Three years ago:
Thirteen year old Perfume looked at the vacant side of the battle tree. Clouds covered the moon, shrouding everything in near pitch blackness. Through the darkness, she stared at where her opponent would be in another hour. She had never been this early to a fight, and now she knew why. It was a mistake. The longer she waited, the more time she would think about the duel. The more she thought about the fight, the more anxious she would become. Her fighting always became sloppy as she got anxious. It had been habit to distract herself before a fight, doing anything but thinking about the opponent. All that was done in the days before a duel. She paused in thought, breath forming clouds of steam in the frigid air. It was a cold morning, even for this time of year. Still, hot or cold, it would not affect her fighting abilities. There was a strange feeling in her before this fight. It wasn’t fear. She knew fear. She suffered from that in her first few fights since her improvement. It wasn’t anxiousness. She knew anxiousness. She felt that from her last few fights. It was something else. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. She shook her head to relieve herself of such thoughts. It wasn’t conductive for her to ponder things like that. This was no time for deep introspection. She had to mentally prepare herself for the upcoming duel.
The sunrise was still minutes away. Having nothing better to do, she stared off into the horizon, waiting the coming of the morning orb that would burn away the mist that had formed in the early morning. The dull glow of the sun broke the horizon and lit up the clouds, which hung high overhead. The landscape took on an eerie crimson glow, unlike anything Perfume had ever seen.
“<Red skies. The color of blood. A bad omen.>”
Chapter 13: Sins of The Past II
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s gone on before (Or what you really need to know to enjoy this fic.) In the beginning, the Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou to spar, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a duel there. One mid-air collision and bath in Spring of Drowned Young Man later, there is 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 briefly 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 that Ranma-chan is Shampoo and Shampoo-kun is Ranma. In the last chapter, Akane had a meeting with Ranma and accidentally kissed Ranma-chan, causing Akane to promptly freak out. Cologne managed to convince Tarou to try to capture Shampoo, who Cologne wants to take back to China to cure her, or failing that, stand trial for becoming a man. When Tarou arrived at Furinkan he mistakenly identified Ranma-chan as Shampoo, and began to fight. Tarou was eventually defeated, but not before he learned Shampoo and Ranma’s secret, and swore revenge. Cologne came upon a plan involving Shampoo, which Mousse agreed to help with. Also, Ryouga, who fell into a spring of drowned bat, was mistakenly identified as a vampire in Transylvania and nearly killed. He was saved by a large mysterious man who explained to Ryouga the folly of throwing away your life for revenge. Ryouga decided he would go back to Ukyou and try to make peace with Ranma. Perfume, a mysterious Amazon from Shampoo’s past, has sworn to kill Shampoo. On her first visit to Nerima, she had an opportunity to kill Shampoo, but upon discovering Shampoo’s curse inexplicably left. Now she’s back…
Part 1: Truth or Dare
Perfume stood, awaiting the arrival of Shampoo. Usually few people were up this early in the morning, but there were a lot of villagers present. The Amazons wanted to see the fight between two of the best young up-and-comers. Perfume tried picking out figures in the crowd. Her mother and father were in attendance, as were her aunt and two cousins. She recognized two young girls that hung around Shampoo all the time. Perfume tried to recall their names; RanRan for one, and something that started with an L for the other. Be Dea approached towards the rear of the crowd. There was only one reason that particular elder would be here; it was to see if Cologne’s protégé would fall today. Perfume smiled at her insight. Thirteen years old and she already had a grasp on politics that most adults would envy.
The small crowd parted for two people. Shampoo had at last arrived with her great grandmother. As Shampoo jumped onto the tree Perfume got a good look at her face. Dark rings were under the purple haired Amazon’s bloodshot eyes, making it appear as though she hadn’t gotten any sleep since the challenge letter. Shampoo leveled her gaze at Perfume, giving a deep accusatory stare.
“<W…what is it, Shampoo?>” Perfume cursed herself for stuttering. It made her sound afraid, giving Shampoo the advantage. The purple haired Amazon didn’t answer.
“<Oh, come now. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.>”
“<You knew this would happen.>”
Still no acknowledgment of the words being spoken.
“<I told you from the first day we met I wanted to be matriarch.>” Perfume’s voice became more agitated. “<We are the best. You had to know it would come down to the two of us.>”
Shampoo just continued glaring.
“<This won’t be our last fight. As evenly matched as we are, we’re going to collide many times. This is just the first.>
“<Shampoo, don’t be this way.>”
The girl’s piercing gaze never left Perfume’s eyes.
“<Damn it! Say something! Curse me if you have to. Swear at me.>”
Perfume’s voice took on a more pleading tone. “<Don’t just stand there and look at me.>”
The glare continued.
“<I can’t stand your silence.>” Perfume’s voice had dropped to a whisper.
Perfume’s voice changed, confidence trying to overcome the sadness barely reigned within. “<Fine! Be that way! It’s not going to stop me. I want this! I want it more than anything! I won’t let you stop me!>” Perfume went into an attacking posture with her naginata. Shampoo answered by bringing up a bonbori and sword.
Perfume took note of the weapon selection. Shampoo usually used two bonbori. The sword was an unusual choice for her. Perfume advanced, naginata swinging. As her first strike was blocked, she knew the fight was over. Perfume lacked the calm and battle demeanor necessary for her to win the duel. Every one of her attacks were off, her limbs felt weak, and she couldn’t remember the pattern for her assault. Every maneuver was like trying to move through quicksand. The two of them never had a sparring session that went less than twenty minutes. This fight didn’t go five. Perfume never had a chance.
Shampoo managed to disarm Perfume by bringing a bonbori under the naginata as it was held for a block. Perfume’s eyes traveled with the flight of the polearm for less than a second. Her eyes came back to see Shampoo looking down on her, the sword reached the height of its arc, having been put into position to follow up the bonbori strike. A now useless gesture since Perfume was disarmed.
“<You’ve w…>” Perfume never got a chance to finish as Shampoo hesitated but an instant before allowing the sword to come down. Perfume finally saw the stare change from an accusatory one to that of satisfaction, the faintest of smiles pursing Shampoo’s lips as the blade finished its descent.
Ohgami had been staring at his companion next to him on the plane. While she slept, he stole glances at the girl, thinking about the odd shade of hair color and the unusual hairstyle she had. He had assumed the attractive pink haired girl had been asleep. If that was the case, she must have had some nightmare as she screamed and jumped out of the seat, snapping her seat belt as though it was nothing more than a piece of string. Being the Casanova that he was, his mind instantly realized that here was a chance to get the girl to think about him in a nice way, comforting her in this time of need. When they first boarded the plane he tried to start a conversation with her, but she simply blew him off. Now he moved to calm her down, even as the girl’s eyes focused once again on the real world. That was when he saw it and recoiled.
It took Perfume a moment to come back to reality after the dream. It was the same blasted nightmare each time. At first it was every night. After a year it became four or five times per week. Now, three years later, it was down to around twice a week. And always it ended in screaming. As reality came back, she realized the man sitting next to her was now recoiling in disgust. It took her a moment to realize that it could now be seen. She ran a finger along it to show off to her companion.
“Not very pretty. Is it?” She looked at him quizzically as she concealed it beneath its hiding place once more. One of the stewardesses finally made her way over to see what the commotion was about.
“Is everything all right, Miss? Did you have a bad dream?” she asked.
“More like a memory,” Perfume responded as she sat back in her seat. “But one that will be laid to rest shortly.” The smile she gave unnerved her seating companion to no end. There would be no further attempts at conversation with the attractive girl.
Perfume disembarked from the plane and immediately set out for the Tendo Dojo. It was the most likely place for Shampoo to be, and if she weren’t there, then Perfume would check elsewhere. If it came right down to it, she would level Nerima if that were what it took to flush her rival out of hiding. There could be little doubt she would have gone to ground, not after what happened last time. The memory of the last encounter triggered a near psychotic reaction from Perfume. If it hadn’t been for that fight, she wouldn’t have the problem she had now. Shampoo had managed not only to ruin her life once, but twice. Blood was the only acceptable solution. Nothing would stop her now. Nothing.
Ranma headed downstairs to hit the dojo before the morning rush. Akane had stopped actively avoiding him five days ago and was trying to get him to spar with her. Worse, his father now included her in the daily practices. It wouldn’t have been so bad if his father was actually trying to help him, but Genma would constantly harp on about what a cute couple the martial artists made when working together. It was all another inane plot to force the two of them together.
Upon arriving at the dojo he was surprised to see someone all ready there. Shampoo was dressed in a shirt that ended well above her midriff, and a pair of very short shorts. She smiled at Ranma as he entered the dojo.
“What are you doing down here?” he asked.
“I have stitches removed a couple days ago. Dr. Tofu say he amazed at how fast I recover. Side is better now. See?” The shirt was cut high enough that he could see the scarring without her having to raise the shirt. It was still nasty looking, but had healed very well. Ranma didn’t notice the worried look in Shampoo’s eyes as he approached and examined the wound.
“Yep. Looks better,” he stated as he inspected the site. “Pretty nasty scar there though.” He didn’t notice Shampoo flinch at that statement as he shrugged. “Guess it comes with the territory.” He then looked her in the eye. “I’m a little jealous.”
That startled Shampoo. “You are?”
“Yeah! It’s better than the ones I got. Want to see?” Oddly enough, he almost seemed eager to show them off, so she nodded.
He pulled his pant leg up, revealing an old pink wound on his calf. “Got this when I was practicing on some rocks in a river. Balancing exercises. I was real clumsy, fell off, and hit another rock. Cut my leg pretty bad. And then there’s this.” he let the pant leg back down and raised his shirt, showing off another, older scar on his abdomen. “Got this one when I was younger. Pop was training me with swords and I decided to practice with one when he wasn’t around. I ended up slashing myself.” He gave a chuckle. “It scared the heck out of me, so I went crying to Pop about how I was going to bleed to death. After he calmed me down enough to see I wasn’t going to die, he asked me how I got it. Best I could come up with was I was cutting carrots when it slipped. Even Pop could see through that one.” He started laughing harder.
Shampoo joined in. “Wait. Shampoo have other ones too.” She turned her back towards Ranma and lifted up the back of her shirt, revealing a small faint scar between her shoulder blades. “Shampoo clumsy too. Was practicing on log and fall off. Tree branch cut me bad. And,” she trailed off as she lowered her shirt and then pulled her leg on the shorts up as far as she could, showing off a small deeper scar high on the inside of her thigh. “Got this one in fourth tournament I was in. Girl almost get me with spear. But I win in end.” She smirked in pride.
“Well here’s my worst. Can’t really see it though cause it’s in my hair.” Ranma pointed out a spot to feel on the back of his hair. Her fingers found what was unquestionably a long bit of scar tissue on his head. “Got that from a c…c…cat during that stupid training, y’know.” He was sweating appreciably with the memory of his cat fist training. “Those are all the main ones. Got a lot of smaller one’s that aren’t really noticeable unless you’re looking for them.”
Shampoo nodded. “Same way for Shampoo. Lot’s of little ones.” She couldn’t have been happier. Ranma wasn’t repulsed by the disfigurement. On the downside, he turned to go.
“Wait, Ranma!” Shampoo shouted out. “We spar.”
Ranma considered that. “Nah! You just got better. I don’t think you’re ready.” That got him a leap kick, which he barely dodged. “Okay,” he grinned, “We’ll do it your way.” And with that, the match began.
Shampoo had a lot of pent up energy from the last two weeks, and unleashed it on Ranma, forcing him on the defensive for several minutes before things evened things out. It took another five minutes before he tagged Shampoo with several solid shots, knocking her off her feet.
“That was great. I haven’t…” Ranma was cut off as Shampoo gave a fierce look and tackled him, causing the two to start rolling on the ground, each trying to gain the advantage. Eventually Ranma overpowered her, grabbing her wrists and pinning her arms to the ground while straddling her chest. She put up just enough of a struggle to force him to keep his weight forward in order to keep her down.
“All right, Ranma. You win.” The fierce look disappeared as she went limp in his grasp. “Now you get first prize.”
That confused him. “What’s first prize?”
She gave him a seductive glance. “Guess.”
Sweat started to break out on his brow. “W…what are you tryin’ to…”
The rest of the statement was cut off by a punt and a “RANMA, YOU PERVERT!!!”, as his form went sailing through the roof of the dojo to a far off place. Shampoo hopped to her feet to confront Akane.
“Why you do that?” Her voice sounded very icy.
“He was being a pervert in case you didn’t notice! I saw the way he was holding you down.”
“If Shampoo want Ranma off, Shampoo get him off.” She scowled harder at Akane. “Never touch him because you think you protect me!”
Akane was shocked. “You mean you want him to do that?”
“Why Akane worry? Jealous?”
“Of course not!” She blustered back. “Don’t be stupid!”
“Right.” And with that Shampoo jumped through the Ranma shaped hole in the roof.
Akane stomped off back in the house. “OH! I hate it when she does that. Where does she get off trying to boss me around? Telling me what I can and can’t do.” Nabiki interrupted her tirade.
“Telephone for you, Sis.”
That was a surprise. Akane wasn’t expecting any calls. She calmed herself in an effort to keep the anger out of her voice. “Hello?”
“Hi, there. Is this the Akane Tendo who attends Furinkan High?”
“Yes, it is.” The voice didn’t sound familiar.
“This is Tarou, the guy you saved. Remember?”
Oh. That’s who it was. “Of course.” She suddenly became concerned. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, yes. Everything is fine. I just wanted to thank you properly. How about we meet at Ma Maison? You know where that is right?”
“Ummm, sure. I know where it is.”
“Good. I’ll meet you there at four o’clock. Is that all right?”
Akane didn’t have any plans. “Yes.”
She could hear what sounded like a release of breath. “Wear something nice. Bye.”
Akane heard the click on the other end and started to walk away when she realized something.
“I wonder why he said ‘wear something nice?’”
Tarou placed the receiver back in the cradle. He had no idea exactly why he felt the urge to see Akane again. He had people to beat up, and sooner or later the girl was going to ask him his full name. Still, he couldn’t seem to get her face out of his head. It was a pleasant irritation. She wasn’t beautiful, just cute, but there was some imperceptible quality about the smile she gave him, though. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t recall the last time a girl smiled at him. At any rate, maybe he could lay some groundwork for something after Happosai was taken care of. Yes! Why not? He would woo her, then change his name, and have a normal life. Well, assuming she didn’t mind someone who changed into a minotaur-like creature when wet. If she couldn’t deal with that, tough. He was keeping his curse no matter what.
Humming to himself, he went off to Mousse’s room, knocked on the door, and hearing no response, shattered the lock.
“Hey, Mousse! You here? I need some money.” Tarou expected no answer. Mousse had gone to China on some mission for Cologne. “Well, I know you’d let me have it, since I’d beat the crap out of you if you didn’t.” He chuckled to himself until his search turned up a large wad of bills from a drawer. It disappeared into a pocket just before Kodachi walked in.
“What are you doing here? And where’s Mousse?” She gave Tarou a suspicious glance.
“He went…” Tarou trailed off as an idea occurred to him. “I heard him say something about attacking Ranma, then he left. Haven’t seen him since.”
Kodachi shifted from suspicion to concern. “That foul beast may try to hurt my darling. It would be best if I assisted him.” Kodachi walked off, leaving Tarou to chuckle to himself. If he was going to be busy today, why not let someone else entertain Saotome?
Ranma hung upside down from a branch of the tree he landed in. Ordinarily, he would be consumed with what names he could come up with to describe the thug he was engaged to. But today, something else preyed on his thoughts.
“What the heck was Shampoo doing?” Surely the Amazon didn’t mean what he thought she meant. It had to be something else. It took him a while before he figured it out. She was joking. That was it. She was pulling his chain by pretending to be hinting at… something else. That caused a deep sigh of relief. Practicing with Shampoo was so different from doing it with Akane, that sometimes he simply forgot how different the two girls were.
It wasn’t much longer until Shampoo found Ranma’s landing spot. He was still hanging upside down when she arrived.
“Ranma, is you O.K.?” She asked, her voice laced with concern.
He smiled back. “Yeah. I’m fine,” he answered, and then thought, “Two can play at her little game.”
He hopped out of the tree and walked over to Shampoo, tilted her chin up with his finger, then gave what passed for a seductive smile from him, (it looked like a stupid grin.) “And maybe next time we won’t be interrupted.” He turned his back and walked off, missing her eyes widen in surprise, then delight.
She glomped onto his arm, smiling at him. “We go out and have good time. Yes?”
“Ummm. Sure. Let’s go.” The two walked off.
Perfume hid herself in some bushes next to the Tendo Dojo. She would remain hidden for a little while, and then, if Shampoo didn’t show herself, she would look through the house. Discreetly, though. No sense in announcing to the world she had returned. Shampoo would discover that soon enough. As she sat there and waited, she allowed her mind to drift away into the past, thinking about the events that led up to this point in her life.
Perfume was the only child of one of the best warriors in the village. At an early age she realized she was different from other children. When she was four she began to read. What made it all the more remarkable was that it was self-taught. The words just seemed to make sense to her one day. By the age of six she was reading as well as an adult, and by eight she was able to read advanced political discussions and philosophical books and grasp exactly what was meant, even if she didn’t care for subjects. But as good as she was, there was something else remarkable about her, she was horrible at any physical activities. Martial arts, weapon training, general athletics, all equally poor. This didn’t go unnoticed by her peers. As young children were wont to do with anyone different from them, Perfume ended up picked on. In defense she would try to outsmart her peers, which she could do easily. The backlash of those actions was to be picked on even more.
Despite her poor combat abilities, her mother never treated her poorly. She would encourage Perfume to read some more and keep learning, telling her she had a magnificent gift that would benefit the village immensely. Her status among her peers would increase in time as they grew older and would acknowledge her intelligence. Many of the elders had advisors to help them decided on matters, and if Perfume continued learning at the rate she did, she could be the one everyone went to for advise.
In spite of all of her mother’s encouragement, Perfume was still unsatisfied. Anytime she would start to feel adequate with her abilities she would see her mother practice with others or enter a tournament. Her mother moved like a graceful tiger. Smooth moves flowing from one into another, winning almost all of her fights. She was magnificent. Perfume had no right to be this woman’s daughter. Perfume was an Amazon. She had to be able to fight. She wanted to make her mother proud. She wanted to show everyone who pushed her around she could fight. She wanted to be the best. She had to be the best.
Her current path began one day when her mother was helping her train. Li Fhall, one of mother’s friends, came by. Perfume was told to keep practicing while she talked with Li. Perfume continued practicing hard, going through the katas, when she overheard her mother say something. Others would not have caught the quiet statement, but her hearing was better than average. When Li Fhall asked how the practice was going, her mother responded by telling her not to worry. It didn’t matter how much time was spent wasting in practice, Perfume was brilliant and would become an advisor someday. She went on to proudly describe some of the things her daughter had accomplished recently. Another child might have been delighted that their parent would be proud of their achievements, but Perfume could only focus on the startling revelation: her own mother thought training her was a waste of time. Keeping her emotions in check, she quietly asked if she could call it a day. Her mother casually agreed and returned to her talk with Li Fhall, unaware of her daughter’s tearing eyes.
Perfume ran off, heartbroken. Even her mother thought she was pitiful. At that moment she would have given up her genius for just becoming half as good as her mother. Anything to make herself better. She kept asking herself why she was so pathetic. She trained as much as anyone, even more. Hours were spent in practice, and she would beg her mother to put in even more time so she would become an able bodied warrior, but it never did any good. She would always lose, badly. It wasn’t fair.
As she wandered about aimlessly a noise caught her ear. The sound of someone speaking harshly to someone else. One of the few things Perfume could do well was move quietly, not that that talent made her feel better. With the young girl’s curiosity piqued, she moved under cover until she was almost on top of the speakers. She hid in some bushes and looked into the dry gully, observing two short figures in practice, training. She immediately recognized Cologne, the matriarch, and the purple haired girl with her, Shampoo. Shampoo had beaten Perfume not more than a month ago in one of her first tournaments. It took less than ten seconds for Perfume to end up on the ground, beaten.
She came back to the present and watched the two train. Currently, Cologne stood a good forty feet away from Shampoo. The matriarch was using her staff to fling small stones at Shampoo, as the younger Amazon would snatch the rocks out of mid air to keep them from hitting her. At least that was what she was supposed to do. Instead, many of the stones pelted Shampoo as she missed them. The rocks lacked the velocity to break the skin, but were still hurled at a rate that caused pain when they impacted. One managed to catch the target right between the eyes, causing Shampoo to end up on the ground, a look of hopelessness in her eyes.
“<Don’t bother getting up Shampoo. If you aren’t even going to try then you should just stay down. There are many other young girls that would relish the chance to be trained under my guidance, and I don’t feel like wasting my time with you.>” There was clearly a look of disdain in Cologne’s eyes.
Perfume wondered how anyone could talk that way to their own great-granddaughter. It was cruel, and would surely cause Shampoo to break down and cry. It was much to Perfume’s surprise that the purple haired Amazon heaved herself to her feet with a look of determination, not sorrow, etched on her face.
“<So you want to try some more after all. Very well.>” And with that Cologne again flung rocks towards Shampoo.
The younger warrior was able to block a few more rocks than before, but was still getting hit. Despite that, she didn’t give up, even when knocked to the ground again. Perfume was certain Cologne would be angry for Shampoo being unable to catch many more if the projectiles. But when they at last stopped, there was a horrible toothy grin upon her face.
“<Well done. Well done, indeed. I am very proud of you, Shampoo. Come. Let’s get you looked after, then celebrate. I’ll make you your favorite dish, then we’ll do something fun.>” Shampoo smiled back at her great-grandmother as the duo walked off side by side.
Perfume couldn’t understand what had happened. Why was Cologne so jubilant about Shampoo only doing slightly better than before? She sat there and pondered the question for a long time until understanding dawned. Cologne wasn’t so much testing Shampoo’s reflexes, as testing her spirit. Her desire to go on through adversity even though it would hurt and she probably wouldn’t do any better. That caused Perfume to recoil a little. She had never been tested like that, and that was when she realized what was wrong. Why she hadn’t really improved in all this time. Her training lacked intensity. Her mother simply went through the motions of practice, never driving Perfume to the limit. Never testing her the way Shampoo had been tested. That was what she wanted. No, needed. She ran off to locate her mother as quickly as she could.
Perfume returned home. Even as her mother greeted her, the woman could see the change in her daughter.
“<Mother. I don’t want to waste time any more either. I want you to train me.>”
Her mother was obviously confused. “<What are you talking about? We train almost every day…>”
Perfume cut her mother off. “<NO! Not like that. I want you to push me. Yell at me. Drive me to be the best. Don’t go easy on me like you have been.>”
Her mother sadly shook her head. “<You don’t know what you’re asking. You have a gift. Cultivate it. Let it grow. You can be…>” She was cut off again.
“<NO! I want to be the best. I don’t care what it takes. That’s what I want. Not to sit in some room and have people ask me questions. I want to fight, to gain respect. I want to be like you. And if you won’t do it,>” she paused as she decided to take a gamble, “<then I’ll go to someone else.>”
Her mother’s attitude shifted. Her eyes suddenly took on a colder cast as she gazed upon her daughter. For the first time in her life Perfume was genuinely afraid of her parent.
“<You think you know what you’re asking? Don’t make me laugh.>” Her mother’s voice sounded like ice, but somehow, in some terrible way, it suited her. “<You have no idea what it is to be driven to the brink, to be made to go as far you can, then forced to go further. Saying you want to be driven is one thing, actually having it done is another.>” She stared into Perfume’s eyes. “<Do you want that? Do You? I’ll warn you. If we start down this path, I won’t let you stop. I’ll make you work until I think you’ll break, and then I’ll make you go further. Are you certain that’s what you want?>”
Perfume stopped and truly thought about it, as her father entered the room and silently observed the proceedings. There was still time for Perfume to back out and return to the way she was. She gave an inward snort. To be ridiculed by everyone. Death would be preferable.
“< I’d rather die then fail.>”
Her mother looked down upon her, “<You will do everything I say without question. If I tell you to jump off a cliff you will do it, or I’ll throw you off. We will not quit! Do you understand?>” Perfume nodded. “<Then here is what you will do,>” she pointed outside. “<Start running in that direction. Run and don’t stop. And when you can’t go any farther, run another mile, then another. After that, run back. And if it is not to my satisfaction, you will do it again. Go! NOW!!!>”
Perfume did as she was bid. Just as she headed out the door, she heard her father finally speak up.
“<What was that about?>”
She barely heard her mother’s response as she ran off. “<You’re male, and wouldn’t understand.>” That was the first time she ever heard her mother talk to her father in the condescending way so many others talked to men.
Perfume ran until she was sure she wasn’t able to go forward anymore, and somehow managed to run another mile. She tried to keep going but her legs gave out from under her. Failure wasn’t an option, so she dragged herself the final mile, but the exertion proved too much as she collapsed and passed out. It wasn’t until hours later she regained consciousness, after night had fallen. Tears flowed from her eyes. There was no way she would ever make it back in time to please her mother, but she wouldn’t give up. Never give up. She regained her feet and headed off as fast as she could toward home. Arriving hours later. Her mother was in the exact same spot she was when Perfume left. She waited for the scream of rage for failure.
“<You’ve done well for your first day. Rest and we’ll really begin tomorrow.>” Her mother turned and left, causing Perfume to give an inward smile. It was exactly what she wanted. The future looked bright indeed.
At first the training did little good. Her fitness increased considerably but she was still untalented and uncoordinated. That fact never stopped her mother from trying to mold her into a great warrior anyway. On more than one occasion Perfume considered trying to call things off. But then she’d remember her mother’s words that night. No turning back. Her mother had become such a harsh creature that Perfume would not have been terribly surprised to discover her mother would kill her for trying to stop the training. So she continued. She didn’t allow her studies to become neglected. When she wasn’t practicing she was reading, or writing. Anything to advance her knowledge, whether it be knowledge of the martial arts, battle tactics of armies, or conjectures on human psychology.
It remained like that until around her tenth birthday. That was when puberty finally hit, causing her to finally blossom into a young woman. Her height increased and strength and coordination improved. She became faster and began catching up in her combat prowess, until she felt she could match any young warrior in the village. During all that time she had isolated herself from everyone, not that she had many friends to begin with. Once she felt she was ready, she challenged one of the weakest girls to a match. Perfume was scared to death of the fight. In her heart she felt there was no chance of victory. When all her life she had known nothing but defeat, it was near impossible to believe she could win. It was only her mother’s presence that managed to keep Perfume from bolting before the match. It turned out the fears were groundless. Her opponent was defeated in less than a minute.
That was the beginning. She challenged several other girls in rapid succession to be certain of her skills. She stuck mostly to those that weren’t very good, gaining confidence with each victory, until she became used to the taste of winning. It was during this time that the plan began to form. Rather than fight her way through every member of the village, she would lay low until after the upcoming tournament. Then she would learn who was the best and challenge those individuals.
No one knew just how much she had improved, just that she was better than she had been. Since she had been a joke for so long, no one would believe she had become good. To make certain no one suspected the true level of her skill, she made it seem she barely won some matches against weaker opponents. The anonymity meant she could watch her opponents’ style and create counters for them. It worked better than she dared hope, for most of the girls she defeated didn’t talk about their failure, too ashamed at having been defeated by HER. Most people only remembered how poorly she fought growing up, not realizing until after it was too late that she had become one of the, if not the, very best. Then came Shampoo…
Perfume shook her head. Being cast adrift in memories was simply a waste if time. Shampoo had not shown herself in the time Perfume had taken up her lookout position, and there was no more time for patience. Moving quietly she approached the house, hoping to remain undiscovered.
Tarou looked himself over in the mirror. The double-breasted suit hugged his form in a style he was unaccustomed to. “I’m too sharp.” He chuckled to himself as he admired just how handsome his appearance was.
The tailor cleared his throat. “Perhaps sir, you would consider going without the hoop earrings. They are somewhat distracting to your current ensemble.”
Tarou stared back coldly. “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” He looked in the mirror to check out the earrings. The man was wrong. He’d look naked without them. They were staying. He checked his watch out and decided to leave a little early for his rendezvous with Akane.
Akane came downstairs looking for Kasumi, seeking her sister’s opinion on her appearance. She finally spotted the eldest Tendo sweeping the front walk.
“Kasumi, do I look nice?”
Kasumi looked Akane over. She was wearing a pleasant yellow and green dress with a floral design. “Oh, my. Yes. You look very nice. Is there some kind of special occasion?”
Akane smiled. “Oh no. I’m just meeting a new friend for lunch, and I guess it’s kind of a classy place since he wanted me to dress nice. He wants to thank me for doing him a favor.” She looked at her watch. “I’m going to leave now. I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Say goodbye to everyone for me.” And with that, Akane set off.
Interlude: One Devil
The city formerly known as Kikio
Shakari took his usual route to work. If anyone could be called a creature of habit, it was Genichiro Shakari. He ate the same lunch at the same café everyday. He said hello to the same shop owners as he passed them everyday. He purchased the same paper from the same newsstand at the same time everyday. There had been only one time Shakari had been absent, causing the newsstand owner to wonder if the man had died. It turned out he had simply been sick. Shakari was the sort of man you could set your watch to.
Today was a typical day, purchasing lunch, saying hello, buying the paper, walking back to work. He came upon the mouth of the side street he always took to shave off five minutes of walking time. There hadn’t been a day he missed walking down that avenue, which is why it was surprising when he continued walking down the same street he was currently on, not even bothering to look at the side street. When he arrived at work his boss would laugh at him and pat him on the back, relieved the man was human. For the first time in ten years Shakari was late, and for the life of him, he could not figure out how it happened.
The street was curiously absent of any pedestrians. There should have been dozens of people using it as a short cut to get across busy streets. But on this day everyone mysteriously avoided it, though not a single one person would be able to say why. Even the windows on the buildings overlooking the street were either closed, or people just didn’t seem to look out them. If anyone had noticed, it would have appeared that there was some kind of miniature ghost town in one of the busiest cities in the world.
A lone figure stood in the middle of the street that everyone avoided. Adorned in black robes with a long black cowl, covered so not a piece of skin was showing save his eyes, he looked to the middle of the street.
“So. In future times, humanity will be able to point to this spot, and say ‘here is where the first motions of the final plan were at last begun. Actions which ended one age and ushered in another’.”
He looked to the street and gestured, causing an arcane symbol of power to ignite upon the ground.
“You believe death can keep you out of my service? Think again. I have need of you to serve me, even as you did so many years ago. Now ARISE!”
The symbol disappeared even as nothing happened.
One minute passed. Nothing
Two minutes passed. Nothing.
Three minutes passed. Cracks started to form upon the pavement.
Four minutes passed. More cracks formed, until at last a huge arm made of stone burst upwards from the asphalt, fingers stretching to feel the first rays of sunlight to fall upon them in centuries.
Part Two: The Storm Breaks
Ranma was beginning to get concerned about the new growth on his arm: Shampoo. The girl had released her grip all of three times since they set off to have some fun, and that was only because he had to go to the restroom. At least she stopped trying to snuggle against his appendage. That had really caused him to tense up when she had started doing it. It made him feel…uncomfortable.
Shampoo was giddy with emotion. It was the best day she had had in a very long time and she couldn’t have been happier. It had all gone perfectly. Ranma didn’t mind the scar, had responded to her come on, and spent the entire day with her having fun. The only small problem was his discomfort when she tried to snuggle against him. She had been oblivious to it at first, but his silences and the way his body tensed under her touch led her to believe he may have been uncomfortable with the public displays of affection. Holding his arm didn’t seem to cause the same problem though, so she settled for that while trying to come up with what to do next.
This was all new ground for her, and she was uncertain how far to go with it. Ranma could be so high-strung sometimes that she could end up accidentally scaring him. Still, if he responded to her gestures, that meant he was interested in her. As they walked she decided to lead him to the park next to the zoo. Maybe they could find a nice quiet spot out of the public eye, and then they could snuggle up against one another. If only she had time to prepare some food for a picnic. Ranma always enjoyed eating, not so different from his father in that respect. Perhaps they could do it next time; after all, there were so many dishes she could prepare for him. She began to fantasize about what they would do the next time they got together when her daydream was rudely interrupted.
Perfume leaped down from the wall she had been using as a lookout point. It had been pure luck once again that she had spotted Shampoo’s purple hair from her vantage point. She blocked the path of the duo, naginata drawn.
“Hello, Shampoo. Long time no see. I believe our last ‘discussion’ ended without a resolution.”
Ranma recognized the girl immediately and placed himself between Shampoo and Perfume. “Keep away from her, you psycho! I won’t let you lay a finger on her this time!” It didn’t matter if the Amazon was a girl or not. She was not going to get a chance to hurt Shampoo.
Perfume responded with a derisive snort. “Believe me. I’m going to lay more than a finger on her.” She evaluated Ranma’s fighting stance. He knew martial arts. Good. That meant she could dispatch him if he got in the way. “I have no desire to kill you, boy. Now stand aside!”
Perfume resisted the sudden urge to go ahead and kill the fool. “Unbelievable! Why is it everyone is so ready to throw their lives away for this backstabbing witch?!”
“Last time I heard,” Ranma said, “you were the one that stabbed her in the back.”
“WHAT!!!” Perfume started to glow dull blue.
“Shampoo told me all about what happened with you buddying up with her to use her. And now you’re trying to kill her since you lost the fight anyway. Talk about sore losers.” Ranma was a bit taken aback by the reaction from Perfume. The girl was shaking in a rage the likes of which he only saw when Akane was really steamed at him.
“You think this is about something as simple as losing the fight?! What on Earth did she tell you?!” Then it suddenly dawned on her. She began addressing Shampoo. “You didn’t tell him, did you?” Perfume calmed down, a smile starting to form on her lips. “That explains it. I should have known you wouldn’t tell. You didn’t want anyone to know what a dishonorable worm you are.” Perfume turned back to Ranma. “Would you like to know what this is really all about?”
Shampoo’s look became more intense. “<Shut up, Perfume. This is between you and me.>”
“Oh. And just why is it so important to you that he not know?” She looked more closely at Ranma, then back at Shampoo. “Do you care for him? Is that it? Is little Shampoo in love?” Contempt was laced in her voice as she examined Ranma more closely. “He doesn’t look that powerful.”
“Hey!” Ranma interrupted.
Perfume ignored the outburst. “Is he a good fighter? Must be, if you fell in love him. Handsome too. Have you bedded him yet?” She noticed Shampoo scowl in response. “Guess not. How do you think he’ll respond when I tell him?”
“<I said be quiet!>” Shampoo hissed.
“I WILL NOT!!! You are the one that set these events in motion! Now it’s time to reap the whirlwind!”
Ranma looked on, confused that the conversation had taken an unexpected turn. For some reason Perfume seemed to think he and Shampoo were an item. And why was Shampoo talking in Chinese? “What’s going on?”
“The girl that you have been so bravely defending has lied to you. Would you like to know the real reason that I’m going to kill her?”
“<I’ll shut you up!>” Shampoo moved to attack, then backed off when Perfume brought her naginata to bear.
“Unarmed? I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Ranma placed his hand on Shampoo to restrain her. “She’s trying to get you to attack.”
“Not really,” Perfume responded. “I just want her to feel some of the pain I’ve felt over the years.”
“What are you talking about? What did Shampoo ever do to you?” Ranma asked.
“Would you like to know?” Perfume hissed angrily. “Would you really like to know what your precious little angelic Shampoo did to me?” Ranma nodded. “Then let me show you!”
Perfume pulled back the hair that ordinarily hid the left half of her face. When Ranma first got a good look at her, her appearance was that of a very attractive girl with an odd hairstyle. Now he realized the cut served a very utilitarian function. There was a long, deep, vertical scar that traveled the length of her face, from the top of her hairline almost to the bottom of her jaw. It was a miracle that her eye still worked, as the scar ran right across the socket. It was an unpleasant sight.
Ranma had seen some bad wounds before, and this one, though repellent, didn’t cause him to cringe. “Yeah. That’s a nasty scar you got there. But you gotta expect stuff like that when you fight those duels with weapons.”
“YOU IDIOT!” Perfume burst out. “She didn’t do this during the match! She did it to me after!”
“That’s a lie. Shampoo would never do something like that.” He turned towards Shampoo. “Isn’t that right?”
Shampoo turned away and looked to the ground.
Tarou was taking his time walking through the park, humming some song he had heard on the radio as he gazed upon the trees and squirrels. There was plenty of time to meet Akane, and he was enjoying the smell of the bouquet he purchased for her. Everything just seemed to be falling into place for the man. Life was good. The only thing missing was a chance to beat the snot out of Saotome and his Amazon companion, and to make Happosai change his name. With any luck he would have those two goals realized very soon. As he traveled along he spotted something that convinced him this was truly his lucky day. The duo that had lucked out against him was standing off on a side path with some girl wielding a naginata. A decision had to be made. He did want to meet Akane, and taking the time out to beat the crud out of those two might make him late. She would be waiting for him to charm and impress her, and really, how could he let her down?
It was no use trying to talk himself out of it. He placed the bouquet of flowers and his jacket on a bench. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, there was plenty of time to take care of business as well as pleasure. “Saotome! You and your boyfriend are dead meat!”
Ranma turned to see his attacker from the other day approach. “I don’t got time to deal with you!” he shouted to the approaching youth.
“It won’t take long.” Tarou sneered right back.
The four warriors looked at one another, trying to figure out how the sides would be divided. Perfume spoke up first.
“I don’t care what you do with the boy, but the girl is mine.” She stated as she addressed Tarou.
Tarou considered this. Beating all three would be next to impossible in the amount of time he had. Besides, he didn’t give a damn about the pink haired Amazon. Ranma was the one that had dared to actually get lucky and beat him once. Tarou could live with pounding only him. “Deal.” He swung at Ranma causing the youth to back up.
Shampoo went to help Ranma out of reflex, when she was cut off by the naginata.
“Leave the males to play with one another, Shampoo. This is between you and me, as you mentioned earlier.”
“<You didn’t have to tell him. He didn’t have to know.>” Perfume had opened a Pandora’s Box of problems with her accusation. Shampoo needed to reassure Ranma that she wasn’t really to blame. Somehow.
“I think it’s appropriate. You’ll die with him cursing your name instead of speaking it with reverence, and that’s the way it should be. Besides, you shouldn’t blame me,” Perfume sneered. “It’s your fault for not telling him.”
Shampoo felt her rage building. Perfume was responsible for this. Things had gone form being perfect to nearly impossible to repair. “Is you going to kill me unarmed?”
“<Your Japanese is atrocious. Please keep talking in our native tongue so as not to pain my ears any longer.>” Perfume went for the single bonbori strapped to her side and tossed it to Shampoo. “<I will not butcher you without giving you a chance to defend yourself.>” She went for the sword at her opposite hip and tossed that to Shampoo as well. “<Now we duel with the weapons we used once before. Though this time the outcome will be different.>”
“<Why are you still trying to kill me? I thought you quit since you ran away after the first fight,>” Shampoo asked. “<You could have finished me then.>”
Perfume looked at Shampoo and snorted. “<To kill you, while tainted? I can think of no more useless victory.>”
“<Then why are you trying to kill me now? I’m still cursed like before.>”
“<That’s none of your damn business! Now fight.>
Their duel began.
The battle between Ranma and Tarou slowly took them away from the Amazons’ duel. Ranma attempted to keep an eye on Shampoo, but had his hands full with Tarou.
“Why don’t we do this some other time, you jerk?” Ranma yelled at Tarou. “That pink haired lunatic is trying to kill Shampoo.”
“Like I really care,” Tarou sneered back. “You afraid your boyfriend’s going to get messed up?”
“Shut up!” Ranma threw a punch that Tarou easily blocked.
“I’ve got a question for you, Saotome. Who wears the jock strap in your relationship?”
Ranma yelled and unleashed the Amaguriken, which Tarou easily avoided. He then retaliated by punching Ranma in the face.
“I’m on to that little trick, fem-boy. You’re going to have to do better than that.” Surprisingly, Ranma backed off.
“Look, pal,” Ranma growled. “I’m asking you nicely. Please let me go for now. We can do this later. I need to help Shampoo.”
Tarou considered it for a second, and then chuckled. “Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time. I don’t give a damn what happens to her. In fact, I think it’d be pretty funny if something bad does happen. The bitch deserves it for gouging my eye last time. I couldn’t see out it for a day.”
“You worthless piece of crap!” Ranma attacked with a strong series of blows, trying to end the fight quickly. The longer it took, the more likely Shampoo was going to be hurt. He could question her about what happened in the past later.
Tarou defended the attack well, only allowing Ranma to connect once.
“Hey, Ranma. Got another question for you.” Tarou connected with a glancing blow. “When you guys have sex, is it when you’re a girl and she’s a guy? I can’t tell, since she looks better-equipped in either form.” Ranma threw a poor kick, which left him wide open for another blow by Tarou. “My bet is it’s when you’re a girl. You seem like the submissive type to me.”
Ranma attacked again in a furor. Tarou was forced to go completely defensive until Ranma left another opening, allowing Tarou to connect with a savage kick to the jaw, which knocked Ranma off his feet. Just as he went in for the kill, Ranma leaped up from the prone position and nailed Tarou in the face with both feet. Both combatants stared off at one another again.
“I’m not suffering from the concussion I had in our first fight, fem-boy. One shot to the head isn’t going to stop me.”
The fight wasn’t getting Ranma anywhere. It wasn’t really that Tarou’s barbs were getting to him (much). He had to help Shampoo. If she got hurt again, or worse…
He allowed the thought to trail off. If ANYTHING happened to Shampoo while he was playing with the animal before him, there was nothing on the earth that would keep him from tearing the pantyhose-adorned boy’s head off. There had to be a way to end the fight quickly. Ranma mentally went down a list of attacks that he knew. Except for the cat fist, there was no way he could end the fight quickly, and it wasn’t as though there was an abundance of felines around. Then he remembered an obscure technique he could use, but it was a chancy thing that might not work. And even if it did, there was a good chance Ranma might not be in any shape to help Shampoo. However, it was the only thing left, so he prepared himself for some pain.
Tarou watched Saotome miss a block as a fist connected solidly with Ranma’s jaw. He was rewarded by seeing Ranma reel from the blow, leaving himself open. He hit Ranma with a cautious blow to the head. Seeing it connect fully, and Ranma in even worse shape then before, he unloaded a kick into Saotome’s ribs. Ranma hadn’t even tried to block it. Tarou knew the end was near, and unloaded a roundhouse kick fully into Saotome’s stomach again. As bad as shape Saotome was, Tarou could play with his prey. He was about to elbow him in the head when Ranma ducked under it and unloaded the Amaguriken with everything he had into Tarou’s stomach, knocking the youth backward and into the ground.
Tarou got to his feet. It seemed insane, but apparently Saotome had taken the hits just so he could get a good lick on Tarou. He paused to look at Ranma, figuring out just how much abuse his opponent had taken. It appeared that Ranma was in worse shape than Tarou, but once he regained his feet he corrected that thought. It felt like fem-boy might have knocked a few ribs loose, judging by the fire in his chest. Ranma moved to take advantage of Tarou’s condition, but then doubled over in pain himself. Tarou had to laugh at that, which made him feel like someone poured gasoline on the fire raging in his chest. The fem-boy chump had injured himself as much as he hurt Tarou. As he got up, he noticed the condition his newly purchased suit was in. A gaping hole was now located along the rear end of his pants, right where he slid along the gravel path. The suit was ruined.
Tarou gave an evil glare at his opponent. “You’re paying for this, hermaphrodite. And in more ways than just one.” Tarou lumbered over to a water fountain and ran some water. Since his suit was already ruined, there was no sense in not changing. As his mass expanded the fire in his chest got worse. Tarou accepted the pain, knowing Ranma was in just as bad of shape. And if Ranma hurt half as much as Tarou did in cursed form, then the fight was as good as over.
The technique worked just like it was supposed to. Leave yourself wide open and brace for some pain until your opponent either got cocky or went for an all out attack that would leave him open. Of course you had to be able to take the abuse before you could attack, which was the main drawback to the technique. Ranma would never have employed it against Ryouga, one or two clean shots delivered by someone that powerful would finish him, but this foe was different. He didn’t hit that hard, and was incredibly arrogant, convincing Ranma he could take a few blows if it would finish the fight. He underestimated how much damage his foe could do, but got in the blow he wanted.
Relief changed to regret when Ranma saw his opponent walk over to the water fountain and change. He attempted to rush over and stop him, but the blows he allowed to fall upon him caused white-hot shards of pain to lance through his body. If it wasn’t for his opponent’s curse, Ranma was convinced he would have won. All he needed was a few moments to recover, allowing his recuperative powers to take over. Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to get them as Tarou-bull, roared in pain from the transformation, then approached. Just as Ranma was preparing to leap out of Tarou-bull’s way, a gymnastics ball exploded in the cursed one’s face. Ranma looked up to see Kodachi, adorned in leotard, standing atop a lamppost.
“Stay away from him, beast!” Kodachi threatened, leaving Ranma mystified as to why the gymnast would come to his rescue. Still, it was going to buy him the time he needed.
Tarou-bull was stunned by the detonation in his face. He took to the air, intending to wrap Kodachi up in the lamppost she was perched upon when she threw a dozen small darts, which embedded themselves in Tarou-bull’s chest. She deftly leaped out of the way as Tarou-bull crushed the post she had been on but moments before. He turned to renew his attack, until a feeling of extreme grogginess, almost as though he was drunk, came over him. Landing, he staggered a few steps, and then crashed face first into the ground, unconscious.
The somewhat recovered Ranma looked down on Tarou’s unconscious form, the desire to pummel the arrogant youth raging in his heart, but other things needed done. Shampoo was still in danger and he had to rescue her. Even as he turned to leave, Kodachi’s voice halted him.
“I will ask you this but once, Saotome. What have you done with my Mousse?”
“I got no idea what happened to the blind panda.” Ranma did not have time for this.
Kodachi pulled a razor hoop from her leotard. “Wrong answer!” She hurled the hoop at Ranma. Just as he leaped up to avoid the ring it separated into four identical hoops, as though some lethal magicians trick.
“Oh, great! Now she’s taking tips from Mousse.” Ranma thought as he attempted to dodge.
Shampoo raised her sword to block the naginata’s strike. Successful, her own bonbori came in low in an attempt to knock out Perfume’s knee. The pink haired Amazon leaped gracefully out of the way, landing but a moment before springing in an attempt to separate Shampoo’s head from her body. The purple haired Amazon simply ducked under the blow.
“<You’re fighting much better this time, Shampoo.>” Perfume tried another swing which missed. “<But it won’t do you any good. After what happened to me, you will die!>”
Shampoo was fighting better because she felt more anger than guilt at her opponent. Perfume was responsible for trying to keep her from Ranma. Shampoo had tried to keep him from the details of her past. She was sorry. Why should she pay for her past crimes if she had repented and learned from the mistake? And why did it have to affect Ranma? He had nothing to do with her history. Why should he care? Shampoo tried to disable her opponent with a sword strike to the arm, which was blocked by the naginata, which then came in for a retaliatory strike, which was, in turn, blocked by a bonbori.
“<Why did you have to interfere, Perfume? Why couldn’t you leave well enough alone?>”
“<After what you did to me, you should have realized I would hunt you down to the ends of the Earth to seek my revenge. You should have looked over your shoulder the entire time!>” Perfume swung again, and was actually pleased by the block. This was the Shampoo she knew and fought against in times past. This was the Shampoo she trained to fight the last three years. This was the Shampoo she wanted to kill.
The battle raged on between the two. Neither gaining an advantage. There was no telling how long the fight would have lasted, since a noise caught Perfume’s attention.
She looked to the skies at the sound of the thunder. Dark clouds billowed in from high overhead. “<NO! The weatherman said it would be clear all day.>”
“<That’s Nerima for you. I’d tell you to get used to it if you were staying.>” Shampoo responded, more than a little confused by her opponent’s reaction. More surprises were in store as Perfume gained what was clearly a panicked expression.
“<There’s no more time,>” she said to herself as she held the naginata poised in front of her. “< Final Attack: WHIRLING DERVISH!!!”>
Shampoo watched as the naginata in front of her began spinning around with the speed of a propeller. The purple haired Amazon had only a moment to react as Perfume swung it back and forth, knocking the sword out of Shampoo’s hand.
“<It’s a modified Amaguriken,>” Shampoo thought to herself. She gave ground as the polearm came in close to her person, Perfume continuing to swing it back and forth while still rotating it in her hands. Shampoo was a bit confused by the nature of the attack. “<There’s no way she can keep up that level of speed. She’ll be exhausted soon.>” Shampoo realized all she had to do was avoid the spinning polearm a little bit longer, then she could finish off her exhausted opponent with ease. That was assuming she could keep from being sliced into briquettes in the meantime, though why Perfume would go for an all-out attack this early in the fight made no sense.
Shampoo continued to stay in a total defensive posture, when fate took an unpleasant turn. Her foot slipped on a rock as she retreated, causing her to crash to the ground and end up on her back. Perfume discontinued her special attack and switched her grip on the naginata for an overhand thrust, allowing the blade to descend towards Shampoo’s skull. The purple haired Amazon barely got her head out of the way. A second strike garnered the same results.
Shampoo concentrated fully on the flashing blade of the polearm as it descended towards her skull yet again. With each thrust she positioned her body so she could regain her feet. All it would take was one more miss and she would be in position. She watched the long weapon ascend for one more blow, when she felt the first raindrops fall, changing her to Shampoo-kun. The added height and power would make things easier in regaining his foothold. He waited a moment as the sharpened end of the polearm began to descend… straight into the ground as Perfume lost her grip on the weapon. Shampoo-kun wasted no time in rolling to his feet to confront the large sloth in front of him.
The large sloth! He stared at it more closely, observing the shredded clothes and weapons on the ground. “<You fell into Shutaniichuan, and have the nerve to criticize me for going to Jusenkyou?>”
The sloth growled angrily at Shampoo-kun and lumbered forth. He simply leaped back fifteen feet, giving him about five minutes breathing room. Apparently the saying “slothlike speed” was well earned. Shampoo-kun noticed the downpour stopped as quickly as it arrived. VERY typical Nerima weather. He turned to the sloth. “<Stay here while I get some hot water.>” and ran off.
Akane stood in front of the restaurant, tapping her foot impatiently. Tarou did say four o’clock, and it was four-ten now. If he was standing her up, the least he could do was call. Typical of a man. They said one thing and did another. Akane didn’t know why she put up with any of them. At any rate, she would give Tarou a piece of her mind, if he were ever unfortunate enough to cross paths with her again. Maybe she would shove him in front of a train.
It took Shampoo-kun a few moments to recognize where he was in relation to the zoo. This was the same spot where Ranma first fought Ryouga. That struck another memory. Shampoo-kun remembered where to get some hot water, assuming the pandas were still located in the same pen. He jumped over the wall into the panda pen and saw what he was looking for. The teapot and burner Mousse had left when he was trapped in the zoo. Not only that, but an espresso machine had been added to the pen as well.
“I need borrow this,” Shampoo-kun said as he grabbed the teapot with hot water in it. The pandas simply shrugged and allowed him to take it away.
Shampoo used some of the hot water on herself before she returned to see Perfume-sloth walking around trying to chase after her. Shampoo noticed Ranma-chan, appearing the worse for wear, running along a path looking for her. Upon seeing the Amazon, Ranma-chan waved.
“You all right?” She asked as Shampoo nodded in response. “Where’s Perfume?” The Amazon pointed to the irate sloth. “You’ve got to be kidding.” One look told Ranma-chan Shampoo wasn’t joking.
“Now we find out what going on with Perfume.” Shampoo poured the hot water over Ranma first, then Perfume. The naked girl sat there, covering herself up as best she could.
“Ranma no look!” Shampoo admonished the boy as she grabbed a couple of newspapers from out of a trashcan to give to Perfume. The pink haired Amazon stared angrily at Shampoo as she tried to cover herself up as best she could.
“What going on Perfume? Why you complain about me going to Jusenkyou when you turn into sloth?”
Perfume shook in fury. “You dumb bitch! I didn’t have this damn curse until I met you!”
Shampoo shook her head. “Shampoo not understand. How I give you curse?”
“Because I went to Jusenkyou after our fight!”
Shampoo was still horribly confused. “Why?”
Tears formed in Perfume’s eyes. “Because I was trying to find some Nyanniichuan for you!”
Both Shampoo and Ranma were visibly stunned by that revelation.
Perfume continued, “I wanted to cure you so I could kill you! Somehow I tripped and fell into spring of drowned sloth. Now my life is doubly ruined, thanks to you!” Perfume’s temper finally got the better of her. “I”LL KILL YOU!!!” And with that Perfume leaped forward to try to strangle Shampoo. She never got a chance to put her hands around Shampoo’s throat as a blow to the head from a bonbori knocked out the pink haired Amazon.
Ranma looked down at Perfume’s unconscious form. “Let’s get some water and throw her in a cage in the zoo.”
“Ranma. That not work on Mousse,” Shampoo reminded him.
“Yeah. But she’s different,” Ranma responded. “She doesn’t have any way to hide stuff that can heat up water. We’ll just warn the zookeepers she’s allergic to hot liquids. That she could keep her from getting any. Let’s get going.”
The two of them used some cold water and hauled Perfume-sloth into the zoo, “explaining” the situation to the zookeepers. After the matter was taken care of, the duo walked back to the park. The silence between them was palpable; neither wanting to ask or answer the question was on their minds. Ranma finally found the courage to inquire.
“Did you do it?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Shampoo,” Ranma growled. “Did you cut her like that after the duel?”
Shampoo suddenly found her mouth dry. Swallowing became an impossibility, as her throat constricted in fear. She attempted to get some moisture back into her mouth, trying to answer, but words still failed her.
“I… I…” was all she could stutter out.
Ranma looked at her in shock. “You did, didn’t you?”
Panic crept into Shampoo’s chest as she suddenly found her voice. “Ranma, you have to understand. Shampoo… I feel betrayed. Perfume was best friend. Was only friend. I was alone until Perfume come into life. Then she challenge Shampoo to fight. You not know how that feel. Shampoo have no sleep for three days before match. Not think straight.” Shampoo could feel her heart breaking when Ranma spoke, the sound of betrayal in his voice.
“That don’t matter. There’s no excuse for…” he paused, “for maiming someone like that.”
“Shampoo know.” In the back of her mind she realized that her improvement in Japanese was falling to the wayside as nerves became more and more shot. “Shampoo realize after match Perfume told truth. All it true. Perfume say she want to be matriarch from first day Shampoo meet. Should have known she would challenge. Shampoo was wrong. But Perfume went to doctor’s, then leave village before could apologize.”
Ranma wore a pained expression. “If you really felt sorry, you would have told me. When you were laid up in the hospital you would have told me the truth. Instead you lied to me. Again.”
Shampoo’s voice started to break up. “Sh… Shampoo not lie.”
“The hell you didn’t!” He shouted at her. “It’s just like that thing with the old ghoul. You knew why Perfume was really after you, but you hid it, hoping I wouldn’t find out. Well, now I know.” Ranma turned to leave.
She grabbed onto his arm out of desperation, preventing him from leaving. “Shampoo sorry! Does Ranma no understand? Shampoo nearly let Perfume kill her because felt so ashamed! Does that no mean anything?”
“I…” He looked her into her green eyes, shoulders slumping. “Look. I won’t let anyone hurt you. But after what you’ve pulled…” he trailed off, not knowing what to say. There were so many conflicting emotions within him. Betrayal, anger, pity, all ran through him simultaneously. He thought he understood Shampoo, but to have his image of her so thoroughly shattered, he wasn’t sure how to react. The thing he needed above all else was time away from her. To think things through. He jerked his arm out of her hand and turned to leave again.
“NO! Please believe! Ranma have to believe!” She went down to her knees, sobbing. Why did this have to happen to her? She had everything when the day began, and it was all gone. Obliterated. Destroyed. Desperation began to control her thoughts. There had to be some way to make him change his mind. She couldn’t let him just walk away hating her. She couldn’t live with his hatred. Better to have let Perfume kill her if it came to that. There had to be something she could do.
That was when she remembered one way of making him change his mind. One way of making him forget these problems. Then things could go back to normal, just like they were before Perfume told him what had happened. They were the only two who knew what occurred today. No one around the household would be the wiser. She could cradle herself under his arm again, feeling the warmth of his body next to hers. That was what she longed for. She would know happiness instead of the misery she now suffered from. After all, it would be for the best, and it would be easy to do.
She took notice of the terrible shape Ranma was in from his two fights. He was much worse off than her, and they were close in abilities to begin with. Not only that, his back was already to her, not as though he would suspect anything anyway. He would have no defense against it. She had never told him about the technique, never seeing any reason to since he wouldn’t ever use it. Looking at his form made it clear he was obviously almost as miserable as she was. He wanted to be happy just like her. Deep down inside he would thank her for removing the terrible burden his recently acquired knowledge gave him.
Having decided on the course of action, Shampoo stopped sobbing and began to follow Ranma, quickly closing the distance between the two. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t even hear her approach. The Xi Fa Xiang Gao was just the thing he needed.
The purple haired Amazon pulled out a bottle of shampoo numbered 110 and quietly stalked closer to Ranma.
Much later, Ranma entered the Tendo Dojo. He didn’t announce his presence with his usual gusto, but entered quietly instead. Akane spotted him and immediately noticed the blank look etched on his face. That was cause for concern. The only time she had seen a vacant look on his features was when The Director had repeatedly shocked him.
“What’s wrong, Ranma?” She didn’t even try to hide the worry in her voice.
He stared at her vacantly. “I… I can’t…”
She began to really worry. Something seemed to be wrong with the boy. “You can’t what?”
He sat down as his expression went from vacant to frustrated. “I can’t tell you.”
Akane grew even more concerned, “Why? Did you forget something?”
He stared at her face, a pleading look now on his own.
“I only wish I could.”
Shampoo lay in a huddled mass, curled into a fetal position. Her form wracked with sobs as she lay there, crying and shaking uncontrollably. She opened one tear filled eye to look out at the world around her. It was all so different now. There was nothing in it for her, just pain and misery. And she could have changed it. She could have made it all right.
It had been a near thing. She had positioned herself behind Ranma, shampoo raised above his head. The boy must have been really out of it if his normal danger sense was that far out of commission. All it would take was a quick scrubbing and blow dry and he would remember nothing except a clean and refreshed feeling. It would only take a matter of seconds to set everything right. She moved forward to pour the first bit of liquid on his hair and…
Turned and ran, as far and as fast as she could. No conscious thought lay behind the decision, as she speeded through the park. There was no way to see where exactly she was going. Her eyes watered too much to see anything. After an unknown distance she left the path and ran into some bushes, hiding away from the prying eyes of the world.
She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t violate him that way, even if it was for his own good. No, for their own good. God help her, she wanted to do it, but deep down inside she knew it would mean betraying him again. Yet another lie. No matter what would happen in the future, even if he didn’t remember, she would. She would always know. There would never be a time she could look at him without knowing she was the one that had defiled his memory, his very mind. There was no way she could live with that knowledge. Better to allow him to hate her than for her to hate herself, no matter how hard it would be. Ranma deserved to make that choice. It just wasn’t right that it should hurt this much.
Cologne let out an exasperated sigh, for the third time in the last ten minutes. Why must incompetents, buffoons, and fools surround her? Apparently, the children had engaged in some kind of foolish endeavor and ended up working at cross-purposes. First Kodachi had returned, looking the worse for wear after an encounter with Ranma. Then the Black Rose discovered Mousse’s true whereabouts and confronted Tarou with the information upon his return. He, in turn, accused of her of sabotaging him because of what he had done earlier. This confused Kodachi, until an explanation in the form of cold water was used by Tarou on himself. Needless to say, conditions deteriorated from there, as the duo began to fight. Naturally, Kodachi’s Ranma Eating Plant entered the fray in an attempt to defend its mistress. The fight escalated to a point where the three would have leveled the greenhouse, as well as a good section of Nerima, if the matriarch hadn’t stepped in. She was forced to employ a Hiryuu Shouten Ha to settle matters, leaving all three in a twisted heap. The only redeeming thing was that Mousse should be arriving at his destination any day. Now if only he didn’t screw that up, things might start taking a turn for the better.
Mousse burst through the trees and finally set his eyes on his final destination. He had at long last found it. Now all had to do make sure he found the right one. If he got the wrong one, it would just complicate matters further. That would be all he needed. After getting the prize, he could then rescue Shampoo from both Ranma and her great grandmother. Oh, what a surprise the old ghoul was in for when he made his move. She thought he was some mindless fool that would beg and grovel before her. She always underestimated him; else she would have encouraged Shampoo to marry him, instead of constantly poisoning his love’s mind against him. It didn’t matter, Shampoo would be too smart for them, and come to the realization he was the only one for her, not the damnable Saotome. All it would take is a little help from the magic contained here.
He took in a deep breath once again as he gazed out at the majestic scene before him. From this vantage point it looked very beautiful. One didn’t know just how dangerous the place was from this high up. He gazed down at the poles that adorned each pool, in this land of hundreds of springs, Jusenkyou.
To be continued.
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