Chapter 16: A Moment, A Day, A Lifetime
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s happened so far (or what you really need to know to enjoy this fic.) In the beginning the Saotome’s traveled to Jusenkyou to spar, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a duel there. One mid-air collision and bath in Spring of Young Drowned Man later we have a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. (So Ranma= male Ranma. Ranma-chan= female Ranma. Shampoo= female. Shampoo Shampoo-kun= male Shampoo. Enjoy) Shampoo elected to travel to Japan with Ranma and briefly became engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up Ranma became engaged to Akane. On the first day of school water and confusion mixed leaving everyone believing Ranma-chan is Shampoo and Shampoo-kun is Ranma. Now all the girls swoon at the handsome “Ranma.” and constantly throw themselves at him. In the months that followed many battles with a bizarre variety of opponents ensued. It was eventually discovered that any Amazon cursed by Nanniichuan is guilty of a crime and has to stand trial, the punishment being death. In the last chapter Perfume, an old rival of Shampoo’s from China that was inadvertently cursed in Jusenkyou, tried one last time to kill her adversary. Perfume fell in defeat. Mousse showed up with some Nyanniichuan to cure Shampoo, but made the condition that in order to use it on herself she had to agree to marry him. Shampoo took the Nyanniichuan and used it on Perfume rather than marry Mousse. With that sacrifice, Perfume declared their blood feud at an end and went back to China, while Cologne has accepted the fact Shampoo is not going to be cured until the curse is done with her. Now Ranma has to deal with the fact Ryouga has been taught the Shi Shi Houkoudan by Happosai, and in a fit of jealousy over Ukyou, intends to kill Ranma…
Author’s notes: References to Principal Kunou and Gompachi Chabane are explained at the end of the story. Fuji and Kamiya are the names of the two zoo attendants from chapter 2. Captain Ai, Kyoko, Kaede, Megumi, and Ayeka are the names of the Furinkan Cheerleader Squad.
Part 1: Deus Ex Machina
Ryouga wandered around, as usual, looking for his residence. It was important to him he find it on his own this time. He had to tell her goodbye. It was not his fault things had turned out the way they did.
His hunger got the better of him and he finally wandered into a restaurant only to discover it was very familiar. He had come home. The restaurant was empty at the moment, save for Ukyou working behind the counter. She glanced up and smiled warmly at Ryouga.
“Welcome back. I missed you.”
He blushed with embarrassment. “I had some things to take care of.” He stared at her. This was going to be the last time he would see her, taking in her form with his eyes. She was the only person that had treated him like an equal instead of some stupid idiot that could not find his way out of a bathroom, and now he was watching her for the final time. His impulse was to give her some gift and tell her he was going on a far off journey, one last effort to run and hide, but not this time. He would make his stand.
“Uk-chan.” He had not called her that for some time, but it seemed appropriate now. “I realize you’ve,” this was turning out harder than he thought it would be. “You’ve fallen in love with someone. Well, I won’t get in the way. If I stay here it would only make things bad for the two of you, so I’m leaving. I just,” his voice started to break as the urge to run became stronger. “I just wanted to say goodbye one last time.”
Ukyou had a look of total bewilderment on her face. She made an odd gesture with her hand and moved it behind the grill, then began speaking. “Sugar, what are you talking about?”
He felt his heart break some more. She was going to force him to say everything, causing a replay of the events in his mind. That horrible moment he saw Ukyou and Ranma kissing. “I just wish the two of you all the happiness in the world.” Well, one of them happiness anyway. The other he was going to leave a bloody smear. As he thought about the painful death that he was going to inflict on Ranma something occurred to him; the way things stood now, Ukyou would think of him fondly, but if he really killed (or hurt severely) Ranma, then she would hate him instead. He wanted to keep her friendship, even knowing he would never see her again. It would keep him warm on those cold lonely nights, knowing there was someone out there in the world who did care for him. What was he to do now? He had just reached another no-win situation in his life, just like all the others.
Ukyou seemed to be struggling with something out of view behind the grill and continued talking to Ryouga. “All right. As I see it, you eavesdropped on part of a private conversation and are making some kind of snap judgment that will impact on our entire lives, without asking me a thing about it.” She saw Ryouga squirm a little at that. He understood her point on the first try. Good. “I’m a bit disappointed with you.”
“And she ain’t the only one you bloodsucking rodent!” said Ranma as he finally got away from Ukyou’s attempts at keeping him out of sight behind the grill. “You actually think I would do something like that to Ucchan?!”
Ryouga began to quiver in anger. “RANMA! What were you doing behind that grill?” All sorts of weird ideas went through Ryouga’s mind as to what Ranma would be doing to Ukyou while on his hands and knees out of sight behind the grill. All of them only served to make Ryouga’s anger grow.
“I was fixing it. Since it’s YOUR job and you weren’t around to repair it, I volunteered.” Ranma balled his fist and made ready to ‘explain’ to Ryouga just how stupid the youth was being when Ukyou placed a restraining hand on him.
“Now, now, Ranchan. Allow me to deal with this.” She hopped over the grill and approached Ryouga, speaking to him in a honeyed voice. “So, you think that Ranma and I are having an affair and you’d just be in the way? That’s so… Oh, what’s the right word for it?” She paused in thought for a moment, and then snapped her fingers. “I know!”
She drew her giant spatula and flattened it on his skull. “STUPID, YOU JACKASS!!!” She paused for a moment to make certain the blow took. “Why can’t you ever ask for an explanation instead of jumping to some idiotic conclusion?! What if you had just decided to head for the hills and hadn’t come by at all? I would never have seen you again, and it would all have been because of some stupid misunderstanding.”
“Mis… under… standing?” The truth was making its way through the spatula and into Ryouga’s head.
“Yes. Misunderstanding. That was a friendly kiss I gave him because he was feeling really depressed. It wasn’t a romantic one. We’re just friends, and if you had bothered to ask me about it, I could have told you.”
“Yeah, you dummy,” Ranma added. “As if I would play around with Ucchan’s feelings like that. The two of us are just friends. Close friends.” He gave a warm smile to Ukyou who returned it even as she left the spatula on Ryouga’s head, “but just friends.”
Ryouga recovered enough to pull his head out from under the spatula and begin speaking again, paying full concentration to playing with his fingers as he spoke. “So what you’re trying to say is, there isn’t anything going on between you two?”
Ranma could have slapped the human bat. “Yeah. That’s the point we’ve been trying to tell you.”
“Oh. Okay.” Ryouga began to smile when he remembered one other important detail. “Ummm. Ranma. I might have to kill you.”
“What are you talking about?” Ukyou exclaimed. “I just explained everything to you. You don’t have to lay a finger on Ranchan.”
“I do. Sort of. You see,” Ryouga was becoming really afraid. “I kind of was depressed and made a deal with Happosai to beat Ranma up.” As it turned out his fears were justified.
“RYOUGA, YOU JACKASS!!!” A second tremendous spatula blow found its way to the mark. “How could you agree to anything that little pervert would do? I’m really hurt by that.”
Ryouga managed to mumble out a “sorry,” then started telling the story of the deal and learning the Shi Shi Houkoudan.
“We have to figure out how to get around that promise,” Ukyou said as Ryouga finished.
“Maybe Ranma could throw the fight?” Ryouga suggested.
“I don’t throw fights,” Ranma responded. “Ever.”
“Well, we have to do something.” Ukyou began to ponder the problem they were facing, when she noticed both the guys get an eager look on their faces as they began to speak. She decided to cut them off before they began. “And no. I will not allow the two of you to really fight it out. I don’t want to see either of you hurt.” They moved to speak once more but were cut off again. “No. There is no way you can guarantee neither of you will be hurt, and if you want me to speak to either of you ever again, you will not fight it out.” That was the nail in the coffin, both guys relaxed as all three tried to come up with a plan, but it was to no avail.
“Well, get out your wallets, boys and girls. We’re going to hit the most devious person that ever walked Nerima.” Ranma said.
“Who’s that?” Ryouga asked.
“The woman who has all the answers, for the right price. The girl who would be my future sister-in-law, if there were a snowball’s chance in hell of me marrying Akane. Good ole’ Nabiki Tendo.” All three began looking through their wallets to see if they were going to have enough to cover the price of advice.
The people had gathered at the appointed showdown in one of the forests outside of Nerima. The sides were even as Happosai, Ukyou, and Ryouga stood off on one side if the battleground staring across at the opposition: Ranma, Shampoo, and Akane.
“Ranma. I’ll cut you a deal. I’ll make Ryouga give up the promise if you’ll wear these.” The perverted one pulled out a pair of red silk panties and matching lacy bra. “When you’re a girl, of course. No repeats like that training trip we had,” he quickly added.
Ranma recoiled in disgust. “Forget it, you old goat. I ain’t ever wearing anything like that.”
“Why won’t you ever listen to your master?” Happosai began sniffling. “It’s for your own good. It’ll make you a better martial artist.”
“Cross-dressing doesn’t have anything to do with martial arts!” Ranma snapped back.
“That’s right,” Ryouga added. “Ranma does it just for fun.”
Ranma began moving forward until Akane put a restraining hand on him. “Don’t worry Ranma. I know you can beat him.”
Ukyou berated Ryouga. “Don’t you dare prod him like that again.”
Happosai drifted over to Ukyou. “Since Ranma won’t wear these pretty things, how about you? I think you’d make a good model. Those long legs, those firm buttocks, that…” His hands started to drift off for a closer examination of the body parts he was describing when his speech got cut short. A large spatula had hammered him into the ground.
“Ranma’s right. You are a disgusting pervert!” Ukyou said as she admired her handiwork.
Ryouga pulled the master out of the ground by his neck. “And if you ever try to do anything like that to Ukyou again, I’ll unload another one of those Shi Shi Houkoudans on you.”
Happosai squirmed out of Ryouga’s grasp and relented. “All right, all right. Just beat up Ranma.” The master wriggled in anticipation. Once Ranma was rendered helpless he would dress her up in the lingerie and admire her beauty. That, and the punishment Ranma deserved for keeping the master from his rightful quest to rescue all the world’s underwear, would make him happy.
The two boys walked forward and met in the middle of the field of battle. Each one gave the other a look of contempt.
“This is it, Ranma. This is the day you finally end up beaten.”
“Guess again, Bat-boy,” Ranma said. “I don’t care what fancy tricks you’ve learned, you can never beat someone as good as me. Why don’t you get lost?”
Ryouga’s voice began to rise. “If that’s the way you want it, fine! Get ready to meet your doom!”
Ranma sounded just as anxious. “All right. Let’s do it!”
Both youths held out their fists and shook them three times at one another. They then held out their hands. Ryouga’s was still in a fist. Ranma held two of his fingers out.
“Rock beats scissors. I win!” Ryouga announced as he jumped up and down in joy.
Ranma appeared disconcerted. “Let’s go again. Best out of three.”
“No,” Ryouga refused.
“How about three out of five?”
“Ah, c’mon, man. I’m just warming up. Let’s do four out of seven?” Ranma asked.
“Wasn’t whole point of playing rock-paper-scissors so Ranma would probably be defeated without fight?” Shampoo whispered to Akane.
“Yep. Leave it to that dumb idiot to try to win even though we all wanted him to lose.” Akane answered. Shampoo just nodded her head in agreement.
Happosai was hopelessly confused. “What do you two think you’re doing?!”
“I’ve beaten Ranma,” Ryouga answered.
“No, you haven’t! Five out of nine?” Ranma asked.
“That is not what I meant!” Happosai shouted again.
“Hey, the agreement was I beat Ranma. You didn’t say how I had to do it,” Ryouga responded.
“I wouldn’t have bothered teaching you that technique if I didn’t want you to use it on Ranma.” Happosai began to tremble in rage.
“That’s not my fault,” Ryouga pointed out. “Now I beat Ranma, so it’s a done deal.”
“I’ll show you a done deal, and I’ll take care of Ranma as well. Should never leave a job to amateurs,” Happosai mumbled to himself as he began to glow with a chi aura around his body.
“Oh, look! Panties!” Ranma pointed somewhere off in the distance behind the perverted one. Once Happosai’s attention was fully on discovering the panties, Ranma silently indicated to the others it was time to leave. All parties ran off into some shrubs and away from the battleground.
“I don’t see anything, Ranma. What color were th…” Happosai drifted off when he realized everyone was trying to give him the slip. “Oh, no you don’t. No one jokes about panties and gets away with it.” The master’s blue aura increased in intensity as he set off after his prey.
Ranma and the others rushed through the woods, looking back in caution.
“You think Nabiki’s plan will work?” Akane asked Ranma.
“What do you think?” he answered. “Do you see her around?”
“It was the best plan anyone could come up with. Even if it was awfully expensive,” Ukyou added.
Akane just sighed until they came upon a second clearing, where Minami was putting the finishing touches on a thirty-foot magical symbol on the ground, looking at a magical tome she had in her hand for reference. Gosunkugi stood off to the side, observing the proceedings. Minami spotted the group racing towards her and signaled them. “Is he on his way?”
“Oh, yeah. He’s mad as hell too. You got that finished?” Ranma asked as he ran towards the ghost sweeper.
“Just about. Remember, safe spot is in the center. Now quick, get the water off of my gopher.” She pointed to Gosunkugi.
“I thought I was your apprentice,” Gosunkugi said.
“Errr… right. That’s what I meant to say. Apprentice,” Minami corrected.
Ranma grabbed the canteen of water and dumped the contents over his head, triggering the change. She then ran to the center of the circle and watched as Minami finished the symbol. The ghost sweeper finished writing and made certain everyone else was behind her as she mentally prepared herself.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Ranma-chan asked nervously.
“Yep! Once he steps foot in that circle, all I need to do is say the magic words and he’ll be sent to another dimension.” Minami smiled. “I’m sure he’ll have fun in the Abyssal Plains.”
“How long are you planning to leave him there?” Akane asked.
“For a little while,” Minami answered, then thought, ‘Like forever. I don’t care what anyone says, I am not bringing him back.’ She began speaking out loud again. “Now flout your wares, babe.” Minami said to Ranma-chan as she gave her book to Gosunkugi.
Ranma-chan undid her shirt and let the top of her breasts show. When Happosai cleared the trees he spotted Ranma-chan putting on a seductive pose for him.
“Hi there, big boy,” Ranma-chan said in the sweetest voice she could muster. “Why not come over and play with me?”
Happosai did what came naturally as he flew towards Ranma-chan’s breasts. Just as he entered the circle Ranma-chan cried out. “Do it now, Minami!”
“AMON SHITU SEI-YA!!!” The lines of the pattern formed within the figure glowed, shooting light high up into the sky. There was one last blinding flash then silence. As everyone’s vision returned they saw no one remained in the symbol. Both occupants had vanished.
Akane looked on in fear. “Where’s Ranma?”
“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” Ukyou joined in. “He was supposed to remain behind.”
Minami looked sadly at the circle. “You’re right. I mean, there was some obscure chance that he would get sucked up in the spell too; I just didn’t think it would happen. Oh, well!” She brought her hands together and gave a prayer for the dead.
“Wait just one second!” Akane erupted. “You have to bring back Ranma!”
“No can do, Tendo. If I bring him back, the pervert returns as well,” Minami explained. “Sorry.”
“You bring him back, Minami,” Shampoo threatened.
“No way! It’s a sacrifice Ranma would be willing to make.” Minami remained adamant.
“We’re not willing to make the sacrifice,” Ukyou explained with her spatula at Minami’s throat. A sword and wooden mallet joined the chef’s weapon. “And now you aren’t willing to make it either. Right?”
Minami sweatdropped bigtime. “Of course. You’re right. I was only joking. Why, life without Ranma would make things peaceful around here, and who really wants that?”
“I’ve got it covered,” Gosunkugi shouted as he found the passage he was looking for. He posed dramatically and spoke the words. “KLATUU VERATA NIKTU!!!”
“NOOOOO!!! YOU IDIOT!!!” Minami shouted. “That’s a spell of summoning!”
The symbol burned brightly on the ground causing everyone to shield their eyes once again.
“I thought we wanted to summon Ranma,” Gosunkugi stated.
Minami shook her head. “No! We wanted to recall them. Instead, you have summoned a new creature.”
Gosunkugi stood there in awe. “Wow. I never did that before.”
Minami grabbed him by his collar and began shaking. “When I’m through with you, you’ll never do it again, either!”
The glow faded away from the symbol, leaving a nine-foot tall, leathery skinned, massively muscled, ugly looking winged creature in the center of the circle. It looked over the group and spoke. “I am Drog, Demon of Storms. And you are my dinner.”
Minami’s eyes glazed over. “OH, MY GOD!!! You summoned a name level demon!” Minami’s mind instantly went over her options. After a split second, she decided there was only one way to deal with it. She turned to the rest of the party. “Martial artists, ATTACK!!! Except Akane.”
Everyone jumped to the order, save Gosunkugi, while Akane looked quizzically at the ghost sweeper. “Why hold me back?” she asked.
“Because I like you too much to see you waste your life as cannon fodder,” Minami explained.
“Minami!” Akane intoned menacingly.
“I also need you to protect me while I try to come up with a solution,” Minami added.
Gosunkugi simply appeared confused. “Why can’t we control it? I thought you could do that with summoned demons.”
Minami looked exasperated. “Because the symbol on the ground is meant for banishment, not control.” The light went on in Minami’s head. “That’s it. I’ll banish him. All I need to do is say the words backwards.” Minami made a gesture and began the intonation, then stopped more than halfway through.
“What’s wrong?” Akane asked.
“If I banish Drog then it will eradicate my ability to immediately recall Ranma and the pervert. It would take me months to find them again. Most travelers go nuts if they’re stuck on the Abyssal Plains for more than a couple of days, and with Happosai there it will only be that much worse for Ranma,” Minami informed them.
“Well then, bring them back.” Akane could not understand what the problem was.
“If I do that I lose the ability to banish the demon. I won’t be able to send him back for hours.” Minami paused for a moment to assess how the martial artists were doing. Not well. “We’re not going to have hours.”
Akane looked desperately at her friend. “It doesn’t matter. Bring back Ranma.”
Minami gave Akane a serious look. “We won’t be doing them any favors bringing them back in the middle of a fight with a rampaging demon.”
Akane shook her head. “I don’t care. We’ll find a way to overcome it.”
“Ranma wouldn’t want you to risk your life like that,” Minami said.
Akane gazed at pleadingly Minami. “Just bring him back, please.”
It was Minami’s turn to nod her head. “All right.”
Drog finally got the upper hand against the trio of martial artists attacking him. A huge bolt of lightning crashed from the sky amongst the attackers, immediately taking out Ukyou and Shampoo. Only Ryouga was left standing, and groggily at that.
“You… hurt… Ukyou,” Ryouga barely managed to get out.
“Impressive durability,” Drog said. “Too bad. You guys are always too tough to eat.” A second bolt of lightning came crashing down on Ryouga. The electricity proved too much as he fell to the ground, burned and unconscious.
Akane and Gosunkugi saw the results of the conflict and became aware of the fact the demon was now licking its lips and looking at them.
“We have to buy Minami more time,” Akane informed Gosunkugi. “Protect her. Now!” Both of the remaining combatants stepped in front of Minami, prepared to protect her with their own lives.
“I’ve got it!” Minami shouted. “Drixil, Draxil, Droxil, Drone, time for this one to come…”
Drog misinterpreted the nature of the spell. “NO! I won’t let you send me away!” Drog said, and with that announcement a third lightning bolt struck the ground, knocking out Akane and Gosunkugi instantly while throwing Minami off her feet. Drog’s eyes lit up at the feast that was set before him. He would dine well for the next few days.
Minami gazed upward through eyes watering with pain. She managed to utter one last word before passing out. “…Home.”
The symbol on the ground lit up once again as magic coursed through it returning two lost people back to the world at large. As the light cleared, Drog witnessed Ranma-chan choking Happosai.
“This is all your fault, you old lech! I can’t believe you would fondle a succubus like that!” She continued to shake Happosai back and forth.
“Yessss.” Drog hissed as he licked his lips. “Hors d’oeuvres.”
Ranma-chan and Happosai saw everyone’s unconscious forms and turned to face the new threat.
“You can’t treat pretty young girls like that,” Happosai warned.
Drog pointed and a lightning bolt hit the master.
“Then again, maybe you can.” Unconsciousness followed.
“What the heck are you?” Ranma-chan asked.
“Hungry.” And with that Drog snapped his fingers and sent another lightning bolt to earth. This time the target was Ranma-chan.
Drog smiled as Ranma-chan disappeared in a cloud of smoke. “Ah, just the way I like them, lightly fried.” He began laughing until the smoke cleared and Ranma-chan looked at him unimpressed.
“Is that the best you can do? It barely tickled.” She smirked at the tall demon.
Drog remained where he was, scowling. “No one mocks me, girl.” He pointed his finger at her and a lightning bolt five times the size of the last one struck Ranma-chan cleanly. Drog looked on, impressed with his handiwork. “She’ll be overdone. Oh, well.” He was once again taken aback when the smoke cleared and revealed Ranma-chan standing there once again, though this time she was obviously staggered.
“Whoa. I felt that one,” she got out as she staggered to and fro.
“Impossible! No one can stand there and withstand the thunderbolts of Drog!” He began waving his hands in an intricate gesture as the clouds overhead became blue. “I will summon the Mother of all Thunderbolts. The Ultimate Destroyer. I will leave nothing, not even a charred cinder as you fall beneath the fury of the storm. Prepare to,” his speech was abruptly cut off as a warhammer flew from out of the clouds and struck him squarely in the head. The hammer returned to the clouds as Drog shook his head to regain his bearings. “Who dares attack Drog, Demon of Storms!” he shouted to the skies.
He was answered by a huge man riding a flying chariot pulled by two goats. He had a red beard, scale mail, winged helm, huge bracers and matching belt while wielding the same warhammer that had hit Drog.
“Oh, no! Not him!” Drog cowered in fear before one more powerful than he.
“Yes! Tis I!” He shouted as the chariot landed and the man disembarked. “Thor, God of Thunder. Now, who dared attempt to summon the Mother of all Thunderbolts?” He gazed at the two standing beings, looking back and forth between them.
Drog pointed to Ranma-chan. “It was her. She’s the one!”
Thor shook his head sadly. “Dost thou expect me to believe that slip of a girl can summon the lightning of the gods? You do insult mine intelligence. Now have at thee, cowardly demon.” And with that, Thor nailed Drog in the head with Mjolnir once more, this time knocking him out. Thor paused to look at the unconscious form. “I shall send this one back to the underrealm later.” He turned to Ranma-chan. “As for you milady, dost thou usually go about with a loathsome creature hugging thy bosom?”
Ranma-chan looked down to see Happosai returning to his favorite spot. The master looked tearfully in to her eyes. “I was so worried about you, Ranma. I tried to save you, honest.”
“Get off me, you little deviant!” Ranma-chan protested as she tried to pry him off her chest. The problem was taken care of as Thor plucked the master off her chest.
Happosai began to squirm. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Thor stared flatly at Happosai. “Saving yon fair maiden from the touch of a foul troll.”
“What!’ Happosai began to bluster. “I’ll have you know I’m no troll.”
“Oh, Mr. Thor,” Ranma-chan began, putting on her helpless little girl act. “Thank you for saving me from that awful troll.”
“RANMA!!!” Was all a shocked Happosai managed to get out.
Thor smiled warmly at the girl. “Tis a pleasure. Now observe as I send this most evil troll far away where he will never bother anyone again.” And with that, Thor threw Happosai straight up in the air, drew back his hammer, and hit the pervert as though he were a baseball, not noticing the odd bracelet that fell to the ground from out of Happosai’s gi. Thor followed Happosai’s progress as he broke the atmosphere, looking a bit disconcerted.
“He’s really traveling.” Ranma-chan whistled as Happosai’s form left visual sight.
“I do believe I sliced my shot,” Thor mumbled.
“Ah! Don’t worry about it.” Ranma-chan really didn’t care where the master ended up as long as it wasn’t Japan. “Thanks for helping AHHH!” Her complement changed to a shout of surprise as Thor lifted her up in his arms. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“For doing a fair maiden such as yourself a great deed, I do expect a reward.” Thor smiled.
“A r… reward?” Ranma-chan did not like the path this conversation had suddenly taken.
“Aye. I shall steal a kiss from thy lips, and then…” He trailed off, giving Ranma-chan a lascivious grin.
“NO WAY!!! I don’t want to kiss you!” Ranma-chan made a disgusting face at Thor, visualizing what the God of Thunder had in mind.
“Thou canst not deny me.” He drew Ranma-chan closer.
“All right, pal. You asked for it. KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!!!” she unleashed a volley of one hundred punches into his face. Thor stood there smiling.
“Thou art playing hard to get. Good! I like wenches with spirit.” He drew Ranma-chan closer, not realizing someone had appeared behind him and lifted his hammer off of his belt.
Ranma-chan continued to struggle, kicking and screaming. “Put me down! Put me down!”
“Thou art about to have a taste of the heavens.” As Thor puckered up he received a mighty blow to the top of his head from Mjolnir itself.
“Who was about to taste the heavens?” A voice behind them asked.
Thor spun in fury, Ranma-chan still in his grasp. “WHO DARES STRIKE THE GOD OF THUNDER WITH HIS OWN…” his voice trailed off as anger was replaced by fear. “Sif!”
Ranma-chan looked at the tall woman, also in Asgardian style clothes, and observed a familiar glint in the woman’s eye. “You are in for some trouble now, pal,” she told Thor.
“Wait, my love! I can explain. This is not what it appears.” Thor tried to back out.
“So dost thou say with thine hand upon the wench’s breast!”
Thor quickly removed his offending appendage. “The wench was attacked by a demon. She did leap into my arms in gratitude. I did try to gently remove her from my person, but to no avail.” Other people started to recover and observe the proceedings.
Ranma-chan just shook her head. “Give it up, man. Just look at her eyes. She wouldn’t listen to you even if you were telling the truth.”
“Away, foul temptress.” Thor casually tossed Ranma-chan out of his arms. Casually for Thor meant forty feet for Ranma-chan, who deftly landed on her feet. Thor continued. “See, milady. Thou art the only one for me.”
“Dost think I am some kind of fool? I know what thou wert planning to do with the mortal wench.” Sif turned her back to Thor.
“Well, if thou wert anything other than an uncaring brute, thou wouldst listen to my side of the story.” Thor went too far with that one, as Sif turned around in rage.
“Uncaring brute! UNCARING BRUTE!!!” Sif drew back the hammer, “THOR, THOU ART AN IDIOT!!!” and with that declaration she unloaded a blow three times as powerful as the one that struck Happosai, sending Thor far, far away. “You cannot escape me that easily ‘Odinson’. Thou still hast to pay for thine treachery.” And with that Sif grabbed the demon, threw him on the chariot, and then flew off with it after Thor.
Everyone gathered around Ranma-chan who was staring off at the dwindling forms. Minami spoke first. “Congratulations, Ranma. You are probably, hopefully, the only guy in history that was hit on by the God of Thunder.”
“You know. In some odd way, that whole thing between Thor and Sif seemed vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Ranma-chan said as she scratched her head and looked at Akane, who shrugged back.
Everyone else sweatdropped as they stared at Ranma-chan and Akane.
All the energy seemed to leave Ranma-chan’s form as her shoulders slumped. “I’ve had enough excitement for one day. I’m going home and sleeping the rest of the day. Wake me up when it’s time to eat.”
As everyone headed towards home Akane spotted the bracelet that had fallen from Happosai’s pocket. There were three pearls of various shades of blue on the object. Akane looked at it admiringly and put it on her wrist. There was no telling whose it was so she would hold onto it for safekeeping until someone asked about it.
The man in black, and his now three companions, walked through the swamp with a sure and steady gait.
“Who do you summon next, my lord?” The stone man asked.
The man in black turned to him and spoke. “Surely you can guess. Look around you in the air.”
The stone man took notice of the number of wasps in the air. “Ah. Him.”
The blind swordsman jumped up to a tree branch that hung out over some of the fetid water of a lake within the swamp. “It was from this point I last heard him try to scream out in agony while submerged.”
The man in black’s hand glowed, as he seemed to address the air around him. “You flying ones display a loyalty rivaled only by the snakes of our companion. Build for me a hive.”
Swarms of wasps in the swamp all gathered and began collecting material to create a hive. The hive was built in an impossibly quick amount of time, and when it was completed, its size was slightly bigger than that of a man. After its completion the wasps backed off, hovering expectantly. The man in black held his hand up and touched the hive.
“Breathe,” he said. Nothing happened.
“Breathe.” Again, nothing happened.
“Breathe.” This time he was rewarded by a heartbeat from within the nest. The man in black backed off. Within moments a hand broke through the hive wall. Then another. The entire side gave way as a hunchbacked man with what appeared to be a hornet’s nest on his back broke out of the hive.
“The master of the wasps now stands among the living. We are halfway there.” The man in black said, then laughed.
Part Two: Three Ways to Love
“Ah! Another fine day of school,” Ranma-chan said, sarcasm laced in her voice as all the members of “Team Ranma,” including Nabiki, headed off to school. It was another hot morning. Every day seemed hot lately.
“You is so right, Ranma,” Shampoo-kun agreed as he and Ranma-chan trudged onward.
“If you two went in with the right attitude, you’d have a better time,” Akane reprimanded the duo. They were always like this before school. And during school, and after school…
“I don’t think so,” Ranma-chan quickly replied.
Just as Akane was about to move in for a more animated conversation, Shampoo-kun seemed to magically appear between the duo, heading off any further ‘discussions.’ The rest of the journey took on a more normal tone as they approached the school. Once they arrived the day went from normal to typical. All the students had gathered outside the walls of the school. A good distance from the walls, actually, looking at them in fear. Hiroshi and Daisuke were wearing combat helmets and keeping low to the ground, as were most of the other students. Kunou was the exception, standing boldly at the front of the pack. Several explosions emanated from behind the wall on the school grounds themselves.
“Oh. It’s gonna be one of ‘those’ kind of days, isn’t it?” Ranma-chan said to no one in particular.
Ukyou decided to get to the bottom of things. “What’s going on?”
Hiroshi stepped forward and answered, “Cheerleader war.”
“Impossible!” Nabiki erupted in anger. “If there were going to be any cheerleader wars I would know about it.”
“What’s that?” Ryouga pointed to a round object trailing smoke that came flying over the wall.
Ranma-chan held her hand over her eyes to block out the glare of the sun as she looked up. “Pompom with a fuse,” she said matter of factly.
“INCOMING! EVERYONE HIT THE DECK!!!” Malia shouted to the crowd as she desperately tried to grab Daisuke’s helmet from on top of his head.
As everyone dove for cover, Nabiki reacted. “Kunou, save us!” And with that she gave him a mighty shove forward, right into the path of the incoming projectile. He reflexively reached out and grabbed it, shielding everyone with his body as it exploded. Kunou did not fare well from the blast.
“Oh, Kunou baby, you saved us all. You’re so heroic,” Nabiki said.
Everyone stood back up and looked forlornly at the school. Sayuri spoke up first. “We’re going to be late, and you know what that means.”
Chisa finished her thought. “Haircuts for all from Principal Kunou.”
“Why hasn’t Chabane put a stop to this?” Daisuke asked.
“He probably sees this as some kind of obstacle course, and is admiring it all from the school roof or something,” Akane explained.
“I don’t want my hair cut again!” Malia sobbed as Daisuke moved to comfort her.
Sayuri turned to Shampoo-kun. “You can save us, Ranma. No one can beat you!” All the girls gathered around and began begging and pleading with him. Even Ukyou joined in giving him mock puppy dog eyes and singing the praises of how powerful “Ranma” was, much to Shampoo-kun’s chagrin.
The guys began gathering around Ranma-chan as well. Hiroshi acted as spokesman for his group. “Shampoo. You can protect us, too.”
“Geez!” Ranma-chan shook her head. “Don’t you guys have any pride?”
“Yes. But we aren’t as great as you.”
She grinned at the compliment. “Well, that sure is true. I guess I will protect all of you.”
Akane just shook her head sadly. Ranma’s ego was never going to shrink with that kind of praise. She noticed Nabiki scowling off to the side. “What’s wrong?’
“I’m angry,” she continued to frown. “My information network has a hole in it. There’s going to be hell to pay.” She turned to the group of students. “Does anyone know which school laid the ambush? Tell me it wasn’t Quagmire.”
“The school’s still standing, isn’t it?” Hiroshi answered.
“I heard someone shout, ‘Seisyun Forever’,” Chisa piped up.
Nabiki’s mind processed the information. “Ai’s sister, Mariko, is from that school. Now it makes sense. It’s a personal attack.”
Time was wasting as Ranma-chan called everyone together. “All right, everyone. Form up between me and Ranma and we’ll get this show on the road.”
The students kept their heads low as the party made its way through the blasted off gates to the school and into the war zone. Inside the grounds was nothing but carnage. Blasted out craters and smoky ruins lined the school yard, as cheerleaders fought back and forth with batons, pompoms and other cheerleader fighting implements. The Seisyun cheerleaders outnumbered Furinkan’s about four to one, but the Furinkan cheerleaders fought with much more skill, making it an even match.
Ranma-chan made an assessment of the battle. “Looks like Kaede’s down. They won’t be able to use the whirlwind pyramid.”
“You sound disappointed,” Akane snapped. “Are you planning on joining the squad?”
“Don’t be stupid!” Ranma-chan said as she ducked a flying Seisyun cheerleader. “I don’t care what happens to that pack of lunatics.” A baton came flying overhead. Just as Ranma-chan attempted to bat it down out of midair, Capt. Ai of the Furinkan squad deflected it off course with a baton of her own. That action allowed her to get her sister, Mariko, one on one.
“Mariko, you bitch! Bad enough you dare ambush us, but then you have the audacity to cause havoc and terrorize the student population. How dare you! That’s my job!” Ai shouted.
“Ai, you slut! You’ve had this coming since you tricked your way past us at the Martial Arts Cheerleader Combat semi-finals last year,” Mariko retorted.
“It’s not my fault your school is full of nothing but a bunch of no-talent bums.”
“We’re a bunch of no-talent bums that are going to kick your collective asses!” Mariko snapped back.
The two began to fight in earnest. The other Furinkan cheerleaders were having mixed results in their fights. Kyoko was being outmaneuvered by two Seisyun cheerleaders bearing colorguard flags, when Ryouga spotted the danger to her. He broke away from the students he was protecting and leaped over, managing to grab Kyoko and leap out of the way as the two attacking cheerleaders missed with their attack and struck each other, resulting in a double knockout.
Ryouga landed safely and released Kyoko. She gazed into his eyes, lovestruck. “Oh, you saved me.”
“Yeah, well, I have to get back to the others. Good luck.” With a wave he set off to help the students make their way back to the school, leaving Kyoko looking wistfully at his departing form.
“He wished me luck,” she sighed.
Ai’s battle with Mariko had finally reached a high point. Ai postured before her sister. “Time to finish you off with Furinkan’s greatest attack.”
Mariko scoffed at her. “We took out one of your people. You can’t use the whirlwind pyramid”
“It’s not the whirlwind pyramid,” Ai stated bluntly.
“We have counters to your cheering attacks.”
“It’s not our cheering attacks,” Ai replied.
The frustration began to take its toll on Mariko. “Well, what is it, then?!”
“You’re about to find out,” Ai grinned evilly, then turned in the direction of one of her cheerleaders. “How dare you say Ayeka has big hips!” She shouted out.
That caused Ayeka to turn. “What?!”
“Oh, my god!” Ai continued. “I can’t believe you’d say you’ve seen smaller hips on a yak!”
“What are you talking about?” Mariko was completely bewildered. Ayeka was not, as her battle aura sprung up so fast it knocked out three enemy cheerleaders.
“WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?!!!” Ayeka shouted.
“She said she thinks you could give birth to a hippo,” Ai finished.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ayeka tripled her aura and launched herself at Mariko. “DIE!!!!”
Ai knew what was coming and got out of the way. Mariko was not so fortunate, and was caught in the blast that caused the biggest crater yet.
Megumi bounced over to Ai as everyone else stared in awe at the massive attack just launched. “Do you think Mariko survived?”
Ai looked eager. “I sure hope not. That would mean I get her room.” The dust settled enough to make out two unconscious forms in the impact site. “They’re both breathing. Oh, well,” Ai said nonchalantly and turned to the remaining Seisyun cheerleaders. “Your leader is down. Leave now or suffer her fate at the hands of the Furinkan High Cheerleader Squad’s most devastating attack: The Ayeka Bomb!”
The Seisyun cheerleaders took the wisest course of action by grabbing their unconscious teammates and running off, leaving the Furinkan cheerleaders on the field of victory. Megumi looked at Kyoko as she wandered over.
Ai couldn’t help noticing her teammate’s lovestruck condition. “What’s wrong with you?”
Megumi answered for her. “She’s in her ‘my heart belongs now and forever to (fill in the blank)’ phase.” Megumi went over to pick up Ayeka and Kaede.
“Who is it?” Ai asked.
“Ryouga,” she answered dreamily.
A devious smile formed on Ai’s face. “If you like the guy, I say go for it.”
Kyoko began blushing. “I just couldn’t.” Her tone switched from happy to somber. “He already has a girlfriend.”
Ai just smiled at her teammate. “I have it on good authority that he is not going out with Kuonji. They’re just friends. Besides, you are so much prettier than her.”
Kyoko smiled at that. “You’re right. I mean, she does dress up like a boy, after all.”
“Exactly; and if you need any help, just come to me. Your concerns are my concerns.” She smiled at her comrade.
“You’re the best captain a cheerleader could have,” she gushed as she went into the school. Megumi came over, bearing the other girls.
“What’s up with that, ‘your concerns are my concerns’ crap?” Megumi asked. She had grown up with Ai, and knew her self-centered streak was a mile wide. The only reason she would help someone is if there was something in it for her.
“What can I say? I have a weakness for true love,” she said out loud, and then silently thought, “I also have a weakness for seeing meddlers like Kuonji pay for screwing up my plans.”
Nabiki was not happy. Today had been a near thing with the cheerleader war, and it would appear to the world that she was slipping in the information department. Naturally, she could not be perfect, but that did not stop her from portraying the illusion she was. She took in all of her friends (she tried to keep from thinking of them as minions. She had true respect for them as people and tried to treat them more as partners with her in charge) and saw them doing various things. Her numbers cruncher gave her the latest figures on the “business.”
The numbers cruncher gave a verbal summery as Nabiki double-checked the figures herself. “Profits are down another thirty percent this month.”
“That makes three months in a row that we’ve been going downhill.” One of the girls that had overheard the statement added.
Nabiki gave a dismissive gesture with her hand. “We still make close to five times as much as we did before Ranma arrived at the school.” Still, if profits continued to go down, they might start to have problems. It hurt to watch a tremendous profit margin dwindle away. What they needed was some way to get more business going. Something to stir up the population. Things had tapered off with Shampoo-kun so much that no one bothered to attack him anymore at school. And as interest in him dwindled, so did the money that girls spent on him. Pictures still did a good turn, but she needed something else. Something to excite the masses. A tournament, perhaps. If there was some way to convince Shampoo, Nabiki would have lined up a special ‘date with Ranma’ auction, but the Amazon never seemed interested in members of the same sex. What to do, what to do?
Her gaze went to her partners. Maybe one of them had an idea. She looked over at two of the girls mooning over something. Nabiki thought they may have been looking over some of the “Ranma” pictures, but as she approached them she saw it was something else. A calendar of men in scantily clad outfits. The gears in Nabiki’s mind began to tumble. Yes, that might work. Oh, yes. Minimal investment, for the potential of great profits. And if it didn’t work out, then she could just sit back and have a good time anyway.
In the classroom Shampoo-kun gave a sneeze. “Someone must be talking about me.” It was lunchtime, which meant that he had time to kill. He gave a look around to see if Ranma-chan might be looking in his direction. No such luck; she was talking with Akane about a movie or something.
“Did you get the tickets to that new Jackie Chan film you wanted to see?” Akane asked.
Ranma-chan looked downfallen. “Nah! I had to stay after school for detention and they sold out before I got there.”
Akane gave a sympathetic look to her. “Sorry to hear that.”
Ranma-chan looked even more forlorn. “Yeah. I was really looking forward to it.”
Kyoko ran into the room and approached Ryouga’s desk, lunchbox in hand.
“Hello, Ryouga!” She practically sang. “I’ve come to see you.”
“You have?” Ryouga was a bit taken aback. No one ever came to see him.
“I just wanted to thank you for saving me today.” The same lovestruck look she had at the start of the day remained on her face. “Would you like to share a lunch with me?”
“Actually, I have a lunch already.” He indicated the box he had on his desk.
Kyoko examined it closely. “It’s okonomiyaki. Do you always have okonomiyaki?”
“Well, yes. I like okonomiyaki,” he replied.
“Do you like it enough to eat it everyday? Wouldn’t you like a change?”
Ryouga considered that. “Well, I guess.”
“Good!” And with that she picked up his lunch and tossed it into a waste can. Kyoko then opened her lunch and began feeding Ryouga with a pair of chopsticks. He chewed on the first bite, savoring the taste. “Do you like it?” she was practically biting her nails in anticipation.
“It’s really good. You’re right. It is nice to have something other than okonomiyaki every day. I guess a little variety is good for you. I should have tried something other than okonomiyaki some time ago. It gets kind of boring after a while,” Ryouga stated. “There’s only so many ways you can dress it up before it becomes overused and seems dull and plain.”
Everyone in the room turned at the sound of metal being shredded apart. Ukyou looked down, surprised that she had somehow managed to accidentally tear her desk in half like a piece of tissue paper. She just gave a nervous laugh and looked down at her seat.
Akane was walking back from gym, when she caught the end of a speech Kunou was giving one of his fellow Kendoists. She could not believe it when the words “Jackie Chan” came up in the conversation. It had to be too good to be true. She moved closer so she could overhear.
“I do profess a weakness to the actor. Admittedly, it is low brow humor, but it has a certain charm which I find quite enjoyable,” Kunou commented to his companion.
“It was nice of Sasuke to wait a couple days in line for you,” the other Kendoist commented.
“It is the place of servants to obey their masters. Thanks are not necessary.”
Akane walked over and let her presence be known. “Excuse me. Did I hear you say something about that new Jackie Chan movie?”
Kunou practically started slavering at the mouth as the other kendoist walked off. “Can it be you are interested in him as well?”
“Wellllll…” Akane began.
“It is! Then let us date, Akane Tendo! Together we shall go to the movie.” He moved forward to embrace her.
Akane fended him off with a fist to his face. “I just want the tickets, not a date! I’ll pay you for them.”
“I would not part with these for all the money in the world,” Kunou stated proudly.
Akane was beginning to become desperate. She really wanted to get the tickets for Ranma. She had to offer something she was willing to part with for the tickets. There was only one thing that she could think of that Kunou might accept in substitution.
“If you,” she stopped. This was going to be harder than she thought. “If you give me the tickets I’ll,” her voice dropped to almost nothing.
“What was that?” Kunou had not caught what was said.
“I said I’ll go out on a date with you once, and only once.” Akane managed to get out.
Kunou was in shock. “You said… you said yes.” Kunou began to shout out. “Attention world. Akane Tendo and I are now dat… UMPHPH!”
Akane placed a hand over his mouth and whispered in his ear. “It’s got to be a secret. Remember I have a family honor thing with my engagement to Ranma.” Appealing to his sense of honor was the only thing that might keep Kunou quiet. Possibly. Probably not, but it was her only shot.
Kunou bowed. “Of course. We must keep this secret until the foul Saotome is dispatched. Here are the tickets.” He handed them to Akane, and then set off to try to take care of the “foul Saotome”. Poor Shampoo-kun was going to have a busy day.
“We’re going on a trip to the beach?” Ranma asked after school when everyone had returned home.
“Yes, we are, son,” Soun informed him.
“It’s going to be great. Fun in the sun. Great seafood.” Genma licked his lips in anticipation.
“I thought we had a problem with finances?” Akane mentioned.
“We do, but Nabiki volunteered to pay for it all,” Kasumi said. “Everyone remember to thank her when you see her.”
Akane, Ranma, and Shampoo looked at one another. “What’s wrong with this picture?” Ranma asked.
“Sneaky Extortionist Girl up to something, all right. She never do anything for free.” Shampoo said.
“Maybe she’s just changing her ways?” Shampoo and Ranma just scowled in Akane’s direction at that suggestion.
“No. It’s something more devious,” Ranma said. “I can’t begin to guess what, though.” As he finished his statement, the subject appeared before them.
“Why are we going to the beach, sis?” Akane asked.
“Can’t a girl feel like treating her family every once in a while?” She asked.
“Are we goin’ to have to pay for all of this?” Ranma asked.
“Nope. Free of charge. It’s too hot and I just can’t stand the idea of traveling to the beach alone. So I want to take you all with me.”
“It pretty expensive, right?” Shampoo asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nabiki said.
“I don’t have a bathing suit,” Ranma informed her. Shampoo also admitted likewise.
A wide grin broke out on Nabiki’s face. “It’ll be my pleasure to provide you with some. Now I have to leave.” Nabiki got up and left the room.
Ranma felt like pulling out his hair. Nabiki was definitely up to something, and not knowing what her plans were was driving him nuts.
The Tendos were not the only ones Nabiki had invited on the short vacation. Ranma, his father, Shampoo, Ukyou, and Ryouga all traveled in the van Nabiki had rented to take everyone to the shore. Ukyou and Ryouga were just as much in the dark as to why Nabiki would invite them along as well.
“Well, time to change, you two.” Nabiki told Ranma and Shampoo as she grabbed a canteen of water.
“Why we have to change?” Shampoo asked.
“The last time I checked, the world’s largest body of cold water is located right off the shore. Since you guys can’t even walk across the street without getting hit by water, I don’t think you’d make it very far without changing. Now, unless you’re feeling like being an exhibitionist today, and Ranma wants to go topless as well, I suggest you two change.”
Ranma and Shampoo hated to admit it, but Nabiki was correct. Both of them poured a little water on themselves and changed into cursed forms while Ryouga decided to take his chances on changing into a bat.
The group arrived at the shore and unloaded themselves. All save Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan went into the changing rooms, only to emerge a little time later adorned in swimwear. Everyone was in conservative garb for the beach, as they began to spread out and enjoy the sun. Akane and Ryouga informed the duo the changing rooms were clear as Nabiki handed them the packages their swimsuits were in. The two looked at one another and decided to accept the gifts as they headed to the changing rooms. Once they were out of sight Nabiki ran over to a previously-rented pavilion and contacted the people within.
“They’re here. Set up the stuff and get ready,” Nabiki told the men.
“How are we going to know who it is?” One of the men asked.
“Trust me, you’ll know when they come out,” she reassured him as she herded the men and their equipment to the front of the changing rooms.
Inside the women’s side of the changing room, Ranma-chan opened her package and examined the strings attached to tiny pieces of cloth inside. “And this is supposed to cover up what, my navel?” She thought as she looked in the package searching for something larger, like maybe a fig leaf, to hide some of her body. The search was futile; there was nothing else inside. Giving a sigh she changed into her Nabiki-Wear and headed out emerging at the same time Shampoo-kun came out from his side of the changing rooms.
“Oh! You make interesting use of dental floss, Ranma.” He said as he examined the short redhead more closely.
“Ha, ha,” she said dryly. “I see you weren’t given much to leave to the imagination either,” Looking over Shampoo-kun she saw he had on a pair very tight Speedo trunks and the shirt he came in with, the rest of the clothes tucked under his arm.
Shampoo-kun wriggled around uncomfortably. “It not like Shampoo no wear tight things before. It just I not used to having,” he thought for a moment to choose the right words, “so much down there. It awkward.”
Ranma-chan nodded her head in understanding, and then started wriggling uncomfortably herself. “Geez! How do you guys wear this stuff without it running up your rear end? It’s like some kind of tight wedgie or something.” She managed to rearrange that part of her string bikini so it no longer caused discomfort as the duo headed outside.
“There they are! Start filming.” The camera crews began taking photos, much to the surprise of the objects of the impromptu shoot, Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan.
“Just what do you perverts think you’re doing!” Ranma-chan shouted. She was not used to being suddenly accosted in this manner. It felt a little like Happosai multiplied by ten. Just as she was deciding what to do with the pack of photographers Nabiki made her way through them and confronted the duo.
“Come on you guys, smile for the camera,” she asked.
The light suddenly came on in Ranma-chan’s head. “So this is why you wanted us along on the trip. You wanted a bunch of pictures of the two of us in next to nothing, you sick pervert.”
“Hey now,” Nabiki said. “It’s not like I enjoy looking at the two of you. You’re popular among our classmates so I decided to give them what they want: a swimsuit calendar. It’s not my fault you two are irresistible. I’m just a young girl trying to make a living by giving the people what they want.”
“You’re a con artist that misleads and manipulates people into doing her bidding,” Ranma-chan shot back.
Nabiki moved closer to her, a scowl on the middle Tendo’s brow. “I didn’t hear you complain when I offered to take you to the beach. For nothing I might add. This is how I intend to pay for it.”
“You could have told us.”
“Would you have agreed?” Nabiki asked.
“Of course not!” Ranma-chan said. “I hate being put on display like a piece of meat.”
“I feel same way,” Shampoo-kun added.
A devious look entered Nabiki’s eyes. “I see. You two are ashamed of your bodies. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
“Hey! That ain’t what I meant!” Ranma-chan said, offended.
“Sham… mean Ranma not ashamed of body. I prove.” And with that he took off his shirt and began posing for the photographers. Not to be outdone Ranma-chan began doing the same thing.
“Sometimes, it’s too easy.” Nabiki smiled to herself.
Over by the blankets, Akane’s face began twitching at the exhibition the two were putting on. “I don’t believe this. Don’t those two have any shame?”
Soun was about to agree when he noticed Kasumi staring oddly at something. “What’s wrong?” He asked her.
Kasumi nearly jumped at the sound of her father’s voice. “N… nothing. Nothing at all.”
“It looked like you were staring sort of oddly at Shampoo.”
A blush rose to her face. “N… no. No. I was just concerned about him. I mean her. I wasn’t staring at anything,” she answered quickly while sweating appreciably. “I need to take a cold shower. I mean a cold dip,” she quickly corrected herself. “In the nice ocean. Yes that’s it. A nice dip in a cold ocean.” She got up and quickly headed into the water.
Soun looked at Genma. “Was it just me or did Kasumi actually seem nervous?”
“That’s difficult to believe. Maybe she was just feeling a little hot,” Genma suggested.
Kasumi jumped into the water and immediately started swimming. Proper young women simply did not take notice of THAT sort of thing. Especially when it involved Shampoo, who was a girl and not a boy to begin with. If only the trunks had not been so tight…
Minami got out of the car and spotted the group of photographers clustered around the new models and decided to investigate. She turned to her companion, Gosunkugi. “Get the stuff out of the car and take it down to the beach. I’ll join you in a little while.”
“Not to be rude,” Gosunkugi mentioned, “but what does this have to do with being an apprentice?”
Minami put her hands on her hips in disgust. “I’m sorry. Who’s the master and who’s the student here?”
He looked down at the ground in shame. “Sorry. I won’t let that happen again.” He moved to obey the command.
Minami made her way to the photo shoot and examined the centers of attention. “Hey guys I… Hello!” She noticed Shampoo-kun and the way he filled out his trunks, especially the trunks. She gave him a knowing grin. “Well, well, well. You’re going to make some lucky woman very happy, if you know what I mean.” She smiled sarcastically at Shampoo-kun.
“That not funny, Minami,” Shampoo-kun growled.
“I’ll see you guys later.” She waved to them and headed down to the seaside where Gosunkugi was setting out the beach equipment.
After several hundred rolls of film the crews left, allowing Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan an opportunity to make their way back to the others. Akane turned her head away from Ranma-chan as she sat down next to her.
“What’d I do now?” Ranma-chan asked.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Akane harrumphed and continued looking away.
“Where Kasumi?” Shampoo-kun asked.
“She decided to go for a swim.” Genma pointed to where the girl was out in the ocean.
“That sound like good idea. Ranma want to come?” he asked.
Ranma-chan was looking further down the beach at a surfboard rental shop. “No, thanks. I got something better in mind.”
Shampoo-kun shrugged and went into the ocean. Ukyou made certain it was all right with Ryouga that she head on down into the ocean as well, and asked Akane to take him wherever he wanted to go. Wandering off near the shoreline could land Ryouga anywhere in the world, given his mysterious ability to cross oceans without realizing it. Ranma-chan headed down to the rental store, giving Akane one last look.
“I’d invite you along if it wasn’t for the fact you swim like a rock,” she shouted as she went running off to rent a surfboard.
“Why, that rotten jerk!” Akane spluttered. “It’s not my fault I don’t know how to swim.” As Akane punched the umbrella pole in a fit of anger the wrist with the bracelet also struck against the pole, knocking loose one of the pills. No one noticed it land in some of the food they had brought to the shore.
Ranma-chan went into the seafood and surfboard rental shop, rented a board, and rushed past an aquarium transport truck with a shark in the tank.
She failed to notice the chunk missing out of the dorsal fin.
The zoo attendants, Shinya, Fuji, and Kamiya, had sat down to grab a bite to eat at Iizuka’s Seafood and Surfboard Rental Shop. They had been instructed to ship the shark to the new aquarium that was being built just down the road, and figured this would be the last time they would have a chance to eat before the trio would spend the rest of the afternoon transferring the shark from one tank to another. The three of them had just been served their food and began to dig in.
“Think we should have covered the shark tank?” Fuji asked.
“Nah. Da kids will get a kick out of seeing a real, live shark,” Kamiya answered.
Shinya noticed Ranma-chan rent the surfboard and head out to the shore, passing by the truck with the tank. “She sure was cute,” he said to his two partners.
“A little young, if you ask me,” Fuji commented.
Shinya picked at his food a bit. “I heard there’s some kind of superhero that can control fish.”
“Yeah. His name’s Aqua-Velva or somethin’,” Kamiya replied.
“Aquaman,” Fuji corrected.
“That’s what I said. Or somethin’.”
“I wish I had super powers like that,” Shinya sighed.
Kamiya turned to him. “Why would ya want to have a stoopid super power like da ability to control seafood? Dat’s as stoopid as making plants grow quick or controlling static electricity.”
“It’s the only way I can see of ruling the world,” Shinya informed him.
“Actually,” Fuji began. “You would be better served doing it by undermining existing governments and having them overthrown. Of course, you would have to do it through socio-economic means to give yourself maximum effect. Here is how I would go about it,” and with that he went into a detailed plan of how to achieve global domination, ignoring some kind of commotion outside.
“You’ve been giving dis a lotta thought?” Kamiya suggested.
Fuji shrugged. “Not really. I kind of came up with it on the spur of the moment.”
Shinya looked heartbroken. “That sounds like a lot of work.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Fuji said, continuing to ignore the sounds of people panicking outside. “The way I see it, you get people to obey ya by carrying around a big gun and threatening them with it.”
Shinya smiled. “Now, that I can relate to.” The sound of glass breaking was heard outside, but none of the zoo people noticed.
The trio finished lunch, paid the bill, and went outside. Shinya went up to the truck and tank first. “Ummm, guys. When we left, this tank had a shark in it instead of a hole, right?”
Kamiya and Fuji nodded in agreement. The trio then noticed a trail of water going over the side of the dock the truck sat on and into the water. All three looked out at the ocean.
“Do you think maybe we should rent a boat and go after him?” Shinya asked.
Kamiya looked at him incredulously. “Do our names sound like Brody, Quint, and Hooper to ya?”
The trio looked out into the ocean and shook their heads.
Kasumi had gone out a good distance from shore and began floating, relaxing, and allowing her mind to wander to many subjects. “Things are good. Everyone’s healthy. Ranma and Akane are getting along a lot better now. Ranma and Shampoo are getting along, again. So many changes over the last few months.” She smiled to herself. “Including my engagement.” Kasumi allowed her mind to drift back to the day of the trio’s arrival. “Shampoo was so handsome. His lips. Those eyes that never change. The way he… no, she moved, so graceful yet with a hint of power behind each step. Such a disappointment, to learn he turned into a girl. No! Wait. She turns into a boy.”
Kasumi forced herself out of the memory. Why was thinking about Shampoo’s gender so confusing all of a sudden? True, every now and then she would think of Shampoo in male terms, but it was only because Kasumi had first met Shampoo as a boy. It was only natural she would make that mistake occasionally, but all of a sudden it was becoming a major problem. Perhaps it had to do with seeing him wear so little today. There were occasions where she had seen Shampoo as a male without his shirt on. She felt a little blush at that. The first time it had happened, she stared at his chest for several seconds before realizing what she was doing, and how rude and improper it was. She did notice his chest and shoulders were certainly well developed. Not as much as Ryouga’s, but a little larger than Ranma’s. Just perfect, really; good development, without too much mass. His arms and legs were the same way. They were large, but not the way a bodybuilder’s were. Especially the legs. The way his muscles would tense up when he would go for a kick when sparring. The way his hamstrings led up to his…
Kasumi abruptly broke off that particular thought and went to his hands. She remembered the first time he had held her hand. Shampoo-kun had been helping her up when she had fallen down. They were strong, yet gentle. There had been a little tremble when he first made contact with her back then. She could almost feel those hands now, grabbing her hips. And that was when she suddenly realized something. Someone was grabbing her hips. She somehow managed to shoot up almost out of the water in surprise from the contact. Shampoo-kun broke the surface of the water with a wide grin on his face.
“Got you! You too much daydreaming, Kasumi.” He was going to continue laughing, when he realized she looked more scared than startled. Even now she was continuing to back away from him. “What wrong?”
She gave a nervous little laugh. “Nothing’s wrong. Why would anything be wrong?”
That did nothing to ease Shampoo-kun. Something was up. He tried to get closer only to see her back away further. “Did Shampoo do something bad? I sorry if I scare you. I not mean to.” He gave her a hurt look. There was nothing in the world that would make him want to harm her. She was his closest friend after Ranma, and Ranma sort of fell into a different category now. Kasumi was at least the best female friend he had, and if he had somehow offended her he wanted to know so he could apologize.
Kasumi stopped moving away when she saw the hurt expression he bore. How could she hope to explain the reason she was backing off? She didn’t even understand it herself. Something inside her head that told her distance would be a good thing to have, not a bad one; but seeing Shampoo-kun look at her in such a hurt fashion caused her to override that part of her brain. She swam a little closer.
“You just startled me. That’s all.” Part of her felt horrible about lying. She hated to do it, but under the circumstances it really was for the best, at least for right now. Kasumi did notice the fact her heart was beginning to race now as he drew closer. Thankfully he stopped while leaving a little bit of distance between them. It appeared he was about to say something further when Ranma-chan passed by, in the distance, on her surfboard. The red head waved at the duo.
“Watch me shoot the curl!” she yelled, and then rode a wave in. After landing, she quickly headed out once more to catch another big wave.
“Ranma do that pretty good,” Shampoo-kun commented.
Kasumi just nodded her head in response. Shampoo-kun was closer now, and for the life of her she could not tell if it was the waves, Shampoo-kun, or herself that had closed the distance between the two of them. She knew her conscious mind wanted distance between the two of them, but she was also horrified to learn that somewhere inside part of her actually wanted to get closer to him. Shampoo-kun swam a little closer on his own. The war within Kasumi was so great she remained motionless, which meant he was closing the distance. It was a great relief when he stopped because the thirty-foot shark got between them and swam on past. That relief lasted only a moment as reality set back in.
Shampoo-kun looked in fear at the giant fish and attempted to put himself between it and Kasumi. “Swim back to shore. I try to get his attention,” he told Kasumi.
“I… I don’t want you to…” Kasumi started to say, but was cut off.
“No argue! Do it now!”
As much as she wanted to stay at Shampoo-kun’s side, she obeyed the order. She started to swim towards shore, praying with all her might that Shampoo-kun would be all right.
Shampoo-kun watched the shark swim past. He was certain it would circle around again to at least check out its potential prey one more time, which was when he would start splashing in the water and attract the shark. That would buy Kasumi all the time she needed. Shampoo-kun continued watching the shark when its dorsal fin broke the surface. It took only a moment for recognition to register. There was a chunk missing out of the fin. The shark was an old acquaintance. Shampoo-kun was not given much time to wonder about how it ended up in the ocean, when he realized the shark wanted to renew an old acquaintance as well, only the subject was not Shampoo-kun.
The shark made a beeline for Ranma-chan.
Ranma-chan was lying on her board, paddling, when she heard someone shouting at her. She looked up to see Shampoo-kun waving frantically at her. Ranma-chan did what any normal person would do in a situation like that, she sat up and waved back. It took her a moment to realize Shampoo-kun was shouting something at her. Even cupping her hand to her ear was not enough to make out the words. She turned back to start paddling again when she saw the huge head of the shark burst out of the water and snap its jaws shut on the head of Ranma-chan’s surfboard. Its bite fell two inches short of taking off her right hand, but did succeed in eating the front of the board.
Fear took over as Ranma-chan instinctively modified the Amaguriken so she could use it to propel her board away from the giant fish. She was still a good distance from land and her initial direction away from the shark was also away from shore. It would take her at least a little while before she could make it back. What was worse was that as the shark bore down on Ranma-chan from behind, it proved itself slightly faster. It began chomping at Ranma-chan, devouring in inch of the board with each snap of its jaws. If she tried to turn she would lose enough speed that the shark would swallow her for certain.
It was turning into a bad day.
Kunou stood at the forefront of the family’s newest yacht, gazing out at the ocean with his spyglass, captain of his own destiny, boldly searching the horizon for any who would dare oppose him.
There was no one else on the horizon. There was, however, a couple of people on the boat that might impugn his greatness.
Kodachi lay back on her lounge chair, catching as much sun as she could. She was dressed in a green two-piece bikini as she smiled, catching the rays of the sun. Mousse was dressed somewhat more conservatively in blue shorts and a shirt with long loose sleeves.
“Mousse-sama. Why don’t you lie next to me and take off that shirt? Surely you are hot, and would like to relax a bit.”
“I’m fine. Thanks anyway,” he answered.
Kodachi shook her head. Mousse had been in a horrible depression since the events of the Nyanniichuan. She had tried to explain to him why it was all for the best that Shampoo refused the gift (and the marriage. Kodachi would have had to act quickly to make certain Shampoo would have been unable to attend the ceremony. Most likely in a permanent fashion) but Mousse never saw it that way. So Kodachi managed to drag him out here in the hopes that he would have a good time. Though he was in higher spirits now, he still had a ways to go before she would consider him cured. Perhaps some sort of stimulant was in order, though, curiously, she was reluctant to drug him. She knew why. That night in Hawaii. Despite what he insisted, Kodachi had used only a very mild aphrodisiac, something to break the ice. At best it should have produced a little bit of kissing, maybe some heavy necking. The result was far and beyond what it should have gained. Far and beyond. She wanted him to do that to her again, willingly. She knew if she could get to him once she could do it again. It was only a matter of time.
Kunou had come to the beach because Nabiki had said that both of his love goddesses would be in attendance at the shore. So he stood at the bow, continuing to scan the shore until his eyes alighted upon a commotion in the water a distance away from the boat. Focusing his spyglass on it he discovered what the disruption was.
“My beloved Shampoo is under attack!”
“WHAT!!!” Mousse stood next to Kunou and attempted to spot her. Unfortunately he looked in the wrong direction.
“Knave! It’s out there!” he pointed Mousse in the right direction, but the distance was too great for him to make out what was going on.
“Give me something that will kill a shark!” Kunou roared in frustration.
“I have something. I know it!” Mousse started going through the pockets of his shirt. He pulled out knives, daggers, and chains.
“Mousse-sama!” Kodachi began.
“Not now.” He continued throwing out objects, a hubcap, a trident (the weapon, not the gum), a harp.
“I said not now!” He pulled out a harpoon, but the shark was too far away and he didn’t have a gun. His continued search revealed a computer, some Trident (the gum, not the weapon) a pair of handcuffs and some lubricant (Kodachi snared those with her ribbon.), and a walkie-talkie.
“Mousse-sama. You don’t want to do this,” Kodachi warned.
Mousse turned in anger to her as he continued going through his shirt. “Look! I know you have a problem with Shampoo. It doesn’t matter. I will save her no matter what so leave me alone.”
Kodachi humphed and began spinning the handcuffs on her finger. If he were going to ignore her, it would serve him right.
Mousse pulled out a “Human Cannonball” cannon, a depth charge and finally alighted upon the object he needed, a “smart” torpedo. Mousse armed its automatic targeting system, then allowed Kunou to take the object and aim it in the direction they wanted to go.
Ranma-chan could feel the last inch of board behind her feet give way to the shark’s jaws. This was it. There was nothing left to do, and she had almost made it to shore, too. Ranma-chan admitted to herself this was definitely not the way to go. Evidently biting a shark was not such a hot idea since this one decided to hunt her down and bite back. Just as she felt its breath on the back of her neck, an explosion erupted behind her, propelling the shark through the air and forcing Ranma-chan to shore on the remains of the surfboard. Akane was the first to her side.
“Ranma! Are you all right?”
Ranma-chan sat there in shock for a minute and looked at the surfboard. Finally she collected enough of herself to speak. “Man! There goes my deposit.”
Akane bashed her in the head with the remains of the board.
The shark was propelled through the air in a high arc as the torpedo caught him from behind and detonated. Fortunately, it had lived in Nerima so long, it had absorbed some of the ability to survive explosions without lasting harm that most residents seemed to gain. Its trajectory aimed it for its original container on the back of the transport vehicle. It landed with a thud in the glass tank. The three zookeepers looked at it in amazement.
Fuji was the first to recover. “Quick! Duct tape that hole and fill the tank with water. We got us a shark to deliver.”
The shark would have seconded the motion if he had been conscious.
Kunou smiled at the resulting explosion. “We did save her life, my blind comrade in arms. Well done!”
Mousse was smiling just as wide until Kodachi decided it was time to bust his bubble.
“Brother dear, what hair color does your beloved Shampoo have?”
“It is the fieriest red, which matches the fair damsel’s spirit.” He allowed himself to fantasize running his hands through her hair as the first vestiges of realization dawned upon Mousse.
“Mousse-sama. Do you remember what color your beloved,” she allowed the last word to roll contemptuously off her tongue, “Shampoo’s hair is?”
“Oh, no!” His voice took on the tiniest bit of agony.
“Yes, darling. I’m afraid you were instrumental in saving the life of your greatest enemy, Ranma Saotome.”
Mousse began wailing at the highest pitch he could muster. Kodachi’s anger at him melted as she moved to console him, gently hugging his head between her breasts. “Poor baby. Let your little Kodi-chan take care of you.” Much to her delight he did not move away.
“Hold, knave!” Kunou commanded to Mousse. “You are in the presence of her older brother. The scene before my eyes cannot be tolerated.”
Kodachi turned her attention to Kunou. “Don’t worry brother dear. Your eyes won’t have to tolerate it any longer.”
Shampoo-kun made it to shore as quickly as he could to check on Ranma-chan. He walked out of the ocean and towards her when he heard a high pitched whistling. “What tha…” was all he was able to get out as Kunou, shot out from the ‘Human Cannonball’ cannon, landed on top of him.
Kunou shook his head as he recovered. “That was not the solution I was seeking when I mentioned that such behavior should not go on before me.” He at last focused upon Ranma-chan.
“Oh, my Shampoo! How I feared for your safety!” Kunou grabbed and continued on about his worry. The speech did not last long as Ranma-chan buried him in the sand the hard way, by stomping him into it.
“That’s for attacking Sh… I mean Ranma, and for hugging me, you jerk!” she shouted at his sprawled out form. She quickly walked over to Ryouga and his backpack, rifled through it over the lost one’s protests, and found a coil of rope. She then proceeded to tie Kunou to the remains of the surfboard and threw it out into the ocean.
“That takes care of that for a while. With any luck, he won’t be able to untie himself until New Zealand,” she said as Kunou’s body followed the current out to sea. Ranma-chan moved to help Shampoo-kun when a horde of girls ran over her on their way to check out Shampoo-kun’s condition as well. Ranma-chan spat out some sand as she picked herself up. Looking over the group she recognized them as all attending Furinkan. She was about to ask why they were all here when she found herself surrounded as well, this group being composed of Furinkan boys.
“What are you all doing here?” She managed to get out.
One of them spoke up. “Nabiki sold us,” he stopped and corrected himself. “I mean told us you were here for some swimsuit shoot. We just wanted to watch professional photographers in action.”
“Yeah! Right! Try you’re here to ogle me,” she silently thought to herself. The way the guys were hanging all over her told her it was going to be an even worse day. The vacation was rapidly turning into the usual brand of chaos that followed her around.
Kasumi hung back from the crowd that had formed around Shampoo-kun. She was about to go over and make certain he was all right from Kunou’s impromptu landing when the pack of women formed around him and began to comfort him. She felt the faintest pang of jealousy appear, but quickly suppressed it. Distance was what she needed from Shampoo-kun. The less she had to do with him the better, at least for a little while.
The jeep screeched through the parking lot. Kaede shook her fist and yelled back in the direction she had just driven from. “You better learn to move faster than that if you’re going to be crossing the street, old lady!”
Ayeka gripped the armrest with white knuckles as the Driver from Hell flew into a parking space and stopped. Try as she might, she still could not pry her fingers off the armrest. “She had a walker, Kaede.”
“A poor excuse for making a gal drive under forty miles an hour!” Kaede shot back.
“In a parking lot?” Ayeka asked.
Kyoko appeared just as scared as Ayeka. “This trip usually takes two hours. You made it in just over half an hour. Haven’t you ever heard of speed limits?!”
“Duh!” Kaede said as she nodded her head. “Of course I have. If you go too fast your engine blows up. That’s what redlines are for.”
Megumi finally gave up the ghost as she threw up over the side of the jeep. Only Captain Ai, with her nerves of steel, seemed unaffected by Kaede’s driving.
The Furinkan Cheerleader squad spotted Shampoo-kun and quickly took off their shirts and shorts to reveal their bathing suits underneath. Ai wore the most revealing suit by far, only rivaled in lack of covered area by Ranma-chan’s own swimwear. The others ran down to the Shampoo-kun leaving only Ai and Kyoko behind.
Ai finally spotted what she was looking for. “There’s Ryouga.” Nabiki had done her job well. Inside cheerleader information, for the little favor of bringing Ryouga and Kuonji to the beach. A good deal.
Kyoko started to shift her feet nervously. “Do you think he wants me to visit him?”
“Of course he does,” Ai reassured her. “He’s sitting all alone, waiting for the right girl to pick him up. Now remember, try to get him away from that group of people he’s with. The two of you are going to want some privacy.”
“Right!” Kyoko grabbed her things and ran down towards Ryouga. “Ryouga-kun! Look who’s here!”
Ai watched her teammate converse with the lost one, then convince him to ‘help’ her set up her beach towel that was large enough for two. It took only a few moments to get him to sit peacefully next to her as the two began to talk. Ai searched around. Things would not be complete until one last person was present. At last she spotted Ukyou emerging from the ocean, and decided it would be more fun harassing the chef than stunning Shampoo-kun with her figure, at least for the moment.
Ukyou dried herself off, grabbed a bottle of suntan lotion, and began looking for Ryouga, resorting to asking Akane where he went. Akane pointed to where he had sat down next to Kyoko. She reassured Ukyou that the cheerleader promised to keep a close eye on Ryouga and not let him wander off.
Ukyou began a diatribe. “Why that rotten, worthless…”
“Hello, Kuonji,” Ai cheerfully greeted. “You actually look like a girl in that swimsuit. Go figure.”
Ukyou stared evilly at the captain. “So putting those two together was your doing?”
Ai smiled at that. “Nope. She honestly likes him, and it appears he enjoys her company as well. Are you going to try to win your boyfriend back?”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Ukyou growled.
“Then why are you jealous?”
“I’m not jealous,” she said as the bottle of lotion crumpled in her grip, shooting lotion high in the air.
“I see,” Ai’s smile grew even wider. “Then you have no reason to come between them.”
“Get out of here!” Ukyou shouted as she balled up her fists, threatening violence.
Ai held up her hands in a warding gesture. “All right. All right. I’ll leave.
True to her word, Ai left as Ukyou gazed towards Ryouga with a heartbroken look.
Ranma-chan was getting sick and tired of all the attention she was receiving from the male population on the beach. She managed to make eye contact with Shampoo-kun who wore the same weary expression. Ranma-chan gave a conspiratorial wink to Shampoo-kun and was rewarded with a curt nod. Time to set the plan in action.
“LOOK!” Ranma-chan pointed to the sky. “IT’S HALLEY’S COMET!!!”
Everyone’s heads snapped up as they fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book. When they realized there was no celestial phenomenon, everyone turned back to Ranma-chan for answers. She had already made good her escape with Shampoo-kun.
The duo leaped off at top speed, covering enough distance to take them out of sight of the groups of admirers, and headed down the shore. The crowds thinned out to almost nothing as the beach became rockier, eventually ending at a small craggy promontory that faded back onto shore. The two looked at one another and landed on the top within two leaps.
Ranma-chan examined the top. Rocks were strewn everywhere, but there were several softer spots ideal for relaxing. She went to lie down on one of the spots when Shampoo-kun stopped her.
“I have blanket.” He lay it down for Ranma-chan who graciously accepted.
“Where’d you get it?”
“Spatula Girl give when Shampoo go past,” he answered.
Akane looked at the irate Ukyou with whom she was now sharing her beach blanket. “What happened to yours?”
“The dead Amazon that lives at your place stole it out from under me, while I was on it!” Ukyou spat out some sand that was still in her mouth. “Took my only other bottle of lotion, too, the bimbo!”
Ranma-chan lay down on her stomach allowing the rays of the sun to strike her back. “Peace at last. That was a busy, what, two hours we had? Some vacation,” she sighed.
“You better put on lotion,” Shampoo-kun warned.
“Nah! I’m fine.” She waved her companion off.
Shampoo-kun sighed to himself. One thing he agreed with Akane was that Ranma-chan was oftentimes too stubborn to use good advice. Ranma-chan’s blasted ego convinced him he was always right. Shampoo-kun thought for a moment how best to convince her to take the advice. It did not take long.
“Shampoo seem to remember last time Ranma get sunburned.”
Ranma-chan grumbled a little as the memory returned to her. It had been a bright sunny day in China and she had decided to take off her shirt (while in male form) and work out under the sun. Unfortunately, she had lost track of time and had ended up a deep shade of red.
“Pop sure have fun time with his lobster-colored son,” Shampoo-kun continued.
Ranma-chan remembered it well and held out her hand. “Give me the lotion.”
Shampoo-kun chose to add one more comment. “Ranma squeal like little piggy when he get hit like that.”
“Just give me the lotion!” She had no doubt her father would take the opportunity to use a bunch of open hand slaps in their next sparring match if she turned out sunburned. Just like the last time.
Shampoo-kun gave a smile of satisfaction at her. “Lay down. I put lotion on.”
Ranma-chan did as she was asked and lay down on her stomach as she felt Shampoo-kun squirt the lotion on her back. His hands played softly up and down her skin as he worked the liquid over her back, making certain to get every spot on her back and side. Ranma-chan found herself enjoying the touch when she felt Shampoo-kun untie her top.
“Hey! What do ya think you’re doing?” She turned her head as far as she could to look at Shampoo-kun. Was the Amazon turning into a pervert?
He just looked at her innocently. “Do you want to explain what you doing with tan lines on you back?”
Ranma-chan gave a nervous little laugh at that. It would be kind of hard to explain why she had bikini lines at the public baths if she had to use them. Given the hot water would invariably fail at the worst possible times at the Tendo dojo, it was almost certain they would break down if she returned with the embarrassing marks.
“Thanks for looking out for me.” And with that she relaxed, allowing Shampoo-kun to rub the lotion over the area once again. The motion of his hands switched from a gentle rubbing to a more powerful kneading motion as he began massaging Ranma-chan’s shoulders. She felt unrealized tension release from the expert motion of the Amazon’s hands.
“That feels good,” she moaned as she felt herself slowly becoming drowsy. Shampoo-kun’s gentle hands pushed and twisted muscle, relaxing her further as the sun beat down on her form. “Magic fingers,” she mumbled.
Shampoo-kun smiled at the girl’s gentle purring as she enjoyed the gentle massage. Ranma-chan looked radiant as she lay under the sun. Her crimson hair seemed to flash in the sun, eliciting even more joy in the Amazon. She could be beautiful without trying. The only time Ranma-chan ever actually tried to look pretty while she was female was in order to impress someone, or try to get free food. Otherwise, forget about it. Shampoo-kun still remembered the time he had to defend Ranma-chan from Nabiki’s attempts to get her in all sorts of dresses and other odd clothing to take pictures. Some of them were cute, but the dominatrix gear was really over the edge. Though when Nabiki mentioned how much Kunou would pay for some of the photos, Shampoo-kun had almost let it pass. It was astounding what the bokken-wielding idiot would pay.
“Ranma?” he asked softly. Getting no response he said her name more loudly. Still nothing. He was about to shake her when he finally got a reply, a loud snore. Shampoo-kun briefly contemplated waking her, but then reconsidered. It had been a long afternoon, especially for the redhead. He had been with Ranma-chan long enough to tell when something really bothered her, no matter how much she tried to hide it. The shark incident had done exactly that. It had terrified Shampoo-kun when it passed by and it had not gone out of its way to attack him. The red-haired girl must have been scared out of her mind, not that she would ever admit it, the pigheaded fool. But now she was relaxed at last, and woe betide anyone that dared harass her now. They would suffer Shampoo-kun’s wrath. Anyone.
Maybe he was being overprotective, but it did not matter to him. Ranma-chan was vulnerable now, trusting Shampoo-kun to watch over her. A responsibility he took seriously. He relaxed a little. This was one of the rare times that he could enjoy staring at his female companion without risk of being interrupted by friend or foe alike. He examined the sleeping girl’s face more closely. She really was beautiful. He allowed himself the luxury of playing a finger along her lips. Ranma’s faint pout was lost when he transformed from boy to girl. Not that it mattered to Shampoo-kun; those lips were appealing in either form. There was something he had not noticed before as the girl lay there sleeping. It took a moment to realize what it was. Ranma-chan’s face was relaxed. He had not perceived it before, but there was usually some tension in Ranma’s face, boy- type or girl-type. Now it was missing. A vacation was exactly what she needed.
Shampoo-kun let his eyes roam over Ranma-chan’s form once more. Her shoulders were broad for a girl, despite her short stature, her back was smooth, those long, well-muscled legs, her…well, her butt was cute in either form. That was he realized something was happening to him. Ranma-chan may have been in girl form, but it did not matter to Shampoo-kun. For the first time in his life he was enjoying a woman’s appearance in a sexual way. That was a little unnerving. If it had been anyone other than Ranma it would have been cause for concern, but since he was really a boy it did not count. Any attraction could be rationalized by the fact Shampoo-kun was just as attracted to the male form as well.
Thinking of which, there was one thing Shampoo-kun had forgotten to do. He had been so concerned with Ranma-chan’s upper body he had overlooked taking care of the rest of her. If she was still awake she might have protested, but since the red head was at rest there was no cause for alarm. After all, Shampoo-kun would never take advantage of her in that way. He squirted some lotion in his hands and began rubbing it in when he felt a discomfort in his trunks. He was going to have to have a talk with Nabiki about them. They left nothing to the imagination and really were too tight, as was being proven by the increasing discomfort he felt now.
Ranma-chan awakened after about an hour of rest. She smiled at Shampoo-kun who was still sitting next to her.
“You look much better Ranma.” Shampoo-kun had spent the whole time watching her sleep. Not a single moment felt wasted.
“Yeah. Feel a whole lot better too.” She held onto her top and sat up. “I’m going to have to do my front too, doing my back won’t do much good if I don’t do the other side.”
Shampoo-kun nodded his head in agreement.
Ranma-chan shook her head. Shampoo-kun was not getting the message. “I’d like some privacy.”
His eyebrows shot up. “You never modest around me before.”
“Well,” Ranma-chan squirmed a little. “After being leered at all day, I’d be kind of uncomfortable, even if it is only you.”
Shampoo-kun gave an inaudible sigh and moved off a little way. “I stick around and keep watch. Make sure no one disturb. That all right?”
“Yeah. I appreciate it. Just don’t look.” As she lotioned up and laid back, she was a little surprised. Maybe it was because she was in a public place, but it was unusual that she would feel so uncomfortable with only Shampoo-kun around. After all, he really was a girl and Ranma-chan was not really a girl, so her state of dress shouldn’t matter that much.
After another hour, the duo made their way back to the main beach just in time to see a volleyball game break out between two groups. The Furinkan Cheerleaders, minus Kyoko, who was still captivated by Ryouga, and their opponents: Akane, Ukyou, and Minami.
“Looks like Akane needs help, if that’s all the support she’s got.” Ranma-chan said and rushed over to help out.
“I going to grab something to eat.” Shampoo-kun made his way over to where the remaining Tendos and Genma were sitting and sat down next to Kasumi. “Anything left to eat?”
Kasumi smiled. She was over whatever had affected her earlier in the day. “Yes. I saved some for both of us.”
“You not have to wait for me.” Shampoo-kun was flattered that Kasumi would wait just for him.
“I wasn’t hungry then,” she said as she opened some containers that she had saved some food in. It was a struggle to keep Genma from eating everything until the others had a chance to dine. She gave Shampoo-kun a plate then helped herself to some of he food. With the first bite she took she felt something large slide down her throat, causing her to gag slightly.
Shampoo-kun looked on in concern. “Is you all right?”
Kasumi turned to answer him. When her eyes landed upon him all of the logic portions of her mind shut down momentarily. A new flood of emotions welled up within her.
“Ohmyohmyohmy! I never quite realized just how perfect he is,” she silently thought to herself. One other thought overrode all the others within her: she had to get Shampoo-kun alone.
“Let’s go for a walk.” And without waiting for a response she grabbed Shampoo-kun by the arm and pulled him to his feet. When he got to a vertical base he was dragged down the shore in the direction he had just come from.
“But I no had chance to eat,” he protested as she continued pulling him away from everyone else and down the shoreline.
“Hmm! That was unusual,” Genma said as he began to scarf down the recently departed’s plates.
Akane and Ranma-chan looked one another over.
“Where were you all this time?” Akane asked with more than a little bit of accusation in her voice.
“I was getting a tan. In private.”
“Where was Shampoo then?” she asked, the accusatory tone in her voice increasing.
“Umm,” Ranma-chan began hesitantly. “Well she was there too. Aside from her it was private.”
“I can image,” she leveled an icy glare at Ranma-chan.
Ranma-chan did not get a chance to retort as a high scream erupted from Kyoko.
“What’s wrong?!” Ukyou shouted over her way.
“Something happened to Ryouga,” she began to cry. “He was putting suntan lotion on me when his nose started bleeding and he passed out.”
Ukyou waved her off. “That always happens. Don’t worry about it.” she said. Then thought. “ I hope the jerk bleeds to death.”
The volleyball game was finally about to start. Just before the first serve, another player volunteered to join Akane’s squad. Gosunkugi ran over and shouted about joining.
Minami gave a wolf whistle as he approached. “Hey gals! Look at those skinny white legs.”
“Come on, Minami, you’re being too hard on the guy.” Akane began addressing Gosunkugi. “You’re welcome to join our team.”
The game began. It was not long before the cheerleaders pulled ahead, due to the fact all of them were superior athletes while Minami and Gosunkugi fell victim to their better play. Ukyou and Ai played the whole game as a personal vendetta against one another, each trying to spike the ball in the other’s face.
A high return came Akane’s way. Ranma-chan, having no confidence in her abilities, moved over to hit the ball herself. The resulting collision knocked loose a second pill on the bracelet, sending it high in the air.
“Why can’t you watch where you’re going, you clumsy tomboy?!” Ranma-chan barked.
“That was your fault, you pervert!” Akane snapped back.
Ai raised her head to the skies as she laughed hard. “You two klutzes make it so easy to… AGK!” she choked out as the pill went down her throat.
Ukyou began pointing and laughing. “Nice job, Ai. Looks like the rumors about you swallowing are true.”
Ai choked down the pill and was going to yell something back when she stopped as a lovestruck look entered her eyes. She rushed over to Ukyou and embraced her.
“Ukyou, my love! I’m sorry I was so mean to you,” Ai shouted as she grabbed the chef in a tight embrace. “Please forgive me!”
Everyone else looked on in total bewilderment, as Ukyou stood motionless in shock. The shock quickly passed as she began to struggle in Ai’s grasp. “Let go of me, you sick bitch!”
Ai continued her deathgrip as everyone continued to look on in shock. Ranma-chan broke the silence. “Who would have believed it?”
Megumi shook her head. “This doesn’t make any sense. Ai hates Ukyou’s guts.”
Minami’s mind was working on overdrive as she started putting things together. “Akane. Let me see that bracelet.”
Akane handed her the bracelet. Minami examined it and began asking questions. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it on the ground after our fight with Happosai,” she replied
Minami read the runes scribed on the side as Ukyou desperately attempted to remove Ai from her person. One of the volleyball poles slammed itself into the cheerleader’s head, causing her to release her grip.
“Let go of my darling Ukyou, you mean, ugly cheerleader!” Tsubasa-pole shouted.
Ai turned to confront her attacker. “How dare you call my Ukyou your darling! DIE!” and with that she grabbed Tsubasa-pole, pounded on him hard, then threw him far off into the ocean. As she was finished a large spatula slammed into Ai’s head, knocking her out.
“You disgusting tramp! Never touch me again!” Ukyou shouted at Ai’s crumpled form.
Minami finished reading the runes. “It may not be her fault, Ukyou. These pills are supposed cause love in whoever swallows them. Although it says they are only supposed to work on members of the opposite sex.”
“Ai isn’t too picky about what sex she goes out with.” Ayeka informed everyone. “Or as she likes to say, ‘I don’t have a problem finding dates on Friday nights’.”
Ukyou looked at Ai’s crumpled form in horror. “How long does it last?” she asked.
Minami read the runes once again. “There are three kinds. One lasts a moment, another a day, and the last a lifetime.”
“Which one did she swallow?” Ukyou was desperate to know. She was certain it must have been the lifetime. It would be just her luck.
“Can’t tell,” Minami said as she scratched her head. “One of them was already missing.” She pulled the last pill off the bracelet. “Only one way of finding out,” and she threw it in her mouth.
“Are you crazy?!” Ranma-chan shouted as Minami turned to the sound of her voice as a lustful gaze entered the ghost sweeper’s eyes.
“Oh, Shampoo! You are so pretty.” She began to approach Ranma-chan, causing great fear within the young martial artist.
“Wait, Minami! I thought you only liked guys,” Ranma-chan said as she warded off Minami.
“But I know your secret, so it doesn’t make any difference to me,” she replied.
That was all it took for Ranma-chan’s nerves to snap. She tried to leap away but was snagged out of mid-air by a magical force and returned to Minami’s grasp. The ghost sweeper made an attempt to kiss Ranma-chan. Just as she was about to land a big kiss on her lips the ghost sweeper broke out laughing.
Ranma-chan pulled out of her grasp and pointed an accusatory finger at her. “What’s so funny?”
“You should have seen the look on your face. You’re so gullible,” she managed to choke out.
“But I thought you ate the pill,” Akane said as she walked over to Ranma-chan.
“Oh, right! Like I’m that stupid. It’s still in my mouth. See?” she opened her mouth to show the pill still on it.
Akane shook her head. “That’s the sort of thing I’d expect you to pull,” she said to Ranma-chan.
“That was funny, Minami,” Gosunkugi said as he slapped her in the back, with the predictable result of causing her to swallow the pill for real this time.
Minami spun in fury upon Gosunkugi. The anger only lasted a moment, as her hate became love. “You are so handsome, Hikaru.”
Gosunkugi chucked at that. “That’s pretty convincing. You should become an actress.”
Minami decided to convince him further by embracing him and giving him a deep passionate kiss. A huge smile creased his face as he passed out and hit the ground. The lovestruck look left Minami’s eyes as soon as his head made contact with the ground
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“You kissed Gosunkugi, ya’ dumb ghost sweeper,” Ranma-chan stated flatly. She was not pleased with Minami’s behavior and was saddened it was not the lifetime pill she had swallowed.
Minami examined Gosunkugi’s form. His eyes were still open and the smile remained on his face. “It looks like he died happy. Nice to see I haven’t lost my touch.” She primped her hair a bit.
“His chest is still moving,” Akane informed her.
“Well, at least he’ll never leave my side now.” Minami shrugged. “It’ll be nice having my own personal servant. Not that he wasn’t before.”
“What about her?” Ukyou pointed to Ai’s form.
“She’s either going to love you for a day or an eternity. There’s also one other problem. There is still one other pill out there. It’s far too dangerous to leave lying around. We’d better find it before it falls into the wrong hands.
Everyone began sifting through the sands for the pill.
Kasumi had snuggled herself under Shampoo-kun’s arm, much to the Amazon’s frustration. All day Kasumi had been acting strangely, and now was the absolute worst. He had no idea of what to do with her. The two had traveled out of sight of any other people and were near the barren area Shampoo-kun and Ranma-chan had been to earlier. He hoped she would reveal the cause of her odd behavior soon.
Kasumi sighed contentedly. Never in her entire life had she felt this wonderful. This satisfied. It was as though her eyes had been opened for the first time to what she truly wanted in life. She was with the man she loved, beyond any doubt. For her, that was all that was needed. Almost all. What they required now was some privacy. Real privacy so they could do what young couples that loved each other do next. Her eyes found the very thing she was looking for.
“Look there. A sea cave. Let’s go in!” She once again dragged Shampoo-kun along into the cave. It was a large grotto, which admitted the ocean’s waves to crash near the entrance. The roar of the ocean was almost deafening as the two crawled over some rocks and made their way back into the cave, out of the outer world’s sight.
Shampoo-kun removed himself from Kasumi’s grasp and turned directly across from her for a confrontation. “What going on Kasumi? Why you drag me out here?”
Kasumi blushed. She had never been this aggressive in anything before. “We needed some privacy.”
Shampoo-kun nodded his head. He had figured as much. Now the question remained of why they needed privacy. It must have been pretty serious if Kasumi wanted him out here. He watched her intently as she moved towards him. There was an almost alien look in Kasumi’s eyes. If he did not know any better he would have sworn it was a predatory gleam.
She stood directly in front of him and looked deep into his eyes, bringing her hand up to gently cradle his face. She leaned forward even as Shampoo-kun’s eyes widened in surprise as he felt her gentle breath on his face. It took her a moment to remember the words she had learned when trying to understand her new housemate’s language. At last the expression came to her.
“Wo ai ni.”
Consciousness left Shampoo-kun at that moment.
Consciousness returned. Shampoo-kun focused his eyes on Kasumi crying over him. He sat up and placed a hand on her shoulder to ease her. What a horrible dream he had. In it, he and Kasumi were in a cave at the beach and she had said…
Then his eyes focused on his whereabouts. It was no dream. He was still in the cave at the beach and Kasumi was still there. The tears in her eyes were drying up as she seemed to regain some control.
“I was so worried about you,” she sobbed. “You just collapsed and I was afraid you had died or something. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She began sniffling again as she was going to cry once more. Shampoo-kun reflexively embraced her to comfort her when he froze up. That was not the right move to make, as was readily apparent when she returned the embrace and did not let go. He gently forced apart her fingers and moved away from her. Explanations were needed.
“Why you say what you say, Kasumi? Is just a joke, yes?” He prayed to every god imaginable it was a joke. A poor, horribly stupid joke.
“No. I would never joke about something like that. I love you.”
Shampoo-kun stopped her before she could say more. “But I really a girl. You know that.”
Kasumi nodded her head. “Of course. It doesn’t matter. When true love is involved anything is possible.”
As she moved forward Shampoo-kun darted back. The hurt expression she gave cut him to the core. “What’s wrong? Don’t you think I’m pretty?” she asked, hope mixed with fear in her eyes.
Shampoo-kun looked at that face. He knew what he should say, but could not bring himself to do it. “You is very pretty,” he answered softly.
“Don’t you like me?”
Shampoo-kun nodded his head. He knew he should be shaking it no, but again he could not bring himself to do that either. “Yes. I like you.”
“Well, I love you,” she said. “You are the man I’ve been waiting for my entire life. It wasn’t easy. I saved myself for the one man who would win my heart. The one person with whom I knew I could happily spend my entire life with. I was afraid I might never find him, but now I have. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are, now and forever, the only one for me. I want us to…”
“NO!!!” Shampoo-kun did not want this. He did not want her to like him this way. He could hear the hammering of his heart in his ears it was pumping so powerfully. Perfume trying to run him through was less nerve wracking that what was occurring now. He considered running away when Kasumi moved forward in an attempt to get closer to him. As she did that her ankle caught between two rocks and she began to fall over. Shampoo-kun darted forward in an effort to keep her falling. He managed to maneuver himself under her, but was unable to brace himself for the force of the impact. He fell backward onto the ground with Kasumi on top of him.
“Are you all right?” she asked concern etched on her face. Shampoo-kun nodded in response. “Thank goodness,” Kasumi said, and then moved her face closer to his.
Shampoo-kun felt real panic rise from within. He should push her off and run away, but part of him refused to go as he felt his own resolve weaken. Kasumi really was beautiful. Was it so wrong to have someone like her love him? He cared about her deeply, why should he not return the affection? Ranma never showed him emotions like that. He cared, but did not ever tell Shampoo-kun that he loved him, and that was what the Amazon wanted to hear. Now there was a girl before him, the most caring person he had ever met, that had just pledged her undying love for him. The words of caring felt so good. He had wanted to hear such words his entire life, and now they had been spoken to him. What sort of person was he to hear those words and complain about them?
Kasumi moved her lips closer to his. Earlier in the day he had admitted he was attracted to Ranma as a girl, so that meant he could be attracted to another woman. Kasumi’s body felt so good. Her flesh on his flesh. Her breasts pushing against the thin fabric of her suit, and that fabric pressed against him. The soft feel of her breath that tickled across the tiny hairs underneath his chin. It would be so easy to lose himself in those eyes of hers. Those deep brown eyes that seemed to care about everything in the world. He had so wanted to invite the caress of lips that loved him.
He felt her lips brush against his as she kissed him full in the lips. For the briefest of moments he responded. His lips pressed back as he embraced her. It would be so easy to let go, to release his inhibitions and give way to that feeling which his body craved, but he would not do it. He had to resist. He stopped kissing back moments before Kasumi broke off the kiss herself. For one that was inexperienced, she did it so very well.
Now there was only one chance left. His resistance would not last under another assault like that and he was frightened at what would happen if he could not leave now. He put all his effort into speaking, his voice coming out softly with what strength remained. “Kasumi. If you love me, let me go. I not ready for this. Please!” he softly gasped. Pleading with her was all he had left. If she did not move, he was not going to be able to either, though part of him unquestionably wanted her to stay. To repeat the action she had just done over and over again. To lose a part of himself to her. It would be so easy just to do what would come naturally.
She looked at him with the gentlest of gazes, understanding in her eyes. “Of course. I’m sorry. We can take it slower.” She raised herself up and tried to stand, but the ankle she twisted caused too much pain. She sat down next to Shampoo-kun.
Concern for Kasumi came naturally as Shampoo-kun examined her foot. After a few experimental movements he gave his verdict. A sprain. Since there was no way she could even stand on her foot, let alone walk the two miles back to the others, Shampoo-kun did the only thing he could do. He picked her up and carried her. She rested her head against his chest as they made their way back, bliss written across her face.
As the couple walked back to the others, Shampoo-kun had a chance to calm down. Once both the initial shock and heat generated by the moment had passed, he began to think more clearly, though the attention Kasumi gave him as she alternated between playing her fingers along his chest and nibbling on his ear did not help. He managed to tolerate the attention while concentrating on what his feelings on the matter were. He did not want a woman’s affections, even Kasumi’s. His tastes did not run that way and never had. Still, and he hated it admit it, the idea was not as appalling as it once was. A shudder of discomfort ran through him, as he realized that this might be what was meant by accepting a curse, but that did not seem accurate either. He still wanted a cure more than anything in the world. Almost more than anything else.
There was also one other very important reason he could not accept Kasumi’s declaration of love. He wanted Ranma. Ranma was the one that excited him. He was the one Shampoo dreamed about, and it was always when Ranma was male and Shampoo was female. Always. Still, something had to be done about Kasumi. He could never bring himself to hurt her. Shampoo-kun owed too much and there was genuine affection for her, just not the way she wanted.
All other thoughts had to be put aside as the pair made their way back to the others. Already Shampoo-kun could see there was a large amount of activity on the beach. He knew something had to be done about Kasumi, and soon, but this was neither the time nor place. They had almost made it to the others when he realized Kasumi was still nibbling on his ear, not an unpleasant feeling, but the action would be difficult to explain.
“You have to stop doing that,” Shampoo-kun explained.
What Shampoo-kun wanted to say was because he did not love her, but still could not bring himself to articulate it. Instead what came out was, “Because we should leave it as a surprise.”
“But I want to tell everyone. Father would be so excited!” she exclaimed.
That caused Shampoo-kun to involuntarily flinch. Soun Tendo was a strange man. There probably was a chance he would be ecstatic that he married off another daughter, especially to a martial artist that was well versed in the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. A sudden vision of Soun bawling his eyes out at Shampoo-kun and Kasumi’s wedding came to him. That vision was quickly blotted out by the realization that the more likely reaction would be for Soun to go demon form and strike Shampoo-kun dead on the spot. Definitely the worse of the two scenarios. Luckily for him Kasumi ceased her actions.
Akane and Ranma-chan looked up from their search as they spotted Shampoo-kun and Kasumi return.
“What’s wrong?” Akane asked as she took note of her sister in Shampoo-kun’s arms.
Shampoo-kun answered for fear of what Kasumi might blurt out. “Kasumi sprain her ankle. I help her back.” He quickly tried to change the subject. “Why is everyone looking through sand?”
“We’re trying to find a magic pill that fell off of Akane’s bracelet.” Ranma-chan continued on, explaining the situation. A huge grin appeared on Shampoo-kun’s face.
“Where Minami?” Shampoo-kun asked. Ranma-chan pointed in the direction of the ghost sweeper. Shampoo-kun rushed over with Kasumi still in his grip and confronted Minami. “We need to talk private. I know where the last pill is.”
Minami went into her bag and pulled out a statue. The trio made their way to a pavilion and Minami placed the statue in the middle. “We’re now invisible and silent to the outside world. We can look and hear outside the barrier, but no one can look in.”
Shampoo-kun released Kasumi who immediately went to holding his hand. Minami understood in an instant. “So, Kasumi ate the last one and fell in love with you. This isn’t good. I want to try something.” The ghost sweeper picked up a glass of water and heated, splashing the contents on Shampoo-kun who changed. “Now, how do you feel about him?” she asked Kasumi.
Kasumi looked confusedly at Shampoo as the Amazon covered her now revealed breasts. “I know he’s still Shampoo, but things feel different.”
Minami clapped her hands. “That was easier than I expected. As long as you don’t turn into a guy, she won’t be attracted to you.”
Kasumi shook her head. “Oh, no. I still love Shampoo. He’s the only one I could ever love.”
Minami looked disappointed. “Okay. We’ll have to try something else. Maybe wait a day and the problem will take care of itself.”
“And if it the lifetime pill?” Shampoo asked.
“Ukyou will be a very happy gal,” Minami said. “How do you feel about same sex marriages, or almost the same in your case?”
Shampoo shook her head in response.
Minami suddenly became very serious. “I‘m at a loss, then. I’m not sure what can be done.”
“Can you break the spell?” Shampoo asked.
Minami held up the empty bracelet. “This is old magic. Powerful stuff. I’m not sure it can be broken. Certainly not by me.”
“I don’t want it broken,” Kasumi interrupted, “I love Shampoo, and if I can’t have him,” her voice became very soft, “then I won’t have anyone.”
“You’re more right about that than you think.” Minami explained. “I’m certain you can’t fall for anyone else while under the effects of the pill. I’m afraid you might be looking at a lifetime of loneliness. Sorry.”
“You mean I’ll be alone?” Tears began to form in Kasumi’s eyes. “Forever?”
Kasumi felt a hand touch her face. Shampoo’s hand. “You not be alone. I won’t let you.”
Minami looked at the purple haired Amazon carefully. “You do realize what your saying, don’t you? If it’s the lifetime pill?”
Shampoo looked down to the ground and nodded her head. “I promise.”
Kasumi gave a soft squeal of delight and embraced her. Shampoo did not return the hold, but continued to look at the ground.
Minami decided to try to lighten the mood. “Look. This might all be for nothing. It could be she’ll only have this for a day, and even if it isn’t, there might be a way to break it. There’s a magic convention in Bolivia in a few days. I was planning to go with my father anyway, so I’ll show the bracelet around. One of the folks there has got to know of a way to break the enchantment. Heck, they’ll take it as a challenge. I’m sure the effect can at least be watered down.”
“And if it can’t?” Shampoo asked.
Minami shrugged. “Then it can’t, and you’ll have to get on with your life, but I wager it can.” She gave a knowing wink to the two. “You guys can stay here for as long as you want. I’ll explain to your family that you want to hang with me and I’ll drive you back home. That way you won’t have to explain why she’s looking at you that way.” There was no way the lovestruck expression Kasumi gazed at Shampoo could be mistaken for anything else. “I’ll leave the statue here. Come out whenever you feel like it.”
Things went as Minami anticipated. When the Tendos and company wanted to go home, they accepted the explanations, while Ai had to be physically restrained by the entire cheerleader team to keep from following Ukyou. After everyone else had left, Shampoo changed back into male form at Kasumi’s behest and the two spent time around the beach, Kasumi appearing like the happiest woman on Earth, while Shampoo-kun tried to keep his spirits high. He apparently convinced her to take it easy in return for just being held, a price she was more than happy to accept. Minami noticed there were even times when the sadness left his face, but only for the briefest of moments. They remained at the beach as long as they could, and then headed to the dojo. Minami saw them to the door, helping Shampoo-kun convince Kasumi it would be best to maintain a low profile until they knew the duration of the pill.
Minami gave a sad look as the two of them went inside. “What is love, and what myriad of forms does it take? Perhaps it only shows the way to what our souls truly seek. Happiness can often be found in the one place we dare not look. Who is to say the magic is from the pill, or if it is from within?” She turned and looked at Gosunkugi, still in the car. “Blech. Definitely the magic’s from the pill. No way I would kiss him willingly.” She returned to the car and berated Gosunkugi for being himself.
Shampoo-kun lay on his futon. It was three A.M., and still sleep did not come. He had known it would not, but there was little else he could do. He was too afraid of what the future held.
Kasumi stared at her clock. Three A.M. it flashed back. No sleep in all that time. There was only one solution. She got out of bed and went downstairs.
Shampoo-kun heard the footsteps come down the hall as the nightwalker stopped at the door. There was only one person it could be. The last person he wanted to see tonight. The one person he knew would come. He ignored the first gentle rapping’s at the door, then got up and answered it. He could not leave her outside.
Kasumi looked at him with painful longing as he opened the door. She embraced him as though she was drowning and he was all that could save her. Maybe he was the only thing that could.
“What you doing here, Kasumi?” he asked. “It late.”
“I need to sleep with you.” Her voice was louder than it should have been.
“I can no do that sort of thing,” he began, but Kasumi cut him off.
“No, silly. I meant I need to lay down next to you or I won’t get any sleep.” She smiled at him. “Please.”
“But what if your father come?” Or Ranma, or Akane, or Mousse, or any other human being.
“I’m always the first one up. I’ll be out of here before anyone else is awake,” she explained.
With a reluctant nod he ushered her in. She made a beeline for the futon and moved the covers, waiting for him to lay down first. There had been a feeling deep within his gut something like this would happen. It was why he had chosen to remain in male form this night. He lay down and made himself comfortable as Kasumi lay down next to him, her back to his own prone form. He heard a sigh of contentment emanate from her. He might as well get used to this; after all, if it was the lifetime pill, this was going to be repeated many times.
After a few moments Kasumi began to speak. “Shampoo. What I said earlier about sleeping with you, if you want to…”
Shampoo-kun cut her off as he stroked her face. “No. You are very,” he searched for the right word, “desirable, but it too soon. There be time for that later. You just rest now. You need sleep.” He allowed his arm to rest over her hip as she gave a sigh of relief and quickly dozed off. Shampoo-kun took a moment to examine the girl’s features even as he had done so with Ranma-chan earlier in the day. Kasumi was beautiful as well, though in a different way from Ranma-chan. He tried sorting out the mixture of feelings going through him. There were certainly worse fates he could think of than spending a lifetime with someone you cared for. Worse fates indeed.
Kasumi woke up slowly several hours later. She relaxed as she enjoyed the feeling of peace within her, as though some part of her had been laid to rest. She removed Shampoo-kun’s hand from around her hip and sat up.
Shampoo-kun’s hand from around her hip.
Kasumi went to a vertical base faster than the eye could follow and almost flew across the room as far away from the futon as she could.
Shampoo-kun had been awake the entire time and witnessed the reaction. Kasumi had retreated to a corner and for the life of her looked like a wild animal. “What wrong?” Shampoo-kun asked.
Kasumi looked scared as she replied. “What am I doing here?’ She continued gazing at him in shock. She had been in another man’s bed. Had she… no. She was still wearing her nightclothes and felt the same. If she had done anything she would have known about it.
Shampoo-kun slowly got up as a smile slowly began to appear. “Do you love me?” he asked.
Kasumi began to sweat. “L… l… love? Well that’s such a st… strong word. Love? I’m not sure.” Shampoo-kun leaped so high he slammed the top of his head into the ceiling. Kasumi’s fear was replaced by concern. “Are you all right?”
Shampoo-kun had a huge grin on his face as a large lump formed atop his head. “Shampoo feel great! I is so happy! You is cured!” He gave another shout of joy and destroyed a wall to exit the room.
Kasumi stared in disbelief as she looked down the hall to see him laughing while doing handsprings to Ranma’s bedroom. He destroyed another wall to enter the sleeping chamber. Ranma had just enough time to sit up before he was picked up by Shampoo-kun. The intruder began dancing around in circles with Ranma in his arms.
“What are you doing?!” Ranma shouted. “Have you lost your mind?! Put me down!”
Shampoo-kun dropped Ranma on his head and destroyed a section of wall that led outside, merrily dancing the entire time.
Kasumi watched the boy’s departing form. When she had awakened there had been a feeling of contentment from within, but now there was an overwhelming sense of loss as she watched Shampoo-kun depart. The feeling of depression grew as the day wore on, as though the part of her life that had been filled was now missing once again.
Ukyou and Ryouga returned to Uk-Chan’s with the supplies they needed. Ryouga was the first to notice the sound from upstairs. He ran up there at top speed as Ukyou grabbed her spatula and followed as quickly as she could. Once at the top she was greeted by Ryouga throwing open the door to her bedroom, then recoiling as twin gouts of blood blew out of his nose as he collapsed. Ukyou ran to the open door and dropped into a defensive stance, ready to take on whatever could disable Ryouga so quickly. The spatula fell from her fingers as she saw the thing in the room that had caused Ryouga to pass out. At least the intruder was considerate enough to throw on the rubber sheets.
Ai lay on her back upon the bed, wearing nothing but a smile and a pint of honey spread all over her chest. She gave the okonomiyaki chef a wink and seductively licked her lips. Ukyou stared at her.
“Ai! That better not be my honey you’re using!”
Hayate stood at the bottom of the stairway of the plane, as the passengers were about to disembark. He looked over the itinerary he made up for the people. He had been hired as a tour guide for several Chinese tourists on their visit to Japan. They had such bizarre names, though.
The first passenger shot down the steps and was almost a blur. He ran around the area briefly and finally came to a stop next to Hayate. The young man was dressed in wolf pelts. The second passenger that disembarked was a huge youth dressed in tiger skins. He actually had to turn sideways to get out of the doorway of the plane, because his chest was so huge. The third figure was fully shrouded in a cloak with the hood pulled up, masking its features from everyone. Judging by the way the figure moved, Hayate figured it must be the leader.
Hayate bowed before the figure. “Welcome to Japan, Mr. Herb.”
Hayate’s blood froze as the figure whipped its face towards him. The figure had red eyes that seemed to glow from within the hood. “My name is Prince Herb, but you may address me as Emperor.”
Hayate tried to regain his composure. “Y… y… yes sir. I mean Emperor.” He managed to calm down. “I have an itinerary I drew up with recommendations of where to go.”
Herb held up a hand. “I know the places I wish to go. There is one of supreme importance, though. We will go to it last. Do you know where,” Herb pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. “The Black Rose's Floral Shoppe is?”
Hayate told him he could find out where it was and bowed. The sooner he could take these people the places they wanted to go, the sooner they would leave, and the happier he would be.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Principal Kunou and Gompachi Chabane have joined the school staff. Their story will be released in an OAV-style format at a later time. That chapter itself doesn’t really add to the overall plot, and is intended as a humorous tale.
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