Ryunosuke smiled to himself. He was going to leave the office on time for a delightful change. Ibuki would be waiting to pick him up so the two could celebrate their twelfth wedding anniversary in style with reservations at Ma Maison, and afterwards they would get started on raising that family that had always been dreamed of. Of course, that would entail many attempts at producing some children, a task he looked forward to. With a sigh of relief he finished closing his files, shut the computer down, and headed for the door. First one in, last one out. Same way it had been all year, since he was promoted to manager. He emerged from the office and managed to make it all of ten feet from the door, when he noticed something terribly wrong. It was the first time he had been outside all day and was completely unprepared for the scene before him. The odd weather patterns in Nerima had become even more bizarre and unpredictable in the last few months, but this was one for the books. Red clouds decorated the sky and gave everything an eerie crimson glow. The only thing it compared to would have been pictures of a Martian landscape. As he stared skyward, trying to figure out how an atmospheric anomaly like that was possible, he noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. He whipped his head around to catch sight of it and, for the briefest of moments, thought he spotted something standing atop one of the roofs nearby. A closer inspection revealed nothing. Somehow, that disturbed him more than if he had seen something. He continued looking for it when a hand touched his shoulder, causing him to jump. Ibuki had come over to greet him and was less than pleased with his reaction.
“Unhappy to see me?”
Ryunosuke shook his head, and then put on his best smile for his spouse. “Of course not. I just thought I saw something. A gargoyle, maybe.”
His wife laughed. “You’ve been working too hard. Let me show you how to unwind tonight.” She kissed him on the cheek, hinting of things to come, then turned to leave. Ryunosuke followed, still disturbed by what he thought he saw out of the corner of his eye.
The object of his discomfort stood away from the edge of the building she had been perched on only moments before, choosing not to announce her presence to the world. The pink haired Amazon looked up to the skies, a small smile creased her mouth as a rumble could be heard from the clouds above.
“Red skies. The color of blood. A good omen.”
Chapter 11: Sins of the Past I
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 has gone on before, (or what you need to know to enjoy this fic.) The Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou and began to spar, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse had already began 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 Ranma. Shampoo-kun= male Shampoo) Shampoo elected to travel to Japan with Ranma and accidentally became engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up Ranma became engaged to Akane. On the first day of school, water and confusion mixed causing everyone to believe Ranma-chan is Shampoo and Shampoo-kun is Ranma. Most of the women in the school have been attempting to defeat “Ranma” in order to date him ever since. Last chapter, Kasumi broke up with Dr. Tofu while Akane defeated the Dojo Destroyer one on one. Cologne managed to dupe Ukyou and Ryouga into fighting Shampoo and Ranma by teaching the duo the Breaking Point, then employing the Aggression Point to increase their battle rage. After a brutal fight with injuries to all, Ukyou swore off fighting Shampoo while Ryouga couldn’t give up trying to beat Ranma. Ryouga then wandered off, trying to come to a decision about what to do with his life. After the fight, a figure from Shampoo’s past had caught up to her, intent on proving some sins cannot be forgiven…
Part 1: The Storm Builds
Kasumi swept the house with the practiced ease of years. By now, she could have done it with her eyes closed if she chose to, without missing a spot. The same routine she had done before, and would do a hundred times more. It was unusually quiet today. Happosai had dropped by for a visit, taking her father and Genma out on a business trip (panty raid) with him, leaving Kasumi alone. She didn’t really mind. The quiet was a contrast to the chaos that usually ensued with Ranma and Shampoo around. The doorbell ringing interrupted her reverie.
She opened the door only to see an attractive young girl, about sixteen, with medium length pink hair that was worn in such a way as to cover the left side of her face. A pink and black Chinese style outfit with an elaborate golden tiger design on the chest clothed her body, insulting it from the weather. The youth was armed with naginata, sword, and bonbori, her stance indicating she was every bit the warrior she appeared. She delivered a graceful bow before the woman who had answered the door.
“Greetings, Miss. Is this the residence of Shampoo?” The youth smiled politely as she addressed Kasumi.
“Would that be Shampoo, or Shampoo Saotome?”
The pink haired youth stared in confusion at the older girl, and paused for a moment “Shampoo, I believe. Just Shampoo. The purple-haired one from China.” She watched Kasumi intently, waiting for the response.
“Why, yes it is, then.”
Happiness was etched on the girl’s features. “Ah! Excellent. You see, I’m an old friend of Shampoo’s that just happened to be in Nerima, and decided to drop by for a visit. Is she in right now?”
Kasumi shook her head, and then took in the newcomer fully. “Forgive me for mentioning this, but you seem heavily armed.”
The girl maintained her pleasant demeanor. “The world is a dangerous place. One must be prepared.”
“I guess you’re right.” The eldest Tendo paused in thought for a moment. “Are you a friend from China?” The newcomer nodded, causing Kasumi to frown. “I’m sorry. I can’t let you in.”
The girl appeared puzzled, but continued to smile. “Why not?”
“I can’t let you take her back to China.”
That gave the Amazon pause again. A frown creased her brow momentarily, then disappeared as she replied, “I see. Well, I assure you, my goal is not to take Shampoo back to China. I give you my word as a bond.” She gave another deep bow before the eldest Tendo.
Kasumi considered her words then came to her decision. “Well, that’s good enough for me. I believe Shampoo mentioned she’d be back in a little while. Why don’t you wait inside?”
The Amazon accepted. Kasumi ushered her into the living room and offered some food, which the girl politely refused.
“Is this visit a surprise?” Kasumi inquired.
The girl gave a mysterious smile. “Oh yes. I imagine it will be quite a surprise.”
Shampoo was almost bouncing as she made her way back to the Tendo Dojo. Shopping had gone well, and she found all of the materials needed to accomplish her goal. The money she made doing the martial arts exhibition at school had proven useful. She earned every cent of it, too. Every single one of the damn girls and half the guys wanted one on one sessions with her when she was in male form; the former hoping to beat her and get a date, the latter trying to beat her up so the girls wouldn’t keep trying to hit on her. Now all that was needed was time to complete the task, then she could unveil it for Ranma. She picked up her pace; it wouldn’t do to be caught by him with the materials in hand. The boy was dense sometimes, but even he might be able to put two and two together if he noticed what it was she carried. For all her joy, there was something tempering it. It was the weather. Something about the red skies bothered her.
It took her only a few minutes to arrive at the dojo. No sounds of battle were coming forth, a good sign Ranma and Akane were not present, though lately they seemed to be arguing a little less. As she entered Kasumi appeared, a wide smile on her face.
“Shampoo. I have a surprise for you. Follow me”
The Amazon smiled back. She hadn’t seen Kasumi this joyous for some time, and her happiness was infectious. Shampoo placed her bags on the floor of the entryway and followed Kasumi to the backyard.
“What going on?”
“You’ll see.” It appeared to Shampoo that Kasumi was going to keep her in the dark until the last moment. She couldn’t figure out what the surprise could be. Not for the life of her.
Kasumi slid open the door to the backyard and allowed Shampoo a full view of it. She looked quizzically at it until she noticed a figure, dressed in pink and black, with her back to the house. The figure was going through a kata, moving fluidly through it. A feeling if dread started to build up in Shampoo’s breast. It was a familiar pattern.
“It’s an old friend from China. She seemed very enthusiastic to see you.”
The figure turned to face Shampoo.
“She said her name was…”
“Perfume.” Shampoo’s voice was barely audible as she recognized the pink haired figure before her. The surprise lasted but a moment. “Get back, Kasumi! She’s dangerous!” Shampoo wrapped her arm around Kasumi and pushed the eldest Tendo behind her, as if to shield the girl.
Perfume gave a wicked little smile at the newly arrived Amazon. “Is that any way to talk to an old friend? One would think you weren’t happy to see me. And after all this time, as well.” She made a small noise of disapproval as she walked over to where her weapons lay. The girl pulled out a pair of black gloves, and slowly began placing them over her hands.
<“What are you doing here?>” Shampoo’s voice had become quiet once again.
“Now, now. We mustn’t be rude. I’m certain your friend can’t speak Chinese. We should be polite and let her understand.” She gave another false smile to Shampoo
“What you doing here?” Shampoo repeated.
Perfume gave a flat look with her eyes. “You know why I’m here.”
“What’s going on?” The events that were transpiring left Kasumi horribly confused. “I thought you two were friends. Why are you behaving like this?”
Perfume gave an innocent expression to Kasumi. “But we are old friends. We go back a long way. Isn’t that right, Shampoo?”
Shampoo ignored the girl. “Kasumi, please leave. Shampoo not want you to have to see what happens.”
“Nonsense. Remain where you are, Miss Tendo.” Perfume interrupted. Her tone was polite, yet forceful, having just a hint of insistence. “You should see what occurs.” She looked back towards Shampoo as she finished putting on her gloves. “All fights should have an audience, and I don’t want anyone to refute the outcome.”
Kasumi started to become really scared. This was supposed to be a time of joy. Shampoo’s friend had come all the way from Joketsuzoku to visit her. Instead, it looked like they were going to have some kind of showdown. “But you swore you wouldn’t take Shampoo back to China.”
The girl’s smile disappeared as she retrieved her naginata. She began spinning it around, allowing the weapon to play in her hands as she loosened up. “I apologize for misleading you, Kasumi Tendo, though I assure you I didn’t lie. You see, I’m not going to take Shampoo back to China.” She leveled her stare at Shampoo.
“I fully intend upon killing her here in Japan.”
Kasumi paled at the statement. The pleasant girl she had met at the door and conversed with was gone, replaced by a homicidal monster intent on killing Shampoo.
“What you want?” Shampoo asked.
Perfume stared at Shampoo for a moment and considered how to word the answer. Hate was in her voice as she responded. “What I want? What I want is to see you laying in a pool of your own blood, looking into my eyes, begging for mercy where you know there is none, but doing it anyway. I want to watch as the light slowly leaves your eyes and you body grows cold. I want you to die, knowing that I am your executioner. That is what I want!”
She paused, allowing the statement to sink in. “But knowing you, I guess I’ll just have to settle with your death. You can’t always get what you want.” Her face lost some of its intensity as she shrugged, then pointed her polearm at Shampoo. “For the wrongs you leveled against me when last we met. For the betrayal you made of our friendship. For the ruin you made of my life. I hereby formally challenge you to a duel Shampoo. A duel to the death.”
Shampoo gazed sadly at Perfume. She had made the challenge, observing the forms correctly, making her intent clearly known. Refusal, or acceptance. No real choice at all.
Perfume gave a predatory smile. “I knew you still had it in you. You haven’t changed that much, not at all. Collect your weapons. I grant you five minutes to prepare before our match begins.”
Shampoo retrieved her bonbori from within the house and quickly began several exercises to loosen up, preparing herself for the fight. To her, each moment lasted an eternity, and still the five minutes passed all too quickly. She felt reluctant to fight, not out of fear, but out of something else. Both girls dropped into battle stances.
“Reminds you of the last time we met, doesn’t it?” Perfume examined Shampoo’s face intently, watching for any hint of emotion, but the fear she desired was not there. “Even the skies are the same. Perhaps this is one of those moments of destiny you hear the elders talk about. Would you agree?” Shampoo didn’t answer. “So. You believe using the same tactics will work once more. Think again.”
Perfume rushed, blade forward. Shampoo raised a bonbori to block the thrust, but it never arrived. Perfume switched her grip almost faster than the eye could follow, and changed tactics, bringing the blunt end of the polearm up into Shampoo’s midsection and winding her almost instantly. The pink haired Amazon backed off, observing the damage inflicted.
“I should warn you, I’ve gotten a lot better since the last time we met. Three years of burning hatred tends to help you focus on your goal.” She came in with another series of attacks, Shampoo barely blocking the majority of them.
Kasumi watched the duel unfold, fear building with each blow. Her training in the martial arts was limited, but even she could tell Shampoo was losing. Her friend was put on the defensive from almost the beginning, and the few times she was able to deliver return swings with her bonbori they were easily deflected. Kasumi was not the only one to notice Shampoo’s lack of success.
“Don’t you understand what’s going on Shampoo?” Perfume came in high with a series of attacks, forcing Shampoo to give ground with ridiculous ease. “I’m trying to kill you and you’re barely putting forth enough effort to keep a twelve-year-old at bay.” The challenger deflected a swing from a bonbori. “Don’t you dare disappoint me. Fight harder!”
Perfume swung her naginata overhead in a circle, catching Shampoo in the jaw with the haft. She backed off again, evaluating the damage that had been inflicted on her opponent once more. “I said fight harder! Three years I’ve been waiting for this moment. Three years! I want to savor it, and you’re so pathetic my pulse is barely quickened. You’re holding back, I can tell.” She attacked Shampoo again. “Fight harder!”
Shampoo attempted to treat her opponent to a series of attacks. All of them easily blocked as well, causing Perfume to become further enraged.
“I told you to stop holding back!” She struck out again. “You think this is a game?! You think I’m not serious?! You think I won’t kill you?! Let me show you!” She thrust the naginata forward as Shampoo tried to block it with her weapon. The block failed as the blade slashed upward and opened a large gash in Shampoo’s left arm, causing her to drop a bonbori.
Kasumi finally snapped. “STOP IT! BOTH OF YOU!!!”
Shampoo noticed Kasumi begin to move forward. “Get back!” She pointed her weapon in a threatening gesture to the eldest Tendo, causing her to back up. Shampoo then returned to defending against Perfume.
“Nice to see you still have some honor.” Perfume renewed her assault, scoring a few minor cuts and one solid kick. Just as she came in with an overhand thrust, Shampoo finally saw an opening and lashed out with a kick to sweep Perfume’s legs out from under her. She succeeding in knocking her opponent off her feet, then attempted to finish the fight with a hard strike with the remaining bonbori. Too late, the blow shattered the ground where Perfume’s head had been a moment ago as the pink haired Amazon narrowly escaped the strike. Perfume quickly leaped to her feet.
“You call that an attack? That was laughable.” For all her bravado, Perfume went into a more cautious method of attack as the fight continued.
Kasumi bit down on her nails in worry. Somewhere in the back of her mind she scolded herself. She had broken that particular habit eight years ago, and here she was doing it again. Consciously she continued observing the fight. Aside from the leg sweep, Shampoo hadn’t come close to retaking the initiative. Worse, with only one weapon, she was getting hit more and more. None of the new cuts were serious, though the gash on the arm was still bleeding, but they were adding up.
“Ranma. Please hurry!” she thought to herself. He was the only one that could save Shampoo now. He wasn’t supposed to be gone for very long. Just out for a little walk he said. He had to hurry, before something terrible happened.
Something terrible did happen. Shampoo managed to come in close, cutting off Perfume’s reach advantage, and swung her bonbori at her opponent’s head. The pink haired Amazon seemed to flow out of the way and delivered an elbow to her opponent’s head, then followed it up with a back-fist to the same spot. As Shampoo recovered she saw that Perfume had leaped back so there was enough room to employ her naginata once again. The attempt to block the downward slash was slow and off the mark. The naginata hit cleanly, producing a deep cut better than six inches in length along her right side. Shampoo staggered back from the pain as her hand instinctively went to the new opening in an attempt to staunch the flow.
From were she stood, Kasumi could see that the cut was deep and the blood came forth all too quickly. It was more blood than she had ever seen in her entire life.
Perfume knew it was over. The purple haired Amazon could barely stand and was disoriented from the pain. The blood flowed freely from the wound, and she so wanted to admire the shade of red it was darkening Shampoo’s clothes with. The challenger inhaled deeply as she viewed the scene with something close to ecstasy. Now that her opponent had been defeated, it felt as though a great weight had been lifted off of Perfume’s shoulders. For years this had been building from within, a legacy of sorts. A legacy of betrayal. A legacy that was now being passed down to its rightful owner.
Overall, the fight was a tremendous disappointment for the girl. She had hoped that it would have been one that would have lasted hours, so she could really have enjoyed each and every blow, but Shampoo’s skills kept that from occurring. Perfume was more than a little convinced that her old friend had been holding back, despite the lethality of the battle. Why she would was totally beyond her. The look that had been in Shampoo’s eyes all those years ago convinced her the purple haired Amazon possessed no mercy, regardless of what Perfume believed at one time. As she gazed at Shampoo’s face, she saw defiance still resided in the eyes. Deep in her heart Perfume knew that she wouldn’t ever be able to truly crush her spirit. Shampoo was many things, but a coward was not one of them.
“Time to finish it,” she silently decided. Perfume drove the butt end of the naginata into Shampoo’s solar plexus once again, and then lashed out with a kick into the chest, driving Shampoo’s reeling form into the koi pond. Even as the water settled the Amazon didn’t move. Perfume shifted her hold on the polearm and drove forward with all her strength at Shampoo’s heart.
Kasumi was already in motion when she saw Shampoo land in the pond. She made certain the last thoughts she had were for her family. She apologized for leaving them so soon, hoping they wouldn’t mourn her too long. They had already lost so much when their mother passed on, and now she would be dying as well. There was a responsibility to them, for certain, but she also had a responsibility towards herself, and others, too. Her only hope was that they would understand why she did what she did, and why she just couldn’t stand by. At least she would get to see her mother again. Kasumi had missed her so much over the years.
She hurled herself on top of Shampoo’s chest, her heart directly over that of her ex-fiancé.
Everything seemed to slow down as Kasumi felt the tip of the blade press against her flesh though the dress. It seemed to take forever as she felt the metal nudge against her skin and slowly pierce it. There was a bit of pain as it broke through, then nothing. She was surprised that there wasn’t more agony involved in dying, and there was a bit of disappointment that her life didn’t pass before her eyes. It had been her understanding that was what was supposed to happen when you went on to your final rest.
Kasumi was in for another disappointment.
She felt more pain as the small tip of metal that had found its way into her was extracted. It took her another moment to realize she was still quite alive, and in no danger of dying from the wound she had received. She looked up in amazement, trying to understand what had just happened. Perfume was still standing over her and Shampoo’s forms, naginata drawn back once more, ready to lash out again. Her face was a mask of rage as she screamed.
“GET OFF HER NOW, KASUMI TENDO, OR I SWEAR I WILL RUN YOU THROUGH AS WELL!!!”
Kasumi shook her head, realizing the nightmare was not over yet. Tears finally began to flow as the full weight of the consequences of her action started to sink in.
“I won’t move. Ever.”
She felt a foot wedge itself against her stomach as Shampoo struggled under her. It took less than a second to realize what the girl under her was attempting.
“NO! Shampoo, stop!” The plea was ignored as Kasumi felt the leg finally brace itself firmly against her abdomen and push forward, sending her sprawling several feet away.
Perfume looked down at the now clear path her naginata had to Shampoo. It was good to see the girl still had some sense of honor, and Perfume had no desire to kill the foolish woman who had tried to prevent her from attaining her rightful vengeance. The pink haired Amazon lunged forward with the weapon once again.
Shampoo-kun was afraid he wouldn’t have been able to shove Kasumi out of the way before Perfume decided to finish the job. Now that he had a moment before the blade buried itself into his chest, he considered what his final thoughts would be. At first, it had happened so quickly there hadn’t been time to think of anything. Now, as the blade descended, the only thing that came to mind was that he was sorry he hadn’t had a chance to say good-bye to Ranma.
Shampoo-kun watched the weapon come forward and…
Stop, the blade poised no more than an inch above his heart. He looked into Perfume’s face and only saw confusion. The pink haired Amazon slowly stepped back, staring in openmouthed wonder at Shampoo-kun.
“Wh… wh… what’s going on?” The victor of the fight stood over her fallen foe, finger pointed in an accusing manner at Shampoo-kun. The light of realization came on after she had stood there for close to ten seconds.
“Nanniichuan?” she stammered out. “Nanniichuan? You fell into Nanniichuan?” Shampoo-kun could do nothing but nod his head. Perfume went from confusion back to rage. “You fool! Do you realize what you’ve done? What could have possessed you to go to Jusenkyou?” Shampoo-kun chose not to respond to the question. No explanations were owed.
Perfume stood back. A panicked look entered her eyes as she attempted to regain her composure. A thousand different thoughts collided within her mind as she considered what to do. At last she came to a decision.
“Damn you! Damn you! HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!” She was shaking from her fury as she screamed in rage at Shampoo-kun. The girl ran to the wall surrounding the yard and leaped over, leaving Shampoo-kun and Kasumi staring in confusion.
Ranma was returning from his jog through the park. No fights today for the young martial artist, generally making it a good day. Rare were the occasions when he had a moment’s peace to himself, and he treasured them whenever they could be found. He was within sight of the dojo when he spotted Perfume leap over the wall and run off at top speed. Sensing danger, he raced to the house leaping over the wall into the backyard. He reeled in surprise at the scene of carnage before him. Shampoo-kun was lying on the ground with Kasumi kneeling over him, trying to stop the bleeding from the wound in his side.
“Shampoo!” Ranma rushed over in a panic. He heard Shampoo-kun trying to calm the near hysterical Kasumi down, assuring her that the cut wasn’t bad. Ranma could see Shampoo-kun was a poor liar; the makeshift bandage Kasumi had pressed against his side was almost soaked through with blood. Shampoo-kun spotted Ranma.
“Shampoo have off day. Sorry.” He gave a weak smile in Ranma’s direction.
Kasumi finally composed herself. “Ranma call an ambulance and hurry back here. We might need you to help us if she comes back.”
He obeyed and hurried inside, made the call and returned. Kasumi gave him more orders on what to grab and how he could help. As he moved to help, Shampoo-kun informed him of what had happened during the fight.
Shampoo-kun began shivering as he finished the tale. “I’m cold, Ranma.” There was no mistaking the look of panic in his eyes.
Kasumi remained composed this time. “He’s going into shock. Get a blanket. Anything to keep him warm.” She began to elevate Shampoo-kun’s legs.
Ranma got up to move when he heard the sirens of the ambulance approach. Once they arrived, the crew placed Shampoo-kun inside and informed the duo that there was only enough room for one more passenger. Ranma began to threaten the paramedics when Kasumi calmed him down enough to let her be the one to ride inside. The ambulance set off and arrived at the hospital. As the paramedics unloaded Shampoo-kun they were surprised to discover Ranma there as well, having hitched a ride on top of the emergency vehicle. Shampoo-kun was quickly rushed in for an emergency operation.
Kasumi had remembered to call Dr. Tofu since he was Shampoo’s personal physician and the only one who knew about her curse, then called home and left a message with Nabiki concerning what had happened. Having nothing else to do, the duo started worrying. Kasumi sat chewing her fingernails while Ranma began pacing in circles, quickly threatening to wear a hole in the carpet.
Ranma was in terrible shape. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Someone he cared for was injured, seriously perhaps, and there was nothing he could do. He was a martial artist, maybe the best, and he had no control over the situation. Nothing was worse than feeling powerless. He recalled how Shampoo-kun had complained of feeling cold right before he was loaded onto the ambulance, shock setting in. And there had been so much blood, no matter what he and Kasumi had tried to do to stop it. “Shampoo has to be all right. She has to be. If she ain’t, I’ll…” His thoughts trailed off. He didn’t know what he’d do.
The rest of the Tendos and Genma arrived at the hospital and were apprised of the situation. There was nothing left to do but wait. Genma and Soun left to get some food while the others waited. Even Nabiki seemed concerned, though she did get Kasumi to cease biting her nails before all that was left was nubs. Akane convinced Ranma to sit down, and then sat next to him herself.
“I should have been there. I could have prevented the whole thing, damn it!” Ranma drove his fist into the chair’s armrest.
Akane tried calming him down. “You can’t be everywhere at once. Besides, it’s not like you had any idea this would happen.”
“There had to be something I could do.” His voice was reaching a higher and higher pitch.
“No. There wasn’t. So stop it.” This was not good. She had never seen Ranma this upset, and the last thing they needed was the wrong person to show up and pick a fight with him. There would be no telling what might happen if he got in a brawl with his current mental state.
He started to calm down a little. “I just can’t deal with this…” he searched for the right word. “Helplessness.”
Akane brought her arm up, hesitated, and then allowed to drape over his shoulder. “We all feel that way sooner or later. You just have to deal with it.”
Dr. Mima finally came into the waiting room and stared at the people. “You’re here for Mr…” He trailed off as he looked over the clipboard he held. “Shampoo? Hmm? Interesting name.”
Ranma answered him. The doctor looked him in the eye, a serious look coming over his face. “I’m afraid the news I have to tell you isn’t good. We had to replace over ninety percent of his body with bionics.”
A collective “WHAT!!!” shook the heavens.
Mima held up his hands. “Easy. Easy. It was a joke.” That set off a couple of battle auras, the size of which few had ever seen. “No one has a sense of humor these days,” he commented as a huge sweatdrop appeared behind his head.
Ranma stepped over to the doctor, breathing heavily in his face. “Nice bedside manners, Doc. Now what happened, and tell it to me straight!” There was no mistaking the threat of violence in the statement.
“He’s fine. The injuries weren’t that serious.” He tried smiling at Ranma to get him to drop the evil stare. “Just a little blood loss, and some stitches. Good as new, except for a few scars. You can see him if you like.”
Shampoo-kun was lying in bed, staring out the window, when he heard someone outside the door. He really hoped it wasn’t the doctor with the warped sense of humor. When consciousness had finally returned, Dr. Mima was the first thing Shampoo-kun had seen. The man had smiled pleasantly and told him the vasectomy was a success, hopelessly confusing poor Shampoo-kun. At least he didn’t leave the Amazon in that confused state for long, and informed him of what his condition really was. It was a relief there was nothing serious. In fact, the only thing that bothered him was the scars. Judging by the wound in his side, there was going to be a long, nasty one there. True, most Amazons had scars to show their battle prowess, but many of them came later in life, after they had already married. In the village, most men preferred women with few, if any, disfigurements. Here in Japan, that sentiment was even more prevalent. Shampoo-kun was uncertain how Ranma would feel about such things.
The door opened as Ranma and Kasumi rushed in to be the first at Shampoo-kun’s bedside. That brought a smile to the Amazon’s face. He even took note that Akane and Nabiki had shown up as well. Shampoo-kun may not have been overjoyed at their presence, but it was nice that they had come. Kasumi held Shampoo-kun’s hand as Ranma sat on the bed at the Amazon’s feet. Both were trying to comfort him and discover what his opinion was of the injuries he suffered.
“I can show if you like.” Shampoo-kun pulled back his sheets and allowed the duo to see the bandaged side.
“Does it still hurt?” Ranma asked, sympathy in his voice.
Shampoo-kun sniffed in the air. “It mean nothing. Is just small scratch.” The denial was adamant, if a bit untrue, but he was damned if he was going to show any weakness before his friends.
“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” Ranma responded. “Now how about telling us what that fight was all about. Did the Amazons find out about your curse?”
Shampoo-kun was going to reply when Kasumi cut him off. “Oh, no. That couldn’t be it at all. She seemed shocked that Shampoo was cursed. If I’m not mistaken, that was the reason she left. Thank goodness.”
Ranma spoke again. “So why did she attack you?”
Shampoo-kun gazed at all the occupants of the room. The silent treatment was not going to work; everyone wanted to know about Perfume. She tried to change the subject. “Where Mr. Tendo and Pop?”
“Got me. They wandered off looking for something to eat,” Nabiki answered.
Several floors down, two grown men had managed to get themselves lost within the confines of the hospital. Soun and Genma had wandered into a hall overlooking the nursery. Just as they entered, a pager belonging to a fat, ugly, man in a suit and glasses went off. The man checked his device and left to find a phone, leaving the two men standing alone. Realizing where they were, the two decided to look at the infants. Both of them pressed their faces against the glass, scaring the hell out of the little newborns that were resting in their beds.
“Aren’t they cute, Tendo?”
“Yes they are, Saotome. Brings back the memories, doesn’t it?” Both men thought about the day their children first came into their lives.
Genma broke the silence first. “Gives you a feeling of wanting something, doesn’t it?”
Soun looked his friend in the eye. “I think I know what you mean.”
The men smiled at each other and spoke as one. “Grandchildren.”
Soun continued to smile. “We haven’t been applying enough encouragement to our children, Saotome.”
“Couldn’t agree more, Tendo. We’ll have to come up with something for them.”
Both men started making plans to interfere with their children’s lives once more.
Inside the room, a nurse handed a baby to a second nurse.
“The father’s waiting out in the hall for this one.” The first nurse said as she handed the child to the second one.
“What does he look like?”
The first sought to describe him. “He’s fat, ugly, and wears glasses.”
The second nurse took the child out into the hall and looked at the two men standing there. Her stare ended upon Genma. “Fat, ugly, wears glasses. Perfect match,” she thought to herself. She approached Genma and handed him the child. “Here you go, sir.”
“Ummm. Thanks.” Genma responded, though he wasn’t sure why the nurse handed him the child.
At that moment an orderly ran from around the corner and spotted the nurse. “Come quick, we need an extra set of hands in the O.R.” The nurse excused herself and ran off, leaving Genma and Soun alone.
Genma turned to his companion. “What do we do with this?” He indicated the child.
It was at this time the mother came down the hall, recognized the blanket the child was wrapped in, and screamed.
The duo began to protest when they heard an annoying, high-pitched voice speak up from behind them.
“Oh, no! It’s a good thing we decided to check on my cousin’s baby.”
The duo turned around to see the speaker. It was a short blond girl who stood between a taller red head teenager with leather bracers and a blue haired girl; all three wore identical brown and white school uniforms.
The red head spoke first. “There’s nothing I hate more than babynappers. What do you think B-ko?” She addressed her blue haired companion.
“For once, I am in total agreement with you, A-ko.” She indicated Genma hand the child back to its mother, which he quickly did. The duo went to leave when they were blocked by A-ko.
Genma began to chuckle. “Now why don’t you little girls run along? This is all a misunderstanding.”
A-ko cracked her knuckles. “You don’t get off that easily, you deviants.”
“What are you going to do little girls? Stop us?” The men began to laugh.
B-ko looked irritated and ripped off her uniform to reveal her standard anti-A-ko battle suit. “Something like that, yes.”
Fortunately for Soun and Genma, A-ko and B-ko held back for the sake of the children in the nursery.
Back at Shampoo-kun’s room, everyone heard the cries of agony from the two fathers. Realizing they weren’t coming back anytime soon, Shampoo-kun began his story.
Part 2: Betrayals
Thirteen-year-old Shampoo walked along the path to her great-grandmother’s house. It seemed that she was spending more and more time with Cologne, and less and less time with her family. It wasn’t that she didn’t love the elderly Amazon; she did with all her heart, but she missed her parents. All the training Cologne had been making her do the last few years was tiring her out as well. She kept increasing both the amount and the intensity a lot lately. Part of the feeling of exhaustion was the fact she had won the girls thirteen-to-fifteen tournament two weeks ago. As a reward, there was a lightening in her schedule. Cologne even went so far as to take her on a little vacation to go rock climbing, something Shampoo loved to do. It had been wonderful. They had scaled some really tough cliffs, making her even prouder of the achievement. There was something about relaxing after a long climb and looking at the world far below that exhilarated her. She got a similar thrill when she won a fight, but it was different at the same time, too. The downside to the vacation was when things went back to the way they were, they seemed twice as worse.
She had not been paying attention to where she was going and walked right into the ambush without even realizing it. The three girls had obviously been waiting for someone, and that someone was Shampoo. She looked the three girls over; only one registered immediate recognition. Cabinet, the girl she defeated in the finals of the tournament. She had been reputed to be the best of the fifteen year olds, having won the tournament last year. It had been a major upset that Shampoo had defeated her as easily as she did. An upset to everyone save Shampoo and Cologne.
“<What do you want, Cabinet?> Shampoo sneered at the girl.
“<Justice. You got lucky at the tournament. I’m going to show just how lucky you were.>
“<Why not make a formal challenge?>”
“<I don’t want to wait that long. I want to do it now.>”
“<You have to do it with your friends here?>” Shampoo indicated her companions.
“<They’re here to make sure you don’t cheat this time.>”
“<In other words, if things look bad they’re going to join in.>” Shampoo kept the opinion to herself. No point in accusing Cabinet of cheating before she made the move. One Shampoo could handle. Two would make it a tough fight. But all three together did not bode well for her. Still, she wouldn’t back down.
Cabinet moved to attack. Shampoo noticed the girl was even slower today than she was the day of the tournament. Shampoo had her on the ropes in even less time than before. Just as it looked like she was going to win, one of the lackeys kicked Shampoo in the back as she got close. The purple haired one ducked under Cabinet’s punch and spun a kick into the girl that had struck from behind.
That was what Cabinet was looking for. “<Now you’ve done it! Get her!>”
The other girls moved to attack. Things happened as Shampoo feared. The trio had her at an immediate disadvantage and she probably wasn’t going to win. Shampoo suffered through several nasty blows when one of her opponents went down. Another thirteen year old had entered the fray, causing immediate havoc. The newcomer had the advantage of surprise and finished off the girl she had attacked first. The remaining ambushers realized the futility of continuing the fight and ran.
Shampoo looked the newcomer over. The girl appeared to be the same age as her. She wore a pink and black outfit and had her pink hair tied back into a ponytail. Shampoo didn’t recognize her.
“<Cabinet sure is a sore loser.>” The newcomer said.
“<Yes.>” Shampoo agreed.
The pink haired girl looked Shampoo over. “<You aren’t going to thank me?>”
“<I could have taken them.>” She could have, maybe.
Surprisingly, the girl laughed. “<You really are confident, aren’t you?>” She stopped laughing and smiled at Shampoo. “<She tried the same thing with me when I beat her a few months back, only she used one assistant. I beat the crap out of both of them. Looks like she learned from her mistake and brought in someone else.>”
That was news to Shampoo. Anyone that could beat Cabinet and someone else at the same time would be a force to be reckoned with. Anyone that good should be familiar to Shampoo. She looked the girl over more closely.
The girl noticed the microscope she was suddenly under. “<You don’t remember me, do you?>”
Shampoo tried to think focusing on the pink hair. It was an unusual shade and should be familiar. Pink hair, pink hair. It finally dawned on her. “<You’re Perfume!>”
Perfume smiled. “<Correct. I didn’t think you’d remember.>”
Actually, Shampoo only faintly remembered. If it weren’t for the hair, she would never had have been able to place the name with the girl. She searched her memory for when she had met Perfume. The only thing she could come up with was a poor fighter she had faced when she was about nine. This girl bore little resemblance to that one. The girl from her memory was short, very uncoordinated, and a poor warrior.
Perfume spoke again. “<Where are you going?>” Shampoo told her. “<Care for some company?>” the pink haired warrior asked.
Shampoo shrugged and started to walk off. No one really hung around with her lately, save Mousse, and that was more of a case of unwanted attention. Perfume smiled and walked briskly, smiling at Shampoo a lot. The smile began to irritate her to no end.
“<Why are you so happy?>” She snapped.
“<Why aren’t you happy?>” Perfume responded.
That gave Shampoo pause. She didn’t think she was unhappy.
Perfume took the initiative in the conversation. “<So, do you think I’ve changed a lot?>”
Shampoo considered that. “<Yes, you have. If you beat Cabinet that means you’re pretty good.>” Another thought occurred to her. “<Why weren’t you in the tournament?>”
Perfume shrugged. “<I felt a little sick. Congrats on winning by the way.”
“<You know about that?>”
“<Sure. Who doesn’t? People are already saying you’re one of the forerunners for being matriarch someday.>”
That caused Shampoo to blush. “<I’m only thirteen. That’s a long way off.>”
An unreadable look came into Perfume’s eyes. “<You’re right. A lot can happen between now and then. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be matriarch someday.>”
“<You want to be the leader?>”
“<Who doesn’t?>” Perfume stopped walking and inhaled deeply.
“<Why are you stopping?>”
“<Someone once said ‘take the time to stop and smell the flowers’. I discovered it’s good advice. Especially here.>” She held out her hand indicating a field of flowers they were next to. “<The scent is divine. Sometimes I come all the way out here just to smell them. Try it.>”
Not knowing what to make of the strange suggestion, Shampoo took a deep breath. It was an intoxicating smell, one that caused a smile to form on her lips.
Perfume took notice. “<See. You understand now.>”
“<What do you mean?>”
“<You’re smiling now, too. A lot better than just scowling isn’t it?>”
Shampoo giggled a little. The girl was right; it felt good.
Perfume looked at Shampoo. “<You seemed curious to know how good I am. Want to spar?>”
That caught her off guard. Still, Perfume was right. Shampoo was very curious about her new companions abilities. “<Sure.>”
Each girl dropped into a fighting stance and began the informal match. Shampoo launched several attacks at the girl, which Perfume easily parried. That resulted in Shampoo attacking more aggressively, which again, Perfume easily countered. Perfume then went on the offensive. Shampoo countered easily herself. Both warriors paused, smiled at one another, and then escalated their attacks. Within five minutes the informal match had become a full-fledged fight. Kick countered punch. Punch countered elbow. Elbow countered leap kick. Each landed a few blows but no telling ones. After a half hour, Shampoo finally got the advantage and felled Perfume, though not by much.
“<I’m going to be late.>” Shampoo gasped as she tried to catch her breath.
Perfume waved her on. “<Get going.>” As Shampoo turned to go, Perfume cried out, “<Hey! Want to meet here again? Same time tomorrow?>”
Shampoo shook her head. “<I’m busy.>”
“<How about the day after?>”
Shampoo considered it. Talking with Perfume had been fun and the fight had been intense. “<Yes. Why not?>”
Perfume smiled. “<See you.>” Then left.
Shampoo was scolded slightly for being late and went on with her studies. Her grandmother was having her learn English, something she detested. Having to learn foreign languages was not something she looked forward to. Shampoo had absolutely no intention of leaving China, everything she needed was right here in Joketsuzoku. While she studied her mind drifted back to her new acquaintance. Perfume was interesting, and it wasn’t as though Shampoo had many friends. There was only one or two people outside of her family she ever spent time with, and that was fleeting at best. She found herself looking forward to meeting the unusual girl once again.
Two days later they met at their rendezvous. The duo began a talk that drifted to many topics. Mutual associates, favorite foods, best fighting techniques. Shampoo felt an instant connection to the girl and opened up totally to her. Perfume seemed to do the same.
Perfume looked her friend over. “<So, any boys hitting on you yet?>”
Shampoo stared at her. “<I don’t know what you mean.>”
Perfume wasn’t buying it. “<Oh, come now. Do you mean to tell me none of the guys have shown any interest in you? They have in me.>”
“<Several of them have been hinting they’d like to challenge me when I reach my fifteenth birthday. I haven’t decided, though. None of them really impress me.>”
That intrigued Shampoo. “<Who’s shown interest?>” Perfume ran off a long list of names. An impressive list. “<Some of them are pretty strong.>”
“<So what? None of them can beat me. Besides I have my eye on some one else.>”
Shampoo sputtered over that one. “<He’s a terrible fighter, and already four years older than you. He’ll never be able to beat you.>”
Perfume arched an eyebrow. “<I can have an off day.>”
Shampoo was shocked again. “<You mean to tell me you’d throw the fight?>” Perfume giggled at Shampoo, angering her. “<Why are you laughing?>”
“<You think that never happens? Oh, you poor dear. That’s how my mother married my father. He was a mediocre warrior and she was one of the best. Somehow she fell in love with him, though. One day she found out he was going to challenge her and deliberately got drunk. The poor man had no idea. When he showed up and saw how plastered she was he tried to back out, but Mother would have none of that. She told him she’d give him a ‘Kiss of Death’ if he tried to duck out of the fight.>”
“<What happened?>” Shampoo asked.
“<Oh, it was one magnificent duel. He threw a punch that she walked right into. After that, she threw up on him and passed out.>”
Shampoo paled even as Perfume doubled over in laughter. “<That’s disgraceful. What about her pride? She would have lost some face for a performance like that.>”
“<She played it off as her own arrogance leading to her downfall, and said she would take the lesson in humility by allowing the marriage to stand. The loss of pride was a price she was willing to pay.>” She sighed wistfully. “<I think it’s romantic.>”
Shampoo humphed. “<It would have been more romantic if he practiced hard enough to actually beat her. That would have been a sign of true love.>”
Perfume suddenly became very serious. “<I’m going to be the best there is Shampoo. No man or woman will ever be able to defeat me. I do intend to have a husband some day, and that may very well be the only way I can get one. If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it without hesitation.>” She began to smile once again. “<Now what about you? I told you who I like, now you tell me who you like. Is it Mousse?>”
Shampoo made a retching noise. “<That blind fool. You’ve got to be joking.>”
“<But he’s around you all the time. And all he ever talks about is how he’ll one day win your heart.>”
That bit of information did not make Shampoo’s day. “<I can’t believe that idiot talks that way in front of everyone. I’d really hoped he just did it around me to show off.>”
Perfume watched Shampoo intently. “<He is a pretty impressive fighter. And he does have some of the most handsome of eyes I’ve ever seen.>”
“<Oh, by all means, marry him then,>” she told her comrade. “<I’ll even throw in a great marriage gift for the two of you.>”
“<So you don’t think he’s any good?>”
Shampoo got a little defensive about that. “<I didn’t say that. He has his moments when he’s tolerable. And you’re right about his eyes, I just wish I hadn’t said that to him.>”
“<After I told him that he tried to stop wearing his glasses. He’s almost blind with them on, so try to imagine what it’s like when he doesn’t have them. He once pledged his love to Great-grandmother when he mistook her for me.>”
Perfume laughed. “<Did she accept?>”
“<I don’t know if you’d call putting him through a wall an acceptance.>” Shampoo sighed. “<I’m not interested in him that way. He used to be pretty nice to hang around with, at least when he wasn’t trying to pledge his love to me. Anymore now it seems that’s all he ever does.>
Perfume shook her head. “<Get used to it, girl. Mother says it has something to do with their hormones. All the guys get worse from here on out.>”
As much as that information saddened Shampoo, what happened next made her feel much worse. Mousse appeared.
Perfume smiled as the youth approached. “<Here comes loverboy now.>” She made kissing noises in Shampoo’s direction.
“<Shampoo, my love! Go out on a date with me.> Mousse glomped onto Perfume, much to her disgust.
Shampoo didn’t want to miss an open invitation like that. She moved directly behind Perfume and spoke. “<Oh Mousse. Hold me tighter and never let me go.>”
“<OH, SHAMPOO!!!>” Mousse squeezed Perfume with all his might.
That was all it took to snap Perfume. She broke out of Mousse’s grip, picked him up by his robe, spun around in a circle while still holding him, and then released him in the direction of a pond. The toss caused him to skip across the surface of the pond until he hit a tree and promptly sank like a rock.
It was Shampoo’s turn to laugh at Perfume as the warrior recovered. “<I see what you mean about that myopic moron,>” Perfume growled.
Shampoo noticed the time and turned to leave. “<I have to go. You take care.>”
Shampoo noticed Perfume had a sad look in her eye as she turned to go. She almost mentioned it, and then chose not to. There was a chance she could have been mistaken, and didn’t want to look like in idiot.
Several weeks later, Cologne began a conversation with Shampoo as the two of them washed their dinner plates.
“<You seem unusually happy lately, Granddaughter.>”
“<Do I?>” Shampoo asked.
“<Yes. You do. Could it be a boy perhaps? Mousse, or maybe someone else?>”
Shampoo snorted in contempt. “<I told you I have no interest in that blind idiot. It just so happens I have a new friend. Her name’s Perfume.>”
Cologne’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “<How did you meet this new friend?>” Shampoo related the story to her. “<I see.>” Cologne became very quiet the rest of the evening.
The next day Shampoo woke up to discover a note telling her there would be no lessons that day, and that she should go to her parent’s house until tomorrow. Shampoo did as her great grandmother bid, enjoying her day off. When she returned the next day Cologne was waiting for her, a serious look on her face.
“<Shampoo. You must have nothing further to do with Perfume.>”
Shampoo was in shock. “<Why not?>”
“<She cannot be trusted. She’s just using you so she can learn your fighting style and defeat you.>”
Shampoo shook her head in disbelief. “<I don’t believe that. Perfume’s my friend. She wouldn’t do something like that.>”
“<Yes, she would.”> Cologne gave a firm look towards her great-granddaughter. <I remembered hearing Perfume’s name before, and decided to do some checking up. It turns out she has challenged some of the more powerful warriors of her age in the tribe. Usually she studies their attacks and, once she believes she can defeat them, challenges them. So far, she has quietly beaten all of the best. Now you are the only one left.>” Admiration crept into her voice. “<Very clever of her, really. She skipped out on the tournament so no one knew how good she really was, then challenged the best ones.>” She came out of her reverie. “<Have you fought with her at all?>” Shampoo told her yes as Cologne shook her head. “<Well, nothing to be done about it now. It’s not as though she did anything illegal. We’ll just have to train you harder…>”
Shampoo cut her off. “<You’re lying. I don’t believe you! You’re just saying that so I won’t have any friends!>”
Cologne’s tone became one of command. “<You watch your mouth, little one, or I’ll…>”
Shampoo cut her off again. <NO! I won’t do what you ask! Perfume is my friend, and I won’t stop seeing her!>” And with that Shampoo ran away.
Cologne watched her departing form and shook her head. “<I forgot the joys of raising teenagers,>” she stated flatly. There was any number of ways she could have prevented her charge from departing, but she chose to let Shampoo go. Incidents with her own daughter had taught her it would be best to let her great granddaughter cool off before talking with her again.
Shampoo’s wanderings eventually led her to where she and Perfume had first met. Her mind raced back to what had just happened. What her great grandmother said couldn’t be true. Perfume was her friend, the best she ever had. She kept no secrets from the girl and Perfume kept nothing from her, she was certain. They had spent too many hours together to ever have one betray the other. They were best friends. That meant others must have given Cologne false information. Yes, that was it. Someone lied and her great grandmother had believed it. That was the only possible explanation. With that knowledge reassuring her, she began her journey home.
It was late in the evening when Shampoo worked up enough courage to return home. Yelling at her great grandmother was a good way to end up with some kind of harsh punishment, but there was no way around it. Lights still burned in the house as she quietly let herself in. As she tried to silently close the door behind her she heard the unmistakable sound of a weapon thrown in her direction. Surprisingly, it came from within house. Reflexes took over and she dropped to the floor as the knife embedded itself a good two feet away from where Shampoo had been. A poor throw. She sprang to her feet to see where the object had come from and realized the miss was deliberate. Cologne stood in the middle of the hall.
“<That came for you while you were gone.>” The elderly Amazon turned and left.
Confused, Shampoo went over to where the dagger had been embedded in the doorframe, and pulled it out. Examining it, she immediately noticed a paper wrapped and tied around the hilt. Unfolding it revealed a stylized script that could only belong to a master calligrapher. Her eyes scanned down the letter and upon getting to the bottom, froze. Shampoo ceased breathing for a moment as her hands released their grip, allowing the letter to float ever so gently to the ground.
“So what was it? A challenge from Perfume?” Ranma questioned. Shampoo had gone silent for several moments, leaving everyone in suspense.
Shampoo’s voice dropped several decibels. “Yes.” The others waited in anticipation for more, but the warrior remained silent.
“And…?” Ranma was becoming impatient. The tale she had woven captured his interest, even if it was told in somewhat broken Japanese.
Shampoo turned her head to stare out the window. “We fought. She lost.”
“That’s it? She’s trying to kill you after three years because she lost a fight?” Akane piped up.
Everyone in the room could barely hear the answer. “Yes.” Akane’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“That’s stupid!” Ranma shook his head. “Who would ever waste away their life trying to kill someone because they lost a fight?”
Nabiki only got as far as mentioning Ryouga when everyone else cut her off. Any further attempts at conversation were ended when the public announcement system announced visiting hours were over. Nabiki and Akane practically had to drag Ranma and Kasumi away from Shampoo-kun’s bed in an effort to get them to exit. As the group left, two young nurses entered bearing a cart.
Out in the hall Ranma was having further recriminations about leaving.
“What if that psycho comes back? Maybe I’d better wait here, just in case.”
Akane tried to reassure him. “You heard what happened. If she really wanted Shampoo dead, she would have finished it when she had the chance.” She didn’t voice the fact she thought Shampoo was holding something back. The Amazon had been very detailed in everything except the end of the fight. Akane would compare notes with Nabiki later to see if her sister felt the same thing. The group made it halfway down the hall when they heard Shampoo-kun yell. Ranma moved faster than Akane’s eye could follow and charged into the room. Akane followed, expecting to see the deranged Amazon trying to kill Shampoo-kun once again. The scene was something of a disappointment. Shampoo-kun was holding a blanket up to his face trying to hide from the two nurses that were attempting to use sponges in him. It took Akane a moment to recognize the girls, Sayuri and Chisa from school.
“Don’t you guys ever give up? Can’t you see he’s injured?” Ranma asked of the duo.
Akane turned to Nabiki as she stood outside the doorway. “That was record time.”
Nabiki held up her hands in a defensive gesture. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t tell anyone. Heck, I want him healed up as soon as he can, so he isn’t vulnerable. If any girl actually gets her hands on him it’s going to destroy the market.” Shampoo-kun glared daggers at Nabiki for being referred to like a market commodity.
Akane shook her head at the girls. “This is a new low, impersonating nurses.”
The duo became angry. “I beg your pardon. I’ll have you know we are not impersonating anything.” Sayuri defended.
“That’s right,” Chisa broke in. “We’ve been doing volunteer work here for almost a year now.”
“Then why are you trying to wash Sham… I mean Ranma.” Ranma pointed accusingly at the two.
Sayuri sniffed. “We’re just doing our jobs. It’s standard procedure to give a sponge bath to patients that just had an operation.”
“I thought that was just for people that were in such bad shape they couldn’t move.” Nabiki added.
Shampoo-kun dropped his blanket a little to stare at Sayuri. “And is massage you say you going to give part of treatment, too?”
Sayuri had enough decency to appear shamefaced. “Well, that’s just a bonus. We simply want to make sure you have a nice stay here. Now let us wash you.” She held her sponge like a weapon.
Akane directed her comment to Shampoo-kun. “If it’s part of standard procedure then you better let them give you one.”
“Not with warm water I’m not.” Shampoo-kun snapped back.
Chisa tried flanking Shampoo-kun. “No one likes cold baths. Now quit resisting.”
Ranma stepped in at this point and picked up the two girls by their uniforms. “He said he don’t want one.” Shampoo-kun nodded his head in agreement.
Chisa was not to be dissuaded. “It has to be done.”
Shampoo-kun spoke up. “Want Ranma to do it.”
“WHAT!!!” Akane shouted.
Shampoo-kun was adamant. “Want Ranma to do it.”
Ranma let the girls down as Sayuri stared at Shampoo-kun in an odd way. “Let me get this straight. You want a man to wash you?” She asked.
“No way!” Akane would have none of it.
“Akane’s right. That would hardly be proper. I used to be his fiancée, so I’ll do it.” Kasumi smiled at Shampoo-kun.
Nabiki simply shook her head sadly at the scene before her; once again glad she didn’t have any role in the fiasco.
Doctor Mima entered and witnessed the war zone the room had become.
“What’s going on?” He managed to piece together what had happened from the six people that spoke to him at once. “He needs cleaned up, and hospital personnel will do it. No buts.” A hand tapped the doctor on the shoulder. He turned to see Dr. Tofu.
Mima recognized his old classmate. “Oh. Hey there, Ono! What brings you here?”
“That’s my patient. He can’t have warm water. It’s a delicate medical condition.” Tofu responded.
Mima looked at him curiously. “And what condition would that be?”
“He turns into a woman when doused with warm water.”
The jaws of everyone in the room hit the floor.
The doctor stared at Tofu for a moment, than began to quietly laugh. His quiet laughter eventually roared, deafening everyone in the room. “That’s great! It’s nice to see you finally developed a sense of humor. I have got to use that one. The next patient that I have. Oh, yes.” Mima wandered out of the room, still laughing as he departed.
Tofu ushered Chisa and Sayuri out of the room and examined Shampoo-kun himself. He told Shampoo-kun the extent of the injuries and his feelings on it.
“It would be a really good idea for you to remain as a male until the stitches can come out. If you start changing, the mass shift may loosen them or cause them to break. Not to mention what might happen to the wounds. Given how fast you seem to recover from injuries, I would guess at least a week, then let me check and see how you’re doing.” He turned to the other occupants in the room. “Everyone leave now. Shampoo needs rest.” Tofu ushered everyone out and told Shampoo-kun he’d let the doctors on the staff know that they had to clear everything through Tofu due to a delicate medical condition Shampoo-kun had.
Once outside, everyone began to relax save Kasumi, who began fidgeting with her back.
Nabiki noticed the discomfort. “What’s wrong sis?
Kasumi continued trying to feel the spot. “I think I’m bleeding again.” That caused everyone to panic.
Akane rushed to her sister. “What’s that supposed to mean? What happened!”
“Oh, Perfume stabbed me.”
Akane looked horrified. “Why didn’t you tell somebody?”
“Shampoo was hurt a lot more than me, and I forgot about it.”
Tofu was on her in an instant. “Let me check you out.” He took a quick glance at the wound, announced it was nothing life threatening, and gently led Kasumi away for a closer examination.
Nabiki elected to look for the missing fathers, leaving Akane with Ranma.
“How about we get something to eat?” She looked at him speculatively.
“I ain’t got much money.” He turned out his pockets to show Akane. She just smiled.
“It’s my treat.”
The “free food” gene Ranma inherited from his father kicked in. The two made their way to the cafeteria and sat down to eat. Both seemed to regard their food as an object to be picked at rather than eaten. Akane broke the silence.
“First time I’ve seen you pick at your food, instead of stuffing it down like your father.”
Ranma continued to pick distractedly at it. “I’m just thinkin’. That’s all.”
Ranma quit picking at his food and looked at Akane. “I’m just worried about Shampoo. What if that maniac changes her mind and comes back anyway? I don’t know how to protect her.” He finally noticed Akane picking at her food. “What’s got you worried?”
“Kasumi. She shouldn’t have tried to stop Perfume. There wasn’t anything she could do. I mean, she could have died.” Her voice became angrier. “That Amazon is dead if she shows her face around here again. No one hurts my sister!”
Silence reigned for several minutes before Akane spoke again. “We should help Shampoo. Hospital food is pretty nasty, so I’ll make her some dinner for tomorrow.”
Ranma looked in horror at Akane, hoping she was joking. She wasn’t.
“Look, Akane,” He paused for a moment, trying to word his answer delicately. “We want Shampoo to get better, not worse. None of your food for her.” His tact failed.
“I’ll follow the recipe precisely. I promise.” She protested.
Ranma put his foot down. “No.”
“I’m going to do it!”
Ranma started to panic. “I won’t let you. I’ll… I’ll,” he tried desperately to think of some threat. “…Eat all of it first.”
Akane stared in near disbelief. “Is this just some way of covering up the fact he likes my cooking so much he’s willing to eat it?” She thought silently to herself.
A sick feeling made its presence known in Ranma’s stomach. “I’m going to end up in the hospital like Shampoo if I follow through on that threat.” He thought to himself. There was time to buy plenty of stomach medicine if it came to that. Besides, maybe he deserved it for failing to protect Shampoo from her enemy.
Cologne watched Perfume leap over the wall and run away at top speed. The fight had gone on much differently than she had thought, but the result was almost the same. All that was required was to slow the blood flow, bandage the girl that was now a boy, and take him to Jusenkyou. Hopefully a cure would follow. Just as she was about to spring down from her vantage point she spotted Ranma.
That changed everything. If she appeared, the boy would surely blame her for what happened and another fight would ensue. If it lasted any real length of time, her great granddaughter might die, and there was also the fact Shampoo would try to help, causing her further injury. And then there was Perfume to consider. It never entered Cologne’s head that she would find out about the curse. Now she had run off, destination unknown. The matriarch was torn between two decisions. Try to grab Shampoo, and possibly have her die, or chase Perfume to try to figure out where she was going. Her gaze focused on her great granddaughter’s fallen form. The Tendo girl had rushed over to him and was trying to stop the wound from bleeding. If they sought medical attention immediately, he would be all right. As desperate as Cologne was to get Shampoo back home, she needed to know what Perfume was up to. She decided that Shampoo would have to be left alone. Her death was only a solution of last resort, and it had not come to that yet. The odds were too great that her great granddaughter would die in an attempt to force her to go back to China at this time. So she made her choice and followed Perfume.
Cologne had time to think as she silently followed the pink haired Amazon. She had made miscalculations again, something that was happening all too often lately. The last few months had been the worst in her life. How had it all began? She thought she knew where, it was her decision to go with the other elders to the springs for renewal. Cologne had almost chosen not to go, but changed her mind at the last minute. The rest would do her good, so she set off for the week long vacation at the springs. At the time her feeling was it had been a good decision, the rest made her feel much more active and alive than she had for years. It also served to see how Shampoo would handle herself when left on her own.
Upon returning, the matriarch discovered her charge was not to be found. As she looked through the house Cologne stumbled on the letter. Mousse had once again sent a formal challenge letter to Shampoo, stating he wanted to win her hand in marriage. Shampoo could have refused, it was the right of every Amazon woman to accept or refuse marriage challenges from the males of the tribe. Once refused, the male would have to wait a year to challenge again, but evidently her great granddaughter had accepted this time. Ordinarily that would be no cause for concern, as good as Mousse was he would hold back in any fight with Shampoo. Poor him, she would not give him the same regard. But that was not what worried her. She saw where Mousse had made the battleground: Jusenkyou. Now that was cause for concern. If Shampoo fell into one of the cursed springs it would cause her nothing but trouble. Had Cologne been present she would have talked her great granddaughter out of fighting there and insisted on a different battleground.
The letter was dated six days ago, right after Cologne left. Very ingenuous of Mousse; waiting until she was gone before challenging Shampoo. She hadn’t thought he had that much foresight. He must have known she would have prevented Shampoo from fighting at Jusenkyou, so he waited until she was gone. Cologne wondered what advantage Mousse might have felt he had there. Her eyes examined the letter again. It was sent six days ago, which meant the fight would have occurred two days later. Cologne looked into the sink only to see dried up food on some plates. They had to have sat there at least two days, which meant something had gone very wrong.
She hopped along on her staff to get to Jusenkyou as quickly as she could, her mind aflame with the possibilities of what might have happened. Shampoo could have fallen into a spring and been unable to locate hot water. She may have changed into a small animal and been eaten by a larger one. That had happened to more than one victim, but it was unlikely. Mousse was there and would have prevented it. She may have accidentally killed Mousse, in which case she would likely have run off in sorrow. Shampoo may have openly said she had nothing but disdain for the boy, but deep down inside Shampoo cared for him, just not the way he wanted. One thought terrified Cologne, by some miracle Mousse may have won. If that had happened, Shampoo may have convinced him to run off with her, rather than face the humiliation of having to show everyone he had won.
All the speculation amounted to nothing. She found no evidence of either youth, and her attempt to find the guide proved futile, since he was on vacation. However, his daughter, Plum, was informative. She knew that a Japanese boy and his father had arrived on the same afternoon the challenge took place and left the same day. An odd coincidence. That was the only thing Cologne had to go on, so she tried to follow their path. Fortunately, they weren’t bothering to cover their trail and she was able to follow them. Once their tracks were located, Cologne almost immediately found evidence that Shampoo was either following them or, more likely, traveling with them, though why she would do such a thing was beyond her. Her great granddaughter had never given any indication she wanted to travel the outside world, despite Cologne’s attempts at convincing her to do so.
The world was a rapidly changing place, and the Joketsuzoku would have to start to easing themselves into modern society. It was the matriarch’s desire that Shampoo spend some time outside of China to understand how other societies work, and how to live with the influences of the outside world without being buried by them. Perhaps Shampoo realized the wisdom of Cologne’s advice and chosen to travel to Japan to see some of the world. True, she should have left some kind of message to indicate what she had done, but if the boy and his father were leaving in a hurry, she might have seen it as the only opportunity to travel with someone who would have an understanding of where they were going. If that was the case, Cologne could be proud of her, taking the initiative like that was a very courageous thing to do.
The first couple of towns they passed through were easy enough to find. Sure enough, people remembered seeing a purple haired girl, along with a Japanese boy and man. She followed the trail and had almost caught up to the group, when she lost them. It was a large town the trio had traveled to, making it difficult to find anyone who had seen them. What made it almost impossible was the fact that everyone was worked up over a crazed panda that attacked the town. When she questioned some citizens about it, they claimed it had been subdued by two martial artists, a young boy and girl. Cologne had assumed it was Shampoo and the Japanese boy until she heard a description of the duo. A short red headed girl and a tall black haired boy, nothing at all like her prey. She spent several weeks trying to locate them but failed. She was forced to employ a time consuming spell to locate what city they were in, and then began to search for the boat that they took. It was pure chance that she had stumbled on the man who had sold tickets to a group with a purple haired girl. He wouldn’t have remembered, except there had been a fight with a gang of toughs that tried to pick her and another girl up. In the end, most of the gang had been hospitalized and the neighborhood had been free of the thugs for a little while.
Once she discovered they were in Nerima, it had been simplicity itself to keep a lookout until she spotted Shampoo. That was when everything fell apart. She was shocked that Shampoo ran away in fear when Cologne first discovered her. The second time they met, the truth came out; Shampoo had fallen into Nanniichuan. Of all the pools to fall in, that was the worst. To complicate matters, the elderly Amazon had been beaten by the boy, Ranma. That loss had, in effect, tied her hands. She couldn’t take direct action against him, and since Shampoo was obviously under his protection, she was covered under the umbrella as well. That meant the matriarch could only act through others.
Cologne was well aware of the fact that Jusenkyou curses were nearly impossible to cure. She was one of those that believed there was some deeper meaning to the curses; otherwise why would people be unable to simply immerse themselves in the pool they wanted? She had no idea what purpose a curse would have to do with Shampoo. At any rate, the law was the law and she had to go back, cure or trial. That was easily the hardest decision Cologne had to make, for she loved her great granddaughter very much, and if they couldn’t obtain the cure that meant a trial, and the verdict would obviously be execution, a dead great granddaughter, and most likely dishonor for the clan unless she could convince Shampoo to lie about when she got the curse before the trial. But the way Shampoo was behaving meant she might not lie about it, a terrible risk.
Cologne had called Shampoo’s sisters to Japan. She had been confident RanRan and LinLin could get through to Shampoo and convince her to return to China, and Jusenkyou. A mistake, the girl resisted to the point of attacking her, the matriarch. So she was once again forced to work through others, becoming desperate over the months, knowing the council would eventually recall her to Joketsuzoku and demand why she and Shampoo had been gone for so long. She resorted to using Ryouga and Ukyou in an attempt to bring in Shampoo by force. But Cologne again miscalculated. This time it was Ukyou’s desire for vengeance, and the Amazon was forced to use the Aggression Point on her. Dangerous enough that she should use it on someone reluctant to fight, but she made another mistake in using it on Ryouga, someone all too eager to fight. The resulting battle came very close to killing Shampoo. Her death would solve everything, but it was an undesirable solution. She wanted Shampoo willing to come back and at least attempt to cure herself.
Stumbling across Perfume had been a good surprise, or so Cologne thought at the time. She had no doubt the young Amazon would try to kill Shampoo. But as impressive as she had been in the past, the matriarch had been certain Shampoo would surpass her in fighting prowess. Her great granddaughter had advanced unbelievably in her months with Ranma. If she could cure Shampoo, it would be simplicity itself for her to become leader in ten years or so. Believing Perfume’s attack would convince Shampoo she couldn’t escape the Amazons, she assumed the girl would return willingly to Joketsuzoku. It was yet another mistake on Cologne’s part. Things couldn’t have gone worse. Perfume was far better than Cologne had expected, perhaps as skilled as Shampoo. It had been impossible to tell since her great granddaughter had held back in the fight. That shocked Cologne; it had been obvious from the beginning that Perfume was playing for keeps. The only thing the matriarch could think of to explain Shampoo’s behavior was that she still felt guilty about what happened all those years ago. An unbelievably stupid attitude; Perfume deserved what had happened to her. Cologne had explained it to Shampoo at the time and believed the girl accepted the argument. Another costly error. Then the unexpected happened. Just as Perfume was going to administer the killing blow she discovered the secret. Instead of finishing Shampoo off, she turned and ran. Cologne had a sick feeling she knew where Perfume was going, and if she was right, then everything had to be solved in less than a month. No time at all.
The pink haired girl’s journey ended exactly where Cologne had feared: the airport. The matriarch sneaked close enough to listen in on the conversation Perfume had with a ticket seller.
“I need the first flight to Tokomi, China,” Perfume requested.
Cologne faded back as she heard the words. It was exactly what she feared. Tokomi was the closest airport to Joketsuzoku. It would still take the girl time to get there, but there could be no doubt why she was going. It was only a matter of time. More and more mistakes. Stupid ones. If the village doctor hadn’t checked her out before her trip, she would have sworn she was going senile. Cologne walked off, her mind racing to find a solution. She almost missed the whistling of an object descending towards her. Almost. She looked up at the last minute and vaulted out of the way of the body that embedded itself in the street before her. Upon examining the missile she discovered it to be a young man. He wore a blue dragonscale vest with matching bracers, baggy white Chinese style pants, and a sash that appeared to be pantyhose. Amazingly, the youth lifted his head and began cursing, in Chinese.
“<That little bastard. I’ll get him if it’s the last thing I do!>”
Cologne moved closer to the boy, “<What’s your name?>”
The youth barely managed to focus on the Amazon. “<T… T… Tarou.>” And with that, the boy passed out.
“<Hmmmm? Perhaps fate is finally working in my favor.>” She grabbed the youth by the back of the neck and began dragging him. There was now a need for a base of operations, which meant it was time for her to visit an old acquaintance. The boy would not be happy to see her, as though that meant anything.
Night fell as Ranma lay down in bed. He’d been there for over an hour, sleep eluding him. He tried everything: Warm milk, counting sheep, rolling the snoring fat man out into the yard to get rid of the noise, but all efforts failed.
“What if Perfume comes back?”
That thought plagued him all day. Akane really tried hard to shake him out of his depression and anxiety, and he was grateful. His unwanted fiancée could really be kind and caring when she tried, not that it happened often, and not that he would ever say it out loud. No point in giving people the wrong impression. His mind kept going back to that same thought time and again. Shampoo was helpless, and if Perfume came back Shampoo was dead. He had failed her once and it blackened his thoughts like some kind of cancer. If it happened again, he wouldn’t forgive himself, ever.
There was only one thing to do. It meant he wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight, not that he was getting some anyway. He quietly threw on some clothes and left the dojo, leaping from building to building until he reached his destination: The hospital. He found Shampoo’s window and sat back, concealed in a tree that had a clear view of the window. He briefly considered jumping up and letting himself in; being close to her would make him feel better. But there was a problem with it, the Amazon had enough pride for any three people and probably wouldn’t appreciate the suggestion she was weak, even if it was accurate. So Ranma decided to rest where he was. An intruder would likely try to get in through the window. It was the quickest route to launch an attack and avoid prying eyes from within the hospital, and if there was a problem he could leap up to it in less than two seconds. He made himself comfortable and stood watch over his friend for the rest of the night.
Part III: Learning From Past Mistakes
Ranma had already left for school when the exterior of the wall exploded outward. A figure stepped forth from the wreckage as the dust began to settle. Shampoo-kun was damned if he was going to stay in that hospital another minute. When he woke up in the morning he had been accosted from the first moment his eyes opened. It would have been all right if it had just been Chisa and Sayuri harassing him, he was used to them. But it seemed every nurse in the building also wanted to “check out the handsome new patient.” Every five minutes it was one after another. Some were pleasant enough, but most flirted with him, or even went so far as to give him their phone number. It quickly became obvious there was to be no rest in the hospital. Besides, though he hated to admit it, he missed Ranma greatly. He gave an inward sigh. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since last he saw the youth, and his thoughts were as much about him as Perfume’s return. The mystery of why she left when Shampoo was at her mercy still bothered him, and he didn’t have the faintest idea of the reasoning behind her behavior.
Shampoo-kun hadn’t made it more than forty feet when he heard a voice call out his name. He turned and spotted the girl that was hailing him. It took a moment to place the face with the voice. It was the first time he had seen Ai Konjou, captain of the Furinkan Cheerleader Squad, without her standard cheerleader outfit. Instead, the girl was wearing a tight leather number consisting of matching boots, an all-too-short mini-skirt, and a halter top that was laced together in the front. At the moment, an almost obscene amount of cleavage was showing, the laces strained by the ample bust of the captain. Ai caught Shampoo-kun putting a hand to his chin as he obviously looked her over, head to toe. As he finished his examination he gave a smile to the girl.
“Yes! He’s checking me out. He wants me.” Ai thought to herself. In reality, Shampoo-kun’s observations were along somewhat different lines.
“<Damn! I’d look good in that.>”
Ai moved forward, swaying suggestively to her prey. “You have no idea how worried I was. I heard you were injured and wanted to make sure everything was all right.” She walked around Shampoo-kun, giving him the same examination she just received. “You look VERY healthy to me.” Once she was directly behind him, she put her arms around his waist and continued, whispering in his ear. “Tell you what, I have some first aid training. Why not let me give you a personal examination? We’ll make sure everything works correctly.” She pressed her chest tightly into Shampoo-kun’s back, making sure he could feel her breasts. “And I do mean everything.”
Shampoo-kun picked up on the innuendo immediately. Relationships between women in Joketsuzoku were hardly unheard of. They weren’t even frowned upon, just so long as the warriors’ relationships did not consist exclusively of women. They had a responsibility to produce heirs for the tribe, and should at least have a male concubine, if not a husband. Shampoo-kun’s tastes did not run that way. A husband was all she was interested in.
He pulled out of Ai’s grasp, producing a sound of disappointment from the girl. She pouted towards Shampoo-kun and spoke.
“There’s no need to get defensive. I promise to be gentle.”
The girl’s persistence was causing the same irritation in Shampoo-kun that Mousse did whenever he was around. “I not interested in you that way.”
A look of anger passed quickly across Ai’s face. It disappeared just as fast as it came as she smiled and stalked towards her prey once more.
“I heard you were hurt pretty badly. Something to do with your..” she gave a light jab into Shampoo-kun’s injury. “…side, as I recall.”
The pain from the light blow produced the desired effect. Shampoo-kun winced while clutching his side.
“I have an idea,” Ai said. “Why don’t we just pretend we fought, and you lost. I wouldn’t want to damage you before our fun.” She saw the scowl the boy leveled at her. “Oh, relax. Despite what you may have heard, I don’t do everything with my squad. And if you’re afraid of your reputation, we can just keep this to ourselves. Still, if you want to do it the hard way…” she allowed the threat to trail off.
Shampoo-kun felt the first twinges of panic form in his gut. The situation was bad. He was in no shape to fend off Ai, and losing meant he would become the girl’s plaything. The rumors in the school made it sound as though she had some rather exotic tastes, and Shampoo-kun had no desire to find out which rumors were true and which ones weren’t. He was about to consider fleeing when those thoughts were interrupted.
“Leave him alone, Ai.”
The duo turned towards the voice and saw Ukyou standing before them, minus her spatulas.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the boy who would be a girl. Or is that the girl who would be a boy?” Ai jibed at the newcomer.
“It wouldn’t be fair Ai,” Ukyou continued, ignoring Ai’s barb. “He’s injured.”
“And that is why I want to do this without a fight. Damaged goods usually lead to disappointing performances.” Ai looked hard at Ukyou. “And just what brings you here anyway? Did you come to see Ranma?”
Ukyou suddenly found herself at a loss for words.
Ai smiled. “So that’s it. Your last boyfriend ran off, and you’re looking for a new one. Good taste, Dearie. Ranma really is the best.”
“That’s not why…” Ukyou began to bluster, but was cut off.
Ai held up her hands in a warding gesture. “Relax. No need for hostilities. I am more than willing to share.” A gleam suddenly shined in Ai’s eyes. “In fact, I’d be glad to. I mean, you are into that sort of thing, right?”
Ukyou began to turn red. “What are you talking about?!”
Ai maintained her pleasant demeanor. “Well, I just assumed from the butch way you dress that you went both ways. You did attend an all boy’s school, for goodness’ sake.” She gave a seductive glance towards Shampoo-kun. “I’m sure Ranma wouldn’t mind. There isn’t a man alive that would pass up an opportunity for a good time with the two of us. It would be a fantasy come to life. Isn’t that right, Ranma?”
For the briefest of moments Shampoo-kun envisioned what Ai suggested, and immediately became nauseous. Ukyou had the same vision and reacted even more violently.
“That’s it! Ai, get away from him!”
The cheerleader just stood there and smirked. “Since you seem to be so concerned about Ranma, why don’t you fight for him? If I win, I get him. If you win, you do what ever you want. Deal?”
Ukyou looked towards Shampoo-kun. Both knew it was the only chance Shampoo-kun stood of not becoming Ai’s love slave. The Amazon reluctantly nodded his head.
Ukyou went for her spatula and froze. She had left it behind, as insurance Shampoo-kun wouldn’t think she was dropping by for a fight. Now that gesture may have cost both of them. The okonomiyaki chef went into a defensive stance barehanded. Ukyou was a good fighter when it came into unarmed combat. In fact, she probably could have beaten about ninety percent of the martial artists on the earth. Unfortunately, most of Nerima fell into the upper ten percent, and Ai in the upper one percent of that. The cheerleader matched her stance.
“Are you sure you want to do this? If we fight, you’re probably going to spill out all over the place.” Ukyou pointed to Ai’s tight top.
Ai smiled in return. “Don’t be jealous just because you’re flat-chested.”
“I am not flat chested! I happen to wear a chest wrap.” Ukyou simmered as both girls warily circled one another.
“It really is too bad.” Ai sighed.
“The three of us. It could have been an event that would make the gods sit up and take notice, cutie.” She winked at Ukyou, and then threw a punch.
The come on startled Ukyou and she fell victim to the blow. Ai began pressing an attack, showing her superiority in unarmed combat to Ukyou by landing several blows. Ai backed off momentarily.
“You’ve had it girl. Give up! My offer still stands.”
“Believe me. I would rather get it on with Shampoo than you,” Ukyou replied.
Ai paused thoughtfully. “Well, if you think you could convince either one of them, you should go for it. They’re both good looking.”
“WOULD YOU GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER, YOU TRAMP?!!!” Ukyou was about to continue the retort, when Ai suddenly got leveled from behind by a mailbox yelling, “Charge!”
Tsubasa-mailbox stuck his head out of his disguise. “I got you, you nasty girl. No one hurts my Ukyou.” Tsubasa turned his head to the chef. “I saved the day, Ukyou. Hug me!”
The only thing that saved Tsubasa from being hit by the chef was Ai’s fist burying itself in his face first. She then threw the offending cross-dresser at Ukyou.
“First they screw up my mail. Now they send their equipment after me. The postal service around here can kiss my…” Ai continued her rant for close to a minute, allowing Ukyou and Tsubasa time to recover.
Tsubasa said, “It doesn’t look good, does it, Ukyou?” The chef shook her head in response. “Well, in that case, give me a kiss before we fall.”
Tsubasa puckered up, giving Ukyou a perfect target to hit. Just as she drew back her fist, an idea occurred to her. “Tsubasa! Change into a giant spatula.”
Tsubasa could have kicked himself. It should have been obvious that was the way to turn Ukyou on. He decided to test the theory. “Will you kiss me if I do?”
“I’ll hit you if you don’t.” That convinced Tsubasa to make the change. Once in disguise, Ukyou wielded him in her normal fashion.
“Uh, oh!” Ai thought. The cheerleader put up a good fight, but in the end, it was too much for her to handle. Ukyou picked up the cheerleader’s crumpled form and tossed it into the lobby of the hospital.
“Well that was…” Ukyou realized her new spatula was fondling her. “Cut it out Tsubasa! You actually came in useful for once in your life, you pervert.” He continued rubbing against her. “And I don’t… want… to… hit… YOU!”
She felt Tsubasa-spatula lifted off her back. Ukyou turned around to see Shampoo-kun holding Tsubasa by the back of the disguise, offering the chef to hit the target. Ukyou could hardly pass up the opportunity. Tsubasa got pummeled into oblivion and punched several miles away, leaving only Ukyou and Shampoo-kun looking at one another. Neither knew what to say, so both just stood there until Shampoo-kun spotted an envelope on the ground. He picked it up and opened it.
“No! Stop!” Ukyou tried to stop him, too late. He opened and read the letter.
“This a get well card.”
Ukyou tried to cover it up. “Yeah. It’s for a friend of mine in the hospital. And I don’t mean you either.”
Shampoo-kun read the letter again. “And you always sign card, ‘Stupid Spatula Girl?’”
Ukyou gave up the attempted deception. “All right. I admit it’s for you. I wanted to try to make amends for trying to beat you up all those times.” She paused, and looked at Shampoo-kun again. “That’s all I came to do. I didn’t know I’d be fighting for you. So good-bye.” She turned and began walking away.
“Thank you, Ukyou.” She barely heard the soft voice behind her comment. That made her stop and turn.
“You called me by my real name.”
Shampoo-kun blushed. “No, I didn’t. You confused.”
Ukyou would have none of that. “Yes, you did. I heard you.”
“You take too many blows to head, Stupid Spatula Girl.” Shampoo-kun sniffed.
Ukyou realized Shampoo-kun wasn’t going to admit to it, so she started taunting him. As she continued a wicked gleam entered Shampoo-kun’s eyes. He glided over to Ukyou and embraced her, cradling her in his arms.
“You save Shampoo. That deserve a great big reward.” He moved his face closer towards Ukyou, much to the chef’s distress, than began to pucker up.
Ukyou barely managed to wriggle out of his grasp, then made a motion to threaten him. It was then she saw him giggling, barely keeping outright laughter contained.
“So, she thinks she can mock me and get away it?” Ukyou wryly thought.
“Ha! Ha! You should have seen look on you face, Spatula Girl. I…” He trailed off as he realized Ukyou had moved closer to him. “What you… HMPPH? Ukyou placed both hands around his head and gave a deep, passionate kiss. The poor boy was too stunned to do much more than breath. After several moments, Ukyou broke off the embrace.
“Now that’s how you kiss, you pervert. Bye.” Satisfied that she had gotten the last laugh, Ukyou turned and walked away. Shampoo-kun stood there in shock.
Whether it was seconds or hours that passed before the surprise wore off, Shampoo-kun couldn’t tell. As his senses returned, one depressing thought cut through all the others. That was only the second “real” kiss he had ever received, and this time it was by a girl. But perhaps the most ironic thing was, Ukyou kissed a hell of a lot better than Mikado did.
To be continued.
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