Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½

Chapter 30

Return to Nerima

The bus winded through the mountains carrying the Amazons, Ranma and Akane. They had got on with not much trouble but Akane was a little angry that she had to pay for Ranma. The Amazons took up the whole of the back seats while Ranma and Akane sat in front. Akane sat silently by the window until she noticed that Ranma had fallen asleep. His head rolled over and he almost fell off the seat. Akane grabbed him and he flopped onto her. His head was resting on her shoulder and his whole weight seemed to be pressing on her. Akane sighed annoyed and thought about pushing him off her but could only go so far without chucking him down on the floor. She managed to get herself comfortable and just gave up. They were all ready getting stares from the locals as soon as they had gone on the bus. They didn't look like the usual hikers.

Akane blushed and tried to ignore the sniggers from the middle-aged woman that were gossiping together. They would see couples like this everyday Akane guessed, it wasn't so unusual. Ranma was her boyfriend, wasn't he? She looked at his peaceful face as he seemed quite handsome when he wasn't mouthing off his usual macho stuff. When they got back to Nerima this quiet moment of theirs could easily be interrupted by the other groups against them being together or worst those really FOR them being together. Akane dreaded trying to convince her father not to marry them off so soon. For now she knew that this resolution they had achieved together would need to be kept secret. Ranma would be hers for now and his sleeping face would be hers to enjoy for the journey. She let herself smile and brushed the hair out of his face.

"Don't try anything…" Ranma mumbled. "I'm comfy."

"You're awake!" Akane hissed under her voice.

Ranma let out a sleepy laugh and snuggled into her shoulder. "Just resting."

"I'll punch you later." Akane said in a really unconvincing low voice.

"Hmm-hmm," Ranma just kept his head where it was.

"Maybe I'll cook." Akane threatened.

Ranma sat up looking a little shocked but Akane only laughed, "Got you back!" and pulled him back onto her shoulder.

"You're mean."

"Well, I do aim to practise cooking more," Akane said. "I want to be a good girlfriend."

"Eh… yeah and I'll maybe… eh…try to be a better boyfriend…" Ranma's face was bright red and he stumbled on those last words. He just gave up and tried to go back to resting. He was tempted to say she was as muscular as a gorilla and couldn't sleep so well on her shoulder, but he didn't want to ruin the moment. He had just promised to be a better boyfriend and that included not saying stuff to get her angry. He had Akane's full attention and she wasn't pushing him away so he really didn't have a reason other than to tease her. For once it seemed that things were going okay. He had of course their fathers to consider and what would happen once it was revealed they were maybe sort of dating. He thought that was what it was. Maybe they were going to marry but not this year, not next. Just sometime… in the far and probably future. It would be all a matter of introducing the idea to them slowly. He promised himself he would ask Akane what she thought about it.

The bus rumbled on as the back of the bus the three Chinese remained silent, one was out cold with sleeping drugs but the other two were not speaking. For them there was nothing left to say in a bus full of strangers. They just had to get Shampoo home to Tokyo.

000

The hiking in the woods plan was still continuing with Ryoga and Ukyo. Ryoga had started to set up camp much to Ukyo's annoyance. She didn't like being with the jerk of a pig. The longer she stayed with him the more she got annoyed at her own blind devotion to Ranma. She was comparing herself to Ryoga and his own obsession for Akane. It didn't seem right to call it love and the more she thought about herself and her so called love the more bitter she felt. She was just a friend to Ranma and he had never treated her the same way as he treated Akane. Though to be honest if he had said half the things that he had said to Akane to her instead she would have beaten him up a whole lot more.

She wanted to be home and working, being busy and not out in the woods with all this thinking time.

"I can go get some firewood." Ryoga said. He wasn't enjoying this as well, he hated being away from Akane but she was still not speaking to him. It was maybe best he kept his distance.

"Don't you dare, you'll get lost." Ukyo snapped. "I'll get the firewood, you set up camp."

"You really don't trust my sense of direction?"

"You got lost in my house remember?" Ukyo said. "I'm only in a 2 room apartment above my restaurant!"

"I guess it's just another curse to add to my list of many." Ryoga said and sat down on the log which was a make-shift seat. A dark aura of depression settled over him like a cloud.

Ukyo just left him to gather the sticks; she had no more time for comforting the fool. It was about time he faced his reality and she was beginning to feel that she needed to do the same too.

'Is it really right for me to give up my dream of Ranma?' She thought sadly. 'I've spent my whole life on that jerk, only to be piped at the post by some violent… no some normal girl.' She couldn't build any real hatred for Akane, it wasn't her fault. It was Ranma's for not realising she was a girl and for herself for taking a childhood promise to such extremes. It left a bitter taste in her mouth and she doubted she would get over him so easily. She had to try and forge her own future.

000

Akane was relieved as the bus arrived to her hometown. It had been too long and she was getting strange urges she couldn't understand when she had Ranma leaning on her. She couldn't move for fear of waking him or saying something stupid. In her own mind she was a bit upset that it ended so soon but she tried to suppress that. She pulled up her backpack and waited for the Chinese Amazons to step off.

"We will take our leave here." Cologne said. "I need to take Shampoo back to our restaurant and see if she is completely whole or not."

"I am sure she will be fine and become my Bride." Mousse said proudly.

"Don't be too sure, the girl has a stubborn streak." Cologne warned. "I should know she inherited it from me. We will come visit you when we have awoken Shampoo and made sure she is not a danger to herself or others."

"What if the dog is still in there?" Ranma asked.

"Well, you'll have her barging back into your dojo and probably breaking a few things." Cologne said cheerfully.

Akane wondered if it was anything to be cheerful about.

"You'll be used to it now, but if that happens it won't be the same level as before." Cologne said. "I know the evil is gone. The devil dog is banished to its hell plane. If there was anything left in Shampoo now it would be harmless… well a little."

"Great, so something we can fight." Ranma said just as cheerful. "That's okay, tell Shampoo to just bring it!"

Akane punched him in the arm. "No, we tell Shampoo that we'll talk about it!"

"Fine, be boring." Ranma said rubbing his arm.

"We're going home then." Akane said pulling him by the other arm.

"Just a minute…" Cologne said motioning towards Akane. "There's something I'd like to say to you girl."

Akane gave a blank stare to Ranma who just shrugged.

"The hypnosis antidote will be mixed up soon." Cologne said. "Though it might be tomorrow till we will see you. It's been so long for you to be under this hypnosis that it could be permanent."

"I got it, I won't keep up any high hopes." Akane tried to smile but she just couldn't make it genuine enough.

"Best we get Shampoo home soon." Cologne said softly. She didn't want to give the girl any outlandish hopes since her current Neko-Ken hypnosis was something she had never seen before. "The sleeping drugs I placed on Shampoo will be wearing off soon."

"Okay, See ya later!" Ranma said to the Amazon's as he grabbed onto Akane's hand.

"Not in the streets!" Akane said blushing and looking around. "We can't show anyone we're a couple." She quickly wriggled her hand free and turned her back on him.

"Seriously?" Ranma moaned. "Well fine, race you back home then." He leapt up onto the fence and took off towards the Tendo house.

"Wait!" Akane shouted as she wanted to explain more. "Ranma!" She ran after him. It was clear their relationship, no matter how clear now, would still not be plain sailing.

000

At the Nekohanten the Amazon group entered and Mousse was quickly ushered up the stairs by Cologne. The unconscious Shampoo was rolled onto her bed and Cologne hopped to her side.

"Stay back Son-in-Law," Cologne warned him. "I want you to sit outside of the room and not say a word."

"But Shampoo! I want to speak to her to tell my love that it will be okay!" He was hit on the head by a stick and silenced. He backed off as Cologne continued to glare at him. He didn't really understand but he could feel the menacing aura. The only thing that was completely clear was that his life and possibly his manhood would be in danger if he crossed the Elder. For once his love was assured even if Shampoo would probably, no she would definitely, object to any romantic relationship with him. The law had been fulfilled. As a native of the village his right to marriage of Shampoo overbid any right that Ranma had to her hand in marriage. It had been such a simple solution and Mousse had cursed inwardly that he hadn't thought of it before. Perhaps as he could never bring himself to harm Shampoo and defeat her and his own anger had been blinded by Ranma getting there before him. To say he felt sheepish was to put it mildly. He hung his head and just nodded, he was deep in thought about his own future and being with hopefully Shampoo; if she agreed to it.

His whole life in the future would be decided on this day and he could do nothing to say anything to the one he loved. He had to keep silent and see what would happen. If Shampoo could forgive him. If she could forgive herself for being taken up by her own vengeance. If she could only let her anger go. There were too many maybes and ifs. It was twisting his insides and Mousse just wanted this to be over. It felt worse than when he was fighting Shampoo and trying to rescue her soul from the demon. He felt he could do that all over again if it didn't mean this waiting. Though he had to endure and he slipped out of the room and sat outside by the door. He slipped his glasses on his head and rubbed his eyes. It had been a hard fight but it was almost over. It just all depended on how Shampoo would react. Did she want to be saved or did she really want to throw her life and soul away just for her revenge?

000

Nabiki was waiting at the entrance to the Dojo, as she seemed to know that they were coming back. She had a smug look on her face as she saw them coming near.

"How was the honeymoon?"

"Not really a honeymoon." Akane said giving her a glare. "I want Ranma and me to be kept a secret for as long as possible."

"Why do we have to hide it?" Ranma asked. He was sort of looking forward to midnight cuddles in front of the TV.

"We have to do it till we convince our fathers."

"Sounds like you're getting cold feet." Ranma pouted, he wasn't happy about this.

"You know this secret keeping will cost you." Nabiki said in her straightforward tone. "No family discounts."

"Let's discuss it inside will we?" Akane said. "I need a bath first and a hot meal."

"Sounds good!" Ranma said. "Is Kasumi in the kitchen?"

"Yeah, she's preparing tonight's dinner I'm sure she'll have enough for you all if she stretches it." Nabiki replied. "Nothing like having another freeloader back under the roof."

Ranma didn't say anything back to her; he was somehow used to these snide remarks. He dashed off to the kitchen where he was sure of getting some warmer welcomes.

Nabiki followed Akane inside. "I had some of my people tell me that you arrived back with Shampoo. Care to tell your sister what happened?"

"Can't we talk about this later?" Akane sighed. She was wishing Ranma was here to support her instead of running off to do his own thing. She guessed he was still upset about her rejecting him on the streets, but it was all so embarrassing. Plus she knew there would be still be some objects to them being together. For now she wanted to play it safe.

"Part of our deal is that you find a cure or work out what you want to do about that curse of yours." Nabiki said. "Unless you've forgotten, we don't really want this dojo to belong to me now do we?"

"We've figured most of it out… sort of." Akane said. "There might be a cure from the Amazons but we'll have to wait and see."

"You think Cologne was messing with you last time when she said there wasn't a cure?"

"How do you kno… never mind." Akane gritted her teeth. "I might be too late, but I've stopped ovulating at least. If there's no cure it might be every month when I'll need to go into solitary or ban all fish from the house for a week."

"Well that's great to know." Nabiki said. "Be sure to tell Kasumi this though. She's been acting weird again and totally blitzed the house; don't blame me if you can't find anything. It's all been cleaned till everything sparkles."

"Where's my Dad?"

"In his study with our permanent guest, drinking probably." Nabiki answered. "Are you sure you've got everything under control?"

"Well as much as I can… Oh and if you see P-Chan, kick him outside!" Akane said. "He's been a bad boy!"

"Hmm…" Nabiki nodded and didn't ask but she did make a mental note to ask later. 'I smell a secret.' She thought to herself.

000

In the Nekohanten above the restaurant a small figure paced back and forth. The lotion to relieve the sleeping effect would be working soon. Shampoo was lying down on the bed, Cologne was tempted to tie her down but she resisted. It might have a negative effect she needed to get through to the girl gently. There were new rules that needed to be made after such an occasion. The Amazons needed to get with the 20st century and start understanding that their traditions might not be as perfect as they hoped.

Cologne sat up from her meditation as she heard a high sigh. Shampoo was waking up.

"You're back home child." She said gently patting her hand.

"Great-Grandmother…" She whispered in Chinese, the girl looked around to see her old room in the restaurant. "This isn't home."

"You're safe child."

"I want to go home."

"We will Shampoo my dear, but first you must do something."

"You mean about Ranma?" Shampoo sighed. "I tried to kill him but he's too strong…"

"No, you have a new suitor now."

Shampoo's lip curled up in disgust. "Only Ranma defeat me!" She shouted in her bad Japanese.

"But do you not remember or have you forgotten?"

"I… I don't accept it!" Shampoo snapped, she tried to sit up but was poked by her Great-grandmother and was forced to lie back down. "I couldn't control my actions! I want a rematch!"

"That we can arrange." Cologne said. "So you remember everything that you did as the demon dog possessed you."

"It was such powerful magic, I couldn't control it." Shampoo sniffed. "I only wanted to kill Ranma, those people… it got some innocent people."

"Well, that can only be overcome if you lament and take your punishment back at the village."

"It can't change what happened."

"Just like we cannot change the fact that you were defeated by Mousse." Cologne added.

"Mousse is an idiot." Shampoo said bitterly.

"Perhaps, but he can change now he knows he has a love."

"I will never love him." Shampoo said. "I only loved Ranma."

"So you vow to never love again?"

"That's right." Shampoo whispered as she started crying.

"Well, we will have this rematch if you so desire but there is something else you must do first."

"What is it?" Shampoo asked.

"You need to deal with Ranma." Cologne said.

"I can't kill him."

"Yes, but there is something else you can do." Cologne said. "It is an old tradition but since you now have a village member as a suitor you cannot have two. You must let Ranma go."

"I can do that?"

"I never told you before as I never thought Mousse would ever have the guts to defeat you." Cologne said. "There is a way to keep our traditions alive for now there is a ceremony that you can perform that will let Ranma be free of our law. Though it might be a little embarrassing."

"I ran around naked possessed by a dog Great-grandmother, I think I'm able to do it."

"That is good my child." Cologne smiled her face happy that her great-granddaughter had come back to her. Though very clearly scarred by the experience. It would indeed be a bigger challenge for Mousse but she was sure that the idiot would continue with his total devotion.

00


Author's Note: So many little threads of story that need to be tied up. I'm not sure if I'll get them all but I'll try. It might take a few more chapters as I have a fun idea for an epilogue of sorts.

Just for your info, I'm not going for a happy ever after ending for everyone with this story. There may be some conclusions to some things but that will be giving it away. You'll have to wait and see which characters. I think I did really well managing to finish this chapter within a year! I'm really happy I managed this considering my real life drama continues.

As usual if you spot any glaring errors let me know I always welcome any feedback. Since I've lost contact with any of my betas. Newest chapters are currently betaless.