Chapter 27: Kunou Invincible
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com
What has gone on before (or what you need to know to enjoy this fic) In the beginning the Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou to train, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a duel there. One mid-air collision and dunking in Spring of Young Drowned Man 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 ended up engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up Ranma became engaged to Akane. Over the months many battles and events occurred in which many friends and foes were made (i.e. the previous chapters). Last chapter Ranma got hit in the head and thinks he’s a girl. Unfortunately no one knows that was what happened and everyone assumes he has simply had a mental breakdown. Now believing he is a girl he has broken off his engagement to Akane and refuses to change into a boy. Not to mention he has a bad tendency to come onto Shampoo-kun. Also, Kunou got his hands on a book of Juraian Sword techniques and has now become invincible. Now that Ranma is effectively helpless, everyone wants to date him or kill him, and it’s taking everything Akane and Shampoo have to keep him safe…
NOTE: [I’m switching over to the more ‘classic’ Xian-Pu for the Chinese spelling]
<> Means Chinese
** Panda sign language
Kasumi hummed a little tune to herself as she made certain the temperature of the cooking water was just right. She had been at it too many years to ever allow food to overcook. Even if she didn’t show it, there was a certain amount of pride in running her kitchen just right. There was an order to it and any deviations, while they could be dealt with by a smile, were not wanted. Chaos may have reigned supreme in every other corner of the house, but this was her domain, and it would be orderly.
A sound brought Kasumi out of her contemplation. She stopped humming and turned to see a rather disheveled looking Shampoo practically stagger into the kitchen before sitting down at the table.
“<Good morning, Xian-Pu.>”
The Amazon yawned loudly before greeting Kasumi in return.
“<What’s wrong?>” Kasumi asked. “<You don’t look so well. Are you sick?>” She approached and placed her hand to Shampoo’s forehead, checking her temperature.
“<I’m fine.>” Shampoo softly removed the hand. “<I just didn’t get any sleep. That’s all.>”
“<Bad dream?>” Kasumi had been having unusual dreams as well an wondered if there was a bout of it going around.
Shampoo nodded her head. “<I had this terrible dream about Ranma thinking he was a girl.>”
“<Ahh,>” Kasumi began. “<I’m afraid it wasn’t a dream. Ranma really does think he’s a girl.>”
“<I know,>” Shampoo sighed. “<I had just hoped you’d lie and tell me it was all a dream so I could feel better.>”
“<I can still do that if you want me to.>”
Shampoo chuckled. “<No, the effect would be ruined now. Thanks for the offer anyway. Breakfast smells good.>”
Kasumi went back to checking on the cooking meals. “<It won’t be ready for a little while. I suppose I could rush things and whip you up something.>”
“<No. That’s not necessary. I’ll grab a bath first. If I take my time you should have everything ready by then.>”
“<All right.>” Kasumi gave her warm smile and went back to preparing the food.
Shampoo was almost out the door, when something occurred to her. “<Where did you learn that tune you were humming?>”
Kasumi paused in thought for a moment. “<I’m not sure. I just seemed to remember it. Do you know what it is?>”
Shampoo shook her head. The tune sounded awfully familiar, but she couldn’t quite place her finger on it. She left the kitchen and made her way to the bath, trying to hum the tune herself. Just as she was about to run the water she realized that something was horribly out of place. She couldn’t believe she had almost missed it. Total exhaustion was the only excuse she had in missing such a tremendous inconsistency in Kasumi’s behavior.
Shampoo rushed down the hall and into the kitchen where Kasumi was still examining the food and making certain it was all right. “When did you learn to speak Chinese?”
Kasumi gave her an odd stare. “I don’t know what you mean. I only know a little bit from some books I read when you first came here. I wanted to be able to talk to you in your own language, but I’m afraid I wasn’t very good at it. I was too embarrassed to ever try to use it on you.”
Shampoo shook her head in disbelief. “Kasumi, you was just talking to me in fluent Chinese.”
“I think you’re mistaken. You’re probably just tired. Why don’t you take nice hot bath? I’m sure you’ll feel better.”
Shampoo allowed herself to be led back to the bathroom, giving up on the line of thought. Maybe she had just imagined it. It wasn’t like Kasumi would lie about such a thing, but for the life of her Shampoo could have sworn it was Chinese the girl had been using. Now that she thought about it, there was an odd dialect to it; something slightly off about how she was pronouncing some of the words. After several minutes of intense doubt about whether the event even occurred or not, the mystery was placed to the side. There were more immediate things to worry about, like what to do about Ranma.
Kasumi went back to preparing the food for a third time. Poor Shampoo, she was so confused. Thinking Kasumi could speak Chinese was just so silly. The only foreign language she could speak with any level of proficiency was English, and even then she wasn’t very good at it.
The question about the song she had been humming was bothering her, however. It was familiar and the source of it was right on the tip of her tongue. Concentrating, she was delighted to remember where she had heard it before. It was from way back when she was just a little child, too young even to wield any weapons. The song was a war dirge that her mother would hum every time before she engaged in weapons practice. It had such a catchy little beat that she and Su would hum right alongside her, much to their mother’s delight.
With that out of the way, she returned her attention to her cooking. As her thought turned to what she had to clean today, the memory of the song drifted out of her mind, almost as though it had never been.
School had been a bust. Akane held her hand to her head as the aspirin finally gave out. With the passing of the drug her headache returned full force and made her already frayed nerves begin to approach the breaking point. It was yet another miserable day in the life of Akane Tendo.
It hadn’t always been that way. Things had been a lot better just a short while ago, like the day before yesterday. That was way back when her fiancé knew what his normal sex was, something most women did not have to worry about. For some as yet undiscovered reason Ranma now thought he was a girl. And even worse was the fact that no one had any idea of how to cure him.
Akane reconsidered that thought. Ranma-chan now walked around in cursed form all the time and reflexively ‘corrected’ everyone when they used the wrong gender when referring to her. Until ‘she’ was cured it would be best to think in female terms, at least for now since it made the redhead so much happier.
School had been even more arduous than usual. Since the guys in school heard about “Shampoo” finally dating, some of them decided to ask her out. Rather than rejecting the boys advances with a blow to the head, like she usually did, she responded to the flirting in varying degrees of embarrassment rather than rejection, much to Akane and Shampoo-kun’s annoyance. Akane had to chase away close to a dozen potential suitors before Shampoo-kun came up with the solution.
During lunch the twentieth guy to hit on Ranma-chan had a bad experience. Shampoo-kun stood on top of one of the tables and made a loud public announcement. “This is what happens to whoever hits on Shampoo.” And with that he grabbed the boy, ran with him to one of the windows, and immediately threw him out. Everyone heard the scream of terror end abruptly as he landed in the pool with a loud splash. Shampoo-kun looked confusedly out the window and then announced in a loud, annoyed voice how he had forgotten there was a pool down there.
No one else came on to Ranma-chan for the rest of the day.
Now the trio were walking back home, which angered Akane even more. The reason for that was Ranma-chan. Specifically, the way she had grabbed onto Shampoo-kun’s arm as though the boy was going to run off somewhere. And Shampoo-kun wasn’t helping things by just going along with things and not saying a word of protest. Akane had to keep repeating to herself Ranma-chan was not in her right mind and that was the cause of the behavior. If only there was something they could do. Then the idea hit her.
“Why don’t we take him…her, to Dr. Tofu’s. I’ll bet he can figure out what’s going on.”
“Aiyah!” Shampoo-kun shouted excitedly. “That a great idea, Akane. We should have thought of it before.” Now all they had to do was convince Ranma-chan it was a good idea.
Ranma-chan placed her hand to her chin in thought. “I think that’s a great idea. I haven’t had a regular check up in quite a while. Thank you for looking out for my health.”
“Sure,” Akane said. That went easier than it could have. Maybe subconsciously Ranma-chan wanted the cure and was assisting them. If that were the case perhaps things would turn out all right.
The situation was quickly explained to Dr. Tofu, who promptly gave Ranma-chan an extensive battery of tests. All of them came back with the same conclusion: physically there was nothing wrong with Ranma-chan.
“I think we should send her to a hospital to perform some of the tests I can’t do here, but I’m not very hopeful that they’ll discover anything.” He couldn’t help but notice the looks of abject sorrow on Akane and Shampoo-kun. “Well, Nabiki might be right and it could be psychological. You may want to send her to a psychiatrist.”
“That won’t be necessary, doctor,” Ranma-chan calmly said. “As you mentioned, I am perfectly fine and there is nothing wrong with me mentally. I couldn’t be happier. Now there is something I want to ask you.” Ranma-chan turned to Akane and Shampoo-kun. “I need to ask some private questions to the doctor. I promise I won’t be long.”
Both of the youths did as Ranma-chan requested and left the room.
“What is it?” Tofu asked.
“Well,” Ranma-chan was a bit hesitant, but continued. “I wanted to know if you could recommend a good gynecologist. I haven’t seen one. Ever.”
Dr. Tofu made a mental note of Ranma-chan’s mental condition: not good. Still, it probably would be a good idea for her to see one. Even if she was cured it would be good to know an expert opinion on exactly what condition the cursed form of Ranma’s had and what limitations there might be. And there was the possibility that Ranma-chan might not ever get cured. If that happened there was no telling what plans the young girl might have that would involve raising a family.
Upon returning home the trio separated, each lost in their own thoughts. Akane and Shampoo-kun worried about Ranma-chan, who, in turn, worried about the two of them worrying about her, forming a vicious circle. Without telling the others, Ranma-chan decided to break her friends out of their funks, choosing Akane as the first to help.
It was almost an hour later when Akane passed by the kitchen. She was so depressed she almost missed the sounds of Ranma-chan and Kasumi giggling in the kitchen. Poking her head in to see what the commotion was about, she was spotted by the redhead almost immediately.
“Come on in Akane,” Ranma-chan invited. “I was just about to get you.”
“Why?” she asked suspiciously.
“I know how much you enjoy cooking, so I thought Kasumi and I would teach you how to do it.”
Once again Akane was reminded of the differences between ‘Brain Damaged’ Ranma and ‘Normal’ Ranma. If only some of one could be patched onto the other, then she would have a fiancé that was almost perfect, or at least considerate.
“Okay.” If she had an opportunity to have Ranma-chan, crazed or not, teach her to cook she would be damned if she would let the opportunity slip by. She cracked her knuckles in anticipation of the event, eager to get underway.
Akane would go on to look back at that session as one of those rare nights where things could have gone a lot worse but didn’t. Everything ended up horribly wrong no matter how hard she tried. But what could have been disastrous evening turned into something of a milestone. After somehow ruining four consecutive dishes, including a salad, she at last managed to boil water successfully and with only a little extra supervision. It might not have been much, but it was a start. And it was easy. All she had to remember was not to do anything other than put water in a pan and turn on the stove, doing absolutely nothing else, even though she thought using grease might make it boil faster.
And the best part about it was Ranma-chan. After the third failure Akane had expressed giving up on the hopeless task before her, but Ranma-chan remained adamant about continuing and didn’t let her give in. In the end it had paid off, and all because of the cursed boy that had so abruptly come into her life. Too bad it wasn’t the real him.
In a lot of ways the situation was getting worse as time went on. Ranma-chan had shown more thoughtfulness in two days than she had shown in two months. If only Ranma-chan could be that thoughtful and caring when she was normal, then things would almost be perfect. So many reservations yet so many strong feelings, all wrapped up over one individual. That was Ranma in a nutshell. Only a living contradiction like him could elicit such opposite and powerful feelings in a girl like Akane Tendo.
Ranma-chan was feeling mighty good about herself since Akane had taken her instruction without a word of complaint. She was fairly certain that no more than a week ago Akane would have struck her for critiquing the cooking methods she employed, but perseverance paid off and Akane had learned how to boil water with only a minimum of help. It was just like Ranma-chan had told her, if you knew you could take a first step then a second one was sure to follow. It was also much to Saotome’s delight that Akane actually hugged her over that statement. It was a ‘girls’ embrace, of course so there was nothing wrong with it, but it meant a lot of the tension between them was gone. Now if it had been a handsome boy, like Shampoo-kun, that would have been even more cause for celebration. If only he wasn’t avoiding her lately, then perhaps some headway could be made. He was just so handsome, and he had rescued her from her father, and so many other things that Ranma-chan owed him over the last months. The only drawback was that there were times when Shampoo-kun seemed to prefer being a girl to a boy. Why someone as attractive as that would ever want to change was such a mystery. Perhaps Ranma-chan could convince him to stop doing that now that they could officially date, which was all thanks to Ukyou. She was going to have to stop by her oldest friend’s restaurant and offer some gratitude for the assistance.
The doorbell rang while Ranma-chan was nearby, so she volunteered to get it like any proper and helpful young lady would. Idly, she wondered who could be visiting at that late hour when she opened the door and learned exactly who it was.
“Hey there, Fem-Boy.”
As much as Tarou would hate to admit it, the reaction Ranma-chan had was one of the last one’s he expected.
“Oh no,” Ranma-chan whispered quietly as she held her hands to her face in fright. Within a moment she was running away in terror into the house, barely keeping from screaming at the intruder. She knew the horrible boy frightened her, that he was capable of being a mean person that didn’t like her, and would just do something terrible to her if he had the chance. It was a great relief when she spotted Shampoo-kun just standing around. The Amazon was taken by surprise as Ranma-chan proceeded to hide herself behind him while looking fearfully at the way she had come.
Tarou stood at the entryway, stunned as his mind tried to process what just happened. After a moment he decided the best course of action was to simply follow the fleeing girl, though he halfway expected a trap. Once inside the sight that greeted him was not something that he expected either. It seemed impossible that Ranma-chan would be cowering behind Shampoo-kun in fear, and that the focus of that fear was Tarou. He pinched himself to make sure it was something other than a dream.
“Well, Fem-Boy. Nice to see you’re showing some common sense in acknowledging who’s the best here. You just keep hiding behind your boyfriend there and stay out of my way.” Tarou gave a snicker and took one step forward before he noticed the deadly glare the Amazon gave him.
Shampoo-kun stood his ground. “Go away, Pantyhose. Or else.”
A test of wills erupted between the two. That sort of insult was not the sort that Tarou took lying down while Shampoo-kun was not about to let Pantyhose anywhere near Ranma-chan, especially in her current state of mind.
Tarou was the first to back off. He had come to the Tendo house for two reasons, neither of them involving Ranma or Shampoo, and if he were to get involved in a fight on this particular ground there was little doubt who would come out looking like bad guy. No, the two martial artists before him would pay for their impertinence later.
A quick “Boo!” sent Ranma-chan scurrying back nearly half a foot. Tarou just had to find out what that was all about. He headed up to Akane’s room for a little talk with the object of his affections.
To Akane, Tarou was like a breath of fresh air. His timing was actually pretty good for a change. With Ranma-chan in her current state of mind she was not likely to pick a fight with Tarou, while he was not directly involved with the problems that Akane was currently undergoing. The two of them talked pleasantly with one another, though Akane refused to discuss Ranma-chan’s problem. It would be cured soon enough and it was sort of a family matter.
There was one tense moment when Tarou tried to convince her to train under him again. With Ranma-chan the way she was now there was no way Akane was going to get the sort of training she needed. But if she did agree to it and Ranma-chan recovered her mind it would represent yet another point of contention between the two of them. Akane refused the offer, though he forced her to admit she would consider it. After a couple of hours of pleasant conversation Akane decided to retire. Tarou refused her offer of helping him to the door and told her to get some rest.
Nabiki was not in a happy mood. Ever since Ranma-chan came ‘out of the closet’ things were in near total chaos. All anyone had time for was helping the brain-addled Saotome out or moping around trying to figure out how to help her. Even one of her best sources of money, Kunou, was AWOL. Just as she finally decided to put her mind to it and try to find some way of resolving all of the new crop of problems there was a knock on her door. After she called out it was open she discovered just how much worse things could get.
“How you doing, Nab-chan?” Tarou asked as he closed the door behind him and made himself comfortable in one of her chairs.
It took a great deal of self-control to just stand there and not grind her teeth in anger. “Why, I’m fine. Thank you for asking. And what exactly brings you here?”
Nabiki could feel her blood pressure rise. Damn, no one had angered her this badly in years, and the feeling had not been missed. “Surely there’s something else?”
“I heard some rumors around school that Ranma was acting a little strange lately. So tell me what’s going on.”
He was hitting all the wrong buttons today. And what did he mean by ‘rumors around school’? He didn’t go to school. It took less than a second for Nabiki to figure out how he had learned of it. He was using her network of people. She knew he had implied as much during their last conversation, but had secretly hoped it was either all a bluff or he only had influence over one or two people. The realization that he was now inside and possible controlling elements of a system she set up was almost enough to make her scream in rage at him. How dare he just come along and subvert something she took years in building. Now he had even more leverage against her.
It took a moment for her to focus on the matter at hand and answer his question. Should she lie, or did he already know the answer and was testing her honesty? Using the truth was the best way at the moment. Tarou was going to find out sooner or later, and if it was a test she was going to pass with flying colors. Let it appear that she was kowtowing to his every whim in fear. Once he dropped his guard she would crush him.
“Ranma seems to have had a nervous breakdown. He thinks he’s really a girl.”
Tarou nearly fell off the chair in shock. “You’re kidding.”
“I only wish I were,” she replied. “It’s causing a lot of chaos around here, especially for Akane. She’s really depressed about it.” She hoped that last little bit had dug at the boy.
Nabiki was partially successful. Tarou did not like hearing that what was soon to be his girl was still getting worked up over the hermaphrodite. Now that he thought about it, she had seemed a little down, and that combined with Ranma-chan’s attitude at the door only served to reinforce Nabiki’s information.
Knowledge like that needed to be considered over a long period of time. There was now a remarkable opportunity to gain himself a real measure of revenge and get Ranma out of the picture, not that it didn’t appear he wasn’t in the process of doing that himself, or maybe that was herself now. Still, Tarou wanted to add that personal touch to disposing of Ranma. To have Ranma do it to on his own denied Tarou the pleasure of extracting the pound of flesh he so desperately craved. Oh, it was so good, the ‘Fem-Boy’ really was one now. Still, Tarou acknowledged that the condition might be temporary, which meant there was not a moment to lose.
Nabiki watched Tarou gain a wide grin, then get up and move to the door. Before he left he came over to her and smiled.
“Good job, Nab-chan. Be seeing you. And make sure you have something else for me next time.” He patted her on the head exactly like he would a pet and departed.
Nabiki stood stock still for one minute. Then another. Then another. She remained as motionless as a statue for a total of five minutes, then slowly moved one quivering hand to a nearby shinai that Akane had left in the room. Nabiki’s hand tightly grasped the handle as she raised it above her head.
Akane was the first to react to what sounded like a tornado ripping through the house. As soon as she left the confines of her room she figured out where the noise was coming from. Shampoo-kun had vaulted to the top of the steps and was right on Akane’s heels as the two stood outside the door for a moment. Each one tensed up, prepared to fight. Akane threw open the door.
The sight that greeted them was one of total carnage. Nabiki’s room was in a state of such absolute chaos that it really did appear a tornado had ripped through it. One of her chairs was broken, the shattered ceramic of a vase littered the floor, her bed was overturned, but the most frightening thing of all was Nabiki herself. Even Shampoo-kun was momentarily taken aback from the animal ferocity that was displayed in the girl’s features.
“Wh…what happened?” Akane managed to get out as the other members of the household made their way to her side. She silently thought that there was no way Nabiki should ever appear as she did now.
“I saw a rat,” Nabiki explained as she slowly calmed down. “It got away this time, but I’ll get it in the end.”
Everyone’s concern grew at that statement. For the first half of it she seemed to be calming down, but the wild look to her eyes returned with a vengeance as she made her ‘vow’ concerning the rodent.
“I’ll call an exterminator,” Kasumi offered.
“No!” Nabiki spoke with an air of command now. “I’ll deal with it. You don’t worry about it. He’s all mine.”
Akane slowly closed the door, leaving her sister in the room alone. On the outside nothing appeared wrong with her, but she did not appear to be pleasant company at the moment either. Who would have thought Nabiki hated rats so much?
Ranma-chan’s agitation at Tarou’s presence had finally given way to a new emotion she felt, or rather one that had been put off to the side until Tarou had left. It was with a great deal of trepidation that she decided to enter the kitchen and begin talking with Shampoo-kun. It was much to her disappointment that he was no longer present, at least not as a male. Instead, he was a she at the moment, having evidently decided to use some hot water. Ranma-chan sighed depressively. Why Shampoo-kun would want his, admittedly nice, but ultimately female body, when his male one was so handsome just didn’t make sense. Maybe the poor boy was confused. Ranma-chan would help fix it and then she could get on with more important things.
Shampoo was surprised to emerge from the kitchen and get immediately doused with cold water from behind. She didn’t need to look in the direction to know who the offender was.
“Sorry about that,” Ranma-chan explained. “It was an accident.”
Oh, Shampoo-kun was relatively certain it was no accident, since it was the fifth time in two days that an unexpected cold water splashing had happened. It seemed that no matter where he was, when he was in his proper female form, Ranma-chan was lurking behind some corner, waiting to ambush him within minutes of a change. She had to be stalking him, she just had to be.
“It no problem, Ranma,” he told Ranma-chan as she handed him a towel that she was ‘coincidentally’ carrying at the moment.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” she said shyly as Shampoo-kun handed back the towel.
Shampoo-kun smiled at the girl and was rewarded with one of her own. “What is it?”
“When are you going to take me out on that date?”
So that was what it was about. That was not good. Shampoo-kun was certainly going to hold Ranma-chan to going out with him, but only after she recovered her mind. Going out with Ranma-chan while she was behaving like a girl was not his idea of an enjoyable time. What he wanted was for them to go out in their normal forms and act like they would if Ranma-chan hadn’t mentally switched genders. It was going to be perfect, just like the original date he had planned for the two of them was supposed to be. Of course those plans had been ruined in the worst way possible back then, so who knew how the next one would end up. Maybe going out with Ranma-chan as they were wouldn’t be so bad, but it was not what he really wanted either. No, it was better to wait until Ranma-chan remembered she was really a boy.
“I pretty busy now. It might be a while.”
The wounded look she gave him cut right through his heart. It did not matter that Ranma-chan wasn’t exactly herself. Shampoo-kun had grown too familiar with Saotome going around as a girl to think of her as anything other than ‘Ranma’ no matter what shape her mind was in.
“If you don’t want to go out, I don’t mind.” Ranma-chan shoulders sagged as she held her head down and turned to leave.
There was no way Shampoo-kun was going to let her walk off like that. He grabbed Ranma-chan by the shoulder, causing the girl to stop and turn around.
“I want to go out with you, so no think that way.” And with that he bent down and kissed the girl’s forehead.
The reaction was instantaneous as Ranma-chan turned just as red as her shirt then skipped off with a smile on her face. Shampoo-kun mentally made a note that it was a whole lot easier to get Ranma-chan to smile like this, even if she was sick in the head. Now if only he could please Saotome when she was sane…
Akari’s search took her down one of the side streets of Nerima. At this time she was not searching for Shampoo. The pig farmer knew where the Amazon was. Her search was for someone altogether different. Someone who would help her in her quest for vengeance.
Akari wasn’t foolish, just inexperienced at the revenge game. Her confrontation with Shampoo and the boy who should have been her husband, Ranma, proved that. The duo had been weakened to the point that Akari should have been able to take them, but in the end she had been beaten easily. It took a while for her to figure out exactly why that was: she was vulnerable in human form. And now that they knew her weakness it would be easy to exploit it. That was unless she had some ally to help her. Asking around gained her a lot of information. Ranma and Shampoo seemed to have angered a lot of people and there was no shortage of potential allies to help her in her scheme.
Choosing a candidate was a little more difficult. An awful lot of them seemed pretty scary to her. The likes of the Dojo Destroyer, Tarou (who turned into an ugly monster), and the horrible pervert, Happosai were not the sort of people she would feel comfortable around. She was about to resort to asking one of the scary ones when she was informed of a recent foe who sounded almost nice. He was normal, a good fighter, and from what she had heard just had a little bad luck. From the description she had he sounded like the ideal ally who wouldn’t try to take advantage of her. It was a lucky break that one of the people she had asked had given her a photo of the boy as she started walking the streets, trying to find out his location. Wherever he was staying at he was keeping a low profile.
At last Akari spotted a group of youths clustered together on one of the side streets. She hoped they would know where the boy was. Frustration was starting to get to her.
“Excuse me,” she asked politely of one of the boys. “Perhaps you could help me. Have you seen this man?” She handed him the picture.
The boy in the fox mask carefully looked the picture over. “Nope. Can’t say I have.” He carefully handed the picture back to Akari, then pulled a knife. “Now, give us all your precious metals and you won’t get hurt.”
“I don’t carry any precious metals with me,” Akari explained as the rest of the animal masked youths surrounded her. It was an unusual question; she didn’t think she looked like a miner.
“All right then. Give us all your money!”
Now Akari understood. “You’re a bunch of robbers!”
The Mask Gang all looked at one another in a bewildered manner, shrugged, then returned their attention to Akari. “Yes, we are.”
What was the world coming to when you couldn’t trust masked gangs of men? Well, she just couldn’t let them rob her. It was wrong. Fear began to blossom in her chest until she remembered one very important detail she could use under these circumstances.
“Umm,” The fox began to mumble as the girl pulled out a canteen from around her belt. “I’m not thirsty.”
“Neither am I.” And with that she dumped the water over her head.
The fox gave an anguished sigh of despair as he watched the girl before him transform into a sumo-razorback.
“I hate this fucking town.”
The next day all but Ranma-chan had gathered around the stairs, waiting to go to school. Since the blow to the head, the redhead had been the first one downstairs every morning. Yet another example of how different Ranma-chan was when she thought she was female. Akane was about to check on her when Saotome finally hurried down and joined the others.
“Sorry I’m late,” she apologized. “How do I look?”
All three of the school students stared at Ranma-chan in varying degrees of disbelief. She looked different all right.
“You’re wearing make-up,” Akane said, flustered.
“Did I do a good job? I didn’t want to use too much and look trashy.”
Shampoo-kun took charge of the situation. “You look very nice, Ranma. We have to go now or we be late for school.”
Ranma-chan squealed in delight at the compliment and attached herself to Shampoo-kun’s arm, leading the two of them out the door.
“Well, it looks like Shampoo is starting to adjust to things and Ranma doesn’t seem to mind one bit,” Nabiki commented towards the departing forms while affording a sidelong glance to see what Akane’s reaction was. It was no surprise to see a scowl on her younger sister’s brow as Akane muttered she didn’t give a damn what the pervert did and with whom.
Ukyou looked down at the brochure again with barely restrained glee. It was the perfect plan. All she needed to do was convince Ryouga (too bad he was caught up in all of this), Kyoko (too bad it wasn’t a more painful solution), and Ai (the only other victim, but sacrifices had to be made). The only difficulty she had in unleashing the plan on the other three was timing. She was not going to do it right away, not that any of them would perceive it for what it was. It would be better to wait until all of them got to school.
Both cheerleaders were waiting outside for their ‘mates’ to show up and escort them to school. Oh what fun she was going to have in ridding herself of all her problems in one fell swoop. She kept the brochure tucked in her hand just to make sure it didn’t mysteriously disappear and wouldn’t be there to show the others. The Tendo contingent linked up as the now eight students headed for Furinkan.
Ukyou was lost in a fantasy of how Ryouga would react to Kyoko’s abrupt departure when Ranma-chan spoke up. “Hey Ucchan, What’s that in your hand?”
Ukyou turned in surprise. She had wanted to unveil it after Ranma-chan and the others had left. Now it was going to look bad if she waited to reveal her discovery after Ranma-chan had specifically asked about it.
“It’s a travel brochure for a really neat vacation spot. A ‘tunnel of love’ sort of thing. I wanted to know if Ryouga and Kyoko wanted to come with Ai and me when we go there tomorrow.”
Ai nearly fell over in disbelief. “You’re asking me on a date?”
That caused Ukyou to break out in a sweat. “Not a date. Just a little vacation as friends.”
Ai didn’t hear a word of that. She simply began doing cartwheels and shouted out how she was going on a date with her true love.
“Thanks a lot for asking us along,” Kyoko gushed as she hung onto Ryouga’s arm. “I’m glad we’re such good friends.”
Ukyou sweatdropped bigtime at the little statement. Funny how Kyoko was the only one unaware of the tension that Ukyou displayed whenever the peppy little creature was around. Kyoko wasn’t going to think a lot of her ‘friend’ when she discovered it was really a ‘Tunnel of Lost Love’ that they were really going to. Too bad that part of the brochure had been mysteriously torn out. Now the only doubt Ukyou had was wondering if the magic of the cave could break the magic of the love pill.
The restrained delight the okonomiyaki chef felt disappeared quickly as Ranma-chan spoke up. “I’d love to go there, wouldn’t you?” she sighed dreamily to her Amazon companion.
Shampoo-kun was suddenly torn in two directions at once. One was the desire to spend some time with Ranma-chan, and in the moody atmosphere of a tunnel of love there would be an abundance of the emotion Shampoo-kun wanted. On the downside, Ranma-chan thought she was a girl and would no doubt act the part to the hilt, expecting Shampoo-kun to make all the moves. Ordinarily that was not a problem, but such an incident might encourage Ranma-chan to remain in her state, even if she did look nice wearing a bit of make-up.
“You have got to be kidding,” Akane interrupted before Shampoo-kun could answer. “Exactly why are you asking him to go with you?”
Ranma-chan looked curiously at Akane for a moment, then realized why she was so irritated. “You don’t have anyone to go with. We can fix that. Hey! Gosunkugi!”
Gosunkugi, who had been wandering close by, walked over to where Ranma-chan was.
“Would you like to accompany us to a tunnel of love?” Ranma-chan asked. “I know Minami isn’t back yet, and Akane doesn’t have anyone to go with right now, so I think you would be doing her a big favor if you would escort her.”
Gosunkugi considered that for a moment. It was true that he was very lonely with Minami’s absence, although Sayuri was kind enough to be paying him some attention and trying to make him feel better, and going out with the closest thing he had to friends would be uplifting, so after only a moment’s hesitation he accepted.
“Now you won’t be lonely, Akane.” Ranma-chan smiled in joy at curing Akane’s loneliness for the trip.
Akane just gave a disgusted look and chose to head into school. She kept reminding herself Ranma-chan was sick in the head and that any…physical disagreements Akane had with her might result in permanent damage. Not that Shampoo-kun was making things any better. Akane would almost swear the Amazon liked Ranma-chan in her current state. She was going to have to keep a closer eye on the two of them just to make sure nothing unusual happened.
The next day:
The Shogun of the Dark gazed over the tubes in which four of the Devils of Kimone currently resided. The process of augmentation was very time consuming, and worse, it used up a great deal of his personal power, magical energy that he could ill-afford to lose. It was true that he had been planning for this day for centuries, but no matter how he had tried, the fact of the matter was the whole plan was going to be cut close.
He had anticipated the power levels necessary to employ, and still had some surplus with which to risk, but it was more important that he had good foot soldiers to take care of any unexpected problems that might come up. With the Devils bound as they were to him, their unwavering loyalty was a given. This time at least. There would be no rebellion tolerated this time. The Shogun learned from his mistakes.
Gemma was the first to burst forth from the energy matrix cocoon that had boosted his already considerable power. That was no surprise, he was the only one that was had been alive the entire time. It was just as well; Gemma was the most reliable one for the task at hand. Once his loyalty was ensured anyway.
Gemma was still flexing his muscles as he felt the newfound power course through his body. The Shogun took note of that and began to inform Gemma of exactly what changes he had undergone.
“Your entire body is at least four times more powerful than what it once was. Speed, strength, stamina, everything. And your personal abilities have been increased even more.”
Gemma continued flexing. He would need practice to use his newfound effectively. “Most impressive. The others will undergo the treatment with the same results?”
“Yes.” The Shogun nodded under his cowl. “They will take longer. Now, I have a mission for you. We are moving our base of operations to here in China. I was hesitant to move so close to where the final phase will take place, lest my enemies stumble upon what I have been planning and interfere. We could have afforded a battle in Japan but we could not suffer one here. At least until now. The time approaches and the last preparations need to be underway.”
Gemma nodded in understanding. He had wondered why the Shogun had elected to enhance the quartet that was with him. That also explained why he wanted the blood shipped to this location too.
The Shogun continued. “I need you to gather the remaining Devils and the rest of my equipment and bring them over here personally. I will arrange it so you do not have to worry about transportation or importing it from Japan. Just get the things to the right place at the right time.”
Gemma bowed and turned to go when the Shogun spoke up once more. “And Gemma, remember to keep a low profile. All of you. This is the eve of our greatest hour, yet we are still extremely vulnerable. Do not cause any disturbances and avoid useless conflict. I would be most displeased. Do you understand?”
Gemma nodded as he set out for Japan. The Shogun’s leash was tight around his neck and there would be no betrayals this time. Besides, his already impressive abilities were now permanently enhanced and instead of simply ruling Japan, he would now help rule the world. Somehow, he thought he could live with that.
Frustration tore at Ukyou’s soul. This one incident was only surpassed by Ranma leaving her at the side of the road as far as horrible events went.
“Did you have to throw me at the ghosts? What if they had tried to hurt me?” Ranma-chan scolded as she made her way from the exit of the cave with everyone else.
“It was the quickest way to convince them we weren’t a couple, so quit your whining,” Ryouga reprimanded. Being attacked by a horde of ghosts that thought he and Ranma-chan were an item was enough to make him nauseous. And throwing the redhead at the spirits was surprisingly satisfying.
“I suppose you’re right. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we were a couple.” Ranma-chan’s eyes went to Shampoo-kun as she said that. Perhaps it was a good thing she had not encountered those spirits with Shampoo-kun. The ghosts would have been determined to break the two of them up, even if they weren’t officially an item…yet.
“I can’t believe they thought we were going out with one another,” Akane said disgustedly to the person she had been stuck with on the last leg of the journey.
Shampoo-kun appeared just as upset. “You think I’m happy? I rather get stuck as a boy than get stuck with you.”
“Would you two relax.” Kyoko was happily engaged at trying to play the role of peacemaker. “It’s a good thing I had Gosunkugi with me. Those spirit wards must have worked because we weren’t attacked or anything.”
“Or they were afraid of what he looked like,” Shampoo-kun mumbled under his breath as he examined Gosunkugi, who was covered head to toe in makeshift spirit wards.
“That was a close one, my love,’ Ai said to Ukyou.
Ukyou gave a soft sob. Why couldn’t things work out just once? The plan had seemed so foolproof. Well, actually it was, and she was the biggest fool in it. She began to wonder if there was some higher power trying to screw her over.
Things had started out well. Ukyou went in with Ai, Kyoko with Ryouga, Shampoo-kun with Ranma-chan, Akane and Gosunkugi. They had fought off some ghosts, Kyoko cowering next to Ryouga while Ai protected Ukyou from attacks. Shampoo-kun and Akane were fighting for their couples with much success, and then disaster struck. Kunou had at last tracked down the ‘villainous Saotome’ and attempted to destroy Shampoo-kun again. Only this time Shampoo-kun was ready and dodged the attack. Kunou’s sword shattered a critical support pillar and brought down a huge section of the cave, separating everyone into different couples while burying himself in the process. The only duo that had remained intact was Ai and Ukyou. If Ai could have been broken of her obsession then the trip would have been worth it, but things hadn’t turned out that way.
“It’s a good thing they’re old fashioned ghosts and don’t believe in same-sex relationships,” Ai commented, eliciting yet another sob from Ukyou.
Somewhere, deep within the bowels of the cave, Kunou began to stir. The spirits surrounding his unconscious form were at something of a loss. How could they make a person fall out of love with himself, like this youth was?
A couple more days passed without any sign of improvement and Akane was beginning to lose hope. Ranma-chan had gone to the hospital for further examinations and all of them turned up nothing. They couldn’t force her to go to a psychiatrist either without exposing the Jusenkyou curse and raising a whole lot of uncomfortable questions. And since she insisted she was perfectly fine, and actually behaved like a normal girl, no doctor was going to be able to effectively evaluate her. There were no more options that came to mind and Akane was at a loss of what to do.
What was almost as frustrating as Ranma-chan’s continued feminine conduct was the way Shampoo-kun was treating her. It was almost as though the Amazon was enjoying the behavior, encouraging it in fact. He never refused Ranma-chan’s attention, let her glomp onto his arm, and Akane had even seen the redhead hug him once. When Akane exploded on Ranma-chan she had begun to cry, making Akane even more miserable than she already was. At least Shampoo-kun had kept his mouth closed up to that point. It felt like each hour that passed the real Ranma was getting further and further away.
It was almost like Akane was living with a stranger, but that wasn’t exactly true either. Yes, Ranma-chan was far from acting normal, but every now and then she would behave in some manner that she used to do before the accident, which only served to remind Akane of what she had lost.
Enough was enough. It was time to take action. Nabiki had gone out earlier while Kasumi and Ranma-chan had gone shopping for yet more dresses, leaving the others to their own devices. Akane ran through the house and gathered everyone together, saying it was time to do something about Ranma-chan’s condition before it got any worse.
Once all four sat at the table Akane opened the discussion. “We have got to do something. Has anyone come up with any ideas?”
“We could use some Nanniichuan on him. There’s no way he’d think he’s a girl if he was cured,” Genma proposed.
“Why don’t we go with a cure we can actually employ,” Akane stated.
“We could force the two of you to get married,” Soun offered. “If he’s involved in a marriage he’ll have to perform his husbandly duties and that might shock him back.” That plan received Genma’s mark of approval.
Akane shook her head. Even now they were still at it. “Let’s go with something a bit less drastic.”
Akane had beaten Shampoo from offering her take on that plan. There was no way she was going to let them take advantage of Ranma-chan while she was like that. “I not think the Xi Fa Xiang any good under these conditions. It can only erase a certain set of memories. I not good enough to erase a whole persona, and it might harm the real Ranma.”
Silence dominated the quartet until Genma came up with yet another plan. “We could always send him into his neko-state.”
That gained him evil gleams from Akane and Shampoo.
He noticed the expressions and panicked. Wasn’t anyone ever going to forgive him for one small error in judgment? “N…now wait! The idea has some merit. Right now he’s having mental problems. Perhaps another one can overcome it and snap him back into reality.”
“And what we do if that not work, Pop?” Shampoo growled “You want to wrap him up in chains and thrown him into a pit of hungry boys?”
“Well now there’s an idea. It might sound a bit extreme, but if it worked onc—“ The rest was cut off as his head was stomped into the table by twin blows from Akane and Shampoo.
A ringing doorbell interrupted further punishment. Akane answered the door to see an unfamiliar older woman carrying a child along in a stroller.
“Is this the home of Shampoo?” she asked,
Akane was about to respond when she remembered one annoying question that absolutely had to be asked. “What does she look like?” How she hated the name game that had to be played in her own home.
The woman appeared confused at the question. “Short with red hair.”
“Yes,” Akane nodded. “but she isn’t here right now.”
“Oh. I just wanted to thank her for saving myself and my child the other day. I also wanted to make sure she wasn’t hurt from that awful girder falling on her head.”
This was all news to Akane, and something about the situation made her feel this was something important. “Shampoo didn’t mention anything like that happening. What don’t you come inside and tell us exactly what happened.”
An hour later Akane escorted the woman out the door, then quickly returned to the table where the others had listened to the discussion.
“So, are you all thinking what I’m thinking?” Genma asked.
Akane nodded. “It sounds like Ranma got hit in the head and started acting weird. The timing’s right and even the lady said he was acting different afterwards.”
“So we can cure him by hitting him in the head. It sounds easy.” Soun punched his fist into his palm as an example of what had to be done.
Shampoo was the only one with any hesitation. “I not sure about this.”
“There’s nothing to be concerned about. My boy will be back to normal once I hit him on the head.” Genma began going through the house, looking for instruments with which to inflict blunt trauma.
“What if it not cure him?” Shampoo offered worriedly. “What if it makes him worse?”
“How can he get any worse?” Akane protested. “He never changes form. He wears dresses and make-up all the time now. And he seems to like the attention he’s getting from the boys.” That last comment was unmistakably directed at Shampoo.
Shampoo kept her temper in check. Akane did raise some good points, even if one was a cheap shot. Besides, it just meant Akane was jealous that she wasn’t the center of attention anymore. It wasn’t like she appreciated Ranma anyhow.
“Okay,” Shampoo relented. “We hit him on the head and make him better.”
“Good,” Akane pulled one of her mallets out and gave it a practice swing. She paused a moment in an effort to remember the last time she had done so, and was surprised to discover she could not recall when that was. Ranma really had been getting better, even before the personality switch. Akane was astonished at how much anticipation she felt at that. It was like Ranma had gone on a trip and was at long last coming back.
They took up strategic positions throughout the house. Akane offered to be the first to attack, taking up cover next to the door. Genma and Soun were going to act as a roving team while Shampoo guarded the backdoor. That was the reserve position and the least likely to have to attack Ranma, which suited Shampoo just fine. In fact, she was having serious doubts about the whole thing. Striking Ranma was the last thing she wanted to do, even if he would be back to normal. She had promised to protect him. It took close to ten minutes to convince herself she was doing this to protect him from himself, so that made it all right. Of course the last time she used that rationale she ended up kicking Genma and apologizing to Ranma-chan for abandoning her, and she swore she wouldn’t do it again.
But this wasn’t really abandonment. They now knew the best chance to cure Ranma was going to be a blow to the head, even he could suffer one if it would make him well again. There wasn’t any choice. It had to be done this time.
Shampoo went outside the door and sat down, curling her arms around her legs. All the worrying was for nothing. Akane would take care of matters and Shampoo wouldn’t even have to witness what happened. She would just come in to see the aftereffects. Maybe she would even glomp onto Ranma was he was back to normal, showing her appreciation for his return. And she did want him back. Akane was wrong when she implied otherwise, at least that was what Shampoo told herself.
Mousse-panda wandered through the halls of Kunou Manor aimlessly. He was currently in his cursed form thanks to Kodachi’s crazed father, who upon finding out about the curse, threw some water on him and offered to relieve Mousse-panda of all that excess hair. The man was totally obsessed.
The morning’s workout had proven to Mousse that his lingering injuries had at long last fully healed and that he was back up to full strength. Now the only problem was what to do with that strength. Nothing was coming to mind. No plans to win Shampoo’s hand. No ingenious plots to break Saotome’s control over her. No way to avenge himself for the wrongs Ranma had done to him personally. There was just nothing. It had literally been years since Mousse had been this depressed. It was almost as though he was finally growing tired of the rejection he seemed to receive at everyone’s hand. At least Kodachi was there to give him moral support.
What he needed now was something to spark his interests again. Perhaps a new way of doing things. He could not ask Kodachi, it would be wrong to ask that of her, but if there was someone else, that might be different. It was almost unfortunate the old ghoul had not returned from her little mission back home. He hoped she would at least find out how his family was doing for him. Communication with them was unwise since letters were postmarked and someone might try to follow the trail back to him and discover the truth about Shampoo and her curse.
Mousse-panda had almost made it to the baths when the ceiling before him suddenly caved in. Gleaming blades were out even before the wreckage stuck the floor. A huge figure slowly descended from the newly made opening and gently landed next to Mousse-panda.
Tarou-bull waved at Mousse-panda.
*What do you want here?* Mousse-panda asked. Tarou had been absent for weeks, which suited Mousse-panda just fine. He never liked the verbal barbs the flake always leveled at him. Too bad he was a better fighter in either form.
Tarou-bull just snorted and indicated with his hands they should seek hot water. Mousse-panda led the two to the palatial baths and used it to change back into their proper forms.
“What do you want?” Mousse asked once again.
Tarou snickered in response. “I found out something about Fem-boy you’re just going to love. ”
Mousse’s interest was suddenly piqued. Hatred of Ranma was the only thing the two could agree upon.
“He thinks he’s a girl for real. I back-checked it myself. He’s nothing more than a hopeless little damsel in distress. He even has enough sense to run away from me in fear. HAHAHAHAHA!!!”
Mousse shut out Tarou’s laughter as he allowed the information to sink in. If it really were true, and Tarou hadn’t screwed up, then this really was a golden opportunity to give back a little of what he had received as well as free Shampoo from Saotome’s corrupting influence.
Mousse decided to interrupt the continuous string of annoying laughter. “What are we going to do about it?”
Tarou stopped laughing “Funny you should ask,” he began. “It took me a while, but I think I’ve come up with something you’re going to like.”
Mousse listened to the plan. It really was something else. Very sinister. Very sinister indeed. All that was needed was to find and isolate Ranma. What was going to happen to him would not be for prying eyes.
Ranma-chan hurried up to the door of the house. It had been a wonderful shopping expedition and she had bought three new dresses. All of them were just perfect, and she couldn’t wait to show Shampoo-kun and see what he thought about them. Kasumi was certainly a good judge of such things and helped out Ranma-chan pick out the dresses. In return the redhead helped Kasumi pick out a dress of her own. It was a little different from what she ordinarily wore in that it had a lower neckline than usual. Actually it was extremely risqué by Kasumi’s standards, which surprised Ranma-chan. The older girl was usually so conservative.
There was something else bothering Ranma-chan. She had jokingly asked Kasumi if she was trying to impress some man. Kasumi just laughed at the jest until Ranma-chan jokingly implied that it might be Shampoo-kun. At that Kasumi blushed a little and told Ranma-chan not to be silly. There was nothing between the two of them.
In Ranma-chan’s eyes denials like that were cause for immediate suspicion. She stopped to think about exactly what relationship Shampoo-kun and Kasumi might have, and came to some very disturbing conclusions. Maybe there was something going on. After all, they were engaged at one time and Ranma-chan knew that Kasumi regarded the Amazon as attractive. Who didn’t? And then there was that three-day trip the two of them had taken alone. How could Kasumi keep her hands off of someone like him for three whole days when the two of them were totally alone? It simply did not seem possible.
So that meant that Kasumi was now something of a threat. Well, not really a threat since she was older than Shampoo-kun. Everyone knew older women were nowhere near as desirable as younger ones. Of course it also meant they were more experienced in love as well, which made them dangerous. Or in Kasumi’s case not so much dangerous, no one that nice could ever be considered dangerous, as much as a temptation. Perhaps that possibility was what Ranma-chan needed to get her moving. Shampoo-kun seemed slow on the uptake, though it was nice that he treated Ranma-chan like a lady instead of a woman of loose morals. It was likely he was waiting for Ranma-chan to make the first move and let him know how far she would go. So if her courage held up she would be visiting his room tonight, after everyone else was asleep, and the two would…find something to do, except go all the way. That was saved for marriage. However, a little necking wouldn’t hurt. It might even help in fact. At last she could enjoy those full lips that Amazon possessed. And his mighty…
She allowed her thoughts to trail off as she opened the door to the house and began to enter. That was when something in the back of her mind suddenly sprang to attention. It was an instinct that allowed Ranma-chan to automatically leap back into the house and out of the way of the descending hammer that had been poised to strike her. Once she avoided the blow she managed a glance to see who the attacker was.
“Akane?” Ranma-chan looked on in shock. “Why? I thought we were friends.”
That hurt Akane but she forced herself to concentrate on the task at hand. “I have to make you better. Trust me. You’ll thank me for this once we’re done.”
Ranma-chan instinctively ducked another swing. “What do you mean?”
“Listen to me,” Akane began to explain. “You were hit in the back of the head and it changed your personality. You are really a boy who mistakenly thinks she’s a girl. If I hit you in the head you’ll get better.” She inhaled deeply, praying that that was what would happen, then continued. “I don’t want to do this, believe me. I just want you to get better. Now stand still.”
A third swing missed as Ranma-chan cautiously backed up. “I told you I’m a girl. Don’t try to change me. I like what I am. Why can’t you like it?”
“Because it’s a lie.” Akane gritted her teeth. “You have to be true to yourself and what you are. And you are a boy!”
A fourth swing was dodged. “I thought you were my friend. But you’re trying to hurt me even though I told you not to and that I’m happy.”
Akane stopped at that comment. “I am your friend and I hate doing this. But once you get hit you’ll understand better.”
Ranma-chan was surprised as Akane suddenly stopped moving forward. She hoped that meant her ex-fiancee had come to her senses, wishing things could go back to the way they were, when she sensed yet two more attacks coming from beside the doorway she had just passed. Ranma-chan deftly dodged out of the way of the blows that had been leveled at her head by the fathers.
“Oh, Father. Mr. Tendo,” Ranma-chan moaned. “Not you too?”
“Stand still and be a man!” Genma roared as he took another swing at his son’s head.
“It’s for your own good, son,” Soun bawled. At least he was showing reluctance at bludgeoning his future son-in-law.
Ranma-chan avoided both those attacks as well. Once clear of the recent set of assaults she backed up into the kitchen in the hopes of gaining some room. She never hurt anyone. Why couldn’t they just leave her be? She was happy for the first time in a long while and now everyone was trying to take it away. Her family and friends were trying to hurt her without any cause or justification when all she wanted was to be loved and cared for, and give those emotions in return to the others. It was like hell. At least she could expect this behavior from the likes of Mousse or Pantyhose, but these were the people she cared about. At least Shampoo-kun wasn’t involved, she thought silently as she tried to go out the back porch. Once out in the open she could run away and all of her friends wouldn’t try to hurt her. Maybe they would even go back to normal in a little while and everything would turn out all right.
She kept her eyes on the others as she made her way through the doorway to the porch and was about to run off when she sensed yet another attack coming from her flank. As she tensed to leap away she caught a glimpse of who the attacker was. Upon seeing her Ranma-chan simply stood there.
Shampoo silently cursed the others for screwing up the ambush and driving Ranma-chan to her. Why couldn’t Akane have connected now that it really mattered? Of all the terrible punishment Akane had leveled at her fiancé this was the one time when it was actually necessary. Perhaps she had planned it that way so the Amazon would be the bad guy in the situation and Ranma would resent Shampoo instead of Akane. Shampoo wouldn’t have put it past her, maybe she had started taking lessons from Nabiki.
Shampoo hid beside the door hoping one of the others would connect before Ranma-chan made it over next to her. It was not to be. The others were instead deliberately driving the redhead to Shampoo, leaving her to do all the dirty work. The scum.
She saw she had a clear path to the back of Ranma-chan’s head as the shorter girl backed up through the doorway, unaware of Shampoo’s presence. All it would take was one quick blow and everything would be back to normal. She brought her bonbori down from an upward swing and aimed for the back of Ranma-chan’s head, the pigtail making a good place to help target the blow. Just as she started to descend with the strike Ranma-chan turned and caught a glimpse of her. Shampoo silently cursed herself for moving too slow. With Ranma-chan’s reflexes she was going to be able to narrowly avoid the blow. It was much to Shampoo’s surprise that Ranma-chan tensed up to leap, then stopped as recognition dawned on the girl. Rather than continue her preparation to leap she instead relaxed and just stared into Shampoo’s eyes, the look of pain and betrayal clear on Ranma-chan’s face. Shampoo closed her eyes rather than look at the face that was directed at her.
She continued her swing downward and felt the bonbori shatter into what it connected with. Shampoo opened her eyes to see that she had somehow missed at point blank range and hit the wooden floorboards next to where Ranma-chan was standing.
Both girls stared at each other in surprise. Ranma-chan was the first to react as she used the opening to escape by leaping off and over the wall of the Tendo grounds, leaving Shampoo in her follow-through pose.
“YOU IDIOT!!!” Akane yelled as she raged at Shampoo. “You had him dead to rights and you let him go!”
Shampoo stood up straight and glared at Akane. “You is the one that gets off on hitting him! Not me!”
Akane began glowing dull blue. “I do not enjoy it. And I think you didn’t do it because you prefer him acting like a girl!”
“What that supposed to mean?!” Shampoo began glowing dull blue as well.
“I’ve seen the way he acts around you. Always hanging all over and making those eyes at you. You like the attention he gives you when he’s a girl.”
“Maybe you is just jealous because he never looks at you that way!” Shampoo snapped back.
Both girls drew back, ready to start fighting one another when Kasumi, who had entered the house, spoke up. “Isn’t there something more important than disagreeing with one another, like figuring out where Ranma went to.”
The girls reluctantly backed off from one another and considered what to do next. Akane was the first to come up with an idea.
“If he’s on the run then he’ll probably go to Ukyou’s.” She went over to the phone and gave the chef a call. Even if Ranma did not show up there it would help to have another pair of eyes searching for him.
Ukyou placed the receiver back in its cradle. The store had but one customer in it, leaving Ryouga sitting on a chair next to the counter while taking his break.
“Good news,” she informed her waiter. “I’m going to let you hit Ranma.”
Ryouga was on his feet in an instant. “He’s hurt you again, hasn’t he? I knew he was no good and that you should stay away from him! I haven’t said this in a long time, but now I really mean it! RANMA!!! PREPARE TO D—“
Ryouga held the top of his head in pain. “What did you do that for?” Ukyou could swing that spatula with a vengeance.
Ukyou held the weapon up, fully prepared to hit him again if he didn’t get the message the first time. Ryouga’s head was awful hard. “I didn’t say you could kill him and he didn’t do anything to me. He got hit in the head before and thinks he’s a girl. That’s why he was coming onto you. Akane thinks another blow to the head will cure him.”
“Oh,” was all Ryouga could come up with. At least Ranma really wasn’t interested in him. Praise all the kami.
“I want him alive, so I’ll be the one to hit him. If he tries getting away grab him so I’ll have a better target. Akane seems to think he’ll be coming here and we should be prepared for him.” Ukyou was surprised that striking Ranma didn’t seem to bother her as much as she thought it would. She at least suspected why that was so. She never did get to pay Ranma back for dumping her all those years ago. Shampoo was the first one she mistook for him and when she found out the eventual truth she had forgiven the real Ranma. Of course the majority of that craving for vengeance was out of her system, and the desire to beat the crap out of a guy that angered her was now directed at a different individual. But even though she would ultimately do anything for him, there was some small part of her that was going to derive just the tiniest bit of pleasure out of hearing him go ‘ouch’.
Ryouga maintained a watch outside the restaurant, practically jumping up and down in anticipation. Even watching Ukyou smack Ranma in the head would be a real treat, and it would get rid of that annoying personality defect he had developed. Then at some later opportunity Ryouga could pay him back for the embarrassing way Ranma-chan had come onto him the other day. Oh how he would pay for doing that.
Not more than fifteen minutes after the call Ryouga spotted Ranma-chan coming from down the street. Quickly he rushed inside and alerted Ukyou to the upcoming arrival.
Akane had been correct in her guesswork. Ranma-chan went to Ukyou’s in the hopes of finding some moral support from her second best female friend, after Akane. Ukyou would understand, just like she had when Ranma-chan had to break off the engagement that her father had foolishly arranged. Why her father had such a fixation of marrying his daughter to another woman was really bizarre. Ranma-chan shuddered as she hoped that she would never develop her father’s judgment. There was no telling how many lives she would damage if she did even half of the things he had done.
Just as Ranma-chan entered the doorway of Uk-Chan’s she paused instinctively. Three times she had been ambushed by doorways and she wasn’t about to enter this one without checking first. It was fortunate she had as she just barely caught a glimpse of the flashing spatula as it struck the floor where she would have been a second later.
Ranma-chan jumped back in fear as Ukyou cursed at missing the blow. She held the spatula menacingly before her as she moved forward to confront the rapidly retreating Ranma-chan.
“Stand still, Ranchan. It’ll only hurt for a moment.” Ukyou continued her advance as Ranma-chan continued her retreat.
Ranma-chan was practically in tears. “Why? Why are you doing this? I thought we were friends!”
“We are,” Ukyou suddenly found her desire faltering. “It’s for your own good. Just let me get a clean blow to your head.”
“No. I thought I could trust you. But now I see there isn’t anyone I can trust!”
“Ranma,” Ukyou’s spatula wavered, then pointed to the ground. “You can trust me. I—“
Further comments were cut off as Ryouga leaped over Ukyou’s head and managed to grab onto Ranma-chan before she could escape. His superior strength easily pinned Ranma-chan’s arms to her sides as she tried worming her way out of his grasp.
“Now, Ukyou! While I got him!” Ryouga said as he found it increasingly difficult to hold on to the struggling girl.
Ukyou vacillated for another second before raising her spatula to the heavens again. Ranma would thank her when it was all over. She brought the spatula down in a sweeping arc, targeting Ranma’s head for a truly powerful blow.
Ukyou saw much to her horror that she had connected with the top of Ryouga’s head. At the last moment he seemed to lunge forward and into the path of the blow. She was about to ask him why he did that when he slumped to the ground, releasing his hold on Ranma-chan while revealing a figure behind him.
“I see you are still quite the scum, Kuonji. Double-teaming a helpless girl like this. I find it difficult to believe I ever admired you, even for a second,” said the girl in with a heavy French accent.
Ukyou cursed out loud at the figure before her, decked out in a white jumpsuit and a beret that held her brown hair while bearing two metal combat whisks before her in an attacking stance. Crepe Suzette’s timing couldn’t be worse.
“This is personal business, butt out!” Ukyou did not feel up to either physical or verbal sparring against the French Cuisine Combat specialist.
“HA!” Suzette retorted. “As though I would do anything you would suggest. You sick, perverted crossdresser!”
The idea that Suzette was still steamed at her for being a girl instead of a guy made Ukyou inwardly cringe. Talk about obsessive, the girl was nuts, and it was all her own fault. Ukyou never came onto her or did anything to make her think she was a guy.
“En garde!” And with that Suzette attacked.
Ranma-chan watched the fight start to unfold. Ukyou had betrayed her too. She had been the only one left that Ranma-chan felt she could really trust. And if all of her closest friends were out to get her then there was no one left to turn to. She quickly ran away from the scene, crying the entire time.
It was night when Ranma-chan found herself wandering some of the back alleys somewhere near Nerima. True, it was dangerous for a girl to be out alone like she was, but there was nowhere to go. And she would rather be alone under the stars than under a roof where people hated her.
And now she had a problem with what to do now. All of her friends had attacked her. No one would listen to what she said or wanted, and it didn’t look like there was anything she could do about it. Even Akane and Shampoo, who had promised not to try to make her into a boy, went back on their word. She curled into a ball next to a wall and cried for a little while longer. After the Ukyou incident she had cried for hours on end as she ran away from everything she knew. She just couldn’t bring herself to go back to the place that she had called home, a place where everyone made her feel unwelcome.
After another hour of crying she stood up, a decision finally made. She just couldn’t remain in Nerima anymore. There was nothing for her there. All of it had been lost in a matter of days. Her school, her friends, her family, her life. It was going to be difficult starting anew somewhere else, and she would always miss everyone no matter what they had done in the past. She would choose to remember all of the good times, and bawl her eyes out in a deluge that would make Soun proud. But the only alternative was to go back, and with what was waiting for her there there was no way she could do it. All that was left now was to choose where to go. Once she settled down she could find a job and go back to school under a different name and try to forget about what happened. Just try to lead a normal life away from martial arts and the past.
Any further thoughts of the future were aborted by a voice from behind Ranma-chan.
“How’s it going, Fem-girl.”
Ranma-chan turned slowly around to see Tarou, standing about, looking smug and dangerous at the same time.
“W…what do you want?” she managed to stutter out.
Tarou laughed at that. He had no idea that having Ranma-chan sound scared of him was so much fun. “Do that again!” he insisted.
“What do you want? Why are you bothering me?”
Tarou was disappointed. It was obvious the girl was still scared but without the stutter it just sounded off. There was nothing to be done about it at the moment. “I want a little payback for the hassles you’ve caused me. I want revenge so I can feel good. I want to kick the living shit out of you. I wouldn’t mind being wealthy. And most of all I want Akane.”
“Stay away from her!”
Tarou was actually taken aback by the response. The redhead was suddenly showing a disturbing amount of backbone. Could Ranma’s real personality be coming to the forefront? If that was so Tarou was going to have to move swiftly.
The plan he had told Mousse about was simple. Once they got Ranma-chan separated from the others, and there were no witnesses about, he and Mousse were going to abduct the girl and ship her off to somewhere from whence she was never going to come back. It was not going to be something so simple as packing her in a crate, like Ranma had done to Mousse. No, what Tarou wanted to do was something that would ensure the girl was never coming back. He was going to sell Ranma-chan to some underworld elements Tarou had come into contact to during some of his wandering years. More than once he had done some fighting as a way of making money, including acting as a legbreaker for the various criminal elements of wherever he happened to be. Being of above-average intelligence and crafty as hell, he managed to make a lot of contacts with which he was on pretty good terms with. Among those elements were slavers.
Regardless of what the various governments of the areas liked to believe, there was a decent trade going on in the south seas area, including Japan. The way Tarou had it figured, he would snatch Ranma-chan and give her to one of the middlemen who sold the slaves to whatever power needed them. Despite knowing the truth about Ranma-chan, Tarou had to admit a female like that would go for top dollar. The key was in Saotome not regaining her memory or having any hot water splashed on her. He could tell them she had a horrible allergic reaction which made her break out in contagious hives or something. At the very least Tarou would warn the others about the girl’s martial arts abilities, even if they never returned. Now that he thought about it, when he had talked with the men earlier about making a sale he overheard them say something about turning a catch like that to a Madame Lao, someone Tarou had heard vague rumors about. Something about her traveling the high seas in a magical ship that had a harem of slaves to do her bidding. Her own personal power was supposed to be impressive too. Come to think of it, those rumors said she preferred women. If that was the case and she bought Ranma-chan, Tarou had little doubt he would never have to lay eyes on the Fem-boy again.
Mousse was along for support, and a number of other potentially useful reasons. The first of these was to provide Tarou with an alibi about where he was on the night Saotome disappeared. The second was that if things fell through, Tarou was fairly certain he could make the blind one a scapegoat if some sort of evidence came up revealing where Ranma-chan was. He certainly hadn’t brought Mousse along for the companionship.
“You’re coming with me,” Tarou said as he began to move for Ranma-chan. The redhead backed up in fright, but didn’t run away. That sat fine with Tarou. He did not particularly feel like chasing Ranma-chan down, and he didn’t want to mark up the girl before the sale. That was a good feeling, getting some money for disposing the annoying Fem-boy. Why, he could spend the money taking out Akane and consoling her in her time of need. What delicious irony.
Ranma-chan continued slowly backing up. She knew if she ran all out Tarou would simply run her down more quickly, but she didn’t know what to do. He was going to hurt her, and possibly worse. What had she done to deserve this? She was a nice girl that never wanted to hurt anybody. Why did everyone want to hurt her? If the situation wasn’t so frightening she would have cried, but as it was she was too scared to even do that.
Just as she was about to risk running away at full speed a pair of arms grasped her from behind. She began struggling and screaming to get out of the grip but it was to no avail. At last a curt command made her stop struggling.
“Fear not, Shampoo! I will not allow this foul devil to set his hands upon you!”
Ranma-chan turned to look up into Kunou’s bold features. As bad as Kunou could be, Tarou was far worse. She also remembered Tarou was a much better fighter, so Kunou’s appearance would be nothing more than a delaying tactic for whatever fate awaited her in Tarou’s hands.
“Would you get lost?!” Tarou barked at the intrusion. Kunou’s appearance was going to complicate things. Kunou wasn’t the kind to allow young girls to fall prey to anyone save himself. Which meant Tarou was going to have to figure out a way to make Kunou forget he ever saw him on the same night Ranma-chan disappeared.
Kunou allowed Ranma-chan out of his grasp and pointed his bokken at Tarou. “I still remember how you did interfere with my date of the beauteous Akane Tendo. For that crime alone you would suffer. But to try to molest this beautiful goddess is too much. I will not allow such a travesty to take place. I shall—“
“Smite me,” Tarou finished. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Fine. I’ll finish you off now.” Tarou cracked his knuckles in anticipation. The fight should last all of two blows.
His first lackadaisical swing missed Kunou as the kendoist dodged the attack and retaliated with a hard thrust into Tarou’s midsection. The force of the blow caused Tarou to back of several feet. He looked up in disbelief at what had just happened. Kunou had struck HIM? It had to have been pure luck. Tarou attempted to test the theory by attacking again. This time Kunou lashed out before the fist even came close to him, hitting Tarou in several different places and forcing Pantyhose to back off once again.
“The likes of you can never harm me, pompous oaf,” Kunou said menacingly.
Tarou growled in frustration. Somehow Kunou had improved a little. Big deal. There was nothing he could do to defend himself from Tarou when he was in cursed form. Tarou went for the container of water at his waist and removed the top. He was holding it high above his head and was about to pour it on himself when a chain shot out, snagging the canteen out of his hands. He turned in rage upon Mousse, who was watching everything from his position on top of a nearby roof.
“What did you do that for?!”
Mousse gave Tarou a smirk of his own. “Several reasons. First, you don’t think I’d let you do something like that to Ranma. I might hate his guts, but even that as a form of revenge is going too far. Killing him would be a much more merciful way to go about it.” The truth was that allowing Ranma-chan to be sold into slavery was more than a little distasteful to Mousse, and if Shampoo ever found out what had happened he was destined to die a slow lingering death. Another reason was that if Ranma-chan ever got total recall of her memory Mousse would die a slow lingering death at her hands instead, at least once she busted free of the slavers. And Saotome had a nasty tendency of coming out on top in the end. There was too much chance in leaving him alive to seek revenge someday.
“The second reason is I would never harm a girl like that.” That excuse was said for Kunou’s benefit. Kunou was not going to keep quiet about Mousse’s involvement of Ranma-chan’s kidnapping, and there was no way the blind one was going to kill Kodachi’s brother. As difficult as the two of them got along, there was a form of affection between the Kunou siblings. It was just shown in a really weird way. Besides, Kunou was now so good that Mousse had doubts about whether or not he and Tarou could best him in a two on one.
“Thirdly. I happen to think that Ranma leading the life of a woman while surrounded by his friends is more than enough vengeance. Every time Shampoo saw him it would show her what a mistake she had made in allowing herself to be lulled by the false words of affection Saotome offered her.” That was the entire truth that time.
“And lastly, this seems like the golden opportunity for me to gain revenge against you.”
Tarou was taken aback by that one. “What are you talking about? I never did anything to you.” Except treat you like the idiot you are, he silently added.
“Not me. Kodachi.” Even Mousse was a little surprised at the passion in his voice. He had not realized just how much this had bothered him. “When I was in China, recovering the Nyanniichuan for Shampoo, you set her up to be hurt. She told me how you lied about where I was and how you tricked her into fighting Ranma. It’s fortunate for you that she wasn’t harmed, or else you would feel the full power of my wrath.”
Like that was going to scare Tarou. Still, he had no idea Mousse bore grudges that long. For the first time in a quite a while he found himself respecting the fool. Mousse had exhibited a great deal of patience in waiting for his opportunity of revenge. Tarou would have to let him know of the admiration as he broke both of the blind twit’s arms. But first he was going to have to take care of the buffoon before him.
“All right, you bokken-wielding moron, get ready to have your ass kicked.” Tarou went in with a high kick combination that was blocked by the bokken. The follow up attack on Kunou’s part was successful as he connected with multiple blows to the body, weakening Tarou.
Pantyhose wasn’t done yet. He tried several high punches and kicks, all of which were dodged or parried. The only consolation was that Kunou wasn’t striking back.
“Time to end it!” Kunou announced and poised in an unfamiliar stance with his bokken held high.
At this point Tarou was truly concerned. Being beaten by Kunou was going to be embarrassing enough and he would have been inclined to retreat, pride be damned, if it wasn’t for the fact that this was going to be the only opportunity to dispose of Ranma. Cursing that he had no other choice, he lunged forward to attack. He never got in a swing as the tip of Kunou’s bokken glowed blue and he struck Tarou in the ribcage, hurling him several miles away.
“So fall those that would disrupt the dates of Tatewaki Kunou.” He sheathed his bokken and laughed long and hard towards the heavens. After several moments he calmed down enough to choose what to do next.
“Though I did not need your assistance, I thank you for aiding me in my duel,” he said towards Mousse. “I could see that the cowardly fool was attempting some deception to win the day and you helped speed the eventual outcome of the fight. Perhaps my sister has chosen her mate well.”
Unbelievably, Mousse felt flattered at the compliment. Kunou rarely said such things of anyone, and Mousse had been under the distinct impression that Kunou regarded him as a lower form of life than most. He had certainly made his displeasure over his sisters ‘choice’ of man well known.
Mousse decided to do himself, as well as Kunou, a favor. “I see your Pig-Tailed Love Goddess is before you. And since you are the conquering hero you should now take your reward.”
Kunou’s eyes lit up. “Indeed! How truly you speak! By the rights of combat Shampoo is now mine.”
Mousse smiled in amusement as he saw Ranma-chan suddenly look very frightened. Perhaps Kunou would not be spending the night alone in the mansion tonight. Mousse silently prayed that if that was the case he could somehow listen in on Ranma-chan’s cries of agony. And the best thing of all was that Mousse could claim he had no part in Ranma-chan’s violation. Everyone knew Kunou was a maniac and was capable of anything once he got his hands on a woman that he desired.
Mousse leaped off of the roof and headed towards home. It would be best not to be nearby on the offhand someone was searching for Ranma-chan and they happened to spot him nearby. It would not do to be caught too close to the scene of the crime and get blamed for what had happened. Besides, he wanted to be waiting for Kunou to arrive home so he could be comfortable when the festivities took place.
It was turning out to be one heck of a night.
“Ah, ravishing one. Allow my lips to embrace yours.”
“Get off of me! I’m not that kind of girl!” Ranma-chan desperately wanted to slip out of Kunou’s grasp and get away. He was certainly preferable to Tarou, but his attentions were still not desired. But for all her protests it seemed as though Kunou was determined to take advantage of her current situation.
“I know that, my goddess.” Kunou proudly stated. “You are as pure as the driven snow. As divine as the wind.”
“Then let me go so I can blow away.”
Kunou looked startled at the statement, then grew happy. “I see. Sexual innuendo. I shall allow you to ‘blow away’.”
Ranma-chan was truly frightened by Kunou as he allowed her out of his grasp. She was not going to do that sort of thing with him. No man would ever want a girl that had done something like that. “Please just let me go,” she pleaded.
“It is the vile Saotome’s influence, is it not? I heard how he foisted himself on you and demanded a date, as though one that was so unworthy was deserving of your attentions.”
“Sh…Ranma,” Ranma-chan corrected. “Is a very nice boy. He’s always a gentleman and very proper and you have no right to call him vile.”
“It is his doing then. I can tell by the manner in which you defend him.”
“I am defending him because he is my boyfriend!” Ranma-chan declared.
Kunou was strangely silent upon hearing that declaration. His grip tightened on his bokken as he began to tremble in rage.
“He has defiled you! I SHALL MAKE HIM PAY WITH HIS LIFE!!!” Kunou’s rage subsided a little bit as he came to one other conclusion. “I shall break you of his spell before he can work his insidious ways into your heart any further.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ranma-chan suddenly panicked. She did not like where this conversation was heading.
“You shall see. I care nothing for what he might have done to you. My love for you is pure. We shall retire to my home where I will devote myself to your redemption. Come to me, my love.”
Kunou moved forward and made a motion to grab Ranma-chan again. Just as he moved within an inch of getting his hands on the girl he pulled back, barely in time to avoid several mini-spatulas digging themselves into his hand.
Ranma-chan looked in surprise at the direction the spatulas had been thrown. She saw standing in the opening of the alleyway three figures silhouetted against the street lamps of the street beyond. She could just make the outlines of a giant spatula, a pair of metal whisks and a set of pompoms wielded by the trio. The three moved as one further into the alleyway and into the moonlight. Ranma-chan felt her heart soar as she saw who her rescuers were: Ukyou, Ai, and Crepe Suzette.
Ukyou brandished her spatula menacingly. “Get the hell away from her, Kunou. Or I’ll make you wish you were never born,”
“As though everyone at school doesn’t already wish that,” Ai added.
The two whisks Suzette bore made unusual sounds as she spun them around in every growing circles. “If there is one thing I hate more than liars, it is pigs like you that cannot take no for an answer. Allow me to remedy those feelings by hurting you.”
“Stay back, beloved,” Ai said as she thrust herself in front of Ukyou. “I’ll take care of him.”
“No. He’s become more dangerous than before,” Ukyou warned. She tried to rush forward to prevent Ai’s attack but was a second too late, her hand grasped nothing but air.
Ai gave a leap kick towards Kunou, expecting an easy victory. She had fought him a couple years ago and won easily. And judging by his regular performances against Ranma he hadn’t improved that much.
Her attempt to kick him in the head was met with a bokken thrust that sent her into a pile of garbage.
“The trash is an appropriate place for the likes of you,” Kunou commented dryly.
Ukyou rushed to Ai’s side. “Are you all right?”
Ai nearly collapsed in joy. “You’re concerned about me.”
Ukyou shook her head. “Don’t read too much into that,” Ukyou cautioned. “I just don’t want to see you hurt. I still don’t want to go out with you.”
Ai picked herself off the ground. “I’ll prove myself to you.”
“No. We go together.” Ukyou paused to see Suzette was doing nothing more than watching the fight. Ukyou should have known better than to trust the foreigner. No doubt Suzette was just waiting for an opportunity to take out the okonomiyaki chef. Ukyou just hoped that after she defeated the new and improved Kunou she had enough left to take on the French girl.
Ai and Ukyou began attacking with spatula and baton towards Kunou. He weathered the first attacks with ease.
“Oh, the horror of a beautiful flower such as yourself caught up in Ai’s ways of debauchery. It pains me to see you in such in immoral relationship. It almost makes me wish that my heart did not already belong to two others.”
“You’re just hacked off at me for not going out with you back in ninth grade,” Ai snorted.
“Base lies!” Kunou shouted. “I would never ask the likes of you out, lascivious witch.”
Kunou raised his bokken towards Ai then shifted his grip so that he could disarm Ukyou, who had fallen for the feint. He was successful as the giant weapon went flying, leaving Ukyou to look at her hands in surprise. She had not been disarmed that quickly since she was a child.
“I shall protect you, Ukyou.” Ai’s promise went out the door as she was once again batted away by the bokken wielding youth.
The now weaponless Ukyou rushed to Ai’s side, taking note of a minor injury to her hip. “So much for chivalry,” Ukyou commented acidly.
Suzette at last moved forward and pointed one of her weapons at Kunou. “At last you have finished off those preliminary fool and are at the main event.”
Kunou looked the newcomer over. “You are quite beautiful. Do you seek a date with me?”
Suzette facefaulted. “What kind of a moronic pig are you?” she asked in disbelief as she rose to her feet.
“You sound French.” He placed his bokken in his waistband while maneuvering his hands behind his back. “Now what sort of arrangement should I use,” At last Kunou made a decision and thrust a bouquet forward. “Welcome to our country!”
She knocked the bouquet out of his hands. “Prepare to fight.”
“Ah,” Kunou said. “Very well, if you defeat me in combat we shall date.” He drew his bokken and pointed it at his opponent.
Suzette brought her own weapons to bear. “A better excuse for throwing a fight I could not come up with. Nonetheless, en garde!”
Ukyou recovered her weapon as the fight between the French chef and Kunou raged. Much to Ukyou’s chagrin Suzette actually pushed Kunou on the defensive early in the fight. It took the okonomiyaki chef several moments to figure out why. The weapons were unusual and Kunou had no idea of how to defend against them at first. Kunou was not to be denied as he adjusted to the whisks and began to press an advantage. Ukyou watched the girl loose a little more ground then entered the fray.
Rather than being angry, Kunou seemed to be delighted. “My newfound abilities have made me even more desirable than before. Everyone wishes to date me.”
“Pig!” and “Jerk!” were the responses as the two chefs pressed their attacks, forcing Kunou back even further. Kunou leaped back in effort to gain a respite, only to have a pompom hurled in his direction.
“What’s this?” he got out right before the object exploded at his feet, losing his form in the ensuing dustcloud.
Ai joined the triumphant Ukyou and Suzette as three gazed at the dust, waiting to see if Kunou would emerge from the cloud. Even Ranma-chan watched silently as the events unfolded.
“You are fortunate I was here to save the day. I have once again proven my superiority to you, in both combat and cooking,” Suzette boasted.
“Now hold on there, sugar,” Ukyou bristled. “I softened him up for you and you still aren’t half the cook I am!”
“You aren’t half the woman she is either!” Ai added.
Suzette made a face at the two of them. “You are sick and twisted, having a relationship with another woman,” she commented to Ukyou. “Now that I see what kind pervert you are, it’s no wonder you led me on. You must have fallen for my great beauty.”
“Now wait just a minute! I am not—“
Ai cut her ‘girlfriend’ off. “You aren’t anywhere near as beautiful as me and Ukyou, you French whore!”
Ai suddenly found herself sent flying into another wall and unconsciousness as Suzette nailed her with the whisk. “As though you are one to speak, slut.”
Suzette ducked as Ukyou’s spatula nearly connected with her head. “I’ll be damned if I’ll let you hurt her!”
“At last, a proper showdown.”
The two combatants began circling each other warily. Three times their weapons met, neither one successfully striking the other. The fourth blow was cut off as a voice interrupted their fight.
“A lucky blow will not remove Tatewaki Kunou from the battle. Defend thyselves.”
The announcement was not given with enough time for either girl to defend themselves. Since both had been fighting each other neither was prepared for the dozen bokken strikes that assailed both of them. Each was disarmed and sent flying, landing on opposite sides of Ai’s unconscious form.
Kunou paused to make certain none of the combatants were getting up anytime soon. He then turned to Ranma-chan, who had remained by Ukyou’s side. The chef may have tried to hit her earlier, but Ranma-chan wasn’t able to leave Ukyou alone with Kunou either.
“It is time to go, my fiery-maned temptress.” Kunou moved forward to grab Ranma-chan once again.
“Keep away from her!”
Kunou turned to see Akane and Shampoo-kun now at the mouth of the alleyway. Neither looked happy.
“Truly this is a night of destiny for me!” Kunou shouted high to the sky. “Both of my true loves as well as the foul Saotome are present. Only my purity could have given me the gift of leading you all to me.”
“Pure garbage maybe,” Akane mumbled as she looked at Ranma-chan from down the alleyway. She appeared unharmed, much to Akane’s relief.
Ranma-chan moved to rush into her savior, Shampoo-kun’s, arms but was cut off by a bokken thrust.
“Worry not! I will not allow you to fall into that scum’s hands ever again,” Kunou said as Ranma-chan backed off in fear.
Akane silently decided Kunou had gone way over the edge. She moved forward to take care of him as she had the other day with one punt into China. Maybe she could get lucky and nail him into one of the Jusenkyou pools.
“The fair Akane Tendo approaches me. Let there be much rejoicing.”
Akane was going to rejoice all right. Rejoice her foot right into his butt.
Shampoo-kun noticed something different about Kunou as Akane moved closer to him. Something about the stance. It took a moment for him to realize what it was. He was preparing to strike out. For a moment Shampoo-kun considered not saying anything. Akane rarely had to put up with any attacks directed towards her, and she should have considered Kunou might do something unpredictable. At the last moment the Amazon changed his mind, Ranma-chan had to be rescued and Shampoo-kun was running out of allies that would probably be needed to combat Kunou.
“Look out!” he shouted out his warning too late. Akane turned to the shout just as Kunou lashed out, catching her in the arm. Akane fell to the ground from the force of the blow and looked at the swordsman in amazement.
“You are no doubt under the influence of the vile Saotome,” Kunou explained. “That is why you struck me the other day. Fear not. I shall not allow you to touch me until we are both certain you will not do anything out of your control.”
Akane was about to ask him what he meant by that when she made a horrible discovery. She could not move her right arm. It was paralyzed.
Kunou noticed she had made her discovery and attempted to place her concerns by the wayside. “Fear not, it is but a temporary condition. I must ensure you will do nothing untoward while under the influence of Saotome.”
Shampoo-kun had heard enough and was about to attack when a bellow of rage came from behind him.
“UK-CHAN!!!” Ryouga screamed upon seeing her unconscious form in the alleyway. He had arrived too late to help her. Depression set in as he laid his eyes upon Kunou. “You’re going to pay! SHI SHI—.”
Akane sensed what was coming and got out of the line of fire.
“—HOUKOUDAN!!!” And with that he unleashed a black ball of energy at Kunou.
Surprisingly Kunou held his ground and focused his concentration. Just as the energy was about to strike him he thrust his bokken forward. A blue glow emanated from the tip as the chi energies met one another. The black ball was deflected off its course and sent into a warehouse, destroying a side of it.
Ryouga was too angry and depressed to stop at that. Seeing his attack was ineffectual he rushed forward with his umbrella drawn, intent on ripping Kunou’s head off. The umbrella strike was easily parried and the weapon sent flying. The time necessary to disarm Ryouga was enough to let him get inside Kunou’s guard and nail him with a punch that sent him flying several meters away. Kunou regained his feet, wiping blood from his lip as Ryouga advanced once again.
“You will fall to my ultimate technique. A thousand strikes of pain.”
Ryouga didn’t break his stride as he leaped forward to drive yet another fist into Kunou’s face. He was stopped in midair as Kunou’s bokken became a blur. Ryouga never even made it to the target as his body was suspended in mid-air by the wind of the force that Kunou was using from his bokken. The suspension did not last long as the air struck his body as though they were real blows. Each wasn’t that powerful, but with no way of bracing himself he could do nothing to dodge the attacks. Over one thousand strikes of the air blows hit him before Kunou allowed him to fall to the ground.
“So falls those that would stand by the foul Saotome’s side.”
Ryouga slowly got to his feet. “That barely tickled.” he moved forward for vengeance once again.
“Fools rush in where even the angels fear to tread,” Kunou stated as his bokken tip glowed blue once again. Kunou beat Ryouga to the punch once again as his bokken thrust forward, connecting with over one hundred strikes, each one enhanced by the chi. This time Ryouga did not brush off the blows as they rained on him. He managed to remain upright for exactly one second before collapsing to his knees, then fell face forward to the ground.
During all this time Shampoo-kun had watched the fight closely. If he had assisted Ryouga the two of them might have been able to defeat Kunou, but the Amazon’s mind was working along different lines. Trying to get to the root of the problem. Since no one wanted to kill Kunou, simply knocking him unconscious was only going to be a delaying tactic. Watching Kunou as he fought Shampoo-kun looked for a weakness he could exploit. Kunou seemed nearly invincible. He was able to defend against multiple opponents and deal out a great deal of punishment. The fact he had taken out Ryouga in a nearly effortless fashion was a testament to that fact. There had to be some hole in his attack strategy.
As Ryouga hit the ground Shampoo-kun thought he hit upon the solution. One that would only work if his guess was correct. But even if it was it was going to result in a great deal of pain for him.
“How you get so good, Sword Boy?” Shampoo-kun asked.
“Humph!” Kunou sneered. “As though I would inform you of such knowledge.”
Shampoo-kun gave a look towards Akane. The youngest Tendo picked up on the unspoken communication and rolled her eyes as she gave in.
“Would you tell me, pretty please?” She gave her best Ranma-chan imitation of a cutesy little girl.
Kunou fell for it. “It is from my heart. My courage. My spirit.”
“And what else?” Akane prodded.
“Well, there was also this tome I found,” he reluctantly admitted, and held out the book of Jurai sword techniques high above his head. “It must have been a gift from the gods. Truly I am blessed. With its exotic techniques I have been able to combine it with my already legendary skills and devised new and brilliant attacks and defenses that make me invincible. I have even learned to tap into a force which is known as chi, and make my attacks even more powerful”
“Is that the only copy?” Shampoo-kun asked.
“NOW!!!” Shampoo-kun shouted to Akane.
Akane understood what to do in an instant. She leaped up over the posing youth’s head and snatched the book out of his hand. Quickly she backed out of his bokken’s reach and away from Kunou. As much as she could.
“You scum! How dare you manipulate Akane Tendo to do your bidding!” Kunou growled. “No other evidence of your perfidy to principles is needed. You will recant your evil deeds before this night is out and you breath your last.”
Akane was suddenly very afraid of Kunou. The look in his eyes was wild, too wild for what malice he usually bore for Shampoo-kun. And there was no telling what else he was capable of in his current mental state.
“What should I do with it?” Akane asked.
Kunou began laughing before Shampoo-kun could say anything. “The book will do you no good. I was already trained with the weapon and I have an unmatchable head start on you. No matter how much you practice you will never defeat me.”
“Akane,” Shampoo-kun ordered. “Take the book away and destroy it.”
“I have every page and paragraph of the book memorized,” Kunou informed them.
Shampoo-kun had a sinister cast to his eyes. “That what I’m counting on.”
“But what about Ranma?” Akane looked towards Ranma-chan, who was still pressed against a wall, too afraid to even run away from Kunou.
“I know what I doing,” Shampoo-kun reassured her. “If you stay you just get in the way.”
“No way!” Akane became indignant. She was tired of being treated like a fifth wheel. “I am a martial artist too. I’ll stay and fight.”
“You can no use you arm, and if Kunou gets his hands on you you get to become his next playmate.”
Akane cringed a little at that but stood her ground. “I can handle myself.” She wondered where Shampoo-kun got off trying to order her about.
“That book need to be destroyed no matter what!” Shampoo-kun shouted. “I can take care of rest! You is useless now! Leave!” And with that he shoved Akane to the ground.
She gazed at him, and saw that more violence was promised, if she tried resisting anymore. Her breathing was ragged as she regained her feet and considered helping Kunou in the impending beating of the Amazon. Practicality won out as Akane retreated from the scene, swearing under her breath that there would be a reckoning for what Shampoo-kun did on this day.
“You dare you lay your hands on one so beautiful. You are not worthy of licking her boots.” Kunou raged as he charged forward, bokken at the ready to administer a beating that Shampoo-kun would not soon forget.
Rather than make any offensive moves, Shampoo-kun simply huddled into a ball. Kunou paused but a moment before bringing his bokken down and struck Shampoo-kun on the arm protecting his head. The kendoist heard a grunt of pain from him, but no counterattack was attempted. A second and third strike netted the same results, grunts of pain but no attempts to flee or attack. Three more blows and still nothing. Something was wrong with the situation.
Kunou backed off in an effort to see if he could ascertain exactly what Shampoo-kun was up to. He saw the dark-haired boy wince as he removed arms that were already showing welts from the strikes on the unprotected flesh. The look of fear in Shampoo-kun’s eyes, the look that Kunou wanted to be there, was not present.
Kunou could not figure out what was going on. The only rational explanation was that Shampoo-kun was senseless from fear. Small surprise considering how powerful Kunou had become. “If you believe that you can beg for mercy, or that cowering before me will save you from your well deserved beating, think again. Nothing will prevent me from achieving my righteous vengeance!”
“Just get on with it!” Shampoo-kun said as he huddled back into the ball.
Kunou was enraged. How dare Saotome show defiance to his obvious betters. He used more overhead strikes with his bokken, keeping his defenses up lest it all be some trap to lull him into a false sense of security. He started striking in the back and sides in an effort to get Shampoo-kun to come out of his defensive ball and take a normal beating like a man.
“Stop it!” Ranma-chan shouted. She had seen enough of the beating her friends had taken trying to protect her. Perhaps earlier in the day they had sought to harm her, but when she was threatened they came to protect her. As each of her friends attacked she hoped they would defeat Kunou. And as each fell it seemed to stab her in the heart. Akane had escaped, much to her relief, but Shampoo-kun seemed determined to stay and suffer a horrible beating.
Kunou backed a safe distance away from the balled up form as he took the time to answer the redhead. “Worry not, fair Shampoo. This one will fall momentarily and we can be away from here.”
“I don’t want you to hurt him!” she pleaded.
“This man is devoid of morals and has taken advantage of you repeatedly. He deserves a beating at a true warriors hands.” He moved to lash out at Shampoo-kun once again.
“NO!!!” Ranma-chan threw herself in front of Kunou. “I…I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t hurt him.”
Kunou faltered at that. She would give herself willingly to him. That meant she was eager to feel his embrace. Of course, that was it. She did not want to waste any more time. She wanted him now. He always knew that was the case.
Then he saw the tears in her eyes.
“You are crying. Why?” he asked.
“I duh…don’t want you to hurt him,” she sobbed. “I don’t care what you do to me anymore. Just leave him alone. Please.”
The begging had the opposite effect of what was desired. “Foul fiend!” Kunou pointed at Shampoo-kun. “You have dared to enslave this young girl’s heart to your own and now seek to use it to protect you from harm. I shall break your hold over her by whatever means necessary. Any means.”
“NO!!!” Ranma-chan threw herself in front of Kunou, grabbing his full attention.
“Away from me! I must smite—”
“Out of the way, Ranma!”
Kunou and Ranma-chan looked up in the direction of the voice. Shampoo-kun had regained his feet, barely. His ability to remain upright was being sorely tested as he swayed back and forth like a drunk.
“No!” Ranma-chan protested. “I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Shampoo-kun began to chuckle, much to everyone else’s amazement. “It’s your turn to forget, Ranma.”
Ranma-chan shook her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“I promised you on the ship, and I promised again when Pop was hurting you. I going to protect you. I not going to abandon you. I sooner die than do that ever again.”
“No,” Ranma-chan began wailing. “I release you from your promise. I don’t care what happens to me. I just don’t want you to be hurt anymore. Run away!”
Shampoo-kun smiled. “It not work that way. Besides, ‘I don’t care what happens to me. I just don’t want you to be hurt anymore’ either.”
Ranma-chan did not appreciate her own words being used against her, but any further comments were cut off by Kunou.
“I will not allow the fiend to run off. It is time for vengeance.”
Kunou evaluated Shampoo-kun as the Amazon continued swaying slightly. It would be a simple matter to finish his opponent off with several more blows, that was unless he felt like stretching it out just a little bit longer. After all, Saotome had gotten lucky for several months straight in somehow defeating Kunou in all of their fights. Now was the time for revenge, and Shampoo-kun was making it easy by not fighting back. The youth was finally wising up and allowing himself to suffer the beating he so richly deserved. Kunou could almost admire the courage Shampoo-kun was displaying in admitting his shortcomings and accepting his punishment. He pushed Ranma-chan forcefully out of the way and charged forward.
Focusing his chi through the sword once again Kunou thrust forward right for the widest part in his opponents defense: the midsection. Kunou decided to play with his prey a little more and held back from unleashing his true might. Just as he lunged forward Shampoo-kun suddenly seemed to focus his attention and moved fluidly as he brought his hands down in an effort to stop the strike, but it was going to be too late. The thrust would strike first.
Shampoo-kun’s arms moved downward as he felt the blow connect under his ribcage. He had Kunou right where he wanted him.
Kunou heard Shampoo-kun exhale and could feel him start to pitch backward from the force of the blow when both hands fell upon the shaft of the bokken, halting the retreating motion. Kunou tried to pull his sword back, but discovered the grip applied by Shampoo-kun was too great, despite the tremendous beating that had been inflicted upon him.
“Let go, knave!”
Shampoo-kun made no reply, but rather kept his grip on the sword, straining, using every bit of muscle to increase the pressure until…
At last Kunou discovered the one problem with his awesome new abilities: you needed a sword to employ them. Shampoo-kun had over half of the broken bokken in his hands while Kunou looked down to see the remains that were still in his own hands. It seemed inconceivable that Shampoo-kun had a grip strong enough to shatter a weapon as powerful as Kunou’s, yet it had happened.
Kunou regained his composure. “You feigned weakness and cowardice so that I would drop my guard and you could destroy my weapon. Impressive. This round goes to you Saotome. But it is far from over. Next time a shall simply have Sasuke bring two, no, a dozen extra bokkens with which to deal with you. And next time a shall finish you off quickly rather than toy with you as I did today.”
“There not going to be a next time,” Shampoo-kun intoned menacingly as he shook his head.
Kunou maintained his arrogant posture, even in light of the threat. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
“You’re never going to use you newfound abilities ever again.”
Kunou backed up a step now. “So you would strike down an unarmed opponent. I should have expected such underhandedness from one such as you.”
As though Kunou didn’t attack people who were unarmed all the time, Shampoo-kun thought to himself. Besides, he had something else in mind other than to killing the lame-brained fool.
Kunou backed up in fear as he saw Shampoo-kun tense up in preparation to finish him off. This was not the way it was supposed to end. The great Tatewaki Kunou was not supposed to be killed at the hands of a common peasant like Ranma Saotome.
“It ends now, Kunou,” Shampoo-kun said as he leaped over the kendoist’s head and landed on his back on top of his shoulders. In a flash he pulled out a bottle of 110 shampoo and within ten seconds wiped out all of Kunou’s memories concerning the book of Jurai sword techniques. Shampoo-kun jumped off and watched Kunou collapse to the ground, unconscious.
Ranma-chan slowly approached Shampoo-kun’s side, halfway expecting Kunou to rise up and terrorize her again. “Is it over?”
Shampoo-kun nodded his head. There was an irresistible urge to start kicking the unconscious boy on the ground, but he staved off the feeling. It would make him little better than Kunou.
“We go now,” he said to Ranma-chan as he picked her up and started leaping from rooftop to rooftop. He had not made more than four leaps when his legs buckled underneath him and he had to stop to regain his balance. The roof he landed on had recently been worked on. There was still the building debris of a half built chimney lying around.
Ranma-chan eased herself out of his grasp. “Why are you doing this?”
“I told you, I not going to let you be hurt.”
She shook her head and started to break down. “That’s not what I meant. Why are you doing all of this? You keep risking your life for me. Why? It’s almost like you want to get hurt.”
“I would have done it even if you were no there. He humiliate me in front of everyone. I had to beat him no matter what.”
“But I was there.” She began crying. “I hate it when you get hurt for me. Like when I was attacked by Tarou the first time, and when I got captured by Herb and now. It’s like your trying to get hurt to prove something to me.”
“I…I not trying to prove anything.”
Ranma-chan shook her head. “You’re lying. I can see it in your eyes. What are you trying to do? Prove to me you’re a strong warrior? That you can take punishment? I know you’re powerful.”
“I not have to prove anything to you,” Shampoo-kun snarled.
“But you still try. It’s like you’re afraid I won’t like you if I think you’re weak. I wouldn’t care even if you were. I like you for who you are. It has to be something else.”
“T…there’s nothing else,” he mumbled.
“Then why did you make that stupid promise about dying before letting me come to harm. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about it. Why am I so important to y…?” Ranma-chan trailed off after that.
“What?” Shampoo-kun looked on fearfully.
“You love me,” Ranma-chan whispered, just barely audible.
The widening of Shampoo-kun’s eyes was the only response she could give. She knew. At last she knew.
“I’ve been so blind. Why didn’t I see it? You love me!” Ranma-chan said as she began smiling eagerly.
Shampoo-kun was at a loss. To hear the words from Ranma-chan, that she knew everything, left him speechless.
“It’s so wonderful. Now I can get married!”
Shampoo-kun nearly fell over in shock. Ranma-chan wanted to get married, NOW?!!!
“It’ll be wonderful!” she began shouting in joy. “I’ll have to get a pretty dress. And we’ll have to invite the others. I do hope Father will be pleased that I’ll be marrying such a strong and handsome man.”
Shampoo-kun focused on what she was saying. Of course, the idiot still thought she was a girl. And that meant she was still considering Shampoo-kun a boy. That wasn’t right. Ranma-chan should want to marry her because he was really a girl.
But that could be dealt with after the wedding. Unfortunately no one else would go along with it. After all, Ranma-chan still thought she was a girl and they would no doubt argue that it would never stand up. Of course they could elope and have a honeymoon somewhere far away from the others. And he would end up having Ranma-chan while the redhead thought she was a girl.
Shampoo-kun tried thinking other thoughts. Surely he could make Ranma-chan better. He’d just have to wait until after the wedding. But what would Ranma’s reaction be once he recovered? Would he thank Shampoo, or would it be the exact opposite. Ranma hated to be manipulated, and wasn’t this the ultimate manipulation? Yes, but it would be for his own good. Would Ranma see it that way?
Would he ever trust Shampoo again? Or would he shout at her, accusing her of taking advantage of the situation? She wasn’t. And she loved Ranma. That would make it all right. She was just doing what Ranma came up with while he thought he…was…a…girl.
Shampoo-kun felt his heart sinking. He tried rationalizing everything he would do, but there was a continuously sinking feeling in his gut; a feeling that was growing by the second. And when he tried visualizing what life would be like after a wedding ceremony it was not coming up well. It kept going back to the same thing, how would Ranma react to it?
Ranma-chan was still going on about what a lucky girl she was when Shampoo-kun grabbed her and kissed her fiercely on the lips. Once over the initial shock Ranma-chan kissed back with every bit of force she could muster.
At last the kiss broke off and Ranma-chan smiled at her future husband while remaining in his embrace. “Whoa! If that’s what I have to look forward to, I am going to be one happy…” she trailed off as she noticed Shampoo-kun’s reaction to the kiss. He was crying.
“What’s wrong? Was my kiss that bad?” Ranma-chan asked.
Shampoo-kun looked at her through tear filled eyes. “<I never understood until now how much I love you.>
Ranma-chan shook her head. “I don’t understand Chinese.”
Shampoo-kun continued. “<I love you so much I’m willing to sacrifice my happiness so that you’ll be better.>”
Ranma-chan was still bewildered. “What are you talking about? I can’t—“ The rest was cut off by a loose brick Shampoo-kun had picked up and brought to the back of Ranma-chan’s head. He used enough force to reduce the object to powder as he grabbed the unconscious Ranma-chan before she could sag to the ground.
“<Don’t think you’re out of the woods yet,>” Shampoo-kun said softly. “<I swear to you I will have you on your knees, begging for me before I’m through with you. But I’ll be damned if you won’t be doing it as a man.>”
Ranma-chan’s eyes fluttered open as she lay in Shampoo-kun’s arms. “Wh..what happened?” she muttered.
“I hit you in the head with a brick,” Shampoo-kun responded. “How do you feel?”
Ranma-chan held her head as she moaned. “How do you think a feel, you stupid Amazon? You hit me in the head with a brick! Whad’ya do that for anyway?”
Shampoo-kun felt his heart soar. Ranma was back. “To make you better. And now you is back to normal.”
“I got a headache, that ain’t normal. And what do you mean make me better? I was perfectly fine…” Ranma-chan trailed off as she suddenly realized where she was. “Hey! Where am I and what are you doing here?”
“What you mean, Ranma?”
Ranma-chan shook her head. “The last thing I remember was that lady looking at something behind me, and the next thing I know is I’m here. What are we doing on a rooftop anyway?”
Shampoo-kun began to shudder. It had to be a trick to get out of what he had just said to Shampoo-kun. “Do you no remember thinking you were a girl the last few days?”
Ranma-chan looked at her in disbelief. “What kind of a joke are you trying to pull? I haven’t ever thought I was no girl. I’m a guy and damn proud of it. Did Nabiki put you up to this?”
Shampoo-kun began shaking. “What do you remember about the last few days?!”
Ranma-chan ran off a list of things, all of which happened before the accident. Her list was interrupted by a brick slammed into her skull once more by Shampoo-kun. She went down holding her head.
“Now what is the last thing you remember?!” Shampoo-kun fumed.
Ranma-chan got up and looked angrily at him. “You hitting me in the head with a brick!”
“And before that?”
“Getting hit in the head with a girder. I’m starting to see a pattern formi—“
Ranma-chan went down from another brick brought into her skull, stunned once again. It took her a moment to get wobbly to her feet.
“Now what do you remember?” Shampoo-kun asked.
Ranma-chan waited a moment until something resembling a steady world came about. As she shook her head and semi-recovered she answered.
“You going nuts and hitting me in the head with a bunch of bricks, you psycho Amazon! I…HEY!!! PUT DOWN THAT CHIMNEY!!!”
“I going to hit you in the head until you remember or you think you is a girl again!”
“What are you, crazy?! Did you get hit in the head and think you’re Akane or something?!”
A pair of eyes had watched everything from when she had heard Ranma-chan talk about marrying Shampoo-kun. She had returned to help out and saw the two of them talk. Obviously Shampoo-kun had lived up to his end of the bargain and taken care of Kunou. She just hoped it wasn’t permanently. The guy was a deluded moron, but even he didn’t deserve to die.
She heard the first part of the conversation about Ranma-chan’s sudden revelation about Shampoo-kun’s feelings, and the fact there was no denial on Shampoo-kun’s about it. A revolting feeling made its presence know when she realized that Shampoo-kun was seriously considering doing exactly what Ranma-chan said. and then there was THE KISS. That bitch forced herself on a confused Ranma-chan and taken advantage of the situation. Feeling came back to her arm she reflexively ripped up roof tiles in anger at what had just happened. She was about to make her presence known when she saw the blow to the back of Ranma-chan’s head. After a moment of confusion she realized what Shampoo-kun was doing. The bastard wanted Ranma-chan back to normal so she could love him as a girl. Those beliefs were confirmed as she watched Shampoo-kun try to hammer Ranma-chan’s skull in an attempt to bring those forgotten memories back, the little bitch.
Akane Tendo was not a happy person, and for a change it wasn’t Ranma who had set her off.
Tarou sat in the back room of the gym and nursed a beer. His ribs still hurt from where Kunou had struck him. The doctors assured him it was nothing more than a bruised rib which they immediately taped up. Given Tarou’s rate of recovery he could bounce back from that minor injury by the next day. Then new plans could be made for talking care of the newfound members of the ‘People That Need Their Asses Kicked by Tarou’ list.
The gym had been his home for the last couple of weeks. It was a better environment than the annoying floral shop he had been staying at. Besides, he didn’t trust Kodachi and sure as hell did not trust Mousse, especially now. So he emphasized to the owner of the gym just how much he needed a place to stay. Tarou’s need was just as much as the owner’s need to have an intact gymnasium that hadn’t been destroyed by a raging Yeti-riding-bull. The owner agreed with Tarou and he had been living in the room ever since.
It was currently after business hours, which was why Tarou was surprised when he heard a knocking the door of the establishment. Deciding he needed to move anyway he went to chase the person off for annoying him. That had been the plan until he saw who his visitor was.
“Come on in.” Tarou smiled pleasantly as he ushered the girl of his dreams inside.
Akane cut right to the chase. “I want to start training with you again.”
“What about Ranma?”
“What about him?” Akane responded as she crossed her arms.
Tarou unleashed a smile of his own. “That’s what I like to hear.”
Kasumi finished wrapping the bandage around Ranma’s head. “You two should play less rough. Someone could be hurt.”
Ranma turned to the semi-charred Shampoo. “It wasn’t my idea to start tossing bricks at someone’s head.”
“I not talking to you,” Shampoo snarled.
“Look, I thought you were possessed or something. I didn’t know you were right.”
“Shut up, Ranma.”
“Throwing you into that gas tanker was an accident.”
“Shut up, Ranma!”
“I didn’t know it was going to explode.”
“I not want to talk about it.”
“At least you weren’t hurt.” He took note of the scowl directed at him. “Mostly. And it shocked you back to your senses. Why were you so desperate for me to remember, anyway? I’ve only heard about half of the things I did and I already want to leave the country.”
“Nevermind. It not important.” Shampoo shook her head. Despite the explosion she was still capable of fighting, so she couldn’t use the outsider rule against him. And if the jerk didn’t want to remember, fine! She wasn’t going to remind him. Besides, there was a horrible feeling deep inside that he would just deny it or play it off as part of his brain damage. Every instinct inside told her to remain silent about the event for now. It would take a little time, but there were ways to get him to open up to her. And now she was going to use them.
There was one other thing that kept her tongue silent. Just one little detail she had almost missed. Even when Ranma had been going on about marrying her, he left out one thing. Just one little word which would have made Shampoo repeat everything that Ranma-chan had said.
Ranma never said he loved her. Not once, no matter how deluded he was, did he say those words. And somewhere deep down inside, that made her feel very afraid.
To be continued.
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