A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Sailor Moon characters property of Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. Ah! My Goddess property of Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. Other characters who may cameo are property of respective owners. All are used without permission. I did not write this for profit, but for practice. Will be removed at request of original creators or authorized rep.
Zhu Shu (who shoo), Tao-Ching, Xi'an Chi (zy-an chee), and Clans' Dragon and Skorpion are mine, and may be used so long as I am asked beforehand.
Book One: The Mandarin
Chapter Six: Reflections and Cherry Blossoms
Evening found Zhu Shu setting in the garden by the Koi pond, meditating.
She had begged off teaching the Senshi today, allowing Akane to run the girls through basic exercises and having Ranma spar with Makoto. With Zhu Shu watching, he hadn't showed off too much, and he'd actually proven to be adept at teaching. The girls had been upset that Zhu Shu was too drained to teach, and had been all for going and teaching Ai and crew a lesson, but had desisted when Zhu Shu had assured them she could handle Ai. Still, it had given her a chance to watch everyone more closely than she could when teaching. After the session, she assigned a series of stretching exercises for the Senshi to do every morning, before going to help Kasumi make dinner.
The rest of the day had proven uneventful — an unusual situation around the Tendo house since the Saotome's arrival — but everyone had enjoyed the peace. Nabiki was even in a very good mood for some reason. Zhu Shu had started to help with the dishes, only to have Kasumi shoo her out to the garden to rest.
As Zhu Shu meditated, she concentrated on the flow of chi through the garden, her eyes closed as she tried to feel at one with the energy flows. She had stayed in her cursed form, feeling a need to try and understand it better. Her dragon-girl form seemed to make her abilities with chi much stronger, and that worried her.
The problem with her dragon-girl form was it seemed to gradually be becoming more and more comfortable, and she was starting to lose her mental image of herself as she was normally. More and more often, she was having dreams where this was her normal form, and her normal form was the curse. It was disturbing, because for all its advantages, she was beginning to notice she seemed to have less control over this form's emotions. Strong emotions came too easily when she was her dragon half. The iron wall she had spent years building was becoming harder and harder to maintain, and it scared her a little. The way she had lost her temper immediately upon changing today had been an indication of her loss of control. She had had to fight herself there at the end, not only to catch her breath, but to keep herself from assaulting Ai and dragging her off. She had been able to smell Ai's arousal…
Hopefully, if she worked on her exercises while in this form, it would become easier to control. It hadn't been a difficult fight to reign herself in, but she would feel better when she'd learned how to compensate for this form's stronger impulses.
An eddy in the flows warned her of Ranma's arrival as he jumped down from the roof and came to sit in front of her. She smiled to herself mentally. Right on time.
"You never did tell me why you were angry with me earlier," he said by way of greeting. Zhu Shu opened one eye to look at him for a moment before closing it and sighing.
"Zhu Shu say. Ranma not listen."
"Well… would you please tell me again? I hate it when you're mad at me. I mean, I've come to expect nothing else from Akane, usually, but you've never been mad at me before. Not like this."
Zhu Shu sat for a long moment before replying. "Why Ranma feel boy better than girl?"
"Well… umm…. Guys are stronger. We're better at martial arts… stuff like that."
"So all life Ranma think girls inferior?"
"It's not like that. Girls are great at some stuff. Sewing, keeping house, cooking; stuff like that."
"Ranma sew. Ranma cook. Even see Ranma help some clean house."
"Yeah, but girls are better at that sort of stuff. I only learned how to do any of that cause I had to."
"Ah. So think girls learn for fun?"
"Uh…" Ranma scratched the back of his head as he gave Zhu Shu a sheepish grin. "No, I guess not."
"Zhu Shu learn because have no choice."
"But you seem to enjoy it."
"Zhu Shu does. Is feeling of satisfaction doing task have to be done, if done well. Zhu Shu learn take pride in doing job well. Not mean she want only do. Zhu Shu much happier learning martial art. Have more fun do sword forms than ever do cleaning."
"Oh." Ranma sat and thought about that for a long moment. "So… I guess you were upset because I said I wanted to protect you?"
Zhu Shu sighed. "Ranma, would have been worried if Zhu Shu and Ai boy?"
"Heck no. I wouldn't interfere in a personal challenge between a couple a guys."
"But not give Zhu Shu same respect would give boy?"
Ranma stiffened. "I respect you! You know I do!"
"No, Ranma do not. Ranma give Zhu Shu less respect then he give Kuno. Give Akane even less."
"How can you say that?"
"Because is true. Zhu Shu is warrior first. Ranma respect skill. Ranma respect friendship. Ranma respect insight, but Ranma no respect Zhu Shu warrior heart. Ranma not treat Zhu Shu as equal, as warrior, but as servant. When say protect from Ai, say Ranma have no confidence in Zhu Shu as warrior."
Ranma sat and stared into the pond. "I do respect you, Zhu Shu. I mean we sparred for that whole week and you helped me build up my speed. But you're not as strong as me. And no matter how fast you are, you're helpless without your swords and ribbons. I just don't want to see you get hurt. I hate seeing someone get picked on by someone stronger. If you had gotten into real trouble with Ai, I—"
"Would allow personal challenge go without interfere. Zhu Shu challenged, Zhu Shu accept. If Zhu Shu lose, show Zhu Shu need train more," Zhu Shu said firmly.
Ranma sulked. "Aw… Zhu Shu, you can't expect me to stand by and allow those idiot cheerleaders to beat you up!"
"Zhu Shu can and do. If Ai challenge again, Zhu Shu answer. If lose, Ranma will not interfere. Is Zhu Shu place defend family honor. Do not try to take away."
Ranma sullenly glared into the pond. "It means that much to you?"
"Does Ranma honor mean much to Ranma?"
He sighed. "Alright. I'm sorry I insulted you. I just—"
"Worry about friend. Zhu Shu understand, but Ranma must allow Zhu Shu be warrior."
"Alright, but if it looks like someone's trying to kill you or something, don't expect me to just let them."
"Zhu Shu would not."
Ranma nodded. For a long time, they sat there by the pond before Ranma spoke again. "I had something else I wanted to ask you."
"How do you know if you like someone?"
Zhu Shu opened her eyes and tilted her head at him. A slight smile played across her lips. "Zhu Shu not know how to explain."
She reached out to the pond and scooped up a single cherry blossom, holding the delicate bloom cupped in her hand as her eyes lost focus. "When Zhu Shu young, she have best friend. Her name Ying Ying…." She held up the cherry blossom, her eyebrow raised questioningly.
"That's a cherry blossom." Ranma said.
Zhu Shu nodded. "Is what Ying Ying mean. Cherry Blossom." She blew the flower out over the pond and watched as it spiraled down to float on the surface again. "Ying Ying and Zhu Shu do everything together. We do chores, listen storyteller, and explore cliffs above village. When Zhu Shu not train, she play with Ying Ying."
"When Zhu Shu turn twelve, she begin to mature as woman. Begin to have feelings she never have before. Ying Ying best friend, and Zhu Shu tell her how feel, and Ying Ying listen. We spend months talking. Discussing feelings."
"When thirteen, Zhu Shu realize not want live life without Ying Ying. Realize love. Tell Ying Ying, and find Ying Ying feel same, too scared to say to Zhu Shu."
"Aunt find out. She punish Zhu Shu badly. Might have killed if Grandfather not interfere. Ying Ying family move away. Zhu Shu feel like she dead, even though still moving. She do what aunt say, learn what aunt teach. Think never feel ever again."
A sound of a door opening reached her ears from the open window over head. Ranma didn't seem to notice as he said "Man, that really sucks. Why'd your aunt do that?"
Zhu Shu shrugged. "Zhu Shu have duty to give heir for Clan Dragon. Cannot make babies with girl." She sighed softly, memories of her moments with Ying Ying making her smile. She heard a slight creak as the chair by the window was occupied.
"When Zhu Shu with Ying Ying, feel like was center of world, like she make Zhu Shu fly. Knew liked her when she in all Zhu Shu's thoughts. Wake in morning and think of her, last thought at night of her. Every action Zhu Shu do, she think of Ying Ying. We fight sometimes, but no matter what, no matter how angry, always forgive and go on."
"But how did you know you liked her?"
The intake of breath was slight, but it made Zhu Shu smile. "Let ask this. When Zhu Shu first find Ranma, he being pulled by pigtail to school. Watch all day, and see Ranma get hit with ball. Why Ranma get hit?"
"Uh… I had something on my mind."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Yes. Zhu Shu see Ranma not take eyes off Akane as she play ball. So distracted by watching not see ball."
"Hey, it wasn't like that. Hiroshi and Daisuke were asking me if I'd done things with Akane."
"That why Ranma not say anything for several minute before ball hit? Seem to Zhu Shu he only stare."
Ranma sat and stared at the pond, and for several long minutes all Zhu Shu's sharp ears could hear was the thump of two hearts beating.
"Want know why Zhu Shu decide want help Ranma with fiancée?" she finally asked.
"I guess," he said as the chair in the room above gave a soft creak.
"Watching when Ranma tell Akane she cute when smile. Ranma too busy to see look in Akane eyes. Zhu Shu not." Ranma looked at her for a long moment, noting the half smile she was giving him.
"I caught her smiling to herself in a mirror later, and she threw a lamp at me," he said sourly. "I was just wanting to make sure she was okay. She… she's sweet on the doctor anyway…"
"Yeah, she gets all shy when he's around. And the other day we were at his clinic when Kasumi arrived. Well, you saw how he is around Kasumi. It really upset Akane. She was acting really strange."
"And you try cheer up?"
"Yeah, it just backfired, like everything else I try to do nice," Ranma groused.
"Maybe should give Akane time. Just be nice."
"I was trying. I was trying really hard that first day. She was so nice to me, and we sparred and it was fun. I was really enjoying being with her. Then I found out she hates boys, and when she walked in on me in the bath, well, it just seemed to ruin everything. Then our idiot dads forced this engagement on us, and Kasumi and Nabiki shoved Akane forward, and, well, it was like I was some undesirable piece of trash and nobody wanted me, so I was being dropped on her because she was the youngest. I could tell I wasn't wanted. I was going to go back to China to find you and get this curse removed."
"Well… Akane insulted me. Then whacked me over the head with a table when I insulted her back."
"What say?" Zhu Shu asked curiously.
"Well, she'd been going on and on about how I was a pervert because I'd looked at her when she walked in on me, so I told her it wasn't a big deal for me to see a naked woman, because I turn into a girl, and that besides, I was built better."
Zhu Shu blinked at him wide-eyed. "You say what?" she asked in disbelief.
"I said I was better built, and she hit me with a table."
"Zhu Shu no blame her!"
"Ranma, women looks very important to women. You male, you no understand. What you do almost worst insult can give. Like someone say Ranma poor martial artist. Remember cheerleader? Zhu Shu say not pretty, she go berserk. Only way Zhu Shu make madder, if had commented that Zhu Shu have bigger breast."
Ranma gave her a wide eye look. "How about commenting on wide hips?"
"As bad. Ranma say to Akane?"
"And she still talk to? Think Ranma should consider."
The creaking of the chair indicated someone was muffling laughter. Ranma was too absorbed in moping to notice.
"Man, I'm never going to understand women."
Zhu Shu shook her head ‘no’. "No worry. Zhu Shu help."
"Thanks." Ranma stood and stretched, his vertebra popping as he extended, then shook himself. "Gods, what would I do without you?"
"Make mess. Is why Zhu Shu have work so hard to fix."
Ranma scratched the back of his head as he gave a rueful grin. "Yeah. Well, I gotta get to bed. Pop always drags me awake at dawn to train.”
"Zhu Shu know," the Chinese girl said with a wry grin. "Is why does forms in dojo."
Ranma raised an eyebrow, then blushed. "Oh…" He gave a small chuckle. "You still do them that way?"
"Zhu Shu not have choice. No dress survive workout. Is discovering actually like better."
"Don't you worry about someone seeing you?"
Zhu Shu raised an eyebrow. "Why? Zhu Shu not ashamed of self. Is only problem when males bother while practice."
"I guess. Buy why does Akane jump my case about having no feminine modesty when I'm wringing out my shirt, then?"
Zhu Shu gave him a half-smile. "No know. Japanese have curious notions."
"Hey! I'm Japanese!"
Zhu Shu nodded. "See? Prove point."
Ranma rolled his eyes. "You and your strange sense of humor. I can never tell when you're joking, sometimes." He leaned down to give Zhu Shu a hand up. "Well. I really gotta get some sleep. See ya tomorrow." With a last wave, he vanished into the house.
Zhu Shu waited until he had been gone for a minute before she raised her voice. "He really do care. Just have hard time saying."
Akane leaned out the window and gave Zhu Shu a surprised look. "You knew I was here?"
Zhu Shu tapped her ears. "When cursed, get very sharp ears.
Akane looked at the long, pointed ears and smiled. "Absolutely. Oh! By the way, did you realize your eyes reflect like a cat's?"
Zhu Shu nodded. "Zhu Shu have practice in cursed form. And see in mirror."
"Oh… well… Thank you for defending me."
"Not do. Think overreact."
"Ranma may insult, not reason to hit with table."
"He deserved it!"
Zhu Shu gave her a level gaze. After a few seconds, Akane looked away.
"Okay, so maybe it was overreacting… but I was stressed out. He'd just shown up in the bathroom, and then Dad insisted he had to choose one of us, and Nabiki and Kasumi ganged up on me!"
"Yes. Ranma tell."
"Oh, yeah, that's right." Akane frowned as she recalled Ranma's words. "I guess I never really thought how he was feeling then. Just about how put upon I felt."
"Always two sides of story."
"So how does hear what Ranma feel make feel?"
"I don't know. Confused."
"Want talk about?"
Akane stared off at where Ranma had vanished into the house for a long moment before shaking her head. "I think I want to think about it first."
Zhu Shu smiled. "That not typical."
Akane gave her a duplicate of Ranma's rueful grin. "I know. That's why I want to think about it."
Zhu Shu nodded her head in agreement, not pushing.
Akane waved. "Well, I need to finish my homework and get to bed. See you in the morning."
"Zhu Shu also." She stood in the garden for a few seconds longer as Akane pulled back inside and closed her window then stepped into the dining room. Poking her head in the kitchen, she smiled at Kasumi, who was sitting with a cup of tea and a magazine. "Kasumi right. Make Ranma tell how felt first night, and Akane hear. Thank you for open window."
Kasumi smiled. "You're welcome, Zhu-chan. I hope it helps them work things out a little better. Akane has been so… so… impulsive since Mother died. Sometimes it takes extraordinary methods to get her to think."
"Zhu Shu sees. Is good night. Zhu Shu see in morning."
"Good night, dear. I filled the tub for you a few minutes ago, and left you a tea set. Try not to fall asleep in the tub and drown."
Zhu Shu smiled. "Will do best." She left the kitchen to Kasumi's contented smile.
The following morning, breakfast was quieter than normal. Ranma kept glancing at Akane, and she kept looking over at him. Both Kasumi and Zhu Shu exchanged smiles at the behavior. It had been over twelve hours and not a single fight. So far, so good.
After breakfast, Zhu Shu walked to school with Nabiki. As they left the house, the Chinese girl asked, "What odds did Nabiki give Zhu Shu?"
Nabiki blinked and turned to her. "You knew?"
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Kasumi tell."
"Oh. Well, I know how Ai fights, and I've never seen you fight before yesterday. I actually gave odds against you. Even after the way you dealt with Kuno, I thought Ai would win." Nabiki shrugged. "I'll know better next time."
"Cheerleaders tough. Zhu Shu not manage take out one by one, probably beat."
"Yeah. How'd you know to taunt Kaede that way?"
Zhu Shu smiled. "She wear much make up. Was easy to see vain."
Nabiki nodded. "You're observant too. That's good. Ai will probably leave you alone for awhile, but sooner or later, she's going to want a rematch."
Zhu Shu shrugged. "Zhu Shu lose temper. Not fight well. Use only Song school to fight. Zhu Shu think next time better if not."
"Oh, you know other schools?"
"Just one. Zhu Shu learn Shiva Dance. Ribbon form. Compliment Song school ribbon form."
"Shiva? That's a Hindu god, from India, isn't it?"
Zhu Shu smiled. "Yes. Learn from Indian Martial Dancer."
"That I gotta see."
Zhu Shu gave Nabiki a sidelong glance. "No, not think Nabiki like. Nabiki not like girls like Zhu Shu like girls."
"Huh, I don't—" She trailed off as understanding hit. "Oh. One of those dances. And it's a combat form?"
"Yes. Shiva god of Dance and Destruction."
"Ah. I'll keep that in mind. Maybe you can demonstrate for me some time." Nabiki kept her face straight as the Chinese girl gave her another sidelong look, thinking to herself, the videos of that would bring a fortune!
At the school gate, Kuno was waiting.
"Ah, glorious Chinese Goddess, I would date with you!"
Zhu Shu sighed. "Here go again."
"So what have your travels discovered, Ke Lun?" The Loremaster asked.
Ke Lun looked around the table at the gathered elders. "It seems that Song Shi Wang survived the fall of the Clan's stronghold."
There was a murmur of surprise that ran among the oldest of the elders present. The Loremaster raised an eyebrow. "Why did the Weapons Master not come to us? He had to know we would hold to our oaths and shelter the Clan."
Ke Lun nodded. "Yes. I asked him that. He… did not give a satisfactory answer. Shi has changed much from the man I knew in my youth."
"And what did you discover of the Heir?"
"Zhu Shu is the true Heir. She is the last pureblood daughter of Lin Tzu."
"So, she must be protected."
Ke Lun nodded. "She has been trained by Shi to defend herself at least as well as any of our warriors, and she is with Shan Pu. I await their next letter to advise me of where they are, and I will follow."
"Is that wise, Matriarch? Would it not be better to bring her home?"
Ke Lun shook her head. "I do not think so. Shi has requested she be allowed to continue her search. I have no reason to go against his wishes yet, but I do think Zhu Shu will need guidance to find a suitable husband. It seems she shares in more than just Lin Tzu's blood."
The Loremaster raised an eyebrow. "I see. That… is unfortunate."
Ke Lun steepled her fingers in front of her as she gazed across the table. "There may be a resolution to this. I asked Zhu Shu to accompany Shan Pu on her quest for more than just her knowledge of their quarry. Shan Pu expressed her interest to me, and I gave her my approval to seek Zhu Shu as a sister-wife. Zhu Shu… did not refuse, nor did she accept. If Zhu Shu accepts Shan Pu's affections, once they find Saotome it will provide Zhu Shu with both what she desires in Shan Pu, while fulfilling her duty with Saotome."
"And as the boy is cursed to turn female, she may even find some satisfaction with him in time." The Loremaster nodded. "Then I agree with you, Ke Lun. It is vital you oversee this."
Ke Lun the woman a sardonic grin. "I trust you'll keep things under control here until I return?"
The Loremaster gave her a return grin. "Of course." She folded her hands over her staff. "I know we have often been rivals, Warleader, but this overshadows our petty political bickering. I will behave, and I will make sure the others behave. Until the matter of Clan Dragon is resolved, the Amazons will stand united behind you. We failed our oath once. We will not do so a second time."
"I will hold you to that, Lo Shen." Ke Lun tapped her fingers on the table as she debated whether she should mention her other worry, but in the end decided the other elders needed to know. "There is more. I am concerned about Zhu Shu's curse."
The Loremaster leaned forward. "You advised us that she has a humanoid cursed form, and that it wouldn't endanger her in a fight, but I sensed then that there was more. Have you finally decided to share that with us?"
"I did not at first feel it was something that merited attention, yet it has nagged at me since. And I was concerned as to the reaction it might bring. Zhu Shu's curse seems… less random than usual. Jusenkyo is known for the irony with which it curse strikes, seemingly always to curse with a form that is intended to teach a lesson of some sort, though rarely does it seem that anyone knows what that lesson is to be. In Zhu Shu's case, I wonder truly what that lesson is meant to be."
"You're talking around the point, Ke Lun," The Loremaster said.
Ke Lun sighed. "Zhu Shu seems to have fallen into the worst possible spring she could have for anyone's peace of mind, Lo Shen. Particularly Shi's."
"And that would be?"
"Let me just say I can verify that the daughter of Garlic is dead. Of drowning."
Lo Shen's eyes widened. "Oh my."
A commotion outside the elder's hall stole their attention a second before pounding began on the door to the village square. The guard opened the door to inquire and a moment later allowed a runner to enter the hall. She approached the elder's table and knelt. "Forgive the intrusion, Revered elders, but I have been sent with a strange message for Ke Lun."
Ke Lun signaled for the runner to rise. "What is it, child?"
"Our sister in Tokyo was approached two days ago by a strange woman, and asked to deliver this message to the Warleader." She held forth a rolled scroll. Ke Lun unrolled it and read the elegantly brushed symbols.
To Ke Lun, Warleader of the Joketsuzoku, Daughter of Po Shen and Guardian of Shan Pu, Champion of the Joketsuzoku and Daughter of Par Fume, greetings.
I beg you to come to Tokyo at your earliest convenience, and if at all possible within a week of receiving this missive, to bear witness to an event of utmost importance to the Joketsuzoku and to Shan Pu's future happiness. At that time, a deed shall be performed that shall enable the Joketsuzoku to lay to rest ancient grievances against one who has wronged the Tribe, and Warleader Ke Lun. There are further details to this need for a Witness that I do not feel should be relegated to this missive, but must be discussed in personal conference.
Again, I beg you to come to Tokyo with all haste, as the time of this event is not entirely certain, but will occur, with Kami-sama's blessing, within the fortnight.
Urd, Norn of the Past, Goddess Second Class, Limited.
Ke Lun raised an eyebrow at the signature. "A message from one who claims to be a goddess. Now there's a first."
The Loremaster was studying the scroll. "There is a strong sense of enchantment within the scroll. I think perhaps had you been anywhere in the world, this scroll would have found its way to you."
"Do you believe its author is who she says she is? Would a goddess send a message so mundanely?"
A rumble of thunder broke the quite afternoon air as the air within the hall shook. The hall door swung open to reveal a smoking patch of ground just outside the door.
Ke Lun and Lo Shen hobbled over on their staffs and looked down at the glowing symbols on the marble plaque that rested at the center of the scorch marks on the ground. The two elders looked at one another. Lo Shen gave Ke Lun an amused smile.
"I would say that answers your question, Warleader. My advice would be to ‘get thee hence’ to Tokyo."
"Gods, how does she make it look so easy?" Usagi whined as she rubbed the small of her back. "I'm never going to be able to do any of those impossible contortions she's trying to get us into!"
"Zhu-sensei is simply making us do basic exercises, Usagi," Makoto replied, looking out the window of the bus that was taking them back to Juuban after their Thursday afternoon class at the Tendo dojo. "You'd get better at them if you'd do them more often. They’re not that different than the ones I usually do before my workouts, just geared more for flexibility."
"Yes. We're all sore, Usagi-chan. But I researched some of the exercises last night, and according to my data, it's very similar to a ballerina or a gymnast's exercises," Ami added from where she was rubbing sore calves. "Once we've gotten used to them, we can progress to the actual dances Zhu-sensei showed us."
"And I can't wait to try some of her dances at a club," Mina chimed in. "I can just imagine how the boys will just go crazy over me!"
Only Rei stared out the window of the bus, lost in thought as the rest of the Senshi continued their discussion. As the bus pulled into the Ginza district of Juuban, she gave a start as she realized someone was talking to her.
"Rei?" Usagi said again.
"I asked you if you wanted to come with us to that new okonomiyaki restaurant. The chef is supposed to be like drop-dead gorgeous!"
She shrugged. "Yeah, I guess."
She followed the other Senshi to the restaurant, proudly displaying a canopy over the door proclaiming its name to be Ucchan's, and settled in at the counter. Usagi and Mina almost drooled over the young man behind the counter as they ordered their okonomiyaki and watched as he made and served them in under a minute. Rei sat and picked at hers until Usagi finally asked. "What's up, Rei? You've been like a total space case since we left the dojo."
Rei looked up. "You're one to talk."
"Come on. Something's wrong. You can tell me. I'll bet it's about some boy, right?" You could almost see hearts in her eyes as she put an arm around Rei's shoulder. "You've fallen desperately in love with a cute guy and you don't know how to tell him you love him, right?"
Rei shrugged Usagi's arm off. "Some of us do think about other things occasionally, Usagi! No, I'm worried about Zhu Shu, if you must know."
"Why? She told us that she can handle Ai on her own, and besides, she's like two grade levels our senior. We really can't invade her school and teach those cheerleaders a lesson."
"That's not it. I just keep thinking about the other morning. That woman who came and told Zhu-chan where to find Ranma was an evil spirit of some sort, and I can't help but think that she was some sort of ill omen. I just keep getting these weird sensations when we're near Zhu Shu that something evil is lurking, waiting to cause her trouble. And I know she asked us not to tell Akane about Shampoo, or that Zhu Shu's supposed to get Ranma married to Shampoo, but I keep feeling that trouble's going to come of it."
"You worry too much, Rei. Zhu Shu knows what she's doing. She said the Amazon's allow multiple wives, so all she has to do is get Ranma and Akane to accept Shampoo as a second wife. Sounds like most guys’ wet dream to me."
The chef was suddenly standing across the counter from them. Startled, the two girls looked up at the clean-shaven young man, and felt their hearts go flutter, though from surprise or the young chef’s bishonen looks, they couldn't tell.
"Excuse me. Did you say Ranma?"
Usagi nodded, her eyes locked on the chef as her brain nearly shut down at the thought that this handsome hunk was actually talking to her!
Rei raised an eyebrow. "You know him?"
The chef gave a wry grin. "Yeah, you could say that. Me and him go way back. Sure would like to see him again. Last time was when I was six. Can you tell me where he's at these days?"
"Oh, he's going to school at Furinkan!" Usagi said before Rei's sharp elbow jabbed her ribs. "Ow! Whaddja do that for."
Rei rolled her eyes then looked at the chef. "So you knew Ranma when you were six?"
"Yeah, he used to steal okonomiyaki from my dad's yattai. We used to spar and hang out together. You say he's got a fiancée?"
"Something like that."
"I'll have to stop by and congratulate him, the stud. And a girlfriend on the side?"
"It's nothing like that!" Usagi said still rubbing the sore spot on her ribs. She stopped at a glare from Rei. "Um. It's complicated."
The chef laughed. "I'll bet it is. I wonder if he'll remember me. I named this restaurant after his nickname for me."
"Yeah. Ukyou Kuonji."
Mina had finally noticed the conversation, having been looking at a group of cute boys at the front of the restaurant. "Kuonji? Like the okonomiyaki chain?"
"Yep. My family owns the corporation. Dad wants me to prove I can handle the challenges of the business, so I set up my own restaurant."
"Wow," Mina muttered to Usagi. "Cute and rich."
"Well, I got customers to serve. Nice meeting you. Glad to know Ran-chan's doing well. Maybe I'll look him up if I ever get time."
"Yeah, sure," Rei said. The chef waved and headed off to a customer at the far end of the counter. Once he was out of earshot, Usagi turned to her.
"Why'd ya elbow me like that, Rei? I was just making conversation."
"But we don't know him. You shouldn't talk about Ranma with him."
Mina looked puzzled. "Why not? I mean, he's like so cute, and they're old friends."
"Yeah, he's almost as dreamy as Mamoru," Usagi added.
Rei looked at the chef again, busy serving customers. "I don't know. I guess I'm just being paranoid. He is cute."
"Oh, yeah. I mean, just look at that butt!" Mina drooled.
Makoto overheard. "Yeah. He reminds me of my sempai."
The giggles caused Ami to look up from her computer, where she was studying for tomorrows science quiz. "What?"
That brought more giggles…
As the Senshi departed the restaurant a half hour later, Ukyou looked up from her grill to watch them go.
"So Ran-chan has a fiancée and a girlfriend, eh? Well guess what, Ran-chan, you two-timing womanizer. Your days as a ladies man are almost over. My revenge will finally be had!"
She looked down at the okonomiyaki she had made, with the little skull face with x's for eyes, and gave a grim smile.
Unnoticed between sauce pots behind her, a Chibi Urd raised an eyebrow and rechecked her notes. There was Ukyou Kuonji: Ranma fiancée number three. Yggdrasil had been very clear she was one of the major threads affected by the wish. For good or ill, she had to come to Nerima and play her part.
Urd just wished she knew what that part was supposed to be.
Saturday afternoon found the two youngest Tendo sisters and their Chinese guest shopping at the Nerima mall. Zhu Shu had ripped another dress while giving lessons, and while she had been sewing it, Akane and Nabiki had invited her along. Thinking it would be better to try and find a better dress than attempting to repair the flimsy material, she had accepted.
Zhu Shu looked at the dress in the mirror and adjusted it across her hip, finally looking up at the sales clerk and smiling. "Zhu Shu very happy with dress. Is first dress she find in Japan she think decent."
The clerk gave her a cardboard smile. "Well, we do aim to please, and all of our cheongsams are imported from China."
"Ah. That why so good." She checked the rest of the small stack the clerk had brought out and was pleased to discover they were all imports. While they were still not of the quality she was hoping for, they were certainly far better than the ones she had currently.
"Do you like them?" Akane asked. She looked anxiously at the Chinese girl.
Zhu Shu turned to model the gold-trimmed red silk dress, noting the other girl's hopeful expression. "Yes. Zhu Shu think Akane make good suggestion of store. Thank you for bringing Zhu Shu along for shopping."
Nabiki looked over from where she was looking through some business-like dresses. "Think nothing of it. I needed to get a new outfit anyway, and Kasumi suggested we take you with us and get you some decent dresses." She looked at the short Mandarin dress Zhu Shu had on and whistled. "Damn. That does look good on you."
Zhu Shu turned to look at the back of the dress in the three way mirror. "Yes. Zhu Shu think will do fine. And like way mirror let see all of dress."
"You've never seen a three-way mirror?" Akane said.
"No. Zhu Shu never see mirror so big at all. So much Zhu Shu see she never see before. Sometimes confusing is."
"What's it like in your home village?" Akane asked.
Zhu Shu stepped back into the changing booth and closed the door. "Is much smaller than Tokyo. Only thirty house. Maybe hundred people in village. Magistrate have generator and jeep. Keep radio in Communist office. Zhu Shu think like Tokyo much better, even though much strangeness here."
Nabiki nodded. "Yeah. I guess it would seem strange to you. You've been doing fine catching up in school though."
Zhu Shu smiled. "Is very interesting. So much Zhu Shu never know she no know. She train serve and manage Emperor's household, but find so much else need learn here." She poked her head out of the changing booth to motion at the glass doors of the store that led into the mall's interior. "Like stairs that move."
Akane smiled at the memory of Zhu Shu's hesitance to step on the escalator to come to this floor. "That was rather funny."
Zhu Shu stuck her tongue out at the youngest Tendo sister. "Maybe for Akane."
She ducked her head back into the booth and emerged a second later in another cheongsam, this one white with gold plum blossoms adorning it. Akane raised an eyebrow.
"That's absolutely fabulous, but it's almost too thin. You might want to get a bra for it too."
"Zhu Shu not find one can stand. Too constricting. She do exercises keep breast firm."
"I was thinking more about the faint visibility problem than how busty you are."
Zhu Shu looked down to where her nipples were just barely detectable through the white silk. "No. Zhu Shu just need avoid get wet."
Nabiki laughed. "I think with your curse, that's going to be impossible."
"So Zhu Shu need get umbrella. Will keep Hentai Squad from shooting with water."
"Your umbrella against an entire arsenal of squirtguns? That should be fun."
"So why Nabiki sell Hentai guns in first place?"
"Hey, a girl's got to make a profit somehow."
"Nabiki! You're the one who sold them squirtguns? How could you?!"
Zhu Shu waved it away. "Zhu Shu no mind. Get better at dodge. Good practice."
"Yeah, but everyone at school thinks you're weird. And Ai's been spreading the story that you like girls."
"So? Is true. It not stop Kuno, or half boys in school try date. Zhu Shu get forty stuffies this week!"
"Well, at least they're not trying to defeat you in combat," Nabiki said wryly, with a nod at Akane.
"Yeah, but half the girls are calling her a pervert. And I've got Yuka and Sayuri asking me if the rumors are true. I don't know what to tell them."
"Tell is true. Zhu Shu no care." What was the point, really? Once she had revealed her shame, it had been inevitable that it would get out. She'd never told Shan Pu, but it had been obvious the Amazon had known, and seemed interested, Rei suspected and was curious, and now the Tendo's knew and didn't seem to care. She was beginning to enjoy the fact she didn't have to hide her preferences as much, and if those manga she had taken from some of the Hentai Squad were indicative of Japanese attitudes, she wasn't too worried about it. If anything, it seemed to show that Japanese girls could be very active that way, though she'd managed to translate little beyond the main characters names and the fact that Melon and Non were best friends. Maybe she should ask Kasumi for help translating it.
Zhu Shu folded up the rest of the dresses and tried to get the attention of the clerk, who had wandered back to her counter and was studiously ignoring her and the other shoppers in the small clothing store. She frowned. "How Zhu Shu get dress if clerk no sell?"
Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Just take them to the counter."
Zhu Shu blinked. "Ah. Very different in China. Shopkeeper try very hard sell. Clerk act like not care if buy."
Nabiki shrugged. "She doesn't. She gets paid whether you buy or not."
Zhu Shu raised an eyebrow. "Very strange." She took the dresses to the counter, Akane and Nabiki following behind her. "Zhu Shu want buy now."
The clerk pasted on another false smile. "Certainly. Will that be cash or charge?"
Zhu Shu blinked. "Not understand. What charge?"
"Just give us a total, please," Nabiki interjected.
The clerk counted up the dresses and tapped the keys on her register. "That'll be 90,000 yen." she said in a bored tone.
Zhu Shu blinked, and pulled her purse from behind her back. She pulled out a small wad of bills and started counting them.
"Wait a minute, Zhu-chan," Nabiki said. Addressing the clerk, she continued, "I think you forgot those dresses were on sale."
The clerk checked her register and then the tags on the dresses. "Okay. 70,000 yen." she said with an equal lack of emotion.
Zhu Shu had finished counting her paper money. "Zhu Shu only have 60,000." She looked at the five dresses. She really didn't want to give any of them up.
Nabiki shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I'll cover the rest. You can pay me back later."
Zhu Shu looked into her purse again. "Zhu Shu have other money. Is Chinese." She pulled out a large coin and held it up. "10, 000 yuan piece."
Nabiki looked at the coin and blinked. "Um… Zhu Shu… is that gold?"
Zhu Shu nodded.
"How many of those do you have?"
Zhu Shu looked into her bag. "Forty, fifty left. Grandfather give Zhu Shu two hundred when leave on quest."
"Do you have any idea how much those are worth?"
"10,000 yuan. Zhu Shu say already. Things not cost so much in China. Zhu Shu not have spend much for supply."
Nabiki slid a rectangle of plastic to the clerk. "Put it on my card." She closed her hand over the coin in Zhu Shu's hand. "Put those away, Zhu-chan. We're going to have to have a little talk about relative values in coinage. Then we're going to a bank to deposit those…."
By Sunday, the temporary truce between Ranma and Akane was showing signs of strain, but it was holding. While Akane and Ranma had sparred with words, no actual physical violence was in the offing yet. Akane had taken to helping Zhu Shu with her Japanese Kanji, and while they gaily conversed on topics that ranged from manga and anime to which pop star's music they liked best, Akane had been reluctant to talk about Ranma.
But finally, on Sunday evening, as they were reading the week's Sunday Digest, Akane decided she wanted to talk.
"I've been thinking all week about what you asked me." Akane said out of the blue as they were reading the latest installment of Rayearth, Akane helping Zhu Shu with the Japanese text. Zhu Shu looked up and blinked.
"If… if I loved him. I've been thinking about it. I really don't know the answer." She sat up on the bed and leaned against the wall. "I mean, in stories, it's always this huge overwhelming feeling that just hits, and wham, you're in love. I just don't know if that's what I feel."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Zhu Shu never feel either."
"But you've been in love?"
Akane sighed. "He's so aggravating! He can be so thoughtless, and he drops insults constantly. It's like he's always looking for a fight!"
"Ranma live whole life be best. Is all knows. Not know how not compete."
"You once said he didn't know 'the way of hearts'."
"No. He not know how be gentle. Must train."
"And I want a knight in shining armor, who's a perfect gentleman."
"Ranma not, but could be. Not know how. Try, but like man stumble in dark."
Akane sighed. "It's just… he's nice looking, but he's so arrogant, and to top it off, he turns into a girl. It was rather unnerving at first."
"What Akane think now?"
"I don't know really. I'm used to it now."
"Zhu Shu like he be girl. Very sexy. Body nice look at. Like look Akane too. Ranma fuller breast, but Akane more feminine. Pretty hips." She gave Akane a smile. "But Ranma too male for Zhu Shu taste, even when girl."
Akane gave her a sidelong glance and rolled her eyes. "I'm glad someone likes my hips. Ranma just says they're wide."
"No. Akane just not develop curves. Concentrate on strength, not form. Keep help with students, Akane get rounder." She stood and stretched, noting the long look Akane gave her and sighing mentally. Why couldn't Ranma see how sexy Akane was? "Think Zhu Shu look like this she if not do forms? Work hard make body pleasing to eye."
Akane sighed. "I'm never going to look like you, Zhu Shu. And you're an exception to most gymnasts with those breasts."
"Zhu Shu let Akane know secret?"
"Zhu Shu not always like her breast. Before Grandfather figure out exercise for Zhu Shu to use keep firm, she have backache all time. Exercise work, but make breast seem bigger. Now curse form bigger yet. Trust Zhu Shu, not be jealous."
"Yeah, but if I had a bust as big as yours, I'd have every guy in school drooling."
"Akane seem do already."
Akane blinked. "Well, yeah. I guess. But you know what I mean."
Zhu Shu gave her a sidelong glance. "If Zhu Shu teach exercise, Akane get bigger."
Akane laughed softly. "You think he'll stop calling me sexless then?"
Zhu Shu spread her hands. "Only time tell." She smiled as she went back to looking at the manga, thinking how wrong Ranma was with that insult. "Only time tell…."
It was a start.
To be continued.
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