A Midsummer Night's Beauty
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.
"Get in there!"
Flanked by a pair of uniformed soldiers, a weak and weary Ryoga Hibiki was unceremoniously dumped onto the floor of a meeting room within the military facility he was being held at in China. His arms were bound behind his back, and his legs shackled together. For days and days now, the number of which he'd lost count of, Ryoga had been locked away in a pitch-black cell all by his lonesome. He'd had no light, no food, and barely enough water to keep him alive. It was torture in a way, especially on one's mind, but Ryoga had managed to endure it.
Soon after Ryoga had been brought to the room, another pair of soldiers entered and tossed down next to him his likewise depleted partner, Meilin.
"Mei-…Meilin…" a concerned Ryoga hoarsely spoke her name. Using whatever shred of energy he could muster, he tried to scoot closer to her.
Naturally, Meilin had been thrown into a separate cell from Ryoga while she was put through the same ordeal as he was. It wouldn't have been much of a punishment if they were allowed to speak to each other during that time, after all.
Her white hair—dirtied from sleeping on the floor of the cell—hanging over her eyes, Meilin, too, inched herself closer to Ryoga until, finally, she was able to rest her head atop his thigh. "I missed you," she quietly uttered, her mouth parched from dehydration.
Ryoga felt the same way. Until now, he and Meilin had been together so often that Ryoga never knew what it felt like to be away from her for so long. After this last string of days, both of them would know perfectly well how much the other meant to them.
Making no effort to hide his emotions, Ryoga's and Meilin's superior, the heavyset General Khan, burst into the room and chucked his uniform hat up against the wall in frustration. "Oh, it's you two! Glad you could make it!" he barked at the prisoners, speaking in Japanese right from the get-go as he evidently felt it important that Ryoga understand him as well. "I just got finished having my ass chewed out by some very important people, and it's all YOUR fault!"
Khan, wasting no time, powered up a video projector and switched off the lights in the room, making more visible the image that now shone upon the meeting room's wall. "This is surveillance footage we just got ahold of, taken at a port on the coast last week," he informed them.
Though exhausted, Ryoga and Meilin turned their heads enough that they could watch the tape play out. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But, within seconds, a pair walking into the shot from the bottom of the feed caught their attention.
"See anyone familiar?" Khan asked, pointing to the very individuals that Ryoga and Meilin had their eyes on. "The girl we brought back from Joketsuzoku confirmed for us that these two were the ones responsible for what happened there."
For Ryoga, the shorter of the two in the video, a girl, was the one he was most focused on. Despite the graininess of the tape, he'd seen enough of the girl's profile from behind to know who it was. Without a doubt, it was the one he believed to be his friend, Akane Tendo. Akane was wearing a light-colored Chinese dress in the video which, unbeknownst to those in the meeting room, she had pilfered from the Amazon village once her business there was concluded—a necessity given the damage her battle with Cologne had done to her previous attire.
Seeing Akane alive in the video only seemed to confirm for Ryoga that all of the accusations being laid upon her were true. He hadn't wanted to believe it. He hadn't wanted to believe that Akane had done what Meilin and everyone else believed she had done. But no matter how much Ryoga cared for her, all of the coincidence surrounding recent events was simply too much for him to dismiss.
Ryoga acknowledged the truth. As greatly as it pained him, he acknowledged it. And thus, without anything to say of Akane, he shifted his sights to the much taller person walking alongside her. "Who is the other one?" he asked.
"According to some intel our people dug up way too goddamn late, it's most likely one of Jusenkyo's two servants," Khan answered. "Witnesses say these two stole a small boat and set out in the general direction of Japan. Our experts believe that's probably where Jusenkyo's other servant is."
Ryoga couldn't help dwelling on the fact that Akane was apparently going back to Japan. If Cologne had the item containing one of Jusenkyo's servants with her, it stood to reason that she may have also had the other at one time. Had she sensed trouble and split them up, sending one to Japan? If that was the case…it would almost certainly be in the possession of someone she trusted with it: Shampoo, or perhaps even Ranma.
Done using the video for the time being, General Khan shut down the projector and hit the lights again. "So, just to sum things up, an enormous threat has escaped from China out into the rest of the world, and it's all thanks to you!" he laid the blame upon Ryoga and Meilin. "Do you two realize what will happen if Jusenkyo starts raising hell and the other countries around the world find out it all originated here? Do you know how much it'll trouble this country's leaders? And do you know who they'll blame for everything? Us, the military! That's right!"
Khan paced back and forth, putting on display the mounting pressure he was dealing with. "I should have you both executed right now. Lucky for you, there might still be some usefulness left in your carcasses," he said to them. "We can't send our entire military over to Japan without starting a war, but just one Japanese national and his foreign woman shouldn't raise any eyebrows."
Ryoga narrowed his gaze at the general. "Are you telling us to go after her?"
"If you'd rather not, I can arrange a nice firing squad for you to stand in front of," Khan offered. "How about it?"
"We'll go!" Meilin shouted abruptly. A series of coughs followed from the girl as the yell had irritated her dry throat. "We'll go, but…for ourselves, not for you. I'm going to…make that bitch pay for using us."
Now that one of the partners had agreed, Khan turned to Ryoga again for his answer.
Ryoga was torn. If he went after Akane, he may well end up fighting against her, which is one of the last things he would ever want to do. If he didn't go, he was as good as dead, and Akane may only add to the sins she'd already committed. There wasn't a good choice, only a better of two bad ones.
"Fine. This is my responsibility. I'll take care of it," Ryoga finally responded. Even if the chances were slim, he hoped that this would allow him an opportunity to get Akane back to her old self.
"Good. The two of you will be leaving in an hour," Khan informed them. "Oh, and one more thing. I'm sure you were still aware enough of your surroundings to notice that those poison-filled locators on your legs were removed before you were brought here. You see, it struck me that once you got to Japan, you could just cut off your feet and live out the rest of your lives freely if you wanted. Disabled, yes, but freely nonetheless. If you did that within our borders then we would just hunt you down, but over there it's not so simple. So, I've thought of a solution to this problem."
Signaled by a nod from the general, the soldiers who had brought the military prisoners to the room attached metal collars around each of their necks. Half a centimeter in width, the collars were constricting, but not to the point that they greatly affected the wearer's breathing.
"Just like your old locators, these can inject you with a very lethal poison at any time with the simple push of a button from me. And I don't imagine you'll be lopping off your own heads to escape that fate," Khan grinned coldly as he spoke.
Ryoga and Meilin glared up at the portly general with looks that showed just how much the both of them wanted to beat him within an inch of his life. There was nothing they could do in this situation, though. For now, they would have to follow orders.
Raising his right hand, Khan held up a pair of fingers before the prisoners. "You have two weeks," he told them. "If I don't have proof that Jusenkyo's been dealt with in that time, consider yourselves terminated."
Meanwhile, as the sun rose over the Nerima Ward of Tokyo, Ranma and Shampoo were still snoozing away within the futon they shared on the upper floor of the Cat Café restaurant. While Shampoo did have her own futon, she would often slip into Ranma's and sleep with her head on the boy's chest or shoulder as she was doing now. Ranma never did complain about it, which led a more-than-happy Shampoo to understand that she was free to share his futon whenever she so desired.
Today, Shampoo would be the first of them to awaken. Her eyes fluttering open, she let out a big yawn before leaning over and giving Ranma a loving peck on the cheek. "Morning," she whispered.
Ranma, still mostly asleep, only mumbled something incoherent in response.
Giggling at the sight, Shampoo sat up and stretched her arms out over her head. Her first order of business for the day would be to cook up some breakfast before Ranma headed off to school. With that task in mind, she pulled the futon's blanket away from herself and began rising to her feet. As Shampoo was standing up, however, her eyes suddenly went wide when she faced in the direction of the door.
Startled by the scream, Ranma sprang out of his futon in alarm. "Wh-wh-what? What's goin' on?" he groggily looked to Shampoo.
A frightened expression on her face, Shampoo raised her hand and pointed toward the corner of the room nearest the door.
Ranma, too, now looked that way, and what he saw left him aghast. Propped up against the wall with its blade resting on the floor was a large scythe. Though the blade and handle were the normal grayish color of steel as opposed to the black version he'd also seen, there was no mistaking the weapon's size and design.
"R-Ranma…that…that Yanlou, yes?" Shampoo stammered, recognizing the weapon from when she'd seen Li using it.
"It…it can't be!" the pigtailed boy exclaimed. "That thing…how?"
The first thing that struck Ranma was the state of the scythe's blade. Ryoga had blown it apart at Nekonron months earlier, and yet there it was, perfectly intact. That also reminded Ranma of something Jukai had said during their first meeting. The Chinese soldier had mentioned that he'd gone to Nekonron in search of Yanlou, but that it had vanished by the time he'd arrived there. So, Ranma wondered, how was it that the scythe had gotten here? For that matter, how had it gotten inside their room?
Ranma bolted over to the windows to survey them. They were still latched shut. If no one had used the windows, then…maybe someone had broken in downstairs and brought the scythe into the room without him noticing? He would have to check.
"Blade no is broken?" Shampoo inquired as she got a closer look at it.
Hearing Shampoo's words, Ranma peeked over his shoulder where, to his horror, he found her getting much too close of a look at Yanlou for his liking. Eager to inspect the scythe, the Amazon girl had picked it up and was now wielding it in her hands.
"Don't touch it!" Ranma shouted.
Shampoo, surprised by Ranma's booming tone, allowed Yanlou to fall from her hands down to the floor.
Hurrying over to Shampoo now, Ranma grabbed her by the cheeks and looked her straight in the eye. "Are you okay?" he asked, sounding frantic.
"Sh-Shampoo fine," the girl blinked.
"You feel weird at all? Hearin' any voices in your head or anything?" Ranma pressed her further.
Shampoo waited and listened for a few seconds, but she neither heard nor felt anything unusual, thus she shook her head in response.
Overwhelmingly relieved, Ranma peered down at Yanlou again. "Why didn't it try to take her over like it did me?" he wondered. "What's goin' on here? Why's this thing in front of me again? Why now?"
End of Interlude 2
A/N: Coming up next: Chapter 1 of "A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part III: Requiem for Youth". Let's rock.