Ranma growled and shook himself off while climbing out of his clothes. There really was no way for him to stay human for any length of time before water found him. The white cat with black stripes and a small gold crescent on his head just sighed and began gathering up all his clothes, something slightly more difficult as a cat than as a human. Taking the pack in his teeth Ranma stopped for a moment to toss it into the air so he could roll under it causing it to vanish!
Ranma yawned and decided to stalk his next meal before heading out. After all, learning Chinese was a pain! Gliding from shadow to shadow he trailed his prey. The young tourist couple was obviously new to the area and had just picked the wrong dark alley to wander down.
A voice called out from the darkness, "Your money or your life!"
The young couple froze for a moment before slowly reaching for their wallets and doing their best to make no threatening moves, when they heard a sound like someone smacking a coconut against a tree. The couple dropped all pretense of being tourists and whipped around each with a gun in one hand and a badge in the other, only to find the mugger down and a cat pulling out his wallet with its teeth.
"What the hell?" the man asked aloud.
The zebra stripped cat spit the walled out so he could talk clearly. "Find your own mugger, this one's mine." Pawing a roll of bills out of the unconscious criminal's pocket the cat couldn't look more smug.
"How the hell do we report this?" the female officer asked, carefully not pointing her gun at the…whatever it was.
"The suspect tripped over a cat and knocked himself out in pursuit of a crime. If he complains about the missing money, say the cat batted it into a sewer drain," Ranma suggested before grabbing the roll of money in his teeth and vanishing, leaving the wallet, which was empty of cash.
The two cops exchanged glances and holstered their weapons before grabbing and securing the unconscious criminal.
"Didn't Sgt. Mako use that excuse for how he managed to get the drop on that kidnapper last week?" she wondered aloud.
"He was being modest and now we are going to be modest and do the same," the male officer growled. "I have no intention of trying to explain what just happened."
"Agreed," she said, paling as she thought of how telling the facts of this case would go down with internal affairs.
"Meow," Ranma said aloud, attracting the cook's attention and rolling the money towards him.
The cook didn't bat an eye as he peeled off several bills and rerolled the money for the cat, securing it with a rubber band. "Got some good beef in today," the man said. "One of the reclusive tribes brought in a couple of head for sale. Usually only happens during certain seasons, but if they need some modern currency for on project or another they'd rather sell off a renewable resource than gems or such, so all beef dishes are ½ price."
"Meow," Ranma agreed, trusting the cook to know what he meant.
"Three orders of beef and pot of lukewarm tea, coming right up!"
The purple haired girl sitting next to the cat watched the transaction with wide eyes. Looking down at the cup of hot tea in her hands and then glancing at the cat, she raised the cup only to have the cat interrupt her.
"If I am a Jusenkyo cursed person, then you would be stripping me naked in public, and if I am not then you have just pissed off an unknown magical being. What is the punishment for doing either in your tribe?"
The girl winced and drew her cup back. "Sorry, I am not given to thinking things through enough, according to my great grandmother, and after the last disaster I'm going to have to agree with her."
"What happened?" Ranma asked curiously.
"I unwittingly challenged an outsider to a fight after he ate part of my prize for winning the match for village champion. Of course if I'd known the panda was a cursed human I'd have turned him back into a human first an decide to let it go, unfortunately even though he was injured, his skill in his art were strong enough to beat me."
The cat winced. "And being a Jusenkyo Amazon you have to be his wife now or return in disgrace."
"How do you know so much about my tribe's laws?"
"I was cursed at Jusenkyo to turn into a magical being, so the first thing I did was ask the guide… No, I take that back, the first thing I did was savagely maul a panda and the second thing I did was question the guide about everything in the area."
"You know the panda?" the girl asked excitedly.
"You want to be his wife?" the cat replied incredulously.
"Gods no! But I can't return to my tribe until I have located him, and if I can show that my defeat was a fluke, I will be released from the Kiss of Marriage and deliver unto him the Kick of Severe Beating!"
"In that case, yes I know the panda and I can even narrow down where he's headed for you," Ranma said cheerfully. "I'm heading that way myself."
"You're chasing the panda as well?"
"Nah, I'd be perfectly happy to never see his dumb ass again, but I am from the same area of Japan and I plan on making a home there."
"Thank you! I can't tell you how much this means to me. I can track things in jungles or forests easily, but cities? I have no idea where to begin!" The Amazon practically cried tears of joy.
"Glad I could help. Have you given any thought as to how you are going to best him?"
And just like that a cloud of doom hung over the girl again.
Ranma sighed. "Fine, I'll train you in how to beat the fat bastard."
"How do you know so much about him and why are you so eager to help me?" she asked confused. She had expected it to be a long impossible quest with no one to help her, as the Amazon elders had intended it to be, as punishment for letting her 'husband' run away.
"When we can get some privacy and hot water I'll explain everything. Once you see how the curse has affected me you'll understand why I would be willing to help you escape the greater curse of being married to him, besides I need practice sparring in human form and I can train you and get used to it at the same time, just no kisses please, my life is tangled enough as it is."
The Amazon held out her hand. "Deal, no Kiss of Marriage or Death shall pass my lips. I am Shampoo, warrior of the Jusenkyo Amazons."
The cat held out a paw to shake. "Ranma Saotome, former son of the fat panda and someone who has been kicking his ass regularly for the past two years."
Shampoo's eyes widened. "And you're willing to help me?"
"Being a magical cat is just part of the curse. The rest I'd rather show you in private."
The food arrived and Ranma dug in with feline grace and Saotome speed, meaning it looked like there were three cats eating briefly as the food vanished.
Shampoo blinked and almost missed it. "Wow!"
Ranma grinned. "The Saotome eating speed is also part of the training. If you're done here I have to pay off my Chinese tutor for my last lesson before we go. Any preferences for travel? I swam across the Sea of Japan last time, but being a cat makes that all but impossible now."
Shampoo picked up Ranma and absently stroked him while following his directions to a schoolhouse a couple of blocks away. "Exactly how tough is the panda?"
"Very," Ranma confirmed gravely, "But I know every cheap shot he uses and which ones work on him. Fighting me he would be on guard for them, but he'd never suspect them coming from you. Still, expect a lot of hard training under me before you can expect that first win to look like a fluke."
Shampoo blushed heavily upon hearing Ranma's masculine tone talk about training under him. Sure he was a cat at the moment, but tales of young Amazon maidens and romantic outsider males training together were common and heated. Shampoo carried Ranma into a small classroom on the second floor that held an older woman with long greying brunette hair who was grading papers with a smile.
"I'll be with you in a moment."
"No rush, Sakura," Ranma said, feeling quite mellow from Shampoo's ministrations as she set him on the desk.
"Hey Ranma, she said brightly looking up and smiling at the pair. "I see you finally found someone to work as your hands."
"Nah," Ranma replied. "Shampoo has her own beef with my old man that I've volunteered to help her with. So, any news?"
"Yes, I actually have great news. I have located both your father's destination and your mother's address."
"What?!" Ranma was stunned. "My mother's alive?"
"Yes," Sakura replied finishing up her work and setting it to the side. "She's a substitute teacher in the Juuban Ward and your father filled out all the forms to have you attend Furenkan High School in Nerima while your home of record is listed as the Tendo Dojo. I have the address for you and you may want to note that your parents aren't divorced. Mrs. Saotome has listed training trips as the reason for your absences from the school district she works for, so presumably she's just been waiting for you and your father to return home regardless of what he's told you."
"Hear that Shampoo?" Ranma said turning to find the purple haired girl doing some dance that involved a lot of hip movement and throwing her hands up in the air every fifth step.
"I recognize that dance. That is the Amazon Dance of Ecstatic Delight Over Not Being Married to an Undesirable Male," Sakura said firmly.
"How do you know that?" Ranma asked curiously. "Are you a martial artist?"
"Nah, I'm a professional dancer or I was until I settled down," Sakura grinned. "And I'm not talking about dancing around a pole either." Both the teens blushed heavily. "Although I can do those as well. I mean I won every dancing contest from here to the mountains."
"That's impressive," Ranma admitted.
"Here," Sakura said laying out a pencil and a test booklet. "Finish this and you will officially be allowed to work as a translator."
"Excellent!" Ranma exclaimed rushing forward to take the test, completely shutting out the rest of the world, much to Sakura's amusement and Shampoo's annoyance.
Ranma finished the test in a little over two hours, somehow managing to wield a number two pencil with no thumbs. Grinning he turned around to tell Sakura he was finished and passed out.
Sakura adjusted the pasty on Shampoo's left breast. "It has to be centered to control the direction of the spin."
Shampoo moved her shoulders and shook her chest, spinning the tassels on her pasties in both directions.
"That's the way to do it," Sakura said proudly. "And that's all you need to know to pole dance. Of course mastering the skills takes practice and you can always come up with new moves, but that's the basics."
"Thank you! The village has only two people who teach the art and both of them are well over 80 years old, so I've been kinda leery of learning it at home."
Sakura grinned. "Well I think your first dance was a success, Ranma's down."
Shampoo laughed. "It's always nice to get the male opinion on things, don't you agree?"
"Yep, and you'll have him to give an opinion for the foreseeable future!"
Typing by: The Last Primarch!