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 15

Most of the audience wasn't aware of what they were seeing, but the Seven Lucky Gods members were all on the edge of their seats after seeing the spheres of light scatter from Y's palm.

"Master Kirin...is this person capable of using the Shift technique?" Monlon asked in Mandarin.

"It would seem so," Kirin replied, directing his attention to the weapon sticking out from behind the person known as Y. "Black armor on his arm and the ability to use that technique...could that weapon possibly be...?"

With the Nekonron crowd looking on in anticipation and a perplexed Meilin standing beside him, an impatient Ryoga turned to Y and held his hands out in front of him.

"You won't stand up after this!" he yelled. Summoning strength from the depths of despair within, Ryoga formed a ball of emotion-powered energy in his hands. "Shi Shi Hokodan!"

The arena was silent as the ball of energy in Ryoga's possession vanished into nothingness.

Ryoga blinked in confusion as he looked down at his hands. "H-huh?"

Unsure of what had happened, he attempted to use his Shi Shi Hokodan once more, but for some reason he couldn't maintain it and it again disappeared.

Shaking off the shock from seeing Y's armor-covered left arm, Meilin turned and looked over at her temporary partner. "What are you doing?!"

"I-I don't know! This always works, dam-!" Ryoga began to say, but he was cut off when Y suddenly appeared in front of him and drove his fist into Ryoga's gut.

With the wind knocked out of him, Ryoga felt a sharp sting from Y's knee striking his chin and was knocked off his feet. Y then jumped into the air and kicked Ryoga in the chest from above, sending him flying violently into the ground.

While the crowd roared and gave Y a standing ovation for the incredible display of speed as he landed perfectly on the ground, Meilin glared angrily at him and raised her sword into the air.

"Bastard!" Meilin yelled, swinging her sword down at Y. But by the time her sword reached him, Y had vanished.

Meilin let out a gasp as she saw Y's armor-covered arm wrap around her abdomen from behind. "Crap!"

The audience looked on with amazement as Y and Meilin disappeared and then reappeared next to the royal box. Kirin and the others watched intently as Y tossed Meilin over his head, dumping her into the front row at the feet of her sister, Monlon.

Meilin, somewhat surprised that Y hadn't attacked her, pulled herself up with the help of the stone barrier separating the crowd and the fighting area and leered over at Y as he turned around to look at her. "Why, you-!"

"Meilin has been eliminated!" Kirin suddenly shouted, raising his hand into the air.

"What?!" Meilin shrieked.

"You stepped outside the barrier," Kirin said, pointing down at her feet.

Shaking with frustration as she looked down at her feet, Meilin slammed her fist into the barrier. "Damn! DAMN!"

Raising her head to look up at her sister, Meilin bit down on her bottom lip and struck the barrier again.

"Too bad, little sister," Monlon said with a smirk. "Looks like you won't be receiving any favor from us."

With his attention focused on Meilin, Y quickly spun around when he heard something coming toward him. He had little time to react as he saw the gigantic mass of energy that was Ryoga's Shi Shi Hokodan soaring his way.

Kirin's eyes went wide as he saw Y pull out a black scythe from his back and hold it out in front of him. As Y braced himself for the impact, Ryoga's attack slammed into him and knocked him into the barrier with incredible force, drawing a gasp from the crowd and forcing Meilin and the Seven Lucky Gods members to shield themselves.

Once the blast of energy faded, Ryoga stood panting as he looked at the cloud of dirt his Shi Shi Hokodan had kicked up. "How was that...you jerk..."

Audience members began chatting amongst themselves while they waited for the cloud of dirt to clear, anxiously wanting to see if Y had been defeated.

Kirin, who had leaned over to shield Lychee from the attack, slowly stood up and looked below to get a glimpse of Y and his scythe.

"M-Master Kirin...that scythe...most surely, it was..." Ebitan stammered.

"Yes, that was undoubtedly Yanlou," Kirin said nervously. "But...who is in possession of it?"

As a gust of wind blew through the arena and the cloud began to clear, the black cloak that had kept Y's identity a secret fell down through the air and landed softly on the ground.

Everyone cheered as they saw Y's body embedded into the stone barrier with his scythe held out in front of him. With his black pigtail resting on his right shoulder, Y began cackling as he pulled himself out of the wall and stood facing the one who had attacked him.

Ryoga's mouth dropped open in awe when he first saw the man. "R-Ran..."

Next to the stone barrier stood none other than Ranma Saotome, dressed only in a tattered pair of white pants and black shoes. He smiled coldly over at his opponent with Yanlou grasped tightly in his left hand and the entire left side of his body covered in its black armor. "Yo, Ryoga..."

"R-Ranma...what...what happened to you...?" Ryoga stammered, almost in disbelief at the state he saw his rival in.

"What happened?" Ranma repeated, laughing darkly as he slowly began moving toward Ryoga. "What didn't happen?! Just look at me, man! Isn't this great?!"

Up in the royal box, everyone was standing and looking at Ranma in complete shock.

"That's...Saotome. He...why does he have Li's scythe?!" Meilin yelled.

"Ranma! What happened to him?!" Lychee cried out as she looked at him.

"M-Master Kirin! This is bad! Saotome's been taken over by that cursed scythe!" Ebitan said in a panic. "We must stop him, now!"

Kirin was none too happy to see that Ranma was in possession of an awakened Yanlou, but he wasn't ready to act just yet. Something seemed strange to him about Ranma's demeanor. "No...we shall sit and observe a bit longer..."

"What?! Master Kirin, you should know how dangerous he is in this state!" Ebitan shouted.

"I am well aware of that, Ebitan," Kirin said, continuing to watch nervously as Ranma walked toward Ryoga. "But look at him...there must be some reason that only half of his body is covered with Yanlou's armor..."

Ebitan blinked as he looked Ranma over again. "You mean...Saotome is still in control of himself?"

"It is possible," Kirin said to him. "I would like to see how this plays out. If it becomes clear that he is a threat then we will step in and incapacitate him, but not yet."

While Ranma continued to trudge forward, Ryoga's expression changed from one of surprise to one of rage. After everything he'd put everyone through with his disappearance, Ranma actually had the nerve to smile, he thought to himself.

"Ranma! What's wrong with you?!" Ryoga yelled at him.

Ranma tilted his head as he stared back at him. "What're you talkin' about?"

"Don't you act like you don't know!" Ryoga snapped. "Why haven't you come back to Japan yet?! Where have you been for the past five months?!"

"Oh, that," Ranma replied with a grin, twirling Yanlou around in his hand. "I was havin' fun, so I thought I'd stay here. 'Sides, everyone in Japan was annoyin', y'know?"

Ryoga clenched his fists and snarled at his pigtailed rival. "Akane...she cried because you didn't come back...and you don't care one bit?"

Stopping a short distance from him, Ranma burst out laughing and stared at Ryoga with a wild look in his eyes. "Akane?! That tomboy?! Good, I'm glad she's cryin'..."

Ryoga couldn't believe the words he'd just heard come out of Ranma's mouth at first. "What...did you say?"

"You hard of hearin'?!" Ranma shouted back at him maniacally. "I said I'm glad Akane's cryin'!"

A bead of sweat rolled down Kirin's face as he kept his eyes locked on the pigtailed boy. "Ranma...is trying to make Ryoga angry."

"You think so, Master Kirin?" Monlon asked him.

"I do not believe Ranma would say such things about Akane Tendo otherwise," Kirin replied. "I wonder...what is he trying to accomplish?"

With the sun beaming down from above, everyone watched as a bright orange sphere of energy began to grow in Ryoga's palm.

Ranma again tilted his head as he looked over at his rival. "What the heck's that?"

The ball of energy continuing to slowly expand, Ryoga raised his head and glared furiously into Ranma's eyes. "How dare you?! How dare you say such things about Akane?! I won't forgive you for that, Ranma!"

"Ohh?" Ranma said, smiling crazily as he thrust the handle of Yanlou into the ground in front of him. "Well go ahead and do somethin' about it, pig boy!"

Meilin narrowed her eyes as she looked at Ryoga from the royal box. "Hey, that's...the technique he was practicing on the way here..."

As the energy in Ryoga's palm swelled to the size of his head, Kirin noticed something unusual happening with Ranma's body. The armor that covered his left side was beginning to recede back into the scythe. But it stopped all of a sudden as Ranma tensed up and grasped Yanlou as tight as he could.

"What's wrong with you?! Hurry up and attack me, you pig! I ain't goin' back to Akane unless you force me, so do it!" Ranma yelled frantically, a pained look beginning to show in his eyes.

"That's it!" Kirin exclaimed, slamming his hands on the top of the stone barrier. "Ranma wants Ryoga to destroy Yanlou!"

Everyone watched as Ryoga dug his feet into the ground and faced his right palm forward. His mind was so blinded with rage that it didn't even occur to him how surprised he should be that he was successfully using the technique that Happosai had taught him.

"You're coming back to Japan with me whether you like it or not!" Ryoga shouted. "Happo Solar Flare!"

An immense explosion of heat and light sent people diving for cover as the ball of energy in Ryoga's hand shot toward Ranma and made direct contact with his scythe. An enormous plume of dirt shot into the air from the impact and then began raining down into the crowd as everyone tried to regain their senses. Once the spectators were assured that others around them were okay, they looked down toward the arena floor to observe the results of Ryoga's insane attack.

Ryoga himself was lying on the ground facing upward, having been knocked on his back from the recoil of firing the Happo Solar Flare. The sleeve on his right arm was burned and his entire hand was still smoking. Around the arena floor, the stone barrier was cracked and crumbling in some areas. Members of the crowd were in awe of the damage they saw.

As the Seven Lucky Gods members in the royal box raised their heads, they saw a large crater where Ranma had been standing.

"What...what on earth was that?!" Ebitan yelled, his ears still ringing from the blast.

"It was like a bomb exploded," Lychee said, still feeling stunned.

As Meilin opened her eyes, she saw that her sister had her arms wrapped around her in an attempt to protect her. Angrily, she pulled herself out of Monlon's grasp and glared up at her. "What do you think you're doing?!"

Monlon blinked in confusion as she looked down at her hands, not knowing herself why she'd just tried to protect Meilin. Protecting her sister in spite of everything that had happened between them, was it just a natural reaction, she wondered?

Coughing as he looked through the dust cloud, Kirin jumped back as a shard of metal suddenly fell from the sky and planted itself into the top of the barrier in front of him. "This...this is...Yanlou's blade! It was...destroyed?! That is...!"

As he lay on the ground, Ryoga groaned, his body feeling sore and exhausted after executing the Happo Solar Flare. "You weren't kidding...old man. That technique's...no joke. Oww...I really overdid it...letting it get that big..."

Leaning his head forward, Ryoga, along with everyone else in the arena, was shocked to see Ranma hop out of the crater and land next to Ryoga's feet. His left arm was covered in blood and had a bone sticking out of it, but even more disturbing was what looked like an ethereal being swirling around his body. While the last bits of Yanlou's black armor crumbled from his face and fell to the ground, the spirit cried out the name "Jusenkyo" and then entered Ranma's body through his chest.

"Jusenkyo?!" Kirin exclaimed. "Then...it is true..."

Once the spirit had vanished into Ranma's body, he clutched at his left arm and fell to his knees, crying out in pain. The Seven Lucky Gods members and Meilin wasted no time hopping down to the arena floor and rushing over to Ranma and Ryoga.

"Ryoga, are you alright?!" Meilin asked, kneeling down by his head.

Kirin felt pity from the bottom of his heart as he looked down at the pigtailed boy. "Ranma...how long were you fighting against Yanlou?"

Shaking with pain, Ranma slowly raised his head from the ground. "Ever since...I fought Li..."

"That whole time..." Kirin replied in amazement. "And you intentionally made Ryoga angry so he would destroy it for you."

Ryoga was struggling to stay awake as he stared over at his bloodied rival. "Ranma...you...didn't mean those things...about Akane?"

Rather than answer his question, Ranma grabbed Ryoga by the shirt with his right hand and looked at him with a pained expression on his face. "Ryoga...what happened...to Shampoo?"

"Shampoo?" Ryoga asked, confused about why Ranma would need to ask him such a thing. "You mean...you don't know...?"

"That scythe...I didn't know...how long I could keep control over it," Ranma replied, clearly hurting badly. "I...I couldn't go near...Joketsuzoku. What...what happened to her, Ryoga...?"

Ryoga was finally beginning to realize what Ranma had been through for the last five months. It really wasn't his fault, he thought as he looked up at his rival. "Ringo...and that Jynn guy...they found her...and took her to Aroma. She...she was a mess, but...she lived. She should still...be there..."

"In Joketsuzoku?" Ranma asked him.

"Yeah," Ryoga replied.

Everyone stepped back as Ranma slammed his right hand on the ground and a bright blue light appeared beneath him.

"Th-this is...!" Meilin stammered.

"Shift!" Ranma cried out. The people in the crowd gasped as they watched Ranma vanish.

Finally overcome with exhaustion, Ryoga laid his head back down and closed his eyes. "I...need a nap..."

"H-hey..." Meilin said, placing her hand against his forehead. "He fell asleep."

She and the others standing around Ryoga raised their heads and looked up at the crowd as people began to stand and applaud the battle they'd just witnessed. With everything that had just happened, Kirin and the others had almost forgotten the reason they were all there.

"Master Kirin, should we declare a winner?" Monlon asked him.

Kirin looked around the arena for a moment before smiling over at her. "Yes, I believe we should."

Raising his hand into the air to signal that the crowd quiet down, Kirin looked down at Ryoga once more before turning his attention to the spectators. "Your attention, please! Ryoga is no longer conscious, however, Y left the arena floor while Ryoga was still awake and thus was eliminated. Therefore, the winner of the tournament is Ryoga Hibiki!"

A loud roar erupted from the crowd in appreciation of Ryoga's efforts.

Meilin simply let out a sigh as she looked down at his sleeping face. "Too bad you passed out. You can't hear everyone cheering for you, you dope."

At the Amazon village of Joketsuzoku, women let out gasps as a mentally and physically exhausted Ranma stumbled forward with blood dripping from his arms and right leg due to the injuries he'd sustained fighting Meilin and Ryoga. The impact of Ryoga's Happo Solar Flare had broken his left arm, which was causing him horrible pain, but all he cared about at the moment was making it to the home that Aroma and Shampoo shared.

Slamming open the door to the home with his right hand, Ranma fell to his knees and clutched at his left arm. "Shampoo!"

It was a couple of seconds before Ranma heard the sound of footsteps coming from the kitchen to his left. Could it really be her? Was she really alive and well?

When a familiar Amazon with long, brown hair ran into the entryway to her home, she was stunned at the sight of Ranma kneeling on the floor. "Ranma..."

"Aroma..." Ranma said, blinking as he looked up at her. "Whe-"

Ranma's question was interrupted by a fierce slap across his cheek from Shampoo's older sister.

"Where have you been?!" Aroma screamed at him.

The pigtailed boy looked up at her in surprise, not knowing what to say.

"Shampie was waiting for you the whole time!" Aroma yelled, tears beginning to run down her face. "Laying in bed recovering all that time, she was sure you'd walk through our door any day. Even when Granny kept telling her you were gone, she never gave up. And you have to show up now of all times!"

Ranma watched as Aroma dropped to her knees and began wiping the tears from her face.

"I'm...I'm sorry, I shouldn't have hit you," Aroma said to him quietly. "It's just...seeing how she was when Jynn and Ringo brought her here was terrible. She almost died. And then to watch her hopes for you to show up go unanswered when she was getting better...it was so painful, Ranma. When she was younger, I was a terrible sister to her, always turning her away when she wanted to do something because I wanted to study and do nothing else. She still hates me for that, but I always try to make it up to her. That's why...it hurt so bad seeing that disappointed look in her eyes when you never showed up for her."

"I'm...sorry," Ranma said with a look of remorse on his face. "I...wanted to come here so bad, but I...I had to stay away. What...what happened to her...?"

Aroma was about to answer him, but it was then that she noticed the bone sticking out of his left arm. "My god, your arm...what happened?!"

Ranma cringed as Aroma bent down and grabbed the mangled limb. "It's...nothing..."

Feeling the arm over, Aroma narrowed her eyes as she looked up at him. "Your forearm is broken in two places and the bone is sticking out of your skin. I wouldn't call this nothing."

"Forget that! Where's Shampoo?!" Ranma snapped.

"She's gone," Aroma said with a sigh.

"Gone?" Ranma asked, sounding confused.

Behind the two, a woman with black hair peeked her head in the door to see what was going on. "Are you okay, Aroma? Everyone was worried when they saw this guy storm in here."

"I'm fine," Aroma told her. "Get your equipment. We need to operate on this man's arm right away."

"R-right!" the woman stammered before running off to gather her things.

Ranma continued to clutch at his arm as he got to his feet. "Who was that...?"

"An aid of mine," Aroma replied. "Follow me. We're going to fix that arm of yours."

Angered by the change in subject, Ranma defiantly stepped away from her. "Look, just tell me where Shampoo is!"

"Calm down! She's not in any danger!" Aroma yelled back at him. "I'll explain everything to you, so just follow me."

Worn out and tired of resisting, Ranma reluctantly followed Aroma into an operating room of sorts and laid down on a table as instructed.

After putting on some surgical gear and locating her anesthetic, Aroma began filling a syringe with the liquid as Ranma cringed on the table. "Shampie...is getting married."

"What?!" Ranma said, nearly falling off the table. "She's gettin' married?! Seriously?!"

Aroma let out a sigh and set the syringe down on the table. "Not by choice, but yes..."

Ranma wasn't sure what to think about this as he stared over at the brown-haired Amazon, but somehow he really didn't feel good about it.

"I'll tell you something, Ranma. If Shampie had never met you, she would have already been married by now," Aroma said to him. "She's one of the best fighters in this village, and it's common to set up marriages between the best male and female warriors of different Amazon tribes. The only reason she isn't married yet is because she was so insistent on marrying you. She could only defy Granny's wishes for so long though."

"So...she just...agreed to let the old hag marry her off?" Ranma asked.

"Hardly," Aroma replied. "She was still refusing, so Granny made a deal with her. She said that if Shampie could find you in one month then she could keep pursuing you. If she couldn't find you, Granny would choose a suitor and Shampie would marry him."

"And...?" Ranma asked her.

"That month ran out two weeks ago," Aroma said, looking none too happy. "Shampie and Granny left here after that to find someone for her to marry."

With a mix of different thoughts running through his head, Ranma lifted his right hand up and put it over his face. Of course, he was more relieved than anything that she was alive and well after seeing Li's attack strike her during their battle. Not knowing what had become of her was agonizing for him during the time he spent keeping Yanlou from taking total control of his body. But hearing that Shampoo was going to be married made him feel genuinely upset.

"You know, Granny said she'd send me an invitation so I could attend the wedding. They won't go through with it until I get there," Aroma said as she began organizing the tools needed for the procedure on Ranma's arm. "Of course, that doesn't mean I have to come alone."

Ranma raised his hand up from his face and looked over at her as Aroma quirked an eyebrow in his direction and managed a slight smile.

"The question is, what are you going to do?" she asked him.

As a drowsy Ryoga opened his eyes, he found himself staring up at the orange sky as sunset approached. Groaning as he tried to lift his head from his backpack which was placed beneath him like a pillow, he looked around and saw three familiar figures around him.

"What happened?" Ryoga asked.

"You passed out and took a nap for a few hours," Meilin replied. She was sitting cross-legged next to him and was in the process of reassembling her snake sword. "Everyone that was watching our fight already left. You sure do sleep a lot."

Letting his head fall back down to the backpack, Ryoga raised his right arm into the air and noticed that it was bandaged from the elbow to his fingertips. He'd expected it to hurt more after firing off the large Happo Solar Flare, but surprisingly it didn't hurt much at all.

"Meilin did that," Monlon giggled as she stood next to Kirin. "She even rubbed it down with some ointment first. Seems she's taken a liking to you."

Her face turning red with embarrassment, Meilin pointed her incomplete sword in the direction of her sister. "It's not like that! Shut up!"

Walking over to Ryoga, Kirin knelt down and placed his hand on his shoulder. "Do you remember what happened?"

"Yeah," Ryoga said, letting his arm drop to the arena floor. "I found Ranma...then he disappeared again."

"That was Li's Shift technique he used," Kirin said to him. "Kirin believes he learned it by wielding Yanlou. He most likely went to the place where you said he would find Shampoo."

While Meilin attached the last blade to her sword, Ryoga managed to sit up and strap on his backpack. "If that's where he went, that's where I'm going."

"You're leaving already?" Meilin asked curiously as she looked over at him. "That's awfully sudden."

"Don't go yet. We still owe you a favor for winning the tournament, remember?" Monlon reminded him.

Ryoga seemed confused as he looked over at her. "I...won?"

"That is correct," Kirin replied with a nod. "Ranma was eliminated for leaving the arena floor, therefore you were deemed the victor. Please, tell us the favor that you would like granted."

Making his way to his feet, Ryoga cringed as he stretched out his sore body before looking down at Meilin. "Then...the favor I want..."

Meilin quirked an eyebrow as she stared up at him, curious about what he planned on doing.

"I want...for you to grant her the favor," Ryoga said, pointing down at the white-haired woman.

"What?!" Meilin shrieked.

Monlon and Kirin shared a glance before Kirin responded to the request. "Kirin...does not see any problem with that, but are you certain you have nothing to request for yourself?"

Stumbling as he took his first few steps toward one of the staircases leading upward, Ryoga looked back and nodded. "All I wanted was to find Ranma, and now I know where that jerk is. Let her use the favor."

Meilin sat on the ground stunned as she watched Ryoga begin to slowly ascend the staircase. She'd never expected him to give her the favor he'd earned, especially after he found out about the role she played in bringing Ranma and Shampoo to China.

"Hey, aren't the Amazon villages in the other direction?" Monlon said to no one in particular as she eyed Ryoga.

Placing her sword on the ground, Meilin turned and looked up at the leader of the Seven Lucky Gods. "Kirin...what exactly was that scythe Li was using?"

"Yanlou, you mean?" Kirin asked. "It was merely an unconfirmed story for quite a while, but after today I believe it to be true. Yanlou...was the weapon used by a sorceress named Jusenkyo several thousand years ago. When Jusenkyo died, the bitterness and hatred of everyone she had killed remained in that scythe. It is believed that Yanlou felt Jusenkyo would return one day, thus it was always trying to find a suitable body to inhabit so that it could destroy the sorceress when she was reborn. As you may have guessed, the place where she died would later come to be known as the Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo."

"I see," Meilin said sadly. "Do you think...it released Li from its spell so that it could possess Saotome?"

"It is possible, yes," Kirin replied as he looked down at her. "In any case, what favor would you like to ask of us, Meilin?"

Meilin took her eyes off of Kirin and gazed over at Monlon for a moment. Ryoga had read her like a book earlier. Win or lose, she'd planned on fighting against her sister and dying afterward. With Li gone, she'd admittedly given up on life. But somehow, looking into her sister's eyes, the hatred just wasn't there anymore. And for some reason she didn't feel like dying either. Was it all because of him, she wondered?

"Do you have something in mind?" Kirin asked again.

Turning toward Kirin, Meilin nodded quietly and looked down at the ground. "If I get one favor, then...please, forgive Li and I for what we've done."

Monlon nearly fell over when she heard her sister's request. "Are you serious?!"

"Yes," Meilin replied without hesitation.

Placing his hand on his chin, Kirin thought it over for a bit before coming to a decision. "I hope you realize that this is not easy after what you have done. However, things have changed since then. Li is no longer with us, and I believe that you have changed for the better. As you have requested, we shall forgive the actions of yourself and Li."

Meilin wiped a tear from her cheek as she smiled up at him. "Thank you, Kirin."

After nodding and turning around, Kirin began heading back in the direction of Seven Luck Mountain. "I must be going back to see my wife, but please, take care of yourself."

After standing up and brushing herself off, Meilin stared up in the direction where Ryoga had headed. Suddenly feeling a pair of arms wrap around her shoulders, she blushed as she looked back and saw that it was her sister behind her.

"I know a lot of things have happened, but you're still my sister and I still love you," Monlon whispered to her, giving her younger sister a kiss on the cheek before letting her go. "Now hurry up and go help him, you foolish girl."

An embarrassed Meilin slid her snake sword into its holster behind her back and picked up her belongings as her sister smiled at her from behind. "I'll come visit when I have time..."

"I'll look forward to it," Monlon replied happily. "Don't forget to bring your boyfriend with you."

"I told you it's not like that!" Meilin shouted, her cheeks turning a deeper shade of red as she quickly ran off.

As Ryoga continued to stumble along, he looked forward and began to wonder if he was heading the right way. "Ranma...I'll drag you back to Japan if it's the last thing I ever do..."

Ryoga came to a halt as he felt something being placed on his head. Turning around to see what was going on, he was surprised to see none other than Meilin standing behind him.

"You're...giving my hat back?" Ryoga asked, referring to the ushanka on his head.

"Well, I figured it's the least I could do," the white-haired woman said with a shrug before pointing her finger to her left. "By the way, the Amazon village you're looking for is about a ten day walk in that direction."

Looking toward where Meilin was pointing, Ryoga turned and began walking in that direction. "Is it?"

"Yep," Meilin smiled, walking up next to him and putting his arm over her shoulder to help him stay upright. "We'd better get going or you'll lose Saotome again."

"You're...coming with me?" Ryoga asked, blushing slightly as he looked over at her. "I thought you wanted to fight your sister..."

"Change of plans," Meilin replied, sticking her tongue out at him. "You seem interesting, so I'll be hanging out with you for a while. Got a problem with that?"

Ryoga wasn't sure what to make of this situation as Meilin smiled over at him. She'd done some things that he wasn't too happy about, but he didn't really mind being with her. If nothing else, he knew he would have a much easier time making it to Joketsuzoku with the white-haired rogue as his guide. In the end, he decided it couldn't hurt to have her tag along with him.

"Fine by me," Ryoga said to her. "Just don't start any trouble."

"I'll try to behave myself," Meilin said in a sarcastic tone. "Oh, and once you feel better, you'll be teaching me how to do that fireball thing that put a crater in Kirin's arena floor."

"W-what? Hey, wai-" Ryoga began to say, but he was silenced as Meilin reached over and placed a finger over his lips.

"No objections."

End of Chapter 15