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 29

As the sun rose off to the east, another late-summer morning arrived in the land of Japan. For most, it felt no different than any other morning. Of course, that was only because they, like everyone else in the country, were completely oblivious to the pivotal battle that had taken place in China a day earlier. No one other than Ranma Saotome ever knew of the threat the resurrected Sorceress Jusenkyo once posed, and not a single one was aware of the fate that had befallen one of Japan's own who had been caught up in the conflict.

Overlooking the water from a small cliff at the side of the ocean, one girl who was amongst those in the dark about yesterday's events watched as the light from the rising sun reflected off the water's surface. That girl was the okonomiyaki chef extraordinaire, Ukyo Kuonji.

For a long while now, Ukyo had both desired and actively sought just one thing: a duel with Shampoo. She wanted a fight, and with it the chance to prove to herself, Shampoo and everyone else that she could best the Amazon girl in combat.

That desire hadn't changed after Ukyo had struck Shampoo from behind, drilling the girl with her spatula and knocking her out cold. At that time, something else did change, though. Ukyo knew right then and there that she had crossed the point of no return. Shampoo wouldn't forgive the cheap shot; she would come seeking retribution as soon as she came to. That was when Ukyo suddenly began to feel unsure of herself. Could she really defeat Shampoo as she was now? Had she been training enough to accomplish such a tall task? She genuinely didn't know.

Doubt wasn't something Ukyo could afford to have weighing down her heart if she intended to fight Shampoo. Knowing this, she had gathered what she'd needed from her restaurant immediately after the incident and made her escape.

Ukyo had assured herself that it was merely a temporary retreat. She simply needed time to prepare for what lay ahead. First and foremost, she had decided to get back to basics, coming again to the very sea where she'd trained while plotting revenge against Ranma and Genma in years past.

As Ukyo looked out toward the horizon, a line of dark clouds started to block out the sun as they approached. An early storm would be rolling in soon—a prime opportunity to face the ocean's waves at their roughest.

Taking the oversized spatula from her back, Ukyo readied herself for battle. No matter how long it took, she would fight on until the doubt within was conquered.

Elsewhere in Japan, well inland where the stormy weather wouldn't be reaching, Shampoo stood alone, quiet and focused out behind the Cat Café restaurant. Positioned in front of the usual straw dummy, the head of which had been mended back on after Ukyo had lopped it off several days earlier, the lavender-haired martial artist was getting in some extra mental training for her Speed of Light Fist before the time came to open the restaurant for the day.

Both Shampoo and Ranma were getting a short reprieve from watching over Ringo and Alysse as Ranma had talked his father into taking a shift. Obviously, there were concerns about how well Genma would do with the task, but Ranma figured his old man was probably at least peeved enough with Kodachi over what had happened to his friend, Soun, that he would be ready and willing to defend the girls should Kodachi show up at the hospital. Of course, it also helped that Genma truly thought of Ringo as his own daughter. He most likely would have even helped Ranma and Shampoo defend her prior to Kodachi's defeat had Alysse not suggested hiding Ringo at her own home.

Shampoo's right arm was still hurting from the scuffle with Kodachi, hence why her training would have to remain exclusively mental for now. She would have to be creative with her cooking later as well to avoid straining the injured limb.

Even as the back door to the restaurant abruptly opened, Shampoo's eyes remained closed. Naturally, the one who had appeared from within the building's interior was Ranma—no one else lived there, after all. Presently holding a postcard in his hand, the pigtailed boy had come out for a quick word with his girlfriend. Those plans would be put on hold, though, as he realized how wrapped up Shampoo was in what she was doing.

Smiling, Ranma quietly shut the door behind him and took a seat against it. He himself had always had trouble maintaining the focus to meditate, so to see how deeply Shampoo was able to concentrate was impressive. Honestly, everything she'd done since resuming her training for the Speed of Light Fist was impressive to Ranma. Even without Cologne around to badger her, Shampoo was taking it very seriously.

As always, Ranma had safely tucked away in his pants pocket the wooden cube that Jynn had given him nearly two weeks ago. He hadn't heard from Jynn or anyone else since then regarding what was going on with the sorceress known as Jusenkyo, which left him feeling restless about the whole thing. He still hadn't told Shampoo of what was going on, either. Even so, Ranma would watch over the cube until he was certain Jusenkyo had been dealt with. He just hoped those over in China would be enough to handle the task.

After a few minutes had passed, Shampoo was apparently ready for a break. She finally opened her eyes, and, upon doing so, was surprised to find Ranma sitting there watching her. "Ranma?" she blinked.


"What you doing?"

Ranma raised up the postcard in his possession and waved it in the air. "We got somethin' I thought you'd like."

Strolling over to her beau, Shampoo took the card from him and promptly plopped herself down onto his lap, drawing a surprised, "Oof," from the boy.

As she leaned back against Ranma, Shampoo noticed that the postcard actually featured a photograph. It was a photo of Kirin of the Seven Lucky Gods martial artists, Lychee, his wife, and, in Lychee's arms, a newborn child.

Shampoo's eyes sparkled at the image. "Lychee have baby!"

"Yeah. Weird to think Kirin's a dad now, huh?" Ranma said, scratching his head a bit. "Guess we're gettin' to that age where people we know are startin' families already."

Those words perhaps sparking some particular ideas in her mind, Shampoo turned and looked back at Ranma.

"What?" Ranma asked, batting his eyes. Gradually, though, just from that yearning expression he saw on Shampoo's face, he understood exactly what was running through her head. "Heck no!" he exclaimed. "I know what you're thinkin'! I ain't ready to be a dad!"

"It no have to be now," Shampoo huffed, facing away from him again. "But…Ranma want family someday, yes?"

Ranma couldn't keep a straight face right now if his life depended on it. To say he was uncomfortable with this topic of discussion would be a huge understatement. "I…someday…I guess it'd be fine," he finally managed to answer. "I mean, I already know what not to do while raisin' a kid thanks to Pop. How hard could it be?"

Chuckling to herself, Shampoo had a dreamy look about her as she stared down at the postcard. "It be nice."

Ranma certainly dreaded the idea of it happening anytime soon. But, as he sat there together with Shampoo, he silently had to admit that maybe he wouldn't mind it either. Not now, of course. Hell no. But, someday maybe. Someday.

"What a haul! What a haul!"

All of a sudden, Ranma and Shampoo heard an eerily familiar voice—one that sent chills running down their spines.

"H-hey…am I hearin' things, or…?"

"That…no can be…"

Shortly after the sound reached their ears, someone landed atop the wall in front of them, casting a shadow upon the ground at their feet. Ranma and Shampoo both set eyes on the individual as he trotted across the top of the wall. Not unexpectedly, it was an older, rather short man with a disguise over his head and a furoshiki on his back that was filled to the brim with women's undergarments. As the older man spotted the two down below, he abruptly slowed to a halt. Caught in the man's stare, Ranma and Shampoo could only grimace at their misfortune.

It was the old lecher himself, Happosai.

"Ranma! You're okay!" an elated Happosai exclaimed as he jumped toward his pupil.

With Shampoo leaping from his lap in a hurry, Ranma pulled back in disgust as Happosai latched onto his arm. "What're you doin' here, y'old freak? Get offa me!" Ranma tried to shake the unwanted visitor away, but to no avail.

Having greeted Ranma already, Happosai then turned to the attractive girl in his presence. "And Shampoo, too!"

Happosai detached himself from Ranma and hopped over to Shampoo now, aiming straight for her buxom chest. Shampoo, though, would have none of it. Taking her good arm, she drove her fist into the old man's face. Happosai flew backwards, smacking into the training dummy before crumbling to the dirt.

"Shampoo no miss you one bit. You go away," Shampoo shot a dirty look at the founder of Anything-Goes Martial Arts.

Seemingly hurt by the cold reception, Happosai began to wipe tears from his eyes. "Wh-why are you being so mean to me? I'm just happy to see you is all," he claimed.

"Cut that out!" Ranma snapped at him, not buying the act for a second. "Where have you been? Huh? Actually, never mind that. Wherever it was, just hurry up and go back there!"

"How dare you! I was off looking for you, you ungrateful whelp!" Happosai angrily retorted. Looking to teach the boy some manners, he popped up and gave Ranma a solid whack atop his head.

"Oww!" Ranma groaned as he grabbed at the affected area.

"I looked all over China for your hide! You oughtta show me some gratitude!" Happosai insisted.

While Ranma was aware that Happosai had been in China, he knew better than to accept the old goat's words at face value. "Oh, really? From what Ryoga told me, you were more busy stealin' stuff from people over there than lookin' for me!"

"That's ridiculous! He doesn't know what he's talking about!" Happosai denied the accusation, for whatever that was worth. "Listen up! I need to finish my collection run, but I'll be back later. Nobody's home at Tendo's place for some reason, so it's your responsibility to treat me to some grub!"

"WHAT?" Ranma was incredulous as he watched Happosai take to the wall again and head off. Unwilling to go along with the old man's plans quietly, Ranma bolted after him. "Get back here, freak! You ain't gettin' nothin' from us! HEY!"

Shampoo watched as Ranma gave chase to the seasoned pervert, allowing a resigned sigh to pass between her lips as the two of them disappeared from view. "Some thing no change," she muttered.

Still holding the postcard in her hand, Shampoo looked again at the picture of Kirin and Lychee with their baby. That was enough to bring back her smile.

Some things really hadn't changed. But, whether it was the progress of her relationship with Ranma or the events surrounding the lives of those they knew, other things most definitely had changed around Shampoo since she and Ranma had returned from China—some for the better, some not so much.

Though she wasn't sure what the future held, right now, as she stared down at that photo, Shampoo found herself thinking only one thing: she hoped that one day it would be she and Ranma sending a similar picture back to Kirin and Lychee. It would take some convincing of Ranma, sure, but there would be plenty of time for that. After all, they still had practically their whole lives ahead of them.

While life was returning to normal in Japan, it right now felt anything but for a certain pair of military prisoners over in China.

Currently inside a military facility on the country's east coast, the unofficial commander of the now mostly deceased Orange Team, Meilin, quietly opened the door to the office of she and Ryoga's superior, General Khan. After being recovered from the site of their battle with Sorceress Jusenkyo yesterday, Ryoga and Meilin were "graciously" allowed to rest for the remainder of the day. It was only now that they were being summoned to Khan's office for a little chat regarding the incident.

Looking up from his desk, the short-fused Khan watched as the female warrior entered. "You're late!" he barked at her in Mandarin.

Normally, such words would be greeted with a bountiful helping of backtalk from Meilin. Today, though, the girl kept her mouth shut, withholding the usual barbs she would throw at the heavyset man. She just didn't have the fight in her for it, and for good reason.

Meilin peeked back over her shoulder as her partner, Ryoga, slowly wandered into the office now. Dragging his feet along the floor the whole way in, Ryoga, with bags under his eyes and a noticeably unkempt appearance, looked absolutely terrible. He hadn't slept a wink since yesterday due to the emotional torment resulting from what had happened to his dear friend, Akane. Looking completely out of it, he moved over to the wall, leaned back against it and just slid down onto his backside.

"You look like hell," Khan bluntly evaluated Ryoga's condition. He turned to Meilin looking for answers. "What's wrong with him?"

With a pained expression, Meilin sullenly glanced over at her anguished lover. "He's just…torn up about what happened to our team," she answered, not wanting to bring up Akane to Khan. She had been doing everything she could to comfort Ryoga throughout yesterday and last night, but he was simply inconsolable. "And speak in Japanese. He still can't understand what you're saying."

Not happy with having to cater to Ryoga again, the General, his eye twitching, fixed an annoyed glare on the martial artist. "I thought I told you to learn our language!" he growled, switching over to Japanese despite his dislike of having to do so. "And as for what happened to that Orange Team trash, get over it! They were worthless to begin with. The real shame is the helicopters Jusenkyo destroyed, not those pieces of prisoner scum she took out."

Meilin angrily balled up her right fist, the remark not sitting well with her at all. She would have beaten Khan to a pulp for saying that about her lost comrades if she wasn't aware of the severe repercussions for doing so. "Why did you call us here?" she asked, her patience running thin. "You want to congratulate us for bringing down Jusenkyo or something?"

"Hah! Oh, yes, congratulations. Amazing work," Khan sarcastically praised the two of them. "What a load of crap. I couldn't care less about what you did. Even if you hadn't done it, we would've taken Jusenkyo out soon enough anyway."

The response was about what Meilin had expected. "Why, then?" she persisted.

"Why? Because I want to know why you disobeyed a direct order! That's why!" Khan sharply replied.

"Disobeyed an order? What are you talking about?"

"Don't play dumb with me! I'm talking about the order we sent you the night before yesterday. It clearly said to stay put until the transport arrived, but then you two went and moved out instead!"

Meilin felt as though she'd heard about this before. "That again?" she grumbled. "Ox mentioned something about that, too. We never got the stupid message."

"Oh, yes, you did!" Khan argued. "Deny it all you like, but our records show that you accepted that message not even a minute after it was sent to you!"

"Wh-…what?" Meilin blinked, confused as could be. It just didn't make any sense. None whatsoever. She knew for a fact that she hadn't accepted that message. Ryoga had said that he hadn't done so either, and he wouldn't lie to her about that sort of thing. And it wasn't as if it would be easy to accidentally accept the message with the communicator bouncing around in Ryoga's backpack. The device wasn't set up to make accepting them so simple. For that matter, even if such a thing had happened, the message should have still been listed along with the other ones on the communicator that they'd already received and read, which this one wasn't. So then, how would they have…?

Suddenly, something new dawned on Meilin. For a moment, she stood still, silent, mulling over the possibility that what had occurred to her might, in fact, be possible. Looking back at General Khan, her eyes narrowed. "Are you sure someone accepted that order?" she asked.

"Of course, I am!" Khan told her. "Our records say that you did, and our records are never wrong!"

What had struck Meilin was that there was a third member to their party as of the time when the message arrived, leaving her to wonder if that person may have been responsible. "What exactly did the order say?" she inquired, eager for more information.

"Are you deliberately trying to waste my time?" Khan, growing more irritated by the second, chided the girl. "The order said to stay put and wait for the transport, and that you and the rest of the Orange Team were being sent to Joketsuzoku because we'd located an item there that we believed Jusenkyo was after!"

Having been presented with that knowledge, Meilin raised a hand up and started to rub her chin. Akane. Akane, Akane, Akane. Though Meilin wasn't sure why Akane would do it, what if she had? Could she even read the message? It was written in Chinese, after all. And regardless of whether she could read it or not, if Akane had accepted the message, why hadn't she told them about it? Had she just forgotten? Or…

Meilin's eyes widened. What all had happened since they'd first run across Akane in that village? What all had she told them? Meilin thought back over all of it, every single bit of what she could remember. Piece by piece, within the girl's mind, the puzzle began to fall into place.

"The order was sent out, and the very next day Jusenkyo showed up to fight us," Meilin spoke softly. She looked exasperated as she eyed Khan again. "What happened to the soldiers stationed at Joketsuzoku?"

"At Joketsuzoku? We pulled them out of there," Khan informed her. "What do you think we did? Since you two killed Jusenkyo, there sure as hell wasn't any point in keeping them there."

"What about the thing Jusenkyo wanted?" Meilin immediately followed up. "Where is it?"

"Still in the village! We left it with the elder there!" Khan yelled, sick of the questions. "Jusenkyo is dead! Who gives a damn about that thing?"

A fury raging inside of her, Meilin slammed her palms flat against General Khan's desk, her eyes facing downward. "She got us," Meilin hissed through her clenched teeth. "We think she and Jusenkyo are dead and we close the case, leaving her free to do as she pleases. That whole time she was just waiting and waiting for us to point her in the right direction. Right now, Joketsuzoku is probably…"

Despite his current state, Ryoga had heard everything that Meilin said. Weakly, he looked up at her. "What…what are you-?"

"Don't you get it, Ryoga?" Meilin shouted, seething with anger as she turned to him. "Akane isn't DEAD! She's-!"

In another part of China, hundreds of miles from the military facility where Ryoga and Meilin were located, large plumes of black smoke had risen up into the air above the Amazon village of Joketsuzoku. Down below, it was a scene of carnage. The earth had been raised up in some spots, lowered in others. Trees in the vicinity had been snapped apart like twigs. Buildings and homes were either flattened or ablaze, and, along the ground, the bodies of the Amazon warriors who once occupied those structures were littered everywhere.

Meilin's fears had become a reality. Joketsuzoku had been utterly devastated.

Among the wounded was the village elder, Cologne. Surrounded by the ruins of the place she had called home for so long, she lay flat on her stomach, her garment shredded as a result of a fierce battle that had been fought. The soil beneath her soaked in her own blood, the old woman struggled to raise her head. "You…treacherous…girl…!"

Cologne let out a groan as her assailant stomped down onto her face, forcing her head back down into the ground. The Amazon elder had felt anxious about what was to come for the past couple of days, but even she hadn't foreseen something of this magnitude occurring. And she most assuredly wouldn't have ever guessed who was to be behind it.

There, looking down upon the old woman she had bested, was a very much alive Akane Tendo.

Akane, as evidenced by the blood trickling down from her mouth, hadn't escaped the fight with Cologne unscathed. The clothes she'd borrowed from Meilin yesterday were torn all over, and she was favoring her abdomen with one hand. She knew it wouldn't be easy, but it was a battle she needed to fight in order to acquire what she sought. And, in truth, it was also a battle she wanted to fight.

"You're even tougher than I thought," Akane praised the elder's strength, her somewhat struggling voice unable to hide the hurt Cologne had put on her. "If I'd fought against both you and the military, I probably wouldn't have won. I was right to let Ryoga and his bitch of a girlfriend finish off that pile of bones and make them think Jusenkyo was dead. Until I get my hands on Jusenkyo's Jewel of Eternity, I can't be taking too many risks."

Her frail hand outstretching, Cologne's fingertips clutched at the dirt in front of her. "Why…?" she mouthed.

"Why? Why what? Why am I doing all of this?" Akane asked in response, though she knew Cologne's ability to answer was severely compromised. "Because I can. Because I feel like it. And because I've just had enough of this world."

As she leaned forward to get a closer look at Cologne, Akane pushed her foot even deeper into the woman's cheek. "I've always been a good person. I always tried to be nice. And you know what that got me?" she spoke, her tone frighteningly cold. "My mom died young. A bunch of boys ruined my school life by hounding me every day. My sister stole away the one guy I really liked. I even got stuck with the biggest scumbag of a fiancé ever. He made me fall for his little act and I started to like him, and then what did he do? He decided to get with some sleazy tramp of an Amazon instead."

Akane could hear Cologne's vocal distress as the pressure was increased upon her skull. "Typical, isn't it?" Akane spat. "That's how this world is. That's what it's become. And that's why, bit by bit, I'm going to destroy it."

Akane's fierce hatred of Ranma and Shampoo was all she had to thank for her retaining her individuality. Upon coming across Ryoga and Meilin, she had told them that she'd thrown one of the men who had abducted her into the spring in which Sorceress Jusenkyo had drowned thousands of years ago. But, in reality, it was Akane who had been tossed into that spring right from the very beginning. Once she became submerged in the spring's water, it wasn't just Jusenkyo's power and knowledge that flowed into her. Jusenkyo had tried taking over her mind as well. The sorceress, however, came up against a will that was stronger than she'd anticipated. All Akane could think of was how much she hated Ranma, Shampoo and everyone else who had wronged her, and how much she wanted them to pay for what they'd done. And it was because of that hatred that Akane was able to fight Jusenkyo off in the end. The sorceress failed to overtake her mind, and from that point on everything Jusenkyo had worked for was Akane's to use in whichever way she so desired.

When Akane first emerged from the spring, the six men in black cloaks that were responsible for bringing her to China all bowed down in front of her believing that she was their goddess who would fulfill all of their dreams. Akane understood what their intentions were, though. She knew they had wanted Jusenkyo to take over her body, and it was that knowledge that finally pushed her over the edge. Those men were the first that Akane had killed using her newfound power, and she had done so mercilessly. Immediately afterward, she had thought she might regret doing what she'd done. As it turned out, she didn't. In fact, she even felt good about doing it. One of the men somehow managed to survive Akane's initial attack, but he likely later wished that he hadn't. Akane would torture that man ruthlessly, burning him to a crisp in the process of finishing him off. Once Akane had some time to think and formulate a plan, she would then use that man's remains as a stand-in for herself. She would control what was left of his body, using him to wreak havoc upon the land and leading everyone to believe that he was the real Jusenkyo, thus allowing her to avoid suspicion. She had even altered the scene at the cursed springs to back up that charade, hence why Gibbon's findings when Meilin had sent him there only seemed to confirm Akane's innocence.

Akane knew what she was after. It was just a matter of finding it. When she ran into Ryoga and Meilin, it was purely by coincidence. For Akane, it was also very fortunate. Using her connection to Ryoga, she was able to stay close to someone privy to sensitive information. She even got Ryoga to teach her how to work the military communicator he and Meilin had to carry around. The more destruction Akane allowed her puppet to cause, the more the military dug up information on Jusenkyo. And then, the night before yesterday, that message she'd been waiting for had come while Ryoga and Meilin were busy fooling around in their tent. Thanks to Jusenkyo's knowledge, Akane was able to understand the Chinese writing. She had learned then that what she needed was in Joketsuzoku.

With the currently limited capacity of her magical power, Akane didn't want to fight an entire army of military personnel and Amazons that included Cologne. That was when she came up with the idea to let her puppet fall to Ryoga and Meilin, but only after providing the illusion that it had killed her before being defeated. With that, she correctly assumed that the military would leave the Amazon village, making her job much easier. The problem for Akane, though, was the timing. She saw in the message that a transport would be sent for Ryoga and Meilin early the next day, and her puppet was so far away that she wasn't sure it would make it before the helicopter arrived. That was why Akane had deleted the message from the communicator and not told anyone of it. Without seeing the order, Ryoga and Meilin had continued on their westward course, effectively cutting the distance that the false Jusenkyo had to travel to make it to their location. With that, the plan Akane had devised was good to go. And it had succeeded.

Now, setting her sights on something on the ground, Akane's eyes shone with satisfaction. Sitting at her feet was an object—glowing with a dark violet hue—that had fallen from Cologne's person at the end of their battle. It was the one wooden cube that Cologne had held onto, and the very item that Jusenkyo, or rather Akane, had desired.

"And if I'm going to destroy this world," Akane smirked as she reached down and took the cube into her hand, "...I'm going to need this."

Cologne made a weak attempt to grab the cube away from the girl, but Akane merely swatted her hand away effortlessly.

"Was that what you wanted to know? Or…were you asking why I'd done this to you and this village specifically?" Akane inquired, her mood beginning to sour again. "If that's what it was, it's easy. I did this…because Shampoo never would have come back to Japan if it weren't for you telling her to. Everything with she and Ranma happened because of you and this village's ridiculous laws, and you all deserved to be punished for it."

Akane removed her foot from Cologne now, her icy eyes still glaring coldly at the badly injured woman. "And I'm not done with you, either," she declared. "Not yet."

Holding the cube up by her mouth, Akane closed her eyes and began to speak. If her words weren't inaudible then they were extremely quiet, because Cologne couldn't hear a thing the girl was saying. What the old woman was witnessing was Akane reciting a spell provided by the memories of Jusenkyo that she'd been given, and its purpose would soon become clear. One at a time, the six sides of the wooden cube with their peculiar, glowing markings began to fall away. As the last one dropped from Akane's hand, the item that had been sealed within the cube was revealed. It was a small slab of crystal, glowing brightly with the same violet color as its container.

Akane couldn't have been more pleased as she observed the crystal in her palm. Everything had gone perfectly. With the unsealing done, she began to walk away from Cologne, heading instead toward something else she required.

Among the bodies laying all around Joketsuzoku, there was one in particular that hadn't come from the village. The corpse of a very tall, slender man was also there—one that Akane had brought along with her. There was nothing special about it; it just happened to be of a size she thought would be useful.

Akane knelt down beside the corpse, and, slowly, she raised the glowing crystal to her lips. "It's time to wake up," she whispered to it.

Taking the crystal, Akane suddenly drove it into the corpse's chest directly below its throat. She stood up and backed away from the body, eager to observe what would happen.

Not even a few seconds had passed when the entire corpse became surrounded in a pitch black aura. The aura swirled all around the pale body from its shoulders to its fingertips, its thighs to its toes, its waist, its chest, and, finally, to its head. At every point, the body's muscles expanded. Though it was still slender, it had become noticeably fit and muscular. The process eventually came to a conclusion, at which time the dark aura entered the body through the skin, vanishing completely from sight.

Having seemingly been provided new life, the eyelids of the corpse shockingly opened. Its movements stiff, the body sat itself up, the irides of its eyes completely white and unnatural-looking. Its head shaved bald and the rest of it still donning the worn clothes of its previous occupant, the body, much to Akane's pleasure, seemed to have relatively little difficulty getting to its feet. Standing at over seven and a half feet tall, it loomed over Akane as if she were a mere child.

Cologne could only look on in disbelief, absolutely stunned at what she was seeing. This corpse, once lifeless, had somehow become alive.

"Welcome back," Akane greeted the creature. Raising her hand up, she placed her index finger against the giant body's chest, creating a mental link between she and the being for just as long as was needed before stepping away again. "You should understand Japanese now. And you should know what happened, too. Am I right?"

The body looked down, setting its eerie eyes on the girl before it. "Yes," it replied in a deep, drawn out voice.

"And?" Akane proceeded to ask. "You know I'm not Jusenkyo. Will you still serve me?"

The creature's large body lurched forward a step, but it bore no ill will toward Akane. "Her resurrection did not go as planned, but she lives on through you," it answered. "You are my master now. My loyalty lies with you."

The soul that had rested within the glowing crystal was now the owner of the once-dead body. It was the soul of one of Jusenkyo's two servants from long, long ago—one she had hoped to use once she'd come back to life. Because of what had happened at the cursed springs, however, the servant of Jusenkyo had now become the servant of Akane.

"Do you have a name?" Akane asked him.

The giant shook his head. "Mistress Jusenkyo did not refer to us by name," he said.

"What a horrible mistress," Akane playfully commented. She took a moment to look over her new servant, trying to come up with a proper name for him. "That way you look, the way you move, the way you talk…I think I know just what to call you. From now on, your name will be…Zonbi. Understand?"

Zonbi nodded his head, emitting a light growl to show he understood. "Yes, Mistress."

With that out of the way, Akane was free to focus on other things. "Good. Now then," she said, turning back the other way. With bad intentions, she again had the wounded Cologne in her crosshairs. "Zonbi, this person should be useful for your skill. You know what I'm talking about, right?"

Knowing just what his new master meant, Zonbi lifted his arms at his sides and faced his palms upward. Instantly, the ground beneath his feet grew dark, almost as if it had rapidly rotted. That darkness would spread quickly, expanding outward through the ground until it included the area directly beneath Cologne.

"Do it," Akane commanded.

Suddenly, Cologne found herself sinking into that darkened ground. It was as if she were laying atop a thin quicksand, and, in her condition, there was no way to fight out of it. Though she tried to claw forward, her hand sunk into the ground, and the rest of her soon followed. With the remorseless eyes of Akane upon her, the Amazon elder glared back furiously at the one who had done this to she and the rest of the village. She wouldn't be able to exact revenge upon Akane, but she knew there were others out there who might get the chance to do so. For now, it would have to be left in the hands of the new generation.

With her one last breath, the Amazon warrior known as Cologne was entirely submerged beneath the rotted ground, nowhere to be seen.

Out on the edge of the ravaged village, Cologne's great-granddaughter had observed everything. Clutching to her chest the book Cologne had entrusted to her the other night, Aroma quietly wept as she watched the old woman disappear into the earth. "Granny…" she sobbed, heartbroken at her inability to help.

At Cologne's direction, Aroma had taken the book and made it to safety in time. It was excruciating having to hide even while knowing what was happening to her family and friends, but her great-grandmother had ordered her to do so. No matter what, she needed to get that book to Shampoo. And to that end, she had to stay alive.

"Good work, Zonbi. I think we're done here," Akane praised her servant. She was ready to move on to the next phase of her plan. "Time to go get your sister. You can find out where she is, can't you?"

Zonbi paused momentarily, concentrating on locating the one Akane spoke of. Gradually, he turned to one side, pointing off in an east-northeasterly direction.

"To the east?" Akane inquired. "Near or far?"

"Far," the pale giant replied. "Across the sea."

With that piece of information, Akane had a feeling she knew exactly where what she sought next was located. "So that was Cologne's plan," she thought aloud. "What a coincidence. We were just about to head there."

Their next destination set, Akane took her first steps along the lengthy trek to the east. "Zonbi, let's-"

"Hey, who goes there?"

Hearing a male voice—one she was certain she'd heard before—Akane brought herself to a stop. As she spun around, she watched as two men, both dressed in long robes, ran up and faced she and her servant with weapons drawn. Both of them were sporting long, black hair. One, slightly taller, had a large scar across his face, while the other wore a thick pair of glasses.

Akane recognized the visitors. They were the male Amazons, Mousse and Jynn.

"A-…Akane Tendo? It can't be! Is that…you?" Mousse adjusted his glasses, wondering if he was seeing things.

"What happened to this village? Where is Elder Cologne?" Jynn, the former acquaintance of Li and Meilin, snarled angrily at Akane. "Were you the one who did this?"

Not pleased with the appearance of the two, Akane exhaled deeply. Though, just as with Cologne, Akane also had reason to be glad she'd run into them. "Mousse. Because you were so incompetent when it came to winning Shampoo over, she kept on pursuing Ranma until he fell for her," she spoke, brushing her hair back. "And…Jynn, was it? You were part of the group that brought Ranma and Shampoo here to China. Because of you, they ended up growing closer to each other."

"Wh-what are you saying, Akane?" Mousse shouted. "You didn't really do this…did you?"

Akane didn't waver in the slightest as she eyed the visually-challenged martial artist. "That's right. It was me," she admitted without hesitation. "And both of you deserve to be punished, too."

Mousse couldn't believe what he was hearing. Had Akane really done this? He just couldn't fathom it. "D-…don't joke around like that, Akane Tendo!" he pleaded with her. "There's no way you would-!"

"Mousse, open your eyes!" Jynn snapped at his longtime friend. "Don't you see the damage she's done here? This girl is clearly Sorceress Jusenkyo."

"What?" Mousse gasped.

Jynn was ready to go after Akane, and he hoped Mousse would be, too. Akane, however, didn't seem especially eager to engage them.

"Sorry, but I'm not in any shape to fight again after dealing with that old bag. You'll have to settle for this guy instead," Akane informed them, glancing back at her towering servant. "Zonbi?"

At the urging of his master, Zonbi stepped forward, his neck cracking loudly as he loosened up the muscles around it. If Akane was unable to fight, he would gladly do what needed to be done in her stead.

"As you wish, Mistress."

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

Author's note: Holy moly, Part II of the story is finally finished! Only took me…four and a half years? The beginning of it went pretty slow at times, too. Like in 2011, for example, I think I only put out three chapters that year. Last May, though, I came back with a vengeance and was determined to get through this thing, and 16 chapters later it's done at last.

Thank you to those who are still following along, and especially those of you who've been giving me feedback along the way. I appreciate you guys taking the time to do that more than you could imagine. Believe me, I read every review thoroughly and they are extremely helpful.

I know this part of the story got away from the central theme of Ranma and Shampoo a little at first, and I know a lot of people bailed on it back in 2009 once they saw that Kodachi was going to be getting some focus, so I'm glad at least some people decided to stick around. I'd always liked Kodachi and felt she was an incredibly underutilized character in the Ranma series, so I really wanted to do something big with her. Had a ton of fun writing everything involving she and the other gymnastics girls, and I love how it all turned out in the end. Hopefully it was as entertaining for you guys to read as it was for me to write.

Which I suppose brings us to Part III of the story, a.k.a. the final part. I've been entirely focused on wrapping up Part II up to this point, so I'm going to need a bit of time to iron out a lot of details for Part III. Once that's done, though, I think I'll open up with another short interlude like I did after Part I, and then we'll get to finishing up this story in what is going to be an extremely wild and action-packed Part III. It's probably too far out to tell, but I don't think it'll be nearly as long as Part II was. Might only be around 15-20 chapters or so, although they will be a very busy 15-20 chapters if that's the case. We'll have to see how it goes.

So, again, thank you everyone. I'll be back with a short interlude when the time is right, and until then I hope you'll all look forward to the grand finale of this ridiculously long story of mine.

Coming soon, it's "A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part III: Requiem for Youth!" See you then!