A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part II: Queen of Extreme
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 14

Under the sunlit morning sky of mainland China, Ryoga, Meilin and Akane sat together around a crackling campfire. Meilin was munching away on some pickled turnips—one of the few things that her body's constitution allowed her to eat. Ryoga, meanwhile, was killing some time by showing Akane how to work the military communicator that he and his partner had been using since their sentence began.

Three days had passed since they were attacked by the resurrected Sorceress Jusenkyo—and that was exactly how they were now referring to her. Any doubt about her identity had vanished after the deadly assault that claimed the life of their fellow Orange Team member, Gibbon, and nearly that of Meilin as well. Not surprisingly, a somber mood had set in amongst their group since then. Meilin, in particular, had been acting different since narrowly escaping being cleaved in half by Jusenkyo's scythe. She had kept very close to Ryoga these past few days, knowing perfectly well that if not for his vocal warning that night, she wouldn't be here right now. Although she wouldn't admit it, Ryoga had a feeling that the whole ordeal had instilled some fear into his usually tough girlfriend.

The three of them hadn't moved much over the past few days as they believed Jusenkyo may still be nearby. A report they received late last night, however, informed them that Jusenkyo had apparently attacked a farming community well to their west—a development that perplexed them, to say the least. If Akane was her primary target and she knew where Akane was, then why did Jusenkyo run off and attack another location? Was she just concerned about her chances in battle against the team of Ryoga and Meilin, or was she after something other than Akane as well? Whatever the case, today their group would be setting off in search of the sorceress once more.

"So, this key brings up a list of our old messages," Ryoga said, pointing to one of the rightmost keys on the communicator.

"Ahh, okay. What does this one do?" Akane gestured to the key next to it.

After downing another slice of her turnips, Meilin—who was practically leaning against Ryoga—rested her chin on the broad shoulder of her man. "Honey, why are you bothering to show her how to use that thing?"

"Huh? Oh, no reason, really," Ryoga told her. "Just something to take our minds off things."

Meilin allowed a soft sigh to escape from her lips. "I guess it's better than thinking about how Jusenkyo wants us all dead, huh?"

Even without looking, Ryoga could tell there was a sullen look on the face of the white-haired warrior. In truth, Meilin's close call had affected him just as much as it had her. Watching Jusenkyo's weapon come down and barely miss the woman that night had just about given him a heart attack. They'd been in some dangerous situations since taking on the roles of military prisoners months earlier, but never anything like that. Never against an enemy of the caliber that Sorceress Jusenkyo appeared to be.

"I'm sorry," Akane apologized, hanging her head. "It's all my fault."

"That's not true, Akane," Ryoga was quick to disagree. "Why would you say that?"

"Because, I threw that guy into the cursed spring..."

"Don't be ridiculous! You were just defending yourself like anyone would."

"But-"

"He's right. It isn't your fault," Meilin intervened, trying to put the girl's mind at ease. Ever since learning that Gibbon's findings had supported Akane's story, Meilin had been far less cold toward her. Whatever suspicion remained about the youngest Tendo daughter had also essentially been wiped out the moment Jusenkyo appeared before them. Meilin had seen then and there with her own two eyes that Akane wasn't the Sorceress Jusenkyo they'd been searching for. In the end, she really was just another victim of this crazy situation. Meilin still wasn't going to let the Japanese girl get any closer to her Ryoga, though. As far as she was concerned, he was hers and no one else's. "Don't worry about who to blame for this whole mess. We're going to put Jusenkyo in a new grave, and we're going to come out of it alive. All of us. That's all there is to it."

"Y-yeah..." Akane managed to smile a bit. "Once it's all over, I can finally see Dad, Kasumi, and everyone else again. And P-chan, too! I miss him so much. I bet he's worried sick about me."

The mention of P-chan made Ryoga's hair stand on end. "Right! P-chan!" he said with some nervous laughter. "I'm sure he really misses you, too, Akane! Aha...ahahaha!"

"P-chan?" Meilin batted her eyes at the girl. "Who is P-chan?"

"Oh, P-chan is my pet piglet," Akane giggled.

Now realizing who she was talking about, Meilin turned and narrowed her gaze at Ryoga. "Is that so?" she stared sharply at him. "P-chan, huh?"

"W-well, we should probably pack up and get going!" Ryoga shot to his feet in a hurry. "Time's a wastin'! Ahahahaha!"

The trio would be on the move again soon. It seemed inevitable that they were going to have another run-in with Jusenkyo at some point. The only question was, when?


"Hmm hmm hmm hmmm~"

On the other side of the Sea of Japan, Kasumi was happily humming away as she strolled through the hallways of the Tendo household carrying a clean stack of linen. While passing by the living room, she took a brief peek inside to check in on her father and his guest, a very familiar panda, who were playing a game of Go on the walkway outside. Everything seemed just like old times between them.

The incident several months earlier with Akane suddenly leaving after watching Ranma kiss Shampoo had put a great strain on the relationship between Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome. In his anger, Soun had banished both of the guests from his home, and even unveiled Genma's curse to Nodoka. As was the case with many things, however, time was slowly healing the wounds brought on by what had happened back then, and Soun had mostly forgiven Genma for the trespasses of his son. Soun's feelings on Ranma remained another story, but for now Kasumi was just happy to see her father and his old friend getting along again. She would have to bring the two of them some snacks once she finished what she was doing, the eldest Tendo daughter decided.

Just as Kasumi was about to leave, an unexpected visitor dropping down into the garden caught her attention. That visitor, dressed in her casual attire of a long-sleeved white blouse and a long black skirt, was Kodachi Kuno. Exactly one week remained before her long-awaited semi-final match in the Queen of Extreme Tournament against the girl she despised more than any other in the world, Kiriko Nakajima.

"Greetings once again, denizens of the Tendo household," Kodachi said, hopping directly over the Go board on her way inside. "Remain seated and carry on, please."

Soun opened his mouth to voice a complaint about the girl entering his home uninvited, but then thought otherwise. She hadn't ever listened before when he had something to say on the matter, after all, so why would she now? At least she hadn't referred to them as peasants this time around. Opting to just avoid the trouble and let the girl do as she pleased, Soun turned his attention back to the game of Go he was engaged in. That was when he noticed something was off. It had been Genma's turn before, and now there appeared to be white stones at both the 17-4 and 17-5 positions on the board, both of which were previously empty. "Hey, did you place an extra stone?" he gave the panda an accusing look.

Genma vehemently shook his head in denial. Soun started to stare at him more closely, though, and Genma had to look away. His guilt was as clear as day.

"Oh, welcome, Kodachi," Kasumi greeted the new arrival walking toward her.

"Good day, Kasumi Tendo," the dark-haired gymnast returned the pleasantry. "Where might I find my second?"

Kasumi tilted her head, looking to be confused by the inquiry. "That's strange. I could have sworn Ringo said you two wouldn't be doing your training until later tonight."

"That is not why I am here," Kodachi placed her hands on her hips, showing signs of annoyance at the remark. "Can I not visit her for other reasons?"

"O-oh, of course you can!" Kasumi said with a smile. She had been under the impression that Kodachi wanted nothing to do with Ringo outside of their training sessions, so this was a bit surprising for her. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid Ringo isn't here right now. She said she was going to the pool with a friend earlier, and she hasn't come back yet. If you'd like to wait-"

"A friend?" the younger Kuno sibling blinked. "The one with the large cooking utensil?"

"Ukyo, you mean? I don't think so..."

"Ranma-darling?"

"No, I really don't think Ranma would-"

"That hussy from China?"

"Shampoo? I think Ringo would have said her name if it was. Calling her a hussy isn't very nice, tho-"

"Fine, then. Who is this friend? Who?" Kodachi asked in a demanding tone.

"I-...I don't know. She never mentioned who it was," Kasumi informed her, backing away slightly from the imposing girl.

For some reason, the thought of her second being out and about with an unknown friend wasn't sitting with Kodachi very well. "I see," she muttered. "If you'll excuse me."

Kasumi watched as the unusual gymnast made a hasty exit the same way she came, bounding over Soun's Go board and then out past the walls of the Tendo estate. "Oh, my. I wonder what that was all about?"

While Kasumi went back to her housekeeping and Soun and Genma proceeded with their game, Kodachi hurried down the road in search of her absent second. "Strange, she has never told me of any friends other than those nuisances who used to impede my attempts at Ranma-darling," she thought to herself. "Could she be...dating someone? Is that it? Did she accept some boy's advances behind my back?"

Finding herself distracted, Kodachi rounded the nearest corner and had to make an abrupt stop as she nearly collided with another pedestrian. "You there!" she hissed at the girl, either not aware or not willing to believe that the incident was her own fault. "Watch where you are-...hmm? Nabiki Tendo?"

"Kodachi?" Nabiki gave her a puzzled look. "What are you doing at our house?"

Nabiki hadn't visited home since the peculiar alliance between Kodachi and Ringo had been made, and thus she knew nothing about it. The Kuno girl wasn't in much of a mood to explain it to her, either. "N-nothing really," Kodachi brushed aside the question. "If you are here, does that mean my dear brother...?"

"Yeah, Kuno-baby is back, too. We've been running ourselves ragged lately, so we're taking a well-deserved vacation for a few weeks," Nabiki explained. For her, it was really more of a vacation from Tatewaki Kuno himself than it was from work. The man could be insufferable to be around after a while. "I think he said he was going to see Ranma about something before he went home."

"Oh, dear. I fear that shall not end well," Kodachi voiced concern over the tidbit of news. If her brother was going to visit Ranma, he was likely going to be wearing bandages again the next time she saw him. Worrying over him would have to wait until later, though. Right now, she had to find Ringo. "In any case, I must be off. Farewell, Nabiki Tendo."

Kodachi departed the scene in a rush, leaving Nabiki still without any answers as to what she was doing there in the first place.

"Weird girl," Nabiki said under her breath.

"Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhh-!"

Hearing someone's yelling coming from the sky all of a sudden, Nabiki looked upward in search of the source. Somehow she wasn't surprised that there, flying through the air, was her business partner, Tatewaki Kuno. Still hollering at the top of his lungs, Kuno crossed over the walls of the Tendo estate and soared directly into the koi pond, making a splash loud enough that Nabiki knew exactly where he had landed without even having to witness it.

The business-minded girl began rubbing her temple as she found her vacation already spoiled. "Why am I having this feeling of deja vu?" she grumbled.


"Guy never learns."

Brushing off his hands, Ranma walked back into the dining area of the Cat Café after having disposed of Kuno for the time being. Much like their last tangle, this one didn't last too long, and that was probably for the best considering Ranma was still stitched up and recovering from his battle with Jukai several days earlier. He hadn't heard from the former member of the Chinese military since then, and given the shape the man was in at the end of their fight, Ranma wasn't sure he ever would.

One thing that had certainly been on the pigtailed boy's mind over the past few days was the news he'd received from Jynn about the Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo. Ranma had done his best to hide it around Shampoo and everyone else, but the fact that his best shot for a cure to his curse had reportedly dried up really had him down in the dumps. Knowing that Ryoga and Mousse, among others, were now over there preparing to fight a potentially deadly sorceress wasn't helping, either. Despite Jynn's wishes, Ranma still wanted to head over there and help, but instead he was stuck watching over some strange wooden cube that Cologne had entrusted to him. To his credit, though, he had kept that cube in his possession every waking moment since he'd received it. He just hoped the threat known as Sorceress Jusenkyo would be extinguished before she ever came looking for it, assuming the cube really was something she was after, that is.

Ranma crossed over into the restaurant's kitchen, where a number of old boxes were sitting around an open wooden door in the corner of the floor. Beneath that door, a short staircase led down into a small storage area—providing about 25 square feet worth of space—where Shampoo was currently rummaging through more containers. Somewhere in there sat a special dumpling recipe that had been stashed away for future use—or so Shampoo believed, anyway. She had recently felt a desire to give it a try, and thus she and Ranma had closed the restaurant until dinner time tonight in order to search for it.

"Yo, I'm back," Ranma peered down into the room, which was lit by a single light bulb.

Shampoo thrust another box up to the open door, which Ranma grabbed and set alongside the others. "Ranma beat Kuno boy so soon?" she asked.

"Yeah, Kuno's kinda out of practice," Ranma told her. "Ain't really surprisin' I guess since he's all wrapped up in whatever him and Nabiki are up to."

"Least he no break door this time," Shampoo snorted. She had not enjoyed repairing the door to the restaurant after Kuno's temper led him to burst into the Cat Café the hard way during his last visit.

The Amazon girl was feeling in better spirits now than she had three days ago when Ukyo's provocation had soured her mood. She had destroyed a few trivial items to let off some steam afterward, but she went to bed that night still agitated over being called "gutless" by Ranma's oldest friend. She had no idea why Ukyo was trying to pick a fight with her now, of all times, but whatever the reason was, she felt it would be best if the okonomiyaki chef just forgot about it and moved on.

"I'm guessin' you ain't found that recipe yet?" Ranma asked as he descended back down into the hole.

"No yet," Shampoo shook her head. "Is no much more look through, though."

The thought of going through the rest of the boxes before him was unpleasant enough that it had Ranma hoping Kuno would make a quick recovery and barge in again. "Man, we better find this thing soon. I can't stand doin' this kinda stuff."

Shampoo looked up from the junk-filled container she was searching through. "Ranma no have fun?"

"There ain't nothin' that could possibly be fun 'bout this," Ranma muttered.

A mischievous look crossed Shampoo's face—one that Ranma had learned never to take lightly. "We see about that." Seemingly intent on proving her man wrong, Shampoo ascended halfway up the staircase and pulled down the door to the small room they were in, shutting them both inside.

"Huh? Hey, what're you doin'?" a puzzled Ranma inquired as he watched the girl hop back down to the floor.

With playful thoughts aplenty running through her mind, Shampoo gleefully grabbed hold of the pull cord for the storage area's lone source of light. "Have fun now," she answered with a devious smile.

*click!*

One quick yank of the cord and Ranma was completely surrounded by darkness. No light, and no one within hearing distance but himself and Shampoo.

Ranma tensed up when he felt a pair of hands grab him by the waist. Slowly, the girl pulled herself closer to him. With every movement, he could feel her long hair brushing further up his left arm. She moved even closer now, close enough that Ranma could feel her warm breath against the side of his neck—an unfamiliar sensation that gave him goosebumps. He was dense when it came to this sort of thing, but not so much that he didn't understand what Shampoo was up to.

Thoroughly enjoying teasing Ranma thus far, Shampoo took it a step further and pressed her lips against his neck. Then once more. And again, right above the jade necklace that Cologne made him wear. Shampoo heard him swallow hard. His lack of resistance up to this point was surprising, but definitely a good thing. It was encouraging her to see just how far she could take it.

Shampoo brought her hands up Ranma's abdomen and chest with a deliberate slowness, continuing on upward until she was able to feel his face. Then, with her hands cupping Ranma's cheeks, Shampoo leaned in and locked her lips together with his. They had kissed before, but this felt...different. The mood, the setting, the lack of anyone else around...it was the most passionate show of affection they had shared with one another. And, as Shampoo had become well aware, Ranma was still allowing her to do this.

Urged on by Ranma's favorable reaction, Shampoo wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her entire body up against his. Ranma accepted the extra weight, placing his hands over Shampoo's hips, and the two of them fell back against a flimsy stack of boxes sitting against the wall.

*clang!*

"Owwww!"

Just as oddly as their loving moment had started, it ended with a pained groan coming from Ranma. After the boy had slipped from her grasp, Shampoo felt around for the cord hanging from above and turned the light back on. Ranma was crouched down by the floor with both hands clutching the top of his head, and next to him lay the object that had apparently struck his cranium: a scroll with its contents wrapped around two heavy iron bars.

Shampoo was cheering on the inside over just how far Ranma had allowed her to go, but on the outside she couldn't help but giggle at the silliness that had caused her to stop. "Shampoo think maybe this no is good place for fun," she placed a hand over her mouth to try to suppress her laughter. "Ranma no seem mind, though."

Ranma's face was flush and his heart still beating wildly after the amorous moment with the lavender-haired girl. The more the pain in his head subsided, the more the thoughts of what he'd just experienced sunk in. "Y-yeah, well...I, uh..." he fumbled with his words. Somehow, he just wasn't sure what to say after all of...that. He was so flustered while searching for an explanation that he wasn't completely aware he had picked up the scroll that hit him.

"Mmm? What that one?" Shampoo took notice of the scroll. Taking the item as Ranma held it out, she opened it carefully. The girl's face immediately lit up with surprise. This wasn't the dumpling recipe she was looking for, but rather something she'd forgotten about for quite some time. "This...aiyaa..."

"What? You seen it before?" Ranma stood back up, still rubbing his head with one hand. Whatever it was, he was glad Shampoo's focus had shifted to that item and away from his beet red face.

Shampoo gave a brief nod as she looked at the scroll warmly. "Before Li and Meilin take us China, Great-grandmother try teach Shampoo technique," she told him. "Is called Speed of Light Fist. Very hard master this one, but Great-grandmother say many time Shampoo can. Just no get chance when so much happen."

As it had to do with martial arts, Ranma was starting to take an interest. "Speed of Light Fist, huh? What's it do?" he asked.

"This one...like name say, is very, very fast attack, but you is too tired after use it to protect self. Is all-or-nothing. That why Great-grandmother say is only for defeat enemy that too strong for you," Shampoo answered, turning her eyes toward her man. "Ranma want learn? Too big as boy, but girl half maybe can."

Those conditions were an instant deal breaker for Ranma. "I can only learn it as a girl? Heck no, forget it," he declined the offer without hesitation. " 'Sides, usin' somethin' like that would be like admittin' that I can't beat someone any other way."

True, it really was against Ranma's nature to admit that someone was too strong for him, Shampoo thought. Cologne had taught her from the beginning of her training days that there would always be someone stronger out there, though, and that she should be prepared in the event that her life was ever threatened by one of them. The Amazon elder wasn't here with her right now, but Shampoo could still remember how adamant the old woman was about her learning the technique.

Shampoo did eventually find her dumpling recipe. Naturally, it was in the very last box she and Ranma had yet to check. After that, everything else was packed back into the small room in an orderly manner. Everything, that is, except for a particular scroll that Shampoo had decided to take back to her room with her.


Elsewhere in the Nerima Ward, a girl with a red ponytail and another with long, blonde hair—both dressed lightly to combat the heat and carrying bags over their shoulders containing their swimsuits and other necessities—were on their way back to the Tendo household after a fun day at the public swimming pool. For Ringo Saotome and her friend, Alysse, it was the second time they'd spent a few hours together outside of the Cat Café. Shampoo, who had been encouraging the two of them to do this sort of thing after seeing how well they got along at the restaurant, was all too willing to tell Ringo to take the day off and go enjoy herself after the waitress had made her plans for today known.

"I still can't believe how fast you can swim! I couldn't keep up with you at all," Ringo complimented her friend's abilities in the water.

"I told you I was good," Alysse boasted with pride. "You're no slouch, either, though. I had no idea you were in such good shape. Does being a waitress really give you that much of a workout?"

"Well...no, I think it's mostly because of other things," Ringo laughed as she stretched her arms out above her head. "Phew. I hope I have enough energy left for training tonight."

For some reason, the mention of Ringo's training made the smile disappear from Alysse's face. "Hey, Ringo," she said, her head angled toward the ground, "...do you know how long you'll be helping that person with their gymnastics training?"

The young redhead had to think about that one. Kodachi had never really made it clear how long she wanted Ringo to be her second for. She had entered the Queen of Extreme Tournament with the sole purpose of getting revenge against Kiriko, so would it end after that match? Realistically, it might continue on into the tournament's championship match, or even further if Kodachi won. Just how long did Kodachi intend on using her as a second? "Umm...I don't really know, to be honest," Ringo was a bit embarrassed to admit. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, n-no reason, really," Alysse continued to shy away from looking at the girl. "It's just...you're always so busy, and I thought it would be nice if you had some more free time. Then...maybe we could-"

"Ringo!"

Ringo let out a startled yelp as the very person she had just been thinking about, Kodachi Kuno, seemed to drop down in front of her from out of nowhere, impeding the path of she and her friend.

"There you are!" Kodachi said, annoyed at the fact that she had to go searching for the girl like this.

"Kodachi! What are you doing here?" a surprised Ringo asked the gymnast. Suddenly, she was filled with concern that she'd done something wrong. "Oh, no! Were we supposed to start training already? I'm so sorry! I thought it wasn't until later tonight!"

"No, it is not that," Kodachi eased the redhead's fears, her eyebrow twitching slightly. "Really, can I not come see you for other...oh, never mind!" Getting impatient, Kodachi grabbed Ringo by the hand and started to pull her away. "Just come along!"

"H-hey, Kodachi!" Ringo looked at her in confusion. "Where are we-...eep!"

Kodachi and Ringo both felt themselves jerk back all of a sudden. As they would see when they turned around, Alysse had taken hold of Ringo's other hand, and she wasn't letting go. The blonde girl said nothing, but she had a nasty glare fixed on the Black Rose of St. Hebereke that spoke volumes.

Not appreciating the interruption, Kodachi returned the unfriendly look to Alysse. "I do not know who you are, but I demand you unhand my second! I have need of her."

Alysse ignored the strong words, keeping her tight grip on Ringo's hand. She wasn't about to adhere to Kodachi's demand.

Seeing that look Alysse was giving Kodachi was something new for Ringo. She had never seen her friend angry before. She didn't know quite what it was about, but one thing she did know was that she needed to quell the situation before it escalated into something worse. "It's okay, Alysse. We're not far from the Tendo's house anyway," she flashed the girl a smile. "Today was really fun! I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Hmm?" Alysse finally took her eyes off of Kodachi. "Oh...sure, if that's what you want," she said, her voice giving away the heavy disappointment she was feeling right now. "Later, then..."

Reluctantly, Alysse allowed Ringo's hand to slip out of her grasp.

Turning her nose up at the blonde girl, Kodachi dragged her second away without any further trouble. Neither of them noticed that Alysse had balled her hands into fists as she watched them leave—fists that she had to strongly convince herself not to embed into the nearest wall. An obstacle to what she desired had just presented itself to her, and that obstacle's name was Kodachi Kuno.

"Kodachi, what's the hurry? Slow down a little," Ringo complained to her gymnastics partner.

The grievance fell on deaf ears, though. For the moment, Kodachi's mind was not on Ringo, but rather on the one she had just engaged in a brief staring contest with. Somehow, that person seemed...familiar. "Why do I feel as though I have seen that girl before?" she silently wondered.


End of Chapter 14