The Path of Law
Disclaimer: Legally useless, but for the sake of politeness, I don't own these characters or situations. I offer this purely for your enjoyment.

Apologies for the way this worked out, but the latter half of the last chapter is the new bit I originally wanted to publish. See my notes at the end of this page for an explanation.

It was late night over Nermia. A shape slid into and out of shadow in silence as it drifted down streets and alleys. The figure was slowing down and employing more stealth as it neared it's destination. Passing briefly under a streetlight, it was illuminated as a young, curvaceous woman of Chinese appearance with unusual long, lavender hair. Briefly, the figure paused at the door to a small eatery who's signed labeled it the Nekohanten.

Tired and frazzled, Shampoo paused outside the door, listening to see if anyone was awake inside. It was going to be a long night, after returning from a long journey, and she couldn't afford to be caught yet. While Cologne couldn't help but know she was back from Jusendo along with Mousse and the rest, if Cologne knew the information she had just purchased from Nabiki and what she intended to do about it, Cologne might stop her.

When she was certain that no one was downstairs, Shampoo grimaced tiredly and sprang lightly to the roof, crossed to the back, and dropped down into her open window. She paused to listen again. Ah ! That was a reassurance. Cologne had her small T.V. on and was watching one or the other of those interminable and annoying Japanese mini-series. Shampoo never understood what Cologne saw in them, but it was good news for her plans. Cologne was invariably glued to the screen while the show ran it's course, and went to bed immediately after. Mousse, she could hear, was snoring, still exhausted from their trip.

Shampoo dearly wished she could afford the luxury of sleep. If what she feared came to pass, she might soon cease to be concerned about sleeping, or anything else for that matter. Amazon law was harsh.

Instead, she quietly made her way down to the kitchen, and started her preparations. Nabiki had informed her that the two bumbling idiots, her Airen and the Kitchen Destroyer's fathers, were going to force the two to wed on the morrow, regardless of the participant's willingness. After the events in Jusendo, Shampoo didn't doubt that they couple in question would go through with it. Well, the Kitchen Destroyer, anyway. Her husband would likely be to shocked and tongue tied to object. Her husband, damn it ! He beat her fair and square, in front of the entire village ! It wasn't as if she were unwilling, after all. Hadn't she shown him that ? Why couldn't he see what he was doing to her ? Didn't he know what would happen to her if she failed ! Worst of all, it would be her own Great Grandmother who would be forced to carry out the sentence. It was, after all, the responsibility of the Matriarch to enforce the law.

Damn Ranma ! Damn Akane ! Damn that stupid law ! And Damn Great Grandmother's timidity and restrictions ! 'I fear the consequences' indeed. Well she, Shampoo, was going to have to face the consequences after tomorrow if she did nothing. It was time and past that she acted decisively.

Shampoo's gaze slowly cleared and she surveyed the crockery she had broken in her exhaustion induced rage. Thank God Cologne wouldn't come to check on this. One time there was an actual fire on the grill during one of her shows. She watched the t.v. the entire time the fire council was here putting it out. Of course, she'd hear about it in the morning, but it'd be too late by then, one way or another.

Picking up another bowl, Shampoo closed the cupboard with the normal noodles and opened the storage closet for the bag of nitrogen fertilizer. She'd have to get some diesel fuel, too. She had seen Ranma fight enough times to know that she would not win against him, especially after he had defeated an immortal Pheonix, a self proclaimed God. Still, she would rather die an honored warrior than be executed as a spat upon convict. Besides, this way she might have some measure of revenge against her rival.

Pausing for a moment, she considered. Make that rivals. She was certain Nabiki would have sold the same information to the other 'fiancees'. Perhaps an ally or two might be in order, and if an opportunity presented itself, she might have several of her rivals' souls to escort her to the afterlife. Hmm, she'd likely not have to do anything for the Crazy Girl to show up, but the other ...

Picking up the phone, Shampoo dialed the Ucchans.

"Shampoo! Where is that girl? Mr. Part Time! Are they both gone?" Cologne suppressed a sense of foreboding. Both her great- granddaughter and the pest appeared to be gone, and she knew they were both tired after arriving home last night. Perhaps she should have investigated the odd noises in the kitchen last night. Feh. let the young people believe what they will about her, but it was normally good practice for them to take responsibility for themselves. It's not like any lives had ever been placed in danger, even during that fire last year.

This current situation though, something felt badly wrong about it. She needed to find her great-granddaughter before something precipitous happened. Well, best to check first with the son-in-law. Everything seemed to start with that boy. Hopping on her stick, Cologne started toward the Tendo Dojo.

Cologne may not have shown it, but by now she was genuinely fond of Ranma. He was a pure joy to teach, intensely loyal once decided, unlike his father held dearly to what honor he could, and had a fierce, unmatched determination the like of which she had not seen for generations.

Shortly after her arrival and the episode with the Cat-Fist, she recognized that bringing Ranma home by force would be an unmitigated disaster. Early on he showed that he could defeat even her, using the cat-fist. Since then, he had grown even stronger, to the point where he had even defeated those annoying Musk dynasty visitors. Perhaps a little shadily and by the skin of his teeth, but defeated nevertheless. She looked forward to hearing what he had accomplished in his recent trip to China.

No, the boy couldn't be forced, he would have to want to return to their village. She had backed off strictly enforcing the law on either of the youngsters to give them the time and space they needed, and even advised her great-granddaughter to be gentle luring in the groom. Unfortunately, in this her great-granddaughter had proven a large disappointment. Trust and support was what the boy needed, not pressure and fighting with the other girls over him.

While Cologne could delay enforcing the law for as long as the boy didn't openly reject Shampoo, sooner or later she feared something would happen that would force her hand, and she did not believe that she would be able to effect a solution by force. And, she admitted to herself, she no longer really wished to.

Halfway to her destination, Cologne saw something very worrisome indeed. On the ground in front of her was a folded, formal invitation which someone must have dropped. She felt strangely compelled to look at it. Her sense of foreboding growing geometrically, Cologne reached down an aged, trembling hand, and flipped back the cover.

It was possibly the worst thing she could have imagined, a wedding invitation for Ranma and Akane, announcing that the event was happening right now. She could imagine what happened, those two foolish students of Happosai's (spit) must have forced the issue. Unless this could be stopped, quickly, and with a minimum of fuss, this could force her to action. Worse yet, if Shampoo tried to do something, her great-granddaughter would likely not worry about causing a minimum of fuss.

At that precise instant, a series of loud booms rolled over the street, from the direction of her destination, the Tendo dojo. Cologne's face paled even further, and she leaped into motion, abandoning her courteous and (mostly) normal locomotion on the streets and making a beeline for the dojo across the rooftops.

'Spirits of my Ancestors, please don't let the situation be as bad as I fear,' she muttered as she scurried and bounded on her way.

The situation wasn't as bad as she feared. The spirits were apparently on vacation this year; it was worse.

Landing on top the compound wall, Cologne was just in time to see Ranma throw off a pile of debris which had apparently contained him, and rush her great-granddaughter. Shampoo, eyes and hair flashing, had just pulled a sword out of a prone and already badly wounded Akane, and poised ready to deliver a death blow. Shampoo never saw Ranma coming, Cologne herself could barely track the blur of his progress.

Cologne, her own scream ignored, watched as with a despairing yell, Ranma literally collapsed Shampoo around his fist, aborting her own strike. Instead of flying back, as she would have for a non-lethal blow, she folded around his arm like a rag doll, accompanied by a sickening crunch, followed by the clang of her sword hitting the ground and a wet sound of blood spurting out her mouth and nose.

Ranma didn't even wait for Shampoo to fall, and instead dropped to his knees, crying and gathering Akane into his arms, heedless of the blood. Still on the wall, Cologne heard Akane's weak whisper pierce the sudden quiet, "I ... love ... you" as her eyes closed.

The next scream heard was Ranma's.

Thunderstruck, Cologne sat on the wall, and finally begin noticing more details. Akane and Shampoo were not the only prone figures. She could now make out the bodies of the young Okonomiyaki chef, and a middled aged woman that matched Shampoo's description of Ranma's mother. Absently, Cologne guessed from the positioning that Nodoka had been caught in the explosions attempting to help Akane, and the fatal sword wound in Ukyo's kidneys definitely matched Shampoo's blade.

This was far, far worse than Cologne had feared. Or dear goddess, how she wished the situation had not come to this. Shampoo, what have you done ?

Nevertheless, Cologne was compelled by Shampoo's own actions to act herself. Her hand was now forced to actively enforcing the law. She would need to act fast, now, and a matriarch is not made in hesitation. She could see that Shampoo was still alive, if barely, as was Nodoka. She could only pray that Ranma would go along, even with the consequences to him, and that the situation would not get still worse. She moved to help Shampoo.

"Son-in-law, I regret this, but my hand is now forced. You are declared twice guilty of violations of our law, for rejecting your wife, and striking her with intent to kill. You will accompany me now. We will try to save Shampoo lest you be found guilty of murder , as well as your mother. After this, we shall return to Joketsuzoku to face judgment."

Even as she spoke, she could see the anger and hatred welling inside Ranma, now being directed toward her. Twice unfortunate, the spirits were still not with her on this day. Nodoka spoke before Ranma could formulate a response from his shock.

"My .. son."

"Mom !" Ranma carefully lay down Akane's body to move to his mother. "Don't talk Mom ! I'll get you to a doctor !"

Yes, please, for the moment, let him devote his concern to his mother. She spared a minute part of her attention to her environment from the near hopeless task of trying to save Shampoo. She could feel that Nodoka was very badly injured as well, and unlikely to survive more than a few moments.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the other Tendo sisters gathering around Ranma, Akane, and Nodoka. The middle Tendo looked nearly as enraged as Ranma himself, the eldest's face was wrapped in grief. The two fathers were still in shock with the remaining wedding guests.

Nodoka continued in a failing voice. "No .. Son, listen. Marry a ... Tendo, and ... avenge this ... insult to our clan."

Nodoka, held on long enough to see Ranma's nod, and then too closes her eyes one last time.

Oh no, oh spirits no. Shampoo was just barely being kept alive by her ministrations, the law demanded that Cologne bring Ranma back with her, and his mother had just died, upholding the boy's duty to his family's arranged marriage, and worst of all, declared a blood feud. Spirits of my ancestors, can this day get any worse ?

"This insult was not just to clan Saotome, but to clan Tendo as well."

And somehow, unbelievably, the head of the Tendo clan had done something decisive for the first time in years, joining his clan in the feud. She didn't have time for this. Ranma had to come with her now, willingly or not.

"So be it." Cologne rasped, and in a smooth, deceptively slow appearing motion, left her current charge and struck at Ranma.

To her utter amazement, Cologne missed. Somehow, Ranma was no longer holding his mother, or trapped between the two corpses. Instead he was a blur of strikes, moving faster than even she could.

"You and your laws killed my best friend, they Killed my Mother, and they KILLED my WIFE !" Cologne was so hard pressed that she barely had opportunity to make out Ranma's enraged scream.

To anyone else watching, the fighters moved so fast and furiously that the outcome was indeterminable. Cologne could tell though; she wasn't controlling this fight. She was pushed onto the defensive, and Ranma wasn't fighting in his normal, restrained manner, fighting only to defeat. Instead, he was going all out, and striking for a kill.

Hundreds of blows were exchanged and countered in the space of a second, from a dozen different fluid positions all over the yard. Here they bounced off a wall as Cologne dodged a kick to her hip. There a small portion of the yard exploded up in dust as they landed and exchanged another series of blows ending in a lightning fast staff thrust to the throat, riposted by a rising trap that caught, and broke Cologne's extended wrist.

Suddenly, Cologne wasn't fighting a defensive fight, she was loosing, badly. She desperately needed a distraction. For the first time that day, the spirits favored her and she received one.

It came in the form of the blind imbecile who followed her great-granddaughter. Mousse, apparently finally realizing that Shampoo was badly injured or perhaps dead, screamed his own frustration and flung a series of a few dozen throwing knives at Ranma. Amazingly, they were all thrown at the correct target. Still they would only delay the boy for a half a second, and Cologne knew she wouldn't be able to use the distraction to attack, Ranma's defenses were too good, and she was too hurt. Cologne was desperate, she needed a more pressing distraction, like his mother had provided when still alive ...

Hmm, a hostage, if she played it just right, no one else would have to die this day.

Landing near the Tendos, Cologne ignored the flash of a small ki blast behind her as Ranma dealt with Mousse. She grabbed for the nearest. It was Kasumi. This could work.

Ranma froze mid leap across the yard, catching sight of the apparently ridiculous tableau of a foot high ghoul with her good hand on the kneeling eldest Tendo sister's neck. Ranma, though, knew that the situation was deadly. Cologne had done the one thing which could stop him.

"Stand back, Ranma, or another Tendo dies this day" Cologne panted through her own pain and exhaustion.

The force of Ranma's hate filled glance struck her worse than a physical blow. She could even feel an hate aura coming from the untrained middle sister. Underneath her, the eldest only trembled.

How had she let the situation get to this point ? Dear spirits, would she be able to salvage nothing ? Even now she could see that her idea would not hold the boy for long. The instant she let go, the boy would be on her again. She felt the shackles of law dragging her deeper into this morass like a physical weight. She did not want to walk this path !

Again, the spirits showed their tendency to favor the idiots. She could hear Mousse extracting himself. He was apparently alive and relatively undamaged. "Mousse, quickly, pick up Shampoo and leave for the Nekohanten !"

Waiting only long enough for Mousse to obey her, Cologne acted in the only way she felt she could. She held no hope of enforcing the law by herself any longer. Her only option now was to escape to notify the tribe of these happenings. As powerful as Ranma had become, the tribe must be warned !

There was no help for it. Cologne moved her hand, and a sickening pop was heard. Kasumi suddenly went limp, and Cologne gently lay her down next to her sister. With some effort, she even ignored the terror in the poor girls eyes.

Straightening, she barked "Stop ! She yet lives !" Ranma again arrested his attack, although Cologne could see it was but for a moment.

"Her spine is severed. If she receives life support in the next few minutes, she will survive. You must take her, Ranma. If you wait for an ambulance, it will be too late."

With that, Cologne, cradling her broken wrist, bounced over the wall, and fled for the Nekohanten as if the hounds of hell pursued her. In a sense, they did. She had condemned herself to hell today. Tears for all the senseless loss streamed down her face.

By the time she reached the Nekohanten, her heir was also dead.

Authors Notes

Bit of a combined authors notes here. I had wanted, (after long delay) to merely post my latest installment of this fiction. Unfortunately, by now in their infinite wisdom, horribly mangles my simple, plain text files.

So, I have to reformat in something like html just to maintain minimum readability. But as long as I'm doing that, it's just as easy for me to redo the whole fiction, and combine some text into fewer chapter. And well, if I happen to fix a few grammer and spelling errors on the way, all the to the better.

In the interest of the original stories, I'm also reproducing all my original authors notes below.

Authors Notes

It's rather fun to work with slightly different variations of the stock characters, as well as slightly different writing styles. Here, I'm presenting Shampoo as a little more bloodthirsty, and I'm going to concentrate different chapters on different character's viewpoints, as much as possible, although still in the third person.

As outlined, this will be a medium sized story arc. I'm borrowing a couple of themes from other fictions, although I don't want to give much away by mentioning which just yet. As you can see, this story is going to advance in a very dark direction, at least for a while. Fair warning, it will get much much darker before light is seen.

For those who care about this sort of thing, there will be a Ranma matchup by the end. Getting to the end, the story will be sorta Ranma/Akane, and sorta Ranma/Nabiki. Expect some twists and turns. It will likely change direction at times. You, and I, will find out what happens at the end.

Authors notes - Okay, this chapter was from Cologne's viewpoint. The next, I think, will be from Nabiki's.

I'm uncertain of this style of writing, since I'm slipping between character thought and narrative description without clearly delineating which is which. Oh, and I know I'm still mixing up tenses too, which isn't deliberate.

Hopefully, the story is still understandable and interesting regardless. Please let me know.