A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part III: Requiem for Youth
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 OC's that I've added into this story. Just so you know.
The heeding of Akane's warning didn't come right away for everyone. It was understandable really to be hesitant after hearing a stranger's voice in your head telling you to leave your home behind and escape when, for most people, there was no sense of danger. Granted, the whole hearing voices thing was bizarre enough that it probably should have given the residents enough of a start to know something was wrong, but it was only after families sent representatives to check on the validity of Akane's repulsion field that the majority of people decided to take it seriously.
Word spread quickly that the field was no joke. By the time skies had grown dark, pandemonium had set in.
The whole of the Nerima Ward of Tokyo was engaged in a mad dash to gather everything important to them and get outside the field as soon as possible. They fled on foot, on bike, in cars if they owned them, one of which nearly ran over Genma Saotome in its haste.
"Watch it, you maniac!" Genma hollered at the vehicle. "I swear, everyone's gone crazy around here."
Not long ago, Genma had escorted his wife, Nodoka, to the edge of the field where he saw firsthand how it worked. Everyone was able to pass through to the other side safely, but if anyone tossed so much as a pebble up against the outside of it, it was resoundingly blown back at them.
Now Genma was rushing through the streets to get to the Tendo compound where he could check on his friend, Soun, and the others.
As he was coming up on his destination, Genma learned there was another who shared his intentions. A younger-looking man with glasses was hurrying toward the compound from the other end of the road.
At the time of Akane's ultimatum, there were still patients at Dr. Tofu's office who he had a responsibility to check up on. Once they had been taken care of, it went without saying that his utmost priority was his fiancée, Kasumi.
"Mr. Saotome, do you know what's going on here?" Tofu asked. "That person who everyone heard talking…it sounded like Akane."
"It was Akane. The girl's lost her mind, Tofu," Genma said. "You're here for the same reason I am, right? Let's not stand around, then. I'll explain everything later."
Tofu agreed, and the two of them walked through the gate and entered the home.
"Tendo, you still here?" Genma shouted.
There was no response from Soun nor anyone else as they proceeded down the hall.
"Hey, Tendo!" Genma called out again. "Did they leave already?"
"I don't think so," Tofu said. "Kasumi would have told me if she was leaving."
"Mmm…you're right. The lights are still on, too. I don't like this."
Further down, the men found what they were looking for. Soun, Nabiki, and Kasumi were all laying about the home's living area, which looked as though some degree of struggle had taken place within it.
Genma rushed to his friend's side, while Tofu went to that of his future wife.
"Tofu, how are they?" Genma asked.
"She's…she's breathing," Tofu said, relieved. He needed a moment to himself after that one. That first glimpse of Kasumi sprawled out on the floor had frightened him half to death. "What about him?"
Genma put his ear by Soun's mouth. "He is, too. What happened he-"
The elder Saotome froze, as did Tofu. As if their minds were linked, they both came to a realization: Akane had made it known earlier that she had returned, and now they had just found the Tendo family knocked out in their home. It was too much of a coincidence to look past.
"Mr. Saotome," Tofu said, "if Akane did this…"
"She might still be here," Genma finished the thought. Feeling a shiver run throughout his body, he tempered his voice to a loud whisper. "If she finds us here, we're dead men, Tofu. We need to take them and go, now."
"Right. I can take Kasumi."
Genma, his brow wrinkled, looked back and forth between Soun and Nabiki. "If it were just one or the other, this would be easy. I don't know how well I can run with both of them."
At that moment, Genma felt the splash against his face of some tea that had grown cold. Tofu, who had noticed the cup leaning against the leg of the broken table, had come up with an idea on the fly and acted on it.
Growling, Genma, now in his panda form, held up a sign that read, What are you doing?
"It's easier to carry them with that panda body of yours, isn't it?" Tofu asked.
Genma didn't have the time to be annoyed with the young doctor's actions. Throwing his sign down, he tossed Soun over one shoulder and Nabiki over the other, leading the charge out of there as Tofu followed with Kasumi in his arms.
With the exodus of residents from the area within Akane's field, countless homes and businesses were left unattended. Knowing the danger that awaited them, no one was sticking around to take advantage of the situation. It did, however, make things convenient for one Ryoga Hibiki, who had taken the liberty of crashing a well-furnished love hotel for a free night's stay.
Inside the shower of the room he had chosen, Ryoga stood in place, simply allowing the hot water to beat against his body. He wished it could wash away this nightmarish scenario he found himself in along with everything else, but that was just hoping against hope.
Tomorrow, a battle would take place the likes of which he had never been a part of, not even during his forced military duty in China: he and Meilin, along with Ranma and Shampoo, against their enemy and what may turn out to be the enemy of all mankind, Akane Tendo.
Akane. An enemy. Really, how did things end up like this?
In the midst of his melancholy, Ryoga felt an arm snake its way around his midsection from behind. Meilin, with a deliberate slowness and seductiveness, kissed her way along his shoulder. Her soaked, white locks brushed against his skin, and Ryoga felt her breasts press up against his back.
"This might be our last night together," Meilin said, her voice small.
"Yeah," Ryoga replied.
"How ever are we going to spend it?"
That got a chuckle out of Ryoga. "I wonder."
Embracing him tightly, Meilin placed her forehead up against the back of Ryoga's neck. "Ryoga, please don't hate me."
"Hmm? What's this all about?"
"You still want to save Akane, even after all she's done, don't you?" Meilin asked.
Ryoga didn't answer. Most importantly, he didn't deny it.
"I'm not as kind as you are, though," Meilin continued. "I can't forgive her for what she did to us, to you. If I get the chance, I'm going to do what needs to be done. So, please, don't hate me for it."
Sighing, Ryoga looked upward and watched the steam from the shower dance around in the air above them. "Maybe I'm crazy for wanting to help her after everything that's happened," he admitted. "Maybe I'm the only one holding out hope that there's still some good left in her. Even so, I want to find out. But, if things don't turn out the way I want them to, and if you're a part of that…even then, I won't hate you. I promise."
Ryoga turned his head. Meilin was already waiting by his shoulder, and the two of them brought their lips together.
As they broke apart, a sultry smile grew on Meilin's face. "Carry me to the bed?"
The request earned her a sly look from Ryoga. "What, now you feel like acting girly?"
"Shut up! I've always wanted to do this just once."
"Fine, fine, I get it. Consider your wish granted."
Elsewhere, inside a darkened Ucchan's Okonomiyaki—and still within Akane's field despite suggestions that she leave—Ukyo Kuonji sat at a stool, hunched over her restaurant's counter. Her hand gripped a half-filled glass. An opened bottle of whiskey sat nearby.
Her father had given her the whiskey years ago, saying they would share a drink once she reached the legal age. After today, though, seeking something, anything that could distract her from what she was feeling, Ukyo had broken open the bottle a couple of years early. Whether or not it was helping, she couldn't tell. The first sip was like an electric shock to her taste buds. A few more and she was getting used to it.
Alas, no matter how much of the bitter drink Ukyo got down, no matter how fuzzy it made her head feel, she continually found herself peeking over at the front door. Months earlier, she had watched Akane leave through that door. That was the last time she had seen her.
It was a complex sort of relationship she and Akane had had. They started out as rivals, gradually became friends when Ranma went missing in China, then fell somewhere in-between when he returned. On the night they had seen Ranma and Shampoo kissing in front of the Cat Café, well, who knew what to call them then. A rather depressing bond had formed between them as they were each able to understand the emotional pain the other felt—Kodachi could be considered a part of that as well, but she was just too out there for Ukyo to ever identify with.
Ukyo still remembered the night Akane had left as if it were just the other day. Now that she thought back on it, it was obvious Akane had changed that night. The girl's desperate plea of "come with me" had echoed in Ukyo's mind with great frequency ever since.
"I should have gone," she muttered, the glass swinging in her hand. "Why didn't I? Nothing good came from staying here. Maybe if I'd gone, I could have stopped this."
Ukyo clutched the glass tightly. "Why?" Gritting her teeth, she kicked the stool out from under her and threw the glass against the wall, watching as it shattered, spilling whiskey and sharp shards down onto the ground. "WHY?"
At that point, any loose piece of furniture, cooking utensil, or anything else she could get ahold of went flying across the room. Maybe it was the alcohol fueling her, maybe her own frustration had just boiled over, but she couldn't keep it in any longer. Eventually, she grew tired and stopped. There she stood, huffing and puffing amongst the mess her restaurant's dining area had become.
"Why did it turn out this way? Why is Akane fighting everyone?"
Dropping to her knees, Ukyo pounded her fists against the floor.
"This isn't what I want! This isn't…what I want…"
As a martial artist, Ranma Saotome seldom found anything as satisfying as a long, hot bath. It was a relaxing experience that did more to ease the aches and pains from the daily rigors of training and battle than most people knew. Needless to say, on a day like today where he had clashed with three Chinese Amazons, nearly died after having his ex-fiancée's hand drill clean through him, and taken on the heavy responsibility of stopping Jusenkyo's successor before she could rearrange the world as she saw fit, he was glad to have gotten the opportunity to enjoy a nice soak. And he had secured himself quite the fancy tub for the occasion.
With the Cat Café in shambles, Ranma had followed the same line of thinking as Ryoga and commandeered a hotel for himself and Shampoo to use tonight—a normal hotel, not of the "stay for a few hours and leave once you've done your business" variety. He had also opted for the presidential suite on the top floor, because why not, right? It wasn't like anyone was around to tell him "no".
It had been a long day for Ranma and Shampoo, even after leaving the hospital. The urgency among residents looking to leave had just started to really ramp up when the two of them returned to the Cat Café to salvage what they could from the rubble. Over the course of a couple hours, they retrieved clothes, weapons (in Shampoo's case), and other items of varying practical and sentimental value. There was one thing they left alone, though, and that was Yanlou. Akane had left the scene without either mentioning or searching for it, meaning she most likely was unaware it was in their possession. They didn't know what would happen should Jusenkyo regain control of Yanlou, nor did they want to find out. As it was, the scythe was hidden and buried, and they were perfectly fine keeping it that way.
Throughout that time and ever since they had arrived at the hotel, Shampoo had been much more quiet and reserved than usual, speaking only when she needed to. Ranma didn't blame her; he knew she was dealing with a lot after today. He wasn't any different. He still believed some resentment may have been there as well over his keeping Jusenkyo a secret for so long. Whatever the case, he knew he couldn't do anything about it sitting there in the bath.
Once he had soaked for a while and, thankfully, gotten that hospital stink off of him, Ranma decided it was time to get out. He threw on an undershirt and some dark pants he had grabbed from the restaurant's remains earlier—both still had some dust on them, but he wasn't being picky—and ventured out into the main room.
Only a dim pair of bulbs shone within the suite, with the open curtains doing most of the work in aiding Ranma's eyes. The room really was nice with its multiple sofas and televisions, a desk, and an entire kitchen setup, amongst other perks, but, outside of using the contents of the refrigerator to keep himself nourished, Ranma had no interest in most of it.
Ranma didn't spot the person he was looking for in any area of the room, which led him to the open door of the suite's bedroom. Inside, where the largest bed he had ever seen was contained, all of the lights were off. There was a window on one side of the room so large that it occupied three-quarters of the wall's space. Next to that window was where he found Shampoo standing, her body bathed in the moonlight. One of the outfits she had retrieved from the wreckage of the restaurant was a silk, turquoise-colored blouse with a floral pattern, along with matching pants, that had been protected to an extent as it was contained within a box. This was the attire she had chosen to wear after taking her own bath earlier.
Shampoo appeared to have some things on her mind as she looked out across the eerily empty city from high above, but that didn't stop Ranma from joining her at the window. As nice as the view of the sky was from there, the way the moon and scattered clouds were distorted by Akane's repulsion field was a constant reminder to them of what was to come the next day.
For a minute, the two of them just stood together in silence. Then, one of them finally spoke.
"Sorry," Ranma apologized, "for not tellin' ya about Jusenkyo earlier."
"Is okay," Shampoo said. "Shampoo no mad about that."
Ranma looked over, raising an eyebrow. "You're not?"
Closing her eyes momentarily, Shampoo shook her head. "Amazon warrior have much pride. Great-Grandmother, Mousse, Jynn…they ask Ranma no tell Shampoo because want defend land with own strength, no want ask for help. Just…Akane too strong, so no can."
It wasn't hard for Ranma to see what she meant. When it came to pride, Shampoo's village having a law that any of their warriors had to chase female outsiders to the ends of the Earth and kill them if they were defeated by them pretty much said it all.
Shampoo, raising her left hand up, placed her palm flat against the glass. "Tomorrow," she said, "Shampoo finish what Great-Grandmother and others start."
One look at her and Ranma could tell Shampoo's hostility towards Akane hadn't been quelled one bit since earlier in the day. In fact, it may have only grown stronger. "Just remember, we still got things to figure out about them. And Ringo, too."
Ranma knew there was no stopping Shampoo at this point. As his eyes wandered down to her bandaged limb, however, he wished that wasn't the case. "Hey, you sure about this?"
Shampoo flashed him a quizzical look.
"Your arm," Ranma said.
The fingers on Shampoo's right hand curled ever so slightly. Her arm, still not completely healed since the battle with Kodachi, was on her mind, no doubt about it. "What about Ranma?"
"If Yanlou spirits heal such big wound on Ranma, they no is under control good." Shampoo eyed him sharply, taking a particular interest in the jade necklace he wore. "Ranma remember what Great-Grandmother say, yes?"
Ranma touched his fingertips to one of the beads on his necklace. He didn't need to be reminded of what had happened when he had fought Mousse, nor of what Cologne had warned him about afterward. "Well, this thing was always just a quick fix to begin with. Guess it makes sense that it ain't workin' as good now."
"What happen if Ranma fight?"
The two of them looked back out toward the city. They had reasons they shouldn't fight, but they also had reasons they had to fight. Both of them understood that, and there was really nothing more that needed to be said.
"Ranma," Shampoo spoke, "…you remember night Shampoo say just want be friends?"
"Yeah, 'course I do," Ranma replied. "How could I forget somethin' like that?"
Beside Ranma, Shampoo hung her head. "Many good thing happen after that, but…many bad thing, too."
There was a clear dejection in Shampoo's voice that Ranma had little trouble picking up on. "Hey, wait, are you tryin' to say you think it's your fault all this stuff happened?" Judging by Shampoo's lack of response, Ranma figured it was exactly as he guessed. "Whoa, first of all, Li and Meilin woulda come for us whether ya did that or not. Y'know that, right?"
"And Kodachi? Akane?" Shampoo reminded him.
"Maybe! Who the heck knows? There's no point in dwellin' on things like that, Shampoo."
Though Ranma made a fair argument, he could see it did little to perk Shampoo up. He gave the back of his head a scratch. "Look, can I tell you somethin'?"
Shampoo glanced his way. At the very least, he had her attention.
"Before that night, I used to think you were…kind of a pain," Ranma admitted. "I mean, we got along okay, but you always just came off as that sneaky girl who was only followin' her village's laws and doin' what the old ghoul told ya to."
Now Shampoo could feel her spirits sinking even further. If Ranma's intention was to cheer her up, so far he was only invoking the opposite effect.
"But," Ranma went on, "after you did that, and then when we ended up in China and I got to spend some time around ya, I kinda…started lookin' at ya different. I figured out real quick you had a mind of your own and didn't need anyone tellin' ya what to do. And even though you were hurt, you still did everything you coulda done and worked your butt off gettin' ready to fight Meilin. You were so serious about that. I'd never seen that side of ya before.
"I learned a lot about ya actually, both then and after we got back. I learned you can pull off wearin' Japanese clothes just as well as ya can your ones from China. I learned you and me work pretty well together when we're beatin' up on a bunch of goons. Learned there ain't much reason for me to be scared of ya when you're a cat, too. That's a big one."
The more Ranma spoke, the more Shampoo softened, so much so that she was left hanging on his every word.
"I learned you really don't like Pop bein' around when it's supposed to be just the two of us," Ranma continued. "Learned you don't look too bad in Furinkan's school uniform. Learned you get really, really ticked when other girls kiss me. Oh! Learned you got a sister that likes to call ya Shampie."
That one, as it turned out, was going a bit too far as Shampoo, crinkling her nose, promptly drove the point of her elbow into Ranma's ribs.
"Oof! Learned that annoys ya more than anything else, too." Ranma stifled a laugh. "Ya know what, though? Most of all, I learned that all those things are things I like about ya. And I guess I learned…I really like you, too.
"So, what I'm tryin' to say is…no matter what ya might think, I'm glad you said you wanted to be friends that night. It kinda helped me see who you really were."
There was a wobbling in Shampoo's knees threatening to take away her balance. After having all that laid upon her, never before had she so strongly felt the sensation of her heart melting. She turned to face Ranma and, stepping closer, took hold of his shirt. Feeling her eyes watering, she pressed her face up against his chest where her lips curved into a smile.
"This why Shampoo love Ranma," she said.
Shampoo tilted her head upward. Cupping the girl's cheek with one hand, Ranma leaned down and initiated a kiss between them. Shampoo closed her eyes as she draped her arms around Ranma's neck, absorbed in the loving gesture to the fullest.
What came next, Shampoo hadn't expected. Ranma, wrapping his arms around her lower back, picked her up off the floor. A few steps away from the window later, he gently laid her down on the bed.
As Ranma broke away, Shampoo stared wide-eyed at the man hovering above her.
A pounding resonated within Ranma's chest, and seeing Shampoo flat against the bed, her blouse glimmering in the moonlight beneath him, did nothing to ease that. "Shampoo," he said, "you've been tryin' to get through to me 'til now, but I never felt ready. Today taught me somethin', though: if there's somethin' you really want to do, you shouldn't keep puttin' it off, 'cause you might not get the chance again."
Pushing himself up to his knees, Ranma grabbed his undershirt and pulled it off over his head, unveiling his muscular upper body. He leaned forward again, placing his hands against the bed on either side of Shampoo.
"You're the only one I wanna do this with, Shampoo," he said. "Today's been crazy, so I dunno how ya feel about it, but…if it's okay with you..."
At that moment, the only thing more significant than the blush in Shampoo's cheeks may have been the rush of adrenaline pumping through her veins. If only Ranma knew how long she had been waiting to hear those words. Settling herself back against the blankets, she smiled up at him.
It wasn't easy for Ranma to concentrate with that affectionate look Shampoo was giving him, but nevertheless, he reached for the frog closures near the collar of her blouse. Carefully, he undid the first, then the second, then the third. The zipper on the side came next as he brought it down all the way, releasing the attire's final binding.
Ranma grabbed the edge of the blouse's front side, then paused.
"Is okay," Shampoo assured him.
At Shampoo's urging, Ranma, swallowing hard, peeled away the fabric, exposing Shampoo's bare breasts before his eyes. The sight was mesmerizing. He had seen her chest on one or two occasions prior to this, but never in this sort of situation, and never with the same feelings he now held for her.
As Ranma had stopped temporarily, Shampoo took it upon herself to make the next move. Taking hold of Ranma's hand, she brought it over and placed it directly upon her left breast.
Shampoo could feel a quiver in Ranma's hand. He was nervous, but that was fine. She was, too. It was only natural.
"Ranma," she said, her voice hardly above a whisper, "you say Shampoo is only one you want do with. Is same for Shampoo. Ranma is only man Shampoo ever want. Now, always, Shampoo body is only for Ranma. So you come get, yes?"
They both felt exactly the same, and that knowledge helped to calm Ranma's nerves. Gradually, he lowered himself into Shampoo's embrace, and the two of them shared a passionate kiss.
As their lips parted, they looked into each other's eyes, both feeling the warmth of their partner's breath.
"It's just you and me tonight, so let's make sure we don't got any regrets when tomorrow comes."
"Silly Ranma, you no need tell Shampoo."
End of Chapter 5