.
LinLin pointed at Akane’s throat with her trident. “Fight over now, Japanese Girl. Shampoo ours. We kill if you try stop.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
LinLin just shrugged. “<RanRan, why don’t you hurt this stupid girl?>”
“<It would be my pleasure.> She grinned and moved to attack with her staff. Akane deftly blocked the two strikes. RanRan looked surprised for a moment, then redoubled her efforts. Akane blocked or dodged four more thrusts and saw an opening, kicking RanRan in the leg.
LinLin became annoyed with her sister’s lack of progress. “<Quit toying with her!>”
RanRan moved her leg to assess the damage, then turned to Akane. “Japanese girl know how to fight. Did Shampoo teach?”
Akane smiled at the perceived compliment. “She helped me and I helped her.” She added more by throwing a punch.
RanRan blocked the blow. “Would respect then, if Shampoo not dishonorable dog.” A staff strike followed.
Akane took the hit, but rolled with it. “If you take her back they’ll kill her!” she yelled as she regained her footing.
“Good. If today is how Shampoo act since left, killing be only honorable thing left her to do.”
Akane was struck speechless by the accusation. Rather then retort she launched into a flurry of attacks, catching RanRan off guard. The smaller Amazon managed to hit Akane on the way in, but the girl failed to register the effect. RanRan only managed to block the second kick, as she was struck by a fist to the jaw, two kicks to her midsection, and then received a body throw into the ground.
Akane looked at the fallen RanRan and smiled. “Who’s soft now?”
Akane barely managed to avoid the trident thrust of LinLin, who decided her sister was not going to come close to winning her fight. RanRan returned to her own feet, allowing the two to double team Akane. As hard as she tried, Akane found herself badly overmatched.
LinLin came in high, and only quick reflexes saved Akane’s head. The top of her hair was not so fortunate as it ended up cut just above her scalp, giving her a very poor crew cut. Quite a feat considering LinLin was using a trident. Akane’s defense totally broke down as a second series of attacks left her open to yet another of LinLin’s trident thrusts.
LinLin gave a silent prayer for what was to be her dead foe’s soul as she jabbed forward to run Akane through the heart. Much to the Amazon’s surprise the blow never landed as her trident disappeared in the middle of her thrust. It took her a moment to realize where it had gone as she looked up to see Ranma, standing on a tree branch, holding the trident lazily in his hands.
He afforded a smile to her. “Little girls shouldn’t play with dangerous toys.” And with that he snapped the trident over his knee and tossed the pieces away.
Akane breathed a sigh of relief at Ranma’s timely arrival. “They’re trying to take Shampoo back to China.”
Ranma looked over to see Shampoo’s prone form next to Cologne, who was standing over her great granddaughter. Upon seeing her, his eyes widened.
“Well, well. If it isn’t my husband.” Cologne gave a toothy grin as she finished the declaration.
Ranma suppressed the urge to vomit at the suggestion. “What are you talking about? And what did you do to Shampoo?”
“You beat me in combat, boy. That means I have to marry you.”
“No way!” Ranma’s revulsion doubled. “I’m not getting married to a ghoul like you! I don’t even like the one I got now.”
Akane glared at the jibe, but remained silent.
“Don’t worry. I’m only kidding,” Cologne reassured him. “You’re way too young for me, and I wouldn’t want to take those strong genes of yours away from future generations. But by defeating me, you are afforded some protection from me. It would, in the least, be in poor taste to attack you directly after you defeated me, even though I was double-teamed. It really is my own fault for letting my guard down. That won’t happen again. As for Shampoo, any protection over her ends when she attacks me. Same goes for you.”
“Then what’s up with the two little psychos?” Ranma pointed to RanRan and LinLin.
“I didn’t say I couldn’t act through others,” Cologne explained. “Besides, they have a say in this matter. Until five minutes ago, they were Shampoo’s Amazon sisters.”
Akane stared in surprise at the duo. “Shampoo’s your sister?”
RanRan nodded her head. “Was Amazon sister. Now enemy of all Amazons. She too weak to be Amazon any more.”
“She’s ten times the Amazon you’ll ever be!” Ranma shouted.
“You think that how Amazon act?” LinLin pointed disdainfully towards Shampoo’s still form. “You not see real Amazon until you see us fight.”
RanRan jumped on LinLin’s shoulders as the two shouted as one. “Two Bodies Double Team Attack!”
In an instant they began whirling, similar to the Cheerleader Whirlwind Pyramid, but much smaller; their bodies becoming indistinguishable blurs. RanRan’s staff poked out several times in an effort to strike Ranma. Heightened reflexes prevented the blows from getting through to him.
Analyzing the spinning top for a few moments, while parrying several attacks, Ranma figured out what to do. “Akane, go in low!”
Akane didn’t question as she prepared to drop low. With the next attack Ranma grabbed the staff as it came out on the next strike, slowing the spinning couple down. With the loss in speed Akane saw the opening she needed and swept LinLin’s feet at the base, causing the duo to end up in a heap.
Akane stood defiantly over the duo. “Give up yet?”
“Outsiders good.” RanRan nodded approvingly. “Show you great honor. Finish you with Chinese Dance of Great Fire Dragon.”
Cologne shook her head. The pair was doomed.
The twins’ bodies seemed to merge into one. Within moments a red glow formed behind them and huge dragon seemed to materialize. The unexpected display caused Ranma and Akane to back up, wondering just how they had somehow summoned something so big. As the glow died off the duo realized one thing about the ‘dragon’; it was paper. Just like the kind used in festivals.
The shock Ranma had felt at first was quickly replaced. “HAHA! What are you goin’ do with that? Dance at us?”
LinLin and RanRan smiled at each other. “No. You are.”
They grabbed the dragon and music started playing. What amusement Ranma felt disappeared as he and Akane found themselves dancing to an irresistible tune.
“What’s going on?” Normally Akane wouldn’t mind a good dance; she didn’t get to do it often. However, doing it in the middle of a fight was not what she had in mind.
Ranma jerked around, trying to stop his dance. “I don’t know! OW!” Akane stepped on his toes. “Watch the feet!”
A second surprise came when the Amazons started using the flamethrower in the dragon’s mouth on them.
Now Akane started to become frightened. Wearing flame retardant clothing had not been on the day’s agenda. “Ranma, do something!”
“I am.” He began to tap and scuffle, heel to toe, and shuffle off to Buffalo.
“That is not what I meant!”
“Do you think I want to dance? OW! Quit stepping on my toes! I think you broke one!” At that point in the dance, Ranma got toasted by the flamethrower. “I’M ON FIRE!!!”
“Now is not the time to be bragging about your dancing!”
Cologne nodded in appreciation. The outcome was never in doubt, but the boy and girl had fought a good fight. She sighed as she thought about things. She needed to get out more often. The world was changing. She hadn’t realized how good some of the fighters outside of the village had gotten. If only they could get some new blood in the tribe.
RanRan and LinLin began shouting together. “You finished now. Chinese Dance of Great Fire Dragon unbeatable!” To prove their point they roasted Ranma again.
Cologne didn’t notice Shampoo’s hand slowly reach for the pointed end of the broken trident that had landed next to her. Sluggishly she grasped it, then drew her hand back, and released it with all her might. The makeshift spear went flying into the middle of the dragon and broke the radio that was playing the music. As the music stopped so did the dancing.
Cologne eyes widened as she looked over to see that Shampoo was still lying there, but her hand still moving. She should not have regained even partial muscle control for another five minutes.
Ranma stood still for a moment, smoldering while enjoying the release from playing ‘Lord of the Dance’ on sore feet. He allowed his anger to build. “Do you realize what you have done?” he growled to the two Amazons. “You have gone too far! It is one thing to try to take Shampoo back to China! It is another to try to fry me alive! But to make me watch that…” he pointed to Akane. “…clumsy gorilla try to dance is the worst kind of torture imaginable! Have you no honor?”
It took but a moment for that to register with Akane. Once it did, the biggest battle aura she had ever summoned flared around her. “I’LL SHOW YOU TORTURE!!!”
Ranma realized he had really put his foot in his mouth with that one. “Now wait a minute. I mean clumsy gorilla in the nicest way.” As he backed up in fear he stumbled over a tree root.
That was all the opening Akane needed as she grabbed his feet. “I’ll have you know I took two years of dancing when I was little!”
She picked him up and swung him around as though she was Paul Bunyan and Ranma were the ax. She drove him into a tree. It broke. Ranma didn’t.
“I can dance perfectly fine!” Akane raged. “It’s not my fault Fuji broke his toes when he was dancing with me in sixth grade!” She swung him into another tree with the same result. “It wasn’t right for them to call me Leadfoot after that!” She swung him into yet another tree. “You say I can’t act!” This time she swung him around for velocity. “You say I can’t cook!” Swung him around again. “But damn it!”
She brought Ranma up over her head and began to arc him down. Since her eyes were glazed over no one was sure if she was intentionally aiming for the two Amazons or not. LinLin had enough sense to run away, screaming, before Ranma could be brought down on her. RanRan, remained where she was, just staring at the awesome display of violence, jaw wide open. Ranma was brought down directly on her head, the force of the blow driving her into the ground all the way up to her waist.
Akane released Ranma’s feet and breathed heavily while both RanRan and Ranma had stopped moving.
“I think you dance with grace and style. It was a pleasure to watch.” Cologne assured her.
The unexpected compliment served to calm Akane down and her aura faded. “You mean that?”
“Why would I lie?”
Akane smiled. “Thanks. People around here don’t appreciate good dancing.”
LinLin at last came out of hiding and tried to help RanRan out of the ground. “<You can’t be serious, Elder. She dances like a baboon with two club feet.>”
Cologne gave her a stern look. “<It was the easiest way to defuse the situation. And say no more, lest she understands our tongue.>”
Ranma started to come around at the same time as RanRan, his eyes focusing on Akane.
“Good! It was supposed to.” Akane began to feel somewhat sorry for her actions, in spite of what she said. Maybe she had overreacted.
Ranma pressed the issue. “Now you aren’t being fai—“ He was cut off as he ended up glomped by RanRan.
“Wo de Airen,” RanRan gushed.
Two fists met flesh. Akane's, into Ranma’s face. Shampoo’s, into RanRan’s.
Cologne’s eyes widened into disbelief again. It was impossible. Shampoo should not have regained total muscle control for another ten minutes.
“RANMA!!!” Akane bellowed. “Just what do you think you are doing?!”
“It ain’t my fault,” Ranma spluttered. “She just grabbed on to me.”
Shampoo mirrored the statement on her victim. “What RanRan think she do?”
“It simple.” RanRan smiled. “Boy defeat RanRan in combat. RanRan marry husband.”
Akane heard the statement and began choking Ranma. “You pervert!”
“Not… my… fault,” Ranma gasped.
Shampoo had her own problems. “You can’t marry Ranma.”
“Why?” RanRan asked.
“He not beat you. He just used as weapon.”
“That not matter.”
“He already have fiancée.”
“Then have to kill fiancée.”
“That girl fiancée,” Shampoo said flatly and pointed to Akane.
RanRan appeared scared for a moment, then regained her composure. “Then learn to get along with other wife.”
Ranma began to lose consciousness once again as Akane continued to strangle him.
“There one other reason why no can marry Ranma.” Shampoo turned to Akane. “Please take Ranma and go, Akane. This must be done private.”
“Fine.” Akane stopped strangling Ranma and dragged him off around some trees and out of sight.
“<Now why can’t I marry the handsome boy?> RanRan asked, irritated.
Shampoo cracked her knuckles. “<I’ll show you why.>”
Akane was reprimanding the recovering Ranma when an unearthly scream broke out from where they had just left Shampoo. They started to run over to where the Amazons were located when they saw Shampoo come from around some trees, appearing the same as when they left, save for a big smile on her face.
“What was that?” Ranma asked.
“RanRan not like reason why she can no marry Ranma.” Shampoo shrugged. “Let’s go home. Great Grandmother not bother us for awhile.”
Shampoo led the way while Ranma and Akane followed.
Cologne observed the twitching limbs that were twisted at some odd angles. LinLin just stared at the mess with a look of horror on her face.
“<I have to hand it to Shampoo. She disabled RanRan in such a way as to make sure she can’t fight for a while, but won’t leave any permanent damage.>” Cologne admired the handiwork, although the pain holds had been a bit excessive. She wondered why Shampoo was so angry with RanRan, and how she had gotten out of the pressure point blow. Cologne had heard of those with absolute single-minded purpose could sometimes come out of them early at great personal risk, but what could have brought her great granddaughter to that level of drive, she wondered? Shampoo had never demonstrated it before, no matter how hard Cologne had tried.
Ranma jumped up onto the roof. Shampoo had been in his usual spot for close to an hour. It was only now that he felt concerned enough to risk violating her privacy, an unusual action on his part, but one he felt he had to do. As he got to the top, he saw that Shampoo was staring at the sunset. No smile parted her lips as she looked off into the distance. Ranma began to have second thoughts about interrupting her, then considered all that had happened in the day. He opened his mouth to speak.
“Shampoo want be left alone now,” she informed him without bothering to turn her head.
Ranma found he did not want to give up. “You sure?”
She still had not turned her head to answer him. Ranma relented and jumped back down into Akane’s room. Her concern mirrored his own.
“She said she wants to be alone,” Ranma informed her.
Akane shook her head. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Me either,” Ranma admitted. “But it ain’t like we can’t force her to open up to us.”
The sound of creaking from the roof caught their attention. Akane peered out the window to see the cause of the disturbance.
“I don’t think we need to worry any more,” Akane said with a smile as she came back fully into the room.
“Why?” Ranma asked. What had happened?
“Someone else is going to talk to her.”
Shampoo heard the creaking noise and turned around. It was Kasumi, who was climbing unsteadily onto the roof from her own window.
“I don’t understand the fascination you three seem to have with staying up here. I think this is just a little dangerous.” Kasumi walked unsteadily towards Shampoo.
The purple-haired Amazon made certain Kasumi sat down safely and began to talk. “Shampoo want be left alone.”
Instead of moving, Kasumi stared off into the sunset. “I’m sure you want much more than that. Like the magic girl water. Acceptance back into your village. Your family.”
Shampoo sadly nodded her head. “Yes.”
“You can be alone if you want.” Kasumi looked at Shampoo straight in the eye. “Is that what you want?”
For the first time since the fight, Shampoo suddenly found herself uncertain. She was not used to opening up to people about things like this, yet there was some urge to talk to the girl before her. “Not sure.”
“Why don’t you tell me about it?”
Akane stopped listening in. “She’s in good hands. Let’s go.”
Ranma was more confused than anything else. “Why is she talking with Kasumi instead of me?”
“Aren’t there things you only talk with your father, and not any of the girls here?”
“Guy stuff. Sure.”
“Well, it's the same thing for girls.” Akane grabbed Ranma by the hand. “Now let’s go. I’ll beat you at Shogi.”
Ranma smiled at that. “We’re going to have to tear our fathers off the board.”
“Good. Their games have gone on long enough.”
Back on the roof, Kasumi examined Shampoo more closely. “What happened today?”
Shampoo considered remaining silent, but gave in to the need to open up. “Shampoo lose sisters.”
That shocked Kasumi. “You mean they died?”
“Not way you mean.” Shampoo shook her head vigorously. “Sisters disown Shampoo.”
That was a relief, but Kasumi still needed to know more. “Why would they do that?”
“They follow Amazon law. Shampoo not go back when supposed to. So they disown Shampoo.” It really had been simple, especially with her great grandmother right there. They had done exactly what they were supposed to do.
“That’s terrible. Isn’t there any way to make up with them?”
“Yes,” Shampoo acknowledged. “Can go back to village and kill self. If Shampoo restore honor, then they take back.”
Had any of her family members been present, they would have been shocked to hear the adamant tone Kasumi’s voice contained. “You can’t do that. Isn’t there some way around the law?”
Shampoo shook her head sadly. “No. If want Amazon sisters back, then Shampoo must go back.”
“You aren’t considering that, are you?”
Shampoo gave Kasumi an odd look. Yes, there was definitely a need to open up. “Shampoo think very much about what happened today. At first, very hurt by sisters turning back on Shampoo. But now stop and think about what happened. Why happened. What was said. Shampoo think about what sisters like. Before today, Shampoo remember sisters and think they good. Why they so different? Why they so mean and violent girls now? When did they become bad?”
Kasumi shook her head. “Even though they disowned you, they are still your sisters. They are still good people. This is just a big misunderstanding.”
Shampoo just stared at Kasumi, almost as though what the eldest Tendo daughter had said aided Shampoo in what she wanted to say. “Shampoo at first think they do change. But now stop and remember. Try to see how they change. Why they do what they did. Then as Shampoo thought, she realize, they not change.” Shampoo’s gaze became a bit wild, influenced by the revelation she had only recently made. “They just the same as before.”
“I’m not sure I follow you,” Kasumi said.
“Sisters not turn bad,” Shampoo continued. “They not changed. If not they change then why they do what they did? Then answer occur to Shampoo. RanRan right. Is Shampoo who changed. If Shampoo change, then is good change, or bad? Sisters think bad. Why? How did Shampoo change to make things bad?”
“You are not a bad person,” Kasumi insisted. “If they think that, then they are just wrong.”
Sadness was evident in Shampoo’s voice. “Kasumi, you not know Shampoo before meet with Ranma and Pop. Now think about it. Shampoo think was not very nice person. Used to be much more,” she searched for the correct word. “Arrogant. Very ruthless. Did whatever took to get what wanted. Well, almost anything. Also, Shampoo used to beat people up to prove better, had to do many times. When younger, even defeat friends because had to be best. After a while, Shampoo not have any friends. So act like not care. Am supposed to be future leader, so above needing friends. Shampoo had people that look up to her, but not like equals. Only Mousse remain same, but he want wife, not friend. It was nice he not change. At least before Jusenkyou,” Shampoo added.
Kasumi gazed softly at her friend. “You don’t have to tell—“
Shampoo cut her off. “Yes! Shampoo do have to tell. Great Grandmother teach that to lead tribe may have to do hurt to people for good of Amazons. Can no let feelings get in way. So Shampoo try not care about feelings. Do this for very long time. After all, if no care, then no can be hurt. Shampoo think she successful for long time. Maybe things would start to bother, but quickly put them out of mind because they just get in way. Shampoo live that way for very long time.
“But once fall into cursed spring, then everything change. Now can no go back to village because everything different. Everything Shampoo learn, everything Shampoo do, everything Shampoo live for, all gone with splash of water. Shampoo had nothing but village and to become leader, now don’t have that. So now what could Shampoo do?” She shuddered then. “If not for Ranma and Pop, Shampoo think maybe she would have gone back to village anyway. If all life there, then maybe it right death be there, too.”
Kasumi said nothing. She simply rested a hand on Shampoo’s shoulder.
Shampoo continued. “But Ranma and Pop were there. When they see how much Shampoo hurt, and that she can no go back to village, Ranma say, ‘Shampoo, you can come with us.’ Shampoo not understand. They not ask for anything. They just offer for no reason, so Shampoo say yes. Shampoo spent many days with Ranma and Pop. After a while, see how Ranma and Pop act. It so different from everything Shampoo see when living in Joketsuzoku. Yes, they train, but it different, not like with Great Grandmother. Shampoo discover she like being with Ranma and Pop. And also, Shampoo see world outside village for first time. It so different. So many things and people. Shampoo try to learn all but can’t. There’s too much. And so much is different from what learn from Great Grandmother. So maybe that why change. New Shampoo do many things Old Shampoo would never do. Old Shampoo not act in play, or go to school, or stuff like that. Shampoo not used to that. It all different now.”
Shampoo took a deep breath. “So now Shampoo know she change. Now ask self, if want to change back to way Old Shampoo was. And you know what answer is?”
Kasumi shook her head.
“Shampoo not want to go back to way Shampoo was.” The Amazon concentrated on what to say next. “’I’ like being the way I am. I like this new ‘me’”. She relaxed. “Shampoo prefer talk like this. It easier. So now have no family, and, most important, Shampoo know not want to go back to way Shampoo was.” She looked to the ground. “That mean family gone forever.”
Kasumi embraced Shampoo tightly. “You’ll always have me.”
Shampoo just sat there limp for a few moments, unused to such open affection from another woman. Warriors were only like that among their closest friends, and in private. Shampoo only had one that would have ever qualified as that, and that had ended up so painfully she refused to even try again. But Kasumi was different. She was no warrior. Shampoo found she wanted to return the embrace, and did so.
“Like that very much,” Shampoo said with heartfelt gratitude. “Shampoo want thank Kasumi.”
Shampoo felt embarrassed by her confession. “You much responsible for Shampoo change, at least as much as Ranma and Pop. You nice person, that treat Shampoo good since Shampoo got here. Shampoo like the way you are, and try to be more like you. More understanding, and not so violent. Shampoo know that she different from you, but still can learn things from you. That part of reason why Shampoo like changes. Know that am better now than what Shampoo was before.
“You’re welcome,” was all Kasumi could say.
Akane played around with her hair once again. Kasumi had done a good job of evening it out, but it was still going to take some getting used to.
“Can I come in?” Ranma asked carefully from the door of Akane’s bedroom.
Akane suddenly felt uncomfortable, but she knew it had nothing to do with Ranma seeing her new haircut. Not at all.
“Um… okay.” She found her hand playing with the hair once again.
She watched Ranma come in and stare at her, or more specifically, her hair. He hated it. “Why are you staring at me?” she growled.
Ranma felt the hackles on his neck stand up. She was going to get violent for no reason once again. Still, he said the first thing that came to mind. “It’s the hair. It looks kind of nice on you.” Oddly, the hackles on his neck went away.
Akane just stared at him for a moment. He said she looked nice? “Oh. Thanks. I was trying to think of how long it would take to grow back, but, if you think it looks nice maybe I should keep it short. Not this short. But shorter than it was before.”
Ranma shrugged. “Well, it ain’t like it was nasty looking before, but… Oh, I dunno. I guess short hair suits you better. I think you should keep it that way, if you’re asking me for my opinion.”
“I guess I am.” Akane found herself smiling unexpectedly at him.
Ranma noticed the smile and found himself suddenly very nervous. “I got to go do some stuff. See ya.” And with that he closed the door and quickly left the room, leaving Akane to stare at where he had left.
She returned to looking at the mirror. Yes. Maybe she should let it stay short. Sometimes change was good. And it had nothing to do with Ranma saying he liked it.
At least that was what she told herself.
Cologne watched the gangplank being lowered from the ship. It was time to send her two charges home. Her plan had failed, which meant something else would have to be tried. Why couldn’t Shampoo just see the truth and come back home? Why was she so defiant in disobeying her, the woman who had practically raised her?
She gave a sigh as she watched RanRan, in a full body cast, being wheeled onto the ship by two crewmen, the poor girl.
LinLin bowed in shame before Cologne. “<I’m sorry we failed you, Elder.>”
“<Nonsense,>” Cologne reassured her. “<Shampoo is the best of your generation. It’s small surprise you did not fare well against her and her associates. Go with my blessings. And tell RanRan that Shampoo was right. The boy was used as a weapon, so he did not actually beat her in combat. And tell her not to worry about a ‘Kiss of Death’ either. I’ll take care of it. >”
LinLin bowed again, and boarded the ship. Cologne remained on the shore and watched the ship cast off and sail into the horizon.
Cologne lit her pipe and puffed a little as she thought. It appeared that she had better come up with a better plan to convince Shampoo she should return home. And she was going to need better agents as well.
Part 2: The Accidental Tourist
Akane, Shampoo, and Ranma headed together to the new restaurant Hiroshi had been going on about all day. Of course, at the time, he had been trying to convince ‘Shampoo’ to go with him on a date to the restaurant.
“…and I hate it when those guys keep asking me out, the bunch of perverts!” Ranma growled.
“At least they no attack you when they try to court you,” Shampoo sighed.
“But I WANT to hit them,” Ranma complained. It was just so creepy the way guys hit on him when he was a girl. Too bad he couldn’t tell them the truth, but there was no longer any telling what would happen of the school population suddenly became aware of the fact that the most available male student was a girl and the most popular female student was a guy. And Ranma had no desire to find out.
“You two should relax,” Akane said while thanking the kami she didn’t have their problems. “They say this new place is something else. I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
“Oh, yeah?” Ranma said, not to be outdone. “Well, I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant.”
“Shampoo as hungry as Pop,” Shampoo added.
Akane and Ranma looked to one another, then nodded. “You win,” they said simultaneously.
The trio approached the street diner, taking note of the steady flow of customers going in and out. Ranma looked up and read the name on the awning above the entrance. UK-CHAN’S.
He scratched his head. It almost appeared that there had been a ‘C’ where the ‘K’ currently was. Ranma considered what that might have meant for the briefest of moment, then discarded the notion. What were the odds it would belong to her?
The trio entered the restaurant and sat down at an empty booth. Ranma sat next to Shampoo while being directly across from Akane. Only a moment passed before a waiter came for their order.
“What would you li…?” Ryouga’s voice trailed off as exactly who he was waiting on registered.
All three of the customers stared at him in equal surprise. It was Ryouga all right, in his standard yellow and black outfit with the addition of an apron and head set.
“What are you doing here?” Ranma snapped. It was going to be another sneak attack. He just knew it. In any second Ryouga was going to cry out, ‘Prepare to die!” and try to hit him.
“I work here,” Ryouga growled right back. “What are you doing here?”
“We came to eat.” Ranma began to wonder if the lost one was telling the truth. Maybe it wouldn’t lead to a fight after all.
“Ryouga, wait on them,” Ukyou said from behind the grill she was cooking at. She had seen the trio enter, and had chosen to see what they had come in for. The last thing she needed was an all out brawl in her new restaurant.
“But they…” Ryouga began.
“Don’t worry about it,” Ukyou told him nonchalantly. “It saves me the trouble of running them down later.”
Ryouga weighed attacking Ranma against obeying Ukyou. Making Ukyou mad would hurt him, and Ranma could get his just desserts later. “What would you like?” he reluctantly said.
“Menus, batboy!” Ranma snapped.
Ryouga handed them some menus. “Now what would you like?”
“Some time to decide,” Ranma sighed.
Ryouga kept his temper in check, repeating to himself “I will not kill Ranma today. I will not kill Ranma today,” and wandered off.
The three kept one eye on their menus and one eye on Ryouga. It seemed he had been telling the truth and was simply waiting on tables. Eventually he came back to theirs and looked at them expectantly.
“Ready yet?” Saying that with his fist and teeth clenched did nothing to put the others at ease.
Ranma stared at him. “Why do you have that stupid headset on? You don’t have a drive-thru.”
“That’s none of your business!” Ryouga was finding it increasingly difficult to keep from attacking his long-time nemesis.
Akane saw what was going on and tried to play peacekeeper. “What would you recommend?”
That threw Ryouga for a moment. Then he realized he was their waiter, and that sort of thing was his job. “Probably the okonomiyaki,” he answered sincerely. Ukyou sure knew how to cook them.
Ranma felt a headache come on. “Since this is an okonomiyaki restaurant, and there is nothing but okonomiyaki on the menu, do you think you could be a little more specific?” he said dryly.
That slight was the final straw. “I have heard enough out of you!”
Ryouga balled up his fist, drawing it back to strike. Ukyou only had a moment to jump over the counter and place a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“Go get the order for table twelve.”
Ryouga looked between her and Ranma. “But…”
“Just do it. Please.”
Ryouga gave a cold stare to Ranma, bowed his head to Ukyou, and made his way over to the counter to pick up the tray of food. Ukyou remained standing next to the booth where the trio sat.
Ukyou gave Ryouga one last glance, then began talking to the seated people. So many emotions were going through her. The boy she had originally thought was Ranma, the one that had humiliated her in front of everyone, was really a girl and the strange girl she had thought was Shampoo was really Ranma. Except now, they were in their real forms, which just seemed to add to the confusion, despite the fact it made sense. Sort of. It was all so weird.
She looked at the boy who had been her friend growing up. “I want to ask you a favor, Ran-chan.”
Ukyou took a deep breath. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t have any fights in the restaurant. It would mean a lot to me.”
Ranma shrugged. Destroying Ukyou’s restaurant was the last thing he wanted to do. He was taking things slowly with her since she still didn’t seem to know of what to make of her old playmate. He was respecting the distance, hoping things could go back to the way they were and she was his friend, even if all of his memories of Ukyou were of her as a boy. “Sure, but how’re you goin’ to get batboy to go along?”
“I already got him to agree, so there isn’t any problem there.” It had taken very little effort on her part to get him to go along with it. She just gave him a hopeful look and he laughed nervously, promising not to destroy the restaurant, which was now serving as his home as well as his place of employment. Hiring him on not only helped, but it made her feel strangely reassured to have the curious boy nearby. As long as he didn’t try anything. There was one other problem though. “Can you keep the bimbo in line?”
“Shampoo not bimbo!” she growled.
“All right, all right.” Ukyou held her hands up in a calming gesture. “Can you keep that thing on a tight leash?”
That time Ranma had to put a restraining hand on Shampoo. “Shampoo will keep her word,” he reassured Ukyou.
One of the customers interrupted the conversation. “Miss, can we have our food now?”
Ukyou looked at him in confusion. That was the last order she had completed before going over to talk to the others. Ryouga should have taken it to the table by then. A quick examination of the dining area showed Ryouga was absent. “Not again!” she moaned while taking out a walkie-talkie from her uniform. “Come in Ryouga, over.”
Ryouga looked around for some familiar landmark. The customers, as well as the tables, had seemed to disappear on him. And where had all of the plants come from? Ukyou had no more than a couple in the entire shop.
“Now where is table twelve?” he mumbled under his breath.
His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice in his headset.
“Come in Ryouga, over,” Ukyou said.
Ryouga tapped the transmit button. “I’m here. Go ahead.”
Ukyou asked where he was, allowing him to describe the sudden appearance of the odd plants.
Ukyou sighed “It sounds like you’re in the floral shop down the street. Here’s how you get back.”
Ranma listened to the instructions she gave Ryouga. “That isn’t the way back to here.”
Ukyou just shook her head. “If it’s the one thing a learned in the short time I’ve known Ryouga, it is that if you give him a direction to go in, he goes the opposite way. Now, what did you guys want?”
Ryouga eventually found his way back to the restaurant, still bearing the tray of now cold food. Ukyou looked up from behind the counter and sighed once again at her new employee.
Ryouga just looked sheepishly in return. “Sorry. I don’t know why that keeps happening.”
Ukyou tried smiling to ease him. It wasn’t as though his lack of direction sense was his fault. “Don’t worry. I’ll make the signs on the tables bigger. Here is Ranma’s, Akane’s, and Shampoo’s order.” She carefully pointed out which was which.
Ryouga relaxed and made his way directly to the table. Handing each person their dish. When he got to Ranma, he placed the plate on top of his head. Ranma’s quick reflexes were all that prevented the dinner from ending up on his lap.
“You call that service?!” Ranma growled. “You can forget a tip!”
“I wouldn’t expect a tip from a deadbeat like you!” Ryouga snapped back and went off to wait on another table.
Ranma just stared at Ryouga until another thought occurred to him. “Hey, Ukyou! Why did you change the name of this place?”
“No reason,” Ukyou said just a little too quickly.
Ryouga turned to glare at Ranma. “She couldn’t very well name it after the man who hurt her so badly. Isn’t that right, Uk-chan?”
Ukyou found herself blushing and nodding in agreement.
“Hey!” Ranma shouted out indignantly. “I didn’t hurt nobody! It was all Pop’s fault!”
After another verbal assault between Ranma and Ryouga over who hurt whom, the trio of customers dug into their meal.
“Yum! This is delicious!” Akane thought it was quite possibly the best okonomiyaki she had ever had.
“You haven’t lost your touch,” Ranma reassured Ukyou.
Shampoo took one bite and began gagging. After spitting out her food she barely got out. “This taste like wallpaper paste!”
Ukyou gave a way too obvious look of confusion and bent down to pick up an empty can. “So that’s where the rest of it went.” She smiled and made sure Shampoo could read the label on the can of empty wallpaper paste. “I apologize. Let me make you a new one.”
“No thanks,” Shampoo growled. “Would rather eat Akane cooking than Stupid Spatula Girl’s.”
It took a second for that to register on Akane. “Just what is that supposed to mean?”
Ranma spoke up. “What she’s trying to say is that there is a difference between making batter out of wallpaper paste, and making a batter that tastes like wallpaper paste.”
Akane managed to get out a ‘why, you,’ before swinging at Ranma. He ducked the blow, made another rude comment about how slow Akane was, then rushed out of the restaurant with Akane hot on his heels. Shampoo sighed and followed, making sure not to leave any money for the bill.
Ukyou considered what to do about that when her grill began to give off smoke. She immediately shut it down and examined it, discovering a coil needed to be replaced. That was just perfect. She hadn’t been open for more than three days and she was going to have to close already. She used some colorful terms to describe her grill and the hassle she was going to have to go through to replace it.
“Why not let me do it?” Ryouga, who had listened closely to the diatribe, asked.
Ukyou considered that. “Well, I probably could baby it the rest of the night, but there’s no way it will be running tomorrow. Are you sure you feel up to it?”
“I won’t fail you,” Ryouga raised his fist to the skies and made a vow to let nothing stand in his way. He charged out the door, allowing Ukyou to smile as he left. It wasn’t often someone was willing to go out of their way for her. She was about to return to her work, when Ryouga rushed back inside.
“Excuse me, sir,” he then realized where he was. “Ukyou! What are you doing in a store down the street?”
Ukyou just sighed and prepared to draw a precise map for him to get from Uk-Chan’s to Shiro’s Parts.
Ryouga stood in front of a sign pole, looking back and forth between the paper and the sign with the street names: Gamera Road and Ghidora Drive. He read the names once more, then looked back at the map again. It clearly said he was supposed to go down Ghidora Drive.
He was so intent on reading the map that he failed to notice the pole suddenly shift, reversing the directions of Gamera and Ghidora.
Ryouga read the sign and walked down the new Gamera Street.
A head popped out of the sign and watched Ryouga’s retreating form. “I don’t know how he knew that it was a trap,” Tsubasa Kurenai snarled. It had been such a good plan too. One sure to eliminate the rotten scoundrel that had forced himself into Ukyou’s life. He was still wondering which new trap to set up when a car traveled down the new Ghidora Street, which was then followed by an explosion.
Ryouga stood on the sidewalk of downtown Nerima, looking at his map again. It was pretty straightforward in where he should go: Shiro’s Parts, which was right across the street. He tucked the map in his back pocket and headed straight for Ma Maison.
A sign in front of Shiro’s got up, now really irritated. Tsubasa really wondered how Ryouga had sniffed out the trap again. He got up and entered the restaurant.
Ryouga looked over the interior of the ‘parts store.’ There didn’t seem to be all that many parts and it smelled pretty good. He noticed a man in a nice suit next to the entrance and went over to him.
Ryouga cleared his throat. “Where would I find a coil for a stove?”
In response, the man handed Ryouga a menu, allowing him to look it over. “Do you see what you need?”
“That is because this is a restaurant,” the maitre’d explained. “You want the parts store across the street.” The man gave Ryouga specific directions to cross the street.
As Ryouga left a patron was seated at an empty table. Just as he made himself comfortable, a head popped out. Tsubasa got up and walked out of the restaurant in his table disguise. The patron looked at the table, shrugged and decided to follow by hopping along on his chair.
Ryouga looked directly across the street at Shiro’s as two movers put furniture in a van. He had it in his line of sight, but he needed to be sure he could make it there. That meant crossing the street. But it was dangerous to cross without looking both ways. A car might hit him. So what was he to do. It took him a moment to come up with the answer. Keep looking at the store across the street and smash any cars that tried to run him over.
The plan worked. He crossed the street and only had to destroy two cars in the process.
As he made it, Tsubasa-table hopped out of the restaurant, promptly followed by the patron on his chair. Tsubasa shook his head sadly at the scene of the carnage. What did Ukyou see in him anyway?
Just as Tsubasa decided to cross the street in another attempt at an ambush, one of the near-by movers picked him up.
Tsubasa-table looked around in surprise. “Just what do you think you are doing?”
Mover one stared at the table for a moment, then looked to his partner. “Hey, this table’s talking to me.”
“We’re getting paid by the job, not the hour,” Mover two growled. “Knock it out and put it on.”
Mover one slugged Tsubasa in the head, then put him in the van. The patron watched everything, hopped into the van, while still on his chair, and sat next to the unconscious Tsubasa-table. The movers closed the back of the van and drove off.
The patron looked around. “I wonder when the waiter is going to take my order?”
It had worked. Ryouga had made it to the store, bought the correct part, and was on his way back to Ukyou. There was just one little problem.
He was wandering the corridors of a large mansion.
“I should have asked Ukyou to write down directions for getting back,” Ryouga sighed as he tried to figure a way out of the mansion.
Ryouga eventually came upon two huge doors and opened them. Inside was a huge dining hall, almost the size of a small house. A young man sat at the table, wearing a hakama, and was preparing to dine upon a huge boar on a spit in the middle. A little man in ninja garb served him.
Ryouga hoped against hope. “This isn’t Uk-chan’s, is it?”
“Nay, knave,” Kunou bellowed. “This is Kunou Manor. Why do you intrude?” He idly fingered the bokken at his waist.
Ryouga bowed in apology. “It was an honest mistake. I’ll leave.”
Kunou was struck by a momentary whim. “Hold! Ordinarily I would have you fed to the dogs, or my sister’s pet, Mr. Green Turtle. But it has been quiet in her absence. Too quiet. I would allow you to dine with me and stay at the manor this evening. It is quite late.” Besides, it was too damn quiet without Kodachi laughing at least once a day.
Ryouga realized it was late and Ukyou didn’t need her part until tomorrow. If he tried finding anything in the dark it was more likely he would simply end up more lost than he already was. Besides, he was starving. “GREAT!!! I love pork!”
He stuffed his face and retired to a bedroom. As Ryouga left, Kunou paused in his reverie to wonder what his sister is up to.
Somewhere near the North Pole:
Kodachi was wearing a babushka and winter parka, riding on the back of a panda with glasses, while twirling her ribbon . Teams of irate Eskimos were pursuing her and Mousse-panda on dog sleds, some polar bears and a single penguin bringing up the rear.
“OHHOHOHOHOHO!” Kodachi was loving every minute of her time with her beloved Mousse, although it seemed they were never going to lose the damned penguin that had followed them all the way from the South Pole. Still, as long as she was with her Mousse, then nothing else mattered.
Ryouga woke up early and set off to make it to Uk-Chan’s, intent on making it on time. As he walked past a grandfather clock in one of the halls, it sprouted a head.
Tsubasa-clock gazed at Ryouga’s retreating form. “He’s had it now.”
“Ah, ha!” a voice came out of nowhere. Tsubasa looked around in surprise as Sasuke suddenly sprang out from a hiding spot in the floor and confronted him.
“An intruder!” Sasuke said as he pointed accusingly at the clock.
Tsubasa changed disguises before Sasuke’s eyes, throwing a black mask over his face. “Look! I’m a ninja too. Can’t we be friends?”
Sasuke appeared unimpressed. “If you are a ninja, I suppose you can do this.” A net sprang out from his hands and wrapped up Tsubasa. It was only a few moments later he delivered the ‘package’ to his master.
“So. Yet another intruder. I do sense this one’s intentions are not honorable like the other’s.” Kunou considered what to do with the newcomer. Yes. That would do. “Very well. We shall feed him to Mr. Green Turtle.”
Even as he was being taken outside, Tsubasa had to question Kunou’s sanity. Turtles didn’t eat people.
He was taken to a pool out back and hung over a pond. Tsubasa watched as a large shadow moved under the water, then emerged from below him. It was then Tsubasa learned exactly what Mr. Green Turtle was, as an alligator with a large collar around its neck emerged from the pool.
“I THOUGHT YOU SAID IT WAS A TURTLE!!!” Tsubasa screamed, trying desperately to keep from being snacked upon by the leaping reptile.
“Nay,” Kunou said. “I said its name is Mr. Green Turtle.” He pointed to the collar, which clearly had the name Mr. Green Turtle etched upon it. He walked off, allowing Tsubasa to the pet’s tender mercies.
Ryouga found himself walking down the middle of a quiet street, helplessly lost. He had to make it to Ukyou’s before the afternoon rush hit. He would never let himself live it down if he failed her. It was still fairly early in the morning, so he still had time to make it.
Then he heard a noise, almost like a low roar coming from a racecar. He turned around to witness a bizarre scene. There was a red haired girl in a white and blue school uniform holding the hand of a blond haired girl, also in like uniform, with the red head running at about the speed of a bullet train. The blond was flying through the air as she was dragged behind the redhead. While the duo approached Ryouga, who watched as though he was a deer caught in headlights, a garbage can jumped into the middle of the road directly behind the lost one.
Ryouga considered the girl for a moment, then decided to ask the running girl for directions. “Excuse me Mis—“
The last thing Ryouga clearly heard was, “Look out!” Then…
A-Ko kept on going while Ryouga, who had never been hit so hard in his life, just looked up at the sky and stared at the stars now circling his head. He was unaware of the cry of pain from Tsubasa as he too was run over and fared even less well than Ryouga.
It was a while later that the recovered Ryouga found himself in an open dune-like area surrounded by a chain link fence. He destroyed a section of the fence in order to pass through, not realizing a section of the fence further down detached itself and started to follow him.
Ryouga silently wondered where he was, passing right by a sign that read. ‘Missile Test Range. KEEP OUT!’ He did look up when he heard the whine of an engine from overhead. A moment later a missile exploded next to Ryouga, hitting the section of fence that was following him, causing rocks to rain down. He simply pulled out his umbrella and continued on, disappearing in the following explosions.
It was much later when Ryouga found the sun unbearable and had to shield his eyes. His bandanna became a very useful time as it absorbed the sweat that had formed on his brow. He sighed to himself, deciding to accept the fact he was lost and if he didn’t change into a bat he would never get to Ukyou’s. And he had so wanted to show her he could do it as a man. Still, he needed to get back and chose to use some water.
It was then Ryouga realized he in the middle of a desert. Dunes were all that could be seen in the distance, save for one cactus directly behind him.
“This might be a little more difficult than I thought,” he mumbled as he began to wander off in search of some water.
The cactus sprouted a head and followed. “Where is this idiot going now?” Tsubasa growled, trying to decide if following Ryouga was such a hot idea now that he was lost and only the kami knew where.
Ryouga traveled in circles for hours, then days, the cactus always right behind him. He started crying out in misery when he realized he had missed the deadline to get back to Ukyou. Eventually, after several weeks, he and the cactus made their way back to civilization, arriving in a huge city. Ryouga looked around for some way of communicating with Ukyou, then realized he was next to a police call box. Hoping he had the correct kind of change, he entered the box.
Once inside he was more than a little confused. On the outside the box was only about five feet by six feet. Inside, however, was a white sterile room that was dominated by a round control panel in the middle of the twenty by thirty foot room. A cylinder with a glowing object in it was above the panel, emitting a soft hum. There was an open corridor behind the far wall leading a long way off. The only other occupant was a Caucasian man, appearing in his late thirties, with curly brown hair and wearing a brown trench coat and a long scarf. He was fiddling with the controls, and only paused in his scrutiny when he heard Ryouga gasp in awe.
“Hello there,” the Doctor said as he introduced himself. “Would you like a jelly baby?” He pulled a small brown bag from out of his coat and offered its contents to Ryouga.
Ryouga politely declined, asking, “Do you know where I am?”
“Funny,” the Doctor said. “I was about to ask you the same question.”
Ryouga suddenly felt a kinship with the man. “I can’t say. I‘m afraid I’m lost.”
“Do you think it’s Bangladesh?”
Ryouga shook his head. “No. Most people outside were Caucasians.”
“Blast,” the Doctor muttered to himself, then turned to Ryouga. “Do you know what year it is?”
Ryouga told him.
“I’m two hundred years off the mark.” The Doctor slammed his fist into the control panel. The blow caused the object in the cylinder to begin moving up and down. A moment later the ship started making a wheezing noise.
The Doctor turned to Ryouga, a pleasant smile upon his face. “How would you like to travel through time and space and help me save the universe?”
The failure of returning to Ukyou made Ryouga more depressed than ever. “Sure. Why not? Maybe I can get lost there, too.”
The Doctor smiled. “I prefer to think of it as the hand of fate randomly deciding your destiny. I’m glad you have decided to join.” He then thought to himself that it was rather nice that Ryouga decided to join on. It had been a while since he had a companion in his travels, and besides, he wasn’t sure of where they had been or if he could get back there.
The Doctor took off his coat and placed it upon a nearby coat rack. He paused, looking suspiciously at it for a moment, then escorted Ryouga around to show him his new home.
The coat rack sprouted Tsubasa’s head. There was fear in his eyes as he wondered what mess Ryouga had gotten him into now.
To the outside world, the Tardis (Time machine disguised as a police call box) disappeared with a wheezing sound.
A great deal of time later (Time being relative when one deals with time travel in a machine that can travel through both time and space and was designed to look like a police call box):
On the street outside of Uk-Chan’s, which was still closed for the morning, the Tardis slowly reappeared. Within seconds Ryouga slowly emerged, now dressed in a black and yellow trench coat, a low black and yellow striped hat, with his backpack and umbrella with him. The Doctor followed a moment later.
The Doctor took a moment to enjoy the sun. “Well. How does it feel to be back home?”
“It’s still here!” Ryouga shouted out in glee as he pointed to Uk-Chan’s. “I thought it might be gone. I’m a little scared. It’s been so long.” He bolstered his courage a bit as he turned to the Doctor. “Still, I’m not sorry I helped save the universe, what was it, three times?”
“Four,” the Doctor corrected.
“Right. I won’t forget the time we fought the Cyber Men…”
Ryouga remembered fighting several metal men with ray guns, who shot at him and the Doctor. It was only a convenient nearby mail box, with long, flowing brown hair sticking out of the mail slot, that Ryouga threw at the men to block their blasts that saved the day.
“…or the Daleks…”
Ryouga remembered fighting the odd-looking trash can-like robots, which fired beams of energy at him and the Doctor. It was only a convenient nearby log, with long, flowing brown hair sticking out of it, that Ryouga threw at the Daleks to block the blasts that saved the day.
“…or the Master…”
Ryouga remembered fighting the Caucasian man, who was snappily dressed with slick black hair, and fired some kind of energy beam from a rod at him and the Doctor. It was only a convenient nearby chair, with long, flowing brown hair sticking out of it, that Ryouga threw at the Master to block the blast and saved the day. Too bad the chair got disintegrated by the energy.
“…or the most dangerous of all. The Dreaded Rabbits of Xeczis.”
Ryouga remembered with fear the horde of ravenous, yet somehow cute, bunnies that rushed towards him and the Doctor. It was only a convenient nearby giant carrot, with long flowing brown hair sticking out of it, that Ryouga threw at the rabbits to distract them that saved the day. Watching the cute bunnies fall onto the carrot in waves was a terrifying sight to behold.
“Yes those were pretty big adventures, even for me,” the Doctor agreed. “Thanks for helping. Hope you find a cure for your condition.”
“Thanks.” Ryouga looked forlornly at Uk-Chan’s.
The Doctor slapped him on the back. “Ryouga, don’t worry. Things have a tendency to work out.”
With one final good-bye, the Doctor stepped back into the Tardis and prepared to leave.
Ryouga continued looking at the restaurant. Would Ukyou even remember him? It had been so many months, almost a year since he had last seen her. His feet began to walk up to the true destination of his long journey, then paused. He couldn’t do it. He knew he’d never be able to stand the look of pure hatred she would have for him when he would step through those doors. He had failed her so terribly, she would probably spit in his eye and beat him mercilessly with her spatula, then throw his crumpled form in the garbage out back. Then his heart would be broken forever. No, it was best for both of them if he saved her that pain and simply never saw her again.
“Goodbye forever, Ucchan. It was fun while it lasted, and for a brief while, I had a home once again. I’ll never forget your kindness. But I have to leave forever. We’ll never meet again, the one person I might have called friend.”
He walked directly into the restaurant.
As the Tardis started up, Tsubasa, dressed in nothing other than a torn dress, jumped out at the last second before it disappeared.
Tsubasa recognized the restaurant before him, cried out in joy, then kissed the ground for a while, crying out how he thought he would never make it home. Once he was finished with his crying, he went into the restaurant, payback on his mind.
It took a moment for Ryouga to realize where he had gone. He was about to turn around and leave when he found himself stopped in his tracks by the sound of Ukyou’s voice.
“Morning, Ryouga,” she happily greeted. “You made it. Nice threads by the way.”
Ryouga was practically in tears. “You remember me!” He rushed up to her and began bowing. “I’m sorry. Sorry I failed you. I’ll leave and never darken your doorway again.”
Ukyou stared at him, confused. “What are you talking about? I told you I needed it by opening today. There’s still two hours before we open.”
It was Ryouga’s turn to be confused. “What? But I…” It was then it occurred to him. Could it be? “What day is it?”
Ryouga shook his head. “What month and year?”
Now Ukyou began to stare at him very strangely and told him.
Ryouga started crying. It was the same day he had left earth nearly a year ago. “He did it! He really did it!” Ryouga looked to the sky and began shouting. “Thank you! Thank you, Doctor!”
Ukyou began getting very nervous and fingered her large spatula. “Ryouga, you’re starting to scare me.”
“I’ll explain everything later.” Ryouga couldn’t trust himself to clarify everything as excited as he was. He needed to calm down first.
“Where’s the part?”
Ryouga stared at her, confused for a moment. It took him a moment to remember. “Right. The part.”
He began going through the parts in his coat. He pulled out a variety of alien artifacts, but no part. He rummaged through his pack but had no luck there either. With nothing left to search through, he started raging at the ceiling.
“It’s not fair! I saved the universe! I went to other times and planets! And all I wanted was… one… lousy… part!” He began smashing his head onto the cooking surface.
Ukyou got him to stop and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right. You tried, that’s all I care about.” She looked around for something to cheer him up. There had to be something, then her eyes fell upon the package. She picked it up and handed it to him. “Someone left this for you yesterday after you went to the shop. He said he was a friend.”
Ryouga looked at it in confusion, wondering who even knew he had been staying at the restaurant. With only a momentary hesitation he ripped open the package. Inside was the missing oven part, along with a note:
See. I told you things would work out. But you should really be more careful with what you leave lying around. I nearly hooked this up to the Tardis.
There was no signature, not that it mattered. Ryouga looked up once more. “Thank you, Doctor.”
It was at that moment that Tsubasa stormed in. Reflexively, Ukyou went for her spatula. “Tsubasa. How did you find me?”
Ukyou was amazed when Tsubasa ignored her and pointed to Ryouga.
“You! All I wanted was to set an ambush, but no! You had to ruin it! First I get lugged to some crazy skater’s house; she thought I looked cute as a table. Then I get test fired at by missiles. Then I spend weeks in a desert with no water. I still don’t know how we survived. But all of that could have been forgiven. And then you sent me through time and space.”
“Why aren’t you in one of your stupid disguises?” Ukyou asked, still shocked at the diatribe laid upon Ryouga.
Tsubasa looked evilly towards Ryouga. “They were all blasted off of me by him!”
Ryouga finally spoke up. “Do I know you?”
Tsubasa began laughing insanely. “Do you know me? Do you know me? How could you forget your personal shield for all your adventures? I was the first thing you always threw at the enemy who was always firing at you. Do you know how hard it is to get back from being disintegrated?”
“Well, its tough. But the absolute worst was those DAMN RABBITS! THEY CHEWED ON ME AND CHEWED ON ME FOR HOURS! THOSE CREATURES WERE SO STUPID, THEY COULDN’T EVEN TELL I WASN’T A VEGETABLE!!!”
Only one thing came to mind for Ryouga. “Umm, sorry?”
“That won’t cut it!” Tsubasa warned. “At first, I was doing this for Ukyou. But now, I am going to hurt you for me—“
Ukyou observed a spatula sized lump form on Tsubasa’s head, then watched the unconscious body slump to the floor. She tied him up and threw him into a passing garbage truck. After going back inside, she just shook her head at Ryouga.
“Can you believe that guy? Traveling across time and space. He has really gone off the deep end.”
Ryouga grinned sheepishly at that. “Ukyou, I have something to tell you about that. But first, could you make me one of those special okonomiyaki?”
“Sure, sugar. But I thought you had three of them yesterday.”
Ryouga’s gaze became distant. “It seems a lot longer than that.” He felt a rare smile blossom in his face. “It feels good to be back home.”
The girl in shrine maiden’s robes stood at the top of a hill, looking down at Furinkan High. The evil she sensed lay in the school. There was no doubt of that. It was an evil that she would destroy, and if anyone got in the way, they would meet the same fate as well.
To be continued.
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