A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ 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 (dow 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 Two: The Dragon's Child
Chapter Six: Hentai and Headaches
Ke Lun threw down a golden goblet in disgust. "They’re not here!" Her long black ears twitched in annoyance. "Neither of them!"
Lo Shen looked up from another pile. "I fear you are correct. There are numerous items of a magical nature, but not the two we seek."
They both looked out over the enormous piles of treasure brought back by the freed girls. The village had rejoiced when they had returned, and had cheered their triumphant entry. The girls had been quickly settled into a hastily opened barracks, the old building having been unused in a generation. The Elders had viewed the addition of a potential population boost with favor, and the addition to the treasury even more so. Even as Lo Shen and Ke Lun had scoured the recovered loot, they had been sorting and categorizing the various items.
Ke Lun scowled. "Much as I hate to contemplate talking to that thing that once was Musk, perhaps he knows where they have gone and why the prince was nowhere to be found in the fortress."
"He can no longer help what he is, Ke Lun. The spell cast upon him has turned him into little more than an animal, unable to control his base instincts. Lust and violence are about all he can express."
"And you expect me to show him compassion for this?"
"I would never expect that from you for any enemy of the Amazons, Warleader. I merely am explaining why he is how he is. Whatever has been done to him, he is still a rabid dog and will need to be put down."
Ke Lun nodded. "Shan Pu remembers him from her encounter with the prince. He was part of the royal guard. Hopefully, he will have the answers we need."
She led the way out of the elders' hall across the square to the prison, passing by the hut they had given to the visitors from Nerima as they went to interrogate Mint.
Zhu Shu watched the elders walk past as she helped Kasumi make dinner. She had helped settle in the returning fighters, doing her best to be cheerful despite the bleak faces those who had been captured wore. She had avoided prying as to exactly what had happened in the fortress to put such looks of despondency on the face of her friends and loved ones, but she had watched them worriedly all the way back to the village.
Akane currently was sitting looking out a window distractedly, not noticing she was stroking Shan Pu's hair, the Amazon's head resting on her thigh as she slept. Zhu Shu smiled softly at the evidence of unconscious feelings, but the look on everyone's faces still worried her.
Finally, she went and set down near Akane. She started as she realized Zhu Shu was there, and for just a second, fear filled her eyes. Zhu Shu's eyes filled with confusion.
"Akane. What's wrong?" she asked in Chinese, too impatient to try and formulate the question in Japanese.
Akane took a deep shuddering breath. "I know what I saw there wasn't real; that it was just something that thing showed us to torture us but it was so real," Akane replied back, also in Mandarin. Shan Pu opened an eye and gave Zhu Shu an equally forlorn look as she curled up tighter against Akane. The Japanese girl just continued to absently stroke her hair.
"It was just a phantom, Akane. Shadows thrown by that evil thing."
"I know, Zhu Shu. But I-I can't get what it showed me out of my head."
Shan Pu put her hand on Akane's knee. "It's okay, Airen. It showed me evil things as well. It showed everyone I love turned against me."
Akane finally noticed what she was doing and stopped stroking Shan Pu's hair, but she didn't move the Amazon's head from her leg. "That's sort of what I saw, too, but it was more gruesome than just rejection." She turned haunted eyes to Zhu Shu. "I saw you killing Ami and saw how you had slaughtered the other girls, and I couldn't raise my sword against you, knowing that somehow, what you were doing was all my fault. I had made you become the Black Dragon."
Zhu Shu reached out to caress her face. "It was a nightmare, Akane. Shadows meant to cause you as much pain as they could." She felt Shan Pu's hand find hers and squeeze. "I'm still me, right? Still Zhu Shu?"
Akane nodded. "Yes."
"And that horrible place has been destroyed?"
"And we have returned as triumphant heroes?"
"I suppose." Her long pink ears twitched as she smiled. "Except for the fact that we're still bunny girls."
Zhu Shu smiled and switched back to Japanese. "Is okay. Zhu Shu think ears cute."
Akane smiled. "Why'd you switch back to Japanese?" she asked in Mandarin.
"Is not polite have conversation with friends if not all understand," Zhu Shu replied.
"Is why Shan Pu use Japanese when talk to Airen. No hide what say from Airen who not know Shan Pu language. Would not be right."
Ranma looked in from the top of the window, hanging down from where he'd been sitting on the roof since they had gotten back. "You talking about me?"
Shan Pu looked up from Akane's lap and smiled. "Nihao other Airen. Shan Pu miss you."
Ranma shrugged, a move which cost him his perch on the roof. With a startled "whups", he vanished below the window, almost immediately standing and brushing himself off. "Damn thatch," he muttered before looking back in the window. "I had some things to think about."
Akane gave him a sad smile. "Bad time at the fortress too?"
Ranma shrugged again. "I guess. I don't think I killed anyone, but things were way to fast for me to be sure, and what happened to me when we got separated well ."
Akane nodded. "I understand. What I saw was horrible too. That's what we were talking about."
"I just wish I knew what was behind all that. Why go to such trouble just to capture Zhu Shu?"
Akane's eyes looked over at the Chinese girl for a long moment, her expression unreadable. "Perhaps there's more to Zhu Shu than we know."
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Zhu Shu is Zhu Shu. Heir of Clan Dragon. Servant to Imperial Court. Not care what others say. Zhu Shu is Zhu Shu."
"Oh, come on, Zhu-chan. It's the only thing that makes sense. Why else would anyone want to capture you?"
"Zhu Shu not know. Maybe find answers in Hong Kong."
Akane grimaced. "You still plan to go there?"
"Zhu Shu must. Need find answers."
"So what are we going to be looking for in Hong Kong?" Ranma asked.
"You not. Zhu Shu needs go alone, Ranma. Is for Zhu Shu honor. Ranma and Akane must go home. Zhu Shu will join as soon as can. Not think take more than week."
"And why no take blood sister?"
Zhu Shu looked back to where Shan Pu had sat up and was giving her a hard look.
"Because is matter for Zhu Shu. Shan Pu need prepare to move Japan."
"Great grandmother will not like."
Zhu Shu shook her head. "No, but Ke Lun give permission. Please, Shan Pu. Not want argue. Must be done."
Shan Pu gave her a look that told her she wasn't happy, but she conceded the point.
An explosion outside brought them all to the window to see the makeshift jail collapsing, and a black-haired rabbit girl cussed up a storm as she lifted herself up off the ground. Before her in the square, a blur sought vainly to escape from another rabbit-eared girl, who kept flickering from spot to spot around the square. Both of the bunny girls were naked.
"Great-grandmother?" Shan Pu asked, taking in the figure hauling herself to her feet. With a last curse, the figure lashed out with the cane she was still clutching and pinned the blur to the ground. There was a howl of agony as the blur resolved into Mint, now writhing around the cane that had pierced his shoulder.
"Enough of this! Where is the Kettle?"
Mint's eyes focused on Ke Lun. "Service me, and maybe I'll tell you, bitch!"
The staff twisted as Akane and Ranma winced. Mint screamed again.
"Be glad I haven't just killed you for trying to rape me, beast! Now where is the Kettle?"
Lo Shen stepped up and placed her hands on either side of the screaming boys head and muttered a cryptic phrase. Glimmers of light sparkled around her fingers as Mint suddenly calmed. His eyes glowed with a soft light.
"The Kettle has been lost for generations, gone since the days of the Amazon’s crimes against the Musk Dynasty. It was stolen by your spy, the one called Happosai. The prince is no more, but the princess has taken the ladle and the bucket to find the lost Kettle. She has been gone for days. You are too late! Herb shall find the Kettle and return, and when she does, I will make her my play-toy and I will rule the Musk! You will bow before me, woman! All will tremble beneath the heel of King Mint!" Mad laughter came from the still form. "Herb will learn her place at my feet and I will be the true Dragon Emperor!"
A sudden wave of blackness seemed to hurl both Lo Shen and Ke Lun back as Mint rose into the air, still laughing madly. He hung in the air frozen as his eyes darkened to pools of black ink and his laughter cut off suddenly. A voice chill as the grave came from his lips as his eyes fixed on the Loremaster. "So, the Amazons are a thorn in my side still. Be warned, woman, next time your tribe meddles in my plans, I will do more than make you rabbits."
With a sickening crunch, Mint's head twisted around and stared at Zhu Shu. A smile graced his lips for a last moment before whatever force held him aloft vanished and the limp body fell to the ground, blood gushing from his mouth.
"Damn," Lo Shen said. "The sorcerer must have felt my probes. Effective way to ensure we ask no more questions."
"We have what we seek. The Kettle is not in Skorpion's hands."
"It is almost worse. We cannot ask the demon master where he misplaced it! Indeed, we have been celebrating that he was sealed away for all time."
"Is there no way to contact him through the seal?"
"We might conjure his spirit to speak with, had we any sisters with the ability to perform a séance, but there has not been an Amazon witch since the loss of Pe Kabo."
Zhu Shu looked up from where she was staring at the dead wolf-boy, as stunned by the event as the other Nerimans. With a swallow, she spoke.
"Revered Elders? I may know of a witch. She is a Shinto Priestess who has abilities with spirits," she said in Chinese.
"A Shinto? She may indeed be able to help if she can summon the spirits."
Akane whispered, "You don't mean Rei, do you?"
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Sakura-san seemed to me to be surrounded by spirits. She said she seemed to be a spirit magnet."
Lo Shen nodded. "That would do nicely. We shall see about getting Tao-Ching to take you to Japan post-haste."
Zhu Shu held up a small, tiger-striped device. "No need, Revered Elder. I have a friend who can get me there much faster."
Night was falling by the time Lum arrived a half hour later, and the appearance of the tiger-striped saucer above the village caused quite a stir. The Oni herself was almost instantly besieged with Amazon girls begging her to teach them to fly, and almost universal disappointment when they found out it wasn't a martial arts technique.
The trip back to Japan was quick, Lum chattering aimlessly as she filled Zhu Shu in on everything that had happened recently, detailing a strange dream she had apparently shared with Ataru and her friends, courtesy of a dream demon.
Nurse Sakura was willing to help once Zhu Shu explained her dilemma, and a short hop in the saucer later found them on the slopes of Mount Fuji by the rock sealing Happosai's cave. Zhu Shu waited nervously as Sakura prepared her ritual. She had never spoken to a spirit before, and her memory called up all kinds of tales she had heard that one had to be careful speaking to one.
Finally, Sakura had finished her ritual, and Zhu Shu found herself standing before the small spirit of the man so many people seemed to dread. She blinked. How could such a small man be so terrible?
With a cry of "Sweeto!" the ghost latched onto her chest, his face burrowing through her dress to press between her breasts.
With a cry of disgust, Zhu Shu heaved the lecherous spirit away. "Pervert!"
"Don't be like that, sweetie! Let a poor old man have his comforts in his old age!"
She hit the ghost on the head with her sword and drove it face first into the ground as it dove for her again. "You answer Zhu Shu question!"
Happosai popped up from the ground. "Sure, sugar! Just let me have a hug!"
Zhu Shu's blade ignited in gold fire as she pinned the ghost to the ground. "You answer, or Zhu Shu make hurt very bad. You steal item Zhu Shu need. You tell now."
"Stole? I'm just a poor old man just trying to get by!" Happosai gave her big puppydog eyes. "So put upon by my wayward apprentices."
"Kaisuifuu! You take from Musk. Where now?" Zhu Shu demanded.
Happosai got cagy. "What's in it for me?"
"Nothing! You no tell, Zhu Shu cut to ribbons!"
Happosai floated up through the swords. "You can only touch my spirit form if I let you. Nothing for nothing."
Zhu Shu glared. "Fine. What pervert want?"
"Well, I can very well guess that freeing me is out." He gave her a leer. "So I want your panties!"
"You heard me, sweetie. If I can't get out, I want something to comfort me in my prison."
Sakura raised her eyebrow. "That is one perverted ghost."
Lum nodded. "I wonder if my zaks would put any sense into him?"
Sakura shook her head. "If he's like my uncle, nothing would faze him."
Lum made a sour face at the mention of Cherry, a regular bane of her existence.
Zhu Shu meanwhile had bludgeoned Happosai into the dirt again, but the ghost just floated up and laughed. "I'm not going to tell you until you give me your panties!"
Zhu Shu noted how ineffectual her blows were and growled. "Fine! You tell Zhu Shu where Kaisuifuu and she give panties!"
"No. You give me my silky darling and then I'll tell you."
Zhu Shu huffed, then reached up under her dress and took off her underwear, throwing it at the perverted ghost. "There! Now tell!"
Happosai clutched the panties and seemed to almost shiver in pleasure. "I lost it gaming," he said as he laughed maniacally. "I have no idea where to find it, but the Ladle will show the way!" He continued laughing as he faded away, taking Zhu Shu's panties with him.
"Damn!" Sakura said. "I lost him."
Zhu Shu stared at where the ghost had been in fury. Finally, she tilted back her head and screamed "Hentai!!!!!!"
With a huff, she turned and stalked back to the saucer, followed by Lum and Sakura. As the saucer hummed once more into the air, a sound like faint laughter could be heard.
The symbol-and-charm laden boulder shuddered, then cracks slowly began to form on its surface, glowing with a ruddy inner light. Almost imperceptibly, they began to grow wider as a faint sound could almost be heard.
The return to the village was a quiet affair, Lum realizing Zhu Shu was in no mood to talk. Zhu Shu apologized for being in such a bad mood, and asked if Lum could stay long enough for her to visit her home village for a short while before dropping her off in Hong Kong. Lum was certainly happy enough to do so, and spent the night at the village as Zhu Shu met with the elders
The tone of the elders when she informed them of Happosai's words was grim, and it wasn't until the next morning that Lo Shen came to apprise them of what the elders had discussed.
"At the very least, we know the Kaisuifuu is in Japan, so Herb will have to go there," Lo Shen told the Nerima crew after breakfast. "So we must ask you for aid once again. We have too few trained warriors to spare to send after Herb. The attack has left us somewhat vulnerable, and likely there will be others once the bandit lords in the lower lands hear of our reduction of the Musk fortress and the freeing of their slaves. So many defenseless women in one place will likely make them forget the lessons we taught them ten years ago. We must find Herb and retrieve the Chiisuiton. Only with it may we recover the Kaisuifuu and restore ourselves to relatively normal."
"If you can call being a bunny girl when you get wet normal," Nabiki said dryly.
"Yes. Curses do not cancel each other out." Lo Shen looked at Ranma. "I fear there is no cure for you, child. We have had unfortunates before who have fallen into the spring of drowned man. The attempt to cure was worse than the curse."
Ranma met her gaze and shrugged. "If I find one, I find one."
Lo Shen nodded. "If we can recover the Chiisuiton, we can at least unlock the curses and be ourselves sometimes."
Tao-Ching cracked his knuckles. "I'll find Herb, Loremaster. I owe him for Shan Pu's curse, and other things. I have means for finding which ship he may travel on."
"Very well. I apologize for the troubles you have had here this visit. We will hope to have a much better reception for you when we host Shan Pu's weddings. Ke Lun and Shan Pu will join you in Japan once they have their house packed up. Tao-Ching, you have my email address. Let us know at once when you have found the Chiisuiton."
Akane blinked. "You have email?"
Lo Shen smiled. "A notebook with a satellite phone. A small indulgence of mine that keeps me abreast of the world. How do you think we sent Zhu Shu's paperwork to Japan so quickly? We control the only way in or out of this region, so when her request came in by courier, I made arrangements to speed it along."
"What's your email address?" Nabiki asked.
"Amazonwiseass at Joketsuzoku dot net. I bought a domain."
Nabiki rolled her eyes.
After the meeting, Akane watched the tiger-striped saucer vanish into the south and sighed. She still wished Zhu Shu were coming back to Tokyo with them instead of heading off to Hong Kong and who knew what, but the little Chinese girl had been adamant. She looked back over the Amazon village and sighed again. Before leaving, Zhu Shu had asked her to check in on Shan Pu. She hoped eventually she'd get used to the fact that they were betrothed. She looked over at Ranma. "I'm going to go see Shan Pu."
He nodded. "Okay. I'm gonna help get the copter packed. I wonder why she was so insistent you see her alone?"
Akane shrugged. "I don't know, but she seemed a little worried. I guess I'll find out when I see Shan Pu."
She trudged into the village and to the large hut off the central square where Ke Lun and her great-granddaughter lived, and noted the signs of packing going on. She knocked politely on the door and waited till Ke Lun invited her in.
"Thank you for coming, Akane. I'm afraid Shan Pu is off running an errand for me at the moment. A bit of kindness on my part, I suppose you could say. I'm afraid we have to ask you to make a very hard decision for us, and Shan Pu is dreading your response. Your shared fiancé has left us with a bit of a mess." She pointed over to a basket on the hearth. "In there, you'll find the reason Shan Pu is so upset over Ranma's condition."
Akane raised an eyebrow and stepped over to the basket. As she did, the lid popped up slightly and a pair of luminous eyes blinked at her. Then the basket started to tip over, and with a surprised "meow", a small pink and lavender kitten rolled out to land at Akane's feet. She immediately stood with an air of "I intended to do that", and looked up at Akane. Akane couldn't overcome her immediate impulse to pick the kitten up and coo. "Oh, she's adorable!"
"She's Shan Pu's betrothal gift to you. Therefore, we have a bit of a quandary. Ranma is terrified of cats, and Shan Pu is rather attached to this one, which is why we have to ask you for help."
Akane looked down at the kitten, smiling at the small bells that mimicked Shan Pu's hair ornaments. "Oh, I can see why Shan Pu loves her. She's so cute!"
The kitten purred and bumped her head against Akane's hand. She submitted gracefully and started petting. Unseen by Akane, Ke Lun smiled.
"So daughter-in-law, what shall we do with this hideous beast? Shall I dispose of her?"
The kitten turned wide eyes on Akane, and poured on the purrs. She stood up on Akane's hand and supported herself on Akane's nose as she looked Akane in the eyes. Submit!
Akane shook her head. "No, you can't kill her! She's just a kitten!"
"Yet Ranma is scared of cats."
"She's just a kitten! Surely he can't be scared of kittens?"
Ke Lun shook her head. "I had to explain this to Shan Pu as well. The Nekoken leaves its victims with a phobia of any feline. No Amazon magic can cure a phobia, and the only other way to cure one requires a lot of time, patience, and love."
Akane nodded. "I read about that in one of the magazines at Doctor Tofu's. Something about repeated exposure."
"Yes. Small doses of the item that evokes the phobia over time can cure it, but Ranma's phobia is severe." Ke Lun came over and stood before Akane.
"Daughter-in-law. You must understand that it is my sincerest desire to cure Ranma of this fear. I do not like seeing my son-in-law crippled in this way, but I cannot do it alone, and as yet, Shan Pu is not able to help. I know my granddaughter is direct, and that you both are uncertain as to your feelings for her, but that means that however good her intentions, any attempts to help cure Ranma's phobia on her part would be ill received."
Akane nodded. "You want me to decide to keep the kitten in the hopes that her presence will make Ranma less afraid."
"That is my intention, yes. Shan Pu cannot do this because she has not yet won Ranma's heart as he has won hers. You have both of their hearts, Akane. She is hoping your love for Ranma will help where hers will not."
The kitten looked at her with big pleading eyes, blinking hopefully, and mewed as if to ask, "Please?" Akane had to smile. The kitten was just so cute, and seemed to be trying so hard to be likeable.
"Shan Pu was going to give her to me as a betrothal gift?"
Ke Lun nodded. "She had hoped to give her to you after the ceremony, but And now, she cannot bear the thought you might not wish her."
Akane hugged the kitten to a pleased purr. "Of course I want her! She's wonderful!"
Ke Lun smiled. "Then you accept this task? To aid in helping Ranma at least not fear this cat?"
Akane missed the emphasis; too busy laughing as the kitten batted at one of her pink bunny ears. "Yes. I will try to get Ranma to overcome his fear of cats. I don't like having a fiancé who goes psychotic feline. Shan Pu acts enough like a cat as it is; I don't need Ranma doing it too."
The kitten nipped her lightly. Akane looked down. "Hey, I'm not bad-mouthing cats. Or Shan Pu." She looked at Ke Lun. "Intelligent little thing, isn't she?"
Ke Lun nodded. "Quite. Shan Pu was heartbroken after learning of Ranma's phobia. She's grown quite attached."
"What's her name?"
"Shan Pu hasn't named her. That was for you."
Akane smiled. "Then I'll call her China. Because she's my gift from my Chinese fiancée."
Ke Lun smiled. "China sounds like a fine name. Shan Pu and I will be arranging our affairs here for a fortnight before moving to Tokyo. Until then, just take care of China and try to get Ranma used to the idea of her being around."
Akane nodded. "You know, when I first met you, you seemed like a mean old woman."
"I am a mean old woman, Akane. Just ask anyone who opposes me. But I care for Shan Pu's happiness, and through her, yours and Ranma's. My son-in-law may be the finest warrior I've seen for his age, but he's still got much to learn, as do you and Shan Pu. I plan to insure that learning takes place. This is just a first step towards undoing the harm Genma Saotome and his Master's teachings have done to Ranma. Happosai was a master of the Anything Goes School, but he was a irresponsible, dissolute wretch, and he trained both of your fathers to be the same. You are fortunate indeed that Soun did not take you on a training trip such as Ranma’s."
Akane smiled. "I don't think Mom would have let him. She wasn't from a rich family like the Saotomes. I gather Genma was allowed to go to save the family from the scandal. Mom would never allow dad to commit a scandal."
Ke Lun smiled. "I have to admire that then. It is very hard to lose your mother when you are young. Shan Pu has done well, but I there are times I know she still feels Par Fume's loss intensely."
"Shan Pu's mom is dead too?"
"Yes. She died when Shan Pu was just six years old. Bandits raided our village and while we beat them off, Par Fume was among the casualties."
The kitten meowed sadly. Akane nodded. "Mom died of an illness. I was only seven. Most of my memories of her are smiles." She petted the kitten as it nuzzled her arm, comforting. "I guess we have a little more in common than I suspected."
"Yes. In part, we are taking two weeks to move to give you both time to reflect on the changes in your life. You have accepted Shan Pu as a future wife, Akane. By Amazon law, that is binding. We don't have divorces. Shan Pu will be your mate as much as Ranma's."
Akane looked away from the young seeming elder. "I-I know. I meant what I said at the ceremony. I will try to learn to love her."
"Good. That is all I ask."
Akane nodded. "I owe Zhu Shu too much to do anything else, elder."
Akane smiled. "Great-grandmother."
It was, of course, disastrous.
China was instantly loved by Akane's sisters, and Ranma ran screaming. It took Akane the better part of an hour to find the boy sitting in a tree outside the village. "I'm sorry," he said as she approached, very carefully looking away from her and China. "I did hear you tell Nabs and Kasumi that Shan Pu had gotten her for you as a betrothal gift. I won't ask you not to have her."
"Ranma, I know you don't like cats—"
"It's not that I dislike them, Akane. It's that every time I see one I remember the yowls and the claws and the teeth in the dark. I'm six years old and back in that pit with them smothering me and clawing me and biting and chewing—" He shuddered. "I just can't help it."
Akane nodded sadly. "I know. But Ke Lun said constant mild exposure to a cat may eventually cure you of that fear. And China is as cute and harmless a kitten as you could hope to find. She's harmless."
China mewed in agreement. Ranma shuddered. "So the old woman thinks it may cure me? If I can learn to stand being around a cat?"
"Yes. She said it's the only way. And it's not a guarantee. But if you’re strong enough and have the will power, that you can beat the fear, instead of it beating you." Akane replied, hoping the phrasing that Ke Lun suggested would have the desired effect.
It did. Ranma stood. "Beat the fear. Yeah. Nothing can beat me."
Akane raised her eyebrow. She should have thought of that. Appeal to his ego. "Yes. Of course, if you're such a weakling that a little bitty kitty scares you "
"I ain't afraid of nuttin!" He jumped down from the tree and froze as China immediately pounced on his ankle to rub and purr. He froze.
Akane let China nuzzle for a few seconds before calling, "China, here kitty." The kitten gave Ranma a forlorn look then bounced back over to Akane.
Ranma somehow managed to form a grimace he probably thought was a smile. "S-s-s-s-s-see! N-n-n-n-no p-p-p-p-roblem!"
Akane smiled. "That's wonderful." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "We're leaving in a half hour. I'm going to go get China's basket ready."
Ranma blinked and sighed as she turned to walk away. "I can do this!" he muttered to himself. "It's only a c-c-c-c-c-c-cat!" He turned and punched the tree. "I can do this!"
The tree trunk shattered and Ranma looked up in horror as the tree started to fall towards him. He narrowly dodged out of the way as Akane looked back. She smiled.
"I know you can, Ranma. Nobody can beat you!"
Ranma looked after her as she disappeared into the gate, then shrugged and chalked it up to the rest of the weird things that had happened here in China.
Zhu Shu stood next to the small shrine and smiled at the wild flowers decorating it. It looked like Grandfather had remembered. She placed the flowers she had brought on the shrine as well and knelt to light the small brazier. Every year since Ying Ying had died, she had done the same, yet this year, it was different. She felt the faint traces of the link that still remained and smiled at that sense of Ying Ying's presence that still faintly clung to it, smiling as she began to burn the flowers one by one. She watched the smoke carry the spirits away to Ying Ying and smiled.
"It is rare to see you smile, Little Mouse."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Yes, Grandfather. I have found a sort of peace at last with her loss." She had known he would feel her presence and come to the small shrine she had built to Ying Ying.
Shi nodded. "I had hoped your quest would help such an event to occur. I am glad to see that it is happening."
Zhu Shu nodded. "I have learned much since I left the village, Grandfather. More than I would have ever thought possible." She turned to look at him. "And much, it seems, I should have known. Why do the Amazons treat Clan Dragon so reverently? I have just come from there, and I had had elders treat my words as if they are royal commands. I am the daughter of servants, yet they do not treat me as such."
Shi shook his head. "No, I expect they would not. We are servants to the Emperor, Little Mouse, but we also carry the last of the true blood within us. You are the last true Heir to the Song Dynasty. We are all descendants of Song Lin Tzu, the Dragon Empress, and those of her entourage that survived The Silencing." He sighed. "History has forgotten the Empress, but we have not, nor have the Joketsuzoku."
Zhu Shu closed her eyes and sighed. "I had hoped Artemis was incorrect. I do not wish to be the heir to a throne. I am content to be who I am."
"You never had a choice, Little Mouse. You have always been the Heir. I fear that is why my daughter resents you so. You are pure blood, and a direct descendant, where she is not. I fear I did not see how much she resented you until recently. Still, she has taught you well, though more harshly that I realized. I have been too secluded in my pagoda it seems. Ke Lun had much to say on the topic when she visited. Including that you are blood-sister to her great-granddaughter."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Great Grandmother said you approve."
Shi nodded. "I do. Though it delays your own quest, helping your blood-sister is the honorable thing to do. She says as well that you have taken students?"
"I have. They are warriors in need of instruction in the art of war. I have been teaching them to aid them in their fight against those who would enslave the world." She gave her grandfather a hard look. "As it seems our ancestors once did."
Shi raised an eyebrow. "The Moon Princess? She has been reborn?" He stepped closer "And her Guardians?"
Zhu Shu nodded. "They are my students, grandfather." She looked away. "And one seeks to see if she can be more."
Shi nodded. "Mars was ever drawn to the Empress. Yet never were they married. Her ties to the Moon Kingdom were stronger than the ties of her heart."
Zhu Shu sighed. "I do not care, grandfather. She has sought my attentions, and for so long as she desires, she will share them."
Shi sighed as well. "Very well, Little Mouse. I do not say I approve, but I will not stand against this, so long as you do not abandon your quest for a husband." He laid a hand on Zhu Shu's shoulder. "Ke Lun said your blood-sister has offered you her hand as a sister-wife, and that her betrothed has your interest as well. I have no objections to your wedding Shan Pu and her husband. As blood-sister, her children would be yours as well, and your children hers. Clan Dragon has always been strengthened by Amazon blood. Had Ke Lun accepted my attentions when we were both young, she would have been my wife. Is this not a solution you will accept?"
Zhu Shu looked down at her feet. "I-I cannot, Grandfather. Shan Pu is betrothed to another female as well. Though I love Shan Pu, it is her other betrothed, Akane, who I love more. And though I love Ranma as well, I cannot in good conscience marry with them. My heart is not divided equally between them, and that will lead to tensions I do not desire to inflict." She raised her eyes and met Shi's. "And I have been told the Dragon has other plans for me."
Shi raised an eyebrow, but made no other comment.
Zhu Shu turned and undid her dress, then pulled it off to show the tattoo. "Ying Ying showed me in dreams what the Dragon intends, Grandfather. She was the flower, Akane is the tiger, yet it is with the other symbols that my ribbons are entwined. My quest will not be finished until those symbols are revealed as the people they represent. You are the one who told me the Dragon has marked me, Grandfather, and you have always taught me that the Dragon will guide and protect us. I will go where the Dragon wills, and hope that it is not the bleak and loveless future I have seen for so long."
"Put your dress back on, Little Mouse. I know the patterns of your tattoo all too well." Shi turned to look back out over the cliff behind the small shrine as Zhu Shu redressed. "Very well. I will not push you in your quest for now. He looked down the high cliff, his eyes focusing on a spot at its bottom as he sighed. "But it is hard, child. I fear there may be much heartbreak in the path the Dragon has chosen for you."
Zhu Shu nodded. "I thank you for caring." She sighed. "There is more I must tell you, grandfather."
His eyes rose from the cliff's foot as her turned to face her once more. "Yes, child?"
"I-I have killed, grandfather. In Japan, I was beset by three warriors of Clan Skorpion and was forced to slay them."
Shi's reaction was unexpected. She blinked as his swords appeared in his hands blazing with blue chi and he sliced the top off a large boulder. "Damn him! Must he still hound our footsteps? Was not the destruction of our home enough?" He followed with a stroke to the center of the boulder that shattered it. He turned to Zhu Shu his eyes blazing. "Where did they find you?"
Zhu Shu blinked. "In Beijing. But they were from Hong Kong. And they have attacked the Joketsuzoku. Not two days ago they invaded the Amazon village and slew many warriors, aided by the Musk. The Musk are no more, and I go to Hong Kong to see what occurs there. The Senshi have detected a huge magical surge there that I suspect is Clan Skorpion. I am going—"
"No, you are not! You will go back to Japan!"
"No, Grandfather, I will not. The Skorpion have slain my blood-sister's kin, cursed them to be half animal along with Akane and her sisters and Ranma's mother, and have attempted to kidnap me! A sorcerous being of shadows sought to deliver me like a prize to some one named Xi'an Chi, and I must find out why!"
"Because you are the Heir! Because he has always sought the power of the Dragon! You cannot fight him, Zhu Shu. He is beyond you. He is the reason I have never left this valley, why your parents died rather than betray your location. He wants every last child of Lin Tzu dead, and the power of the Dragon for his own. You cannot go to Hong Kong if he is there."
"I must. I will not live my life in fear of him, see my friends suffer because of him!"
"You will not go!"
"She must," a quiet voice broke in.
They both turned to see a ghostly figure standing by the shrine. Shi turned pale as Zhu Shu smiled. "Ying Ying!"
"Hello, beloved." She held up a bouquet of wild flowers, as pale and transparent as she was. "Thank you for the flowers." Turning towards Shi she added. "And to you as well, Weapons Master. Please forgive me, but I was requested to deliver a message. The Dragon's Child must face the Lord of Shadows and free the Banshee. This is her destiny. Do not stand against it."
"No! He is too strong!"
"She will not face him alone. She may not need to face him directly at all. You know what must be, Shi."
Shi turned to face away from the ghost. "Yes."
Zhu Shu looked at him curiously, but decided now was not the time to pry. She turned to Ying Ying. "What is going on, beloved?"
Ying Ying turned look at her. "What must, beloved. More than that I cannot say."
Zhu Shu grimaced. "Why must everyone speak in riddles?"
Ying Ying gave her a sad look. "I am sorry, love. I am not permitted to say more."
Zhu Shu sighed. "Very well." She smiled at the spirit. "I am glad to see you again, outside of dreams."
Ying Ying smiled. "Your love and prayers opened the door for me here, but I cannot stay long. Already my strength is failing. The mortal world is not for spirits."
Zhu Shu stepped close. "Yet I know now you are real, not a figment of my dreams."
Ying Ying smiled again as she faded. <<Always and forever. I am here>>
With a whisper of wind she was gone, the last smoke from the fading brazier taken by the breeze. Zhu Shu closed her eyes for a long second as the faint scent of flowers faded, then asked. "What is your answer, Grandfather?"
Shi's hands clenched around the hilts of his swords, and his words were strained. "It is not my place to say, apparently, Little Mouse. The Dragon bids you go. I must obey." He sighed as his swords disappeared. "Am I to be forever confined to this valley?" he asked the air.
The faint breeze stirred the dust before the shrine and for a few seconds, the Dragon Mandala formed. A faint whisper echoed around the cliff, a vibration in the air that might have been a trick of the ear. Zhu Shu strained to make it out, but it made no sense to her ear. As the Mandala faded, Shi sighed. "I will not stop you, Little Mouse, but I beg you. Be careful. If you can avoid him, do. Alone, you stand no chance against him. For all my skill at arms, I was as a babe before his wizardry. In the end, it was only by the actions of a woman I had hated, that I had seen as a betrayer, that allowed me to escape with my wife and daughter." He motioned for Zhu Shu to sit.
"There is much I have kept from you, child, in hopes that it would keep you safe. I see now that that was a vain hope. The stories I have told you about your great-great grandfather are my tales, Little Mouse. Three hundred years ago, I was the Weapons Master of our clan, and we were strong. I was proud of our might, and arrogant. The Princess of the Musk, Clove, sought my hand, but I was married, and she was vain and petty. I could have avoided what befell had I accepted her desires and taken her as a second wife. My refusal angered her, and Xi'an Chi used that to inflame a war between Musk and Dragon. We believed ourselves strong enough to stand alone. We were wrong. Xi'an Chi strengthened her troops with magic, and as I sought to escape, the sole surviving heir, he tracked me to a place called Jusenkyo and captured me with Clove at his side. She learned then that Xi'an Chi's promises were lies, that he had never intended to deliver me to her as he had claimed, and that he planned my death. Her last words to me were "I have always loved you" as she turned on Xi'an Chi. She gave her life that I might escape with Mu and Su Yi. My last sight of her was from the cliffs above the springs."
Zhu Shu's breath had caught at the word Jusenkyo. "Grandfather, you know of Jusenkyo?"
Shi nodded. "The Cursed Springs have been around for as long as history records, child."
Zhu Shu bit her lip. "Grandfather, I have been to Jusenkyo. I met Ranma there."
Shi buried his face in his hands. "Please, Little Mouse. Tell me you touched no water from the springs."
"I-I cannot, Grandfather. Ranma knocked me into one as he himself fell into another."
Shi shook his head. "Little Mouse, Little Mouse. What do you become?"
Zhu Shu took out her small water pouch and poured it over her head. Shi stared a long moment before burying his face in his hands again. "So, she became a victim of the springs. At least I know that she died quickly for defying Xi'an Chi, instead of slowly."
"Grandfather?" Zhu Shu asked puzzled.
"Clove, Little Mouse. The Musk Dynasty has mixed its blood with that of beasts for strength. The Royal family bears the blood of a black dragon. Clove was the daughter of their Lord and the dragon, and he was a son of a marriage between Musk and Dragon. The war twixt us was over who was the rightful Child of the Dragon." He laughed bitterly. "Oh, Little Mouse. You have always resembled my wife, Mu, and now, you bear the likeness of Clove as well. Is my past intended to forever haunt me?"
Zhu Shu bowed her head. "I am sorry, Grandfather. It was not my intention to bring you pain."
"I know, Little Mouse." He sighed. "And yet, you are even more so touched by the Dragon. I shall not question it further." He gently lifted Zhu Shu’s head to look into her eyes. "Be warned, though. Black dragons are quick to anger, and their rage burns like a fire. Clove was ever ruled by her anger, and while it made her strong, it also made her careless. Do not let the rage rule you, Little Mouse, or it may consume you as it did her."
Zhu Shu nodded. "I have struggled against it already, grandfather. I will do my best."
Shi nodded. "Will you share dinner with us?"
Zhu Shu shook her head. "I am sorry, grandfather. A friend waits above to take me to Hong Kong."
"Yes, I noticed the strange craft and your curious friend."
"Lum has been generous in granting me transport today, and I do not wish to make her late for her date tonight with her own betrothed."
"No. Very well, Little Mouse. I will give your greetings to your aunt and tell her you are well. Do not make me a liar."
"I will be careful, Grandfather."
"Be far more than that, Zhu Shu. Be far more than that."
The flight back to Nerima was uneventful, Kuno having been pummeled into unconsciousness early in the trip and China sleeping in her basket out of Ranma's sight. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the Tendo house came into sight, complete with a brand new, reinforced dojo. As the limos pulled to a stop in front of the house, the voodoo priest waved to them from where he was finishing painting the trim around the dojo door, then blinked at the bunny ears. Nabiki waved him over.
Sandal gave her a huge smile. "You bein' a bunny girl now. You get hit with curse water too?" he said in his usual English.
Nabiki nodded. "Find answer. No cure for curse."
Sandal looked crestfallen. "Damn. Shud'a know me voudoun not give me sumtin' that can be fixed." He shrugged. "Guess I'm out'a luck."
Nabiki nodded. "Still need carpenter. Stay?"
Sandal shrugged. "Got nowhere ta go. A 'coons a 'coon anywhere in da world." He switched to Japanese. "Doe moe airy got to."
Nabiki smiled at the lousy Japanese. "You're welcome," she replied in English.
China, for her part, had immediately commandeered Akane for some petting before letting her unpack her clothes. She finally relented after ten minutes and watched from the bed as Akane hung up the dress she had been betrothed in. Akane smiled at China as she noticed her watching.
"Your mistress gave me this pretty dress. Do you like it?"
China meowed approvingly. Akane twirled it around her like a dance partner. "I do have to admit, Shan Pu has nice taste in clothing." She gave the kitten a mock severe glance, "but don't you tell her, or I'll have to cut off your milk supply."
China did her best to look innocently angelic. Akane laughed and hung the dress in her closet. "I swear, you are the most intelligent kitty I've ever seen. I wonder what breed you are."
China studiously washed her paw, then looked up at Akane. "Meow?" She blinked hopefully.
Akane laughed and started petting her again. "And affectionate, too." She picked the cat up and hugged her, China purring happily. "Oh, I'm so happy Shan Pu gave you to me."
China closed her eyes and purred louder.
Ranma was checking out the dojo with Genma and Soun, noting the heavily reinforced framework with approval. The construction company had done a good job of rebuilding it as it had been, while incorporating the improvements with a minimum of disruption to the traditional decor. Soun was crying tears of happiness.
Ranma tested the floor, approving of the solidness. He checked around the rest of the main room and smiled. Now he'd really be able to cut loose without worrying about the building falling down. He was doing a few kata to loosen up when Soun left and Genma called to him.
"Yeah, Pops. What is it?"
"Son, I wanted to say that you handled yourself well in China."
Ranma raised his eyebrow. "Um Okay."
Genma glared. "Your mother insisted I tell you that, so make sure she knows I did." He huffed. "Still, you did quite well in defending your brides and upholding the honor of the Saotome name. However, you allowed yourself to be captured by that shadow creature. I expect better of the heir to the Anything Goes School."
"Like you did any better, you bamboo munching idiot?!"
"We will begin your training from the beginning! Prepare yourself!"
Several minutes later, Kasumi looked out the kitchen window at the noise coming from the dojo and smiled. How nice of the Saotomes to test out the new construction. She listened to the impacts for a few seconds and smiled even wider. It sounded like it was quite sturdy. Now Akane and Ranma could spar in the mornings comfortably. Her ears twitched happily as she finished cleaning the counters. So much dust from the building!
The next morning found Ranma and Akane walking to school.
"I really wish you wouldn't have China at the breakfast table, Akane. I didn't get nothin to eat!"
"It's not my fault that you just froze and didn't eat."
"I was trying to. But she kept looking at me and meowing!"
"She was just trying to tell you how much she liked her milk and the fish Kasumi made her." She gave him a sidelong look. "Besides, you made yourself scarce yesterday. How am I supposed to get you used to her if you're running away?"
"I wasn't running! Dad was 'teaching' me since I had the misfortune to be captured by that shadow thing," he groused. "Like he hadn't been caught too."
Akane nodded. "I know. It was horrible. I-I found myself facing Zhu Shu, but a evil version of her, like she'd been taken over by one of those things the Senshi fight. She She'd killed the girls, and all I could think of was how I was the only person in the world who could stop her. But I couldn't, because she was what she had become because of me." Akane hugged herself. "I can't explain it, or what I might have done. I just knew overwhelmingly that it was my fault."
Ranma sighed. "I didn't run into anything like that." He looked down at the canal. "But it was just as horrible for me."
"What happened to you?"
He looked at her. "You promise you won't laugh?"
Akane stopped, and looked at him curiously. "I promise I won't laugh, Ranma. Nothing that thing did was funny."
Ranma grimaced. "No." He jumped down from the fence. "I guess it reached inside us and use our secret fears. Mine was losing myself."
Akane tilted her head. "Losing yourself?"
"Yeah, to my girl side. I-I came into a room, and saw myself — my girl side — in bed with three guys. And she was doin' all three. And she was enjoyin' it." He shuddered. "I know you like my girl side, and it was fun playing with you as a girl, but I don't ever want to think about doin' nuthin' with a guy. And then, she got out of the bed and dragged me into it, as a girl, and I couldn't escape, or fight, or do anything." He looked out over the canal. "And she kept saying over and over to forget about being a boy, that I really wanted to be a girl, and and I was starting to believe her. If Kuno hadn't killed that thing "
Akane put her arm around his shoulders. "It's okay, Ranma. It was just an illusion. No matter how real it seemed."
"I know. But I just can't stop wondering if those illusions were somehow maybe visions of what might happen. Am I going to forget I'm a guy? This damn curse keeps making me a girl whenever it gets near water. And you like girls as much as guys, and Shan Pu likes girls as much as guys. Am I going to get so used to being a girl that I forget I'm not one?"
Akane smiled. "Don't worry about it, Ranma. I like guys too. I'm not going to settle for you being a girl full time." She stepped against him and ran a hand over his chest. "Trust me. I think you're worrying too much. I can't wait to marry you and show you why I want you as a guy too." She reached up to pull his head closer and kissed him.
Ranma stood stunned as Akane's lips locked onto his and her tongue began doing interesting things with his. A wave of dizziness rolled over him along with a sense of happiness. Then the kiss broke and he looked up at her, his breasts heaving against hers as they embraced.
Breasts? He looked down, then up at the truck that had just gone by spraying water to wash away the dust on the sidewalk. Akane smiled wryly.
"Great. Now we're both water magnets. And my curse is still locked. Tao-Ching better find that boat Herb is on quick."
Ranma nodded, still light-headed. "Uh-huh."
Akane smiled. "Dazed and confused. Wow, what a great compliment on my first deliberate kiss." She whistled happily as she grabbed Ranma by the arm and led him off towards the clinic for hot water before school.
Behind them in the bushes, China nodded to herself, and wondered back towards the house, purring.
Tao-Ching put down the phone and smiled. His contacts had come through. He looked over at his laptop and debated letting Lo Shen know, then shook his head. Herb owed him too much personally.
He stood and stripped off the suit coat and tie. Approaching a blank section of wall, he pressed a combination of tiles in the mosaic, and cracked his knuckles as the wall quietly slid aside. Picking up the nine-millimeter, he checked its action and safety before tucking it in the shoulder holster and strapping the harness on. A military black jacket went over it, along with a pocket of extra magazines. Following that, he fastened a belt that held numerous magazines for his AK-47 and picked up the combat rifle.
It was finally time to pay Herb back.
To be continued.
|Book 2, Chapter 7|
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