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 4

The following morning at Dr. Tofu's office, Shampoo awoke to find her great-grandmother at her bedside.

"I see you've finally awakened, Shampoo," Cologne said.

Shampoo was still hazy from her long sleep and wasn't sure of what was going on. "Great-Grandmother, where this?"

"We're at the young Dr. Tofu's clinic. You've been resting here since you were attacked yesterday."

Shampoo began to remember the incident with the white-haired woman attacking her. She gently touched the side of her abdomen and let out a gasp when she felt the rush of pain. "How Shampoo get here?"

"Apparently the son-in-law found you not too far from this place," Cologne said.

"Ranma bring Shampoo here?" she asked. It was only then that she remembered her assailants had said they were going after him next.

"Great-Grandmother, those two after Ranma too! We need warn Ranma!"

"Calm down, child, I already know about it," Cologne replied very calmly. "First though, tell me, do you know who it was that attacked you?"

Shampoo nodded. "Is murderers from China Great-Grandmother tell Shampoo about before, woman with sword and man with scythe."

"Those two? Are you certain?" Cologne asked, looking very surprised. She hadn't heard about the pair in question in quite some time.

"Shampoo know is those ones!" she replied. "Only woman attack Shampoo. She say she know Shampoo defeat Monlon of Seven Lucky Gods."

"Seven Lucky Gods? That group from Nekonron? Hmm...perhaps there is a connection between the two then."

"Great-Grandmother, what happen to Ranma?!" Shampoo asked impatiently.

"Ah, yes, the son-in-law. I called the Tendo home earlier to speak with Ranma about the incident," Cologne replied. "However, the eldest daughter said that he'd left to go fight with someone. She also said he received a challenge letter yesterday that mentioned you being attacked. I believe he was supposed to fight them in the forest west of town at noon today."

Despite the fact that Ranma was challenged instead of ambushed like she was, Shampoo still felt extremely fearful for Ranma's safety. Meilin was no weakling, and the way she accepted the man's proposals would be reason to believe that he was just as skilled, if not more so than she was. As strong as Ranma was, those two teaming up against him would be a serious threat. And what was worse, these people didn't seem to believe in holding back. The ferocity of Meilin's attack on Shampoo was enough to see that. If they felt like it, they might just kill Ranma.

"Great-Grandmother, you go help Ranma, yes?! Shampoo no think Ranma can handle those ones!"

"I'll do no such thing," Cologne replied. "Ranma was issued a challenge and he accepted it. It's not my place to intervene. If the son-in-law is unable to defeat those two, then and only then will we make our move. I'm not about to let murderers go free, especially after they attacked my great-granddaughter."

"But, Great-Grandmother...!"

"Oh, I see you're up," Dr. Tofu said cheerfully as he walked in. He set a tray with a cup of tea and some food on the table next to the bed. "Here, I brought you some lunch. It's not a lot since we don't want to aggravate that injury too much, but I'm sure you're getting hungry."

Having missed two meals while she slept, Shampoo noticed that she was feeling a bit hungry. She picked up half of a sandwich that the doctor brought in and slowly began eating. Unfortunately, it did little to keep her from worrying about Ranma.

"Well, you seem fine, so I suppose I'll go open the restaurant," Cologne said. "Oh, I made sure not to tell Mousse you were hurt. You probably don't want that birdbrain here causing you trouble."

"Don't worry about a thing, Elder Cologne, I'll make sure she doesn't overdo it too much," Tofu assured her.

Cologne thanked the doctor for taking care of her great-granddaughter and the two of them left the room.

"Please eat and then get some more rest, Shampoo," Tofu said. "That wound will heal more quickly if you just stay put. I'll be tending to other patients throughout the day, but if you need anything just yell for me, alright?"

Shampoo nodded and laid her head back onto the pillow as Dr. Tofu closed the door. She didn't want to rest. There was no way she could. The only thing she could think of was Ranma. If she slept all day and then heard that something had happened to him later, she wouldn't be able to forgive herself. If her great-grandmother wouldn't go help Ranma, she would just have to do it on her own.

Enduring the pain in her side as best she could, Shampoo slowly got out of the bed. Noticing a blue dress of hers on a chair which her great-grandmother had apparently brought over, she quickly put it on and started to consider her escape options. She knew Dr. Tofu wouldn't allow her to walk out of the office in her condition, so leaving through the door wasn't going to be possible. The partially open window then caught her eye. This would work nicely, she figured. She managed to slip through and started to make her way to the forest. It wouldn't be easy, but she was determined to make sure Ranma was safe.

As noon approached, Ranma entered the forest that the challenge letter had specified. He walked very slowly, a dead serious expression on his face and hands in his pockets. Despite knowing that the challenge awaiting him was probably going to be on a different scale than his fights with Ryoga or Mousse, he felt calm and collected. He knew he would have to look after himself in the upcoming battle though. These people obviously had no qualms about doing serious harm to their opponents.

Ranma looked up at the sky through the tree branches above him and noticed it was starting to grow cloudy, causing the path he walked to appear darker than before. "Great, I need to finish this before it starts to rain. The last thing I need is to change into a girl while I'm fightin'."

After walking for several more minutes, something ahead of Ranma caught his eye. There were downed trees, and a lot of them. He soon found himself looking at a circular area with nothing but tree stumps. All of the trees that had been there before were now laying on the ground outside of this circle which had a diameter of close to 80 feet.

"How do you like it?"

Ranma remained calm as he looked forward. "I guess ya cleared this space for our fight, huh?"

He watched as two figures walked out from behind a tree on the opposite side of the area. One had white hair and appeared to be a woman, and the other, who appeared to be a male about in his twenties, had long, black hair that was tied into a ponytail and ran down to his elbows. His dark colored cloak covered a black Chinese shirt much like the red one Ranma wore. He also wore a black pair of boots and loose-fitting black pants that had unfamiliar, dark violet designs on them. The most noticeable thing about the man, however, was the large scythe that was strapped to his back.

Ranma snickered a bit as they walked toward him. "Nice fashion statement you're makin' there, pal. You one of those goth kinda guys?"

"What can I say, I like the color black. It hides blood extremely well," the man replied. He apparently wasn't the type to be easily fazed by Ranma's sharp tongue.

"So, I take it you're the ones that attacked Shampoo?" Ranma asked.

"Actually, that was Meilin, here," the man replied, "but I suppose it's just the same since I'm with her."

"Okay," Ranma replied, cracking his neck to loosen himself up while trying to keep his cool. "So, why'd you do it? What do you want from us?"

"You want to know?" the man smiled.

"Damn right I do! Now tell me what your problem is!" Ranma snapped.

The man shrugged off Ranma's hotheaded reply and continued to look as if he were enjoying himself. "The woman next to me is Meilin, and my name is Li. We've come here for the sole purpose of challenging you."

"I've never even met you guys before! Why the hell would ya come here to fight me and Shampoo?!"

"Are you not the one who defeated Kirin, leader of the Seven Lucky Gods?" Li asked.

"And Shampoo did defeat Monlon of the Seven Lucky Gods, right?" Meilin asked.

"Seven Lucky Gods..." Ranma said, remembering the time that they'd gone to Nekonron, China to rescue Akane after she was abducted. At that time, he was about to be killed by the guard named Monlon when Shampoo saved him and fought her while he went ahead with Lychee. Then Ranma had fought their leader, Kirin, and won with his Hiryu Shoten Ha attack.

"Yeah, that was us, but what does that have to do with anything?" Ranma asked them.

"Meilin and I were once members of their group," Li said.

"Ohh, I get it. So you came to get revenge for 'em, huh?"

"Not at all," Li replied coldly. He looked far more serious now than he had before.

"We were banished from Seven Luck Mountain many years ago. Meilin and I used to guard the first gate. We were an invincible defense team. Then one day I got into an argument over ideals with the one named Bishamonten. He accused me of being too bloodthirsty and forgetting that my purpose was to serve Kirin, and I drew my scythe against him in anger. Kirin found us arguing and demanded that I leave the mountain for drawing my weapon against another protector. Of course, it was absolutely ridiculous that I would be expected to spend my entire life on that mountain serving that man, and I let him know it."

"Completely stupid," Meilin said in agreement. "After that, silly little Kirin called all of us together and told us about it. He said if any of us agreed with Li's ideals then we should leave too, so I did, and we left and decided to train ourselves well enough to destroy every one of those idiots at Seven Luck Mountain. We spent years in the deepest, darkest parts of China, training and gathering information about the mountain from the people that delivered their food. Then the day before we go to attack the place, we hear that some people had come and defeated them already."

"And I'm guessin' that was us, huh?" Ranma asked, starting to understand the situation a little better.

"That is correct," Li said. "After that, we decided to test ourselves before attacking Seven Luck Mountain. We gathered some information about you from various witnesses, and that information lead us here. That being said, I hope you will give me a suitable challenge, Ranma Saotome."

Ranma removed his hands from his pockets and took up a fighting stance. "Oh, you don't need to worry 'bout that. I gotta admit, you seem really strong, but your methods of challenging people are totally screwed up. And for what you bastards did to Shampoo, I'll give everything I got to make sure you suffer."

Li licked his lips and began smiling again as he admired Ranma's ferocious demeanor. "Meilin, stand aside. I wish to fight him myself."

"Hmm...well, I got to have my fun with his friend, so I suppose you deserve it," Meilin said, hopping out of the cleared area and into a tree.

Li looked back at Ranma and took a stance of his own, not drawing his scythe for the moment. "Come at me whenever you're ready, Ranma Saotome!"

Ranma wasted no time and charged Li in a fit of rage.

Back in the city, Akane was running as fast as she could toward the location of Ranma's battle.

"That stupid jerk, how could he go and do something so reckless?!" Akane yelled. She wasn't so much angry as she was concerned about her fiancée's safety.

She'd been looking for Ranma earlier because she wanted to take him shopping with her. He wasn't ever her first choice since he complained a lot, but everyone else was busy and shopping by herself was boring. After searching everywhere in the house with no luck, she came upon Genma in the yard.

"Excuse me, Mr. Saotome, do know where Ranma is?" she asked.

"He's on his way to a challenge match at the moment."

"A challenge match? Who'd he get a challenge from?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think it's anyone he's met before. But whoever they are, they might be a bit beyond Ranma's skill," Genma replied quietly.

"Huh? But...Ranma never loses. What makes you think he might be beaten?" Akane asked.

"These people left Shampoo seriously wounded," Genma said. "To be honest, among all of you kids at least, I don't think any of you except for Ranma could beat Shampoo when she fights seriously. She's had such intense training throughout her life that not even Ryoga or Mousse could defeat her if they tried. Yet these people hurt her so badly...I'm not sure I like Ranma's chances."

"Someone hurt Shampoo that bad and you let Ranma go fight them alone?! Why didn't you go with him?! Don't you care at all for the safety of your own son?!" Akane screamed furiously.

"Akane, you need to understand that the Anything-Goes School is all about accepting any challenge presented. Ranma was issued a challenge and it is his duty to accept and deal with it. It has nothing to do with myself or anyone else except for Ranma and, although she's in no condition to fight, Shampoo."

"And what if Ranma ends up paralyzed, or even dead?! Then what?!" Akane screamed, tears starting to form in her eyes. Genma looked down at the ground and didn't say a word.

"You're a fool!" Akane cried.

Genma slowly stood up and handed her the challenge letter Ranma had received the previous day. "You're his fiancée. If you want to make sure he's safe, then go."

Akane read the letter and quickly took off running westward.

Despite the skill of the opponents, Genma was still confident that Ranma would be alright. He knew to run away if the situation became too dangerous. He was, however, extremely upset that these people attacked Shampoo. His head might know to run away, but would his heart ever consider it?

Ranma charged violently at Li and threw a punch to his face, but Li blocked the blow with his forearm. He then used his other arm and went for a punch to Li's abdomen, but Li used his free arm to block the punch with his open hand. Still on the offensive, Ranma turned his body around and tried a kick to Li's head with his right leg, but Li saw it coming and nimbly jumped back and out of range of the kick.

Trying not to allow Li any time to think, Ranma charged him again and tried to connect with a dozen punches to Li's chest. Li showed impressive defense, however, and blocked them all with his arms. Realizing that he was having difficulty breaking Li's defenses, Ranma took a few leaps backward to contemplate a strategy.

This guy was no amateur, that was for sure. But just blocking those attacks didn't mean he could win. Ranma still had plenty of tricks to use.

"What's the matter, Ranma? You don't seem to be having much fun. Is it because you can't land any of your attacks?" Li taunted him.

"I haven't even warmed up yet, jerk!"

Ranma then ran toward Li and unloaded his Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken. Li found himself in a barrage of punches moving at incredible speed, and his demeanor turned serious as he had to concentrate greatly to block all of the punches Ranma was throwing at him. Amazingly, Li was managing to stop each of them with open-handed blocks. Ranma was surprised that Li was blocking his punches this well, but he continued the assault. Li's defense reminded him of the time he fought Kirin and had his punches stopped by chopsticks. Of course, if he really was training to fight Kirin, it shouldn't be surprising that his defensive abilities were on par with Kirin's, Ranma thought. Li was doing this with his bare hands though, and balls of water weren't going to help Ranma in this battle.

As he continued punching, Ranma began to notice that Li was showing fatigue. He smirked with confidence when he realized it was only a matter of time before the man in black would wear out. But Li was well aware of it as well, and he knew it was time to change the pace of the fight. With a swift movement, Li batted Ranma's right arm aside and delivered a crushing blow to his face with his other arm.

Ranma was knocked backward and grabbed his face as he hit the ground. He spat out some blood that had accumulated in his mouth before standing himself back up. After wiping the blood from his lips, he ran at Li once more and began another Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken assault, deciding to keep using something that was at least having some effect.

Once Ranma started his attack, Li quickly moved in close and ducked. Ranma barely had time to look down before Li rose up and connected with a devastating uppercut. Ranma let out a cry of pain as he flew into the air.

Seeing another opening, Li jumped into the air and did a forward flip. As he twirled around, his feet smashed into Ranma's chest and sent him crashing to the ground. Ranma was writhing in pain as Li landed a short distance away.

"That temper of yours doesn't seem to be doing your defense any favors, Ranma. I'll admit, those punches were good, but it's pointless if you can't hit me with them. I must say, I'm not too impressed with you thus far."

"No kidding," Meilin chimed in from her perch in the trees. "I'm not sure it was worth coming all the way here to Japan, Li. First the girl can't do anything, and now this."

Ranma slowly began to stand up, but he was in obvious pain. He was panting heavily and was having difficulty staying upright after that last kick. Li, beginning to feel impatient, went on the offensive. As Li moved in close, Ranma threw a punch at his face, but Li easily avoided Ranma's attack and countered with a combo. He kneed Ranma in the gut and drove his elbow into Ranma's back at the same time, knocking the air out of him and sending him to the ground again.

"Pathetic," Li said in a disgusted tone, kicking Ranma in the side.

Ranma was having difficulty catching his breath as he lay on the ground. He couldn't believe how sharp Li's movements were. Ranma wasn't finished yet though. He made his way to his feet once again and took a deep breath before glaring over at his opponent.

"Hey, why don'tcha come try that again, ya goth freak."

"You're asking me to attack you now? As you wish, just don't regret it later."

Li then reached behind his back and removed his scythe, gripping it with both hands and holding it out in front of him. Ranma had planned on trying to lure him into his Hiryu Shoten Ha attack, but he wasn't expecting Li to draw his scythe. It didn't matter, he would just have to dodge the scythe instead of fists now, he figured. It was more difficult, but definitely not impossible. Ranma took up a defensive stance and waited for Li to make his move.

Li raised his scythe, still gripping it with both hands. Ranma got ready for him to charge and swipe at him, but was caught off guard as Li swung his scythe from a distance. A crescent of dark purple energy then seemingly came out from the scythe's blade and flew toward him. Ranma suddenly felt a sharp pain in his chest and looked down to find a large cut in his shirt. He fell to one knee as he saw his own blood dripping into a small puddle on the ground.

"Wha-what the hell just happened?" Ranma asked in a daze.

"You were struck, of course," Li replied with an evil smile. "Couldn't follow it? Here, I'll give you another chance."

Li repeated his attack twice more, sending two crescents toward Ranma. He tried to jump away as quickly as he could, but one caught his leg as he jumped. He landed on the ground as gingerly as he could manage and grabbed the fresh cut in his leg. The crescents of energy were coming at him so quickly that he couldn't follow them at all.

Without a word, Li unleashed two more crescents. Ranma didn't even have time to react. One of them put a cut in his arm and the other grazed his cheek, causing him to cry out in pain as the attacks tore open his skin. He was in serious trouble and was starting to lose focus from the pain. What the hell could he possibly do? Now that Li was using ranged attacks, luring him into the Hiryu Shoten Ha was impossible. Even if Ranma tried to run away, Li could catch up to him easily now that his leg was damaged.

"Ranma, I'm tired of wasting my time here. It's obvious that you're no match for me. This is the end," Li said with irritation in his voice. He gripped his scythe and lunged at Ranma, planning to cut him down with the actual blade this time. He raised the sharp weapon as he neared, completely unhesitant at the thought of ending Ranma's life. Ranma was staring at Li like a deer caught in the headlights, so unsure of himself and frozen with fear that he couldn't move.

Several seconds passed, however, and Ranma noticed that time had seemingly stopped. Li was standing right before him with his scythe raised, but he had a perplexed look on his face.

"Wha-what is this?!" Li yelled.

Ranma had no idea what was going on, but decided not to waste the opportunity. He gathered his remaining strength and used one final Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken. Blow after blow struck without fail this time. Li's abdomen, chest, and face were all assaulted with Ranma's fists. After close to a hundred punches, Ranma reached back and dealt Li one final blow to the face. Li flew roughly 20 feet before landing hard on the ground.

"Li!" Meilin yelled out, absolutely shocked at what she'd just seen.

Ranma fell to his knees and was panting heavily when he spotted what looked like a shadow creeping along the ground away from Li. As he watched the shadow move toward the outside of the battle area, Ranma saw someone standing there.

"That what...you get..." Shampoo smiled, looking extremely exhausted. Her legs were shaking and her hands were folded up in a strange position as she collapsed to her knees, unable to stand any longer.

"Shampoo! Shampoo, are you alright?! What just happened?!" Ranma yelled, dragging his beaten body over to her.

"Shampoo...use Shadow Bind on that man. He no could move...because Shampoo catch his shadow," she said, still trying to catch her breath.

"Shadow Bind? Where the heck did ya learn somethin' like that?"

"Father...teach Shampoo that one..."

"Wow...well, I owe ya one. But jeez, look at you. We need to get you back to Dr. Tofu's," Ranma said.

"Ranma look bad too," Shampoo replied, managing a slight giggle.

"You think I'll let you go?" Meilin interrupted as she knelt next to Li. "I should've just killed you off yesterday. I'll make sure I finish the job this time."

Ranma and Shampoo were both shocked as Li suddenly stood up and leered at them. His face was battered and bloody and his shirt was torn in several places. But rather than getting upset, Li simply smiled and licked the blood from around his lips.

"Hey, you alright?" Meilin asked him.

"Never better," Li said. "I'd forgotten what pain felt like. That was a very clever technique, little girl, and those punches weren't bad considering your current physical state, Ranma. Although, if it hadn't been for your friend there, you would be dead by now."

Ranma didn't know what to say. Li was right. Ranma never landed a single punch on his own. His pride was hurting, but he was more concerned about he and Shampoo's lives at the moment.

"Still, it's so rare for anyone to cause me pain, it would be a shame to just kill you," Li said as he picked up his scythe and turned to them again. "Tell me, Ranma, if I were to allow you sufficient time to prepare, would you be able to give me a decent challenge?"

Ranma was puzzled at the question, but had no doubt about the answer. "Of course, I'd train my ass off to beat you. It's my duty as a member of the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts."

For whatever reason, Li began laughing joyously. "Meilin, let's take them home with us."

Meilin looked surprised look for a moment, but then seemed to agree and walked over next to Li. He then folded his hands together and closed his eyes, having a look of intense concentration.

Ranma and Shampoo looked on curiously as they wondered what he was up to.

"Dammit, where the hell am I now?!"

A confused and impatient Ryoga Hibiki was stomping through a wooded area, holding his umbrella in one hand to shield him from the impending rain, when he spotted a girl running in front of him.

"Hey, that looked like Akane..."

As Ryoga started running after her, he realized that it really was Akane.

"Akane! Hey, Akane, wait!"

Despite Ryoga's calls, Akane continued running as fast as she could in front of him.

"Why won't she stop?!" Ryoga wondered to himself as he continued chasing after her.

A couple seconds later, the two of them saw a brilliant blue light a little ways ahead. Feeling nervous about what it could be, Akane began to run toward it. As she got closer, Akane could see several figures within the light.

"That looks like Ranma," she said to herself, now able to make him out among the figures. She could also see Shampoo and two people she didn't recognize.

Suddenly, the person in the middle of the light let out a loud cry, which was followed by a blinding flash. Akane and Ryoga had no choice but to cover their eyes as the light enveloped the area.

"RANMA!" Akane yelled out.

But then, almost instantly, the light was gone. As Akane's eyes began to adjust, she was left speechless at what she saw. The area where Ranma and the others had been was empty. A light rain now began to pour down on the forest as Akane ran over to where everyone had been. There was nothing but ground and tree stumps around her.

Ryoga ran up to her and positioned his umbrella over the both of them. He couldn't believe what he thought he'd just seen. "Akane...Ranma and Shampoo...they just...vanished. What...what just happened here?"

"Ran...ma..." Akane spoke almost inaudibly. The rain continued to fall upon them as they tried to cope with the fact that Ranma and Shampoo had just disappeared right before their very eyes.

End of Chapter 4