A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part I
by rkOujirou

Author's note: This story is a continuation on the Ranma 1/2 anime, including the OVA's and movies. Therefore, keep in mind that anything exclusive to the manga hasn't happened in this story.

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is not my idea, it was created by a very talented manga artist named Rumiko Takahashi. The only characters I'll claim are my own original characters that I've added into this story. Just so you know.

Chapter 12

The scene around the Nerima Ward of Tokyo was one of a winter wonderland as snow continued to fall gently from the sky. Numerous snowstorms had come to the area during this winter season, which began earlier than people were accustomed to. People had been wandering outdoors wearing heavy coats, scarves, mittens, and boots for so many days now that it made their anticipation of the upcoming spring that much greater than usual.

Among the buildings now adorned with a snow-covered roof were the Tendo home and dojo. As they watched the snowflakes fall to the ground, two middle-aged men sat facing the garden, a bottle of saké between them and each with a small glass in hand. They both turned their heads as they heard the sound of the front door opening behind them.

"We're home!" a female voice announced.

"Oh, welcome home, Akane. This is quite the snowfall we're having, isn't it?" Soun said to her.

"Yeah, it's really coming down," Akane replied, then turning her attention back to the entrance. "Come on, you, hurry up and get your boots off. We've got to study for that math test tomorrow."

Akane's red-headed friend pouted as she removed her winter gear. "Ohh, I'm not looking forward to that at all."

"What's the matter, Ringo? You sound tired," Genma asked her.

"I'm a little worn out, Father, that's all," Ringo replied with a sigh. "Kodachi came to school and attacked me again today. She just can't seem to let go of whatever it is that bothers her about me."

"Sorry, Ringo, but like I've said, you might as well get used to it. Once that girl gets something in her mind, she doesn't let up," Akane told her.

Genma nodded knowingly at Akane's evaluation. "That's how it's always been with her. Her brother isn't still bothering you, is he?"

"Oh, not at all. He seems much more taken by Akane now," Ringo said, sounding very thankful.

Akane cringed as she thought about Upperclassman Kuno's recent displays of affection for her. "Don't remind me. Anyway, we need to get to studying. Come on, Ringo."

"Yes, I suppose we do," Ringo said, following Akane up to her bedroom. "Call us when it's time for dinner, Father!"

"Okay, don't overwork yourselves now," Genma smiled. After Ringo had disappeared from sight, Genma looked back out at the koi pond and hung his head.

"What's the matter, Saotome?" Soun asked, taking another sip of saké.

"Oh, just the same thing that's been the matter for the last five months I suppose," Genma replied.

Soun turned and gazed off into the distance as he thought about how much time had passed. "Has it been that long already?"

"Yeah, hard to believe," Genma said, taking another sip from his glass. "Things sure have been quiet around here since then."

"It's been peaceful, but somehow it's sad, isn't it?" Soun asked.

Genma nodded in reply. "The Cat Café's still closed since the old woman and that Mousse boy left. The Master left since he was so bored without Ranma around. We haven't seen that Ryoga around either. There sure was some commotion when Ringo first came here though."

Soun couldn't help but laugh a bit at the memory. "I still remember how shocked we all were to see her standing there with the masked fellow that day..."

Five months have passed since the day Ranma and Shampoo fought against Li and Meilin. Three days after the battles, the scene around the Nerima Ward was much different than it is now. It was still summer, and the heat was giving everyone a beating with only a couple of weeks left before the new school term started at Furinkan High. Everyone was awaiting the return of Ranma and Shampoo, but they were all beginning to worry after having not heard anything yet about what had happened. Nonetheless, life was proceeding as usual for everyone that morning, including the Tendo family. Akane had gone out for her morning jog, Nabiki was sleeping in, Genma and Soun had sparred with each other in the dojo, and Kasumi was cooking breakfast.

After Akane returned from her jog, she grabbed P-Chan and joined everyone at the table for breakfast, including the half-asleep Nabiki who'd just stumbled down the stairs. Everyone ate cheerfully together, trying to act as if everything was normal. This day, however, would be a day truly different from the rest. As they continued to eat, everyone was surprised to hear a male voice yelling from their front door.

"Excuse me, is anyone home?!"

"I wonder who that could be so early in the morning," Kasumi said as she stood up and walked to the entrance. When she opened the door, she saw before her a somewhat tall man wearing a loose-fitting garment much like that of Mousse. He had long, black hair and a mask on his face that had a noticeable crack on the right cheek area.

"Hello," the man said to Kasumi. "This would be the Tendo residence, correct?"

"Yes, that's right. Who might you be?" Kasumi asked him.

"My name is Jynn. I believe you're already familiar with this girl behind me," he said.

When Jynn stepped to the side, Kasumi let out a gasp as she saw Ringo standing behind him. "Father, everyone, come quickly!"

"What?! What's going on?!" Soun exclaimed as he and the others ran to the entrance. Their mouths all dropped in surprise when they saw Ringo standing at the entrance.

"Umm...hello," Ringo said bashfully, looking down at the ground. She'd barely finished her greeting when Genma stepped forward and wrapped her in a hug.

"Ranma! You're back!" he cried out.

Jynn cleared his throat as he looked toward Ranma's father. "Actually, this person is not Ranma."

Akane had tears of joy in her eyes as she looked at the redheaded girl. "What are you talking about? It's really Ranma...he's back..."

"It's a long story, but this is Ranma's female half, Ringo," Jynn explained to them.

Genma loosened his grip on Ringo and looked at her as he tried to understand this. "What's he talking about?"

"I'm sorry, but he's telling the truth. I'm not Ranma," Ringo replied sadly.

Genma and everyone else looked at her in confusion, not quite knowing what to think.

"I'm sure you're all confused about this, but there's a lot more to explain. If you don't mind, would you contact everyone associated with Ranma and Shampoo and ask them to come here? I don't want to have to repeat everything that happened," Jynn said to them.

A concerned Akane suddenly grabbed Jynn's robe by the throat area and pulled him closer. "If...if this isn't Ranma, then where is he...?"

Jynn calmly pulled Akane's hands off of his robe and stared down at her through his mask. "We don't know..."

"What?!" Akane screamed.

"Now calm down, Akane!" Soun said, holding her back. "I'm sure this man will explain everything to us. Please, come inside, both of you. We'll invite everyone here as you've asked."

Thirty minutes and a handful of telephone calls later, a large group had gathered inside the Tendo home. In addition to those already living there were Ukyo, Cologne, Mousse, and Ryoga, who had run upstairs to the bathroom and changed back to his human form as soon as Jynn showed up. Nobody knew where Happosai was at the moment, but they weren't particularly concerned about the lack of his presence.

Everyone looked toward the entrance as an exhausted Sasuke led Tatewaki and Kodachi Kuno into the house. Sasuke had brought them on their rickshaw as soon as they'd received the call from Kasumi, and needless to say they didn't give him a chance to rest. Tatewaki was enraged when he walked in and saw the shy Ringo staying close to Jynn.

"You there! What have you done to the pigtailed girl?!" he yelled, pointing his wooden sword at Jynn.

"I did nothing to her. Calm down," Jynn said calmly as he sat against the wall.

Kodachi immediately snapped her ribbon in front of herself and shot Ringo an angry glare. "Who cares about this girl?! Tell me where my Ranma darling is!"

"Hey, Mousse, don't you think that guy looks a lot like you?" Ryoga said, nudging the male Amazon.

Mousse didn't say a word as he stared a hole through Jynn.

"Hey, what's wrong with you?" Ryoga asked him.

"Nothing," Mousse replied sternly.

Kasumi looked around for a moment before turning her attention back to Jynn. "I think this is everyone, Mr. Jynn."

"I'll start explaining then," Jynn said as he stood up. "Everyone, my name is Jynn. I was a guide to Ranma and Shampoo during their training, and also an associate of their opponents."

Ukyo started to reach for the large spatula on her back when she heard that last line from Jynn's mouth. "Then you were one of the enemies?!"

"I was never their enemy, just a guide. If you would, please let me finish this story and you'll understand everything," Jynn said to her.

And so, from the incident with Ringo being separated from Ranma to the battle a month later, Jynn explained everything that had taken place to the group. Everyone listened intently to his explanation from the start until the painful finish.

"And that's the current situation," Jynn said as he wrapped up his tale. "I...felt like it was my responsibility to let all of their friends know what happened."

Kodachi and Ukyo both had tears streaming down their faces at the news, and Akane was fighting to keep from doing the same. Everyone else was quiet and seemed very deep in thought, trying to take in what they'd just learned.

"Do you...think Ranma's still alive?" Ryoga asked Jynn.

"It's difficult to say," Jynn replied. "The fact that he was nowhere near the battle scene would make you think so, but I doubt anyone could escape a fight against Li without serious injuries. Even if he did manage to walk away from the fight, he may have since died from his wounds. But like I said, there's really no way of knowing until we find him."

Ryoga clenched his fists tightly in frustration. "So...what happens now?"

Jynn turned and looked out into the garden, taking a moment to think about his answer. "I'm going back to China to look for him. As for Ringo, she's a part of Ranma, and thus is a part of the Saotome family, and she's also very timid and has no desire to fight. Because of this, that Aroma woman thought it would be best that Ringo stay here and attend school, leading a normal life. Would that be acceptable?"

"O-oh, of course! We'd be happy to have her stay with us," Soun quickly replied. "After all, you could say she's Saotome's daughter. I don't see any problem with her living here."

"Ooh, fun! We get another interesting guest to live with," Nabiki smiled.

"D-daughter, huh?" Genma stammered, looking over at Ringo. "Well that works perfectly! You can marry a rich man and we can live the rest of our lives without worry! Hahaha!"

Genma's laughter was interrupted as half a dozen fists smashed him on the back of the head, knocking him face first into the floor.

"Must you always think of your own good like that, Saotome?!" Soun fumed.

"Honestly, you're hopeless!" Akane yelled, trying to suppress her tears over Ranma's situation as she walked over to the bashful redhead. "Hi, I'm Akane."

"Oh, I already know who everyone is," Ringo laughed nervously.

Akane wasn't sure how she knew everyone, but she didn't really care at the moment. "Okay. Well, let's be friends from now on, 'kay?"

"Y-yes, that would be nice," Ringo said with a cheerful smile.

"So, the pigtailed girl has been freed from that evil Saotome's dark magic at last," Tatewaki Kuno said as he walked over to Ringo. "Greetings, pigtailed girl. As you know, my name is Tatewaki Kuno, often called the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High. Would you be so kind as to date with me?"

"Umm...I really think it's too early to be dating anyone, Mr. Kuno," Ringo said nervously. "Maybe some other time."

Kuno couldn't help but stare in awe at Ringo. "Such an...unusually peaceful response..."

"Wh-what's the matter, Master Kuno?" Sasuke asked, watching as his master sat on the floor and crossed his arms.

"I feel...deeply confused. Is this...disappointment I'm feeling, I wonder?" he said.

"Oh, be quiet, Brother!" Kodachi suddenly snapped as she turned to Ringo. "So, you think you can just come here and take my darling Ranma's place, do you?! Well you're mistaken, you evil hussie!"

Before she could act, Kodachi was struck in the face by Ukyo's spatula and flew through the air and into the koi pond.

"Settle down! She hasn't done anything to you! I don't like the fact that Ranma-honey's gone either, but you can't just take it out on an innocent girl!" Ukyo yelled out before walking over to Ringo. "Hi, I'm Ukyo, but you probably know that already, huh? You and me are friends from now on. Okay?"

Ringo nodded happily. "Sure!"

"M-mistress Kuno!" Sasuke yelled out, rushing to the koi pond to tend to Kodachi.

Cologne rubbed her head as the tempers began to subside. She'd already made a mental note to interrogate Aroma about Ringo's existence the next time she saw her, but for now there were more pressing matters. "Well, things certainly have taken a turn for the worse, haven't they. Jynn, was it? Did that Li person teach you his Shift technique?"

Jynn was a bit surprised by the question. "You know about that technique?"

"I only heard from Akane here that she'd seen Li doing something of the sort, that's all," she replied.

"I see," Jynn said. "Yes, I can use it. Why do you ask?"

"If you plan on going back to China, please wait until tomorrow. Given the current state of things, I would like to return with you," Cologne said to him. "You can stay at my restaurant for the night."

Jynn had to mull over the request for a moment before answering her. "I suppose I could wait a bit longer, if it's for you. We'll leave first thing tomorrow morning."

"Hey, why are you so determined to find Ranma?" Ryoga suddenly asked Jynn. "Are you going to try to kill him for what he did to this Li guy?"

Everyone turned and shot Jynn a sharp look as he looked over at Ryoga. Considering Jynn's past affiliations, they all found it to be a legitimate concern.

"I have no intention of killing him. I only want to retrieve something he took from Li," Jynn replied. "Any other questions?"

Everyone stood in silence, unable to think of anything else to ask the masked man about the predicament.

"Well then, since there's nothing left to discuss here, I need to prepare to leave tomorrow. Jynn, please follow me," Cologne directed him.

As Jynn began walking behind Cologne, Ringo ran over and grabbed him by the sleeve. "Jynn...please, bring him back here?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll do everything I can to find him," Jynn assured her. "You just focus on your new life here."

Ringo nodded and wiped a tear from her eye. "Thank you..."

Jynn then followed Cologne out of the Tendo home with an unusually tense Mousse following right behind them.

While some of the others filed out of the house, Ukyo walked over to Akane and began whispering in her ear. "You think we should go to China with them?"

Akane had already been thinking about it, as concerned as she was for Ranma right now. But in the end, she figured, going to China wouldn't do them any good. "I...I think we should just stay here."

"What? Why?" Ukyo asked curiously.

"If he's alive, he'll come back here. Don't you think?" Akane replied. "Besides, it would be tough for Ringo without any friends here at first if we left..."

Ukyo looked over at Ringo, who was chatting with Genma at the moment. "I guess you've got a point. Once Ranma-honey comes to his senses, he'll be sure to get his fanny back here. I just know he will.."

Once Cologne, Jynn and Mousse had gotten a good distance from the Tendo home, Jynn stopped and turned toward Mousse.

"You've been staring at me ever since you first saw me. Something wrong?" Jynn asked him.

"You know exactly why I'm staring at you," Mousse snarled as he came to a stop. "Why don't you take that mask off, Perm?!"

Cologne's eyes opened wide with surprise when she heard Mousse mention the name. "Perm? You couldn't be that person..."

Jynn started chuckling to himself beneath his mask. "Guess I couldn't fool you, could I? You've grown a bit since I last saw you, old friend."

"Shut up! I always wondered where you went, and then I find out you've been working with slime like those two that almost killed Shampoo?!" Mousse yelled at him.

"So, it is you, Perm," Cologne said angrily. "The prodigy of that male Amazon village, and the one who was to marry Shampoo as a sign of goodwill amongst our tribes. It was the day before the wedding when you vanished and were never heard from again. Our village was absolutely enraged over your disappearance. Do you have any idea the trouble you caused?! We almost went to war over that incident!"

"Which is why I'm giving you a free trip home tomorrow," Jynn said to her. "I'm well aware that I caused you a lot of trouble, but believe me when I say I didn't mean for any of that to happen."

Cologne was trying with all her might to keep from attacking the man. "Why did you leave? Tell me this instant."

"I left because I didn't want to be tied down to anyone," Jynn replied. "Not to my would-be wife, not to my village, and not to the Amazon community. Like you said, I was a prodigy. I could beat anyone in that village, and I was still young. I wanted to go out and find stronger people to fight. But more than that, every day I could see the pained look on Mousse's face after he heard of the arranged marriage. If I would have married Shampoo, he would have loathed me for the rest of my life. That wasn't something I wanted to live with, so on the night before the wedding I challenged him to a duel for the right to marry Shampoo."

"And?" Cologne asked.

"I won," Mousse said. "I wasn't even sure how I did it at first, but I eventually figured it out. You let me win, didn't you, Perm?"

Jynn raised his arm up and pulled his mask off, revealing the face of someone who looked to be in his early twenties. His features were similar to that of Mousse, only his face looked older, he didn't wear glasses, and, most notably, he had a large scar that started on his forehead and continued down across his nose and onto his left cheek. Mousse had an uncomfortable look on his face as he stared at the scar.

"You got me pretty good back then," Jynn said, tossing his mask to the ground. "I guess I don't need that thing anymore..."

"You lost on purpose, just so you could leave..." Mousse said to him.

Jynn couldn't deny his old friend's accusation. "I wanted to live my own life free from that village, and I wanted you to be able to marry the girl you loved. But it seems despite my leaving, she never did allow you into her heart, did she, Mousse?"

"I was working on it when that damn Ranma showed up!" Mousse yelled.

"Nevermind that," Cologne said, turning her attention to Jynn. "I'll let your traitorous actions go for now since you saved Shampoo's life, Perm. Tell me more about her condition."

"Like I said earlier, she lost a great deal of blood, but she's in stable condition. Aroma and the rest of Joketsuzoku's medical specialists are keeping an eye on her, but she's still unconscious," Jynn replied. "And, please, stop calling me Perm. Li gave me the name Jynn, and that's what I prefer to be called."

Mousse was angered at the very mention of Li's name. "You're pathetic! What happened, did you lose to him and become his servant so he wouldn't kill you?!"

Jynn hung his head and looked down at the ground sadly as he remembered when he first ran into Li and Meilin. "I did lose to him, but...he spared me because he said it was a fun fight for him. He and Meilin...they seemed like such free spirits, and I envied them. I was the one that asked if I could join them. After a while, I didn't even care about fighting anymore. I was happy just traveling with those two...but now it's over. I couldn't find Meilin, and Li...is dead..."

Mousse's anger began to dissipate when he saw the genuine sadness on the face of his old friend. He wasn't about to forgive him for not doing anything to prevent Shampoo from being hurt though.

"I have to find Ranma and return what he took from Li," Jynn said to him. "Mousse, you'll come with me, won't you?"

"Why should I?! I don't care what happens to Ranma, I'm going to stay with Shampoo!" Mousse said defiantly.

"And what good would that do?" Jynn asked him. "Don't you need to defeat Ranma if you want to win the right to marry Shampoo back from him? You have to find him first if you want to defeat him, right?"

Mousse couldn't think of any reply but to punch a hole in the concrete wall that he was standing next to.

"I believe that's his way of saying you're correct," Cologne said as she continued walking. "Let's be on our way."

Jynn began walking behind her again and Mousse slowly began to follow them. As much as he hated to admit it, Jynn was right. He needed to find Ranma in order to win his bride back.

That night, Ryoga, currently in his pig form, was laying comfortably on Akane's pillow while she slept. After hearing the news about Ranma, he'd spent all day laying around on the Tendo home's roof. The fact that Ranma might never show up at this place again made him seriously consider what his next move would be. After all, it was Ranma who drove Ryoga to train himself endlessly during the best years of his life. The only reasons he even showed up in this place were to fight Ranma and to see Akane.

As Ryoga saw things, there were two options that lay before him. One of them would be to remain with the Tendo family and comfort Akane in Ranma's absence. He wouldn't mind that at all, he thought. Then there was the second option, which was to go to China and conduct his own search for Ranma so that everyone could feel more at ease. He wondered what he should do as he looked up at Akane's sleeping face. Akane seemed to be taking the whole situation well while she was getting acquainted with Ringo, but Ryoga knew she must have been hurting inside. Even if he did stay there, he had a feeling that Akane wouldn't stop feeling the pain caused by Ranma's absence until the pigtailed boy came back.

Ryoga was snapped out of his deep thought by a wet feeling on his cheek. Looking up, he saw that Akane had tears rolling down her face. She mouthed Ranma's name and rolled around in bed for a moment before calming down and falling into a deep sleep again. As it turned out, this was all Ryoga needed to decide which path he would choose.

Early the next morning before anyone else was awake, Ryoga hopped into the bath and changed back into his human form before getting dressed and gathering his things in his backpack. After finding a piece of paper, he wrote on it the following: "Dear Akane, I'm going to China to look for Ranma. It might take weeks, months, or even years, but I promise I'll bring that jerk back here. Stay well. Your friend, Ryoga Hibiki."

Ryoga folded up the note and wrapped it in one of his bandanas as he walked toward Akane's room, planning to leave it by the door. Just as he reached her room, however, he heard a voice whispering to him.

"Ryoga, where are you going?" a sleepy Ringo asked as she looked at him.

"Sorry, did I wake you up?" Ryoga asked her.

"No, I just got up to get a drink of water," she told him. "Are you leaving?"

Ryoga was still feeling a bit hesitant to leave Akane's side, but he knew it was the right thing to do. "I can't just stay here and act like nothing's wrong while Akane's feeling like this. I'm going to the old woman's restaurant so I can catch a ride to China with them and find Ranma."

Ringo giggled softly as she smiled over at him. "You're a really nice guy, you know that, Ryoga?"

Ryoga started to blush as he looked down at the floor. "It's...it's nothing, really. I'm sure any guy would do the same thing. But, this is kind of weird..."

"What is?" Ringo asked.

"That face of yours reminds me a lot of that stupid jerk I'm going to look for, but you're completely different," Ryoga told her. "Anyway, take care of Akane while I'm gone. And could you give her this note for me?"

Ringo grabbed the note from him and nodded. "I'll be sure to give it to her for you. Be careful, okay?"

"Yeah, and hey, have fun at Furinkan," Ryoga said with a smile as he started to walk off. "See ya."

Ringo silently waved goodbye as Ryoga wandered down the stairs and out the door. Clutching the bandana-wrapped note to her chest, she could only hope that Ryoga and Jynn would somehow find Ranma and bring him back home.

Three hours later, as Jynn, Cologne, and Mousse were preparing to leave for China, they heard a loud noise that caused Jynn lose his focus. They were surprised to see that the wall sealing in the area behind the restaurant had exploded and a tired looking Ryoga was standing atop the rubble.

"Good thing...I gave myself plenty of time..." Ryoga said, panting from running all over town for three hours. He quirked an eyebrow at Jynn's unmasked face when he first laid eyes on him. "You're...that Jynn guy? What happened to your mask?"

"Didn't need it anymore," Jynn said nonchalantly.

"Ryoga? What on earth are you doing here?" Cologne asked curiously.

"What's it look like? I'm coming with you. I'll be the one to find Ranma and beat him up before anyone else does," Ryoga replied.

"You wish!" Mousse yelled. "You can have what's left of Ranma after I defeat him!"

"What's that?!" Ryoga snarled at him.

Cologne rubbed her forehead as she watched the two argue. "Stop this, both of you. Ryoga, if you want to come that's fine, but you'll get no help from us."

"That's fine, I can take care of myself," Ryoga said in agreement.

After Ryoga joined the group, Jynn restarted his Shift technique, and with a brilliant flash of blue light the four of them vanished.

Five months later, Soun and Genma continued drinking while watching the snow fall outside.

"I guess that boy hasn't found Ranma yet, eh Tendo?" Genma asked his friend.

"Probably not," Soun replied. "But his joining in the search sure did make Akane feel better. She must have a lot of faith in that Ryoga boy."

Genma took another drink as he again felt the depression of his powerlessness in this situation. With each passing week his desire to go search for his son grew, but he now had a responsibility to look after Ringo, whom he'd come to accept as his own daughter. "You think I'll ever see my boy again, Tendo?"

"I'm sure he'll return one day, Saotome," Soun said to him. "With people like that old woman and Ryoga over there looking for him, I figure it's only a matter of time. We just need to have patience and take care of the girls while he's away."

Soun poured Genma another drink and raised his glass up high. "Cheers, Saotome, to the success of finding your son!"

After a moment of hesitation, Genma managed a smile and raised his glass in the air. "Cheers to that, Tendo."

On the other side of the Sea of Japan, a heavily clothed Ryoga was trudging through the snowy plains of northern China with a Russian ushanka made of muskrat fur on his head. Cologne had remained with Shampoo in Joketsuzoku and Mousse and Jynn had gone off in search of Ranma by themselves when they'd arrived in China, leaving Ryoga to wander around on his own. His poor sense of direction had caused him to take a little trip through Russia, but he'd finally found his way back to China again. Luckily, the skies had cleared and allowed the sun to shine down, but the blowing winds continued to make the air bitterly cold.

"Ranma! Where the hell are you?!" he yelled out. "I promised Akane I'd find you, you jerk! I don't care if I have to walk around here for the rest of my life, I'm gonna drag you back to Japan!"

As Ryoga continued to trudge forth, he squinted his eyes and saw what looked like a village ahead of him. He'd made a point to thoroughly search any areas of civilization for signs of Ranma, and thus began walking toward the village in the distance. When he finally reached it he got some strange looks from people, but that was common anywhere he went in this country.

While walking down the village's main road, Ryoga began to hear a commotion in the distance. Looking closely, he saw a cloud of snow being kicked up behind someone running toward him. "What is that...?"

Behind the cloud of snow, a mob of people could be seen chasing the fleeing person with various farm tools in their hands. As the chase drew closer to him, Ryoga could make out the figure of the person being chased. It was a small man with a cloth tied around his head and two large bags in his hands.

Ryoga grimaced as the man got close enough that he could recognize him. "It couldn't be..."

As the man continued to flee from the mob, he turned forward and noticed Ryoga standing in his path. It took him a moment to recognize who Ryoga was, but once he did he jumped up and smiled happily. "Ryoga! Long time no see! Nice fuzzy hat ya got there!"

Ryoga slapped his hand against his forehead as he watched none other than Happosai run toward him. "What are you doing, Gramps?!"

Happosai didn't slow down, tossing Ryoga one of the bags in his possession as he ran past him. "Nevermind that! Here, take this and come with me!"

"H-hey, wait...!" Ryoga stammered, bobbling the bag in his hands. Once he turned and saw the mob charging at him, he let out a loud cry and began running after Happosai. "Why are you getting me involved in this?!"

Happosai laughed joyously as he pulled out one of his firecracker bombs. "You're a big help, Ryoga! Now that I've got a hand free, I can shake off these pests! Take this, Happo Fire Burst!"

Ryoga frantically ran ahead of Happosai to get further away from the impending blast, but as it turned out there was no need. The icy winds blowing through the air put the fuse out before the firecracker had the chance to detonate, leaving it sitting on the ground only to be trampled by the mob.

"That's no fair! This is why I hate winter!" Happosai cried.

"Then stop crying and do something else!" Ryoga yelled at him.

Happosai was reaching around in his clothes when he suddenly looked up and focused his attention on the sky. "Hey, lookie! The sun's out today!"

"This isn't the time to be noticing the weather, old man!" Ryoga snapped.

Happosai jumped up and whacked Ryoga on the head with his pipe as they continued to run away. "No, you moron! This means I can use something else to deal with them! Although I really don't want to..."

Ryoga was getting more aggravated as he looked down at the weeping lecher. "What do you mean you don't want to do it?! Just hurry up and do something about all this!"

"Fine! Quit bothering me!" Happosai yelled, sticking his hand out in front of him.

Ryoga watched as an orange ball of energy began growing in Happosai's palm. He almost tripped over his own foot while he watched, but managed to keep his balance and continued running forward. "Hey! What's that thing?!"

Once the ball enveloped his entire palm, Happosai faced it toward the ground in front of the mob. "Now you've really gone and done it! Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts, Forbidden Technique! Happo Solar Flare!"

When the ball of energy flew from Happosai's palm and struck the ground, it created an explosion that sent Ryoga and Happosai flying forward from the shock wave. The sound of the blast rattled eardrums as snow and frozen ground shot into the air from the impact.

"Owwwww! Hot hot hot!" Happosai cried out, digging his hand into the snow to put out the fire on it.

Ryoga, who'd fallen to his knees after the blast, looked back in astonishment at the huge crater where the blast had occurred. There was nothing but silence as the mob of people was scattered about on the ground, knocked unconscious by the force of Happosai's attack.

"You...you mean you've had something like that all along, Gramps?! Why didn't you ever use it?!" Ryoga asked in disbelief.

"Because it burns my hand, you idiot! Oww!" Happosai pouted, whacking Ryoga with his pipe again. "Now hurry up and follow me before they wake up again!"

Ryoga was still shaken by the blast and didn't particularly want to follow Happosai of all people, but he didn't want to deal with that angry mob of people either. Reluctantly, he got to his feet and started running after the old man. Once the two of them left the village, they ran for a good while and eventually came upon a small hut near the base of some rocky cliffs.

"You've been living here?" Ryoga asked as they entered the hut. There wasn't much in the small shack aside from a pot with some wood beneath it, a tiny bed, and a large chest.

"Yup! Nice and cozy!" Happosai laughed, taking the bag from Ryoga's hands. "You did good today, kid."

Ryoga narrowed his eyes as the old man opened the bag, revealing bread and an assortment of meat and vegetables. "Let me guess, you stole this from those villagers?"

"Nonsense! They gave it to me," Happosai said in his defense.

"They were chasing you for a reason, Gramps! How dumb do you think I am?!" Ryoga snapped.

"Now now, let's not sweat the little details," Happosai replied, trying to downplay his obvious act of thievery. "So, any sign of my disciple yet?"

Ryoga let out a sigh as he sat down on the wood floor. "If there was, I wouldn't be wandering around here right now. What are you doing here, anyway? With you always wanting to see Ranma's girl form wearing a bra, I figured you'd be in Japan torturing Ringo."

"Akane kept hitting me whenever I tried!" Happosai cried, then stopping and clearing his throat before correcting himself. "I mean...Ranma's my important student! It was my duty to come here and look for him."

"Is that right?" Ryoga asked, looking at him skeptically. "You sure don't seem to be trying very hard."

"Well...I got a little sidetracked is all..." Happosai replied, looking down as he twiddled his fingers. "Say, why don't you help me so I can start looking for him again?"

"Forget it! Nothing good could come from helping you," Ryoga said to him.

"Aww, c'mon! Help an old man out!" Happosai pleaded. "Actually, now that I think about it, what's wrong with you?! Why are you looking for Ranma when you could be snuggling with Akane in her bed?!"

"Because it's been my goal in life to defeat Ranma! I can't just give up and live happily!" Ryoga snapped at him. Of course, there was also that little part about Akane missing Ranma, but he tried not to think about that too often.

Happosai scoffed at Ryoga's reply as he began gnawing on a loaf of bread. "Like you could ever beat him. He already knows how to counter that Shishi Hokodan of yours. You've got nothing else to use against him."

Ryoga leered over at Happosai angrily, but he couldn't deny that there was some truth to that statement. Ranma did know how to counter his perfected Shishi Hokodan. Even if he just used the simple version, Ranma could counter it with his Moko Takabisha.

"If Ranma's still alive, he's probably even stronger than before from training to fight that Li guy. Face it, you've got no chance against him, kid," Happosai said.

Slamming his fist against the floor, Ryoga swallowed his pride and thought of a way to compromise with the old lecher. "Fine then, let's make a deal, Gramps! I'll help with whatever it is that's keeping you here, but only on one condition!"

"Really?! You mean it?!" Happosai exclaimed happily, his eyes sparkling with glee. "What is it?! Anything you want!"

"I want you to teach me that solar...whatever!" Ryoga demanded.

"Are you nuts?!" Happosai yelled. "That technique is way too dangerous! No way! Forget it!"

Ryoga grinned slyly as he leaned in close to him. "Okay, but I guess you'll never get whatever it is that you want..."

Despite the cold weather, beads of sweat began rolling down Happosai's face as he tried to decide what was in his best interests. His Solar Flare was dangerous, and he knew it, but he wanted that thing so badly...and if he was right about Ryoga's ability to get it for him...

"Okay! Fine! Deal!" Happosai said reluctantly. "But you promise me you'll get the thing I want!"

"Leave it to me," Ryoga said, smiling confidently.

"Oh boy! I'm sure you can do it! Come on, follow me!" Happosai said, rushing out the door.

Ryoga had a feeling he was getting involved in something he shouldn't be, but if he could use that technique he'd seen Happosai use then he could surely defeat Ranma. For that end, he would do anything. When Ryoga exited the hut, he followed Happosai to the top of a snowy hill and looked down to the other side.

"There! You see it?" Happosai asked, pointing down to an entrance in the base of the rocky cliffs at the bottom of the hill.

Ryoga looked at the entrance and then over at Happosai. "What about it?"

Happosai turned to him and smiled happily. "There's a pretty lady that lives in there! I want you to go and get her panties for me, got it?!"

Ryoga grimaced as he leered over at the old lecher. He had a feeling it would be something like this. "Why is it always panties with you, you pervert?!"

"Bite your tongue!" Happosai snapped back at him. "You couldn't possibly understand my passion! Now get to work!"

Putting aside Happosai's faults for the time being, Ryoga turned and looked back down at the base of the cliff. If all it would take to get the old man to teach him that technique was one pair of panties, he would go through with it, he decided. But for Happosai to have to rely on him to swipe a pair of panties, this couldn't be any easy task. Just what kind of woman could give even Happosai such a hard time?

End of Chapter 12