Shinya cleaned out the yak cage next. Oh, what joy his job had become, cleaning out animal pens for a living. This was so beneath him. All he ever wanted to do was conquer the world. At first he tried it as a criminal mastermind. They said he was too stupid. So he tried doing it as a charismatic leader. They said he had the charisma of a village idiot. Deciding he had too much of a moral code to become a politician, he traveled to America and attempted to go through the ranks as a flunky by joining a henchmen academy, but the Taskmaster said he had no talent to even be that. So he went back home and took this job, silently praying he’d be spilled with some toxic chemicals or come across a magic artifact to give him super powers.
He silently decided it was time for lunch, sat down, and pulled out a thermos of soup. Just as he was about to begin, the sloth in the cage he was next to began growling and shaking its bars. “What you want, boy?” The sloth became more agitated and reached its paw forward towards the thermos.
“Oh. You smell the food and are hungry.” He began speaking more slowly, as though talking to a child. “Sorry. That’s my dinner.”
The sloth continued to reach forward, making odd gestures with its paws. Shinya moved farther away and sighed, “You’re not allowed to have hot liquids, though they didn’t tell me why.” He snickered, “Maybe you’re really some kind of weird sloth they experimented on to give powers beyond that of an average sloth.”
The sloth nodded its head, causing Shinya to jump up. “By the Kami! You do understand!” The sloth nodded again. “I knew Dr. Moreau was up to something. Does hot soup give you your super powers?” The sloth considered this, and then nodded its head. “Well, here you go.” He handed it the soup, which it promptly dumped on its head, triggering the change.
“WOW! You’re a not a sloth, you’re a genie,” Shinya stated, dumbfounded.
The naked pink haired girl curled her finger and motioned for him. “Come closer and let me give you your wish.”
He did as he was bid.
Chapter 15: Sins Of The Past III
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 we have a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. (So Ranma-chan= female Ranma. Shampoo-kun= male Shampoo. Enjoy.) Shampoo elected to travel to Japan with Ranma and accidentally got engaged to Kasumi. Once that was cleared up, Ranma became engaged to Akane. On the first day of school water and confusion mixed leaving everyone there believing Shampoo-kun is Ranma and Ranma-chan is Shampoo. Eventually it was learned that if an Amazon becomes male it is a crime by the tribal laws. Cologne wants to cure Shampoo, or barring that, take her to China for trial and execution. Mousse went to Jusenkyou and is on his way back with a plan of his own, and Perfume, an old rival of Shampoo’s, managed to track her down and has been trying to kill her to settle an old score. Twice they fought. The first time Shampoo lost and revealed her curse. Perfume tried to cure her to kill her but ended up getting cursed with the Spring of Drowned Sloth instead and was defeated by Shampoo, then thrown in a zoo to keep her out of the way. During the fight it was revealed Shampoo willingly maimed Perfume in the past, which alienated Ranma from her. Now Perfume wants to settle things once and for all…
Writer’s note: <> Denotes Chinese
** Indicates Panda “sign” language
Part 1: To The Finish
Kia looked down at the piece of paper once again, her hands shaking in anticipation. The name on the paper matched the sign on the side of the wall. Tendo Dojo. The private detective had done his job well. Now, after so many years of searching, she was finally going to meet him. Taking one last deep breath to calm herself, she stepped forward and knocked on the door. After a few moments, it was opened by Nabiki, who looked over the visitor and began sizing her up like a hungry tiger smelling a piece of raw meat.
“Can I ask what business you have here?” Nabiki asked.
“I’m here to meet,” The girl blushed. “Ranma Saotome.”
Nabiki looked her over once again, as though evaluating her, then shouted, “RANMA! FIANCÉE!!!”
Kia heard an exasperated voice from within say, “Not another one,” then heard a splash of water. She was about to ask Nabiki how she knew she was Ranma’s fiancée, when a short, wet, red-haired girl came to the door.
“Hi, there. I’m Ranma Saotome.”
Kia looked downfallen. “I was looking for a boy named Ranma Saotome.” She should have known it was too easy. The investigator made a mistake and located a girl that had the same name.
“And you’re engaged to him because of his father, Genma, right?” Ranma-chan asked.
The information was correct, leaving Kia nothing to do but nod in response. Something very odd was going on here.
“Well, you aren’t the only one. Pop had a bad tendency to engage his only child to anything on two feet and with a plate of food. He never considered how women would feel marrying someone like me.” Ranma-chan undid her shirt just enough to show off the top of her breasts. “I don’t think it would work out, y’know?”
Kia could do nothing but agree. She was not going to marry a woman, no matter what her father had agreed to, and she had so looked forward to getting married. With a depressed sigh she turned to depart when Ranma-chan spoke up.
“You look kind of upset. Would you like to get rid of some of those frustrations by beating up Pop?” Ranma-chan offered.
A wicked smile formed on Kia’s lips. Now THAT would make her feel better, and she let Ranma-chan know.
“Great! Follow me.” Ranma-chan grinned then yelled into the house. “POP! You have a visitor.”
Ranma used the hot water to change himself back as he looked at his father’s burned carcass. “Serves you right for engaging me to the inheritor of the School of Martial Arts Firebreathing,” Ranma reprimanded.
“A… A… A…” Genma mumbled.
“What are you trying to say, Pop?”
“A… A… Aloe,” he managed to get out.
“Forget it. You’re on your own, old man,” Ranma growled.
Nabiki looked on, mildly curious. “How many does that make this month?” she asked Akane.
“Three.” Her sister answered.
“Mr. Saotome certainly met a lot of people desperate to marry off their daughters.” Kasumi added.
“You do realize Daddy falls under that category,” Nabiki said, “don’t you, Sis?”
“Oh. You’re right,” Kasumi realized.
Ranma’s joy at his father’s punishment became depression as he picked himself up and headed out the door. “I’m going for a walk.”
The Tendo sisters observed Ranma’s depressed form leave the dojo and go outside. After several moments, Shampoo peeked her head from around a corner and scanned the room.
“He’s gone,” Nabiki said. “It’s safe to come out now.”
Shampoo came fully into the room with the same look of depression Ranma had on earlier. “Shampoo go out now. Bye bye.” And headed out the door as well.
Nabiki shook her head. “This place is like a mausoleum, thanks to those two.”
Kasumi began looking depressed, too. “I hope whatever Ranma did to her, he apologizes for it soon.”
“Wait a minute!” Akane suddenly became defensive. “Why are you blaming Ranma?”
“That would probably be because he’s usually to blame. You do it most of the time.” Nabiki interjected.
“Well, Shampoo screws up just as much,” Akane said. “I think it’s probably her fault.”
It was Kasumi’s turn to leap to the defense. “Oh, no. I doubt that. I’m certain it’s all Ranma’s fault. Shampoo wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.”
“Well, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her either, and why are you sticking a microphone in my face?” Akane asked as she turned to Nabiki.
Nabiki smiled as she left the microphone right where it was. “This is a first. You are coming to Ranma’s defense and blaming someone else. No one’s going to believe it unless I get it on tape.”
“I am not that bad. I only blame Ranma when it’s his fault,” Akane retorted.
“Which, if I recall correctly, would be all the time,” Nabiki answered back.
Akane just through up her hands in disgust. She did not blame Ranma for everything, and she was especially certain that Shampoo must have done something, else she wouldn’t be depressed too.
The stewardesses looked down the aisle at the two unusual occupants now seated in row A12. Both were veterans of the airlines, having had to deal with two terrorist hijackings, one minor mid-air collision, and a losing Super Bowl team. Despite that, the two passengers were by far the most unusual they ever had.
“I’m kind of at a loss here. How should we treat them?” The first stewardess asked her partner.
“I’m not sure. Do we have any bamboo or bananas?” Her partner responded.
Mousse-panda looked curiously at his seating companions. It took him two adjustments to his glasses to realize the person next to him had gone quiet because she had turned into an animal at the same time he did, when they were accidentally splashed with the cold water. Mousse-panda was more than a little at a loss. What did one say to a gorilla wearing a red headband and carrying a goldfish in a bowl on its lap?
*So, why did you decided to travel to Jusenkyou?* Mousse-panda asked with his sign.
The gorilla grumbled something in reply.
“What did she say?” The blonde woman, the one that had spilled the water and had been traveling with the now changed woman, asked Mousse-panda.
*She said, “It was my stupid partner’s idea.”* Mousse-panda translated.
“Could you ask her when she’s going to get off of me?” The blonde was currently underneath the irate gorilla, the four hundred pounds of simian using the girl as an extra seat cushion.
The gorilla grumbled again.
*She said you can ask her questions directly. She still understands you. And her answer is whenever she gets cured .*
“That might not happen too soon.” The blond woman began to sniffle, as she was about to cry. The gorilla mumbled something else and indicated something about the goldfish in the fishbowl.
*She said that isn’t going to work this time. She also wants to know how you’re going to explain to Ayeka about what happened to her sister.*
The blonde looked upwards toward her partner. “Why should I explain?”
The gorilla grumbled and Mousse-panda translated. *Because it’s your fault. You’re the one that wanted to go to China and take Sasami along.*
The blond considered this. “Ayeka might not take the news too well. Are you going to protect me?” she asked the gorilla.
The gorilla growled a bit longer this time. *If you mean protect in the sense that she is going to help Ayeka kill you, then the answer is yes. If you mean protect as in keep you from harm, then the answer is no.*
“WAAAAAA!!! I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.” The blonde began to cry in earnest. Somehow, the goldfish in the bowl seemed to give a sad look towards her then gave one to the gorilla. It took a while, but the gorilla’s scowl softened. She then grumbled for Mousse-panda to translate once again.
*She said she’ll try to help explain things, but only because Sasami wants it that way.*
The blonde cheered up at that, then addressed the gorilla directly. “You know, that curse isn’t so bad.”
The gorilla shot up an eyebrow at that one. She grunted again as Mousse-panda held up his sign. *She wants to know what that’s supposed to mean, and so do I.*
“Well,” the blonde said thoughtfully, “this will help us with undercover work. We can disguise ourselves as circus performers. See, it’s actually a good thing you got that curse. All we need is a cage to put you in.”
The smile she gave her simian partner was the final straw as the gorilla snapped. She gave the bowl to Mousse-panda to hold and picked up the blonde, shaking her back and forth like a rag doll while roaring and bearing her teeth.
Mousse-panda translated once again. *She said “DIE, MIHOSHI!!!”* He observed Mihoshi’s predicament and held up another sign. *If you hadn’t figured that out by now.*
One of the stewardesses made the save by serving bananas and bamboo. Hunger overtook Kiyone-gorilla as she dropped Mihoshi and grabbed a couple of bananas. Mousse-panda did likewise, and snacked on some bamboo, pleased that there were people in the world who had lives almost as screwed up as his.
Ranma walked down the street to Uk-Chan’s. Upon arriving outside the restaurant he saw several trashcan-like objects in various states of destruction, along with some oddly shaped burn marks. Ukyou was currently working on cleaning one out of the odd organic substance that was inside the trashcans.
“What’s going on Ucchan?”
She looked up from her work to spot Ranma. “Oh, you mean the mess. Well, some old foes of Ryouga’s dropped by. I think he fought them back when he was traveling across time and space. He called them Daleks or some such.”
Ranma sadly shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re encouraging him and his delusions. C’mon, going around the universe in a police call box? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“But Tsubasa backs up the story,” Ukyou defended, “and you know how well the two of them get along. Besides, how else do you explain these things showing up?”
Ranma shrugged. If Ucchan wanted to believe it, fine. “What are you doin’ with them anyway?”
“I think they’ll make good flowerpots. I’m having Ryouga buy some plants.”
“On his own?” Ranma asked.
“I didn’t say it was a good idea. Besides, if he wanders off too far, all he has to do is change himself into a bat.” Ryouga seemed to be adjusting to his curse and used his homing abilities with increasing frequency. Ukyou had no complaints since that meant he was around longer. She was about to return to cleaning when she remembered something. “I got good news for you. Remember the jerk that turns into a bull?”
“Could hardly forget him,” Ranma responded. “Why?”
“He came by the restaurant today.”
Ranma clenched his fist. “If he tries to hurt you again…”
Ukyou cut him before he could begin his rant. “There was no trouble. He didn’t even recognize me without my school uniform. Anyway, he came by for some okonomiyaki.”
“And?” Ranma wondered where this was leading.
“I gave him one of my special recipes.”
“How special?” Ranma’s curiosity was piqued.
“Very special. It’s made with the strongest…”
Back at the Black Rose’s Floral Shoppe, Cologne and Kodachi were in a deep conversation with one another when the sound of a toilet flushing came to their attention. They saw Tarou leave one of the restrooms with a look of pure relief on his face. It didn’t last long as the boy suddenly gained a troubled look and rushed back into the lavatory.
“Didn’t he just do that ten minutes ago?” Cologne asked her companion.
“And twenty minutes before that,” Kodachi responded. “Each time he was in there for quite a while.”
Cologne looked at her suspiciously. “Did you…?”
Kodachi gave her an innocent stare. “Moi? Of course not.” Cologne gave her an incredulous look. “Not that I’m beyond such things. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to do something like that. It must be something he ate.” Kodachi smiled to herself. Tarou deserved whatever happened to him.
“I didn’t know they made industrial strength laxatives,” Ranma commented. Ukyou certainly made some interesting dishes for those that managed to get on her bad side, making Ranma relieved that she was an ally and not an enemy.
“He had it coming. Now, why did you come here?” Ukyou asked.
“How do you know I’m here for something? Can’t a guy visit a friend without needing something?” Ranma’s voice gave away just how defensive he was.
Ukyou debated how long she would let him get away with the attempted self-deception. Not long at all. “That look on your face tells me you’re here for something. There’s nothing wrong with that. I want you to come to me if you need help.” Ukyou indicated the two should go into Uk-Chan’s to make themselves comfortable. “So, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I kinda want to ask your opinion on something,” Ranma sighed, “When do you know if you can trust someone?”
Ukyou looked at Ranma incredulously and began to laugh, not a deep humorous laugh but more like one of disbelief. “You’re asking me about when you can trust someone?”
Ranma got the feeling he was being laughed at. “What’s so funny?”
Ukyou discontinued her laugh and straightened up. “Ranchan, I’m not the sort of person you should be asking about trust. It’s been years since I’ve been able to trust anyone. After you left me, I was very hurt. I put all my faith in you, and it seemed like, at the time, you abandoned me. For years I put a wall around myself, never letting anyone in. I may have had acquaintances, but no real friends. It wasn’t just to keep my real sex secret, it was also so I didn’t run the risk of having someone hurt me some more.”
“But you have friends now,” Ranma burst out. “Me and Akane, and even Ryouga. You’re even getting along better with,” his voice quieted some, “Shampoo.”
“I’m just starting to trust people again. It takes time.”
Ranma looked down at the floor. “I didn’t realize how much I screwed up your life. I’m sorry.”
The conversation was taking a turn Ukyou didn’t want it to go down. “I forgave you a long time ago, and it’s not like it was your fault anyway.” Ukyou calmed him. “So don’t go and get all depressed on me now. Besides, I haven’t seen you smile in weeks.”
“I’ve smiled.” He suddenly got defensive.
“No, you haven’t. So, what happened between you and Shampoo?”
Ranma switched from defensiveness to nervousness. “W… what do you mean?”
Ukyou seriously considered smacking him in the head with her spatula. Just how dense did he think she was, anyway? “It’s obvious. You two used to be inseparable, now you won’t even walk on the same street if you can help it. Something must have happened between you guys. Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“It’s just that,” he began, “I used to think I knew her, but now… I’m not so sure. I don’t know what to think.”
“You might be judging her a bit harshly. Why don’t you tell me what she did?” Ukyou asked.
“I can’t. If she wants to tell you, fine, but I can’t do it.”
Ukyou let out a sigh. If he wasn’t going to open up to her there was no chance Shampoo was going to, and that meant her ability to help in this situation was limited. She had to laugh at how much things had changed in the last few weeks. If Ranma had come to her before, she would have told him how much she approved of his treatment of Shampoo and of how untrustworthy the Amazon was, trying to drive a wedge between them. Now things were different. She certainly did not trust Shampoo wholeheartedly, but she was not going to blindly accuse the Amazon of things she might not be responsible for. Ukyou’s viewpoint of the Shampoo had changed considerably. Maybe she was not a backstabbing witch after all. Still, she might have hurt Ranma, which put Shampoo on very shaky ground indeed, but Ukyou was going to give her benefit of the doubt.
She had to smile at that. She was giving someone a chance based on faith, even though Ukyou did not completely trust the Amazon. Obviously the spatula-wielding chef was becoming a better person. Now, if only a certain someone felt the same way…
Ukyou turned back to the matter at hand. “Well then, I can’t really give you much advice. The best thing I can tell you is, it’s not wise to come to a decision without understanding both sides of the problem. That’s happened to me, and you know the result.”
Ranma returned her knowing stare with one of his own, and then began looking depressed again. Ukyou decided to give him a little reassurance by walking up to Ranma and hugging him. “No matter what happens, you’ll always have ‘good ole’ Ucchan’ to back you up. So no long faces around me. Got it?” He smiled and nodded his head. “Good.” And with that she gave him a light peck on the cheek, causing him to blush. She smiled at him for a moment, enjoying his embarrassment. “Hey, pervert! Don’t get too excited by that,” and gave him a playful hit in the stomach. Teasing Ranma could be such fun. He seemed in much higher spirits as he left the restaurant.
Ryouga managed to return to Uk-Chan’s without resorting to a transformation. Of course he was actually trying to find the floral shop down the street at the time, but he could use his home as a point of reference. Feeling a little hungry after the fight and walking around in a big circle, he decided to grab a bite to eat. He walked up to the restaurant and was about to enter when he peeked around the door. He quickly ducked back to see Ranma and Ukyou embracing. Worse, he then saw Ukyou kissing Ranma. Ryouga, with sorrow in his heart, quickly turned and ran up the street, silently berating himself. He should have known. He had been gone too long on his stupid quest and Ukyou had fallen for someone else. Ranma, of all people. Ryouga made certain he was well out of eyesight of Uk-Chan’s before he began to walk more slowly, everyone giving the depressed boy a wide berth.
What was there for him now? He had decided to give peace a chance and look at what had happened to him. He was alone again, as always. And it was all Ranma’s fault. It was always Ranma’s fault!
Happosai read over the scroll the construction worker gave him. The technique on it would not do the master any good; he was just too much of a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Too bad. The Shi Shi Houkoudan sounded like such a promising technique, too. Just as he was about to crumple up the paper he spotted Ryouga, still wallowing in his pit of depression. The youth’s presence brought a smile to the old pervert’s lips.
“You there!” Happosai grabbed Ryouga’s attention. “You’re Ryouga Hibiki, aren’t you?”
Ryouga looked at him suspiciously. “Yeah! So what?”
Happosai put on his wise old mentor act for Ryouga. “It’s my understanding you have some sort of grudge against Ranma. Isn’t that right?”
Happosai’s timing couldn’t have been better. Ryouga’s hatred was at an all time high. “You got that right. He’s taken everything from me, my entire life!”
“Well it just so happens he’s been giving me a difficult time too. Why don’t we team up together to teach that worthless ingrate a lesson?”
Nothing could have pleased Ryouga more. “What do you want me to do?”
Happosai smiled, he had the hook and the line. Now all he needed was the sinker. “I’ll teach you a new technique that will take care of Ranma. All you have to do is promise me you’ll beat him.”
That was no problem at all. He would have volunteered to jump into a pit of molten lava if it meant getting revenge on Ranma, so he quickly agreed.
Ranma traveled back to the dojo just as depressed as when he left. Ukyou had given him a lot to think about. Maybe he was judging Shampoo a bit harshly. He remembered the first time Shampoo talked about Perfume, the pain in her voice evident as she told the tale. It just seemed like she overreacted. No, she had overreacted. There was no real excuse for what she had done. Still, to alienate her the way he had been seemed a bit harsh, not that she had tried to get in his way the last few weeks. If only things could go back to the way they were everyone would be so much better off. If only he had not found out the truth.
He let out a sigh. It was not just what she had done to Perfume that hurt him. There was also the fact that she had lied to him. Maybe not directly, but by omission, which amounted to the same thing. She had promised him no more lies, and she had done it anyway. That hurt as much as learning what Shampoo had done, maybe even more. It all came down to trust. Once he became old enough he learned what living with his father was really like. The old man certainly could not be trusted. He was a liar and a thief, swindling and cheating anyone he could to make life easier for himself. Ranma still did not understand why he hadn’t turned out more like his father, the only role model he ever had, but at least he was better than the old man. He could take consolation in that.
So when he met Shampoo, things changed for him. Ukyou was not the only person who had not opened up to anyone in a long time. It had been years since Ranma had hung around anyone long enough to confide in them. His father had really kept their feet on the road, and the longer they journeyed, the less time Ranma had to meet people. Then came Jusenkyou, the curse, and Shampoo.
Shampoo had been a strange person to be around. Never in his life had he met a girl that much into martial arts, almost as much as him. Not only that, she was good too, not to mention a little vicious. He still remembered the first time they had sparred. It had started out easily enough, but quickly escalated in intensity when Ranma realized she was good enough to really press him. When Shampoo realized she was starting to lose, she went all-out, nearly crushing Ranma’s skull with her bonbori. He had to jump up into a tree and reassure her it was just a sparring match. A difficult task, given her command of Japanese at that point. He still remembered the suspicious glare he received when he successfully explained it to her. She had seemed convinced he was up to something else.
It had not taken much longer after that when the two of them where able to train without the suspicion. Shampoo’s language skills picked up a little bit and the two of them could communicate well enough, and the Lord only knew how much her presence had helped Ranma and his father. Shampoo was actually able to talk with the locals and could cook up a storm. He remembered showing her his gratitude at being spared his father’s awful cooking. Genma appreciated it too, putting on close to ten pounds the fat man could not afford to gain.
It was so much easier back then. Shampoo was as fascinated by the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts as much as Ranma was in the Amazon Techniques. The two of them spent hours teaching one another their respective styles. They were like children with new toys, always eager to try them out on one another. More than a few bandages were used because of their enthusiasm at learning a new technique or pattern of attacks. That was when the first bonds of friendship were formed, in the midst of sweat and blood. Afterwards the duo got along well. Good enough to be called friends. Good friends. Shampoo was probably the first real friend Ranma had had in years.
And now that friendship might be over.
Ranma had no idea of what to do now. If only things could go back to that simpler time. No fiancées coming out of the woodwork. No enemies or old ghouls wanting to pound on Ranma or capture Shampoo. Just journeying across the world with only one goal in mind: learning martial arts. Now everything was different, complicated, and miserable. Ranma was learning one very important lesson in life. You can never go back.
He entered the Tendo house just in time for dinner. A Kasumi-made meal, fortunately. Shampoo was absent from the table, as usual. Just as Ranma was about to dig in he noticed everyone staring at something. Him.
He put his chopsticks down as his headache started, knowing what was coming next. “What did I do now?” Everyone blamed him for everything, except for the recent famine in Africa, and that was only a matter of time.
Kasumi answered first. “Shampoo hasn’t come back yet. We thought you might know where she is.”
“Haven’t seen her all day,” Ranma answered. “Maybe she lost track of the time.”
Genma cleared his throat. “Ranma. I have to ask you something.”
Genma leaned in closer and began whispering. “I couldn’t help but notice some tension between you and Shampoo, and I think I know what it is. I had a similar problem when I was your age.” Genma gained a serious look on his face, surprising Ranma. “You are my son, so I have to ask this question, and I want you to tell me the truth.”
“What is it Pop?”
Genma stared deep into Ranma’s eyes. “Did you sleep with her?”
“WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?!!!” Ranma exploded on his father. He picked him up by the collar of his gi and threw him into the pond.
“Well, it would explain the tension between the two of you,” Genma said as he picked himself up out of the pond. “I take it that’s a no.”
“Of course not! Don’t be stupid! Neither of us is that kind of a person!” Ranma fumed as he sat down against one of the walls, suddenly losing his appetite. His father was unaffected as he sat down at the dinner table and started scarfing down food. Why was this affecting him this much? He had forgiven Ukyou, even Ryouga for things they had done. Why couldn’t he do the same for Shampoo? Maybe it was because he trusted her more, making the lies seem even worse. The problem now was what to do about it. So lost in thought was he that he did not sense the attack coming until the last second. He moved away from the wall, too late.
“BAKUSAI TENKETSU!!!” was the shout heard from the other side of the wall directly behind Ranma. He got caught by the edge of the shrapnel from the wall as it detonated, then had the rest of the structure fall directly on top of him, burying him underneath the rubble.
Akane could just make out a female form with a long two handed weapon in her hands through the settling dust. “Ukyou?” she called out, completely bewildered as to why the chef had suddenly attacked Ranma. The figure ran out of the dust cloud, weapon thrust forward. Akane could see as she cleared the cloud it was clearly not Ukyou. The attacker could be only one person, matching the description Kasumi had given. Perfume.
“No more interference!” Perfume shouted out as she thrust forward with her naginata, blade forward, at Akane.
Akane had almost no time to react as the blade of the naginata came at her head. She barely managed to get out of the way as the point passed where her skull was but a second ago. Perfume brought the shaft of the polearm up and smashed it into Akane’s face three times in rapid succession, knocking her out.
“No more delays!” Perfume grabbed the net that hung from her belt and threw it over Genma and Soun, trapping them even as Akane slumped to the floor.
“If anyone gets in my way, they die!” She grabbed the knife from her weapon belt and threw it at Nabiki. She stared at the weapon hurtling towards her head, transfixed. She didn’t even make an effort to get out of the way of the hurled blade. At the last second the weapon was snatched out of mid-air by a newcomer, Shampoo.
“Extortionist Girl should no make like deer caught in headlights.” Shampoo threw the knife at the ground between Perfume’s legs, and then turned to Kasumi. “Make sure Ranma and others is okay.” She then shifted her attention back to Perfume, much to the warrior’s pleasure.
“I knew attacking them would flush you out.” Perfume smiled at Shampoo.
“Perfume, you no have honor anymore. You just a crazy, violent girl!” Shampoo replied.
“And who made me that way, Shampoo?” Perfume’s rage began to increase. “You did!”
“<Pray you didn’t harm Ranma, Perfume, or I’ll hurt you so bad you’ll beg me to do what happened to you three years ago.>”
Even Perfume was a little taken aback by the deadly look in Shampoo’s eyes, but quickly recovered. “You think you can intimidate me? That may have been possible three years ago, but not today.” Perfume observed Shampoo strap her sword on her back and grab her two bonbori. She then walked into the backyard waiting for Perfume to follow. She didn’t have to wait long.
Both girls lashed out at once, bonbori and naginata clashing. After several exchanges with nothing to show, Shampoo did something unexpected. Perfume brought her naginata in high, only to have it blocked by a bonbori. Shampoo brought the other one up and threw it high into the air. Perfume’s eyes followed its airborne trajectory, suspecting some kind of unorthodox attack. The maneuver was a trick. Shampoo’s hand, while still raised high from the toss, gripped the hilt of her sword and brought it out of its sheath and downward towards Perfume’s head. Perfume put two hands on her naginata for an overhand block. The sword neatly sliced through the shaft of the weapon, separating it into two pieces. Perfume looked at it, stunned, as Shampoo backed off.
“YOU BITCH!!! This was my family’s honor weapon. It was in my clan for ten generations. How could you…”
“Oh, dear,” Shampoo cut her off, “Look what I’ve done now.”
The calm way she said it made Perfume wonder what was going on in the purple haired Amazon’s mind. Was she sincere in her apology? Not that it would do her any good. She scowled at Shampoo for a moment until she realized her old friend was not looking at the weapon, but at Perfume. “What are you staring…” Perfume trailed off, having looked down at herself to see exactly what Shampoo was staring at. As soon as she bent her head down she knew what the gaze was for. There was a vertical opening down the middle of her outfit, between her breasts, a small line of blood trickling down from the shallow cut Shampoo had made when her sword went through the naginata.
Perfume calmed down and gave Shampoo a sober look. “This time it’s for real, isn’t it?” Perfume asked softly. Shampoo gave a short nod in response. The pink haired Amazon tossed the pieces of her broken weapon to the ground and drew her last weapons, a sword and single bonbori. Both Amazons faced off, identical weapons in hand. Their duel truly began.
Kasumi broke off her assessment of Ranma and Akane and watched the fight between Shampoo and Perfume. It was unlike anything Kasumi had seen before, even when the dojo was full of students a million years ago. The Amazons weren’t fighting; they were dancing, each warrior moving in an impossibly complex choreography of thrusts and parries. The objects in their hands were not weapons, but extensions of their limbs that moved with a fluid grace all their own. No motion was wasted, no words spoken, even their breathing was steady, not ragged. Despite what physical differences there were between the two of them, they appeared as mirror images in this dance, frequently using the same attacks at the same time. Each combatant must have been in a zone, for no mistakes were made by either one of them. If there was any one thing that could be called perfection, this was it. The event should have been horrifying, but instead Kasumi found herself intoxicated by the beauty of the duel. In some odd way, she never wanted it to end, as each of the girl’s moves flowed from one into another. She lost track of the time as she watched the warriors continue this dance of death. It could have been minutes or hours; Kasumi couldn’t tell, mesmerized by the fight.
As with all dances, this one reached a climax. Shampoo left her arm open for the briefest of moments, enough time for Perfume to bring her bonbori on the arm, causing Shampoo to release her grip on her own bonbori. Shampoo recovered, bringing the hilt of her sword across Perfume’s jaw then lashing out with her foot, kicking Perfume’s bonbori out of her hand and over a wall. Perfume bought herself time to reset by connecting with a powerful front kick that caught Shampoo in the stomach, driving her backward. Both women went into identical guard positions with their swords.
Kasumi saw for the briefest of moments an identical look that passed between the warriors. Not a look of hatred, or one of intensity, but one of sadness from deep within the soul. At that moment Kasumi understood what that look meant. For all the hatred and wrongs that occurred between the two of them. For all of the blood that had been spilled. For all the misery they had done to one another. Neither wanted to be here. They both knew it was wrong. They should have been the best of friends, and for whatever reason, that friendship had been lost. Now there was a feeling of shared helplessness as the events had, at last, reached an end.
Their last regret.
The women steeled themselves and allowed the fight to reach a crescendo. The swords played against one another, with a punch or kick thrown in for good measure. Minor cuts formed on both combatants, none of them acknowledged by the recipients as they continued to swing away at one another. Perfume switched her grip to her left hand in an effort to catch Shampoo off guard. Both blades met high overhead, jockeying for position.
Kasumi continued to watch until fascination turned into dread. Shampoo lost her grip on her sword and it fell to the ground.
Perfume was amazed to feel the resistance of Shampoo’s sword disappear as her blade slipped from her hand and fell towards the ground. It was over. Unarmed, Shampoo would not last ten seconds. In the moment Perfume allowed herself to savor her upcoming victory she felt the fight slip from her own grasp. Shampoo’s now free hand had almost instantly gripped Perfume’s own upraised wrist. Even as she grabbed onto the wrist she pivoted her body underneath Perfume, allowing Shampoo’s left hand to also grab the wrist and allowing her back next to Perfume’s front. Too late Perfume realized what had happened. Shampoo had gambled everything by letting go of her sword in the hopes that Perfume would hesitate for a split second, and thereby be able to disable her weapon arm by breaking it over her shoulder.
As Shampoo completed her pivot Perfume realized she had one of two choices. She could resist the attempted arm toss Shampoo was going to apply, and have her arm broken in the process, or she could go over with the throw and hope she had enough velocity to pull her wrist free of the hold Shampoo had on and come up swinging with the sword. If she failed to free her arm, it was over. No choice really. As Shampoo muscled her over Perfume attempted to leap over the shoulder.
Perfume felt herself land on her back as she tried to rip her wrist free of the hold it was in. There was no contest as Shampoo held on and twisted, forcing the sword free of Perfume’s grasp and into her own. Shampoo spun around and landed hard on Perfume’s stomach, pinning her to the ground by straddling her chest. Perfume stared up to see Shampoo shift her grip on the sword so she could bring it down with force into Perfume. The look of anger in Shampoo’s face told what was to come.
Fear did not claim Perfume in her final moments. She had challenged Shampoo with the realization it might end this way. Still, there was anger at failing in her task. She had spent the last three years hell-bent on victory, not defeat, and in the end Shampoo had beaten her in every way possible. She had publicly humiliated her, forced her away from her people and family, stripped her of her womanhood, denied her revenge, and worst of all, betrayed her heart by abandoning the friendship that she held so dear.
From Ranma’s position he could only see Shampoo’s back and Perfume’s legs and lower torso as Shampoo straddled her opponents chest. The rest of the view was cut off. Ranma saw the sword raised above Shampoo’s head, and then descend. He tried yelling out for her to stop, as he got to his feet, but the words seemed to catch in his throat as he realized it was too late for him to do anything before the blade would impact. He saw the sword thrust downward with one powerful motion and noticed Shampoo’s shoulders tense up with power that one only summoned when expecting to meet resistance. The sword disappeared from view in front of Shampoo’s body. It was the position of her arms that indicated the thrust had at last stopped.
The arms were too low for Shampoo to have stopped short of embedding it in Perfume.
Ranma got to his feet, a sick feeling in his gut. It was his fault. He was the one that had pushed the purple haired Amazon too far. Rejecting her presence. Refusing to listen to the explanations of her actions. Treating her like a discarded toy he no longer had interest in. Telling her through actions, not words, that their friendship was over, even though he really did not want it to be. He should have said something. Why couldn’t he have given her words of consolation? Why couldn’t he have been more open and listened to Shampoo instead of acting as though he was the only one that was hurt? It was so obvious now that she had been in as much pain as he was over the whole matter with Perfume. Earlier he had thought his feelings of betrayal by Shampoo were because he considered her a friend. What kind of friend was he to have abandoned her when she needed him the most? The worst kind. The kind of person others believed in. Relying on that friendship only to have it turn out that he would not be there when they needed him. He was the one who had betrayed her, not the other way around.
He moved over to get a better view. He needed to see Perfume, even in death. He stopped as he realized he could see part of the fallen opponent’s head. Perfume’s hair had fallen away from her face, allowing the world to see the scar she had kept hidden. He stared at that scar, the root of all the problems. It was then he noticed something out of place. His attention was riveted at her face as he saw it again. The dead girl blinked. Moving over another foot he got a full view of Perfume’s head. The sword was not buried in it, but rather right next to it, over halfway into the ground. Ranma simply stood in shock at the sudden revelation.
Shampoo raised herself off of Perfume’s chest and stood up as she looked down at the confused Amazon. “I not kill you in cold blood, Perfume.” She then lashed out with her foot, catching the prone Amazon fully on the chin, knocking her out. “But no one threatens my friends and gets away with it.” She turned to see Ranma approaching her.
“I…” Ranma began, “I thought you, y’know…” he trailed off.
Shampoo gave Ranma a hurt look. “Shampoo thought you knew her better. I not kill someone like this.” There was a time when she might have done so, but those days had long since passed. Ranma should have known. She wanted him to know.
“Yeah. I guess I did. I was just afraid ‘cause of what’s been going on between us.” Ranma suddenly felt awkward and at a loss at how to continue, so his eyes wandered until he found something that would change the subject, Perfume. “What are we going to do with her?”
Shampoo looked down at Perfume’s unconscious form. No anger was left in her, just sadness and pity. “I not going to kill her, but she going to keep coming back. Guess just have to keep on fighting until she come to senses or…” she trailed off, both of them understanding what she meant. Or until one of the Amazons was dead.
The two of them just stood there, staring at one another, each looking at the other expectantly, waiting for one of them to speak. How long they would have remained like that was unknown as a voice laced with contempt interrupted their stand off.
“I might have known you’d be hanging all over her, Saotome. You enemy of women.”
Both Shampoo and Ranma turned in annoyance at the newcomer. Mousse.
“Go away, stupid Mousse!” Shampoo growled.
“Yeah! Buzz off, panda-boy,” Ranma growled as well. There had been more than enough excitement in one day for him.
“Oh, but I think you want me around, Shampoo, especially today. Because at long last you’ll see how much I love you.” Mousse smiled at a tree.
“Shampoo already know how much you love her, and am not impressed.”
He turned to the direction of the voice. “You will be. You see, I succeeded where that idiot Saotome failed, and it was only my purity of heart that enabled me to get this present for you,” Mousse smirked at Ranma.
“And exactly what present would that be, you blind goof?” Ranma looked on, unimpressed. He was probably going to have to beat up Mousse soon, if for no other reason than to get him to shut up.
Mousse continued smirking at Ranma. “See here the result of what true love can accomplish.” He pulled out a glass vial of water and held it high so everyone could see.
Interlude: Three Devils
The man in midnight-black robes and cowl walked into the bamboo forest followed by his two resurrected minions. A giant man, apparently made of stone, dressed in simple green pants and with a huge weapon that looked like a couple of large swords stuck together at the hilts, and a beautiful woman, dressed in a style of clothing dating back several centuries and bearing a sword at her waist, walked alongside each other, watching their leader intently.
“Who are we reviving this time, my Lord?” The giant asked.
The man in black stopped and spoke. “The one who fell in this forest, lo these many years ago. One born in darkness, never seeing the light, and who subsequently allowed himself to wallow in the darkness to grow powerful.”
A wind picked up within the tall growths.
“Sound made up for vision. In so many ways better than the weakness sight holds. Yet it was sound which was his undoing in the end.”
A howl almost seemed to emanate from the forest as the wind picked up. None of the three seemed to notice.
“He was one of the greatest swordsmen that ever lived. He was as fast as the wind, and could blind others with his light.”
The large stone man detected a disturbance from off to his left. Even as he turned the man in black reassured him.
“It is only your old friend, or what’s left of him. His spirit could not bring itself to leave the spot where he had fallen at the hands of one that was smarter, if not more skilled, than himself. But you would know better than anyone the abilities of that individual, wouldn’t you?”
The stone man grumbled in anger as the man in black calmed him.
“The man you want is long since dead. Dead and buried. Perhaps when this is over, you will be granted a boon and his body can be resurrected for you to kill.”
The stone giant smiled in response as the noise picked up.
“He is almost here. Give me the blade.” The man in black addressed the woman. She handed him the sword at her side.
The man held the blade extended in front of him by the scabbard. “I offer you a chance to once again come back to the land of the living. To serve me as you once did before, though only through agents. I will ask you this but once; do you accept?”
The wind picked up even more furiously as a ghostly specter appeared from behind one of the shoots. It walked forward, hesitated but a moment, and then gripped the sword. As he touched it a magic light emanated from the blade. The energy came forth to fill the specter, giving it flesh and a body it so desperately wanted for so many centuries. It was identical to his original body, a slender yet powerful form and long dark hair that flowed down his shoulders. The swordsman, whose eyes remained closed, accepted the blade from the man in black and affixed it to his waist.
“Nice to see you again.” the woman said. The stone giant nodded his head in the newcomer’s direction.
The newcomer nodded his head in return, and spoke to the man in black. “I live but to serve you, my lord.”
“That is absolutely correct,” he answered.
Part Two: Choices
All the Tendos and Genma had recovered enough to make their way over to Ranma and Shampoo. Everyone looked in surprise at Mousse as he held the vial up for the world to see. Ranma was the first to break the silence.
“Listen to me closely, Mousse,” there was trepidation in Ranma’s voice. “Are you telling us you went to Jusenkyou?”
Mousse acknowledged the serious tone in Ranma’s voice and responded in kind. “Yes.”
Ranma began to shake in nervous anticipation. “And that water is from Jusenkyou?”
“Now here comes the important question.” Ranma licked his lips in nervous anticipation. “Did you bring any Nanniichuan?”
“Of course not. Don’t be a fool. Shampoo doesn’t need Nanniichuan.”
Ranma could have slapped him. “Not for her stupid! For me!”
“Why would I want to get Nanniichuan for you?” Mousse asked, confused.
“Because it’s as much your fault as Pop’s for me ending up getting cursed, and I would have done almost anything to get it. Instead, you greedy bastard, you used it just on yourself.”
Mousse hid a smile behind his sleeve. “The joke’s on you Saotome. I didn’t use it either. I was so concerned about Shampoo I forgot… all… about… my…” His smile disappeared as he realized the monumental mistake he had made. “NO! IT ISN'T FAIR!!!” He began weeping and sobbing at the sky.
“He’s so stupid he actually deserves his curse.” Ranma said as he shook his head. Shampoo, on the other hand, was concerned about something else.
“Mousse. You sure that really Nyanniichuan?” Shampoo found she was afraid of the answer.
Mousse came back to the situation at hand upon hearing Shampoo’s voice. His curse did not matter if he could cure her. “Yes. I know it is.”
Ranma turned to Shampoo. “You can’t seriously be thinking about trusting him. He’s blind as a bat. No, scratch that, he’s even worse than Ryouga. He probably got water from the Spring of Drowned Pervert or something.”
“No, I didn’t!” Mousse burst out. “I realized there was an offhand chance that I might accidentally take water from the wrong spring, so I had the Jusenkyou Guide grab it for me.” He turned to Shampoo. “I wasn’t going to take any chances with your shot at regaining womanhood.”
Nabiki broke in at this time. “How do you know the guide grabbed the right stuff?”
“He gave me five vials of the water. I watched the entire time and I know for a fact they all came from the same spring.” Mousse reassured her. “I used one of the vials on a rabbit. It turned into a girl.”
Nabiki looked at Shampoo. “Sounds legit. We can test it out with one of the other vials if you want?” Shampoo nodded her head in agreement, reluctant to leave her hands in a Mousse chosen cure.
“Ummm. Actually, I lost the other three vials.” Mousse said sheepishly.
“How did that happen, you jerk?” Ranma snapped.
“Ranma! Behave yourself!” Akane scolded, “He has a cure for Shampoo.”
“The trip back from China was fraught with great peril. My life was in jeopardy many times.” Mousse struck a dramatic pose and looked boldly to the skies. “It was a miracle I made it back with any water at all.”
“Oh, my! That was very nice of you to risk your life like that. And the first thing that went through my mind was that you had accidentally dropped them and they broke,” Kasumi said.
A look of embarrassment crossed Mousse’s face. That was exactly what had happened. Fortunately he recovered before anyone noticed. She had to be guessing. Had to have been.
Shampoo gazed softly at Mousse. She had to take the chance. “Okay Mousse. Shampoo trust you. Give me the water.”
Mousse covered the vial protectively. “Not so fast, Shampoo. This comes with a price.”
A collective “WHAT?!!” nearly startled Mousse into dropping the vial.
“You must be joking!” Shampoo burst out.
“You jerk! That’s low, even for you,” Ranma added.
“Don’t play games,” Akane reprimanded.
“Oh, Mr. Mousse, this is really important. Why not just give her the water? Please.” Kasumi added a pleading look.
“It’s nice to see someone has some business sense around here,” Nabiki chimed in. That had the effect of Kasumi turning her head towards Nabiki and giving her a VERY intense look. Surprisingly, Nabiki got the sudden impulse to run away.
“This a serious matter, Nabiki. I’m certain you meant to say something else.” Kasumi seemed to intensify the stare. “Right?”
Nabiki recovered nicely. “Of course. I meant to say I would be more than willing to pay whatever the price is. Don’t worry about paying it back.” At that moment Nabiki would have given everything she had to keep her sister from burning holes in her with those eyes.
Kasumi’s demeanor changed in a heartbeat as she gave a pleasant smile. “That’s better. Thank you for offering to help.”
“Right.” Nabiki calmed down enough to stop sweating.
“You cannot pay me the price, Nabiki Tendo,” Mousse informed her.
Nabiki took that as a personal insult. “I’ll have you know I have resources you can’t begin to imagine. Trust me, I can pull enough strings to get you your own banana republic if you want.” That was a bit of an exaggeration, but she did have a lot of influence at her fingertips.
“The price isn’t money.” Mousse told them.
“What is it then?” Shampoo was becoming desperate to know.
“I will give you the Nyanniichuan to use on yourself with one condition,” Mousse felt himself losing courage, but found enough heart to go forward with his plan, “You must marry me.”
“NO WAY!!!” Everyone turned in surprise to the person who delivered the outburst. Ranma. “There is no way I’ll let you blackmail her like that!”
“It’s not your choice to make, Saotome,” Mousse snapped back. “It’s Shampoo’s. And it’s not blackmail, either. Not exactly, anyway. I’m just helping her realize what’s best for her.”
“She’d be better off with the curse than marrying you.” Ranma began to move forward. “I’ll just take that from you.”
“RANMA STOP!!!” Ranma turned at the sound of Akane’s command. She continued, “That’s a glass vial. If you guys fight, it might break.”
“No, it won’t. I won’t let it.” Ranma began to move forward again.
“Ranma, please stop,” Kasumi said. “It’s too great a risk.”
Ranma halted and turned to Shampoo. “Trust me. I can get it away from him without breaking it. You don’t gotta’ marry him.”
“Ranma,” Akane said. “Mousse is right. It’s not your decision to make. This might be Shampoo’s one chance at breaking the curse, then she can go back home.” Akane looked at Shampoo, who returned the glance with an expression of deep thought.
Ranma captured Shampoo’s attention again. “Don’t listen to them. You gotta’ have faith in me. I won’t let you down. I can get it from him.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Saotome. You can’t beat me.” Mousse’s jibe rankled Ranma. Just as he was about to retort Akane got in his face.
“You and your damn ego! You think you can do anything. Well I know how good you are and it isn’t anywhere near enough to keep from breaking that vial.”
“This isn’t about me, you uncute tomboy!” Ranma snapped back. “I don’t want Shampoo to have this jerk force her into doing something she doesn’t want to do!”
“Stop poisoning her mind against me. I’m the only one for her. I truly love her. I always have,” Mousse stated proudly.
“Yeah, right! Forcing someone to marry you is something all people with love in their hearts would do,” Ranma growled.
Mousse sounded sad with his reply. “Sometimes you have to make people do things for their own good.”
“And who gave you the right to decide what’s good for her?” Ranma asked.
“Well, who gave you the right to choose for her either, Ranma?” Akane interjected. “You’re doing the same thing Mousse is. You are trying to make her decision for her.”
“How can you say that?” Ranma stared at her in disbelief. “It is not the same thing. She’s said hundreds of times she isn’t interested in him. And now she’s been through a whole lot of stuff lately that’s probably affecting her judgment. I just don’t want her making any mistakes that she’s going to regret.”
“Are you sure you don’t have any ulterior motives?” Akane asked icily.
Ranma was totally confused. “What are you talking about?”
“I know what she’s talking about, Saotome,” Mousse interrupted. “She can see it as clearly in your eyes as I can. She knows the real reason that you don’t want Shampoo to marry me and are so desperate to keep us apart. You lust after Shampoo!”
Ranma’s face began twitching in anger. “How many times do I have to tell you I ain’t interested in her that way? You’re just paranoid because you know she doesn’t like you and you’re trying to convince yourself it’s someone else that’s keeping her from you.”
“That’s a lie. I know she cares for me. It’s you who’s trying to take her away. That’s why she left China with you instead of me!” Mousse shouted.
“She left you behind because she can’t stand to be around you! You are a selfish self- centered jerk that doesn’t care what she thinks, otherwise you would never have bugged her all these years when she made it perfectly clear she doesn’t like you that way. And you sure as hell shouldn’t have dragged her to Jusenkyou!” Ranma shouted back.
“It’s all a misunderstanding. Once I’m given a chance, she’ll be able to see me for what I truly am and we’ll be happy together.”
“She’s been around you for ten years. She already knows what you truly are and she ain’t interested, so you can forget it. Unlike you, I really do care about her and am not going to let you force her into doing something she’s going to regret for the rest of her life.” Ranma balled up a fist. “Now we can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Hand over the water, or I’ll take it from you!”
“Now who’s being self-centered? You just don’t want her to be with me and would sooner have her chance at being cured ruined, because you can’t stand the idea she would leave you for someone else.” Mousse went into a defensive posture, vial still in hand, as Ranma approached.
“Enough, Ranma! I can speak for self.” Shampoo held her arm in front of him to keep him from advancing on Mousse, and then turned to the water-bearing Amazon. “You give Shampoo water to use on self so I can break my curse and we can marry. That the deal, right?”
Mousse was practically jumping up and down in anticipation. “Yes.”
“Give Shampoo Nyanniichuan.” She held out her hand in anticipation.
“Here you go.” Being in such joy Mousse was not thinking clearly. Instead of walking over and handing it to her he tossed it in the general direction of the blur he thought was Shampoo.
“YOU IDIOT!!!” Everyone but Kasumi shouted as the throw went high over Shampoo’s head. All leaped for it save one. It sailed over their collective hands, Ranma and Akane actually colliding as they stretched out. The vial went directly to the mistaken figure it was originally thrown to, Kasumi. By remaining motionless she was in perfect position to make the catch. She reacted in time, managing to get both hands on it and bobbling it for a moment before firmly grasping the vial, letting out a sigh of relief.
“You moron! You nearly spilled it!” Ranma shouted at Mousse.
Mousse paled at the near accident, but allowed his joy to overcome it. He was about to get married.
“Here you go, Shampoo.” Kasumi walked over and handed the Nyanniichuan to the purple haired Amazon.
Ranma looked into her eyes. “You don’t have to marry him. Just use the water and we can think of something. I’ll make him change his mind later. Somehow.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Ranma,” Mousse smirked. “Shampoo won’t break her word, and I would sooner die than release her from her promise.”
Ranma gave him an evil glare and spoke softly. “Don’t tempt me, Mousse. You have no idea how close you really are, so don’t tempt me.”
Even Akane was taken aback by the intensity in Ranma. She had never seen real hatred in his eyes until then, and it was a sight she was never going to forget.
Shampoo placed a hand on Ranma’s shoulder to relax him. “Mousse right. I not break word.”
The anger left Ranma as he gazed pleadingly at Shampoo. “Is it really worth it? Is breaking your curse really worth marrying him?” He grabbed her firmly by the shoulders, and began openly pleading with her. “You don’t have to give in to this sick bastard! I swear to you we’ll find another way! I’ll do it by myself if I have to. Don’t go through with this.”
Akane spoke up. “Ranma. Don’t make this any harder for her than it already is. She’s made her choice.” Akane approached closer to the duo. “Now she won’t have to worry about being captured by her grandmother and be forced to kill herself. She can go back home, make amends with her family, and live with her people. She’s going to be their leader someday.” She turned to Shampoo and addressed her. “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” Shampoo just stared at her as Akane looked to Ranma again and continued. “She’s going to be happy. Maybe Mousse won’t be so bad once he settles down. I mean, he’s done some stupid things, but he’d never actually tried to hurt her.”
“What do you call what he’s doing now?” Ranma asked bitterly.
Akane could not answer the question. Instead, she placed her own hands on Ranma’s and removed them from Shampoo. “Let her go, Ranma. Let her do what she has to.” She gently led Ranma a little bit away from Shampoo so the Amazon had some space.
Shampoo looked everyone over. All present were edgy from the tension, even Nabiki, who usually tried to appear calm and collected. Shampoo allowed her eyes to rest on Kasumi for a moment. The eldest Tendo stared back and gave her a hopeful smile. Shampoo then turned to Ranma and gave him a wan smile. His shoulders slumped in defeat as he realized he was not going to be able to convince her anymore. She noticed that he was accomplishing what she thought would have been impossible only a few days ago by looking even worse than he had the last few weeks. Even she was a little taken aback by the pain she felt in her heart at seeing him that way.
She returned her attention to the large vial of water in her hand. She stared at it closely, moving it back and forth a little bit. There was enough in it to trigger one change. Only one chance. She looked more closely at the water. There was no way of being able to tell it from normal water. No odd tint or particles in it. No aura of magic or luminescence. Just plain and ordinary liquid in appearance. An illusion those cursed springs projected to lead the unwary into their depths and forever change them, like they had Shampoo. Even bearing the knowledge the springs were dangerous, she had still fallen for the illusion, into the trap. Now she had a way out, but even if she returned to a normal, uncursed form, the mark of Jusenkyou would still have changed her forever. The change would simply not be physical in nature anymore; it would be emotional. Perhaps no one ever truly escaped the curse of Jusenkyou.
She stared at the vial a little while longer. Time to use it before something bad happened, like the water evaporating or something. She removed the stopper from the vial and allowed the air to come into contact with the water. It did not evaporate as she predicted. This was it. It was just like Akane said, the cure to all her problems. Well, some of them anyway. The fatal ones. There was only one thing left to do. She held the vial at arm’s length and…
Tilted her wrist.
Everyone looked on in complete shock.
The movement allowed the water to fall downward, almost in slow motion to Shampoo. It poured out in a steady stream and struck true.
Everyone continued staring in shock, silence reigning supreme. But the reign was eventually cut short by one of the people present.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!!!” Mousse shouted out.
Shampoo gazed at him with the coldest stare she had ever given, making even Mousse pause. “The deal was Shampoo use magic water on self and marry Mousse. Well, I not use water on self, so no have to get married.”
Everyone was so wrapped up in the events that no one had noticed the storm clouds that had formed overhead. Rain started to pour down in a heavy deluge, changing all the cursed people into their alternate forms.
Perfume felt the water hit her face and looked up to see the rain falling. It took her a moment to get her bearings. “What happened?” she asked out loud. Then it came back to her. She had lost to Shampoo. The purple haired Amazon had spared her life, but gave her a savage kick, which had knocked her out. The jaw still ached from that and would for some time. She looked up to see the rain pouring on her from above. “Well. If this doesn’t make my humiliation complete I don’t know what would.” Her self-pity abruptly ended when she realized something was not occurring which should have. Sitting bolt upright she took in her surroundings. She remained where she had fallen after the battle, with everyone having gathered around her and staring.
“What’s going on? How come I’m not changing?” Perfume asked the bewildered crowd.
Ranma-chan looked at her, shock still evident on her face. “Shampoo gave you her Nyanniichuan.”
“What are you talking about?” Perfume asked. It seemed to be true, as impossible as it sounded. Why would Shampoo do something like that? She quickly scanned the spectators. Explanations were needed. “Where’s Shampoo?”
“She’s right…” Ranma-chan trailed off. Shampoo was not where she was a moment ago. She turned just in time to see Shampoo-kun jumping over the wall surrounding the dojo. Just as he leaped out of sight a second figure quickly followed. Perfume had stood up and chased after him the moment her eyes saw Shampoo-kun fleeing.
“Oh, my God! That crazy psycho is still after her!” Ranma-chan tensed up and prepared to jump after the fleeing duo when she sensed an attack. She barely managed to get out of the way of an anvil that was thrown at her. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
Mousse-panda held up a sign as tears mixed in with raindrops. *This is all your fault, Saotome. You’ve twisted her mind so much she doesn’t even want a cure.*
Ranma-chan gave Mousse-panda a deadly look. “Listen real close, because I will say this only once. I am going to go help Shampoo. If you try to stop me I… will… hurt… you!” The anger in Ranma’s voice became more intense with each word spoken.
*Wrong! Today is the day you die! Make peace with your god! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, RANMA!!!* Mousse-panda pulled out close to a hundred blades from his sleeves and began spinning them around in an intricate pattern, like the blades of a dozen spinning propellers. Both combatants shouted and growled in fury at one another and leaped to the attack.
Perfume observed Shampoo-kun flee into the top floor of an abandoned building. She entered it cautiously, suspecting a trap and keeping her senses alert until she spotted Shampoo-kun standing in the middle of a room, staring at the ground. Perfume entered as quietly as she could, trying to keep from capturing Shampoo-kun’s attention.
Shampoo-kun had left the others because he wanted to be alone. Giving up the Nyanniichuan was harder than he thought. But now there was no escaping it. No action came without consequences. “Come on in, Perfume. You not need to sneak around.”
So much for stealth. Perfume moved boldly into the room as though she owned it and Shampoo-kun was an intruder. She stopped just short of Shampoo-kun, waiting some kind of attack. He just looked at her sadly.
“<Why did you do it?>” she asked.
“<You mean the Nyanniichuan?>”
“<Of course!>” Was Shampoo playing some kind of game?
“<I had to.>” Shampoo shrugged.
“<The hell you did! You had no reason to give me that. You need it even more than I do.>” Perfume was forced to wonder what was going on in Shampoo’s mind. Nothing made sense anymore.
“<Don’t be so sure of that,>” he answered softly.
“<What do you mean?>” Perfume was getting tired of asking questions. She wanted answers.
“<You would never have been cursed if it wasn’t for me. You only got your curse because you were trying to cure me.>”
“<Only so I could kill you,>” Perfume responded.
“<That doesn’t matter. It was the right thing to do. You didn’t deserve what happened to you,>” Shampoo-kun said.
Perfume’s voice dropped to just barely a whisper. “<Why are you doing this?>”
“<I told you. Because it was the right thing to do.>”
Perfume’s voice shot up. “<That’s not what I mean! Why are you trying to make it difficult to hate you?!>”
“<That’s not what I’m trying to do…>” Shampoo-kun began but was cut off.
“<Yes, you are! You left me alive when I was trying to kill you! The first time might have been because I didn’t kill you after our first clash, but there was no reason this time. If anything, you should have killed me. It certainly would have been called for. I almost murdered some of your friends. And then you give me Nyanniichuan. I don’t care what you say, you had no real reason to give me that. Too much is at stake. So why did you do it?>”
“<I told you. It was the right thing to do.>”
“<That’s not an answer!>” Shampoo-kun was shocked to hear his one time friend sound so distraught over this. “<I’ve been trying to kill you. How can you keep from doing what you know has to be done? Don’t you realize I’m not going to stop until one of us is dead?>”
“<I know,>” he answered softly.
“<Then why won’t you do it?!>”
“<Because I don’t hate you,>” he said, maintaining the soft tone. He was not prepared for the response his answer garnered.
“<THAT’S A LIE!!!>” Perfume screamed. “<I remember the duel on the battletree! I remember the look in your eyes! You did hate me! You do hate me!>”
Shampoo-kun felt like breaking down as a surge of emotion coursed through him. “<Oh, Perfume. I don’t hate you. At first I thought I did, but I just wasn’t thinking straight at the time. After you sent the challenge letter I was a wreck. I didn’t get any sleep for three days.>” Shampoo-kun’s voice now sounded just as emotional as Perfume’s. “<Why couldn’t you have told me to my face?>”
Perfume seemed a little taken aback, hesitating before answering. <“That’s the way I always did it. I always sent a letter.>”
“<I was your friend, not some stranger. I deserved better than that,>” The pain was evident in Shampoo-kun’s voice. “<You should have told me yourself. Instead, I didn’t know what to think. It drove me crazy. I thought you betrayed me.>”
Perfume became defensive. “<I never betrayed you. I told you from the start what I wanted. You didn’t listen.>”
Shampoo-kun sighed. “<I know that now, but I didn’t realize it until after the fight. If only you had told me yourself…>”
Perfume became more defensive. “<Don’t try blaming this on me! You are the one responsible for everything that happened between us.>”
“<I’m not trying to blame this on you.>”
“<Yes, you are!>” she answered quickly. “<I can see it happening now.>”
“<No, I’m not. Why are you getting so defensive?>” Shampoo-kun asked.
“<I am not getting defensive.>”
The tone contradicted the words, causing Shampoo-kun to stop and wonder. An idea formed in her mind. “<Perfume. Why were you there?>”
That confused Perfume. “<Why was I where?>”
“<The first day we became friends. When Cabinet tried to ambush me. Why were you there?>”
“<I… I don’t know what you mean?>” Perfume suddenly became every evasive, causing Shampoo-kun to look at her suspiciously. Something was not right. Perfume was hiding something. And that was when the final pieces clicked together.
“<Yes, you do. Why were you there? Did you have some errand to run? Was it coincidence? Were you going to smell the flowers? Tell me!>” Shampoo-kun voice rose as he drew closer, causing Perfume to back off.
“<I was…>” Perfume did not want to give the answer. She knew why she was there but did not want to admit it.
Her hesitation confirmed what Shampoo-kun feared. “<You knew, didn’t you? You knew she was going to ambush me, and you never told me. It was all a setup.>”
“<It wasn’t like that.>” Perfume tried to defend herself, but Shampoo-kun brushed it off.
“<You really were just using me to find out my fighting style,>” he began yelling at Perfume. “<You never cared about me at all! Admit it! You helped me so you could get close and learn my secrets! It was all a pack of lies!>”
“<NO! It wasn’t like that! I really did care about you. We were friends, I didn’t lie.>”
“<I don’t believe you!>” Shampoo-kun spat out venomously. “<You never cared about anything I told you. I opened myself up totally to you and you were just humoring me so you could learn everything about me. I was such a fool. All this time I’ve been blaming myself for everything and I couldn’t have been further from the truth.>”
“<Don’t you dare try absolving yourself of guilt!>” Perfume burst out. “<You maimed me. You started all this, not me. I’m not to blame!>” Perfume’s voice began to crack.
“<Then tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you weren’t there to spy on me. Tell me you didn’t try to learn my fighting style,>” Shampoo-kun demanded.
“<Stop it! Stop It! STOP IT!!!>” Perfume buried her head in her hands as her voice began to crack even more. “<It’s not true. I’m not responsible. You are. I can’t be…>”
Perfume didn’t want to think about it. There wasn’t any need to. She knew the truth for all these years. But a small part of her, the cold analytical part that helped make her so good at what she did, asked why she was losing control, if she was right. One of the first things she had learned when she read about battle tactics was to look at yourself through your enemy’s eyes. If Shampoo had been behaving the way she was now, Perfume would have assumed it was because she felt guilty about something. What did Perfume really have to feel guilty about? And then it all fit together. She felt guilty about everything.
She had been there to watch Shampoo fight. She had overheard Cabinet making plans for an ambush and decided to watch, hoping to learn Shampoo’s fighting style. She had not intended to help Shampoo out. It had been a sudden impulse she had acted on, though she never did figure out why. Then came the time she tried to tell Shampoo about the challenge. She attempted to several times, but always stopped at the last moment. Then she decided to send the challenge letter instead. She had felt dirty doing it that way, but she would not admit it to herself. Not then, at least. And finally there were her feelings when she waited on the morning of the duel at the battletree. She tried denying it to herself, but she knew what those feelings were, the ones she had felt before the fight. That was the reason she had fought so poorly. It was the feeling of regret that cost her the match. She had believed becoming the best was the driving force in her life, for anything else to supplant that belief would have made her years of training a lie. But it turned out she did value something more, Shampoo’s friendship, even if she could not admit it to herself. She had subconsciously thrown the fight because of her self-inflicted guilt. Perfume was responsible for poisoning the friendship.
She wanted to keep blaming Shampoo. She wanted to believe the purple haired Amazon’s hatred was what had broken the friendship. But that hatred no longer existed, if it ever did. Shampoo had spared her life, given her Nyanniichuan at great personal sacrifice, and openly said she did not hate Perfume. There was only one person that was keeping this vendetta going. And maybe she was the one who had started it too.
The sudden self-awareness was more than she could handle. Perfume began to break down and cry. “<It was my fault. Oh, god! All this time I blamed you and it was really my fault.>” She felt more and more sorrow rise to her chest. “<I can’t take it!>” She tried to run but was grabbed by Shampoo-kun before she had made it ten feet. He spun the girl around and embraced her fiercely into his chest.
“<Let me go! LET ME GO!!!>” Perfume tried extracting herself by wriggling and screaming, but it was to no avail. Tears traveled down Shampoo-kun face as he embraced Perfume tightly and refused to let go. Eventually Perfume ceased struggling and went limp in Shampoo-kun’s grasp.
Shampoo-kun bent down and whispered into Perfume’s ear. “<You’re wrong. It was my fault, too. It was both of us. We both did each other horrible wrongs. I should never have hurt you, no matter the reason, my dearest friend. I’m sorry.>”
Perfume seemed to stiffen for a moment. “<You never apologized before.>”
“<You left before I could, and then we fought so much I never had a chance. So I am apologizing now. I’m sorry. I would do anything to take back what I did to you. Anything,>” Shampoo-kun told her, still crying.
Upon hearing those words Perfume let down her guard and allowed years of pent up emotions loose as she returned Shampoo-kun’s embrace just as fiercely. “<I’m sorry, too.>” She continued crying as well. “<Oh, I’ve missed you so much, Shampoo! It’s been so lonely where I’ve been. There’s been nobody these last few years. I’ve been all alone.>”
“<I’ve missed you, too.>
They continued like that in silence for several minutes. As the emotional tide passed the two composed themselves. Both looked at each other, slightly embarrassed.
“<Look at us. Two proud Amazon warriors crying like little children,>” Perfume smiled as she wiped her eyes.
Shampoo-kun wiped his eyes as well and looked around. “<I don’t think anyone spotted us, so we’re safe.>” The two laughed a little at that, then became more serious.
“<Where do we go from here, Perfume?>” Shampoo asked.
She considered the question seriously. “<I don’t know. Things can’t go back to the way they were. Too much has happened between us for that to happen. What I do know is this; my blood feud with you is over. Now and forever. I will never try to hurt you for what occurred at the battletree or what has happened over these last few weeks.>”
She paused and thought some more. “<I suppose I will end my self-imposed exile and go home. I miss my family. Don’t worry though. Your secret is safe with me. I would sooner die than reveal your curse. After all, I’m partially responsible for losing your cure.>”
Shampoo-kun waved her off. “<I would do it again without hesitation.>”
Perfume smiled warmly, “<You are too generous.>” A serious look overtook her expression. “<Shampoo, if by some miracle you find a cure and lead the village someday, I would gladly follow you to the gates of Hell with a smile on my face.>”
Shampoo-kun was a little in shock. Perfume had basically said that he was the better warrior, despite her lifelong desire to lead. It was a sign of acknowledging one’s superiority in the village hierarchy. Shampoo-kun moved forward and gripped Perfume’s forearms in a formalized gesture of acceptance. Perfume responded by returning the gesture. Shampoo-kun then added his part. “<I would ask for no less than the best warrior to fight at my side to storm those gates. I would accept no less than yourself if I become leader.>”
The two embraced each other in a more reserved, but still emotional embrace. They broke off and stared at one another. Perfume broke the silence first.
“<You know something, Shampoo?>”
“<You are one godawfully handsome man. If you get too close to the village you might find yourself set upon by some of the warriors, who might try to goad an ‘outsider’ male into fighting them.>” Perfume smiled at the joke.
Shampoo-kun shook his head. “<I already have to deal with that all the time here.>”
“<Oh, you poor girl,>” Perfume said sympathetically. “<If I figure out some way of breaking the curse, I’ll let you know.> She turned to leave. “<So long, Shampoo, but not goodbye.>”
Shampoo-kun waved at the departing Amazon. “<So long. May your journey be safe, and your path be true.>”
And with one final wave Perfume leaped out a window and off into the streets. For the first time in her life she actually felt some measure of peace. What she had done today was the right thing to do. Now at long last she was going home. A journey three years overdue.
Akane and Nabiki took in their surroundings. Bits and pieces of every kind of weapon and object imaginable were strewn about the yard, including one unconscious cursed panda. Kasumi made certain that no permanent damage was done to the transformed youth as he lay there. Dr. Tofu was already on his way to check him out as well. Kasumi did not want to take any chances.
Nabiki looked at Akane. “It’s a good thing you calmed him down. I’m not sure he would have stopped beating on Mousse, not that he doesn’t deserve a good thrashing.”
“Yeah. I know.” Akane shuddered a little. Both opponents had fought with every move and weapon in their arsenals, and only one came out on top. Ranma-chan had fought with a viciousness Akane had never seen before. Ranma-chan most likely would have made serious on her threat to Mousse and would have hurt him badly, if Akane had not physically stopped the girl from continuing her assault, even after Mousse had been beaten into unconsciousness. Even then Akane had to remind Ranma-chan that Shampoo might have been in danger, to get her to break off the attack and rush to her rescue. Akane had more faith. Shampoo could handle herself. She had already beaten Perfume once and could do it again if she had too. A good thing for Perfume that she had left, since Akane still owed her one for the sneak attack earlier in the day. She briefly considered going after Ranma-chan, but stopped. Her behavior made Akane a little cautious and she wanted to make certain Mousse did not get out of hand if he recovered. At least that was what she told herself. Akane was not afraid of Ranma-chan.
Ranma-chan saw Perfume leave the building, alone. She briefly considered following, but realized the only reason she would have holed up in the building was if Shampoo was there. And if she left alone, then Shampoo was still in the structure. Ranma-chan took off as fast as she could and leaped into the building, spotting Shampoo-kun as soon as she entered. There were no new signs of injury on the Amazon, but Ranma-chan rushed forward anyway.
“Are you all right? What’s going on? Where did Perfume run off to?” He ran off the series of questions too quickly to get any answers.
“I okay. Perfume go home. She make peace with Shampoo and won’t bother us again.” she examined Ranma-chan, noticing several new wounds on the girl. “Is you okay, Ranma?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Mousse can’t hurt me. I’m more worried about you.” Ranma-chan took notice of some of the cuts Shampoo-kun had received from his fight with Perfume. She moved forward and cradled his arm where one of the wounds was located. “That’s a nasty scratch you got there.”
Shampoo-kun did not miss the note of concern in her voice. “You mean you care?”
Ranma-chan suddenly felt nervous. “Of course I do. Look, I’m kind of,” her voice quieted down a little until she could force out the next word. “Sorry about the way I’ve been treating you lately.” Her face showed the signs of the struggle of coming up with the right words. “I should have…”
Shampoo-kun gave a soft gaze and put his finger to Ranma-chan’s lips to silence her. “Shhhh. Shampoo understand. No need to explain.”
She quieted down as the smile Shampoo-kun gave told everything she needed to know. All the events of the last few weeks were forgotten in the way only two people that care deeply for one another can overcome.
Ranma-chan smiled back. “Let’s go home.” She knew the details of what occurred with Perfume could be given later. For the first time in weeks all was right in the world, at least for now.
Cologne detached herself from her hiding spot in the shadows. Never in her three hundred years had she ever seen anything like what had just happened. It all seemed so impossible. Shampoo had somehow managed to turn an obsessed enemy, who sought her death at any price, into a friend who would now give her life for her. Not only that, but her great granddaughter had sacrificed the solution to all her problems for it. Cologne had not thought her capable of that sort of sacrifice, yet she had done it before her eyes.
It was too much to be mere coincidence. The longer Cologne lived, the less she believed there was such a thing. The idea that Perfume just happened to show up and be defeated just in time for the idiot Mousse to show up and try to bribe Shampoo with the Nyanniichuan, then Shampoo just happened to make the right gesture to give her the means to avoid killing Perfume and made the pink haired Amazon Shampoo’s friend once again, was all too much. For Shampoo to have the cure in her hands and to have circumstances convince her to give it away seemed impossible, yet that was exactly what had happened. Something was going on. Something Cologne did not understand, though she had a feeling it had something to do with the curse Shampoo had acquired. It would explain so many things. Cologne was tired of being outmaneuvered by a group of children that could flummox her at every turn. Maybe it would be best to just let things play out and try to keep Shampoo alive long enough to remove the curse so they could go home. Yes. That might be the way to do it. Let fate play out its hand while she crossed her fingers and hoped for the best. If only it was not so damn frustrating…
“Now remember, boy. Depression is what fuels the Shi Shi Houkoudan.” Happosai informed his new student.
Ryouga concentrated in the way he was taught and formed the chi flow in his mind. As depressed as he was, it came easily to him. Too easily, for Happosai’s tastes.
“Slow down, boy. Don’t do it all at once.” A column of chi energy came into existence above Ryouga’s head as his depression began coalescing, much to Happosai frustration. “You have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Don’t feed so much into it.”
Too late. The now huge column formed in the air and collected, coming down as a large sphere. A perfect version of the Shi Shi Houkoudan, which happened to drop on one person; Happosai. He barely had time to scream as the blast hit him full force and left him embedded in a huge crater on the ground.
“I’ve taught you all I can. G’night.” And with that Happosai collapsed.
“Perfect,” Ryouga smirked. He had all he needed for revenge now.
To be continued.
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