Be Dea approached the house of Li Fhall in a rush. Her instincts were calling out that something was wrong and her plans were about to be upset. Be Dea REALLY did not like it when her plans were upset, and when that happened she let others know about it. She was so anxious that she nearly barged into the house without knocking.
Her first knock went unanswered, despite the fact she could hear someone moving around and a low moaning sound coming from inside. The second time she used her staff in a more authoritative manner. If there were no answer, a third knock would be applied with a single finger and a loud “BAKUSAI TENKETSU!!!”
Feet could be heard hurrying to the door, which opened a moment later by a woman dressed in a robe and a smile, and just barely the robe. Upon opening the door Li Fhall’s irritated manner became a more mollified one.
“<What can I do you for you, Elder?>”
Be Dea cut to the chase. “<Where’s Silk? She was supposed to teach several of my grandchildren the finer points to binding wounds when she didn’t show. Now I hear that no one has seen her the last couple of days. She isn’t at her house, I already checked. I know you’re friends with her and I was hoping you knew where she has gotten to.>”
Li Fhall appeared visibly relieved. “<She’s gone back to Japan.>”
Be Dea looked at her suspiciously. “<Did she tell you why?>”
“<Oh, yes!>” Li Fhall said enthusiastically. “<She said she’s going back to her true love. Apparently she met him once again while she was there and has been depressed ever since. I told her she should go for it. It’s probably too late for her to start a family, but she’s one of the nicest people I know and deserves to have a happy home with a man she loves. I don’t know what I’d do without mine.>”
“<Honey…>” came a man’s voice from inside.
“<Hold on, dear. It’s Elder Be Dea. I’ll be back in a minute to… ah… finish up.>”
Be Dea winced inwardly as she always did when listening to the young and their foolish romantic notions. Once you got older, you understood how romance really worked, and it was never the ideal some chose to think it was.
As to Silk’s departure, technically there was no reason to stop her. She was free to come and go as she pleased, but the coincidence of her trip at the same time as the hunt squad was disturbing. True, the talk of going to Nerima might have broken down what reservations she had about going back, and Be Dea had even heard her mention how much she missed that man back in Japan recently, but if she was leaving she could have helped out with the hunt. Acted as sort of an unofficial guardian as it were. Perhaps she was even doing that now, and was only worried about how the group of young girls would fare.
On the other hand, she was friends with Cologne, and she might have gone to warn her. If that was the case she was going to be in a heap of trouble upon her return. Crossing swords with Be Dea was always a mistake and she was one to let others know just how grievous an error that was.
Feng Yau looked up to see the woman enter the bar. Carefully his observant eyes took in her form and sized her up as potential prey. A thief of his caliber always kept one eye open for the chance to make some money.
Her clothing was well-worn and not impressive in the least, just common thread. The woman’s movements were strained, as though she did not move too well and was in pain. Arthritis, if he was not mistaken.
She plopped herself down next to Feng and brought out a coin purse. He allowed none of his intense interest to express itself upon his face. This was going to determine whether or not the woman would end up as a mark. It was with much disappointment that she brought out only the smallest handful of coins, looked sadly at them, and mumbled something about only enough for two drinks.
She purchased the drinks, downing the first one within seconds, and slowly nursed the second. It was at that moment she began conversing with him.
“<Tell you what. I have seen some strange stuff on the road, but today took the cake.>”
That caught his interest. Strange things meant the potential for profit. He allowed himself an air of casual disinterest as she continued.
“<I was going south along one of the roads to the west and I saw this group of people, right? And they have something out of sight underneath some kind of cloth. Well, as I’m going past one of them, one of the corners slips off by accident and it can see it’s this large box. One of them heavy-duty kinds you need a tank to break into. Well I overhear them talking about treasury or something when they finally spot me. Then they get out a couple of swords and threaten me and tell me to scram. I mean what the heck are they doing?! It’s a public road. I can use it, but no they chase me off like I’m a thief or something. Can you imagine someone like me as a thief? With these old bones I’m lucky I can still farm. People are just so rude nowadays. Why in my time—>“
At that point Feng excused himself and went to round up the rest of his gang. Even if he hadn’t heard the bit about the lockbox there was no way he would remain next to the woman. Aside from the fact she smelled bad there was the talk of the ‘good old days.’ When old people went on like that it was time to leave quick lest you be trapped in a boring conversation about the merits of the past. His grandmother had been that way before she died, and he heard enough about the past to last him a lifetime.
Once he was gone for about thirty minutes the ‘elderly’ woman straightened up and moved like a cat, not the slightest hint of pain in her old bones. True, what she had done to the group of girls was hardly fair, but she had spent enough time around the town to know which gang Feng belonged to and just how small and ineffectual they were. Besides, those girls had better have been able to handle a band of common street trash. Silk had helped teach more than half of them, and if they had even a difficult time with the gang, they didn’t deserve to be called warriors of the Joketsuzoku.
With any luck it would delay them for a little while and force them to move more slowly. Every day they were forced to make a detour or encountered a delay was one more Shampoo had to solve her problem.
Silk hoped she was doing the right thing. At the very least she was going to get a chance to see Soun again. She just hoped it was under pleasant circumstances and not as the herald of Shampoo’s death.
Chapter 29: Dating Procedures
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com
What’s gone on before (or what you really need to know to enjoy this fic) In the beginning the Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou to spar, neither one realizing there was already a duel going on at the far side of the pools. One accidental mid-air collision and bath in Spring of Young Drowned Man later, there is 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 briefly ended up engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up Ranma ended up engaged to Akane. After many months many friends and foes were made. Last Chapter, first contact was unwittingly made between Ryouga and Tessai of the Eight Devils of Kimone and Ai was freed of the influence of the love pill by Minami. Now it’s time for people to start going out on dates…
<> Indicates Chinese
“Did you hear the news?”
Akane leaned forward to hear what Malia was saying. Chisa and Sayuri nearly bowled her over as they huddled closer as well.
“Yuka is coming back,” Malia informed them.
Akane and Sayuri nearly jumped for joy while Chisa remained silent.
“So what?” she asked.
“I don’t think you met her. She’s from before your time.” Akane was still beaming at the news. “She used to be part of our close group. Anyway, she used to attend Furinkan a couple of years ago, but there was a slight problem.”
“The Director,” Sayuri explained.
Chisa shuddered at that. Now she recalled the other three mentioning Yuka every now and then. As she remembered it, The Director had kidnapped the girl and gave her his patented ‘electro-shock acting lessons’ which resulted in a nervous breakdown.
“She’s been institutionalized for years. They say she’s finally better now,” Malia said. “She should be here any minute now.”
Almost as if on cue a very frightened-looking girl entered the room and began glancing around, her eyes settling on the quartet of girls. Once recognition dawned she began to relax.
“Come on over,” Akane said softly as she got up and led Yuka over to the others. Akane was relieved to see the ‘deer caught in the headlights’ look was passing.
“Things have changed,” Yuka said in a quiet, distant voice.
The others became slightly concerned. Yuka didn’t quite seem like her old self. All three girls began to worry that perhaps the treatment wasn’t successful and that she was close to repeating her breakdown. Akane decided to take to the lead and ease her old friend back into the swing of things.
Yuka scanned the room and assessed the changes. “We have a new teacher.”
“That’s Godai-sensei. He’s a lot better than Watanabe-sensei was. Even if he is a bit of a pushover sometimes,” Akane explained.
Her eyes continued looking over the room’s occupants. “Why is that girl in a shrine maiden’s outfit?”
“That’s our resident ghost sweeper, Minami.”
“There’s a zombie in one of the seats.”
“That’s just Gosunkugi. He’s harmless…and alive.”
“Oh.” She kept looking until someone else caught her interest. At last the others heard a bit of the old Yuka in the voice. “Who’s that cute guy with the spatula on his back?”
“Actually that’s a girl. Her name’s Ukyou Kuonji.”
Yuka looked incredulously at Akane. “Things have gotten a lot weirder around here.”
“Wait until you meet our gym teacher. He’s a genetically engineered combination of human and roach that tries to put all of the students through impossible physical tests to break us of our wills. Then there’s the return of principal Kunou, who keeps making stupid rules for the school. And our new English teacher looks like she’s six years old but is really twenty-nine and can absorb people’s chi so she can make herself into a super model.” Akane turned to her friends “Did I leave anything out?”
“If you beat up the cutest guy in the school you can date him,” Chisa brought up. “And we don’t mean Kunou.”
“Except Shampoo’s going out with him,” Sayuri mumbled.
Yuka watched all four of the girls’ eyes turn towards a corner where there was a huddled mass of boys. She could just overhear the guys saying something.
“C’mon, Shampoo. Just one more time.”
“No!” The voice could just identified as belonging to a female.
“Please. It’s just so neat!”
“Oh all right. But only once,” the voice relented.
“Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo. Now let me put it in.”
Akane cringed as she heard the sound of electricity and watched Yuka tense up. The crowd of boys parted to reveal Ranma-chan standing there with her back to the girls. Once Saotome turned around the five girls saw there was a glowing light bulb in her mouth. The result was predictable.
“There goes two years of therapy,” Malia complained.
Akane slammed a desk into Ranma-chan’s head. “Way to go, Shampoo!” And stomped off, taking Yuka to the school nurse to see if she had anything for repeat nervous breakdowns.
Ranma-chan lifted the desk off of her head. “Wahfh gouf imu dit gria maow?”
“Try that without the bulb in your mouth,” Ryouga suggested.
Ranma-chan followed the advice. “What’s got into that girl now?”
“You gave Yuka another nervous breakdown,” Sayuri said acidly.
“If I didn’t give her the first one, how could I give her another!”
Sayuri shook her head. “I mean you aggravated an already existing condition. Hey! Now that I think about it, we were just talking about you and Ranma dating. Exactly when are the two of you going out?”
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun looked at one another. Ranma-chan spoke up first. “Ahh…well, tonight. Yeah! That’s it. Tonight.”
Shampoo-kun was out of his seat in a flash and embracing Ranma-chan. “I is so happy. You take Ranma out on date!”
The cries of anger and jealousy from the girls drowned out Ranma-chan shouting at Shampoo-kun to let her go.
Several of the girl huddled together out of earshot of the struggling couple.
“We’d better make sure Shampoo doesn’t try to take advantage of Ranma.”
“Yeah. He seems so innocent. If that minx gets him alone, there’s no telling what she’ll do.”
“We’ll be chaperones.”
“Yeah! That’s it! That’s the ticket. Chaperones.”
“We’ll protect Ranma and his innocence from the little tramp!”
All of the boys that overheard the conversation were very glad they weren’t Shampoo.
It was after school when Ranma-chan decided to go to Ukyou’s. The day had been eventful to say the least. She had been interrogated by several girls about exactly where she was taking Shampoo and exactly what they were going to do. Akane was angry with her for the electricity trick and got even angrier when she mentioned that she had to go on a date with Shampoo later in the night. It wasn’t like Ranma-chan had any choice, and besides, Shampoo was fun to hang around with. Saotome was going to be damned if she was going to let Akane tell her who she could and couldn’t spend time with.
As she made her way into the restaurant she was confronted with what might have been the most bizarre scene ever, which was saying a lot. The place was in shambles; Ryouga was lying unconscious on the floor. Ukyou was using a giant dented spatula to fend Tsubasa who was crouched on all fours on a table and twitching his nose. Ranma-chan took note that her friend’s clothing was torn in some rather revealing spots. There was also a peculiar sensation as she witnessed Tsubasa’s behavior.
“What’s going on?!”
Ukyou managed to take her eyes off of Tsubasa for a second to answer. “Keep back! Tsubasa thinks he’s a rabbit!”
Ukyou swung at Tsubasa-usagi and explained what had happened. “Tsubasa was hiding in the store, disguised as a plant. Ryouga found him, grabbed Tsubasa’s Bane, and tried chasing him out, only Tsubasa was adamant about staying and cowered in a corner. Ryouga stuck Bane in his face but he still wouldn’t leave, he just got more scared. After a couple minutes of that he got quiet all of a sudden and stopped screaming. He scrunched down on all fours and began twitching his nose. The next thing I know he’s hopping around while trying to wiggle his nonexistent cottontail. Then Ryouga shouted at him for acting even more disturbed than usual. I guess Tsubasa didn’t like that since he jumped up in the air and kicked him in the head about five hundred times. I heard him moan, so I guess he’s all right.”
At that point in the story Ukyou had to pause to swing at Tsubasa-usagi, who tried to jump on her. She barely managed to ward him off with several hard swings.
Ranma-chan continued watching Tsubasa-usagi’s behavior. She found herself getting the weirdest feeling as she observed the cross-dresser’s movements. It did not seem as though he was trying to attack. “What’s he doing now? It doesn’t look like he’s trying to hurt you.”
“What do you think?” Ukyou scolded. “What are rabbits famous for?”
Ranma-chan found difficulty in summoning enough concentration for the answer. “Eating carrots?”
“Making lucky charms out of their feet?”
“Hiding Easter Eggs?”
“NO!” Ukyou was about ready to give up on Tsubasa-usagi and strike her ex-fiancé. “Haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘two people going at it like rabbits’?”
Ranma-chan found it almost impossible to answer. “Yeah. So?”
“HE’S TRYING TO MOUNT ME!!!” Ukyou raged.
Ranma-chan couldn’t answer as she suddenly found the world around her go dark.
“Ranma, you jackass! Get over here and protect my virginity!” She gave one more swing to keep Tsubasa-usagi at bay then turned back towards Ranma-chan. “Why aren’t you…Ranma, why are you down on all fours?”
Tsubasa-usagi sensed something behind him. He turned and the sight before him struck fear into his heart.
Katsuragi relaxed next to his newsstand while talking with the owner of Ohtana’s Bar, Ohtana himself. The two old friends would frequently converse while watching the events of the Nerima unfold. Both were gazing out at the street when they witnessed two blurs, one chasing the other, race past the newsstand and over the newly-consecrated statue to Chthulu that the Nerima town council had finally got around to replacing.
“Now that’s something you don’t see everyday,” Katsuragi said as he adjusted his baseball cap.
“What’s that?” Ohtana asked.
“A cross-dresser that’s learned the usagi-kyaku being chased by an aquatransexual who’s learned the neko-ken.”
Ohtana nodded in agreement. “Let’s get a drink to celebrate!”
“Damn good idea!”
On the kami plane:
The Shadowhare raged at the scene that his scrying pool showed. At the rate he was going, he would never be as feared as his chief rival, the Shadowcat. It was difficult enough trying to get people to dress up as carrots and allow themselves to be attacked by ravenous rabbits, but the few times they did and were sent into their usagi state, some idiot with the neko-ken came by and spoiled the fun.
It couldn’t be a coincidence. It had to be the damned Shadowcat’s doing. It was his fault no one took the Shadowhare seriously. And if he had to hear one more person refer to him derisively as the ‘Shadowbunny’, he would kick them into oblivion.
He had to come up with a plan. A shift in the scrying pool showed two different scenes, an odd creature with black fur that looked like a rabbit and cat fusion and a blond girl in a sailor fuku. There was the potential for something there, he was sure of it. Even the girl’s name, Usagi, was a sure sign that some greater destiny awaited her. Perhaps if the two were bonded together…
“Thanks for bringing me out of the catfist,” Ranma-chan said to Akane.
“No problem,” Akane smiled warmly, then scowled. “It’s not your fault your dad’s an idiot. You sure you’re okay?”
Akane had literally stumbled upon Ranma-neko while on her way home, spotting her in front of some kind of small pipe, crouched on all fours and waiting at the opening, almost as though she were stalking something. Realizing that something was horribly wrong with the whole situation, Akane waited a few minutes to see if she could figure out exactly what it was. She prayed that the smaller girl hadn’t started chasing down rodents and tried eating them or something. To have her fiancé thinking he was a girl was bad enough, but to have him thinking he was a cat was really too much to take.
Sensing Ranma-neko wasn’t in any hurry to leave her spot, Akane went over to see if she could bring her out of the neko-state. Ranma-neko spotted her immediately, and appeared as though she was going to make a break for it. Taking the initiative, Akane made soft soothing sounds as she approached. That was enough to relax Ranma-neko as she allowed Akane to approach, all the while keeping her attention on the mouth of the pipe before her.
Akane followed her fiancé’s example and got down on all fours to see what had riveted Saotome’s attention. She could just make out a cowering Tsubasa, who could only possibly fit into the narrow pipe by using the same method he usually employed with his disguises. The cross-dresser didn’t say a word. He simply remained scrunched down and twitched his nose.
That was enough weirdness for one day. After much cajoling she managed to get Ranma-neko to abandon her stalking and follow the youngest Tendo as she led the redhead to some hot water to bring her out of the neko state. After that the duo went home.
Shampoo came from inside the house and glomped Ranma. “I is so happy we go out on date. When do you want to go?!”
Ranma pried himself out of her grasp, barely registering Akane’s irritation as she stomped off. “Look, Shampoo. Maybe we should do this some other time.”
“Why? Tonight is a nice night.”
“Yeah. Well, it’s been a long day and I’m kind of beat.”
Shampoo was slightly confused. “Then we go out and have a good time. That way you feel better.”
Ranma shook his head. “I don’t think I will. Besides you shouldn’t get all excited about this. I mean, it ain’t like I wanna go out on a date with you anyway.”
A slight edge entered her voice. “What you mean, Ranma?”
He missed the change. “I mean we gotta go. I beat you in public and all, and it’ll look bad if we don’t.”
“You mean you no want to go out?”
“Well, not on a date, y’know?”
Shampoo began shaking, forcing her anger into clenching and unclenching her fist. “I see. You no like me and not want to go anywhere with me. That fine!” And with that she stomped off.
Ranma went into his usual state of confusion when women behaved in a way he didn’t understand. He began following her in irritation. “Hey! I didn’t say that and don’t go putting words in my mouth.”
“I not talking to you!” She stomped into her room and shut the door.
Ranma stood outside and scowled at the door. “Why are you making such a big production out of this?”
“You no want to go out with me, fine! I no want to go out with you either!” The voice from behind the door shouted.
“Would you just…” Shampoo’s last sentence finally registered with Ranma. “What do you mean you don’t want to go out with me?”
Her head popped out of the door. “Just what I say! I no want to go out with you! You probably not know how to have a good time on date anyway. Jerk!” She retreated and slammed the door in Ranma’s face.
“I do too know how to have a good time!” he shouted at the door as if it were what had just insulted him. “If you went out with me you’d have such a good time you wouldn’t know what to do! And don’t call me a jerk!”
“Forget it! I go out on date with Kasumi! She’s a nice girl and probably know how to have a good time better than you anyway!”
Ranma turned red at the implication. “She does not know how to have a good time better than me! I know how to have the best time ever! No one dates better than me! Let’s go out!”
“I not talking to you!” was the reply from behind the closed door.
“Damn it! I’m asking you out on a date!”
Ranma began shaking his fist at the door. “So we are going out and I’m not taking no for an answer!”
“Oh, no! I’m not falling for that one! I said I’m not taking that as an answer! Open the door and go out with me or so help me I’ll break it down and drag you out! Then I’ll force you to go out on a date with me and you’ll have a good time even if it kills both of us!”
Shampoo’s head popped out. “You be ready at seven thirty. I take care of everything,” she said calmly, then went back into her room.
Ranma crossed his arms and stared smugly at the door. “I showed her. No one stands me up! It’s going to be the best date anyone anywhere has ever had. She’s going to have the best time of her life tonight. HAHAHAHA!!!”
Kodachi gazed longingly at Mousse as he sat on one of the verandas overlooking the gardens of the Kunou Estate, a thin bladed dagger between his fingers occasionally flashed in the afternoon light as he absentmindedly twirled it. His attitude was beginning to worry her. It really was too bad that whatever he had thought was going to happen to Ranma a few days ago didn’t work out. He had simply waited up all night for Kunou and Ranma to show up, but neither did, much to his disappointment. When Kunou finally showed, Mousse grilled him on everything that had happened after he left. All Kunou could remember was the ‘foul Saotome’ jumping on his back and waking up with a refreshed feeling. At that point Mousse said something about Xi Fa Xiang and left, disgusted with the ineptitude of the swordsman.
Now days later he still hadn’t cheered up and Kodachi was getting desperate for a means to break him out of his stupor. There was one idea she had and if it didn’t work she was going to apply just a little something to his next meal to turn his thoughts to one more worthy of him.
“Mousse-sama. Why don’t we go out on a date tonight?”
He was silent for several seconds as he continued twirling his knives unabated. “Okay.”
“It will cheer you up. We’ll have a divine time where you will be treated just like the prince that you truly are.”
“I said okay. We’ll go out.”
“I must insist you agree,” she said, beginning to work herself into a huff. “You need to brighten up and this is just the sort of thing to make you forget about that awful Tarou and Ranma.”
Mousse got up and crossed his hand in front of her face. “I said yes.”
Kodachi appeared confused. He had always rejected her advances, so she had simply assumed he was going to resist and shut out what his actual answer was. As the realization of what he said sunk in she drifted back to reality. “This will be wonderful! I’ll order you a suit made from the finest material money can buy. I shall proudly show the world what man has captured this single black rose from the field of red. We’ll be the envy of all the peasants and peons. OHHOHOHOHOHO!!!”
As Kodachi skipped away and made her plans, Mousse had to admit he needed to get out, and it would placate Kodachi, at least for a little while. Besides, he hadn’t done anything solely for himself in years. It would be good just to go out.
Akari entered the darkened hole-in-the-wall bar. She thought this was exactly the sort of place a nice girl like her should never see from the outside, let alone the inside, but the man she had talked to told her that the person she was searching for was located inside. She began to reconsider her decision in seeking the boy’s help. If this was the sort of place he enjoyed hanging around in, he might not be the sort of ally she was seeking.
The patrons all looked like rough, mean people, not at all like the farmers she was used to dealing with. The interior was rundown, and the inside so dimly lit she couldn’t see the floor. Judging by the way her shoes were sticking to it she probably did not want to see it. And the place smelled worse than any pigsty, not that such things smelled unpleasant to her. In fact, sties held a certain sort of delicious odor which was unmatchable anywhere.
Thoughts of the value of the smell of swine were abruptly cut off as a large, rough-looking bald man approached her.
“AHHHH! A rapist!” Akari screamed, causing the man to cringe.
“Nononono! I just want to buy you a drink.”
The man was hit over the head with a chair and collapsed to the floor. As he slumped down the figure behind him, chair still in hand, now became visible. He was an even rougher looking man than the first. Akari noted that several other tough looking men had gathered around her while she was distracted. She could only guess that they were the chair-man’s friends.
The leader spoke up. “We’re the rapists.”
“Oh! Do you think I should apologize to the first man? I don’t want him to think I’m rude in confusing him with you.”
The group facefaulted.
Over at the far end of the bar, a semi-conscious young man heard the sounds of the argument. Slowly he raised his head from the bar, barely managing to avoid empty whiskey bottles around him, and dragged himself to his feet.
Akari became very concerned with the situation. Just because she couldn’t ever marry didn’t mean she wanted this sort of thing to happen. She was in such a panic that her hands trembled and she fumbled the canteen of water at her side, the water spilling out on the floor along with her hope.
“Can we talk this out?”
The leader shook his head. Just as he was about to go for Akari a fist struck him in the back of the head. Before he even hit the floor a whirlwind was among the circle, knocking out four more of them by the time the first attacker’s unconscious body finally settled on the ground.
The three remaining men wisely decided to find safer environs, like the interior of a nuclear power plant, and left. Akari was shocked to discover the boy that had fought off the thugs was the same age as her. In the dim lighting of the bar it took her a moment to identify him.
“You’re Ryu Kumon!”
The youth seemed to recoil at the name. His only response after that was to give a disgusted look at her then walk back to his place at the far end of the bar.
Akari was confused at the reaction. He looked exactly like the picture, except for the stubble of several weeks growth that had accumulated on his chin. If he wasn’t Kumon then why did he not protest it? And if he was why didn’t he acknowledge it? Rather than giving up she pursued him down to his place at the bar. “I’ve come here looking for you.”
“So?” He settled himself at the bar and sorted through the bottles, hoping to find enough in the bottom of one of them to get at least one more decent shot of liquor.
“I need your help.”
He gained a forlorn look as he realized there was nothing left in any of them. He couldn’t even mix what was left in the bottoms to scrounge just one decent drink. “I don’t give help to anyone.”
“Even if it’s revenge against Ranma?”
That caught Ryu’s interest. He now gave a much closer examination of the girl, at last taking in her full form. “Why do you want revenge against him? What did he do to you?”
“Well,” Akari began to explain. “It’s not exactly Ranma I want revenge against. It’s his girlfriend, Shampoo. She’s the mean person that ruined my life.”
Akari related the whole story to him. It was especially pleasing to her that Ryu appeared more and more sober as time went on. Maybe he was the man she was looking for. Once finished she waited to see his reaction.
“You actually cursed yourself to get revenge because you can’t marry?”
Akari began to wonder if he really was sober. It had all been explained quite clearly.
He indicated she should get closer to him, as though he would whisper something in her ear. She did as she was bade.
“That is…” he whispered.
“…THE MOST STUPID THING I HAVE EVER HEARD!!!”
Akari fell to the ground, both from shock and deafness. “Does that mean you’re not going to help?” she said a little too loudly.
“Of course I won’t!” Ryu continued his rant. “You think I want revenge on Saotome? If I did why the hell would I be getting drunk in this damn bar?”
“Because you’re thirsty?”
Akari sighed. People seemed to do that a lot around her lately. Maybe her inexperience at the revenge game was showing. “But if it weren’t for Ranma. You would still be married.”
Ryu shook his head. “Saotome didn’t do a thing to me. I was the one responsible for what I did. If anything, Saotome helped to show me what I should have done. As soon as I met him, I should have told Kaori…” His voice caught for a moment. “…everything. If I had been honest with her, she would have been resentful for a little while, then got over it. But instead I tried perpetuating my lie and ended up losing everything. Saotome didn’t make me pretend I was him, or force me to lie to my wife even though I should have known I had her love and it wouldn’t have mattered. I did all of that on my own. It was me that poisoned my marriage and doomed it. Ranma’s blameless.
“And what’s up with you?” He fingered the cloak she wore. “Have you taken a look at yourself?”
Akari shook her head. She had been caught up in trying to get revenge for so long she really hadn’t taken the time to take a good hard look at herself.
“You aren’t cut out for this. Hell, you freaked as soon as you entered this place. If you want to hang out with guys on par with Ranma and his buddies, you got to be a whole lot tougher than that. You have to be able to level a place like this and as an afterthought light a cigarette with the burning ashes.”
“I don’t smoke.”
There was a saying Ryu’s father had taught him so long ago. The path of the martial artist is fraught with peril, unlike most people’s lives. It is also fraught with those that simply don’t get it, like most people’s lives. No matter how irritating they were you could not just do away with them. There were too many of them to kill. Ryu resisted the urge to employ a Kijin Raishu Dan on her. She wouldn’t get the point anyway.
“Let me put it to you this way. You are not cut out for this line of work. Go back to being a pig farmer and raise a litter of pigs.”
There was a saying Akari’s grandfather had taught her so long ago. The path of a pig farmer is fraught with those that don’t understand pig farming. Those people were not very bright and because they did not understand pig farming there was also going to be something missing from their lives, so one should forgive them for their ignorance. There were also too many of them to kill. “Pigs aren’t raised in litters.” She watched Ryu’s reaction. “And please stop facefaulting. It’s very annoying.”
“YOU HAVEN’T LISTENED TO A WORD I SAID!!!”
“Yes, I have,” Akari protested. “I’m just not following it.”
Ryu shook his head. “You can’t waste your life blaming Shampoo for you getting cursed —“
Akari cut him off. “I like being cursed.”
“You do?” He asked in open disbelief.
She emphatically nodded her head. “Turning into a razorback is fun. I’m really tough and can do all sorts of neat things I could never do just as a girl. What I blame her for is ruining me. I can’t get married now.”
“Why are you so hung up on marriage?” Ryu asked. “Let me tell you something. Marriage is a crock of shit. You think you know someone and will spend your whole life with them, and then it all gets dumped on your face and you end up with nothing. Gimme a drink!” he shouted at the bartender.
Two shots of tequila were downed one after another before he continued. “You can’t ever really trust someone and put all your heart into it. You settle down, have a couple kids, then your spouse has an affair or has gotta ‘find herself’, or they have a mid-life crisis, or they have some dark secret or something like that. It all ends up going to hell and you have nothing to show for it in the end. What you want to do is go out on dates. Don’t get into serious relationships. Just have fun.”
“I’ve never been on a date,” Akari said.
Ryu looked at her in disbelief. “A good looking girl like you? Why not?”
A blush rose to her cheeks. “No one was ever strong enough to beat Katsunishiki. And I just figured I would date whoever I was going to marry.”
“If you know you’re going to marry him, that defeats a lot of the purpose to dating.” Ryu scratched his head as he considered exactly how to go about correcting the girl’s obvious misconceptions and came up with what he considered the ideal solution. “I’ll take you out.”
“You will?” That didn’t make any sense. She could not marry anyone, so why bother dating?
“Yep. I’ll show you what a good time dates are so you can give up this stupid nonsense about revenge and get on with your life.” More quietly he added. “Might as well do something good with my worthless existence. Can’t help myself, maybe I can help others.”
Akari found herself to be strangely excited about the whole idea. It really wasn’t a justified reaction since it could never lead to anything.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Ryu warned as he took one last drink and began to lead Akari out the door. “This isn’t going to lead to anything. I will never get married again.”
“I can’t ever marry anyone at all,” Akari mentioned.
“Right!” And with that settled, the two walked out into the night.
Ukyou had finally gotten around to cleaning the mess that Tsubasa-usagi had made. With the restaurant in the chaotic state it was in, there was going to be no business conducted today. Ryouga had been carted off by Kyoko, despite insisting that he was perfectly fine. So that left Ukyou alone… again… naturally.
Silently she wondered if it was time to move on, but for all the problems she had there were some good things too. Okonomiyaki had made up so much of her life, that and vengeance against Ranma. One was abandoned so the other took up everything else. In spite of the occasional closings and fights she got into, her business was booming. It was doing so well that she had been considering building on an addition just to accommodate the sheer volume of customers. True, Shampoo was in no small way responsible for the increase in business the last couple of months, but it was her cooking that kept them coming back. Even the crappy takeout store across the street had not cut into her profits. And in a way, she was more than pleased by the morning stare-offs she and Kaori had as each would open their restaurants and make ready to wage war in the battle for patrons. The take-out queen was losing, and it showed.
Rumors were already starting to spread about Uk-Chan’s making one of the top fifty restaurants in Japan. Considering her youth and the humble size of her restaurant it was amazing she would even be considered for such a prestigious award. A fantasy began with her as the CEO of the okonomiyaki world. Kyoko was her personal footstool while Ryouga waited on her hand and foot, apologizing for his foolishness as the painful cords of jazz music played on…
She frowned at that thought. What was jazz music doing playing in her fantasy? She hated jazz. It was by far the worst clatter she had ever heard and dearly wished that it were outlawed from being played in the entire country.
The sound, which she refused to acknowledge was a form of music, was originating from next to Uk-Chan’s. She went outside and followed the noise to the store next to hers. The fish seller that had been previously occupying the structure had gone out of business earlier in the week. There had been rumors that some foreign investor had purchased the property but there had been no word on what was going to be opened there.
Now that Ukyou had a chance to view the whole thing she saw that something had been moved into the vacant structure earlier in the day. She had been so distracted by the day’s events that she had been unaware that anyone had moved anything in. Now a French bistro had taken the place of the previous business, and that was from whence the music came.
Ukyou felt her blood curdle as she recognized the sound of a thick French accent fill the air. She slowly turned around to see the all too familiar sight of Crepe Suzette. “Don’t tell me—“
“—That I have decided to add some culture to this otherwise backward society?” Suzette smirked. “Oui. I have. It is my fondest wish that I convert all of the fools that choose to eat what you laughingly call cuisine to the only true form of cooking; that of French style food. Have a baget.”
Suzette handed the stunned Ukyou a baget. Kuonji’s surprise at the close proximity of her rival’s new business, and the problems that were no doubt going to arise from it, made her completely forget one of the French chef’s patented trademarks.
Baget Bombs. Suzette’s favorite. The French Cuisine Combat specialist danced in a spiral around Ukyou’s still standing singed form.
Ukyou lacked the will to avenge herself of the wrongdoing this day. Exhaustion ruled her body as she slowly dragged herself back to her own restaurant and sat down at one of the only partially shattered tables. It was with misery she laid her head upon the wooden surface, trying to find the desire to continue on and fix the rest of the damage.
A sound from behind caught her attention. She looked up to see Ai, in full cheerleader regalia and baton, enter the establishment. “Hello, Ai,” she managed weakly.
“Good evening Ku… Ukyou, my sweet.” Her voice dripped honey as she addressed Ukyou.
Kuonji settled her head back on the table. She heard Ai move behind her as she simply stared at the surface once more. What the hell, she decided.
“Want to go out, Ai?”
The sound of a baton hitting the floor caused Ukyou to look behind her. Ai was staring at her wide-eyed, her hands left in a position that suggested she had until a moment ago, been holding the baton at an unusual angle.
“What’s wrong?” Ukyou asked.
Ai shook off most of her surprise. “You startled me, that’s all. Did you say you want to go out?”
“Yep.” Ukyou answered in a somewhat tired voice. “You can even call it a date if you want. Keep your hands to yourself though. I don’t want you putting the moves on me.”
A bit of suspicion crept into Ai’s voice. “That doesn’t sound like much of a date.”
“That’s the deal. If you don’t want to do go I’ll understand.” It probably was too much to hope for, but she was just so lonely that she needed someone, anyone, to spend time with. If only Ai was willing to behave herself.
“Okay.” Ai said. “Meet back here in about an hour?”
Ukyou agreed. As Ai left the restaurant Ukyou realized the cheerleader had not once tried to glomp onto her or shout out words of affection. It was the most restrained she had seen the blond in a long time. Maybe she’d be able to keep her word and keep her hands to herself. Who knew, it just might turn into a good night after all.
The group of twelve girls set their surveillance equipment up across the street. All of them had sworn there was no way they were going to let Shampoo alone with Ranma for more than a second. They knew that was all the time that was needed for a tramp like her to put the moves on ‘their’ Ranma and do something naughty with him. It was all part of some insidious plot to marry the handsome boy, no doubt. Of course the fact that most of them would do the same thing were the positions reversed was not mentioned.
“Do we have visual access to all the windows?” one of the girls asked.
Another answered her. “Affirmative. The shotgun mikes are all in place.”
“Umm, guys.” A third one spoke up.
“There’s a woman waving at us. I think it’s Akane’s sister, Kasumi.”
“From the kitchen window.”
“Damn! I knew we should have used better camouflage sheets. What’s she doing?”
“From her hand gestures, I think she’s inviting us in.”
“Nope. It looks like it’s for real.”
The group considered that. It would give them better access to the house than the surveillance equipment provided, and they would be closer on hand should the need arise to keep Ranma from harm.
“I think she’s offering us milk and cookies.”
That settled it. No one had thought to bring food, and several of the girls had eaten over at Akane’s before. Passing up Kasumi-offered food was too foolish to consider. The group accepted the invitation and made ready to spy on the date that was soon going to live in infamy, at least if they had anything to say about it.
Ranma examined himself in the mirror once more. The tuxedo he had rented looked good. No. Better than good.
“Perfect!” he commented to his reflection.
Akane stuck her head in the room first. “I don’t care what you do! Have a great time on your stupid date!” She stomped off as quickly as she appeared.
Soun was next. “Son, how can you do this to your own fiancée?”
Genma followed, giving a disapproving look. “Boy, you disappoint me.”
“Now you know how I feel about you every day!” he shot back.
“You’re engaged. You can’t go out on dates with anyone other than Akane.”
Ranma looked smugly at his father. “Forget it, old man. I don’t back down from a challenge. I’ll make sure Shampoo has the best date of her entire life. No! Make that the best date anyone in the entire world has even been on! She’s going to be so happy she’ll never want to go out with anyone again!”
Soun turned in rage. “SAOTOME!!! This is all your fault! What kind of an irresponsible child did you raise?!”
Genma thought he saw the first vestiges of the demon form start to emerge. “The boy’s probably still suffering from that blow that scrambled his personality. Let me hit him on the head and make him better.”
A giant stone statue found its way on top of Genma’s head.
“I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I hit you on the head and see if you become better?!” Ranma growled as he brushed the dirt from his hands.
“I’m feeling pretty good now, boy,” he said dreamily from underneath the statue.
Ranma exited the room, leaving Soun to reproach the partially conscious Genma. He was considering whether or not to allow Shampoo to admire him before the date, or if he should surprise her, when Kasumi approached.
“What are you doing?” she asked with more than a little surprise in her voice.
Ranma examined himself, bewildered at Kasumi’s reactions. “Getting ready for my date?”
“You can’t go out like that. Allow me to help.” She rushed into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a glass of water in hand, which she calmly dumped over Ranma’s head.
“Whad’ya do that for?!” Ranma-chan’s suit was never going to dry out in time for the date.
Kasumi started to lead her back to the transformed girl’s room. “You can’t go out looking like that.”
Nabiki came downstairs and supplied the answer. “You’re supposed to be going out as a girl. It was ‘Shampoo’ that defeated ‘Ranma’ at school. Remember?”
“Ah, so what? It ain’t like anyone I know is going to see us.”
“Excuse me.” One of the schoolgirls had come out of the kitchen and was looking for Kasumi. “Can we have some more of those cookies. They’re delicious.” She spotted Ranma-chan and waved. “Hello, tramp. Nice tux, by the way. Hehehe.” She left the three in the hall to inform her friends of what ‘Shampoo’ was wearing for her date .
“Of course. Nabiki.” Kasumi turned to her sister. “Why don’t you entertain our guests while I help ‘Shampoo’ out on her date?”
Nabiki sighed and went to the kitchen. There were still times she couldn’t figure her out. At least she had had a chance to speak with Ryonami and gave her orders to interview Kaori Daikokuji. Tarou had let something slip about being involved in the fights. Perhaps the take-out girl had some damning evidence that could be used against the youth whose days were numbered, even if he was too foolish to know it.
Ukyou had to admit, the guys would be drooling over her ‘date’. Ai had dressed in a form fitting green evening gown that would have made Ukyou feel like a guy even if she didn’t usually dress like one. As it was Ukyou herself felt underdressed in the men’s suit she wore.
“You look nice,” Ukyou admitted, regretting the words as they left her mouth. That was all the excuse Ai would need to apply a backbreaking glomp. It was much to Ukyou’s surprise that Ai did nothing more then look curiously at her.
“Thank you.” Ai smiled at the compliment. “You look as dashing as ever. Your tie’s a little crooked though.”
Ai moved closer to Ukyou, who figured the maneuver to be nothing more than an attempt to get close enough for the much-anticipated glomp. It was yet another surprise when Ai did nothing more than straighten up the tie, then move a short distance back to get a full view of Ukyou.
“You’re perfect now,” Ai said warmly.
At that moment Ryouga returned from Kyoko’s house where she had applied her ministrations. When she had first grabbed him, and after bandaging his head, she sat in his lap and tried necking with him, only to have him pass out on her. It took that long just to make him recover, and once he had, his only desire was to go back to his home.
“What’s going on?” he asked as Kyoko entered behind him.
Ai gave an annoyed glare. “Ukyou and I are going out on a date.”
Kyoko jumped up and down in joy. “That’s wonderful! We’ll make it a double date.”
Surprisingly, Ryouga crossed his arms and looked suspiciously at Ai. “You two can’t go on a date.”
“Why?” Ai asked, anger evident in her voice.
Ryouga thought the answer was obvious. “You’re both girls.”
“Get your boyfriend into the nineties, Kyoko,” Ai recommended as she looked back at Ukyou.
Seeing no one was paying attention to his logic, he chose a different course of action. “I think Kyoko and I will tag along.” He barely registered Kyoko jumping onto his back in delight.
“You’re hardly dressed for going out.” Ai commented. Kyoko could probably get away with the ensemble she was wearing, but Ryouga was in his usual yellow shirt black pants gear. “Do you even own a suit?”
Ryouga smirked at the blond. “As a matter of fact, I do. I got it when I was traveling across time and space with the Doctor. Wait right here.”
He ran off to the bathroom, got dragged out of it by Kyoko, and led to the correct room. He returned a moment later bearing a small square of cloth.
“Nice suit,” Ai replied while barely restraining her laughter.
Ryouga laughed right back. “This is an Instant Outfit. All you need to do is add water and it expands over you in perfectly fitting apparel.”
“Isn’t Ryouga-kun a genius,” Kyoko sighed.
“This I want to see,” Ai said.
Ryouga grabbed some warm water and poured it on the cloth, instantly it increased in size and flowed over his body, just as he said it would. Once in place he posed for the trio of girls. Kyoko was gushing over him while Ai and Ukyou looked on, confused.
“What is that?” Ukyou said.
Ryouga examined himself more thoroughly. Sometimes the Instant Outfits malfunctioned. The last time Ryouga used one, during the gala on Antares Four, the back of the pants did not appear. Unfortunately he simply thought it was a drafty evening and it wasn’t until much later the Doctor informed him of the error. When Ryouga confronted him about why he hadn’t told him about the fact he was mooning everyone, the Doctor simply pointed out that the Antarens thought he was making a statement. It wasn’t like the women complained about it either. In fact, that might have been why Queen Moursha herself had propositioned Ryouga during the evening’s event. And he had just thought they were a very forward people.
No. His examination proved nothing out of place. “It’s an outfit.”
Ai shook her head. “What she’s asking is, why does it look like you’re ready to go to a coronation?”
Ryouga examined the Instant Outfit he had chosen. It was his opinion that the flowing robes and fur-lined collar were quite tasteful. “It’s royal Juraian formal wear. It was a gift from one of the queens since I did them a favor. It’s the best thing I own.”
“You might be overdressed now,” Ukyou said.
Kyoko placed her arm around his waist. “He looks perfect. Let’s go.”
Without waiting for a response she pulled Ryouga along and led the way out. Ukyou and Ai shrugged their shoulders and followed suit.
Shampoo-kun was just straightening his tie when Nabiki knocked on the door, announcing who she was. With a reluctant sigh he allowed her to enter. “What you want?”
Nabiki examined Shampoo-kun before answering. Take out the fact the he was really a female Amazon warrior and she would have considered him handsome.
“I just wanted to know where you’re going tonight.”
“Why?” he asked suspiciously.
She had prepared for this. “Because I want the date to go well. That way, girls at the school will be impressed and want to go out with you. If they want to go out with you they will pay me money for ways to win you over.”
That made sense. “We going to Kanemoto Towers.”
Nabiki gave a low whistle at that. “That place is really expensive, and the waiting list is weeks long. How did you swing that?”
“I have connections,” Shampoo-kun smirked. That was all Nabiki was getting out of him tonight.
Nabiki nodded appreciatively. “Yep. Everyone’s going to know you’re a lady-killer all right. You and Ranma have fun.”
She left the room and headed immediately to the kitchen. As she entered she gave a big smile to all the girls seated there. “I can make life a lot easier for you.”
“How?” one of them asked.
“I’ll tell you where Ranma and Shampoo are going out on their date. Shall we begin the bidding at ten thousand yen?”
Ranma-chan was having a ‘not nice’ time. It was bad enough she had to wear a dress out in public (Kasumi had insisted on that). At least it was in good taste, having been picked out when Ranma-chan believed she was a girl. And it showed off a generous amount of cleavage, which the redhead found she liked, but now the eldest Tendo was simply going too far.
“I won’t do it!”
“But you’ve done it before.”
“That’s only because I thought I was a girl!”
“Ranma. It’s only for one night.”
“No! I’m a guy. Guys don’t do that.”
“It’s Shampoo’s first date ever. You do want to look perfect, don’t you?”
“I’m telling you it ain’t right!”
“The other girls will think you look uncomely. They’ll spread rumors around school about you not being able to look attractive on a date.”
Ranma-chan considered that. No one called her ugly. “All right. But only a little bit.”
“Right. You don’t need a lot. Just enough to bring out your cheeks and a little shade for the eyes.”
Kasumi finished applying the make-up and allowed Ranma-chan to examine herself in the mirror. Reluctantly she admitted it did make her look more attractive. Not that she enjoyed being a girl.
With one last adjustment to her dress she left Kasumi’s bedroom and headed downstairs. As she came into view of the bottom she saw that Shampoo-kun was already there, his back to the stairway, and decked out in a tuxedo that was slightly different from the one Saotome had been wearing earlier. It was with a reluctant sigh that she admitted he looked even better than she had. Somehow he just made it appear bolder. Something about the way he held himself perhaps. Why, if Shampoo-kun hadn’t really been a girl Ranma-chan might have actually gotten jealous over that fact.
She was almost to the bottom of the stairs when she saw one of the schoolgirls rush up and place herself under his arm. Ranma-chan halted where she was in surprise. Why the hell was Shampoo-kun allowing the girl to be so familiar with him? A moment later a flash came from further down the hall and the Amazon removed his arm from the girl’s grip.
“Next.” Ranma-chan heard Nabiki’s voice from the direction the flash took place. “Pay up first. That’s better. Now come on, Ranma. You can smile better than that. You look like you’re being lined up for a firing squad.”
From her position behind Shampoo-kun, Ranma-chan saw the new girl, Kaede from the cheerleader squad, slowly move her hand up to the Amazon’s rear end. Ranma-chan snarled out loud and was next to the cheerleader in a flash, a quick wristlock forcing the girl to remove her hand from the place where it did not belong.
“AWW!” Kaede yelped as Ranma-chan maintained the lock and brought the hold up high in the air for the rest of the girls to see.
“Hand’s off the merchandise, babe,” Ranma-chan commented dryly as she loosed the hold and took up a position next to Shampoo-kun. Kaede had enough sense to know she was being dismissed, and totally out-powered, and did as Ranma-chan ‘suggested’.
Ranma-chan heard a sharp intake of breath as Shampoo-kun looked down to the girl next to him. “You look very beautiful.”
Ranma-chan felt herself blush at the compliment. Somehow, she found it impossible to look at Shampoo-kun, and turned her head away as she gave her thanks.
The Amazon’s opinion was shared by the dozen girls that had collected in the hall. Twelve identical looks of jealousy and anger mixed with envy at the blushing pair. They really did look like the perfect couple.
Akane stormed down the stairs, making sure to jostle Ranma-chan as she went past. The redhead was about to say something when he noticed Akane was in a very pretty dress herself. Not that she looked better than Ranma-chan, or so she said to herself.
“Where are you going?” Ranma-chan asked.
Akane paused in her flight to growl at her fiancé. “I am going out on a date, too. With Tarou.”
Ranma-chan was about to snap something back when she realized something. Akane was trying to make her jealous. That was a laugh. Saotome was damned if she was going to let a transparent plan like that work. If Akane was desperate enough to go out with a loser wimp like Tarou, she could go ahead and have a miserable time. It wasn’t like it was going to lead to anything anyway.
“Tell Pantyhose I said hi. You two have fun going out to eat. I’m sure Bull-butt will find some nice field to graze in.”
Akane just got redder in the face and walked out the door. The jerk had actually encouraged her to go out. Fine! She would. And she would have a good time too!
“You ready?” Shampoo-kun asked.
Ranma-chan nodded in agreement as the two headed out, followed closely by the group of Furinkan students. After three blocks it became obvious the pack were not going anywhere. The redhead gave a sigh and turned to her companion.
Shampoo-kun nodded in agreement. Losing them was preferable to simply beating them up. A couple of the cheerleaders might be able to follow, but they could be dealt with if they managed to keep up.
The couple made their way across Nerima until they made it to under one of the structures that supported the rails that allowed one of the elevated trains to run past. The duo stood still, much to the concern of the band of followers, until a train approached.
“I sure hope this doesn’t mess my hair up too much.” Ranma-chan grumbled, not realizing just how feminine she sounded.
The two timed the leap perfectly, Ranma-chan first followed by Shampoo-kun. They would propel themselves halfway up on the first leap, then make the top of the train on the second. No one, not even the cheerleaders could keep up. After they traveled for a couple of miles on top of the train they could leap off and make their way to the restaurant in peace.
Shampoo-kun paused at the second leap and allowed Ranma-chan to jump first. As Saotome jumped the Amazon looked up, then followed. Once the duo landed on the top of the train they saw that the plan had worked. The pack of girls were unable to keep up and the couple watched as their shapes dwindled in the distance. After a few minutes they jumped down, and after making some minor straightening to their outfits, continued on their way to the restaurant.
“Ranma,” Shampoo-kun said.
“Boxers no go with that dress you wear.”
Ranma-chan looked at her in confusion. “Hey! What are you doing looking under my dress?”
“It was an accident.” He hoped she wouldn’t see through the lie. It wasn’t like he was going to molest her anyway. It was clean fun.
“Well, it better be,” she mumbled, her suspicion aroused. After a few moments the feelings of the occasion won out and her mood lessened. “Besides. How would a guy like me look in lingerie? Heh, heh. Umm. Shampoo, why are you staring at me like that?”
“No reason.” Even he didn’t realize how lascivious the leer he was sporting was, which left Ranma-chan to silently wonder if going out was a good idea after all.
Akari was virtually dancing in the street as she went to meet Ryu for their… DATE!!! She had picked out the absolutely nicest dress she could find and purchased the matching handbag and shoes. Her outfit looked perfect. Not that she was excited about it. After all, it couldn’t lead to anything since she could never get married, but perhaps it would be fun, just like Ryu said.
The building at which she was going to meet him was only a street away when she spotted two familiar figures making their way along the opposite side of the street. Quickly Akari hid in one of the side streets as the duo made their way past. It was the man who was supposed to be her husband and the mean girl, Shampoo. Both were in their cursed forms and dressed rather tastefully, although the idea that Ranma had good taste in women’s clothes was not exactly reassuring. It would have been very disappointing to discover that, if Katsunishiki had not died, Akari would have been married to a pervert.
The two were continuing to talk pleasantly with one another, neither openly paying any attention to the world around them. It would be a simple task for Akari to run ahead to one of the rooftops, not announce the fact she was going to jump off the roof to Ranma and Shampoo like she had before, change herself into a razorback, and land very hard on Shampoo. Then she could stomp on the perverted Amazon and get family revenge.
But there was one problem with all of that. She would miss her date with Ryu Kumon. A silent war waged within about what course of action she should take. On the one hand there was: family honor (that was very important), nothing could come about from a date with Ryu (that was disappointing), it could be her only opportunity to get revenge on Shampoo (that was very important).
On the side of restraint there was: It would disappoint Ryu.
It should not have been important, not when compared to the other reasons, yet somehow she just couldn’t bring herself to make someone who had gone so far out of his way to make her feel good, and try to assist her, feel bad. It was not as though there was any hope of reward on his part, he was simply doing it because he wanted to help. It would be rude to refuse that assistance and beat up people he was in the process of convincing her were not worth the effort. Akari Unyruu was many things, but rude she was not.
She allowed Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun to walk out of sight, unmolested. Then she skipped off to rendezvous with her date.
Akane stormed into the gym where Tarou had been waiting for her. He was decked out in yet another tailor-made suit that he had prepared for just such emergencies.
“You look ravishing. I’m ready to gooooo!” He suddenly found himself being dragged off by the arm. What a wonderful night it was turning into. Not only had Akane approached him for a date, not only had she dressed up and looked even more beautiful than she usually did, but she was taking the initiative and setting the tempo for the date. He always suspected there was a wild hellcat underneath that (sexually) cool exterior. Something that wanted to let itself go and consume a studmuffin like him in a heated passion worthy of his wildest fantasies. Judging by how aggressively Akane was behaving, it looked like it was a very good thing he had packed some condoms for the date. He just hoped there would be enough.
“Where are we going?” he manage to get out as she continued dragging him by the arm. A love motel perhaps?
“We’re going out to eat at the Kanemoto Towers.” Nabiki had mentioned it to her before she left. She was not going just because Ranma and Shampoo were going to be there.
Whoa! Tarou remembered that it was an expensive place. Akane really was taking the initiative. As he settled into the situation, his mind tried working out exactly what could have happened to change her attitude. The most likely reason, as much as Tarou hated to admit it, was Ranma. Odds were good that he had done something to anger Akane. Curiously, that sat fine with Tarou. If that were what it took to get his foot in the door, among other things he wanted other parts of his body to get into, he wouldn’t complain. Only a sucker didn’t take every advantage he could get away with.
Ukyou decided the restaurant Ai had chosen was rather nice. Akira’s was more upscale than she was used to, and there was no way the food was going to compare to hers, but it had a pleasant atmosphere that was going to make eating a real treat. There was always something nice about somebody else doing the cooking. Once they had arrived the maitre’d took one look at Ryouga’s appearance and began babbling about something in a foreign tongue. Ryouga was able to speak a little bit of the man’s language and laughed sheepishly at him.
“He seems to think I’m really Juraian royalty. He said he’ll get us the best seats in the house,” Ryouga explained.
Kyoko stared dreamily at him. “You know so many people, Ryouga-kun.”
Ai whispered something about crazy people that thought they were from space and managed to get their own table, just far enough away from Ryouga’s that they would not be overheard.
Of all the things that had happened, the real surprise was Ai. Yes, she was living up to her word and not putting the moves on Ukyou, but there was not even the slightest hint she was restraining herself. Her behavior was mostly normal, save for the odd stares she gave to Ukyou. It was almost like the cheerleader was confused about something.
“Ukyou. Why did you ask me out tonight?”
Ukyou shrugged. “I thought you wanted to go out.”
Ai shook her head. “I’ve wanted to go out with you for months. Why did you suddenly decide to do it tonight?”
“Promise not to get angry.”
Surprisingly, Ai refused. “I’m going to get angry if it pisses me off.”
Taking several moments to decide whether or not to spill it, Ukyou opted to go ahead. Even if Ai did not like the reason she was not going to react poorly to it. She was magically in love with Ukyou. “I was lonely. I wanted some company and I figured I owed it to you since you’ve tried to help out so much.”
“I believed you thought of me just as a pain and annoyance.”
There was some validity to that, but Ukyou wasn’t about to admit to it. “Sometimes you are, but I know you mean well. You’re not really a bad person. Except for the fact that you terrorize a large part of the school population. Or at least you used to. Now you just, well you know the way you are.”
“No. I don’t. Tell me what you see,” Ai insisted.
“All right, you asked for it, sugar. I see someone who’s under the influence of some stupid magic pill and does whatever it forces her to do. I see someone not in control of her own actions and doesn’t have the free will to do what she wants. And maybe I haven’t exactly been very understanding about that.”
“You could have taken advantage of me,” Ai said. “I would have done anything for you. I would have waited on you hand and foot. I would have happily rebuilt the Great Wall if you had wanted me to. I would have serviced you in any way you wanted. As a servant, a lover, a slave. Any way possible. The limit would only have been what your heart desired. If I was a pain you could have humiliated or degraded me to make yourself feel better. You could have loaned me out to others to get them to owe you favors. I would not have denied you. Anything for my ‘darling Ukyou.’” The last was said sarcastically.
“Kami, Ai!” Ukyou said in shock. “I’m not that sort of person. I would never treat a dog that way, let alone another human being. I would never abuse you.”
Ai’s whole attitude suddenly changed as she once more became a lovesick puppy. “Are you sure about that? Having total control over a person can be an awfully tempting thing. If they’re obedient to your every whim there isn’t really any threat of rejection. It’s safe. Safer than a real relationship would be.”
“I don’t want someone like that!”
Ukyou was surprised to have Ai settle back to her original mood, lift herself out of her seat and lean close to her, close enough that Ukyou could feel Ai’s breath on her face. After taking a moment to look Ukyou in the eye she leaned back. “You’re telling me the truth. Thank you.”
“Why are you thanking me?”
Ai sighed. “Believe it or not, most people would have done something. Perhaps not the way I described it, and not to those lengths, though there are people like that and worse, but you didn’t do a thing.”
“Most people aren’t like that,” Ukyou protested.
Ai shook her head sadly. “ Yes, they are. Maybe you find it difficult to believe, but it’s true. I have had the unfortunate opportunity to run into a few of them. They can be harsh, terrible people. And usually they are right next to you without you even knowing it.”
Ai gave a chuckle at that. “It’s the people you hang out with that give you that idea. I doubt if Hibiki or that Chinese fellow you call Ran-chan are much like that. But if I had swallowed that pill and looked first upon, say, Daisuke or any other guy, do you think they would have done nothing with me? Or even Nabiki or one of her little cohorts. Do you think any of them would have resisted the temptation of using me for their own ends? Not even a little bit?”
Ukyou found she could not quite disagree like she wanted to. If she had swallowed the pill there was no one, outside of Ranma or Ryouga, she would have truly trusted. Not even Shampoo, regardless of how well the two of them got along lately.
Ai picked up on the hesitation. “You agree. Good. You do have a tendency to fantasize about the way the world works, and those dreams have little to do with the way things really are. It’s nice to see you thinking rationally for a change.”
“I wouldn’t sound so high and mighty.” Ukyou was not reacting well to the criticism. “You were one of the worst before you swallowed that pill. I heard what they said about you and what you liked to do. You even tried to kick the crud out of Ranma to sleep with him.”
Ai’s face started to contort with anger, then relaxed. Ukyou assumed it was just the effects of the pill kicking in again.
“I’ve never pretended to be anything other than what I am. Yes, I like controlling my relationships, and I wanted to prove that I could make Ranma mine. I wanted to prove I was better than anyone else and could do it. I wanted control!”
Ukyou snorted at that. “Sounds like exactly the sort of person I want to avoid.”
It took only a moment for Ukyou to notice the look of pain that crossed Ai’s face. “I should have known. You’re just like all the others.”
Ukyou silently wondered if this was the way Ai acted when she wasn’t around. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Ai gave her a pained look. “Do you really want to know?”
As though she could resist a statement like that. “Yes.”
“You think I’m some sort of tramp that just goes around taking what I want. It’s been that way since I transferred to Furinkan. Maybe I deserve some of my reputation, but I’m not anywhere near as bad as my picture’s been painted.”
“From what I’ve seen it’s on the mark. You bully people around and do what you want. It’s just like one of your buddies said. You’re the roughest, toughest cheerleader around and you take what you want without any remorse. You always want to be the one in charge.”
“Only because I’m submissive,” she said, just barely audible.
“What was that?” Ukyou couldn’t believe Ai had the audacity to actually say that. The only time she was submissive was when she was with Ukyou, and that was only because of the pill. Then she saw the tears in Ai’s eyes.
“I’m actually very submissive. You may not believe it, but it’s true. My first inclination is to do what people want, even if it’s not in my best interests. It gets worse the more aggressive people are. But life taught me at an early age that people like that end up leading very miserable lives.
“The original one to teach me was my first boyfriend back at Seisyun. I was pretty much a normal girl. I wanted a good guy. I had thought I’d found one. I think at first he cared for me, but as time went on he started realizing I’d do whatever he said, no matter what it was. He experimented at first, but I wanted to please him so I did what he asked. It got worse as time went on, and the things he wanted me to do were not… pleasant. I was a toy for him towards the end. I knew it, and despite all that I still did as he wanted. It all ended when he had me…” she trailed off, trying to find the right words. “Let’s just say that if I did end up getting my way with both you and Ranma at the same time, I would have made certain it was a much more pleasant experience than what was done to me. I don’t treat people like that.”
“You were raped?” Ukyou asked.
“Oh, no!” Ai protested. “I went along with it. That’s the worst part. I didn’t want to resist, or at least the part of me that did never came to the forefront. I just wanted to do what he wanted.” She cleared her throat. “Well, Mariko got me out of that situation. She explained it to him in no uncertain terms that he was to stay away from me. Of course he didn’t want to comply. Fortunately, we had good lawyers and there were no witnesses to what happened. It was probably the last time my sister and I got along. I think I miss that part of my life. I wonder if she does too.”
“I’m sure she does,” Ukyou offered.
Ai shook her head. “We aren’t the same people we used to be. Anyway, the next guy I hooked up with was another mistake. He was a lot like the last one, and I started to fall into the same pattern. I lucked out with him though. He got crushed by a Youma before things went too far along. It’s a lot like a car wreck I think. Everyone says that sort of thing will never happen to them, that it always happens to someone else. But people frequently get hurt in such fights and some are killed. It’s just life, I guess.
“After that I stayed away from the guys for a while. I didn’t date any of them. Then I went for my first girl. I was always attracted to the same sex, so it’s not like I ‘converted’ because of what happened to me. The first girl I went out with was nice. She was just what I was looking for. Now back then I kept my preferences a secret and so did she. Her family was real conservative and there is no way they would have been as understanding as mine. It was a wonderful three months, but we fell out of whatever it was we felt. It wasn’t love, that much I know for certain. We separated under good terms, even remaining friends for a while. Then came girl number two, who ended up being just as bad as boy number one. Guess it’s just my luck to draw people that want me bound to their will. You know all of those techniques I tried getting you to do with me?”
Ukyou blushed. She remembered them quite well. One didn’t forget detailed propositions like that.
“She broke me into that sort of thing. It felt good, believe me, it felt real good. Physically anyway, but emotionally, that was a different story. She always treated me like an object. It was like I was some kind of experiment to her; there wasn’t any emotion involved. At least not love, and I hated it.
“So one day I snapped and told her it was my turn to give the orders. She didn’t like that, not one bit, so she tried getting rough with me. What I did next wasn’t easy. I wanted to obey her, that was my instinct, but somehow I managed to lash out. It wasn’t backed by any feeling, it was just sort of an automatic response to the situation. I had learned a little bit of Martial Arts Cheerleading by then. Just some stuff I picked up from Mariko. It was more than enough to put that bitch in her place. It was then I learned that some of the biggest talkers are actually the softest people. No backbone at all. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say I collected all that she owed me with interest. She never went back to school after that.
“I did a lot of serious thinking then. I found out I liked control. It meant I wasn’t a submissive little girl. I was in charge and could give the orders and wouldn’t have to act like someone’s plaything. I still wanted to, but I buried those instincts as far down as I could. I became the exact opposite of what I was. I studied hard to become a master of Martial Arts Cheerleading. Mariko and I would have ended up having a duel for leadership if I hadn’t transferred to Furinkan. I was the aggressor in my relationships, and I was always the one who initiated contact. If anyone came on to me, forget about it. I wasn’t going to have any repeats of what happened before. Sex became a pastime without deep emotion. Everything I experienced taught me it wouldn’t work out. All I would end up as would be another one’s toy, so why bother with romance? I could enjoy the sex without the complications. And I was damned if I was going to let anyone find out what I was really like. Maybe I overdid it sometimes. Maybe I wanted to be in control too much. Maybe I was too aggressive and too violent, but at least I had my reasons.
“Now you’re the only one that knows the truth. I trust you won’t tell anyone. This isn’t the sort of thing I would like to get out. I would hate to have to deny it vehemently by doing something… aggressive. And I will. I protect myself from anything I feel is a threat. Please believe me when I tell you I don’t want you to be a threat.”
Ukyou slowly shook her head, still in shock from the confessions Ai had just made. Nothing that was just said was ever going to pass from her lips. Not to Ryouga. Not to Ranma. No one.
But there was still the question of why Ai was acting so strangely. Not just with the confessions, but all night long. She had never been that serious, at least not with her. Not since the whole pill thing started. It was almost as if…
Then the truth dawned on her. “You aren’t under the influence of the love pill!”
Ai smiled. “It took you long enough to figure that out. Minami came back and gave me a pearl which cancels the effects of the pill.” She fingered the earring it was set in. “If this gets more than a foot away from my body I go back to the lovesick fool I’ve been for the past few months.
Ai’s voice dropped to a low hiss. “Is that what you want? Do you want me to be like I was? If you ask real nice I might give the earring to you and we can go back to the way things were. It was a whole lot less complicated.”
“Of course not!” Ukyou shot back. “How can you ask something like that?”
“Because without the earring I go back to the way I was before the whole pill mess started. As I recall we did not exactly get along. In fact, I was in the process of ruining your life. Aren’t you afraid of what I can do to you now that I’m freed from the curse and remember how you rejected every one of my advances over the months? You remember how well I deal with rejection, like at the hospital. Are you sure you’re up to dealing with the real me?”
“I meant what I said before,” Ukyou reassured her. “I want you free of the pill no matter what the consequences are. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me and I sure as hell don’t want it to happen to anyone else. Even if it means kicking your ass again!”
Ai smiled at that. “Fine. We go back to the way things were.”
Ukyou was confused. “If you just want things to go back to the way they were then why did you tell me all of this?”
Ai appeared disappointed. “Haven’t you figured it out?”
Ai gave a soft chuckle to herself. Ukyou wasn’t faking it. She really wasn’t the brightest person around. Not stupid, just not brilliant. “When I first dropped by your place I was going to bash your head in with my baton. You have no idea how angry I was at being spurned by you for months on end. I really tried every trick in the book.”
Ukyou suddenly realized why Ai had been in the position it had been in when she first arrived. “Why didn’t you do it?”
“It all came together for me when you asked me out. A thousand angry feelings were extinguished when you did that.” Ai waited to see if she had put it together yet.
Ukyou was at her wits’ end. “What do you mean?”
“I love you, even without the influence of the love pill.”
“When did that happen?” was all Ukyou could muster.
“You’re dealing with it rather well, I see,” Ai responded sardonically. “For the first time in years I’ve discovered someone I trust. Really. Fully. Completely. If you were going to do anything to me you would have done it months ago. Trust is a hard thing to come by, especially for me, but you’ve earned it. For you I will lower all my defenses and be submissive to your will. I give you my heart, Ukyou Kuonji. No strings attached.”
Ukyou stared blankly at her. Now all she could say was, “Oh.”
“Somehow I expected a little more than that.”
Ryouga had been staring at the back of Ukyou for sometime. She was having an animated conversation with Ai, but he could not quite make out what was being said.
“Ryouga-kun, are you listening to a word I said?”
“Of course.” Not. He had other people to listen to.
“Thanks goodness. I was afraid you’d balk at the idea of a vasectomy.”
“WHAT?!!!” That caught his attention.
“I thought as much,” Kyoko looked disappointedly at him. “You aren’t paying attention to me at all. I thought we were out on a date.”
Ryouga looked around. Of course they were on a date. He could even think of the word without stuttering about it. He had come a long way from the nosebleeding bashful guy he was a couple of months ago. Except when Kyoko tried necking with him, then he would pass out.
“You are paying more attention to Ukyou and Ai.” Kyoko scolded. “Don’t tell me y… you’re thinking about dumping me.”
He spotted cry mode coming up. “Of course not. I’m just looking out for Ukyou. There’s no telling how Ai’s twisting her around and trying to get her to like girls.”
“She’s already like that,” Kyoko said happily.
It took a moment for that one to register. “What do you mean?”
“She lived under the same roof as you,” Kyoko purred. “If she could keep her hands off you, she must not like guys.”
Ryouga laughed nervously and twiddled his fingers at that.
“Besides,” she continued. “She dresses up like a guy and acts like one too. Everyone knows she must be weird.”
Kyoko was amazed at Ryouga’s reaction. He actually looked ANGRILY at her, causing her to cower.
“Uk-chan is not weird!” he snarled in unmistakable anger, frightening Kyoko even more. Boyfriends were not supposed to lose their tempers over other girls.
He continued. “She is the nicest, most thoughtful, likable, admirable, and if I could think of any other good adjectives to describe her I would use them now girl I’ve ever known. I owe her everything I have. Before I met her I was just an aimless wanderer with no one to care for and nothing in my heart except hatred for Ranma. And once I started hanging around Ukyou, even that got tiring. I realized there’s more to life than trying to get revenge on someone who doesn’t hate you back and di—“
Ryouga stopped in mid-speech as he was struck in the head by Kyoko, who was wielding a candelabra she had pulled from off the table. “Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“Of course not!” he shouted as he pushed the candelabra away. “Why would I feel better because you hit me in the head?!”
“Well,” she started to explain. “I overheard Ukyou talking about a friend she had who got a personality problem when he was hit in the head. He thought he was a girl, if you can believe that. Anyway, it sounded like you had a personality problem, so I hit you in the head to make you better.”
“I do not have a personality problem.”
“Yes, you do. You were talking about swearing off revenge and speaking mean to me and making it sound as though you liked Ukyou more than me. Now if that doesn’t sound like you have a personality problem, then I don’t know what does.”
In a moment of clear thought it occurred to Ryouga that the saddest thing about the whole thing was Kyoko’s sincere expression. She obviously believed it was true. Unfortunately for Ryouga, the moment passed before any other thoughts went through.
The huge, handsome-looking youth entered the restaurant dressed in a thousand-dollar suit and looked over the establishment. It was cheaper then he was used to, but his hunger was threatening to overwhelm him and it was nearby. The maitre’d recognized him immediately and nearly passed out in joy. “Oh, sir!” he exclaimed. “Thank you for eating at our establishment. Our fame will skyrocket.”
He simply smirked at the man. It was good to be appreciated. “Your best table, and make it quick.”
“I can’t do that for you, sir.”
He arched his eyebrows at that. No one denied him his rightful due. “Why?”
“We have Juraian royalty here. He has the best table.”
He had no idea what the man was talking about. The huge youth made his way into the dining area. “I shall have words with him.” He neglected to mention most of the words would be ‘break’, ‘kill’, or just monosyllabic grunts.
As the large man made his way to what was obviously the best table in the house his eyes dawned in recognition. “It’s her. KYOKO-BABY!!!”
Kyoko turned around at the sound of her name being called and was immediately sorry. Once she realized the youth was coming her way she gave a screech and hid behind Ryouga. The lost one was more than a little surprised by the behavior, but tensed up as he sensed the upcoming trouble.
“Who is that?” Ryouga asked.
Kyoko raised her voice to make certain it was loud enough for the newcomer to hear. “That’s my EX-boyfriend. Tetsuo Argama.”
“Not anymore, Baby.” He gave a shining smile, which caused half the women in the restaurant to swoon, much to the irritation of the men they were with. “I changed my name once I went pro. It’s really Flex Lavender now.”
“You should have changed it to ‘The Cheating Casanova’. Stay away from me!”
“Hey, Baby. You can’t mean that.” He tried giving another gleaming smile, causing yet another twenty percent of the women to swoon and moan ‘Sexy Flexy’. “I know there were some misunderstandings back then, but you were always the one for me.”
“I was one of many, you mean. You went out with other women behind my back.”
“Only a couple,” he protested.
“How can you say that?” Kyoko shook her head in disbelief. “You went out with the whole cheerleader squad.”
“Not at the same time, Baby.”
“Like that’s an excuse,” she retorted. “You slept with Ai!”
“Everyone slept with her,” he defended. “How can you hold that against me?”
“I wouldn’t brag about that,” Ai joined in at this point. “You’re not that ‘Flexy’ or ‘Sexy.’ Believe me, I know.”
“You want to know how I can hold it against you? Watch and learn,” she said as she crossed her arms.
It was at this point Flex noticed who she was hiding behind. “Who’s that?”
Kyoko brightened up. “This is my boyfriend. Ryouga-kun. He’s a real man. The first real one I EVER dated and that includes you.”
Flex began breathing faster as he became angrier. “I see how it is. He’s poisoned your mind against me.”
“Excuse me,” Ryouga interrupted. “Do you have any relatives from China named Mousse?”
Flex was caught off guard by the question. “No.”
The hulking youth’s confusion didn’t last long. Whatever chance there was for a peaceful resolution was lost when Kyoko stuck out her tongue and made faces at Flex from behind Ryouga. “Enough talk. There aren’t any mikes around anyway. PREPARE TO DIE, RYOUGA-KUN !!!”
Ryouga snapped up to his feet in rage. “How dare you steal my battle cry! PREPARE TO DIE, FLEX!!!”
Flex ripped off his suit allowing Ryouga to discover what profession he was in. “You’re a professional wrestler?” The hot pink wrestling tights were a dead give away.
“Yeah! So what?”
“Wrestling’s fake, and you’re wearing hot pink tights. HAHAHAURK!” Ryouga suddenly found a thick hand locked around his throat. Maybe holding one’s head back while laughing when a fight was going to break out wasn’t such a good thing.
“Want to know why only real men can wear hot pink?” Flex growled as Ryouga squirmed in his grip.
“Why?” he choked out.
“Because they can,” And with that he drove Ryouga’s head through a table.
Ukyou got up to assist, but was prevented from leaving the table by a restraining hand from Ai.
“Don’t worry about it,” Ai reassured her.
Ukyou shook off the hand. “He might get hurt.”
“Nah!” Ai waved it off dismissively. “I know how good Flex fights, Ryouga can take him. If you interfere it’s just going to get Ryouga upset, and you don’t want to anger him unnecessarily. Do you?”
Ukyou shook her head no as Ryouga got up and punched Flex in the jaw. They took the beginning of the restaurant’s destruction as a cue to leave.
Akane was more than a little irritated by the maitre’d’s behavior. “I just want one lousy table. Is that too much to ask for? It doesn’t have to be next to a window or anything!”
The maitre’d scorned the girl tastefully. “We have no tables available, not now and not tomorrow. We are booked solid for the next month.”
“We can eat somewhere else.” Tarou tried to get Akane to cool down. Even if she did have her heart set on the Kanemoto Towers she was overreacting.
Akane was not about to let go. “I know for a fact you let someone make a reservation tonight.”
Tarou started to put two and two together as he listened to the maitre’d insist she was mistaken. Someone was eating there and Akane wanted to get close to them. He sighed to himself. It was probably the Fem-boy and she was just using Tarou as an excuse to make him jealous. What a hassle. Too bad he hadn’t shipped Ranma off to the slavers, as he wanted to. All of what was happening now could have been avoided.
Tarou was a little disappointed that Akane was willing to use him, although she probably would neither admit to it or even realize it. He wanted to think she wanted him along for himself instead of nothing more than a tool to make Ranma angry. What Tarou should have done was convince her to give it up and eat somewhere else, eventually having a good time with him. If she did manage to make it inside all she would end up doing was stalking Ranma and bothering him, making certain he had a crappy evening. An average plan that was direct, but lacking anything remotely resembling subtlety. Still, it wasn’t like Akane was good at that sort of thing, which he found nice. He wanted to be involved with someone that was not like him. Someone that was different, like Akane was. A little naive perhaps, but basically what others would call a good person.
And he was going to give in to her. She never tried to manipulate him intentionally, and because of that he found himself going out of his way to help her. Love really was a weird thing if it got you to behave in ways that were not in your best self-interest.
Tarou was about to apply the same tactics he used on his first night with Akane when two huge bipedal robots with a lot of armaments walked up from inside the restaurant. Both of them took protective stations around the maitre’d.
“I’m afraid you are making a nuisance of yourselves. We here at Kanemoto Towers take our customers desire to not be bothered by nuisances very seriously. These are a special protective measure we have seen fit to employ should individuals make too great a nuisance of themselves. Meet the ED-209. A special robot we purchased from an American company that have an outstanding record in dealing with nuisances. Now I suggest you leave before that record becomes improved.” He had already employed the robots to chase away a dozen annoying girls that insisted some boy inside had to be saved from some girl.
Tarou did not wait for Akane to agree. He simply grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the restaurant. Even he wasn’t bulletproof enough to take on that kind of heavy armament, and it wasn’t like he even wanted in anyway.
The maitre’d smiled to himself as the couple departed. Bringing out the ED’s always worked. As he went over the reservation sheet once more a well-dressed couple, a large woman and an older gentleman, began to exit the restaurant. The large woman was holding a small barking dog on a leash (Kanemoto Towers had a small section devoted to watching people’s pets while they ate.), the noise from the little creature grating on everyone within earshot’ hearing.
“I hope you enjoyed your meal.” The maitre’d said as pleasantly as he could. He had been through the worst, and always maintained a courteous demeanor.
The woman’s voice was as grating on the nerves as the dog’s bark. “The food was awful, the atmosphere wretched, our fellow patrons looked like derelicts. If this is typical of the way this establishment is run I will not be coming back.”
The maitre’d took note that the gentleman with her simply looked embarrassed. No doubt the poor man had gone through that sort of thing before.
“Even Sanchiro doesn’t like this wretched little hovel.”
He followed the leash to see how the annoying little dog was expressing his displeasure. The maitre’d stared, horrified. It had walked up to one of the ED’s and was about to take a leak on one of the legs.
“Madame, I would suggest you stop your dog from—“
It was too late. When the dog started peeing on the foot the ED turned its sensors downward and observed the dog.
“YOU HAVE CAUSED A DISTURBANCE. YOU ARE A NUISANCE. YOU WILL STOP MAKING YOURSELF A NUISANCE—“
The maitre’d covered his ears.
Once the shooting stopped the maitre’d observed the carnage. The annoying dog had been disintegrated in the blast and the large woman had passed out. Too bad about the ED’s inability to refrain from using lethal force when dealing with annoyances. Still, that meant most people tried to avoid being labeled as an annoyance.
The man that was with the woman stared at where Sanchiro had been, looked at his wife’s collapsed form, then smiled.
“We’ll be eating here regularly from now on,” he informed the maitre’d.
Tarou followed in Akane’s wake again. And wake was a descriptive word for what she was leaving behind. He could practically feel her blood boiling.
“I am not a nuisance,” she mumbled under her breath. “Damn Amazon’s a nuisance. Why can’t she just butt out and go home…” the rest was lost as it was mumbled even more quietly.
“Why don’t we go somewhere else?”
“I want to eat there,” she snapped back.
“No,” Tarou corrected. It was time to see if he had guessed correctly. “You want to harass Ranma and Shampoo on their date.”
The dull blue aura that popped up around her told the tale. “I do not!”
“Oh, come off it!” He was going to try the tough love approach. “You’re just jealous that your fiancé got herself a boyfriend.”
“I AM NOT JEALOUS!!!”
Tarou could actually feel the heat from the chi jump. He held his hands up defensively and made a mental note to never get Akane jealous, not even if she really got him angry and he thought it was a good way to get back. There was no way the aftermath would be worth it.
Akane calmed down, slightly. “I want to make sure that bimbo doesn’t take advantage of him.”
“You mean Fem-boy?”
“No!” she snapped. “Of course I don’t mean Ranma. I mean Shampoo.”
Time to plant some more seeds of distrust. “Did you ever consider Ranma may be taking advantage of her… and you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He comes into your life with this attractive chick, not that she has anything on you,” Flattery never hurt. “He’s been hanging around for months and insists she sleeps under the same roof with him, never mind the fact he’s freeloading. It’s obvious. I think they’ve been screwing each other behind everyone’s backs and are just waiting for a chance to get out of the engagement thing with you.”
He watched Akane’s face twitch slightly. Just as the first seeds of distrust began to take root Akane calmed herself down. The memory of the rooftop conversation replayed itself in her head. Ranma had spoken of Shampoo’s caring for him as thought he had just stumbled on it, and afterward Shampoo had been irritated that Ranma forgot. No. Ranma had not been fooling around with her. Of that Akane was certain. All of the problems were Shampoo’s fault…mostly.
“She’s trying to sleep with him, but he’s not doing it with her. I’m sure of that.”
Tarou cursed inaudibly under his breath. He had failed. At least for tonight.
“If I let her alone with him she’s going to ruin everything.”
Tarou backed up in shock. She could NOT be falling for Fem-boy. No way. “Are you saying you want him?”
Akane suddenly backed up. “N… no. I just want to protect him from her. Ukyou was right. She’s a brainless bimbo that can’t be trusted. She’ll just end up hurting him. I know it.” She took a pleading tone. “I have to make sure she doesn’t do anything with him. If she gets him to sleep with her I just know he’s going to feel compelled to marry her. I don’t want to see him blackmailed into doing something like that.”
Tarou gave a sigh. If it was absolutely anyone else in the world he would never consider for a second what he was about to do. Love really did twist up one’s guts, but if it was going to make Akane feel better, than he would do it this one time.
“Why don’t I change and fly us up there? There are lots of windows all around the place, and I’m sure you can look in.”
Akane looked hopefully at him. “It’s not too much of a bother?”
Wonderful. She was being thoughtful and considerate of his feelings. How was it she knew how to push all the right buttons without even trying? In answer he went over to a puddle and splashed himself with it, ruining yet another suit once again. He was going to have to stop bothering with them. It was just a waste of money.
“Thanks, Tarou. You’re one of the most thoughtful people I know.” she said and smiled at him. Maybe helping her wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Not if it could get her to smile at him like that. He lifted her up and took to the air.
Mousse was actually quite pleased with his attire. The tailors had done a magnificent job of fitting the suit perfectly on him. It was hard to imagine how much it must have cost Kodachi to hire them to make the suit for him. He would have liked to have returned the favor, but money was not one of his strong suits. The only way he could return the favor was to be the prefect date for her. Hopefully it would be enough.
As for Kodachi herself, well, even Mousse would openly admit that he was stunned at how beautiful she appeared. Her bunched up hair and shoulderless black evening gown with elbow long white gloves fit her in all the right places. When she had first entered his room to see how the fitting was coming along, Mousse had been struck speechless. For the briefest of moments she was the most beautiful thing in the world to him. Then he remembered Shampoo and decided the Black Rose was the second most beautiful thing in the world. But a close second.
Now they were at the Kanemoto Towers, enjoying the most luxurious meal he ever had. Every bite of the food was like heaven. And the atmosphere was, well, it was very mood-setting.
And then there was Kodachi herself. The Black Rose appeared even more perfect under the dim lighting of the restaurant. The gap to first place had narrowed considerably. The loving attention she was paying him made his ego soar and moved him like no other did. If Shampoo paid him any attention it would be different, but she never had and the woman before him did. Incredibly enough, he felt no guilt over it. Perhaps tomorrow, but not on this night. It was too perfect and both of them deserved a break.
“What are you thinking of Kodi-ch… Kodachi,” he wasn’t quite prepared to call her that. No matter how perfect the evening was, he still had no desire to lead her on.
The attempted save didn’t matter. Kodachi had heard enough. “Oh Mousse-sama, I was simply thinking of the wonderful time we’re having.”
Mousse found himself blushing at that. He had been doing that more and more lately, and for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why. Still, he was having a wonderful time and nothing could spoil the mood. Not even Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun, who were making their way from the waiting room to sit at one of the tables.
His eyes barely manage to focus on the couple. Sure enough. It was them. Instinctively he went for one of his concealed weapons, then stopped. Kodachi was looking at him with a hurt expression.
“You want to fight them?” she asked.
“Well,” he began. “I want to… what I mean is that’s what I usually do. At least to him.”
“I thought we were having a good time. I see I was wrong.” She started to get up from her seat and draw a concealed ribbon. “Very well. We shall make them pay for wh—“ she stopped as a hand rested on her arm.
Mousse was just shocked as she was at his reaction. “Never mind. We can attack Ranma some other time. I don’t want to ruin the evening.”
“No. I want this evening to go on perfectly, just like it has been. Let those two enjoy tonight. We’ll have even more fun than them.”
“Oh, Mousse-sama. Thank you.” Kodachi was actually moved to tears. He wanted to have a good time with her instead of engaging in a useless duel. She almost had him now. She could feel it in her heart. Maybe she would add just a little something to his drink right before they left. Just a slight mood enhancer, like the one he had given him in Hawaii. That would make it truly a night to remember.
Shampoo-kun looked back to his date. Ranma-chan looked even more ravishing in the darkened lighting of the restaurant, and for the briefest of moments he felt sorry he had bludgeoned Ranma’s personality back into its proper place.
Those thoughts were quickly banished. He felt much happier living the truth: he was on a date with a willing (and as well-adjusted as she got) Ranma-chan. In the end he had done everything short of forcing her to go out with him. It may have taken a little misdirection on Shampoo-kun’s part, but Ranma-chan really wanted to go or she would not have fallen into so obvious a snare, or would have resisted once she acceded to Shampoo-kun’s demands. And nothing could top that feeling.
Of course the fact that the redhead in front of him was having what appeared to be less than a pleasant time dampened the mood considerably.
“What’s wrong, Ranma?”
Ranma-chan responded to the concern with a laugh. “Nothing. I’m having a great time.”
“Then why are you no smiling?”
Shampoo-kun was becoming increasingly concerned. This was going a long ways adrift from what he had hoped would happen. Ideally he wanted Ranma-chan to confess her feelings of love for him and the two would run away together. Realistically he hoped it would go the way the original date they were supposed to have months ago was supposed to turn out. Of course that whole thing turned into a fiasco, so maybe he should settle for no one trying to kill the two of them tonight. Now it was looking like a fight could only make things better.
He at last dared to ask the question whose answer he feared. “Do you no want to be on date with me?”
Ranma-chan was going to play the whole thing off, but saw the look of concern deepen on Shampoo-kun’s face. Uncharacteristically she felt the unmistakable urge to open up. “I feel awkward. I mean. I know we’ve gone out before, but not on a, y’know, date.”
“Why is that so different? Don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I do.” Ranma-chan was having problems again. It seemed whenever the two of them had these heart-to-hearts, she always ended up tongue-tied. “You’re a little weird sometimes, but I’d put my life in your hands. It’s this whole thing. I’m not used to it. And I don’t just mean the dress and make-up.” She was surprised to discover she minded it a lot less than she thought she would. If someone had claimed a couple of months ago she was going to be on a date where she would wear a dress and not mind it, Ranma-chan would have unloaded an amaguriken on them. But things had changed, and she had no idea when it happened.
She continued. “This place is so high-class. Then there’s all this romantic stuff that’s around. The candles, the dim lighting, the music they’re playing, I’m not real comfortable around it.”
“Is it because you is a girl?
Ranma-chan shook her head. “No. I wouldn’t be comfortable around it as a guy either.”
“I never been to a place like this before either, but I like it.” Shampoo-kun got an idea. “No worry about anything. I don’t care how you act. Just be yourself.”
Ranma-chan agreed and tried to find something to speak about. “I noticed this place is a little expensive. I saw the prices on the menu. How can you afford something like this?”
“I make lots of money as a waiter at Ukyou’s. The girls there tip very nice.”
“They’re pretty aggressive, aren’t they?”
Shampoo-kun sighed. “Yes. They like to touch me when I go by tables.”
“How can you stand it?” Ranma-chan asked. “I would punch out any guy that did that to me.”
Shampoo-kun considered how to answer that. “I admit, I sort of like the attention. It nice to have people think me attractive, even as a boy, but you is also right. I don’t like the way they treat me. I would not want to go out with someone that just treated me like an object, like Mousse. You never treat me like that. That’s one of the reasons I want to go on a date with you. Unless you no like me and don’t want to be on a date.”
“Of course not!” Ranma-chan protested vehemently. “I guess I like spending my time with you. You’re the only one I feel comfortable around as a guy or a girl. I mean it never matters to you.”
“And what I am doesn’t matter to you either,” Shampoo-kun agreed.
The silence hung between them for a while, neither knowing what to say. For some odd reason the tension between the two of them seemed to increase despite the assurances they had just exchanged. In truth it felt almost as though that was the cause of it. Shampoo-kun tried first to break the tension between them by talking about the weather, people at school, and other non threatening topics. The attempts failed as neither was in the mood to sustain a talk about nothing. The minutes stretched as both were at a loss of how to continue.
Shampoo-kun became more desperate. The date was failing miserably and Ranma-chan would never want to go out again. The main problem was he felt too out of his element. Shampoo-kun frantically tried to come up with something. If they could both talk about something they both enjoyed. That might work.
“You never told me how you beat the fake Ranma. I missed your magnificent fight.” Shampoo-kun said. Martial arts might do it. If not he was going to give up.
“You don’t want to talk about that sort of stuff. We’re on a date. Let’s talk about date stuff. Like… y’know, what people are supposed to talk about when they’re on a date.” Whatever that was.
Shampoo-kun shook his head and smiled. “I don’t want to talk about ‘what we’re supposed to talk about’. I want to talk about martial arts.”
“Well. If you say so. But I know that isn’t the sort of thing you’re supposed to talk about on a date.”
In spite if herself, Ranma-chan discovered a smile found its way to her face for the first time in the evening. Things loosened up as she described in detail the way the fight progressed. Of course everything was slanted to the ‘facts she knew’, like there was never any danger of her losing and most of Ryu’s solid blows were just lucky shots. Ranma-chan was happy to discover that Shampoo-kun gave rapt attention to every detail she was giving, even going so far as to ask questions as to why she chose a certain attack or why she made a certain kind of evasion.
Once finished Ranma-chan interrogated Shampoo-kun and the fight against Mousse, at least the parts she had missed. With their roles reversed Ranma-chan was the one asking the questions about why Shampoo-kun did what he did during the fight. By the time the Amazon was finished with his description whatever tension existed between the two had disappeared, much to the mutual relief of the participants.
“You know something?” Ranma-chan laughed. “This is way more fun than talking about whatever it was we were supposed to be talking about.”
“I agree.” Shampoo-kun was more than happy with the way things were turning out. It was so much better then the start of the evening. If it ended now the two of them could probably regard it as a success. But it wasn’t over. It felt like it was just beginning.
“Maybe that’s the best way to have a date; doing whatever you feel like doing. Just so long as you have a good time.”
“I think you’re right,” Shampoo-kun said.
The two moved the conversation to their mutual past and the event of the past few months. All of the good ones and some of the not so good. But talking about those did nothing to dampen their spirits. It was just talk between two people that had known each other for almost a year. Two people that had more things in common than a curse and the uncanny knack for angering friends as well as foes, even if neither one was sure of exactly what it was.
Ranma-chan finally found herself fully relaxed. “I feel so much better now.”
Shampoo-kun agreed, then realized what song was playing. It would be the perfect thing, and Ranma-chan appeared at ease enough to accept. “Ranma, let’s dance.”
The redhead suddenly tensed up. “I’d rather not.”
“It’ll be fun. Come on.” Shampoo-kun moved quickly from his chair and grabbed Ranma-chan before she could react. He practically had to drag her to the center of the dance floor where several other couples had already begun to move to the music.
Shampoo-kun was disappointed that Ranma-chan not only refused to relax on the dance floor, but started to make her way back to the table. He so wanted to dance with her that it actually hurt. Shampoo-kun held onto the girl. “What’s wrong, Ranma?”
“I can’t do this. Let me go!”
“Why?” Something was wrong and it went deeper than a simple desire to not dance.
“I don’t know how to dance,” she whispered.
So that was it. For a moment the Amazon had been worried it was him. “I show you how.”
“I don’t want to.” Ranma-chan tried pulling out of the grip again.
Shampoo-kun held on. “Is it me?”
“No,” her voice actually sounded pained. “I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.”
“Ranma,” Shampoo-kun said as softly as he could to reassure the surprisingly scared girl. “You can follow me in katas, right.”
“Of course.” Some of the pride crept back into her voice.
“Think of it like learning a new technique, then follow my lead. I move slow until you learn it.” Given Ranma-chan’s ability to learn a kata after only one or two tries, he had little doubt she would be past the beginner level after only a few minutes. Shampoo-kun started off with only a basic dance and made certain that his own moves were obvious as he began to lead, whispering to Ranma-chan what was going to happen before he did the next step. As they danced Shampoo-kun made certain to hold onto his partner’s hand, keeping it on his chest as the two moved together.
It was a very small surprise that once Saotome relaxed, her movements followed Shampoo-kun’s in every way. Soon she needed no instruction as movements slowly flowed from one into another. Shampoo-kun marveled at Ranma-chan’s natural grace as it was employed in the slow dance. Even the Amazon had to admit it took him a good bit longer to master even the basics that his partner was now using. The reminder of Ranma-chan’s superiority did nothing to lessen Shampoo-kun’s enjoyment. He was in heaven.
“Where’d you learn to dance so well?” Ranma-chan finally asked as she began to fully enjoy the flow of movement to the music. It was quite surprising to learn that dancing was fun. All that time she thought it was just something girls came up with to encourage romance and sappy stuff like that.
“In Amazon village, of course. We dance there too. I learn this Japanese dance at the wedding with Kasumi. Everyone dances everywhere.”
“I meant who taught you,” she clarified.
“Oh. My mother did. Usually it’s the woman who leads in dance with a boy, but I not mind that it’s backwards here. Besides, since I a boy now it’s only fitting I lead.”
“Don’t get too cocky about that,” Ranma-chan warned. “The next time it’s me that leads.” Saotome felt her partner go limp for a moment. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Shampoo-kun said as he regained his composure. Ranma-chan said the next time. She was having a good time and wanted to dance with him again. The overwhelming flood of emotions nearly brought a tear to his eye. “I would be very happy to teach you.”
“Great.” Without realizing it she rested her head against Shampoo-kun’s chest and slowly relaxed, closing her eyes to allow the music to wash over her. She could hear her partner’s heart beating almost in tune with the music.
Time lost all meaning in the dance as one soft tune flowed into the next. Another rare moment of peace, just like that crystalline night on the TWPOS. It was meant to be savored while it lasted, and both did exactly that. Enjoying one another’s embrace.
Eventually Ranma-chan felt a hand rest under her chin and point her face upward. Shampoo-kun was his own bending face down, seeking to meet Ranma-chan’s halfway. As she felt her eyes close she could not help but compare it to the night they practiced their lines on the roof of the dojo. Shampoo-kun’s eyes still hadn’t changed in all that time.
Their lips were about to meet when…
Tarou had done as Akane requested and flown to the top of the Tower’s restaurant. The view from the inside that was provided was spectacular, adding to the atmosphere of the place. Tarou had slowly worked his way over to the windows, staying as low as possible so as not to be noticed while trying to allow Akane to see in.
She had watched the duo eat, talk, laugh, and much to her growing anger, dance. Ranma-chan was the worst, almost acting like she had undergone yet another personality conversation. If the general behavior wasn’t bad enough, the two of them were leaning close almost as though they were going to kiss.
Tarou-bull grunted in a panic to catch her attention. She looked down at him, then followed the course his eyes traced. It led to the building itself, some twenty feet below the restaurant level.
Matsui looked up from the book he was reading back at the aerial cameras that ran along the building. It wasn’t like they had a lot of activity at the Kanemoto Towers, especially forty stories up in the air. The last time there was an intruder at that height was when that oni girl had flown too close and it was assumed she was an alien invader, (well she was, but she was not invading the building.) Fortunately she was fast enough to avoid injury. But the thing that was in front of his face now bore no resemblance to the cute alien girl.
Matsui went for the emergency line. Immediately he heard someone on the other end pick up. “SIR!” Matsui shouted. “We have a situation in the air!”
“It’s not Lum again, is it?”
“No sir!” he said. “It’s way too ugly for that! I think it’s Rodan!”
“Oh, my God!” the voice at the other end exclaimed. “Use the missiles and pray it’s enough to take him out.”
“Yes sir!” Matsui’s hand went to the emergency air defense missiles.
Inside the restaurant:
…When a loud explosion went off outside. Both of them looked up, startled at the clamorous noise. Immediately their attention was riveted to the huge display of multi-colored lights ignited the night sky.
“Oh! That’s pretty.” Shampoo-kun said.
Ranma-chan agreed. It was a gorgeous display of fireworks, although they did seem a bit loud.
It was with a sigh she became aware of the time. “We’d better get going.”
Shampoo-kun reluctantly agreed. It was pretty late, and as much as he wished it were otherwise, all good things did have to come to an end. At least it was a pleasant one. Too bad they had not kissed. It would have been the perfect ending to what was an almost perfect evening.
As the two exited the restaurant and went out into the night air, Ranma-chan sighed and looked towards the skies.
“You know something?” she asked.
Shampoo-kun shook his head. “What?”
“There was one thing I was afraid of all night long. And I thought when I saw all those Furinkan girls it was going to come true. I mean all night I just kept on getting these bad vibes.”
“That we were going to get attacked. All night long I thought someone was going to jump us.” She gave an easy laugh. “I guess when you get attacked as often as we do, you tend to get paranoid.”
Shampoo-kun had to agree with that. In truth he had had the same feelings most of the night, but his focus was on his date so much that he had ignored those feelings. Thank goodness it was just paranoia.
Two people walked past them at that moment. The first man spoke to the other.
“Did you hear the news?”
“No. What happened?”
“They shot down Rodan near Kanemoto Towers.”
“About time the JSDF did something about those damned giant monsters!”
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun looked at each other and shrugged. It had to be a coincidence.
Nearby, at a small food stand, Shoki looked over the two other patrons that were seated next to him. It wasn’t everyday you saw an attractive, singed looking girl and her equally singed pet flying minotaur eating sushi. They both looked really depressed too. For a moment he was tempted to give them his wish ring, but changed his mind and opted instead to simply buy them another round of sushi. What would a girl and her pet do with something like a wish anyway? A full stomach was better and there was less chance of causing an alternate timeline or some other mess that way. Besides, the blasted things always pissed the hell out of Pluto, and even he didn’t want to be reprimanded by her yet again.
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun continued down the street when a familiar figure in a pretty dress skipped towards them.
“AKARI!!!” Both martial artists shouted simultaneously and prepared for her to grab some water and change.
Instead of going for any water she continued on her way, still happily skipping. “Crush you guys later. Bye” and with that she waved happily at them and continued to skip along without so much as a second glance at them, much to Ranma and Shampoo’s confusion. The last thing they heard before she drifted out of sight was something about another date.
They both shrugged and continued on until they came upon a group of people gathered in front of an alleyway. They picked up on the words, ‘panda,’ ‘strange laugh,’ and ‘immoral behavior between an animal and a girl’ and ran off. Neither wanted to hear any more. They had already heard enough. Why spoil a perfect evening?
Ranma-chan was silently wondering what else had occurred while they were on their date when they passed an electronics store with one of the television’s on in the front window. Saotome took little notice until her date paused in front to gaze at the picture.
“What’s on?” Ranma-chan asked.
The volume on the set was just high enough to hear from outside. “They said Flex Lavender is in a special challenge match. I think he cute.”
Ranma-chan started to bluster when she noticed Shampoo-kun turn from the set with a wide grin on his face.
“But you is much more handsome, Ranma,” he added.
She relaxed at that. Of course she was better looking than some mass of muscle that participated in a fake sport. She was a real fighter. She returned her attention to the set just to see, and only out of curiosity since she wasn’t jealous, what kind of guy could turn Shampoo-kun’s eye.
“And here he is now,” the announcer proclaimed. “Escorted to the ring by his tag team partner, Brute Forcz, FLEX LAVENDER!!!”
It was a hulking guy that was wearing hot pink tights of all things, accompanied to the ring by what appeared to be another hulk just slightly smaller than him. In all honesty Ranma-chan thought the guy was ugly as sin and could not understand why the fans were going wild.
“And the challenger, escorted to the ring by his valet, Kyoko Onamuri…”
At that point Kyoko shouted out, “Ryouga-kun doesn’t own a car, so how can I be his valet?”
The announcer shook his head and continued. “…Ryouga Hibiki.”
Sure enough, Ryouga came out, wearing a pair of yellow and black striped trunks and looking thoroughly embarrassed. The crowd’s reaction was far less jubilant as he made his way into the ring, Kyoko taking a place outside the ring.
The announcer continued. “This is a special no-disqualification, electrified steel cage, barbed wire baseball bat match, and if there is no winner by submission or pinfall in thirty minutes, the ring will blow up.”
The crowd went wild as the cage dropped down and the weapons were thrown in. Ryouga panicked. “WHAT KIND OF A MATCH IS THAT?!!!”
“Changing face of the sport, punk! People want blood and they’re going to have it! PREPARE TO DIE, RYOUGA!!!”
“Quit stealing my line! PREPARE TO DIE, FLEX!!!”
On the outside Kyoko suddenly found herself confronted by Flex’s tag team partner.
“How dare you try to steal my Flex?”
Kyoko gave a disgusted look. “He’s dating guys now?”
“I’m no man! I’m a woman!”
Kyoko looked at her more closely. “But you have a mustache.”
“It’s not my fault electrolysis doesn’t work. NOW DIE!!!”
Kyoko suddenly found herself using all of her martial arts abilities trying to stay alive.
Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun looked at each other, sadly shook their heads, said “baka’s” simultaneously, and walked off.
It had been one interesting date.
Much later, Ai and Ukyou arrived at the restaurant and prepared to say good night. The two had walked around most of the night, either talking with one another or trying to make sense of all that had happened. Ai was about to leave when she came close to Ukyou.
“You’ve kissed girls before, haven’t you?”
Ukyou knew where this was leading to. Despite that she didn’t have the heart to lie. “As part of my disguise at the guy’s school, yes. I did. But I didn’t enjoy it!”
“Methinks thou doth protest too much,” Ai snickered. “Don’t worry, if you’re that uneasy about it, I’m not going to force myself on you. But give me a chance and you’ll see it’s not all that bad. I’ll pick you up before school tomorrow?”
If Ukyou was going to try to get Ai out of her life, now was the time. Before tonight she would have taken any opportunity to get rid of her. Now she wasn’t so sure. There wasn’t any risk in keeping Ai around, so there wasn’t any need to be afraid.
“Sure. Tomorrow then.”
For the first time Ukyou could remember, Ai gave her a genuine smile, not one forced by the pill, and the truth be known, it did look good. Ukyou found herself smiling in return as Ai left and she entered her restaurant. It was already occupied as she found a banged up Ryouga and Kyoko inside, each with a glazed expression.
“What happened to you guys?” Ukyou asked.
“Got into a special challenge match with Flex,” Ryouga mumbled. “I won.”
“His girlfriend’s a real brute. Managed to beat her though,” Kyoko said.
Ukyou made her way to the grill to make a late night snack. “At least that’s over with.”
“Not exactly,” Kyoko corrected.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well,” Ryouga began. “I sort of accepted a return match next week.”
“It’s going to be a mixed tag match. I’m going to help Ryouga.” Somehow, Kyoko did not sound thrilled about that, not even bothering to use the ‘kun’ for Ryouga.
“Ryouga no baka,” Ukyou said under her breath, but without the resentment it usually had.
The Shogun looked over the now completely enhanced Eight Devils of Kimone. The changes were unobservable to the naked eye save a few notable exceptions, such as the compound eyes the hunchbacked Mushizo possessed, or the fangs Benisato gained along with her other newfound abilities.
“I can control more wasps than ever. And I can see through my children’s eyes.” Mushizo’s joy could barely be contained.
“Strength flows through my arms like never before.” That was from Benisato, whose arms actually elongated like a snake’s as though to prove the point.
Zakuro began tossing various forms of explosive in the air, juggling them. “Unbelievable, I don’t need to make or steal these things. They just appear and only I can make them detonate.” She turned to the Shogun. “Where do they come from?”
“Your heart,” he replied.
“I don’t have one of those anymore.” Zakuro laughed deeply. “I feel more alive than ever.”
What a poor choice of words, the Shogun thought. They were not alive, so much as corpses bound to his own life force. True, he had resurrected them, but that existence hinged solely upon his own continued survival; an anchor for them to remain in the realm of the living. The ultimate form of control.
“It would be safe to assume that you have enhanced our abilities for a reason?” Gemma said, capturing the attention of the rest of the Devils.
“Yes. It is. I need you to do a task for me,” the Shogun informed the group.
“We get to kill, right?” Tessai was anxious to see what kind of destruction he could cause with his increased strength and speed. There was no telling what kind of a body count he could accumulate now.
“Yes, you do.” With a wave of his hand a nearby table suddenly exploded into an image of light. The light took the shape of a three dimensional object which slowly rotated in a circle at a single point above the table.
“What is that?” Amazingly, even the blind Mujuru could sense the image in detail, and sight was not one of his newfound abilities.
“That,” the Shogun began, “is your target. It’s called Mt. Phoenix. I need that location for the final phase of the plan. Nowhere else will do.”
Gemma examined the three dimensional image of the mountain. It was a precisely detailed cut away to the inside of the mountain. There appeared to be man-made structures within the many caverns of the mountain itself. For some reason he had an impression it represented the way it was in the present, not what the Shogun planned to do with it.
“There are already people there?” Gemma asked.
“Yes. An entire race of humanoid avians affectionately called the ‘Bird People’. I want you to kill them.”
“How many?” Shujima rasped from the within shadows.
The Shogun did not bother looking in the direction the question had come from. “I said I want you to kill them. All of them.”
To be continued.
Author's notes: Thanks to Krista Perry for allowing me to use the Shadowcat reference and Jason Liao for coming up with the Usagi-kyaku.
The ED meets dog scene was actually done by Frank Miller and Walt Simonson. ED-209 belongs to the creators of Robocop.
And of course a special thanks to:
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