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Tenchi Masaki flipped through the pages of the book once again as he strolled through the streets of Nerima. It was kind of his grandfather to loan him the book of Jurai advanced sword techniques. Who knew, maybe with the new advanced lessons he would finally be able to defeat Yosho in one of their sparring sessions.

And maybe Ryo-Ohki would give up carrots.

The little visit was cause for worry. His father had been talking about moving from out of the countryside to Nerima, his old childhood home, and wanted Tenchi to visit the area and get a feel for it, to see if moving there was acceptable to him. At first the idea of moving into a major metropolitan area was more than a little frightening. He had been afraid for the lives of the citizens of the area. The pitched battles between Ayeka and Ryoko could level whole city blocks at a time if they really went at it. And then there were Washuu’s experiments, Mihoshi’s crash landings, Ryo-Ohki in general, and everything else chaotic that seemed to happen in his once peaceful life.

Now he was becoming a little less wary at the idea as he saw some of the things that went on in the district without a second glance. It seemed hordes of martial artists were fighting in the streets. Four roller skaters, two calling themselves the Golden Pair, were fighting a masked couple, a woman and man calling themselves Rose and Thorn, and were destroying sections of the town in an effort to defeat one another. A pretty girl who wore a beret and bore two giant metal combat-cooking whisks walked the city streets. Two masters of Martial Arts Miming were fighting by pretending to strike one another, then silently reacting to the blows. A big ugly man on a street corner wore a sign that read, “Will destroy dojos for food.” And the list went on and on.

Tenchi was so caught up in studying the book that he didn’t notice someone running towards him at top speed. The running figure smashed into him from behind and knocked Tenchi into the ground, nearly breaking the pavement. The book went flying as Tenchi suddenly found his head stepped on and drilled into the street.

The youth who ran him over didn’t even slow down as he continued his top speed flight. “Forget it, Lum! I’m going out with Ran, and that’s final!” Ataru shouted as he continued his full speed flight.

Tenchi picked himself up off the ground, as he tried assessing what damage he took in the trampling attack.

“Darling! Come back to me!” Lum shouted at Ataru’s back as he tried increasing his speed yet again to evade the pursuing oni. Lum flew past Tenchi and paused a moment to make certain her darling hadn’t injured the boy in his thoughtlessness. When Lum’s eyes fell upon Tenchi’s face she came to a dead stop in mid-flight.

Warning lights flashed on in Tenchi’s head as the beautiful girl in the tiger striped bikini turned around and floated over to him. The fact she appeared to be yet another alien wasn’t what concerned him. It was the altogether too familiar cast to those eyes that triggered the fear reaction that was gnawing at his bones.

“Are you hurt?” Lum asked, concern laced throughout her voice.

Tenchi blushed as she grabbed hold of his hand. “I’m fine.”

In the meantime, Ataru realized he had lost his pursuer, which would have been cause to rejoice, if it hadn’t been for the fact that she had stopped chasing him because she was talking to a man. That was cause for concern. Once Lum began pursuing Ataru she usually wouldn’t stop for hell or high water. Silently, he came to a decision and reversed direction, intent on finding out the real reason Lum stopped.

“Hey! Lum! I’m going to go on that date with Ran now,” he announced.

“Have fun,” she said as she waved him off and continued looking deep into Tenchi’s eyes.

Ataru felt dread rise from within. Lum was paying attention to another man at his expense. Perhaps it was all a plot to get him to pay attention to his self-proclaimed fiancée. If so, it worked.

“Lum,” Ataru said as he worked up the nerve to ask the question. “I want to have a date with you.”

Lum didn’t even look towards him as her eyes remained locked on Tenchi. “Forget it, Ataru.”

She called him Ataru. Not Darling, but Ataru. That was all it took for him to finally snap. “LUM! You can’t do this to me! Do you he—“

He was suddenly cut off as Lum turned in anger and grabbed a hold of his hand. “SHUT UP, YOU LECHEROUS PERVERT!!!” and with that she sent one of the greatest shocks she had ever summoned into the boy and watched him crumple to the ground, too stunned to even remained upright.

Lum turned to Tenchi. “Let me take you up to my spaceship and make sure you’re all right.” She blushed as she added one more bit, “Darling.”

And with that she picked him up underneath his shoulders and flew off, up towards her spaceship. As Tenchi suddenly found yet another attractive alien girl now caught up in the bevy of beauties that desired his affections, he wondered how he was going to explain this one to Ryoko and Ayeka without destroying half of Japan. He sighed as he was flown through the air and one comment came to mind.

“Why me?”

Tatewaki Kunou watched as Ataru picked himself up off the ground and began yelling after the pair that had flown off.

“Truly a twisted triangle that lies there,” he said to himself. It was a good thing the alien girl had not set eyes upon him. His heart already belonged to the beauteous Akane Tendo and fiery Shampoo. He did not need the affections of yet another woman in his life. Already Akane Tendo had dated him once, and was using all of her tremendous willpower to stay away from his person, lest she fall into dishonor for defying her father’s wishes. She bravely chose to remain bound in the chains of eternal damnation to the evil Ranma Saotome. Something would have to be done about the jackal. And he would have to date Shampoo as well, lest she feel left out by the lack of attention she received from Kunou, and jealous of the greater attention he lavished upon Akane and their date.

Just as he was about to leave, his eyes fell upon a book, lying on the ground. Kunou picked it up and leafed through it, eyes lighting up as he realized what the book was and what knowledge lay within.

“Interesting. Very interesting,” Kunou mumbled as he walked off, already beginning to mentally go through the exercises the book mentioned.

Shampoo ½ Chapter 23: Five Thunders

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 sommer@3rdm.net

What’s gone on before (or what you really need to know to enjoy the fic) In the beginning the Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou to train, not realizing Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a duel there. one mid-air collision and bath in Spring of Young Drowned Man later there is a male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma (So Ranma-chan= Female Ranma. Shampoo-kun= Male Shampoo. Enjoy.) Shampoo elected to travel to Japan with Ranma and briefly ended up engaged to Kasumi. After that was cleared up, Ranma became engaged to Akane. Many months passed and with them many trials and tribulations (re: the previous chapters). Recently, Ryu Kumon, who has been impersonating Ranma and married Kaori Daikokuji, challenged for the right to call himself Ranma Saotome. Kaori challenged Akane after a few choice words were exchanged, and Mousse challenged Shampoo to one last marriage duel. Unfortunately for Ranma, Tarou has been training Ryu to fight against him, and Mousse has learned a chi attack of tremendous power, unbeknownst to Shampoo. In the last chapter, Silk, Soun’s old lover who is an Amazon and just happens to look like his dead wife, dropped by causing a great deal of confusion. She left with a warning to Shampoo that she may be running out of time. Now, further training for the fights continue…

Ukyou made her way behind the grill, and ignited it in preparation for the daily opening of Uk-Chan’s. That was all she had to look forward to anymore: opening her restaurant and serving okonomiyaki. What a wonderful life. Maybe she’d get her own guardian angel to convince her that the world would be much worse off if she weren’t around. But knowing her luck, it would be female and try to come on to her.

“Ukyou, my heart. You left school so quickly I didn’t have a chance to walk home with you.”

Ukyou held her forehead in all too real suffering. Her shadow had caught up to her once again. She turned to see Ai, in her standard cheerleader outfit, leaning against the doorframe bearing a red rose in her mouth and giving a seductive glance. Ukyou felt a momentary pang of jealousy at the captain’s appearance. The chef lacked the skill to make herself appear alluring in the sultry manner Ai possessed.

“Picking up tips from Kunou?” Ukyou questioned as she moved to set up some of the tables.

Ai moved from the doorway in response and walked forward enticingly. Ukyou had to admit Ai had it all. A killer body. A ravishing face. And worst of all, the moves of a temptress. All of that was directed at one person. Ukyou. Ai took the rose from her lips and ran the flower delicately under Ukyou’s chin.

“Knock it off, Ai,” Ukyou grumbled, and then moved away from the cheerleader. “I don’t have time for that.”

Ai gazed down at the floor, pained by yet another rebuff in her attempt to gain her love’s attention. The sorrow didn’t last long as yet another idea occurred to her.

“Ukyou, let me serve you dinner tonight.”

Silently deciding ignoring Ai wasn’t going to work, Ukyou reluctantly played along. “What were you thinking about cooking?”

“A special dish I’ll prepare just for you. Hot buttered cheerleader, okonomiyaki style. Just the way you like it.” Ai leaped up in the air and executed a backflip to show off for her would be girlfriend.

Ukyou saw where she was going to land and tried to stop her. “AI! Don’t!”

Too late, Ai landed on the grill with a, “HOT! HOT! HOT!” and leaped off the grill, holding her rear end.

“Nice move, A…” Ukyou trailed off as she saw the look of pain upon Ai’s face. Apparently the cheerleader really was hurt. The chef tried to calm Ai down and hold still long enough to take a look at her. Unfortunately the girl was too busy jumping up and down in pain to pay any attention.

“Stop it! Ai, I want you to…” Ukyou couldn’t believe she was going to say it, but there really wasn’t any other choice, “…bend over the table so I can look at your rear end.” There. It was out.

Ai finally halted and did she as she was ordered, a grimace still on her face. “You have no idea how long I’ve wished to hear those words uttered from your lips,” she managed to get out over the pain. “How unfortunate they couldn’t be under better conditions.”

Ukyou didn’t even bother to try to figure out if she was being serious or not. Her cursory examination revealed Ai had indeed burned her rear end. “Oh, you big baby! It’s not that bad. I have some ointment for burns in back. Stay there.”

Ukyou grabbed the medicine from the first aid kit and went back over to the motionless Ai. She was on her knees behind Ai, applying a good amount of the ointment to the newly red region of Ai’s cheeks, when she heard someone enter the restaurant.

“Hey, Ukyou. We know you aren’t open yet, but figured you wouldn’t mind it if we waited. So what…” Hiroshi trailed off as he took in the scene before him. Daisuke mirrored his slack jawed partner’s expression.

Ukyou looked on in fear and opened her mouth, tried to come up with an explanation, then stopped. The fact of the matter was, she was on her knees applying lotion to an attractive girl’s behind. With that kind of visual evidence even she wouldn’t have believed her own denials. Realizing there was nothing she could say that would work, she settled for something that was hopefully more attainable. “It’s not what it looks like, but you two wouldn’t believe it even if I tried explaining it. All I can ask is for you guys to keep quiet. Please.”

Hiroshi appeared on the verge of tears as he spoke. “Bad enough Ranma steals almost all the good-looking girls around. The few that are available are now doing each other. What kind of mad world is this?” He turned to look for support of his buddy, but Daisuke had already come up with his own question.

“Can I watch?”

Ukyou began to draw her combat spatula in answer. That was all the encouragement the two youths needed to flee before an impending beating could take place.

“Ukyou,” Ai had straightened out and looked sorrowfully at the chef. “Would it really bother you if those two announced to the school we were an item?”

“Of course it would!” she snapped back. “I’m not your girlfriend.”

“I understand,” Ai uttered, and then turned to go. “I’ll convince them to remain silent.”

Ukyou stopped Ai before she exited the establishment. “You aren’t going to hurt them, are you?” She didn’t want the boys to spread the rumors, but Ai still had a reputation as being a bit violent.

“No. I’ll just impress upon them the need to keep their mouths shut. No physical force should be necessary. I have other means of garnering their acquiescence.”

“Unh… all right.” Ukyou wasn’t sure what Ai was up to, and she had a feeling she didn’t want to know. “Just be careful.”

Ai looked at her a little wide eyed at the addendum, then smiled as she turned and left. It took her only moments to catch up to the two depressed boys.

“Sorry to interrupt you two,” Hiroshi apologized. Daisuke started mumbling something about not getting to see any action until he received a light elbow to the side from Hiroshi.

“I need you two to remain silent about what you’ve seen,” Ai said.

“Oh, come on!” Daisuke protested. “This is the juiciest bit of gossip I’ve had in a long time.”

Ai scowled a bit. Now that she thought about it, the duo weren’t exactly known for keeping their mouths shut. It appeared she was going to have to take some extraordinary steps to gain their silence.

“I can make it worth your while,” Ai ran her hands slowly up Daisuke’s sides. “And yours,” she told Hiroshi.

“At the same time?!” he answered in disbelief.

Ai nodded her head and indicated the duo should follow her.

Ukyou returned to setting up the restaurant once again. She hadn’t set up more than one table when she heard more people enter.

“We still aren’t open yet.” She turned to see Kaede, Megumi, and Ayeka of the cheerleader squad now present. “You just missed Ai.”

“We have two things to ask of you, Ukyou,” Megumi said, ignoring Ukyou’s remark and taking the role of leader with Ai’s absence. “One: do you know what happened to Kyoko?”

“No,” she growled back. She couldn’t care less what rock the peppy little thing was hiding under.

“We thought since she and Ryouga were—“ Megumi was cut off.


“Fine.” Megumi held up her hands in mock surrender. “The other thing was a request.”

“A request?” Ukyou asked.

“Yes.” She looked to her fellow teammates and watched them nod their heads in unspoken agreement. She then returned her attention to Ukyou. “We want you to start dating Ai.”


Ayeka began to speak now. “We’re losing our edge. Before, Ai would drive us to the height of perfection. It wasn’t always pretty, but we got the job done in the end, and it was worth it. We are the best.”

“But that’s changing now,” Kaede said. “All Ai does is mope around and sigh. The only times she’s happy are when she can see you. I tell you, it’s weird. She used to be the roughest, toughest cheerleader there was, but now she’s gone soft.”

“I’ve seen her chase after men and women, before,” Ayeka said. “She was always the aggressor and the one in control, even against the ones that resisted her. Now everything’s changed. She’s depressed most of the time. She tries to get glances of you whenever she can, always afraid of how you’ll react or what you think she looks like. And she’s nice and deferential to you, something she’s never been before when trying to get someone. She’s really got it bad.”

Ukyou was surprised by that information to say the least. Just as the first pangs of sympathy began, they were quickly crushed.

“Besides, it’s not like you have anything better to do,” Megumi said.

Ayeka nodded. “After you were dumped by Ryouga, you haven’t exactly had lots of guys looking your way.”

“I don’t know what it is Ai sees in you.” Kaede looked at her pitifully. “Maybe she likes the fact you dress like a guy but are really a girl. Best of both worlds, I suppose.”

“Or it could be the magic pill she swallowed.” Megumi reminded Kaede. “But you’re right. I know I could never pass myself off as a guy. I mean, can you imagine trying to tie MY chest up in some stupid wrap? I think not.”

“Yes,” Ayeka laughed. “There’s no way I could try to pass myself off as some kind of androgynous weirdo with the chest I have, either.”

The three began to laugh at their little jokes until they sensed the battle aura build up in the room.

“I know one of the reasons Ai likes me,” Ukyou informed them as her face began twitching. “It’s the skill I have in using this giant spatula of mine. Allow me to give you a demonstration.”


Shampoo narrowly dodged the three girls that were thrown out of the restaurant and hurled through the air. She quickly ran inside to see a raging Ukyou scowling at the doorway. Ukyou’s mood only slightly lessened when she spotted Shampoo enter the establishment.

“Do you want me to date Ai too?” Ukyou asked.

“I no care.” Shampoo shrugged. “In Amazon village, it perfectly fine for womens to have relationships with one another. Is you interested in her?”

“NO! I most certainly am not!” Ukyou’s mood was getting progressively worse. “I can’t wait for Minami to get back with that cure. I’d rather have Ai try to pound my head in with her baton, than pound me somewhere else with something else.”

Shampoo’s eyes widened at that reference.

“She can be very descriptive about how she’d like to show her affection for me,” Ukyou explained. “What are you here for anyway? You never come by here to eat.”

“That because you not know how to make good wallpaper-paste style okonomiyaki.”

Ukyou blushed slightly at that treatment of Shampoo so early on in their relationship. “Sorry. Let me make you one on the house as an apology.”

Shampoo shook her head. “That not why I’m here. I need you to help me.”

Ukyou thought she knew what she was going to ask. “Train?” She watched Shampoo nod in acknowledgment. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told Akane. I don’t have time for that. I have a restaurant to run. It’s not easy with Ryouga gone.”

“What happen to him?” Shampoo asked.

“He disappeared after he went out on that date with Kyoko,” Ukyou said. “No one has any idea where either of them are.”

Kyoko shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun and looked off into the distance. “Wow, Ryouga-kun! I didn’t know they had pyramids in Nerima.”

Ryouga laughed embarrassingly and gazed across the desert dunes to the pyramids before them. He had done a lot of laughing the last few days, though why Kyoko seemed to think they were still in Nerima, despite all the evidence to the contrary, was beyond him.

“And those giant stone heads we saw yesterday really looked a lot like the ones on Easter Island,” Kyoko stated. “Japan sure has a lot of natural wonders I’ve never seen.”

Ryouga was fairly certain it was Easter Island they had been on, though how they had gotten on and off the island without taking a boat was beyond him. He was lost again, but he knew they could have found their way back easily save for one small problem; Kyoko didn’t know he was cursed. He had no idea how she would react to that information, so he kept his secret and continued wandering, hoping they would stumble on something that would provide them with a way back to Nerima, or at least Japan.

“This is easily the longest date I’ve ever been on.” Kyoko smiled warmly at her date. “If it were anyone other than you, I’d be worried.”

He sighed. At least they were getting a chance to get to know each other better.

“So, I have to run everything by myself now,” Ukyou said helplessly.

“But I can stay in Nerima and train with you. It not take too long to learn, and you is the only one Shampoo know that uses lots of long-range weapons. I no want to end up beat by Mousse. Please,” she pleaded.

Ukyou noticed the look of hope upon Shampoo’s features. She really did want to help the Amazon, but there was a business to run. Then an idea occurred to her. “Say, Shampoo. I think we can work something out.”

“We can?”

“Yep.” Ukyou nodded her head. “I’ll help you train for several hours every day, mornings before school and evenings after until the day of the match. I’ll just cut the restaurant’s evening hours by half or so.”

“What you want in return?” This was what Shampoo needed.

“I want you to work in the restaurant for me,” Ukyou said.

“Aiyah!” Shampoo jumped up and down in joy. “I know many good Chinese dishes to cook.”

“Oh, no.” Ukyou shook her head. “You won’t be a cook, you’ll be waiting on tables.”


“It’ll be for three weeks,” Ukyou added.

“What!” Shampoo shouted. “We only train for ten days. Why I have to work for you for three weeks?”

“My business is going to suffer with all the hours I’m cutting. So that’s the deal.”

“Fine,” Shampoo relented. “I can be waitress for you.”

“Oh, no.” Ukyou shook her head once again. “You won’t be a waitress.”

“What you mean?” Shampoo was beginning to get worried. Ukyou was getting a very calculated look in her eyes.

“This.” Ukyou picked up a glass of water and threw it on Shampoo. “You’re going to be a waiter, not a waitress. This way I can get all the members of your little fan club at school to eat here just to watch you. I’ll double my business overnight. Let me pick up a uniform.” And with that Ukyou left her store.

Shampoo remained where she was and sighed. Ukyou was taking tips from Nabiki, evidently. Still, three weeks of showing off for the clientele would be worth it, if she could win her duel.

Hiroshi came around to find himself in a bed, naked. He quickly noted it was not his bedroom, and then took a moment to pull himself together to remember where he was.

“I thought the two of you were never going to come around.”

Hiroshi looked up to see Ai, sitting in a chair, apparently wearing nothing but a light robe over herself. He heard Daisuke moan and start to come around as well. It took another moment to remember that he had followed Ai to her house, where she had promised to entertain the pair of them. Once Hiroshi was oriented better he attempted to remember the exact details of what happened.

“You two put on quite a performance,” Ai said warmly as she smiled at the duo.

Daisuke was now almost fully awake. “Well, I have to admit, you were pretty good too.”

“I don’t see how, since I wasn’t involved,” Ai stated. “Perhaps I was unclear. What I meant to say was that you two put on quite a performance… with each other.”

Ai watched with amusement as the two froze in mid-motion. She gave them enough time to allow their minds to begin functioning again when she added something else. “Here are some of the pictures.”

Hiroshi snatched the offered photos first and began to examine them. Sure enough, it was the two of them in some very compromising positions. He turned to his partner. “I thought you were my friend! How could you take advantage of me like that?”

“ME?!” Daisuke shouted. “It was you! I was unconscious!”

“I was too!” Hiroshi said. Once both realized what the other was saying, they took the time to examine the pictures more closely.

“Both of our eyes are shut,” Daisuke observed. The duo stared at Ai in suspicion.

“That’s because you were both unconscious.” She smiled back at the pair. “It’s amazing what kind of trouble you can cause with pressure points and a camera.”

“Why did you do that?!” Hiroshi shouted. If those pictures got out…

“To prove a point.” Ai’s smile faded a bit. “It’s easy to misinterpret a situation if you don’t know what’s going on. Like back at the restaurant.”

“So you and Ukyou weren’t…” Daisuke let the question trail off.

“No. Unfortunately we weren’t.” Ai sighed. “So, I now trust the two of you will not spread any inaccurate rumors, correct? I’d hate to see these photos come to light.”

Both nodded their heads vigorously. No rumors would pass from their lips ever again. “Can we have the pictures?” Hiroshi asked.

Ai shook her head. “No. Think of it as insurance. But don’t worry, I won’t show them to anyone else.”

The two attempted to argue, but it was to no avail. Ai was unrelenting.

An idea occurred to Daisuke. Something that might recoup their losses. “Did you like what you saw?” He tried giving her the most charming smile he could.

“I…” she began.

“Yes?” both said in anticipation.

“…found it…” She placed a finger to her lips.


“…very…” She slowly sucked on the tip of the finger for a moment before removing it.


“…amusing, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The duo facefaulted. Once they recovered they began sobbing, their egos castrated on the spot.

Ai saw the effect she had and gave in to the pity. “You’re both very average, and not at all amusing. Do you feel better now?”

The duo nodded sadly in response. Average. Still, it was better than amusing.

“There is one other thing before we go,” Daisuke suddenly brought up.

“What?” Ai asked, now becoming irritated.

“You got to see us naked. I think it’s only fair we see you naked too.” Hiroshi nodded in agreement.

Ai looked the two over. It would be a small sacrifice if it would get them to leave. “Fine.” She stood up and opened her robe for a moment, then quickly closed it. It was with an amused smile that she watched the duo develop nosebleeds. It was probably the closest thing to sex either one had ever come to. “Go on. You had your free show. Now hit the road.”

The two exited the room in shock and walked downstairs.

“She’s a goddess,” Daisuke mumbled.

“And she’s a natural blond,” Hiroshi added.

“Are we forgetting something?” Daisuke asked, still in lovestruck awe.

Hiroshi simply shrugged, still too out of it to be aware of what was going on.

The pair walked past Mariko, Ai’s sister, as she returned to her home. Mariko watched the two leave with wide eyes, then quickly ran up to Ai’s room. She burst in just as her sister was dressing.

“What the hell do you want?” Ai growled. Mariko knew better than to barge in unannounced.

Mariko smirked. “I thought you gave up your sluttish ways now that you have Kuonji in your sights. I see you couldn’t do it.”

“I didn’t do anything with them.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Mariko replied.


Mariko frowned at her sister’s seemingly oblivious attitude. “They didn’t have any clothes on.”

Ai looked down in surprise at the pairs’ clothing lying on the floor. Apparently they really had led quite the sheltered lives to be that far out of it.

The Saotomes and Soun watched from a distance as Akane tended the cooking fire she had going.

“What is it that she’s making again, son?” Soun asked.

“BLT’s, or so she says,” Ranma informed him. “The way I figure it, we should be pretty safe with that. She can’t screw up tomatoes. She can’t screw up lettuce. She can’t screw up the bread. The only thing she can mess up is the bacon. She can only overdo it, which means the sandwiches are a little crunchy, or they end up undercooked, which means we get an internal parasite. Either way, we’re a lot better off than eating what she regularly cooks.”

The fathers nodded in agreement.

“They’re ready!” Akane cried out cheerily. The trio made their way to the encampment and were served sandwiches, a gray ooze leaking out the sides of each one.

Ranma examined his in disgust. How could it have happened? “Akane?” He asked in a tired voice.

“Yes, Ranma?”

“What do you think BLT stands for?”

Akane looked at him as though he had asked what color the sky was. “Beans, Liver, and Tofu, of course.”

“WRONG!!!” he shouted. “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! It stands for Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.”

Akane gave a disgusted look. “Blech! That sounds pretty bland. My version sounds way better, especially with the paprika and jalapeno pepper I added. Now eat up.” She picked up Ranma’s sandwich and tried thrusting it in his face.

Ranma kept his mouth shut and leaped away. Akane gave a shout of “At least try it!” before pursuing.

Genma and Soun threw their sandwiches in the fire. There was some tasty-looking tree bark they could snack on, before figuring out what else to eat.

“You’re pathetic!” Tarou ducked another one of Ryu’s blows. They were fast, and powerful, but there was no flow to them. He was fighting little better than a standard black belt.

Ryu attempted a high kick, which Tarou caught as he threw Ryu to the ground. Tarou was becoming very concerned. Ryu was fighting well below his abilities, and he would lose no matter what tricks and edges Tarou could give him. An ideal opportunity was being wasted by the second. And all because the wannabe Ranma was acting scared. Tarou evaded Ryu’s counter attack, lost in thought, There had to be some way to get him to fight up to his potential. Perhaps getting him angry would help. It sure as hell couldn’t hurt. But where to get him? What did he care about? It only took a few moments to figure it out.

“Nice ass that wife of yours has.”

Tarou gave an inward sigh as he saw Ryu freeze up for a second in shock. If he were just going to stand around like a punching bag then he’d get beaten all right, just not by Ranma.

Tarou came in with a hard fist for Ryu’s head. It never arrived as Ryu easily blocked the blow. Even Tarou was a little taken aback by the fury demonstrated in Ryu’s face. Tarou’s own split second of hesitation cost him as he was suddenly struck with a series of hard fist and finger strikes to his midsection. Ryu finished up with a palm strike whose force seemed to go through Tarou, causing him to go flying through the air and land hard, rolling a good distance across the ground.

“No one may speak about my wife like that.”

Tarou slowly got to his feet, impressed. Ryu hit a lot harder than Ranma did, and if he could employ attacks like that, Fem-Boy was finished. “You have to fight like that if you want to beat the other Ranma, pal. Just imagine that that pervert is thinking things like that about you wife. Come to think of it, if you lose this fight, you know she’s going to be honor bound to marry the real Ranma. Just picture the two of them, their bodies intertwined…”

“Enough!” Ryu shouted. “Let’s begin again!”

The two of them began to fight in earnest. After a while, Tarou became truly impressed with Ryu’s fighting style. It was time for specifics. “I’ll show you a defense against his Amaguriken.”

Tarou began showing him the defense as he thought about what to do next. Soon he would have to start “teaching” Kaori how to fight Akane. Naturally, he’d give her false information, so when it came time for his students to take their tests, only one would pass.

Too bad.

Three days later:
In the Heavens above:

Raiden heard the thunderous knocking upon the doors of his castle in the heavens. As soon as he heard the blows, he knew who his visitor was. There was only one individual in all the heavens that could ‘thunder’ on his door in that manner. He walked to the entryway and opened the door to see his old comrade at arms, Thor, waiting impatiently to be allowed in. The Asgardian God of Thunder had a hand to his skull, holding a large lump on his head. There was only one being in the heavens that could produce that sort of damage on Thor.

“What did you do to Sif now?”

“I did nothing to that uncaring brute,” Thor protested.

“Right.” Raiden knew better than to argue the point with him. Thor would never admit to wrongdoing, no matter how much at fault he was. “What did she misinterpret this time?”

“Allow me to quench my thirst as I explain.” Thor made his way past Raiden into the interior of the castle, making a beeline for the stores of mead that he knew lay within the castle. Once there, the duo poured themselves the strongest concoction they could find as Thor began to relate his tale.

“’Tis not my fault. I tell thee. The wench overreacted again,” Thor exclaimed.

Raiden rubbed his temple. “Overreacted to what?”

“Well,” he began. “Urd did stop by for just a visit.”

Raiden could see it now. Still, it was best to allow Thor to vent his frustrations and make himself feel better. It was a scene that had been repeated many times in the past. Thor did something to anger Sif. Sif hit Thor. Thor came to Raiden to drown his sorrows. And with Urd involved, it was double trouble. Thor would not go back to face Sif’s anger for some time.

Thor continued. “She was in mine door no longer than five seconds, when Sif did return to our domicile and did smite me with mine own hammer. Sometimes methinks I should just give it to her.”

“You and Urd used to date, as I recall,” Raiden mentioned.

“That was centuries ago. The uncaring brute should not feel threatened by one who is so much more beautiful, and not as violent as storm giant with a toothache.”

Raiden shook his head sadly. “And I suppose you told her this to her face?”

“Aye! The wench should be made to know her inadequacies. And I only did it after she did smite me once. Very hard, I might add.”

It was getting worse. “Did Urd greet you in her usual manner?” Raiden remembered just how outgoing her greetings could be for those she fancied. As Raiden remembered, in Thor’s case it was usually a deep, tonguing kiss.

“Of course. We go back a long way,” Thor proudly stated as he downed his fourth cup of mead.

That clinched it. Thor would not be returning to his home for some time. The two gods of thunder downed many a mug of mead before Raiden came up with an idea.

“You know, the mortals have been having it easy of late.”

“Aye!” Thor agreed.

“Let’s show the mortal world below what two gods of thunder can really do when they put their minds to it.”

Thor smiled in anticipation.

It was after school, and Ukyou had been helping Shampoo train by throwing a variety of spatulas, as well as other cooking implements in the Amazon’s direction, in one of the open fields in Nerima. The training had gone fairly well the last few days. Shampoo knew her reflexes were increasing, as she was able to evade most of Ukyou’s attacks, although some strikes would get through every now and then.

Ukyou watched the purple-haired Amazon stand up from the last series of attacks she had thrown at her. “You know, I’m still surprised by your clothing. You could wear something a little more conservative.”

The Amazon examined herself in the white muscle shirt and bicycle shorts. They were good clothes on two counts. One was that it was an ensemble that she could wear that would not easily snag on any of the weapons Ukyou might employ. The other was that they were appropriately androgynous, and she wouldn’t have to change if she got wet. “What you mean? They fit fine.”

“Well, you could try wearing a bra for starters. You’re going to have the guys drooling all over you in that.”

Shampoo snickered a bit at the comment. “They already do. Besides, you no seem to mind when girls look at me in that too-tight uniform you make me wear.”

Ukyou smiled as she visualized the outfit she had gotten for Shampoo-kun. It was a tight light blue shirt with the sleeves cut out, so Shampoo-kun’s rather nice arms were displayed for all the customers (girls) to see. His arms might not have been as large as Ryouga’s, but they were plenty big enough on their own. That, in addition to the tight leather pants that were at least one size too small, added up to an adorable package that had her place brimming to overflowing with the overly-hormonal girls of Furinkan. And she hadn’t even needed to advertise more than one day at the school before word traveled around about where the ever-popular Shampoo-kun was working. Everyone was desperate to see him since he had taken two weeks off for training. And now the money was rolling in like never before. She was going to have to do something to keep Shampoo-kun working there.

“You shouldn’t complain,” Ukyou reminded her. “You’re making a ton of money with the tips.”

Shampoo gave a little smile at that. The chef might have used her, but at least it was a better deal than anything Nabiki would have come up with. Especially the profits. Still, she needed to put on airs, lest Ukyou get too cocky about the situation. “I no like the way girls pinch my bottom when I go past tables.”

“But its sooo irresistible.” Ukyou gave a mock squeal of delight.

Shampoo looked at her flatly. “Shampoo know; you grab my bottom, too.”

“Th… that was an accident!” The chef responded as she began to blush.

“That was a grope.”

Further arguments were cut off as rain began to fall. Shampoo felt the first drops of water strike her head, triggering the transformation.

“Great! The skies were totally clear a second ago,” Ukyou mumbled. “Should we stop?”

“No.” Shampoo-kun shook his head. “We keep sparring. It may rain for fight, and Shampoo should be prepared.”

Ukyou nodded in understanding as Shampoo-kun moved a good distance from Ukyou and began to make his way to her. Under these conditions, the Amazon was at a disadvantage. He was slower as a male, and speed was what was needed to evade Mousse’s attacks. The idea that Mousse might realize it as well, and use water against Shampoo-kun, was all the more reason to practice as a man too, though Shampoo-kun had a feeling Mousse wanted to win when his love interest was female.

The downpour increased to thunderstorm proportions as Shampoo-kun evaded the thrown weapons in his direction. It was a slow process of making his way to Ukyou, thorough the hail of dulled mini-spatulas that were meant to simulate hits. It would have been pure foolishness to use edged weapons and gain so many injuries training that he wouldn’t be in any shape to defeat Mousse. Shampoo-kun was struck with three minor scores by the time half the distance to the chef was closed.

Ukyou switched tactics and went for a flour bomb. A mistake since the rain prevented the cloud from effectively spreading. Shampoo-kun was almost on top of her when she unloaded a Bakusai Tenketsu in the hopes of buying some time to make some distance from the charging Amazon. Shampoo-kun leaped over the exploding ground and ducked under Ukyou’s attempted two-handed spatula thrust. He came up under the guard and placed himself between her and the weapon, bodies right next to one another. He then grabbed her arms. Ukyou lost her grip on her spatula as the Amazon forced her arms apart.

“Now what you do, Spatula Girl?”

Ukyou got angry at her helplessness in Shampoo-kun’s arms and tried to knee him in the groin. A mistake. Shampoo-kun sensed the attempt and blocked it with his inner thigh. Ukyou just barely caught a glimpse of the anger in Shampoo-kun’s face as she felt his hands lock behind her back and she was given a belly-to-belly suplex and driven hard into the ground. Ukyou was momentarily winded as she felt Shampoo-kun switch his grip and pin her arms to her sides as well as drive his legs between hers, preventing her from using them again.

“No try to do that!” Shampoo-kun hissed at the prone chef. “Stupid Spatula Girl have no idea how much that hurt!” He had more than a passing knowledge of just how much getting struck there hurt, having been introduced shortly after first getting his curse to just how sensitive the area was to blows. Birthing children might have been more painful, but he was certain that was the only comparative pain women could feel.

“A… all right,” Ukyou managed to get out, worried at the anger in Shampoo-kun’s face. She had gone too far. It was supposed to be nothing more than a minor practice session. Neither of them was supposed to get hurt. The reason as to why she suddenly lost her cool was a bit of a mystery though. “Let me up. I won’t do it again.”

For a moment, confusion crossed Shampoo-kun’s face before he got off his opponent. He heaved himself up to his feet and then offered a helping hand to his opponent. The rain tripled in intensity and was joined by close lighting strikes as both fighters stood in the midst of the downpour.

“Let’s get the hell out of here, and go to my place!” Ukyou found herself shouting to be heard over the pouring rain. Shampoo-kun nodded his head in agreement as the two began running to the restaurant.

“What do you two think You’re doing?!”

Thor and Raiden turned to see a red skinned, four-armed man, bearing several barrels, approach them. Both recognized him immediately.

“Greetings, Indra,” Raiden greeted the Hindu thunder master. “What brings you here?”

“That should be obvious,” Indra replied. “I was on my way back from visiting Olympus when I sensed a major disruption in the weather patterns. Imagine my surprise to see two of my friends whipping up a real mother of a storm and not inviting me.”

“Dost thou, by chance, bear some of Dionysus spirits within yon casks?” Thor asked, lips already beginning to smack in anticipation.

Indra grinned. “Why, yes, I do.”

“Then by all means,” Thor smiled in return. “Come. Aid us in reminding the mortals what the thunder is really all about.”

Ranma-chan looked out of the small cave as the storm tripled in intensity. Visibility was decreasing by the moment, now down to about twenty feet. It was so bizarre, the deluge coming from out of nowhere. She turned to see her thoroughly drenched fiancée huddled against the rock wall. Akane was doing a pretty good impression of a soaked cat, shivering in the close confines of the rock.

“You okay?” Ranma-chan asked.

Akane nodded in return. “Yes. I’m just a little wet.”

“We could be swimming and be less soggy,” Ranma-chan commented. “You sure you’re not cold?”

“What are you going to do? Offer me your shirt?” Akane smiled at Ranma-chan. That was probably what the redhead was about to offer.

Ranma-chan looked down at herself. If she had any extra clothing she would have offered it to Akane. But there wasn’t, and she had a feeling the first words out of Akane’s mouth would be “Pervert!” if she did take off her top and offer it. Still, there was something else she could do to make things warmer. Ranma-chan got up and sat right next to Akane. If warmth couldn’t be offered through clothing, it could be given through the closeness of the body.

Akane looked a little nervous as Ranma-chan actually moved closer to her. Despite the fact her fiancé was unquestionably a girl, she felt excited by the close proximity.

Akane desperately tried to come up with something to distract her from the unusual feeling from within. “How’s the training going?”

Ranma-chan perked up at the question. “Pretty good. I should have the rest of the Umisenken learned in the next couple of days. Pop assures me it can defeat the Yamasenken. Of course, you know how much Pop’s knowledge is actually worth.”

“I wouldn’t be so hard on him,” Akane defended. “If there is one thing he knows, it’s martial arts. Besides, I know you. You’ll win. You always do.”

Ranma-chan was a bit taken aback by the flattery. Akane being complementary? “Thanks. I know I will. Once I finish with the Umisenken, I’m going to try to learn that Shi Shi Houkoudan Ryouga uses all the time. With a chi attack, winning will be a snap.”

Ranma-chan waited to hear Akane reprimand him for his ego. Once again he was surprised, as she used no scathing words. Instead, she just nodded.

After a moment, Akane spoke up. “So what do you think of me? How am I coming along?”

Ranma-chan was silent for a moment, and then answered quietly. “You’re pretty good.”

Now Akane began to get angry. That was it? Just a ‘pretty good?’ And why had Ranma-chan paused and gotten so quiet? “Thanks a lot!” she growled, then scowled, looking outside.

It took a moment before Ranma-chan spoke up again. “You’re doing real good. You’re a lot better than when I left.”

“You don’t sound happy about it!” she snapped back.

“You wouldn’t understand.” And with that the red head got up and walked to the opposite wall of the cave.

Akane reconsidered her behavior. It was now obvious Ranma-chan was bothered by something and hiding it. “What’s wrong? Tell me.”

She stopped and considered the request. It was probably pointless. Akane had made her wishes pretty clear. Still, if she was asking for it, Ranma-chan would tell her. “I’m kind of… jealous of how good you got.”

“What?” Akane was very shocked by the confession. Ranma-chan, jealous of her martial arts abilities?

“It’s like you said,” Ranma-chan began. “You got a whole lot better while I was gone. It’s like you didn’t ever need me.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She barely stopped herself before adding, “I need you.”

“I’ve been helping train you, y’know. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job.”

“You were,” Akane agreed.

“But then you hook up with Pantyhose,” he said the last word with more than a little disdain. “And I see you just take off. I can admit it, all right? You are way better than when I left. And I guess most of it was because of you training with him.”

“So?” Akane was still confused.

“You just don’t get it.”

Akane saw Ranma-chan get up, almost as if she was going to head out into the storm. She quickly placed her arm in the shorter girl’s shoulder. “Explain it to me. Please.”

The redhead let out a sigh and sat back down. “Martial arts is my life. It’s all I know, and all I’m good at.   Well, except maybe for acting. Anyway, I pride myself on being the best.”

“And you’re afraid I’ll pass you up?” Surprisingly, Akane felt exhilarated at the idea that her fiancé would feel threatened by her abilities.

“Of course not!” Ranma-chan said. “You got a long way to go before you’ll ever be as good as I am now. And I’ll get better in the in-between.”

“Oh,” was all she could say in response, more than a little crestfallen.

“I was the one training you, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I mean, you never complained. But I’m not gone for more than a couple of days and you get a new trainer. Just like that.” Ranma-chan snapped her fingers for emphasis.

Akane was surprised to hear such emotion coming from Ranma-chan. Still, there were some facts that needed clearing up. “I didn’t set out to find a new one, it just sort of happened. I couldn’t let a valuable opportunity like that pass me by.”

“There’s another thing that sort of bothers me too.,” Ranma-chan added. “The way you got better all of a sudden. It’s like maybe I wasn’t doing such a good job of training you. Maybe I ain’t as good as I thought. Maybe I’m not the best.”

Akane tried to perk his spirits up. “You were doing a fine job. I got a lot better when you were helping me. You know that. You told me yourself.”

“Maybe,” Ranma-chan finally relented.

“No maybes. And if I got better with Tarou, well, you’re just going to have to accept that there are people out there that can teach, too. That’s the way it is, Ranma.”

“And why’d you let a creep like that train you?!” There was more than a little bit of accusation in Ranma-chan’s voice.

“Tarou’s perfectly fine,” she retorted, and then softened a bit. “If the two of you got together, I’m sure you’d get along.”

Ranma-chan just shook her head. “I don’t think so. It just sort of bothers me that you just gave up on me.”

Was that what this was all about? “I never gave up on you. I knew you’d be back. I have faith in you.”

That brightened the red head up, a little. “Of course I would.” What little happiness disappeared as she began thinking about things again. “Is he better than me?”

Akane sighed. Ranma-chan really could be annoying when it came to her ego. “If you mean a better fighter, I don’t know. If you mean a better teacher.” She paused, trying to come up with words that wouldn’t offend Ranma-chan any more than they already had. “He teaches differently. I’m not sure if I’d call it better. Now, answer a question for me. Why are you so stuck on this?”

Ranma-chan played with her hands as she tried to come up with the right words. “I’m kind of hurt. I mean, becoming an instructor might be what I do for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’m suited for much else. You know how seriously I take it, and I want to be the best. Need to be the best. That’s what my whole life’s been about, and it’s just the way I am. Now along comes this total creep that might be better than me. And the fact that it’s you that went to him hurts even more.”

That was a surprise to Akane. “It does?”

“Yeah! Of course it does. You’re special.”

Akane’s eyes widened at that. “I… I am?”

“You’re basically my first student, even if we are engaged, and I feel proud of what you do. You’re my responsibility. I might blow off some things, but I do take that seriously.”

This was a day for revelations for Akane. “I didn’t know you felt that strongly about it.”

“I do.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Akane suddenly felt a little uncomfortable. She thought what she should say was she was sorry she spent the time with Tarou, but the truth was, she wasn’t. It was valuable, and she did enjoy it. What she did feel sorry about was that it hurt Ranma-chan. Somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to lie to her fiancé.

She moved next to the redhead and began trying to console her. “I’m glad you’re back and that you’re helping me. I’m not sorry you’re training me again.” That wasn’t really a lie. She was sorry that she couldn’t train with both of them.

“Thanks,” Ranma-chan finally said. “That makes me feel better.”

Akane was surprised at the relief that flooded her with those words. She had no idea that she had been so worked up over her fiancé’s feelings. With her feelings of elation, one other thought joined them. Something that had been bothering her for a little while. Something she had to prove to herself, and maybe make up for the way she had treated Ranma-chan. Now that the two of them were alone, and with the storm raging outside, there was no chance of interruption. If only Ranma-chan didn’t react poorly to what she was about to do. It was probably best to take her by surprise.

She was a little amazed by her own desires. Perhaps it was their closeness in the cave. Or maybe the privacy they could never seem to have anywhere else. Or maybe it was just the knowledge that, without realizing it, Ranma-chan had openly acknowledged Akane was important to her. She noticed the redhead was looking outside once again. Akane wrung her hands together as she worked up the courage to go forth with the plan. She had to prove to herself that she wasn’t afraid of Ranma when he was in girl form, and now was the perfect opportunity. Sweat mopped her brow as her body suddenly felt very warm, the chill of being wet forgotten as her pulse began racing as hard, if not harder, than when she fought against Karumi.

Akane heard Ranma-chan take a deep breath, and decided now was the time, before she lost confidence. She grabbed her fiancé’s head from behind and turned it in her direction. Ranma-chan was caught too off guard to resist. As she faced Ranma-chan, she was about to move closer for the kiss when Ranma-chan finally responded. The reaction was not the one Akane had expected.

Ranma-chan unloaded a sneeze directly into Akane’s face.

“Geez, Akane!” Ranma-chan said as she wiped her nose with her sleeve. “Whad’ya grab my head like that for?”

“Believe me,” she said as she finally began wiping her face off. “I don’t know what the feeling was, but it is definitely gone now.”

Two more gods of thunder and lightning, Leir and Shango, had joined the three that had already been there. By now Raiden, Thor, and Indra were totally plastered and putting everything they had into the storm.

“Wait! Wait!” Raiden said as he flailed his hands drunkenly to get everyone’s attention. “Watch this!.” He brought his hands together, concentrated, and then released a tremendous lightning bolt downwards to the earth.

“That’s nothing. Watch this!” Thor summoned a bolt at least twice the size of Raiden’s and released it towards the earth below.

Indra scoffed at the duo. “Why use only one when you can use four?” And with that he summoned four lightning bolts, one for each hand, and threw them towards the earth below.

“Show-off,” the two upstaged thunder gods grumbled.

Leir spoke up. “It’s not a question of might. It’s a question of precision. Now take that mortal there waving a bokken and shouting about thunder.” He indicated through a hole in the clouds. “Watch this!” And with that he summoned a lightning bolt that struck the youth right in the head. The mortal promptly fell over.

“You’d better not have killed him,” Raiden warned. “I like that one. Every time he shouts out his name and title of ‘Blue Thunder,’ I provide him with a bolt. I like the effect.”

“No. He’s just stunned,” Leir said. “I don’t want to kill anyone, just scare the life out of them. They haven’t really been afraid of us for hundreds of years.” 

“It’s because of technolosy,” Thor slurred.

“That’s technology,” Indra corrected.

“That’s wha’ I said!” Thor barked back. “Take away their lights and heat, and thou canst get them to panic, just like the time mineself and Baldur got Heimdall drunk, and convinced him Loki stole the Rainbow Bridge. Mine brother surely had a bad time that day. HAHAHAHA!!!”

“Let’s find out.” Shango said. And with that, he began hurling lightning bolts at specific targets. The others began a competition and joined in.

“SHIT!!!” Ukyou shouted as a lightning bolt crashed nearby, shattering part of the street.

“This is getting ridiculous, even for Nerima!” Shampoo-kun shouted over the storm. “They no say they expect a typhoon!”

“Sugar!” Ukyou shouted back. “This is worse than any typhoon! We need to get to shelter, quick!” More huge lighting bolts struck the ground around them and all over Nerima.

“There the restaurant!” Shampoo-kun pointed out through the falling rain.

The duo barely managed to make their way inside Uk-Chan’s making certain to secure the door behind them.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any customers tonight.” Ukyou tried turning on the lights, only to discover there was no power. “And that settles it. You’re going to have to live without your fan club tonight.”

“You no see me complaining, do you?” Shampoo-kun said as he took off his thoroughly drenched top and began to wring it out.

Ukyou paused for a moment to watch the action. She didn’t even realize she was smiling at him as he stood there, topless and clad only in his bicycle shorts. The behavior didn’t go unnoticed by Shampoo-kun.

“You like what you see?” He said as he placed his hands on his hips and displayed himself for Ukyou’s benefit.

“What?!” Ukyou shouted out in surprise. “No! It’s nothing like that!”

Shampoo-kun began smiling. “Maybe Shampoo should start calling you ‘Pervert Girl’ instead of ‘Spatula Girl’.”

“I’m not staring!” she protested.

Even in the relative darkness, Shampoo-kun could just make out Ukyou beginning to blush.

“I’ll get some hot water for you.” Ukyou went in back to her bathroom and tried using the faucets. Nothing came out. She started swearing under her breath and went back to the dining area, where Shampoo-kun made himself comfortable. She informed him about the lack of water and tried using the grill. No gas, either.

“That too bad.” Shampoo-kun gave a big smile to Ukyou. If what he guessed was right, he was going to have fun tormenting the chef tonight. “I can no go back in this storm. I guess I just have to stay here tonight.” He leaned back in his chair, placed his hands behind his head, and grinned at Ukyou, making certain to flex a little bit for her.

“I’ll get some clothes for you.” Ukyou started to make her way to her room.  If nothing of hers would fit the Amazon, he could always use one of Ryouga’s outfits.

“No worry about it.” Shampoo-kun waved his hand dismissively. “I fine as is.”

“Suit yourself.”

This time she didn’t react, much to Shampoo-kun’s disappointment. He wasn’t going to have fun getting her worked up after all. Too bad. She had had an advantage over him for far too long. “What should we do to pass time?”

Ukyou went to light some candles as she pondered what to do next. The lack of power meant no radio or television. The storm prevented them from leaving. There was no way they were going to practice martial arts indoors. She made her way into the back and went through one of the storage rooms. There were several boxes she had yet to unpack.

The first one held nothing but some extra weaponry, some clothing rarely worn, and a photo album. She had started to feel comfortable around Shampoo, but not enough to start reminiscing about her personal past, so she opened a second box. The first thing she came upon was a deck of cards. Perfect. She was about to leave when her eyes stumbled on a third crate her father had given her. Should she use the contents?

“Well, why not?” she decided. There was nothing better to do and it wasn’t as though she had to worry about the next day.

Ukyou returned to the dining area once more to see Shampoo-kun just as she had left him. The boy gave a curious grin as he spotted the objects Ukyou had brought back with her.

“Cards for poker.” She held out pack. “And wine to add atmosphere.” She held out the bottle she had. “I know damn well you drink.”

“Not regular.” In fact, the only time she had drank since she had come to Japan was that horrible night over a month ago.

“Well, it’s time you learned to appreciate wine.” Ukyou smiled as she began to explain her particular affection for the drink. “Dad always had a little bit of wine with him. He was quite the expert. Oh, you wouldn’t have expected it from a rough, unrefined guy like him, but he was really good at it. He could almost always tell what kind and year it was by the taste. He was best with reds. He never got drunk on them, mind you,” she quickly added. “He just drank enough to enjoy the taste. Anyway, he always let me have a little sip when he drank, even when I was a kid. I guess I kind of liked it. As time passed I got pretty good at it, too. I’m not as good as dad was, but I know more than the average guy off the street does.”

She got out some glasses and filled each to the top. The games began well enough for Ukyou, winning three out of four times. Shampoo-kun had one of the worst poker faces she had ever seen. Perhaps it was because of worry over the upcoming duel. Naturally, Ukyou wasted no time in rubbing her victories in the Amazon’s face.

The wine poured liberally between the two, Ukyou out of enjoyment and Shampoo-kun out of frustration, both becoming quite moody from the drink. They were finishing their second bottle when the Amazon eventually grew weary from losing so often and suffering Ukyou’s happiness at his defeats. He silently decided to take the initiative once again.

“So, what hanging around Ai like?”

The reference to her would-be paramour wasn’t enough to change Ukyou’s demeanor. “She’s a lot more tolerable now. Actually, she can be pretty nice every now and then. Of course, with her always flirting with me, it doesn’t help much with any sort of friendship we might have.”

“Is you SURE you no like girls that way?”

“Pretty sure,” Ukyou said. “When I was a pretending to be a guy at my last school I wasn’t interested. It wasn’t from lack of attention from the girls at one of the nearby schools, either. Though it wasn’t as bad for me as it is for you. I dated some of them to maintain the pretense, but it never got far. Two dates at the most, then I’d break it off.”

Shampoo-kun was a bit surprised by that response. Rather than vehemently denying it, which had been her pattern, Ukyou was much more restrained when she offered the explanation

Ukyou swirled the liquid in her glass around a few times. “When Ai says some of the raunchy things to me, they really don’t turn me on. Mostly,” she added.

That caught Shampoo-kun’s interest. He leaned across the table and asked. “What sort of things?”

Ukyou got up, sat next to Shampoo-kun, obviously giddy from the drink as she began giggling. “I used to think guys were bad. Well, they are, but Ai goes far and beyond that. What’s worse is, I think she’s done most of them. She seems like the adventurous type to me. Here’s some of the things she’s ‘suggested’.”

Shampoo-kun thought he was open minded, but some of the things affected even his sensibilities (although some were put into long-term memory for possible future use. After all, Ranma was a girl part of the time.)

Ukyou finished explaining one that involved yarn, whip cream, a trapeze, and certain instruments designed to simulate male anatomical features. “I have no idea where she comes up with things like that. There’s no way you could do it.”

Shampoo-kun gained a sinister smile, as an inspiration of how he might play a little joke on Ukyou came to him.  It might even gain him a small measure of revenge for the chef using him as a girl toy for her own insidious economic gains.

“Sure there is, Spatula Girl. You just have to be athletic and flexible. Shampoo show you.” And with that he quickly picked up the very surprised Ukyou and proceeded to go to the floor and hastily maneuvering the two of them into the position Ai mentioned, sans the trapeze and other trappings. Ukyou’s resistance was negligible, as she was both surprised and drunk, a combination that left her easily manhandled by Shampoo-kun’s superior strength, and shocked until he already had her down in a position more compromising than the one she had with Ai several days earlier.

“Now, Spatula Girl, you see. It possible. Not very comfortable,” he said as he afforded a glance to her leg that was draped over his shoulder. “But possible.”

“Let me go,” she said softly and attempted to extricate herself from the position she was in. It wasn’t so much the discomfort, which was minor, it was the way parts of Shampoo-kun rubbed against her, and where they were doing it. As she tried to move she discovered something else about the body positioning. There was little leverage to be had, nowhere near enough to force Shampoo-kun off. At least not with the way she currently felt.

“Oh, come on now, Spatula Girl. Does you really want me off? Shampoo see the way Spatula Girl look at her,” Shampoo-kun shook his own head, which was feeling hazy, and corrected the reference. “Shampoo mean him, when Shampoo work in the clothes you picked out.”

“What do you mean?” was all Ukyou managed to get out.

“Spatula Girl steal glances when Shampoo bend over and stuff. Not that it easy to bend over with those pants.”

“Do I?” she looked at him questioningly.

He gave her a wicked grin. “Aiyah. You do. Could Spatula Girl be becoming Pervert Girl thanks to Ai? Is you having second thoughts? Shampoo remember how Spatula Girl kiss him when you save him from Ai. You do it real good. Does Spatula Girl want Shampoo to move?”

For a moment her face started to contort with anger, then it passed just as quickly as her face matched the voice she now spoke in. One of uncertainty. “I don’t know anymore.”

“What?” he asked as panic started to rise in him. That was not the reaction he was looking for.

“I said I don’t know anymore,” she replied in a tired voice.

Shampoo-kun felt a mix of worry and curiosity at Ukyou’s words. “What you mean?”

“It seems that’s all everyone wants me to do anymore.” Ukyou explained. “Fool around with women. The people at my previous schools wanted me to. Ai wants it. The rest of her squad wants it. It seems like everyone at school wants it, so they have something to talk about.”

Shampoo-kun shook his head. “Shampoo not understand.”

“Don’t you?” Ukyou said as she stared into his eyes. “Look at me and the way my life has gone. None of the guys want me, just the women. My fiancé left me at the ripe old age of six. I didn’t date for years, and acted like a guy for the next decade. I meet my fiancé again, and he still isn’t interested in me. I meet a guy I think might like me, but it turns out all he wants is some cutesy little cheerleader. No one wants anything to do with a gal that dresses and acts mostly like one of the guys, now do they?

“But that’s not exactly true either. Plenty of women want me. I have every guy’s wet dream come onto me, and tell me she is willing to become a virtual slave, if I’ll just take her. I have a French Cuisine Combat expert that hates me because I wasn’t the man she thought I was. There is one guy that wants me, but wait a minute! He’s a cross-dresser that looks more like a girl than I do on my best days. My father APPROVES of my relationship with the cheerleader and the cross-dresser, wants to know when I’m going to do something about cementing our bonds, when he can start expecting grandchildren, and who is going to be having them. Sugar, it doesn’t get more messed up than that.”

“Shampoo think he understands.”

“Do you?” Ukyou shot back. “Do you know what it feels like to have your femininity chipped away at in tiny pieces?”

“Yes,” he said sadly. “Shampoo know exactly what it means. Every time Shampoo get splashed with cold water. It was no bad at first, but now it not so clear.” Shampoo-kun looked directly in Ukyou’s eyes as he recalled the events in his life. “At first, Shampoo disgusted with boy-type body. Males are weak, and not as good as womens. Being girl-type is everything, but then Shampoo turn into boy-type. After a while, Shampoo not feel disgust at change. It somehow all right to change, but Shampoo not happy with the curse. Shampoo hate the way girls look at her. Not want them to look at her the way Shampoo used to look at boys. It wrong. Shampoo not that way.

“But then things change. Shampoo not sure if it because it too hard to fight off all girls and can no make them stop looking, or if Shampoo just get used to it. Then Shampoo starts feeling funny around some girls. Not all the time, and not like Shampoo feel with…” he trailed off, unwilling to tell Ukyou about his feelings for Ranma. “…But it feel funny. Not the way Shampoo is supposed to react around girls. Shampoo no feel that way when girl-type, but when boy-type, that different. Not really sure what it means. Just mostly confused.

“So yes, Ukyou. Shampoo know what it means to have girl-type feelings start to go away.” Shampoo-kun finished up, looking sympathetically at the okonomiyaki chef still pinned under his body.

“Now the question is,” Ukyou began. “Are we going to do something about it?”

“W… what you mean?” Shampoo-kun asked, suddenly panic-stricken.

“Resolve our questions,” she clarified. “Figure out what we are. We’re the only two that really understand what it is we’re going through. We’re also the only ones that can resolve our problems as well. I’m lonely Shampoo. Lonely, confused, and a little scared. Do you know what that’s like?”

Shampoo-kun nodded his head, remembering his own loneliness back in China. Being the best, which meant being apart from everyone else. Some acquaintances, but no friends that he could trust. Being alone in a crowd of people was far worse than being alone with no one around.

“Then help me figure out what it is I am. I need to know.”

Shampoo-kun understood the insinuation. Understood it and wanted no part of it. At least that was what he thought. “You have too much to drink,” he exclaimed.

Ukyou looked sadly at him. “Way, way too much to drink. You betcha. I wouldn’t be talking this way if I hadn’t. But I’m still right. You can help me. I know you can. I can feel you reacting to our closeness. I can feel it pressing against me. It’s been that way since you got me down here. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but I can’t any more. You’re too near to me and located too close to where you should be. I guess Ai knew what she was talking about, when she suggested this position.”

“Ukyou. Shampoo can no do this,” he protested. She was right about his reaction, and the positioning was all too correct for that sort of thing. He finally untangled their bodies from one another and stood up. Ukyou did likewise, rubbing her leg to get the circulation going once again. Shampoo-kun felt his pulse start to quicken as he watched her hands move up and down the leg, and found himself admiring the way her muscles were formed underneath the tights she wore. He quickly turned around to avoid watching her. He wasn’t drunk. Not like the last time he went drinking to drown his sorrows. At most he had a heady feeling from the alcohol in his system. At least he hoped it was from the wine and not from something else.

He felt Ukyou move behind him. Arms slid across his chest causing his heart rate to double. They slowly moved from a higher position to one just above the waistband of his shorts. The feel of her hands moving down his chest excited him; there was no doubting it. Why couldn’t he have switched clothing, or at least put his shirt back on? Things would have been less uncomfortable. Looking away from her was supposed to make things better, not worse. But now he imagined her face as she moved behind him.

She rested her head against his back “Shampoo,” she spoke softly. “You’re the closest thing to a man in my life now. Please, help me. I want to feel like a woman. I want it more than anything in the world.”

He felt something wet run down his back. It took a moment to figure out what it was. Tears. Oddly, his pulse slowed down as he understood what he had to do. Gently, he held her arms and removed them from his body, turning around in her embrace. He was slightly surprised as he saw that Ukyou’s ribbon had fallen from her hair, allowing it to cascade freely down her back. It actually made her appear a great deal more feminine that way. He released his grip on her hands and slowly placed one of his on her hip, drawing her to him. He felt her breath on his chest as she suddenly exhaled in surprise at his maneuver. A smile drifted across his features as he gazed downward into a face with the drying remnants of tears.

“Ukyou?” he said softly as he allowed his free hand to move up her back and towards her neck.

“Yes?” She looked up hopefully at him.

He played his fingers around the back of her neck. “You is one of the most beautiful girls Shampoo ever know.” He hoped she believed him. He certainly meant it.

At last he found the spot he was searching for. “I hope you remember that when you wake up.” And he hit the pressure point in the back of her neck. The chef slumped in his arms as he quickly caught her up in his grasp. He took note of her face, it had almost instantly lost all of its concerns and worries, making her look even more beautiful than before. Ryouga had to be as blind as Mousse to not realize what he was missing.

Shampoo-kun made his way to her bedroom, smiling at her unconscious form the entire way as he listened to the rain continue to splatter against the walls of the restaurant. For a little while there he had become a bit confused, and might have given in to her desires. She wasn’t unattractive or unappealing to him, quite the opposite. But one thought had cut through the others and made rejecting her advances and rendering her unconscious easy, despite the way he reacted to her close proximity. If he was going to give up his femininity, or at least that part of it, Ukyou wasn’t his first choice for a non-cursed woman to have sex with.

If he ever gave that part of himself up, it would go to someone else that had prior claim. A certain someone whom he found more desirable than the girl before him.

If he ever gave that part of himself up.

“YES!!!” Indra shouted. “Look at those roller skaters dodge the barrage.”

Raiden drew back with another lightning bolt and attempted to nail the evading duo. They had been caught out in the rain, and used as target practice by the gods of thunder, when everyone’s fun was interrupted.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!!!” a voice boomed from up above.

Five gods of thunder suddenly sobered up very quickly.

“Uh, oh! We’re in trouble now,” was all Thor could mutter.

Ranma bowed down to one knee before Ukyou and grabbed hold of her right hand. “Oh, Ucchan. How could I have been so foolish? You’re the only fiancée for me.”

Ukyou smiled at the prostrated youth before her. “It’s about time you saw the light.”

Ryouga suddenly appeared with Kyoko in tow. When he laid eyes upon Ukyou he absently grabbed Kyoko by the back of her cheerleader uniform and tossed her several miles away. Quickly he rushed to Ukyou and grabbed onto her free hand, holding it to his chest. “I was so naive. Kyoko is nothing compared to you.”

“You got that right, sugar,” she said as she ran her hand along his shirt.

A pair of arms embraced the chef from behind, wrapping themselves around her waist. “You is really turning into a pervert girl, Spatula Girl. You want to do all three of us at the same time?” Shampoo-kun breathed in her ear.

“Why not?” she responded. “I’m more than enough woman for all of you.”

“What about me, my lovely Ukyou?” Ai suddenly appeared out of nowhere and ran her body against Ukyou’s front, sandwiching the chef between her body and Shampoo-kun’s.

Ukyou considered that for a moment. “Okay. You can help too.”

Ranma and Ryouga moved in closer as well, everyone burying Ukyou in a sea of affection and attention.

Then she woke up.

“Damn! It was just getting to the good part.” she thought as she rubbed her eyes. It was an unusual dream, but definitely sort of enjoyable. Although what Ai was doing there was a mystery.

“Was I good, Spatula Girl?”

Ukyou looked down past the foot of her bed to see Shampoo sitting in a chair, watching her wake up.

“What are you talking about?”

Shampoo smiled. “You moan out Shampoo’s name when you asleep. I want to know if I any good.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was… umm… dreaming about washing my hair.” Ukyou lied weakly, and then tried to figure out what Shampoo was doing there? It took her a moment to remember what had happened last night.

“Oh, kami. No. What did I do?” she said under breath.

Shampoo watched the action intently. So, Ukyou had changed her tune once she sobered up. That was a relief. It solved so many possible problems. Of course, there was no way Shampoo was going to let an opportunity like that pass.

“Oh, yes, Spatula Girl. It just too bad you fall asleep when it getting good. No worry. You stay in bed and look sexy while Shampoo get cold water.” The Amazon got to her feet and began walking as if she was heading to the bathroom. “Then we can try some of the things Ai suggest, and some things I come up with on my own while watching you.” She paused to give Ukyou a seductive wink, and then blew her a kiss.

Ukyou was on her feet in a flash and grabbed Shampoo by the shoulder. “No! I don’t want you to!”

Shampoo looked at her in mock astonishment. “You mean you want to do it as girls? I thought you no like it that way because of Ai. Still, if you want to do it as girls, it all right with me.”

“NO! I don’t want to do anything with you!”

“What you saying, Spatula Girl?” Shampoo was proud of the fake tears she managed to summon. “You say so many nice words to Shampoo. And when you went down on you knees, and pulled down my shorts, and started to…” she made a motion with her hand and mouth.

“No,” Ukyou whispered as her face went ashen and her heart stopped. She didn’t remember that part. What else had she done and forgotten? And why did some part of her mind wonder if she had enjoyed it or not?

At last Shampoo could keep her amusement in no longer. She began giggling in a high-pitched voice at the pale chef. “I just kidding, Ukyou. You just go to sleep in my arms. You no do anything with me. Not even a kiss.”

Ukyou’s heart finally began beating once more. She was still… whatever it was she had been before yesterday had begun.

Shampoo’s face softened as her mirth died away. “Do you feel better?”

“What do you mean?” Ukyou began to wonder if she had done something else she had forgotten.

“It sounded like you needed to talk a lot. And you talk to me about it. Now I want to know if you feel better.” She cocked her head, waiting for the reply.

“Yes.” That was a bit of a surprise. Ukyou hadn’t even realized how much the recent events of her life had bothered her. But now that it was off her chest, she found that she did feel better. “How about you? You said some pretty deep things, too. Do you any feel better?”

Shampoo nodded her head, appreciative of the fact Ukyou had asked. “I feel much better, too. Thank you for asking.”

“I’m glad.” Ukyou smiled warmly in return. There now seemed to be something resembling a genuine friendship between the two. “Hey! Did we just do some bonding?”

“No.” Shampoo shook her head. “You pass out before we get a chance to do that.”

Two days later:

Tarou watched Ranma from his hidden vantage point. Things didn’t look good for Tarou’s plans. Ranma had completed learning the Umisenken. Impostor Ranma had to be informed.

A pair of eyes watched Tarou depart. The boy was making a nuisance of himself, and trying to tip the scales in his favor. That was going to have to be fixed.

Tarou arrived at Ryu’s encampment. The delicious aroma of Kaori’s cooking filled the air, making Tarou’s stomach rumble loudly. His hand darted out to gather some of the food when it was stopped by Ryu’s own hand.

“Who said you could dine with us?” Ryu asked.

Tarou allowed his hand to remain in Ryu’s grip. “No one. And I don’t give a damn! I’ve been going out of my way to help you and all I get is crap. Wise up, buddy. You want me as an ally, not an enemy.”

Ryu slowly let of Tarou’s hand. Under normal circumstances he would have given the arrogant youth the beating he deserved, but these were far from normal circumstances. He needed Tarou and his inside information.

Tarou helped himself to the breakfast and began speaking to Ryu. “Wise choice, Impostor.” He always used that title when Ryu did something to displease him. Impostor meant anger. Ranma meant happiness. Conditioning Ryu was easy.

“I found out something important,” Tarou said through a mouthful of breakfast.

Ryu didn’t feel like showing weakness by asking for the answer. He waited for Tarou to explain.

Tarou was disappointed by Ryu’s lack of response. Still, he needed to be informed. “Ranma’s mastered the Umisenken.”

Ryu was amazed to feel no reaction. Ranma now had in his possession one of the driving forces in Ryu’s life. Yet it was meaningless. If he ever needed conformation about what this fight was really all about, that was it. “So?” he asked.

“It’s designed to counter the Yamasenken. If you use the Yamasenken, you’re definitely going to lose.”

Ryu unconsciously crumpled the metal plate he had been eating his breakfast on. “How can I win?”

“Relax,” Tarou said soothingly. “It’s easy. Just don’t use the Yamasenken. The Umisenken’s mostly just a counter to the Yamasenken. It isn’t that useful for much else. Just stick with the other styles you use, which I’ll admit are pretty damn good from what I’ve seen, and remember what I taught you about fighting Ranma. You’ll have Fem-boy beaten before you know it.”

Ryu gave a false smile in appreciation for all Tarou had done. He was counting the minutes until he could rid himself of the youth’s presence.

Ukyou was surprised to see Shampoo already at her evening session. Not dressed in her usual fighting gear, but rather in a long billowing shirt. When Ukyou asked, Shampoo informed her that she was electing to delay the practice session today. An idea had occurred to her that might make the difference in fighting Mousse.

“What is it, sugar?” Ukyou asked.

“Stupid Mousse know how I fight. He is going to be practicing to fight me with what he think I know. I going to switch tactics. Catch him off guard. And I need you help.”

“How?” Ukyou asked.

Shampoo placed her hand under her hair and came up with one of Ukyou’s mini-spatulas.

“Where did you get that?” None of her spatulas had gone missing since she had begun training with Shampoo. She always took an inventory before and after the training.

“After our first fight, when you think I Ranma.” Shampoo explained. “I practice with it lots and keep it as a hidden weapon. It nice. I need you to show me how to use proper. I pretty good now. Watch!” Shampoo threw the weapon into a knot of wood in a tree that was forty feet away, catching her makeshift target dead center.

“Not bad,” Ukyou said calmly, then drew six spatulas of her own and embedded them around the tree. Two went higher than the one already there. One left of it and one right. The other four fell below it in a semi-circle around the bottom of Shampoo’s. It was unmistakably a smiley face.

Ukyou turned and smiled herself, at Shampoo. “I don’t think you can get that good with them. But I’ll try my best.”

Shampoo smiled in kind. “I need you to show me a few other things.”

Ukyou listened to the plan. With that new move Shampoo had almost mastered, in combination with these new plans, there was little doubt Mousse would be caught off guard.

The next day:


Ranma stared at his hands in frustration. He had been certain the pose was identical to the one Ryouga used. He thought he was channeling his chi effectively, yet nothing was coming out. At the most he had managed to do was get a little black energy formed between his hands.

“Damn!” He gave up. It was getting late, and he was still hungry, the berries he had found when searching for something to eat had hardly been enough to fill him up. And he was not going to eat any of what Akane was trying to poison him with now. He still remembered trying to figure out what it was she had been trying to make…

Ranma walked into the middle of Akane cooking up a storm and fingered a yellow, wobbly substance. He screwed up the courage to ask. “What is this stuff, Akane?”

“It’s for a recipe Kasumi gave me.” She handed him the recipe.

“There‘s nothing on here about a yellow, wobbly substance.”

“Sure there is!” she shot back. “It says it right there on the card. Jell-O American.”

Ranma smacked his head in disbelief. “No, stupid! It says yellow American, not Jell-O American! How could you make such a big mistake?! And how the hell can you make cheese into Jell-O?!”

“It wasn’t easy, and I don’t see any problem with using Jell-O American instead of yellow American. It’ll probably make it taste better!”

Ranma couldn’t take it any more. He ran as far away as he could, in the hopes he would get away from Akane’s cooking. Starving was better.

It was late at night when Ranma returned to the camp. Everyone, including Akane, had already fallen asleep. As he made his way back to his tent, he noticed he had to move his away from Akane’s since the fathers had moved them next to each other once more. He wondered why he couldn’t learn that chi attack? If Ryouga could do it, he could do it. He was better than the lost one, and he wanted some kind of edge against his opponent, just in case the impostor had some trick up his sleeve.

Ranma lay down. Exhausted and frustrated at his lack of chi abilities. He needed to learn it. He needed to…

How long he had been asleep, Ranma didn’t know. What he did know was that there was someone in his tent with him. He managed to sit up, just in time to focus on the squat figure that seemed to melt out of the shadows themselves. It moved impossibly fast as the figure’s staff poked him right in the chest, paralyzing his entire body.

“Please, Ranma. Don’t try to fight me,” Cologne said. “I’m not here to pick a fight, or harass you or Shampoo. I just want to give you a little advice. Don’t bother trying to use the Shi Shi Houkoudan. It’s fueled by depression, which is why it’s perfect for Ryouga, and useless to you. You fight with confidence. Use that instead. As to the question that is running through your mind, why I’m helping you. Rest assured, it’s in both yours and Shampoo’s best self-interest. I give you my word as an Amazon that this is no plot to force Shampoo or yourself into doing something you don’t want to do.”

She turned to go. “You will regain motor control in about one minute. I’ll be long gone by then. And please don’t tell Shampoo what I’ve done. It would only serve to confuse her.” And with that she hopped off on her staff and went into the night.

The paralyzation wore off of Ranma. For the briefest of moments he considered pursuing, then let it drop. Maybe the old ghoul was telling the truth, wishing he could figure out what her angle was. At any rate, it was more likely a trap. He wouldn’t risk using what she suggested unless it was a weapon of last resort. And he was good enough he didn’t need that to use sort of attack to win the fight. The impostor could be beaten any number of other ways. Especially now that Ranma knew the Umisenken. The impostor’s attacks would be rendered useless. It was in the bag.

Two days later:
The day before the fight:

“Master Kunou! Master Kunou!” Sasuke ran through Kunou manor seeking his master. There was little doubt as to where he would be. Virtually all of his time was spent in training with the new techniques in the dojo on the grounds of the estate. The little ninja quickly ran under the crawlspace under the wooden floors of the addition to the main mansion and sprung out from his trapdoor in the floor. As his head quickly twisted around he saw a bokken pointed directly in his face.

“You should be more silent. Tis fortunate my control is supreme, else I would have struck thee with a truly righteous blow.” Kunou sheathed his bokken and gazed over his servant with a careful eye. “What is it that brings you to my presence with such urgency?”

Sasuke bowed before his master. “I’m worried about Mistress Kodachi. She has hardly eaten anything these last two weeks, and I fear she might fall ill. She only leaves her room for school and does little else other than cry. Why, she has even forsaken her gymnastics practice.”

“You’re concern is noted, Sasuke. You have done well.” Days earlier, Sasuke had informed Kunou that Kodachi had moved back home from her most recent domicile, her floral shop where she had lived in sin with the Chinese barbarian. There were very few occasions where he had seen his sister, and even then it had been only in passing. If his sister had foregone her gymnastics practice, then things were truly amiss.

He placed his bokken on its rack and proceeded to Kodachi’s bedroom. He listened carefully upon arriving there and heard no sounds within. More information was needed, so he knocked on the door, only to go unanswered. Not to be denied he simply opened the unlocked door and allowed himself in. The scene before him was indeed pitiful. Kodachi was sprawled upon her bed, appearing as though she had been crying for nearly a week.

“What troubles you, oh twisted sister of mine?”

She simply sobbed in her covers, saying only one name. “Mousse-sama.”

Kunou understood. “That fiend! He has dared hurt you and toyed with your emotions! He cannot be allowed to debase the House of Kunou so. With my newfound skills, I shall smite him with a blow so hard that the likes of it have never—“

The rest of the speech was cut off as a ribbon wrapped itself around his entire body and pulled him to the ground. Kodachi moved with an unmistakable, wild look in her eyes, drew one of her razor rings, and held it menacingly before Kunou’s face.

“Dare to lay even one finger on him and I will be an only child! Do you understand me, brother dear?!”

There was little doubt she meant every word of it. So be it, if the Chinese barbarian had somehow remained in his sister’s heart, then he would allow his transgressions to slide. At least for the moment. He acceded to his sister’s demands, causing her to release him and return to crying in her bed.

Kodachi was unaware of how much time had passed as she suddenly became aware of another presence in the room. She quickly glanced around the room, praying her beloved had come to his senses.

“Mousse, is that you?” She turned to see a figure move from behind the drapes it had been hidden behind. It was Shampoo, bearing an expression of pity for the prone gymnast.

“What do you want, harridan?” Kodachi sobbed. “Is it not enough that you have aided in tearing my heart into pieces? Now have you come to gloat over your victory as well?”

Shampoo simply shook her head pitifully at the girl. “Mousse is no worth you tears, but if you still love him, even after all he do, then come to the match tomorrow.”

Kodachi stared at her in shock. “I tried to kill you. Why on Earth would you want me at the fight?”

Shampoo’s expression went from one of pity to one of resolve. “Because when I through with Mousse tomorrow, someone should be there to pick up the pieces. I owe him that much. And you is the only one that willing to do it. It not for me. I not want you there, poisonous bitch!” Shampoo wasn’t about to forgive the Black Rose and her little attempt to kill the Amazon. “It for him.” And with that final statement, she turned to go, leaving behind one very surprised Kodachi.


Herb sat on his throne, gazing upon his soldiers once more. His thoughts boiled and flowed over one idea and one idea only. Becoming emperor. He allowed his tongue to lie over his fangs once more. The tongue felt rather odd, almost as though it was starting to divide at the tip, becoming forked as it were.

He was shocked out of his reverie as the twin doors that allowed entry into the throne room exploded in a cloud of smoke and splinters. His men, as well as Mint and Lime, dropped into battle positions. From out of the cloud a round object was hurled at him with blinding speed. He easily snatched the object out of the air and examined it. It was the head of one of his soldiers. Herb casually tossed it over his shoulder and looked towards the three figures emerging from the rising mist. One was a repulsive hunchbacked man bearing a battle fork in his hands. The second was a woman with a large-brimmed Japanese style hat and a body covered entirely by her red cloak. The third was a large man, almost seven feet tall, and wearing some kind of metal breastplate over his chest. He was a large individual, with black hair and a hard, merciless face. He wore some kind of plain metal collar around his neck and had eyes that showed no emotion. They simply bore the harsh stare of those that did anything he wanted with absolutely no care of the consequences. The man took the lead, obviously in charge of the trio.

“Knock, knock,” the woman quietly stated from the large man’s right side.

Herb allowed a huge chi aura to build around him. His abilities were increasing slowly by the day. If they didn’t stop expanding he would soon be able to do almost anything. He would show the three intruders before him just what he was now capable of.

“I am in a generous mood today,” he spoke to the newcomers. “I will allow you one last statement before sending you all to hell.”

“The Shogun sends his regards,” the large man said.

Herb allowed the aura to disappear, then turned to his men. “Everyone, leave!”

“But Herb—” Mint started to protest.

“Leave us!” Herb proclaimed as his red eyes flared before the wolf pelt covered youth. “I will be all right. These are… allies.”

The soldiers, as well as Mint and Lime, obeyed the instructions, leaving Herb alone with the newcomers.

“It is time at last?” Herb asked the large man.

The large man nodded. “The Shogun will inform you of what is expected of your army. In the meantime, we require the blood you have collected.”

“Yes,” Herb quickly rose from his throne and motioned from the trio to follow. Wordlessly they accompanied the prince and observed him open a secret passage located behind the throne. They fell into step behind him as he uttered one word and the torches in the passageway lit themselves.

“What is your name? I would know our master’s messengers,” Herb said.

“Gemma,” the large man responded. “And with me is Sakura,” he indicated the woman. “And Ushizo.” This identification was directed at the hunchback. “And we are far more than messengers. We are the hand that shall usher forth the new golden age. Remember that.” Gemma growled in response.

“Of course,” Herb stated back proudly. “I was simply referring to the task you do today. Disrespect was not my intent. You are obviously important to the Shogun of the Dark, and I already know what my reward will be for rendering unto him my fealty. We are here!” He announced as the wall located at the far end of the passageway suddenly parted for the newcomers, admitting all to Herb’s private chambers.

He motioned for the others to wait as he passed his hand over a wall, disengaging the numerous magical traps that prevented anyone from even setting eyes upon his most important treasures. As yet another wall parted it revealed a huge metal door embedded in the wall. A second series of mechanical and magical traps was deactivated as Herb indicated the trio should follow him into the walk-in vault. The four saw before them what Herb had been collecting for the last three years. Over three hundred containers of different kinds of blood lined the floor in special holders, designed to keep them safe, even if the vault was turned upside down and shaken by Lime.

“Be careful with these containers,” Herb warned. “I cannot possibly collect once again all the various bloods in time for the final coming. You have no idea how difficult it was to simply obtain Faerie’s blood alone. And I had to use my own blood in substitution for the blood of dragons. The Shogun indicated that would suffice.”

“It shall,” Gemma assured him. “You have done well, Prince Herb of the Musk Dynasty, and future emperor of China. You shall be rewarded when the time comes. Now; as to the future. You will receive instructions in a few weeks concerning what you are to do with your army.”

“I see,” Herb nodded in understanding. “I shall summon a wagon to aid you in transporting the blood.”

Gemma waved him off. “That won’t be necessary.”

“What do you mean?” Herb was confused. “The three of you cannot possibly transport all of the containers. There’s too many of them.”

“We have already arranged transportation. Observe.” Gemma indicated a section of the wall shrouded in shadows. As his arm pointed to a spot on the wall a figure with gray skin and wearing leather armor along his torso legs and arms seemed to emerge from the shadow itself. Slowly his body flowed from the darkness as Herb could now make out that his right arm was in truth, some kind of mechanical claw-like appendage. The man fully emerged from the shadow and bowed before Gemma.

“Meet another one of our members, Herb.” Gemma indicated to the gray skinned man before him. “Shujima. The man who will be handling the transportation of the blood.” Gemma switched his attention to Shujima.

Shujima understood the unspoken communication immediately. “I can have them transported to the Shogun’s lair in about an hour.”

“Good,” Gemma said without a smile. “Begin now.”

Shujima did as he was instructed, picking up a couple of containers and flowing into the shadows once more.

“We may leave now,” Gemma instructed Herb. “Once Shujima knows where to go, it is child’s play for him to return.”

Despite being ordered about in his own fortress, Herb obeyed the command. Gemma and the others excused themselves and prepared to leave the fortress.

“What will we do when we return?” Sakura asked.

Gemma turned towards her. “The Shogun has promised to augment our abilities. He feels that the world has changed much, and that the warriors of the present are far more powerful than what the ones of the past were like.”

“I can hardly wait.” Sakura smiled as she thought of gaining even more power than she already possessed. You could never have too much power to blow things up. And from what the Shogun indicated, she would have plenty of things, as well as people, to explode.

Resurrected life was good.


To be continued.

Special thanks to Michael Rever for giving me an idea and some dialogue for a scene.

And thanks to:

  • Harold Ancell
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Gary Kleppe
  • Jason Liao
  • Lord Talon
  • Shadowmane
  • Dr. Wade Tritschler
Chapter 24
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