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 3

It was just another day in the Nerima Ward as Shampoo departed on another delivery. Cologne made sure to warn her about the mysterious woman she saw near the restaurant the night before, but it didn't worry Shampoo. She was confident as ever in her ability to combat anyone that might come after her.

Besides, there were more interesting things going on, like the growing bond between herself and Ranma. He'd been very welcoming toward her since they talked on the roof of the Tendo home the other night. It was as though he never really minded her company, but was just inconvenienced by her advances toward him before now. That plus he was stubborn as a mule and hated the idea of letting Cologne think that anything was going according to her plans.

Shampoo was nearing the vacant lot along her delivery route when she had a feeling that something was out of place. There was a distinct sound in the air of metal scraping together. It was close, and closing in quickly. She immediately dropped the delivery case she'd been carrying and leaped from her bike. As she spun around, she saw a very lengthy blade tearing through the air and heading straight for her. Once Shampoo hit the ground she lunged to her right to avoid the weapon, but it was far more maneuverable than she expected. The sword swung back around and ripped into the left side of her torso.

Shampoo cried out in pain as the sword tore into her, but quickly regained her composure. Whatever she was facing, she knew that she needed more room to move around. Clutching at her wound and breathing heavily, she ran into the vacant lot and awaited her assailant.

"Now that was disappointing. I was thinking I might have a challenge from someone that defeated Monlon of the Seven Lucky Gods."

A woman holding what looked like a small machete appeared and walked ever so slowly into the lot, running her fingers through her short, wavy hair that was white as the winter snow. She was wearing a dark colored tank top and tight-fitting black shorts and sandals, and was wrapped in a scarlet colored cloak. Try as she might to recognize her, Shampoo couldn't remember this woman from anywhere.

"Who you?! Why you attack Shampoo?!" the wounded Amazon yelled, her face showing a great deal of discomfort as blood began to stain her shirt.

"Meilin. So nice to meet you. I came here for a fight, but I'm not sure you're worth my time anymore."

"You attack from behind like coward!"

"Oh? Then you'll do better if I attack from the front?"

Meilin raised her machete up into the air, looking ready to attack once again. What puzzled Shampoo was how the woman could attack her with such a short weapon from this distance. And where was the longer weapon she used earlier?

With a dark smile across her face, Meilin brought her hand down swiftly. As it turned out, the machete had multiple segments that extended outward one at a time. Shampoo quickly dove to her right as the sword raced toward her, but remembered that the weapon still struck her the last time she did this. Seeing that the blade was hooking back around to swipe at her again, she used her right arm to boost her out of the sword's range just before it would have put another gash in her already wounded side.

When Meilin pulled her arm back, the sword's segments folded up cleanly and gave it the single-bladed appearance it had before. "Well now, maybe you're more capable than I thought. So, how do you like my snake sword? Amazing, isn't it?"

Shampoo was in so much pain that she couldn't even respond. Avoiding that last attack caused her wound to open up even further and she was now beginning to lose a significant amount of blood. If she'd only avoided the first attack then this wouldn't be such a difficult situation, but as things were it was only a matter of time before her consciousness would fade and she knew it.

"Not going to say anything? Fine, let's see you dodge my attack again then!"

Meilin readied her sword to rip through the air once more, but a hand grabbed hold of her wrist before she could swing.

"I think this should send the message to her friend, don't you? Besides, it's no fun if you finish her off now," Li chuckled.

Meilin took a deep breath to calm herself down before sliding her prized sword into the sheath on her back. "I guess you're right. I'll let you live for today, little girl."

Shampoo's eyes widened when she noticed a large scythe strapped to the back of the man named Li. Before she came to Japan in search of Ranma, there was a story told by visitors of her village where bodies of warriors had been found with horrible gashes all over them. In several cases, witnesses reported seeing two strange people nearby. Those people were described as a woman with a machete and a man with a scythe. But whenever authorities chased after the two, they were nowhere to be found. It was as if they'd vanished into thin air, like ghosts. The Amazon village was asked by authorities to keep an eye out for them, but they were never spotted. To this day they were still believed to be at large. And now, in front of Shampoo, here stood a woman with a sword that at first sight looked to be a machete, and a man with a scythe.

"I'll be back as soon as we take care of your friend, Saotome," Meilin said, turning her back to Shampoo. "Bye now."

"You no hurt Ranma!" Shampoo yelled, but the pair were gone before she could take even a step.

She barely managed to make it to the concrete wall and lean herself up against it before slumping down into a sitting position. These people were vicious and they were going after Ranma next, but she couldn't do anything in her weakened state. Shampoo could only hope that someone would find her while she was still conscious so that they could warn Ranma of the coming threat.

The sun had set and it was starting to grow dark as Ranma was out running an errand for Kasumi. He'd had an uneventful day compared to most, aside from the usual fighting over food with his father. Even Happosai hadn't picked a fight with him. Just one of those lucky days, he figured.

As he walked atop the walls, he noticed a strange sight in the vacant lot where he'd had battles on several occasions.

"What the..."

He looked closely at the area, noticing a trail of blood along the ground. "This looks fresh too. Wonder where it leads t-"

Ranma gasped as he saw Shampoo sitting against the wall, her clothes drenched in blood.

"Shampoo! What happened?!" he yelled as he ran over to her.

Shampoo didn't respond. Ranma quickly checked her pulse, feeling extremely relieved when he felt a beat. "Okay, she's just unconscious. I gotta get her some help though, and fast."

He carefully picked her up and began to run to the only place he could think of, Dr. Tofu's office.

"Just hang on, Shampoo! You're gonna be okay, you got it?!"

Dr. Tofu had already closed his office for the night and was preparing some miso soup for his dinner when he heard a loud knocking at his office door.

"My, who could it be at this hour?"

As Tofu walked toward the door, he heard a familiar voice yelling.

"Doc, open up! Shampoo's hurt real bad!"

Dr. Tofu quickly unlocked his office door when he saw Ranma with a frantic look on his face and a bloodied Shampoo in his arms. "What's going on?!"

"I found her like this just now. Looks like she's got a real bad wound in her side."

Tofu looked over Shampoo and examined the large blood stain on her shirt. "This is just awful. Bring her into my examination room, hurry."

Ranma followed him and placed Shampoo on the bed. Tofu removed Shampoo's shirt and placed a blanket over her chest while he tended to the large cut.

"It doesn't look like her organs have been affected at all, but this is still a very deep gash. Judging by how smooth the cut looks, I'd have to say it was done by a blade of some sort," Tofu said.

"A blade? Like a sword? But the only one that uses swords around here is Mousse, and there's no way he'd do this..."

"Well, whoever it was they left her alive. At least we can be thankful for that."

Ranma looked down at Shampoo's face. She was a martial artist and was always prepared for this sort of situation, but the thought of someone doing this to her still enraged him. "Whoever did this is gonna get their ass kicked when I find 'em..."

Once Tofu finished disinfecting and stitching up Shampoo's wound, he bandaged it thoroughly and ran a couple tests on her just to be safe. "Well, she seems stable for now. She needs to rest for a while, but she should be much better in a few days."

Ranma let out a sigh of relief. "Man, that's good to hear. Thanks a lot, Doc."

"Don't worry about it. I'm sure Elder Cologne is wondering where she is, so I'll call and let her know about this. In any case, I think you should head on home for the night."

"Go home? But what if whoever did this comes back for her?" Ranma asked. Leaving Shampoo's side was the last thing he wanted to do in this situation.

"Ranma, why do you think someone would do this to her and leave her alive?" Tofu asked him.

Ranma had to think about it for a moment. "I dunno, maybe to send a warning or somethin'?"

"Exactly, meaning they're most likely after others as well. Until we know their motives, I think it would be best if you stayed close to everyone at the Tendo home."

He had a point, Ranma thought. It was bad enough that this had happened to Shampoo. He definitely didn't want anyone from the Tendo family to suffer the same fate.

"Don't worry about Shampoo," Tofu assured him. "Elder Cologne and I will be here to make sure she's safe."

"Alright, Doc, I'll leave her to you then," Ranma said reluctantly. "Just be careful."

"You do the same."

After contacting Cologne, Tofu poured himself a hot cup of tea and sat next to Shampoo. "Seems things have gotten rowdy around here. Whatever happens, I just hope these young ones are prepared."

As Ranma walked home, his mind was fixated on the horrible image of Shampoo covered in blood. Why did something like this have to happen now, after he'd finally seen another side to her and was getting along with her so well? He wanted to know who hurt her, and he wanted to know now.

"Welcome back, Ranma," Kasumi said as Ranma entered the house. "Oh, I found a letter for you at the front gate a while ago."

Wondering if the letter could be connected to what happened to Shampoo, he immediately ripped it open and began reading.

"Ranma Saotome, if you want revenge for what happened to the girl then head due west from your residence and come to the forest at noon tomorrow. Come alone, and be prepared to fight."

Ranma felt a rush of both hatred and excitement as he read the letter. He wouldn't have to wait long for his chance to pay back whoever hurt Shampoo. Tossing the letter to the ground, he marched straight toward the dojo. "You're on, pal!"

Curious as to why Ranma was so worked up, the eldest Tendo daughter picked up the letter and read it. She'd just finished reading when Genma walked in.

"Oh, Kasumi, I thought I heard the door open. Has Ranma come home yet?"

"Yes, he just returned, Mr. Saotome. It seems he's been sent a challenge letter though, and he went to the dojo after he read it."

"A challenge letter? May I read that?"

Kasumi handed him the crumpled letter. Genma couldn't help but wonder about the part that mentioned getting revenge for a girl. Seeking more detail on the situation, he went over to the dojo to find his son.

Ranma had removed his shirt and was doing some fairly intense warm-up exercises when his father entered.

"Ranma, I read that letter you got. What's going on?"

"Someone attacked Shampoo, now they wanna fight me," Ranma said, not stopping his warm-up nor looking at his father while he spoke.

"What happened to her?"

"She had a big cut in her side, lost a lot of blood. Dr. Tofu said someone did it with a sword."

Genma became concerned as he looked down at the crumpled challenge letter. "So, these guys are serious then. They must be exceptionally skilled if they're able to hurt someone as strong as Shampoo that badly."

"I don't care how strong they are. I'm gonna kick their sorry asses for what they did!" Ranma said angrily.

This looked to be far from the usual opponent for Ranma, but it was obvious to Genma that his son had no intention of running from the challenge.

"Ranma, it's not often that you've encountered foes that are willing to go this far, but it's something you should always be prepared for should such a time come. It's our duty as Anything-Goes Martial Artists to accept any challenge presented to us, no matter how dangerous they may be. I know you can handle it, just be careful."

"Yeah, I know. Thanks, Pop. How 'bout sparrin' with me for a while?"

"Sure thing, boy."

End of Chapter 3