Chapter 10: Breaking Things
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. (or what you need to know to enjoy this fic). In the Beginning, the Saotome’s traveled to Jusenkyou and began sparring, not realizing that Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a duel there. One mid-air collision and bath 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.) Shampoo elected to travel to Japan with Ranma, and ended up briefly engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up, Ranma became engaged to Akane. In the ensuing months many battles occurred, both with old and new foes, including: Cologne, who wants to take Shampoo back to China to stand trial for becoming a man. Ryouga, who is still resentful towards Ranma for being knocked into Spring of Drowned Bat. And Ukyou, who is still irate at Shampoo for impersonating Ranma, among other reasons. Last chapter, Mousse and Kodachi met defeat at the hands of Ranma, Shampoo, and Ghost Sweeper Minami. After the fight, Kasumi placed a call to one Dr. Tofu…
Side Note: You did not miss a chapter. Explanations for references to “crazed cultists”, “First Shieldmaidens”, and attempted marriages to Ryouga and Ranma are explained in the endnotes.
Part 1: Breaking Rocks
All things considered, the day started out pretty good for Ranma. Akane hadn’t tried to pound on his skull, or worse, feed him any of her toxic waste/cooking. His father had fallen to his prowess in record time, in spite of the underhanded tricks the fat man had tried to use. Nabiki hadn’t tried to weasel any money out of him. The pair of fathers had not attempted to give him “advice” on dating his spiteful fiancée. And especially, no crazed cultists were trying to marry him. Yes, all and all, a good day. Shampoo had even talked him into going shopping with her, which was where they were heading. A nice normal day that included Ryouga, who decided to make an appearance.
“There you are Ranma! For what you did to Ukyou, prepare to die!”
Ranma turned to Shampoo. “We got enough time for this?”
She looked at her watch. “Mall no open for ten minutes.”
“Plenty of time then.” Ranma cracked his knuckles and the beating took place. Less than two minutes later, Ryouga was laid out in a heap.
Shampoo paused to examine Ryouga’s fallen form, determining no real damage had been done. “Why drag that out, Ranma?” Training with him had given her a good estimate of his abilities, and it seemed to her he took his time thrashing Ryouga. Ranma was a lot of things, but being cruel wasn’t one of them.
“He had it comin’. All he ever does is try to beat me up and mooch off Ucchan, and I don’t like it.” The truth was he was getting a little tired of the constant annoyance “Fangs” was becoming. It wasn’t like he stood any chance of winning, especially after all that additional training Ranma did preparing for the “First Shieldmaiden” that had challenged him. But for someone that got lost as easily as Ryouga did, he seemed to be popping up around Ranma more and more. He didn’t have time to dwell on that, as Ukyou appeared from the same direction Ryouga had just come from. Judging by the way she was looking around, it was evident she was searching for her waiter/flying rodent. It was beyond Ranma’s ability to understand why she let him hang around her. Anytime he tried to pin her down about it she would either give some answer that didn’t make any sense, or worse, try to convince him Ryouga was an okay guy. Predictably, as soon as Ukyou made eye contact with Shampoo, she drew her spatula and did her impression of Ryouga.
“There you are! For what you did to Ryouga, fall, Shampoo!”
Ranma turned to his Amazon companion. “Go easy on Ucchan. Will ya’?”
Shampoo snorted in contempt. “Shampoo not beat up on weaklings. Not even use bonbori.”
Ryouga came around long enough to mumble, “Don’t call her Ucchan,” when Ranma stepped on his head. Where did he get off trying to tell him what to do? Ucchan was his friend, not the lost boy’s.
Ranma watched the fight with a careful eye. It took about two minutes before Ukyou ended up on the ground, defeated. Having Shampoo train with him over the last couple of weeks in preparation for the challenge had improved her martial arts noticeably as well. He gave a once over to make sure Ukyou wasn’t really hurt, then walked off with Shampoo. Once they were out of the defeated duo’s earshot Ranma spoke up.
“I wish you two would get along.” It was really bothering him that his two best female (and about only) friends got along about as well as him and Ryouga.
“It no Shampoo fault Weak Spatula Girl start fight she can no win.”
“Yeah. But it ain’t like you really try to avoid fights with her. Couldn’t you just, y’know, back off a little?”
Shampoo paused in her walk and looked straight at Ranma to see if he was being serious. One glance told her he was.
“You mean you want Shampoo tell Stupid Spatula Girl I no want to fight? You want Shampoo to refuse challenge and be coward?”
A voice in the back of Ranma’s mind cried out a warning that he was making a mistake and should let it go. As usual, he ignored the advice and pressed onward. “Well, I don’t want you to look like a coward or nothin’, but you could back off.”
Shampoo started to get angry. It wasn’t an emotion she usually felt when dealing with Ranma, but he had hit the wrong buttons today. “In Amazon village it great dishonor to back off from challenge unless have good reason. You no back off from challenge, do you?”
Ranma became flustered. He was getting backed into a corner and becoming very uncomfortable, “Well, it’s different for me.”
“How?” Ranma opened his mouth to speak but was cut off. “And if Ranma say it because you a guy and I a girl, then you find out how hard Shampoo hit when she really try. Make Akane look like Kasumi.” Judging by the fist she was waving menacingly at him, he felt it safe to assume her threat was serious. And it had started out to be such a good day, too. He began to continue his explanation when he came to an uncomfortable conclusion: she was right. That was exactly what he was going to say.
“Well, it’s like this…” he trailed off at a loss for words.
Shampoo unclenched her fist and the harsh stare disappeared. “Look, Ranma. You have to understand. Shampoo come from warrior society, we have code we have to follow, same way like Ranma have one. Honor very important to Amazons, is no way to just back out of fight without looking like coward. Just because Shampoo not live there any more, doesn’t mean am not Amazon.”
The more he thought about it the more he realized she was right. He hadn’t made the comparison, even though it had been before his eyes the entire time. He tried to backtrack slightly. “It ain’t like I want you to lose any honor. It’s just that I like both of you and it bothers me to see you fight.”
He started to hit the right buttons now. Showing concern for her was an easy way to make her less resentful of him. She knew it shouldn’t be that way. As a proud Amazon warrior of Joketsuzoku, she wasn’t supposed to dance to any man’s tune, but that was exactly what she was doing, and it made her feel a little powerless. Unfortunately for Ranma, his next statement had the opposite effect.
“I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Shampoo slipped into anger mode again. He dared call her weak. “You mean you think Spatula Girl can beat Shampoo?”
Ranma had enough sense to see where this was heading. He had witnessed it more than enough times with Akane to know he was going to end up getting hit if he couldn’t think of something, fast.
“I know you’re better, but anything can happen.” He knew as soon as the words came out of his mouth they were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
“The only way anything bad happen is because Shampoo holding back like Ranma ask!” Suddenly, her eyes narrowed in suspicion, as though something occurred to her. “Did Ranma ask Spatula Girl not to fight?”
He wondered where was this going? Shutting up wasn’t going to get him out of it this time, as much as he wished it would, so he decided to find out.
“No.” One look said he found the wrong response again. It really was amazing how someone could get the wrong answer to so many yes or no questions. And it really had looked like it was going to be a good day, about a million years ago.
“So Ranma think Shampoo only one that wrong! Should be only one to swallow pride. Ranma like Stupid Spatula Girl better! He no care that she start most of fights!” He didn’t like the anger that was getting into her voice, and for the life of him he didn’t know how this argument had started. Was it so much to ask that his friends try to get along? Now he was arguing with her, and if he didn’t figure out the right thing to say soon it was going to be a long, and probably painful day.
“It ain’t that I like her better. I like you more.” His own statement caught him off guard. He wasn’t sure where the last part came from. He hadn’t intended to say that, he was certain. Once he thought about it, it felt right, probably because he spent so much time with her over the last few months. As he collected his thoughts, he paid closer attention to how Shampoo was reacting. Surprisingly, all traces of anger had disappeared from her face.
“Shampoo promise try to not fight Spatula Girl. Is okay, Ranma?” Her demeanor had totally changed and he wasn’t about to let the chance to keep things that way slide away. All he had to do was say the right thing.
“Yeah.” Jackpot! She didn’t try to hit him. Silently he thought, “I don’t know what I just did, but I gotta remember it.” He felt he needed to add something else.
“And I’m sorry if I insulted you or something. I didn’t mean to.” She shook her head, gave a dazzling smile, then grabbed his arm and headed off to shop like they had originally planned. It wasn’t until much later he realized he had apologized without hesitation.
Back at battleground, Ukyou and Ryouga had finally recovered. Both of them had the same look of dejection on their faces.
Ryouga was the first to break the silence. “We just got our butts kicked, didn’t we?” It was an obvious statement, but one that needed saying.
Ukyou was accomplishing a rare feat, and matched his depression. “Yeah. They’ve gotten good after all that training they did for that deranged cultist.”
Ryouga’s slid into one of his black pits of depression. “She sent the challenge letter to him. How was I to know she wanted to marry me, too?”
She got up and worked some kinks out of her back. “I’m not blaming you. I just wish there was some way we could get better.”
Destiny, in the form of Cologne, walked out from some bushes and towards the pair. The aged Amazon looked the two over. “I couldn’t help but overhear your predicament. I would be more than happy to train you.”
“All right!” Ryouga was ecstatic. Free training. Ukyou, on the other hand, was a lot more cautious.
“Wait a minute. Why do you want to help us?”
Cologne gave the smile that could give nightmares to a demon. “Let’s just say I have a personal problem with Shampoo and Ranma, not all that different from you, if you stop and think about it.” She paused and looked the two over once more. “If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to accept. I’m sure you’ll figure out some way to overcome them. In about a year or so.”
Ranma had warned her about the aging Amazon. She had some kind of grudge against Shampoo and wanted to take her back to China. Not that Ukyou would miss her if she left and never came back. Still, it wouldn’t go over well with Ranma if she were forced to go.
“First, you have to know we won’t help you take Shampoo back to China.”
Cologne held up her hand, “I promise not to try to make you take her back to China. How’s that?”
Since they had her promise, Ukyou saw no reason why she couldn’t go along with the training. The two decided to listen to Cologne’s outline for what she intended to do with the two warriors.
“I’ll have to close up the restaurant for a while, but I have to beat Shampoo.” That was the one sticking point that was left in Ukyou’s life. She had not only had settled the score with Ranma, but the two had become friends again. Her business was a success. She had Ryouga who was her… Well, she wasn’t sure of what he was, besides a waiter. The only thing that stuck in her craw was that Shampoo was better than her, and she needed to change that in a hurry. “We’ll do it. C’mon Ryouga.”
The two went back to Uk-Chan’s to gather their belongings and close down the store. Eventually they arrived, at the rendezvous at the top of Mt. Terror, where Cologne was waiting for them.
Once they settled in and made camp, the aged Amazon began to get specific in what she wanted. “Now what I want to do is teach you a technique called the Breaking Point.”
The studies consisted of having one arm tied behind the back, while hanging from a tree branch and having rocks hurled at the recipient, while trying to break them with one finger. Dozens of rocks were hurled at the duo, crushing and mangling them while trying to learn the technique. By the second day, Ukyou mastered the technique, shattering the boulders while yelling out “BAKUSAI TENKETSU.”
“I did it first!” Ukyou’s grin was wide as she smiled at her new mentor.
Cologne smiled back. “Of course, you are a woman, and therefore better. Now, try to do it with two at once.” She released two boulders at Ukyou, each coming from opposite directions.
“WAIT! I can’t do two…” The rest was abruptly cut off as she was smashed between two boulders.
Ryouga shuddered when he saw his partner’s flattened form. “If that’s what happens when you do learn it, I’m having second thoughts about this whole thing.” He was crushed by another hurled boulder.
Night fell. The two finally stopped training and (heavily) bandaged themselves. Ukyou decided to cook first, preparing some Okonomiyaki for the trio.
Cologne bit down into the food, “Hmmm! This is pretty good. You know what you’re doing.” She cleared her throat. “Now let’s discuss strategy on how to defeat those two. I want you, Ukyou, to start by attacking Ranma…”
“No!” The vehemence of the refusal surprised Cologne.
“What do you mean no?”
“I won’t attack Ran-chan.”
“Why on Earth not?”
“Because he’s my friend.”
Cologne shook her head in disbelief, “That doesn’t make any sense. Ryouga attacks him all the time, but you don’t try to stop him.”
“That’s between Ryouga and Ran-chan.” She shifted her gaze from Cologne to Ryouga and spoke much more softly. “I would like it very much if the two of them would make some kind of peace. It would mean a lot to me.”
He noticed the stare immediately. Ryouga was a lot of things, and being thick was definitely one of them, but he picked up on the hint. His gaze shifted away from Ukyou’s pleading eyes. “I’m sorry. But he has to pay for what he did to you.” Ukyou’s shoulders visibly slumped.
Cologne took notice of the interaction between the two. “Well, I see. Ryouga, why don’t the two of you start off by double teaming Shampoo? She’s vulnerable to…”
Ryouga cut her off. “No!”
Cologne’s patience started to wear thin, “Just what do you mean, ‘no’?”
“I don’t attack girls. It wouldn’t be honorable.”
“She’s responsible for your curse.”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t attack women.” He crossed his arms to reinforce the point.
Cologne focused her eyes on the duo and thought, “I see. Well we’ll just figure out what we can do about that, after your training.”
Later, Ukyou retired to her tent, trying to get some sleep. Despite her exhaustion, rest eluded her. After tossing and turning for a couple of hours, she got up and decided to try to clear up what was bothering her. She made certain her pajamas were not revealing anything, and walked over to Ryouga’s tent.
“Ryouga. You up?” She spoke softly, hoping not to disturb the aging Amazon. Hearing no response she stuck her head into the tent itself. “Ryouga!” This time it was a little louder and he finally woke up.
“Wh… what?” he stared through sleepy eyes as he tried to come around. As he sat up, the blanket fell from his body, allowing Ukyou to get a full view of his torso. Somehow, she never got tired of gazing at his broad shoulders, his muscular chest, his… She shook her head to clear it of such thoughts. Being almost alone on a mountain with a man and thinking those sorts of things was sure to lead to trouble. True, she slept under the same roof with him, but the barrier the tents represented seemed so much flimsier than the walls and doors of Uk-Chan’s.
“Wake up, sleepyhead.” This wasn’t unusual for her. She had to get him up every morning for school. An early morning person he was not. “I need to talk to you.” He finally came fully awake.
“What about?” He grabbed his shirt and started to put it on, causing Ukyou to feel a mixture of relief and regret.
“It’s about you and Ran-chan,” for the briefest of moments, she thought he cringed, but in the darkness she couldn’t be certain. “This is really starting to bother me. Why can’t the two of you get along?”
Ryouga paused in thought for a moment. Why was she bothering him this late at night… no, make that, this early in the morning, with annoying questions? “I hate him.”
It was Ukyou’s turn to cringe. She never really had come right out and asked him why he and Ranma didn’t get along. Now she was beginning to see why. She was afraid of the answer, and justifiably so. “Why do you hate Ranma so much?”
“Lots of reasons,” the only thing Ryouga had to decide was where to begin. “He’s arrogant, for starters. He thinks he’s so much better than everyone else just because he’s good at martial arts. He always rubs people’s faces in it and makes himself seem like he’s some sort of idol. He’s a louse as well. From what I’ve seen, he treats Akane like dirt, and that’s his own fiancée. What kind of a guy does that? A jerk who doesn’t respect others, that’s who. And what about Shampoo? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s letting that Amazon hang around just so he can be a womanizer. I can’t figure out why else he keeps her. He’s also a pervert the way he keeps changing sexes, like there isn’t any difference between the two. He’s even a girl at school, for goodness’ sake. And then there’s what he did to you. He deserves a good thrashing.” He pounded his fist into his hand for emphasis.
She never realized how much anger he felt towards Ranma. Still, she had to get him to change his mind. “I’m sure if you really got to know Ran-chan, you’d think differently. I think he just puts up a front because he isn’t used to dealing with people from living his life on the road so much. So he sort of keeps them at arm’s length.” She saw the stare of intensity leveled at her and realized he wasn’t going along with it. “All right! Maybe he is a little bit arrogant, but he really is a good person once you get to know him.”
Ryouga shook his head. “I did know him in school, when I was growing up. Remember? He is not good person, he’s an arrogant jerk!”
Ukyou decided to continue, ignoring the statement. “And it was his father’s idea to engage us, and you know what a genius he is, so you can’t blame him for that. He didn’t even know I was a girl.”
Ryouga interrupted her. “I find that hard to believe. I think he’s lying just so he won’t look bad. There’s no way anyone would mistake you for a guy.”
She blushed a little at that. “Actually, I did kind of look like a boy. I’ll show you some pictures when we get back. And I’ll be the first to admit he can be dense sometimes, but I believe him when he says he didn’t know. I forgive him. Who knows, maybe things are better for me since we didn’t get engaged. There would have been a major hassle with the Tendo’s because that idiot father originally promised him to one of those girls. I sure wouldn’t want to be caught up in a mess like that. As for his relationship with Akane, he’s told me he doesn’t want to be engaged to her. His father came up with the idea, and Ranma’s just doing it to uphold the family honor. If he gets her mad enough she’ll want to break off the engagement and then he won’t have to worry about it. So you see, there isn’t any reason to not get along with him. You shouldn’t hate people for no reason.”
“Sort of like you and Shampoo, right?”
Ukyou’s demeanor changed almost instantly, “I have plenty of reasons for hating that hussy. She is a spiteful, arrogant, purple haired bimbo. Just because she trains with Ranma she thinks she’s a better martial artist than everyone else. She’s also a pervert that flaunts that man’s body for everyone to see. Not to mention she got you your curse because she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. She doesn’t want to take responsibility for her actions. She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing that can’t be trusted!” Her voice rose higher and higher. “I don’t know why that stupid witch hangs around Ran-chan or why he lets her. I think he’s under the misguided impression he owes her something because of her curse. It’s her fault he ended up getting cursed, not his. I keep trying to tell him she’s bad news, but nooo, he won’t listen! The stupid jackass!”
Ryouga looked at her curiously, “In other words, you think she’s arrogant, she acts like a pervert with her curse, and she hurt a friend. So you want to avenge them since they won’t do it for themselves.”
Ukyou thought about it for a moment. Something wasn’t quite right with the way he said that, but the facts were sound. “Yeah.”
“Sounds like the same reasons I hate Ranma. Why is it all right for you to hate her, and I can’t hate him?”
Ukyou froze, surprised by the response. It took her a few seconds to recover. “They aren’t the same reasons. They’re different because,” she paused, “because,” she paused again, “just because it is! That’s why. I’m going to bed.” And with that she stormed out of his tent and headed back to hers.
During the walk back she kept telling herself there was some difference between her motives for revenge and Ryouga’s, she just couldn’t figure out what it was. She lay back down and started to fall asleep. As she began to finally drift off, part of her mind realized she had left out one very important reason she hated Shampoo. Not that she would ever admit the reason out loud. When she first saw Shampoo-kun, when he was in the combat ring standing in for Ranma, she thought he was very handsome and briefly considered calling off the match to try to get the engagement back. Shampoo had almost made her discard all those years of training and dedication because of an attraction to a woman. That was unforgivable.
Part II: Breaking Relationships
Everyone had gathered in the dojo itself to watch the two occupants in the center of the practice floor face one another. The first was Akane, dressed in her gi, and in an aggressive fighting stance. Across from her was the huge, ugly looking giant called the Dojo Destroyer. He looked the worse for wear, with a huge bruise on the right side of his face and he was apparently favoring his ribs on the right side of his body.
“Tell me again why you aren’t helping your fiancée defend the dojo, son?” The animosity in Soun’s voice was very evident.
“Cause she won’t let me. She keeps muttering about how she has to prove she’s a martial artist and ‘doesn’t need some pervert’s help,’” Ranma answered. He then turned his attention to the Destroyer. “That ugly mass of flesh doesn’t look to good.”
“That’s made all the more remarkable by the fact the fight hasn’t even started yet,” Genma answered. “Don’t worry, Tendo. I’ve been helping train Akane.”
That caught Ranma’s attention. “So that’s why me and Shampoo have to keep breaking her of those nasty habits that have been showing up in her practice.”
That set off another argument between Genma and Ranma, which started them punching at one another. Neither of the fighters in the middle of the floor paid any attention to the commotion. Each continued to look the other one over.
“She doesn’t look like much,” the Destroyer thought. “Good thing, too. I’ve had better days. I think that fool in the bandanna broke some ribs. The little…”
In the Destroyer’s mind, he remembered walking the streets of Nerima weeks ago, lost. He made his way over to a boy who was also looking around.
“Excuse me. Do you know which way it is to the Tendo Dojo?” the Destroyer inquired.
“Oh, sure. I’ve been there lots of times,” Ryouga replied.
He gave the Destroyer a set of directions. He began the journey, walking for many days and nights, thorough far off distant lands, until he came back to exactly where he started. Ryouga was there as well.
“You little fool! You intentionally gave me the wrong set of directions!”
“I did not!” Ryouga began mumbling to himself. “I’ve gotta get back to Ukyou and the dried up hag. Maybe I should change…”
The Dojo Destroyer decided on a course of action. “You will pay for mocking me!”
He moved to attack, and Ryouga returned the favor. By the end of the fight, a wasted Destroyer stood over Ryouga’s form, which was buried a foot deep into the ground.
The Dojo Destroyer’s thoughts came back to the present. “I will wait to see what this warrior can do.”
They duo were motionless for a minute, then two, then five. Ranma finally had enough and spoke up.
“Look! I like watching floorboards warp as much as the next guy, but I have stuff to do. So if you don’t mind, would someone please throw a punch?”
Both opponents scowled at Ranma. He briefly thought they might be considering double teaming him. Fortunately, they turned back to each other. The Destroyer spoke first. “Your patience serves you well, little one. I shall attack first.”
He threw a punch, which Akane easily dodged. Several more blows fared the same. Akane then began her offensive. Her attack was concentrated on one point, the Destroyer’s left leg. Defense was never the Destroyers strong point, and Akane managed to land several blows, causing him to limp slightly. Once he concentrated his defense entirely on that body part, Akane switched targets to the area of ribs the Destroyer was favoring. All it took was one punch to double him over. Once bent over, Akane grabbed an arm and applied a Judo style toss, throwing the Destroyer into the ground. He finally connected with a solid blow to Akane’s stomach from his prone position from the floor. The force of the blow threw her across the room and against the wall. Both Soun and Ranma got up to their feet to help Akane.
Akane noticed their actions. “Stay out of this!” She got up, determination still on her face. “Neither one of us is going to win this fight with one blow.”
The Dojo Destroyer heaved himself to his feet as well. “You are right about that. It will take a hundred blows.”
Suddenly, the signs of all the dojos he had conquered appeared and started swirling in the air. Their circular motion was interrupted when they hurled themselves at Akane. She remained calm and stood her ground. As they closed in she employed the Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken, shattering the majority of boards. Several got through her defense and struck her. None of the blows were serious though, and she eventually broke those as well. The Destroyer stared in disbelief.
Akane picked up on the surprised state he was in and thought she saw her opening, “Time to finish it. Let’s see if I can do that move I saw Ranma use,” she thought.
She ran up to one of the walls and leaped off of it. The Destroyer turned to meet the attack that never came. Akane had not launched herself at the Destroyer, but rather for another wall. She used it as a springboard as well. Even as the Destroyer barely got himself repositioned for an assault from that direction, Akane landed using a third wall, and finally hurled herself at the Destroyer. He was twisted around so much trying to defend himself from various positions that he was wide open for a vicious kick which Akane applied to the bruised right side of his face. She hit full force and landed gracefully. The Destroyer followed her to the ground, unconscious.
Akane looked over the fallen form. “I knew I could do it.”
Everyone looked on, impressed. Genma and Soun moved the unconscious body outside to be taken away by the garbage men outside.
“Gotta’ hand it to you Akane, not bad,” Ranma said as he went over to congratulate Akane.
“Hmph. Could have done better,” Shampoo declared as she crossed her arms and stared at Akane.
Akane scowled at Shampoo, but quickly smiled again. “I’m going to get cleaned up. See you later.” She left upstairs.
Some time later, Nabiki and Shampoo-kun made their way downstairs. They saw Akane and Ranma waiting at the entryway of the house.
“Where are you two going?” Ranma inquired.
Nabiki spoke up. “We are having a special martial arts demonstration at the school, courtesy of Shampoo here.”
“An admission price, right?” Nabiki nodded. “How did you talk her into it?” He pointed to Shampoo-kun.
“Surprisingly she came up with the idea and volunteered. And for only forty percent of the ticket prices.”
“Fifty.” Shampoo-kun broke in.
Nabiki turned, irate. “We agreed on forty.”
“No,” Shampoo-kun corrected. “You agree at forty. Shampoo agree at fifty.” Nabiki began to bluster, but he cut her off. “If want Shampoo at demonstration, fifty percent.”
“All right,” She finally assented, then thought, “At least she hasn’t learned the difference between net and gross profits.”
“Want gross, not net.”
Nabiki nearly exploded on the spot. “Who taught you that?”
Shampoo-kun smiled, “Shampoo go to school, remember? Am beginning to understand Japanese economics.”
Nabiki managed to regain her composure.
“I’m starting to like the way you think.” She tried to sound happy as she gave Shampoo-kun a very insincere smile.
“Somehow, Shampoo doubt that very much.” Shampoo-kun sounded just as happy and gave the same insincere smile right back.
“Why do you need the money?” Ranma asked
Shampoo-kun answered as he turned away. “No particular reason.” The two left for the demonstration.
Kasumi walked into the entryway and noticed Akane and Ranma.
“Did Nabiki and Shampoo already leave?” Akane nodded. “So are you two going to the library now?”
“Nah! Sayuri and Chisa cancelled at the last minute. That means we’d be left alone with those two girl crazy idiots, Hiroshi and Daisuke. They seem like nice guys, but they keep hitting on me, and it drives me nuts.” Ranma grimaced for effect.
Kasumi suddenly appeared a little… nervous. Genma and Soun soon joined everyone else.
Kasumi turned to them. “Are you two going to the movie now?”
“No. We decided to stay and play Shogi,” Soun replied.
“But you do that every night.”
Genma’s turn. “So?”
Kasumi sighed and went into the kitchen. The doorbell rang just as she was out of sight. Akane opened it to reveal Dr. Tofu standing in the doorway. He was wearing a rather nice suit and bore a package.
“Good evening Akane. Long time, no see,” Tofu beamed at the girl who had frequented his office so many times.
Akane smiled while blushing ever so slightly. “It’s nice to see you too, doctor.”
He stared at her a moment. “Umm, Akane please don’t be offended, but that short hair isn’t you.” Her hair had grown about halfway back to what it was before her attempted scalping by LinLin.
Akane maintained her pleasant demeanor, much to Ranma’s surprise. “I agree. Let me take your coat. So, what brings you here?”
Tofu’s glasses fogged up slightly as he took off his jacket. “Kasumi invited me over.”
That surprised Soun. “What? She didn’t tell me.”
Akane paused in thought for a moment, and then snapped her fingers. “Now I see! So that explains it.”
Kasumi heard the noise coming from the hallway and decided to see what the commotion was. Once she came into Tofu’s line of sight, he lost his grip on reality.
“K-K-K-KASUMI! I brought you some cake for dessert.” He started stuffing his jacket into Ranma’s mouth. Akane barely managed to drag the victim out of the doctors reach. Ranma gagged a little as he removed the jacket.
“Why, that rotten…”
Akane cut him off. “It’s not his fault. I’ll explain later.”
“You look wonderful tonight.” Tofu smiled.
Genma was flattered. “Why, thank you.”
Kasumi finally managed to grab Tofu by the arm and lead him away before he could cause any more damage. The others just watched on, more then a little startled.
“What was that all about?” Ranma pointed in the direction the doctor had gone.
Akane thought she knew. “Kasumi obviously wants to talk to the doctor in private. Let’s give her that space.”
“WHAT!” Soun erupted. “Leave my daughter alone in the house with a man?!”
“You aren’t leaving your daughter alone with a man. You are leaving Kasumi alone with a man,” Genma reassured his old friend.
Genma’s remark worked, and Soun calmed down. “Oh, of course. If it’s Kasumi it’s different. What could happen?” He gave a little chuckle.
Ranma was in agreement, “Well, if Kasumi wants the place to herself, I guess we can make ourselves scarce.” He turned to Akane. “We could go out and, y’know, celebrate your victory over that big goof today.”
Soun and Genma conjured party streamers and horns from out of nowhere.
“That’s the spirit boy. You two go out on a date.” Soun honked a horn in their direction.
“You make your old man proud.” Genma blew on a kazoo.
“NOW, CUT THAT OUT!!!” Ranma wasn’t happy. The two took everything out of context.
Akane emotions mirrored Ranma’s. “It’s no date! It’s just a celebration!”
“Yes. And we are celebrating,” Soun replied.
Ranma balled his fist. “Not no more, you ain’t.’
Akane and Ranma dragged their respective fathers outside, leaving them on the walk.
“Now, don’t go hassling Kasumi,” Ranma warned the two. “Go out to that movie or something.”
Ranma and Akane walked off, leaving the fathers behind. After several blocks, Ranma turned to Akane.
“So why were you all gushy with that guy?”
Akane blushed furiously. “I was not.”
“Yes, you were.”
Akane started to get defensive, but looked towards Ranma, and, as if deciding on something, changed her tone. “Well, it’s like this. I sort of used to have a… crush on Dr. Tofu.”
Ranma spoke in very open disbelief. “You? A crush?”
That angered Akane. “Does it surprise you to know I like men?”
“Well, yes, it does. All I ever see you do is complain about them and hit ‘em.”
Akane scowled at him, but didn’t strike. “I complain about boys. They’re all brats. I like men. They are mature.”
There were still a few things Ranma wanted to know. “So what about the Doc. Still got feelings for him?”
Akane turned from Ranma and looked to the ground. “No, not really. I kind of got over it a while ago. You remember when I cut my hair? The first time, I mean.” Ranma nodded as she started playing with her hair. “Well, the hair was kind of symbolic of my feelings for him. When I realized I wasn’t going to win his heart, I sort of gave up on him and got it cut short.”
“What made you give up?” Ranma was genuinely curious. This was a side of Akane he had never seen.
Akane’s face was still pointed to the ground, so Ranma couldn’t see the increase in her blush. “Nothing in particular.”
“So why did he go crazy?”
Akane looked up. “He has a crush on Kasumi. Once she enters the room he’s in, it’s best to take cover. He just loses it.”
The two continued their walk, Ranma eventually dropping behind her a little bit. Once he was sure she wasn’t watching him, he began staring thoughtfully at Akane.
“Every time I think I understand her she surprises me again.” He shook his head at the thought.
Kasumi had prepared dinner for herself and Tofu. His glasses were still glazed over as he sat down to eat. Once she made sure they were both settled, the dinner began.
Tofu began to eat. “This is a little dry, Kasumi.”
“Oh, silly! You’re eating the napkin.”
“Oh! Ha ha! The soup seems a little bland.”
“Oh! That’s because you’re using your spoon on a glass of water.”
“Oh! Ha ha! This steak tastes just right.”
That one gave Kasumi pause. “I… see. That’s odd. That centerpiece you’re eating is composed of flowers, and shouldn’t taste like steak at all.”
Tofu just stared off into nowhere. “Oh! Ha ha! I need to use the restroom.” He got up and walked to the hallway, opened a door, and entered.
Kasumi began thinking to herself, “Oh, great! That’s the closet. I’d better get him out before anything messy happens.”
The rest of the night continued in much the same manner. Any attempts at coherent conversation with the doctor were useless, as he remained in the same state of awareness that he usually had around Kasumi. As the evening progressed, Kasumi began to look depressed. The look became more and more pronounced as the night wore on. Eventually, Kasumi ushered the Doctor to the front door, calling it a night.
“Well. I had a great time.” Dr. Tofu told her.
“Yes it was…” she trailed off and started looking at the ground, “…something.”
“I hope to do it again sometime.”
Kasumi gave a faint smile, “We’ll see. Take care doctor.” He turned to leave, when Kasumi suddenly shouted, “WAIT!”
Tofu turned around. Kasumi had the saddest look on her face since the evening began. She moved forward to him, and stood on her tiptoes.
She kissed him lightly on the lips. A look of pure ecstasy crossed the doctor’s face and he passed out.
Kasumi sighed. “I was afraid something like that would happen.” She bent over to examine him and make sure he was all right.
Much later, after the doctor recovered enough to send him on his way, everyone returned. Kasumi had retired to the kitchen, sitting at the table nursing a cup of tea. Nabiki passed by, then walked backward and looked in at the kitchen.
“Something wrong, sis?”
“No. Why?” Kasumi answered.
“Just checking. I’ll be upstairs if you need me.” She left.
A few moments later Akane passed by. She paused at the doorway and entered the kitchen.
“No. Why?” It struck her as unusual for so many people asking that sort of question tonight.
“You look a little down.”
“No. I’m fine.”
Akane stared at her sister for a moment, then turned to go. “If you need me, just call.”
Moments later Kasumi saw her father pass by. She turned to look at the clock when she suddenly heard loud crying next to her.
“WAAAAAAAAA!” Soun was in the standard state of bawling his eyes out.
Kasumi looked around quickly to see who died. “What is it?”
“MY LITTLE GIRL IS DEPRESSED!”
Kasumi patted her father’s head,” There, there father. I’m not depressed. And even if I was, there’s no need to cry.”
Soun calmed down. A little. “I haven’t seen you depressed since your mother died!”
“You haven’t…” She shook her head. That was absurd. There were times she had been depressed since her mother died. “Look. I’m fine. Just go to bed.”
She reassured him enough so he went to bed. A minute later someone else stuck their head in.
“Hello…” Genma started.
Kasumi finally snapped. “Get out!”
“Sorry.” He quickly left.
It only took a moment for Kasumi to become aghast at her action. “What have I done?” She stood up and hurried to Genma. “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. What did you want?”
“I just wanted to grab something to eat.”
She apologized again and escorted him to the kitchen where he loaded up half of the refrigerator and walked off. Kasumi sat back down and started nursing her tea again. Shampoo came in without a word and sat down.
Kasumi turned to her new companion. “What do you want?”
Shampoo just looked Kasumi in the eye. “Nothing. Does Shampoo need reason to be here?”
Kasumi blushed. “No. Of course not. I apologize for my rude behavior.”
Shampoo just shrugged. “Is all right.”
The two remained sitting there for ten minutes without another word exchanged. Finally Kasumi spoke up.
“Are you going to be here all night?”
“Are you going to be here all night?” Shampoo answered right back.
Kasumi hesitated. “I don’t know.”
“Shampoo not know either, then.” Kasumi returned to staring at her cup when Shampoo interrupted, “Want talk about it?”
“Talk about what?”
“Shampoo not stupid. No treat like am. Now, you want to talk about it? “
“I don’t know…” Kasumi started again, then stopped and took in a deep breath. “Maybe I do need to talk to someone. Just promise me this will stay between the two of us. I don’t want to worry the others.”
Shampoo held up her hand. “Promise.”
Kasumi began, “I invited Dr. Tofu over tonight because I hadn’t seen him for awhile. I’ve always been attracted to him.” She blushed a little. “I have sort of a weakness for older men. Ever since he opened his practice here and I took Akane over for her injuries, he always seemed so nice, so… impressive. I was actually glad when Akane had some very minor injury and I could go over. Once I got older, I started coming up with excuses to go over and see him. Sometimes it would be books, or to deliver food to him in appreciation for all he had done. As time passed I started dreaming we might get married some day. I never told him how I felt, of course, but I thought he liked me too. It was just a dream I had. One I was content with.” She took a deep breath. “But recently, things changed. A certain black haired boy entered my life and changed it.”
Shampoo nodded. “Ranma have that effect on people.”
Kasumi smiled. “No silly. I meant you.”
A huge sweatdrop appeared on Shampoo’s head. “B… but Shampoo not boy.”
Kasumi grabbed onto Shampoo’s hand which had been resting on the table and held it. “I know that now, but I didn’t know then. When I first laid eyes on you my heart skipped a beat. No lie. You were the most handsome man I ever saw. I never believed in love at first sight. I guess I’m not that sort of romantic, or at least I wasn’t. Now I know differently. When I saw you, I promised myself I would make you a part of my family, to take care of you. I wanted you by my side. I thought of all that in that first moment I saw you. Somehow, I was happier in that instant than I was with all those daydreams I had of Dr. Tofu, or anyone else for that matter.’
Shampoo now understood and began to look forlorn. “Shampoo sorry not right kind of guy for you. What…”
Kasumi cut her off. She raised herself to her feet, walked over to the entry to the kitchen and looked down the hall. She saw Nabiki moving a shotgun microphone into position to eavesdrop on her conversation.
Nabiki smiled hopefully, “Oh. Hi, sis. I was just testing out some equipment.”
Kasumi smiled right back. “Good. You can test out the washing machine and dryer as well. Tomorrow you’re doing the laundry.”
“That’s hardly fair,” Nabiki started to protest.
“You’re right,” Kasumi agreed. “You can do the dusting also.”
Nabiki gave up. “I should probably cut my losses while I’m behind, shouldn’t I?”
Kasumi smiled pleasantly and nodded her head. Nabiki left, with equipment in tow. Once she was sure Nabiki wasn’t coming back, she returned to the kitchen.
“It’s amazing what some people think they can get away with around here,” she said as she sat back down. “I know sometimes I don’t pick up on things right away, but I’m not an airhead.”
She picked up where she left off. “Anyway, it’s not your fault you are who you are. I admit, I was disappointed at first when I learned you were really a girl. Very disappointed. But I remembered that promise I made to myself about when I first saw you, and decided it wouldn’t be fair to not like you just because you weren’t who I thought you were. I was the one guilty of jumping to conclusions, so I gave you a chance, and I’m glad I did. You have been one of the best friends I’ve ever had. So please don’t think I’m disappointed in you. I couldn’t be happier…” A tear started to form in Kasumi’s eye.
Shampoo moved to comfort her. “What’s wrong?”
Kasumi became a little more tearful. “It’s just that I guess I was a little lonely. I didn’t realize it at first; I think it sort of crept up on me slowly. It’s not that my family isn’t caring or thoughtful, but ever since mother died, I spend a lot of time doing things for everyone, and they rely upon me for so much, that it can be a bit overwhelming. I’m not sorry for anything I’ve done, and I would do it all over again in an instant. It’s just that it can be difficult to have to do almost everything. Most of my life, I could never spend much time with others because I had to help take care of everyone else, so I always felt a little alone. I had friends, but not any real close ones. It became worse once I was out of school because my social contacts became more limited, and there are some things that you can’t discuss with family, it’s just too awkward.
“So when you came here, it was like a breath of fresh air for me. You’re someone I can talk to. I mean, I can talk to Ranma, but it isn’t the same thing like when I talk to you. I also appreciate your help with the shopping and cooking. I like doing those things with others, and you’re the only one that wants to do them. Well, Akane’s cooking doesn’t really count since I have to make sure she doesn’t create something that will eat through the countertops. There’s too much pressure to enjoy that. And Nabiki and I are two different people. We just don’t have much common ground, but you and I do. We’re hardly the same, however, there are enough common interests that we don’t get bored with one another. What I’m trying to say is, thank you for being the friend I needed very much.”
“And thank you for helping me change.”
That confused Shampoo. “Change?”
Kasumi began smiling again, “Before you came, I was content with what I was doing. However, after our conversation about all the changes you’ve gone through, I started to think about myself, and what I want out of my life. In several years, Akane and Nabiki will be leaving, and that’s going to change everything. That was another reason I invited Dr. Tofu over. I wanted to be sure of how I felt with him. I know now it’s not going to work out between us. I don’t find him interesting in that way anymore. It’s not like he’s changed, he’s still a very nice man, I just don’t look at him the same way I used to. I can’t talk to him as a person; he’s too incoherent. I need more than that in a relationship. I need a friend, like you.” She looked down at her cup again. “When I kissed him, it was our first kiss, and our last. I don’t think I’ll see him anymore. I wouldn’t want to lead him on, and he should have someone nice in his life. He deserves that. Now I have to decide what I want to do with mine. Maybe you can help me.”
Shampoo smiled warmly. “Would like that very much.”
“Thank you.” Kasumi got up. “Now, it’s getting late. I’m going to clean up and you should go to sleep. Good night.”
Shampoo left the kitchen while Kasumi stayed behind to clean up. She watched the Amazon exit and stared at the doorway for a few moments. She then spoke almost inaudibly to herself.
“Just because I have had a lot on my mind doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention. Something has been bothering you. I’ve felt something building up inside you for some time now, even though you’re trying to hide it. I just hope you let it out soon before something bad happens.”
Part III: Breaking People
Ranma built up speed as he prepared to go up the ramp. He had to hit it just right or else he would suffer defeat and humiliation in front of the crowd gathered before him. He pumped his legs for every bit of force he could muster while making certain that he got just the right angle. If he wasn’t fast enough or he came in wrong, it was over. He could practically feel the anticipation of the group as he went past them full bore, and seemingly flew up the ramp. Once airborne, he twisted his body in three tight spins while simultaneously going head over heels in midair. For lesser mortals it was an impossible feat, but Ranma Saotome had trained in the Saotome School of Martial Arts all his life, and mid-air combat was a specialty. He executed the leap and spins perfectly and landed on the concrete of the sidewalk after completing the jump. A roar of approval broke out from the group of twenty children that had gathered to watch Ranma do his leap. Ranma skated over to the group. Once there, an older child of about eleven approached him. Ranma saw he carried a skateboard as he came over.
“That was the most awesome thing I ever saw Mr. Saotome. I thought I was good on my board, but you’re the best.” The smile he beamed at Ranma told him the child was being sincere in his compliment.
He returned the smile to the boy and patted him on the head. “Thanks.” It was weird hearing someone call him Mr. Saotome. That was his father, not him. He then turned to the crowd. “Thanks everyone, but I gotta go.” The children let out cries asking him to do it one more time, but Ranma politely refused. He had already given in twice and it was getting late. He took off his skates and said goodbye to the group, waving at them as they left. He overheard more than one lamenting that he hadn’t done more. Ranma had to admit, it was kind of neat to have so many people, even kids, cheer him on.
After the fight with the “Golden Pair”, Shampoo and he discovered they liked skating, so the two decided to start practicing whenever they got the time. They elected to practice roller skating rather than ice skating to avoid prying eyes at the rink, and to avoid a rematch should the “Golden Pair” find out just how bad they really were. They also didn’t want Akane around because (at the time) she was much better than either one of them, and neither felt the need to be reminded of their novice status. As time went by, they got good, real good. In fact, they had become so good that they had attracted a following that would go out of their way to watch the two of them execute the complex series of stunts they usually performed. He and Shampoo had been putting on expositions for the kids for several weeks now, and watching them smile always made him feel sort of flattered.
As his thoughts turned to Shampoo, he decided to go over to check on her. Earlier in the day his skating partner had run into a classmate that had come to the park with her infant brother. The student had recognized Shampoo “Saotome” from the Rhythmic Gymnastics competition with Kodachi and greeted her. Shampoo excused herself and began a conversation with the girl, leaving Ranma to entertain the masses on his own. When he headed back, he saw Shampoo was still talking to the girl. The Amazon held the infant in her arms and gently rocked him back and forth, a smile of contentment was on both child and holder. Shampoo spotted Ranma and smiled. She held the baby forward and picked up the child’s hand to “wave” to him. Shampoo handed the infant back to his sister and walked towards Ranma so the two of them could start home.
Ranma took notice of Shampoo’s happy, carefree attitude, something he hadn’t seen in her for a while. “How did it go with the kid?”
Shampoo grinned broadly at Ranma. “Sentaro was good whole time. He no cry, just smile. How skating go with fans?”
“The usual. Had about a dozen of them ask me to train them. If they’re that enthusiastic about martial arts, I won’t have to worry about making a living when I’m running the dojo.”
Shampoo’s smile quickly disappeared as she turned her head towards Ranma, “Ranma. Shampoo have question for you.”
“Do you like Akane?”
Ranma scowled at her. “No way! She’s a violent, uncute, tomboy that gets her kicks out of bashing me around.” He suddenly got a thoughtful look in his eye. “Y’know, I always wondered what she used to do for fun before I showed up. Gotta ask Kasumi about it sometime. Akane’ll just hit me again if I ask her.”
“Then if no like Akane, why not break off engagement?”
Ranma sighed. “I got to keep it. It’s like a matter of honor. Besides, our fathers only said engaged, not married. Believe me, marrying her is about as likely as me jumping into the Spring of Drowned Moose.”
“Then why you say you want run dojo?”
Ranma paused for a moment to think about what she was talking about. It finally dawned on him. “Oh! You think I was talking about the Tendo Dojo. No! No. I meant when I open my own place.”
That seemed to cheer her up slightly, but it didn’t last. Her demeanor became more serious again as she looked him straight in the eye. “Then what you do if meet nice girl want to marry?”
He started scratching his head. “I dunno. Never thought of it, I guess. Discounting fiancées my pop sold me to for food, I don’t think too many girls would want me. At least not until I get this curse thing taken care of. What about you?”
That caused her to blush. She wasn’t expecting the change of subject. “What you mean?
“You meet any guys you like? I guess it would be kind of hard for you since you’re a guy at school and all. The rest of the time you’re with me or Kasumi anymore. Maybe you should, y’know, get out more often.”
Shampoo stopped walking and stared at the ground. She began talking in a much softer voice and continued looking down. “You not want Shampoo around?”
That confused Ranma. He didn’t know how she got that idea, “No. I didn’t mean…”
Shampoo raised her face to him, pain etched in her visage as she cut him off. “That what sound like you mean. Maybe should go away. Never come back if no want around!” and with that she turned and ran off at top speed.
Ranma remained motionless for a moment, stunned at the turn of events. He had absolutely no idea how she came to that conclusion, or why she would run off. He began shouting at her rapidly departing form. “That ain’t what I meant! Come back, Shampoo!” The realization she wasn’t going to slow down, despite the fact she had to have heard him, set in. “Aw, man! What the heck was that all about? I thought I have her figured out and now she’s getting all moody lately. Next thing you know she’ll be hitting me with a wooden hammer or something.”
Ranma started running after her. So intent was he on keeping an eye on the fleeing Amazon, he failed to notice an older one watching. Cologne observed the direction the two of them took, and hopped off in a different direction.
Ukyou and Ryouga were waiting patiently for the matriarch’s return. She had told them to remain where they were until she could locate Shampoo and Ranma for them, saying she wanted to make sure that her protégés attacked the duo at the same time because Shampoo would recognize the technique immediately, and would be able to prepare a defense against it if she had forewarning. Ryouga was pacing like a caged animal while Ukyou sat in contemplation.
“I can’t wait. Ranma is so dead when I meet him this time. He isn’t going to know what hit him,” Ryouga bragged as he continued to pace back and forth.
Ukyou knew Ryouga was eager to start this fight since he had mastered the Breaking Point technique, but one look into his face frightened her. The smile that was creeping across his face promised serious violence towards Ranma if she didn’t do something now.
“Ryouga. You have to swear something to me.”
His smile disappeared when he realized Ukyou was being dead serious. He paused in his pacing and paid attention to her. “Yes?”
“Here it comes, girl. Don’t chicken out now,” she thought. Out loud she stated, “ I want you to promise you won’t beat up Ranma badly. Just defeat him in combat this once and never go after him again.”
“Why would I promise that?” Ryouga hadn’t expected that sort of thing.
She got up and walked towards Ryouga. “Because I don’t want the two of you to fight. You both mean a lot to me and I don’t think I could bear it if anything bad happened to either one of you.”
Ryouga felt a mix of emotions. On one hand he really wanted to beat the stuffing out of Ranma. On the other hand Ukyou was obviously concerned over he and Ranma fighting, making him feel torn between the need for vengeance and the desire to please his friend. This was the exact sort of problem that constantly came up his entire life, one that had no easy solution. Why did he have to make important decisions like this? Why did she have to protest so much? Wasn’t it enough that he had spent nearly his whole life seeking Ranma to pay him back? And now at the moment of true retribution, she had to intrude and ask him to not do it. It was the story of his life, a series of no-win situations. He immediately began to fall into one of his depressions.
Ukyou saw the effect she was having and pressed forward, both verbally and physically. “Do it for me. Please.” There was more indecision on his face, so she drew closer still. “Please.” She gave the most pleading look with her eyes that she could muster as she leaned forward, considering doing something to him that would prove her sincerity about not wanting to see him hurt.
Ryouga couldn’t help but notice how close Ukyou was getting. His depression slipped away, all but forgotten as a new feeling began to overtake him, panic. Her face was nearly up against his, making him suddenly very aware of the fact she was now closer to him than any other female had ever been. It wasn’t exactly an unpleasant experience, discounting the fact that blood was beginning to rush to his nose and he was on the verge of passing out. Not a bad feeling at all. In fact, if he wasn’t mistaken, something was about to happen. He decided that it might be a good idea to lean a little closer himself before he journeyed to the land of unconsciousness.
Cologne cleared her throat, causing the duo to separate better than twenty feet apart. The motion was so quick that even she couldn’t follow their movements as each of them attempted to look nonchalant, and failed miserably.
“Thank goodness I arrived in time. Another moment and I would have had to find them a hotel room before they could concentrate on the matter at hand,” she thought to herself.
“Did you find them?” Ryouga’s concentration returned first as he cracked his knuckles in anticipation. Beating up Ranma was an easy thing to do. Much, much simpler than dealing with Ukyou.
“Yes, I did. As of this moment, they are aimlessly running all over Nerima. My advice to you is to find a tall building to watch them. Then when they finally stop, move in to attack.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ryouga said. Cologne noticed he was becoming more and more eager by the second, unlike Ukyou, who was clearly troubled. She walked over to talk to the girl.
“Are you having second thoughts about this? I thought you wanted revenge against Shampoo?”
Ukyou started to focus on her hate, just as Cologne had anticipated. “Yes, I do.”
“Then just concentrate on that. Everything else will fall into place. I guarantee it.”
The matriarch tapped her lightly on the back with the staff. Ukyou felt a slight twinge from where the wood made contact, but it faded almost instantly. Her feelings about revenge became more focused on Shampoo. She was going to make the Amazon pay. Oh, yes. Pay in spades.
Cologne walked over and tapped Ryouga on the back with the staff “for luck” as well. She noticed both of the young fighters appeared much more enthusiastic about the upcoming fight and set off. Cologne watched the two begin running, talking to each other about what they were going to do when they caught up with their opponents. The Amazon smiled to herself. “It’s been a while since I’ve used that technique. Nice to see it still works.” She paused momentarily, a look of regret crossing her face. It disappeared as quickly as it came and she walked towards a higher point herself to observe the upcoming event.
Shampoo continued to run away from Ranma at full speed. The race took the duo high and low all over Nerima. Shampoo dashed through busy streets, jumped from building to building, leaped across ponds using the boats on them as springboards, and even went so far as to jump onto a moving train in an effort to elude her pursuer. Ranma kept up the entire distance, just barely making the last car of the train to keep her from getting away. Shampoo in female form was every bit as fast as Ranma in male form, which allowed her to stay just ahead of him. After the race covered the majority of Nerima, she finally looked over her shoulder and came to a decision.
“Maybe am overreacting. He chases me so hard. But what if let catch? What then?” she thought.
She slowed down enough to allow Ranma to catch up. Right before he could grab her she stopped and confronted him.
Ranma stopped as well and stood for a moment, watching her closely to make sure she didn’t try to bolt while he tried to get his breath back. It had been a difficult chase, even for him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had run so hard.
“Why d’ya’ run off?”
“Why you try catch?”
He still hadn’t figured out her game. “Because I don’t want you to go.”
Ranma started to become flustered. The girl was quickly becoming a total enigma to him and he hated mysteries. “I don’t know. Guess you’ve just always been there and…” he began to lose it. “Look! I dunno! Why are you so concerned? Do you want to leave?”
“Then why’d you run away?”
She bit down on her lip. Not only had he evaded the question, but he had turned the tables on her. The answer had to do with what she felt inside, but she had no idea of how to say it, or even what exactly she was feeling. This was all an entirely new experience for her and she didn’t know how to deal with it. Perhaps if her great-grandmother or mother were here she could seek their advice, but as things stood, she could only rely upon herself. She knew Ranma was her friend, one of a precious few, but also unlike any other she ever had. The feelings for him felt far more intense. It shouldn’t be love. She had been taught that emotion was reserved for those that defeated you in combat, at least if one wanted a happy marriage. Still, he was a better fighter; she wasn’t even ashamed to admit it, so maybe it could be. She gave an inward sigh, it would have been so much easier if he had challenged her to combat and defeated her, but as it was, confusion reigned within.
She was about to answer when two figures rushed toward Ranma and her.
“Damn! Why did they have to show up now?” Shampoo thought, and then backed up a little. She wasn’t sure what to say to Ranma and it may have come out wrong. Perhaps this was for the best. At the very least it would relieve some of her tension.
Ranma prepared himself for a fight when he noticed something disturbing. Ryouga appeared to be a good bit angrier than usual, but his main concern was Ukyou. There was no mistaking the gleam in her eye, something had royally pissed her off and she wasn’t even trying to hide it. Maybe it would be better if he bothered to talk to the duo before the fight to find out if something was wrong. He approached the duo even as they closed the distance to him.
“Yo, Ryouga. What I’d do now?”
Ukyou and Ryouga looked at each other, smiled wickedly at one another, and separated. Ranma began to leap back when Ryouga reached forward with his finger and shouted,
The ground exploded underneath his finger, the force of it causing Ranma to be blown backward. Even as he was flying through the air he realized if he hadn’t already been moving backward the damage would have been more severe. As it was, he still had to use a great deal of skill to land on his feet. He glanced over to see what Ukyou was up to.
Shampoo saw and heard the results of the Breaking Point. She pieced together what had happened almost instantly: her great grandmother had taught Ryouga, and possibly Ukyou, a dangerous Amazon fighting skill, one Shampoo herself had not yet mastered. Her thoughts were cut off as Ukyou came forward to deliver the same kind of blow Ryouga had just used. Forewarned, she leaped back out of range of the explosion and tried to remember everything she could about the technique. It was painful to learn, it could blow up things, but not people or animals, and there was something else, but she couldn’t recall what it was. She shouted out what she knew to Ranma.
Ranma heard what Shampoo shouted to him and felt his confidence soar. Ryouga couldn’t actually blow him up with his finger. That was a relief. Now all he had to do was keep him from blowing up everything else, then Ranma could move in and beat the daylights out of him. Of course, how one would go about moving all matter away from Ryouga was going to be a challenge in and of itself.
Shampoo kept leaping out of Ukyou’s range as she continued to use the Breaking Point to blow things up. There was one problem with Shampoo’s strategy, though, which she discovered about a minute into the fight. Running around Nerima all day was tiring, and a few minutes of rest was nowhere near enough time to recover from it. Her muscles were already starting to burn from the fatigue that had built up from the miles of ground she had covered. She was quickly slowing down, becoming exhausted, unlike Ukyou who was attacking with a vigor Shampoo had never witnessed before. She looked directly at the cook’s face and was disturbed by what she saw there. In times past Ukyou had certainly appeared mad at Shampoo for some imagined wrong, but now she appeared downright homicidal. Shampoo tried to think of what she might have done to trigger that level of anger directed at her, but couldn’t figure it out. Perhaps she had served the okonomiyaki chef one defeat too many.
Ukyou switched tactics, becoming frustrated with the lack of results from her newly learned technique. She switched over to her spatula and started swinging with it. Shampoo reversed direction, ducked under the swing, and connected with a kick to Ukyou’s midsection. The cook just stood there, unfazed by the blow.
“You call that a kick?!” Ukyou shouted. “Here’s a kick!” And with that she lashed out with a blow that connected with the Amazon’s shoulder. She then brought about her spatula again, using the edge, in an attempt to strike the Amazon. “Die, Shampoo!”
The young Amazon barely dodged in time. Shampoo remembered the final skill of the Breaking Point, “Ranma! It also makes people tougher. Normal punch no work!”
Ranma found that out on his own as he attempted a leap kick at Ryouga and bounced off the lost one. Even with his reflexes, he barely got out of the way of the next blow that Ryouga almost connected with. Ranma’s own breathing had become ragged as he felt his chest start to burn with each breath he took. He assumed Shampoo was in the same boat as he was, that both were exhausted and faced with opponents that were unusually angry with them, almost lethally so. He tried again to defuse the situation.
“Hey, Ryouga. Knock it off! You can really hurt someone like this.”
Ryouga just continued to rage on. “Die, Saotome! BAKUSAI TENKETSU!”
More ground exploded as Ranma leaped out of the way of the blast. As he leaped back he suddenly encountered a stream of water that changed him in mid-air. Apparently one of Ukyou’s blows had shattered a fire hydrant, causing a stream of water to shoot up into the sky like a miniature fountain. Ranma-chan landed next to the newly geyser. If she could trick Ryouga into the water this fight would be over in a flash.
“Hey, Batboy. C’mon and get some.” She stuck her tongue out in an effort to lure Ryouga into the water, but even as enraged as he was, Ryouga didn’t fall for it. Instead, he drove his finger into the ground and unleashed another “Bakusai Tenketsu.”
The result was different this time. The street beneath Ryouga exploded in a huge detonation ten times the size of any of the other blows as Ryouga accidentally hit a gas main. All three remaining participants stopped and gazed at the raging conflagration that soared up into the sky.
“My God!” Ranma-chan uttered as she saw the flames continue to rise to the sky. “I don’t know if he…” Her jaw dropped as she saw a vision that appeared straight out of hell. Ryouga ran out of the inferno, still smoldering in a few places and burned in many others. But the most terrifying thing was the look on his face. He appeared to have totally lost his mind as he screamed something unintelligible at Ranma-chan and moved in for what looked like the kill. Ranma-chan jumped back to keep out of Ryouga’s way.
Shampoo was paying attention to Ukyou even as the chef watched the events. She saw Ranma-chan leaping away from Ryouga when she noticed Ukyou draw several mini-spatulas from her bandoleer.
“No way. Stupid Spatula Girl would no hurt Ranma.”
Shampoo couldn’t have been further from the truth as Ukyou hurled the blades at Ranma-chan’s leaping form. “RANMA, LOOK OUT!”
Ranma-chan turned to the sound of the warning and saw the mini-spatulas. She was shocked at the idea that her oldest friend had actually attacked her. Fortunately, reflexes took over and she narrowly got out of the way of the hurled objects. Unfortunately, this caused her to remain low enough for Ryouga to grab onto her leg and smash Ranma-chan into the ground, bouncing her head off the asphalt and stunning the girl.
“You die now!” Ryouga drew his umbrella and prepared to drive it through Ranma-chan’s prone form. The blow was blocked by a crossed pair of bonbori as Shampoo jumped in front of Ryouga. The force of the impact was enough to drive her ankles several inches into the paved surface, but she remained upright. Ryouga lashed out with a kick to Shampoo’s now wide-open midsection and sent the girl flying. Her flight was suddenly interrupted as Ukyou smashed down on Shampoo’s head with her spatula, hard. Ranma-chan had recovered enough to see Shampoo stand upright for a moment, then slump forward as her eyes rolled into the back of her head.
“Got you!” Ukyou grinned evilly at Shampoo’s unconscious form.
Ranma-chan snapped. She sprang up from her back and jumped on Ryouga, straddling his face and locking her legs behind his head. She raised back her fist and shouted.
“KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKAN!!!”
She brought her fist down repeatedly in the same spot, Ryouga’s face. To his credit he ignored the first eighty blows and drove his torso downward, smashing Ranma-chan into the asphalt once again. Ryouga attempted to stand upright, only to discover the legs remained locked behind his head. Ranma-chan once again employed the Chestnut Fist into Ryouga’s face. Despite that, he managed to raise himself to his feet again, even with the girl still on his shoulders. However, as soon as he became vertical again, he slumped to his knees. By this time, Ranma-chan had landed over three hundred blows and wasn’t giving any indications she was stopping anytime soon. The count was up to the three hundred and eighty one when she finally stopped. Ukyou’s spatula had connected with the area of flesh between the shoulder and neck, causing enough pain to drive Ranma-chan into unconsciousness. Her still form fell to the ground.
“We’ve done it!” Ukyou was practically frothing at the mouth as she paused to consider what to do next. She knew she had to hit someone.
“Oh! Those are pretty lights.” Ryouga’s voice sounded distant and his eyes were glazed over. Ukyou didn’t pay any attention to the distraction as she looked down at Ranma-chan’s unconscious form, considering what to do next. Ryouga’s next statement cut through the red haze that covered her thoughts.
“She has a pretty glow.” Ryouga pointed over Ukyou’s shoulder.
She turned to see Shampoo had recovered enough to stand up once again. There was now a blue aura that hugged her body. A closer examination revealed that the blue aura seemed to have the texture of scales, similar to a reptile’s.
Shampoo’s eyes locked onto Ranma-chan’s fallen form, and then turned to Ukyou. Each girl sported identical looks of hatred.
“YOU HURT RANMA! I KILL YOU!!!”
“YOU’RE GOING TO DIE FIRST!!!”
Both girls simultaneously leaped at each other.
Happosai was sitting on the new stash of underwear that he had “rescued” earlier in the day. He enjoyed the texture of a pair of smooth cotton panties that he ran along his face when he felt the release of chi energy and heard an explosion in the distance. He turned to the direction of the sound.
“That had to hurt.” Losing interest, he went back to playing with his underwear.
Cologne had observed the entire fight from her vantage point on a building overlooking the war zone. She began speaking to herself.
“So. You surprise me once again, granddaughter. You have somehow mastered the Dragon’s Scales. Very impressive, indeed. I believe you have won the day.” Despite the fact that she had been thwarted, Cologne felt a certain amount of pride in Shampoo. The youth was becoming an even greater warrior than before. If only the price wasn’t so high.
She continued to stare down at the carnage the quartet had caused in all of five minutes. If someone had taken a picture and shown it to the world, it appeared as though someone had marched through this area of Nerima with a tank division, guns blazing. At least most of the buildings had already been slated for demolition. Just as the dust started to clear from the latest mix of irresistible force meeting immovable object, Cologne spotted a movement on the top of an adjacent roof. Curiosity led her to check out just who would risk watching a fight that was obviously so dangerous.
Back at ground zero, a small crater had been newly formed by the two girls connecting with one another. Shampoo’s glow had disappeared, but her stance indicated she was ready for more. Ukyou on the other hand, was obviously staggered and could barely remain upright. Shampoo stalked over, grabbed Ukyou by the collar, and drew back her fist.
“YOU…” she lashed out, snapping Ukyou’s head back.
“HURT…” a second punch with the same results.
“RANMA!” a third.
“YOU…” a fourth blow. This time, Ukyou’s head did not snap back. Shampoo shook her around until she could land a good blow on the okonomiyaki chef’s cranium.
“HURT…” a fifth blow. By this time, Shampoo was the only thing keeping Ukyou upright.
“RANMA!” She unleashed a sixth punch.
“YOU…” This time, as she drew her fist back, she felt a sudden weight on it, causing her to delay the blow. She turned to see a girl holding onto the Amazon’s arm for dear life. To Shampoo, the girl seemed to be familiar somehow.
“Shampoo, stop it! You’re going to hurt her.”
Shampoo released Ukyou and focused on the newcomer, trying to recognize her. The Amazon’s head hurt and she was having a terrible time concentrating. She stared at the girl until it finally came to her. Ranma. The girl’s name was Ranma
Ranma-chan looked at Shampoo and became very worried. It was obvious the Amazon was having trouble focusing her attention on her, and she didn’t even want to think about what shape Ukyou was in. At least Ryouga seemed relatively healthy, except for the fact he kept talking to the sky about pretty lights. Ranma-chan turned her attention back to Shampoo as the Amazon reached out and gently caressed Ranma-chan’s face.
“You Ranma?” That caused the red head to panic. She was having trouble recognizing her.
“You O.K?” Ranma-chan nodded her head. “Good.” And with that Shampoo passed out.
Ranma-chan, barely managed to catch her with her good arm. Ukyou’s blow had temporarily paralyzed her right arm. At least she prayed it was only temporary. As things stood, she could only use her left. She started to carry Shampoo off when she remembered Ukyou. No matter what happened during the fight, she wouldn’t leave her behind. Ranma-chan called out to Ryouga since he seemed to have calmed down a little.
“Ryouga! Pick up Ucchan and follow me.” Thankfully, Ryouga got up and obeyed.
The girl stood on the rooftop, and looked down at the two figures moving away from the battle site carrying their burdens. She was dressed in a Chinese style pink and black outfit, an elaborate tiger design colored in gold upon the chest. The girl was heavily armed, bearing a naginata strapped across her back, as well as a sword and single bonbori at her sides. In her black-gloved hands she wielded a bow, an arrow drawn back in the bowstring. The target was the girl draped over Ranma-chan’s back.
<“It would be so easy to end your miserable life now, Shampoo. Just one arrow and you would never know what hit you.> The girl spoke softly, but the tone carried nothing but pure hatred.
<Would you strike down one who is defenseless?>
The girl whirled to see whom the newcomer was that had managed to successfully sneak up on her. Her eyes widened in shock as she lowered her weapon.
<Matriarch! I did not realize you were in Japan.>
Cologne now had a clear view of the girl’s features. She appeared to be about sixteen, with medium length pink hair. The youth had strikingly beautiful features, at least what could be seen of them was attractive, for the style of hair she had covered the entire left half of her face. Her height and weight were similar to Shampoo’s, though she wasn’t quiet as busty. It was exactly who Cologne suspected it was. The girl had changed a great deal since the last time she had seen her.
<You did not answer me, child. Would you strike down one who is defenseless?>
The girl regained her composure and answered the matriarch. <My exile was self- imposed. Now and forever I am an Amazon, in name and by deed. I would never strike down those who could not protect themselves.> She shifted her gaze to Shampoo’s departing form and added, <No matter how much they deserve it.>
The girl felt the bile rise from her stomach. The matriarch knew why she was here, and Cologne possessed the right to deny her the challenge that she sought. In fact, she probably would, since Shampoo was her great granddaughter and many could easily consider the challenge flimsy. It wasn’t fair. She had waited so long for this moment and it was going to be taken away from her. She almost wished she had loosed the arrow, consequences be damned.
<You know why I am here, elder. Shall I go back to Joketsuzoku now, or do you wish for me to wait?> Those were perhaps the hardest words that ever passed from her lips.
Cologne paused and looked the girl in the eye. <I wish you a good hunt.> And with that the matriarch departed, leaving the girl staring wide-eyed at her departing form. It took almost a full minute for the impact of what was just said to settle in.
<Did she just give me permission to challenge Shampoo?> The girl raised her head to the skies and gave a deep, sonorous laugh. Surely the gods smiled on her, she who would at long last have the vengeance she so richly deserved.
Ryouga followed Ranma-chan like a puppy; managing to stay with her despite the fact he usually had difficulty following his nose. The duo arrived at Dr. Tofu’s, which currently had no patients, allowing the doctor to quickly assess the injuries the four of them sported. Shortly after arriving, Shampoo started to come around followed by Ukyou. Even Ryouga became more coherent. After a couple hours, Tofu rendered his verdicts.
“The resilience you four are displaying is nothing short of incredible.” He finished using a penlight on Ryouga’s pupils, and then walked over to Ranma. “Your nerves are just a little stunned in that arm of yours.” The feeling in Ranma’s arm had returned and it almost felt like normal. “You should be fully recovered by tomorrow.” He turned to Shampoo. “You have a very minor concussion. If you have any problems with your head or thinking, let me know, otherwise you should be fine. He turned to the remaining two.
“You two, on the other hand, are not so good. Miss Kuonji,” He handled her face gently since it was still very swollen from the beating she suffered from Shampoo. “You have multiple contusions which are going to make your face feel really sensitive for a while. Use lots of ice.”
He turned to Ryouga. “You sir, are the worst of the lot. You have second-degree burns over much of your body and first degree burns over the rest. That’s not to mention the major concussion you sustained. Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?”
Ryouga protested, “No. And the lights are getting much smaller.”
Dr. Tofu stared at Ryouga. “Fine. I’ll downgrade it to minor concussion. Feel better?” Ryouga nodded his head. I want to keep you around for a few hours to make sure you don’t suffer a relapse. That’s it for the lot of you. And please try to be more careful in the future.”
Ranma looked at Tofu. “Doc, can we have a little privacy? There’s some stuff we gotta discuss in private.”
“I won’t tolerate any fighting. Keep whatever it is civil, or I’ll take action. Do I make myself clear?” Everyone nodded. Actually, Ryouga was already periodically nodding, but his timing was such no one noticed he wasn’t paying attention. Once the doctor left Ranma turned towards Ukyou and Ryouga.
Ukyou had been fearing this moment ever since she regained consciousness and realized what she had done, and what she had tried to do. The look on Ranma’s face told her who would be the main recipient of his anger.
“I would almost expect something like this from that moron, but you, Ukyou?” That hurt her worse than any blow she had received the entire week. Ukyou, not Ucchan.
Ranma continued his diatribe. “I thought you were my friend. I overlooked what was going on between you and Shampoo ‘cause I was happy you came back into my life. And I really appreciated how you believed me when I told you Pop was the one who screwed everything up. You don’t even mind my curse. I even went so far as to try and get Shampoo to stop the fights, which wasn’t fair to her because you’re the one that starts almost all of them. But now I wonder if you were ever really my friend? Teaming up with Cologne? You knew she was after Shampoo, I told you, but you sided with her anyway!”
Ranma’s first accusation felt like a knife had been plunged into her gut. Each one after that felt like someone was twisting the knife. She wanted to defend herself, but realized that Ranma was right. Every statement was true. It was like some kind of terrible truth serum that caused others to speak what you knew deep down inside. So instead of protesting, she took the criticism leveled at her.
“What you did today is inexcusable. Bad enough you attacked me, and I still don’t know why. But trying to kill Shampoo, and that was exactly what you did, that is going over the edge. How could you?”
She tried hard not to break down. She could feel she was losing her oldest friend, if she hadn’t lost him already, and there was nothing she could do about it. Still, she had to try to tell him what happened, even if he didn’t believe her.
“It was weird. At first I didn’t really want to fight. But once I started to get excited about it, a red haze seemed to come over my thoughts. I just knew I had to beat up someone, and Shampoo was the one in my mind. Somehow as the fight progressed you entered into my sight as an enemy. I…” Her voice started to fail her, “…I wanted to hurt you too. I’m sorry.” She was trying desperately to keep from crying, and failing.
Ranma began to speak again when Shampoo cut him off. She spoke directly to Ukyou. “Did Great Grandmother tap you on back?”
She recalled the instance when Cologne pushed her in the back with the staff. “Yes. Why?”
“Just wanted to know if she still do that. Ranma, we need talk,” and without waiting for a response, she grabbed Ranma and walked out to the hall with him. Once outside she spoke to him in a low whisper. “Shampoo hate to admit, but is no Spatula Girl’s fault.”
“What do you mean?”
Shampoo sighed, and then began her story. “Great-Grandmother use Aggression Point Technique. It way of making warrior into much fiercer person. But problem is, no can control. It easy to start attacking everyone when no can find opponent want, so it not used often. Only way to get rid of is touch right spot, knock person out, or exhaust them.”
“So you think that’s what happened to them?” She nodded. “How can you be sure?” Ranma questioned.
“Because Great Grandmother use on Shampoo once.” She hesitated, then continued, “It not pleasant experience. It happen just way Spatula Girl say. And it happen when tapped on back in right spot.”
A smile formed on Ranma’s lips. “So what you’re saying is, the old ghoul’s responsible for how they’ve been acting?”
Shampoo hesitated again. “It not last that long. So they must have went away with great grandmother to learn Breaking Point because they want to. But it does explain why Stupid Spatula Girl fight way she did today.”
Ranma’s smile disappeared before it was fully formed. “So they volunteered to attack us.” A frown appeared. “Still, we should let ‘em know what the ghoul did to them.”
Shampoo placed a hand on Ranma’s shoulder to restrain him. “May not be such good idea. If tell they may want beat up Great Grandmother, but is no way they can win. And Great Grandmother hurt them if they attack.”
Ranma’s eyebrows shot up. “Sounds like you care what happens to them.”
Shampoo turned and crossed her arms, a scowl appearing on her face. “Shampoo no care what happens to Stupid Spatula Girl. Can fall into bottomless pit and never see again. I no mind.”
Ranma just stared at Shampoo’s back. “Anyway, you may be right. Ryouga would be stupid enough to go after her. Just because he’s annoying doesn’t mean I want him dead. We’ll keep quiet about it.” He turned to go back into the recovery room. “But I’m still angry at them. Let’s say our good-byes and get out of here.”
Ukyou watched Ranma shut the door behind him as Ryouga finally came around enough to pay attention to what was going on.
“He’s got a lot of nerve. Just wait until…” Ukyou cut him off.
“Shut Up! We deserve everything he said.” She paused to reign in her emotions. “We let ourselves be used.”
“It’s not that way at all,” Ryouga defended. “I think she did something to us to make us lose control like that.”
Ukyou turned on Ryouga, “Of course she did! So what? We asked her to. Hell, we practically begged her to teach us how to beat up those two. Why should we feel bad about her doing something to help make us tougher? Who needs a conscience to get in the way?” Tears long restrained starting coming forward. “You were right. I wanted to beat up Shampoo for the same reasons you did. I just tried fooling myself into believing they weren’t. I kept telling myself my motives were pure, unlike yours, but I was just as wrong.
“And now, I may have lost everything. I just tried to kill my best friend, Ryouga, and for what? Because I don’t like Shampoo, that’s all. It’s not really hate; she hasn’t done anything to earn that. I just don’t like her.” She paused for a moment. “You know, I could have been perfectly happy with everything I have, but I don’t think I know how to be happy. For years I obsessed about Ran-chan…” She paused again. “No, I guess that’s Ranma now. He probably wants nothing to do with me, and he’d be right. I hated him for years, and drove myself to beat him. I just wanted to make him pay for what he did to me. Then, once I found out he wasn’t to blame, I switched my obsession to Shampoo. It was so much easier to just transfer my hatred to someone else instead of letting it go. I can’t believe I was so blind.” Her voice changed, sounding more confident, “I will not live life that way. It’s over! From now on, I’m letting go of my hatred. I’m going to treasure everything I have…” She paused as her shoulders slumped. “I mean everything I have left.”
She turned to Ryouga her voice softening. “I also can’t live with someone like that either. It’s wrong. Ryouga, if you want to work for me, to stay with me, you have to change. No more trying to beat up Ran-ch…” She stopped and corrected herself. “Ranma. You have to let it go.”
Ryouga couldn’t bring himself to look at her face, so instead looked down at the floor. “I don’t know if I can. It’s the way I am.”
Ukyou’s voice became slightly chilled. “I’m going back home. I would appreciate it if you waited a few hours before coming back.” She got up and left.
Ryouga lay back and stared at the ceiling of the office. Part of him wanted to let go of his anger, but another part still wanted to beat Ranma. Even now, despite everything that happened, he still felt frustrated because he lost to him again. As he lay back and allowed his mind to wander, a thought finally hit him. A voice from deep within said, “If you can’t let go of your rage, you will be failing her as surely as you did in the nightmare that demon created.” Those words may have made the difference, had it not been for the concussion that was still affecting him. The thought drifted from his mind almost as quickly as it entered.
After several hours he departed Dr. Tofu’s. He had no desire to return to Uk-Chan’s, but he had nowhere else to go. He began wandering, lost in depression and thought. In time, his head started to clear up and thoughts became more distinct. He kept asking himself if he really wanted to change or not. That was the crux of the matter. He didn’t know if he could change after all this time. Eventually, he realized the sun was high overhead.
“Damn. I wandered around all night.” He turned to a blond man who was putting some crates on a ship.
“Excuse me. Where am I?”
The man spoke in English. “I got no idea what you said, mate.”
Ryouga asked again in English. The man replied, “You’re in Sydney, Australia.”
Ryouga was totally bewildered. Now that he though about it, he did remember someone saying something about a ship, and he did walk in lot of circles. Panic began to overtake him, but he stopped and collected his thoughts. Maybe this was for the best. He needed time to think, and he didn’t want to go back to Nerima, to Ukyou, until he knew what his answer would be. He just hoped it would be the right one.
To be continued.
Author's notes: The explanations of references to “Crazed cultist”, “First Shieldmaiden”, and attempted marriage’s to Ranma and Ryouga. Not all of the events that happen to the cast in Shampoo ½ are written down. This was an instance of a relatively unimportant event. The only reason it was mentioned was to explain why Ranma and Shampoo have become so much better than Ryouga and Ukyou. Basically here’s what happened. A member of a cult designated as “First Shieldmaiden” received a garbled prophecy from her “Goddess.” It told her to marry “Ryouga Saotome of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts”, and gave a description of both Ryouga and Ranma, making it sound like it was one person. She identified Ranma and sent a challenge to him, which allowed him one week to prepare. Ryouga attended the fight, wanting to see Ranma beaten up. The First Shieldmaiden became confused by his presence and decided to marry both of them. Once she realized they were cursed, she quit the cult and retired.
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