A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part II: Queen of Extreme
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.
Bathed in the bright sun hovering over mainland China, Ryoga Hibiki stumbled out of the tent he shared with Meilin wearing only a pair of black and yellow undershorts. He'd been no stranger to long nights since the relationship with his white-haired traveling partner became intimate, but things got a bit excessive last night after they were sent out on an extended mission for the first time in a while.
Raising an arm to shield his eyes from the sun, Ryoga dug through a mess of gadgets on the ground and picked up a wristwatch.
"It's already after 3 o' clock..." he groaned, sleepily glancing back at the tent. "I know it's been a while since we've had a mission like this, but five times in one night...what crazy stamina."
Ryoga let out a loud yawn and then shook his head to try to wake himself up. "I'd better get her up..."
*beep beep!...beep beep!...beep beep!...*
Still groggy as an annoying beeping noise raked against his eardrums, the half-naked martial artist brushed aside some of the gear on the ground with his foot to try to locate the source.
"This thing...?" he grumbled, picking up what looked like a walkie-talkie. In reality, it was a communicator used to relay orders and other vital information to them in text form. Normally messages were encrypted, but in emergency situations they were sent in plain text to preserve time. The method used was a moot point to Ryoga though, as he couldn't read the written language anyway.
Pressing a button to both accept the new message and stop the beeping, Ryoga crawled back into the tent and gently shook the shoulder of his sleeping partner.
"Hey, wake up," he said softly.
Meilin, who was covered by nothing but a blanket at the moment, ignored the wake up call at first and turned on her side.
"Come on, it's important..." Ryoga shook her some more.
With a groggy groan, Meilin's eyes fluttered open to see who was rousing her from her slumber.
"Mmm...Ryoga, you bad boy..." she purred seductively, pulling her partner's face down into her chest. "One more time?"
Ryoga lifted his face out from between Meilin's breasts looking exasperated. "Are you serious?! We were just up all night doing it!"
"I didn't hear any complaints out of you..." the white-haired rogue teased him.
"Uh...well, that's..." Ryoga laughed, embarrassed as he noted her point. "W-we can't right now though. We got a message from the General."
Meilin looked disappointed as Ryoga held the communicator up in front of her.
"Of course, they would have to ruin our good time..." she muttered, grabbing the device from her partner. "Let's see what it is...hmm?"
"What is it?" Ryoga asked, seeing the curious look on her face.
"It's not encrypted. Must be something important..." Meilin told him as she started to read the message aloud. "Emergency signal sent from location 50 miles northwest of your current position. Signal sent by...Viper Team Commander Jukai?!"
"Jukai?!" Ryoga's eyes lit up. "That guy's never asked for help before..."
"I know. Whatever's going on must be something big," Meilin said, continuing to read the message. "It says a helicopter is on its way to take us there and that backup's going to be right behind us."
With that news, Ryoga began grabbing the rest of his clothes and putting them on with haste. "We need to get our stuff packed up and ready to go! We don't have long before that helicopter gets here!"
Meilin followed suit and hurried to get herself dressed, but one part of that emergency message in particular had her wondering about something.
"Ryoga...that signal came from 50 miles northwest of here. That's exactly where we were headed," she pointed out. "You don't think..."
"It might be," Ryoga replied while slipping his pants on. "If it's the same thing we're looking for, this could be really bad..."
After three days of commitment to Kodachi's Extreme Gymnastics Federation comeback, Ringo Saotome was surprisingly excited about returning to her waitress duties at the Cat Café as she and Ranma headed there after school.
"I feel so bad for Ukyo, getting sick all of a sudden like that. Maybe I should go check on her after we close tonight," the red-haired girl pondered aloud. "It's nice to hear you two made up, though."
"I dunno what she was thinkin', runnin' around in the rain like that," Ranma poked fun at his childhood friend. "But yeah, I'm glad that whole thing's over with."
Ringo nodded happily in agreement. "It just felt weird when you guys were fighting like that."
"Yeah, no kiddin'. So, you gonna be comin' to work again for a while?" Ranma asked her.
"Yup! Well, except for Sunday since that's when Kodachi has her match. I told her that I'd keep helping her train, but only when I didn't have to work," Ringo replied. "I thought she might get mad about that, but she really didn't. I think she's feeling more relaxed since she actually qualified for the tournament."
"That's good. Least that won't be puttin' so much pressure on ya," the pigtailed boy said. "Still, to think ten girls ranked ahead of Kodachi...that's kinda surprisin'."
Beside him, Ranma noticed his former female half drooping over after his last remark.
"Aww c'mon, so ya missed throwin' a hoop by a little bit. It all worked out," Ranma tried to cheer her up. "You guys just gotta work on your coordination."
"That's what Kodachi said," Ringo sighed, still upset with herself. Being mocked by Kodachi's rival, Kiriko, afterward didn't exactly help either.
"Hey, least you got somethin' going on. I'm gettin' tired of being cooped up in the restaurant while I wait for that Jukai guy to come back here and fight me," Ranma vented. "I still get to practice with Pop, but I miss doin' other stuff like fighting Ryoga and goin' on training trips and stuff."
"Why don't you go on one, then? A training trip, I mean," Ringo asked him.
Ranma stopped in his tracks, taking a moment to ponder the inquiry.
"That's a good question..." he admitted. "I mean, there's school and all..."
"And our summer break isn't for another month or so..." Ringo pointed out to him.
"Yeah...man, I'll have to think about it," Ranma said. "Whatever. C'mon, let's go."
Just as the young waitress started walking again, she felt someone grab hold of her arm tightly and was jerked backward. Looking back to see what was going on, Ranma and Ringo were surprised to find their blonde-haired friend from the restaurant, Alysse, staring at the redhead with an unusually serious look on her face.
"You didn't come..." the taller girl said.
"Alysse...?" Ringo blinked, not sure what she was talking about.
Sensing an odd tension between the two girls, Ranma had a feeling that he should probably get out of their way.
"Umm...I'm just gonna go on ahead," he said, scratching his head. "I'll see ya at the restaurant, Ringo."
"O-okay," Ringo acknowledged him, turning her attention back to Alysse as Ranma walked off. "Alysse? What's wrong?"
"You said I'd see you on Monday, and you never came..." the blonde girl told her, looking a bit hurt as she spoke.
Finally, Ringo understood what Alysse meant. "Oh, you mean at the Cat Café! Aha, yeah...some weird things happened the night before and I ended up taking a few days off. I'm sorry about that. It was kind of unexpected."
"Weird things...?" Alysse asked, feeling a little more relaxed and letting go of Ringo's arm.
"Yep! This...well, I don't think friend is the right word, but someone I know needed help with a rhythmic gymnastics thing, so I'm helping her out a little," Ringo explained. "I might have to take another day or two off work for it later, but I won't be gone that much from the restaurant anymore."
"Oh...so that's all it is?" the blonde girl said softly.
"Mhmm!" Ringo cheerfully smiled. "Speaking of that, I should probably hurry up and get there. Are you coming to eat?"
"Um...y-yeah..." Alysse hesitantly answered.
"Then let's go!" the young Saotome girl said, reaching out and grabbing Alysse's hand.
The gesture was innocent enough, but it gave Alysse quite a shock. So much of one, in fact, that Ringo couldn't budge her an inch even as she tried to start walking again.
"Alysse? Aren't you coming?" a confused Ringo asked her.
Her eyes focused on the hand that Ringo was holding, Alysse ever so slowly opened her mouth to speak. "Um...Ringo...next week..."
"Next week?" Ringo blinked.
"Are you...busy?" Alysse asked, tightening her grip on Ringo's hand.
The waitress tilted her head as she thought about her plans for next week. "Hmm...I'll probably have to help that person with her gymnastics training, but other than that, not really. Why?"
"Then...w-would you...umm..." Alysse nervously stuttered, "would you...maybe want to...do...something...together? I-I mean outside the restaurant...that is..."
The nerve-wracked blonde girl raised her head and shot Ringo a pleasantly surprised look. "Really?"
"Yeah, it sounds like fun!" Ringo chuckled. "Let's see...I'm going to be busy on Sunday, but I should have time during the rest of the week. I'll have to check what days I'm not working."
"That's okay, we can figure it out later," Alysse told her, smiling contently. "You need to hurry, right?"
"Oh, right! Shampoo's going to wonder where I've been!"
Inside the Cat Café restaurant, Shampoo was wiping down one of the tables when she saw Ranma burst in with unusual haste.
"Ranma! Nihao!" she gleefully greeted him.
Shampoo walked up to put her arms around the pigtailed martial artist's neck as he approached, but he unexpectedly grabbed her wrists before she could get close enough.
"Shampoo," Ranma looked his perplexed girlfriend in the eyes, "...let's go on a training trip!"
"Training trip...?" the Amazon girl blinked.
Ranma nodded his head adamantly. "We've been stuck around here ever since we got back! I just wanna get away for a few days or a week or whatever!"
"Mmm...guess that true..." Shampoo thought aloud. "But Ranma have school, yes?"
"I'll make up for it when we get back or somethin'! Let's just...go!" he pleaded.
"Just Ranma and Shampoo?"
The approving look on Shampoo's face made it obvious that she liked the idea.
"This perfect," she thought to herself. "Go away alone with Ranma is good chance take things to next level..."
"So...?" Ranma asked, waiting for his answer.
"Is okay!" Shampoo beamed.
"Alright!" Ranma said with exhilaration. "Let's get-!"
"But-!" the lavender-haired girl interrupted him, "...Shampoo tell special delivery person from China come here on Saturday. So we wait and go Sunday, yes?"
After getting all hyped up, Ranma's energy crashed with the disappointing news. "Aww c'mon, you want me to wait for three days?"
"This one delivery person no come to Japan lot. Ranma please wait? For Shampoo?" she appealed to him.
"Okay, fine...I'll stick it out, I guess," Ranma begrudgingly agreed.
Shampoo lovingly wrapped herself around his arm in appreciation. "Shampoo promise make up for wait!"
Back in China, Ryoga and Meilin were currently en route to Jukai's last known location aboard a military helicopter. There'd been no further messages sent from the Commander of the Special Operations Unit's Viper Team, meaning their objective hadn't changed: find out what happened and help Jukai if necessary.
Given the coincidental location of Jukai's emergency signal being exactly where Ryoga and Meilin were headed in their search for the one responsible for the murders at Jusenkyo, the two prisoners were prepared for the worst, and a stream of black smoke rising from the ground in the distance did nothing to ease their minds.
"Look at that smoke over there," Ryoga pointed out.
"That must be where Jukai is," Meilin said, turning to the pilot. "Hey! Let us out here!"
Once they'd been lowered down to the ground, the two unofficial commanders of the Orange Team hurried over to where they'd seen the smoke rising from. As they soon realized when they got close enough, that lone plume of smoke didn't do justice to the destruction that awaited them.
"Th-this is...!" the white-haired woman stammered, taken aback by the scene.
On this plain in the middle of nowhere, the landscape looked like a full-fledged war had taken place. The earth was dug up and blackened, countless trees were either snapped or cleaved apart, and, most notably, there was a vast gap in the ground that looked like a trench and appeared to stretch for over a mile, only the dirt and rock around it was horribly charred.
Ryoga could hardly find the words to describe what he was seeing. "To tear up the land like this...what...what happened here?"
The two of them turned their heads as they suddenly heard a loud squawking noise coming from nearby. Not far away, they found a falcon that looked like it was trying to get their attention sitting atop what was left of the base of a tree.
"That's Jukai's bird!" Meilin exclaimed. "Come on!"
When they got to the spot where the falcon was, they were startled to find a dirt-covered and wounded man sitting against the broken tree.
"Jukai!" Ryoga said with concern.
With fresh gashes all over his torso and his military jacket shredded as it barely hung off of him, Jukai, whose blonde hair looked brown in color from the dirt covering him, weakly looked up at the people standing next to his battered body.
"Prisoner scum, huh?" he murmured. "You're late..."
"You're lucky we're here at all!" Meilin snarled at him. "What happened here?! Where's your team?!"
"Who knows. I just got on...vacation again, finally. Felt like having a look around after hearin' your report, and look where it got me," Jukai cringed, raising his right arm a bit and pointing down at his thigh, which had a shard of wood piercing all the way through it. "Hey...pull this freakin' thing out..."
Ryoga held Jukai's leg down and quickly yanked the shard out, drawing a sharp grunt of pain from the injured soldier. Looking to stop the bleeding, Ryoga ripped off a piece of the remains of Jukai's jacket and began tightly tying it around his thigh.
"That's my favorite jacket, you horse's ass..." Jukai hissed. He was quick to shut his mouth, however, as Ryoga tightened the cloth enough to cause him another rush of pain.
"It was already in tatters. Deal with it," the directionally-challenged martial artist retorted. "Jukai, who did this?"
"Heh...that's a damn stupid question. You oughtta know, pig boy," Jukai smirked a bit.
"That was the real thing. Back from the dead...Sorceress Jusenkyo..."
End of Chapter 4