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 7

Four days into their march to Nekonron, the group of Ranma, Shampoo, Ringo, and Jynn were making good progress. It was clear from their activities thus far that they were taking their preparations very seriously. If they weren't eating or sleeping, they were walking or training together. Although Ringo, Ranma's newly separated female half, had no thirst for combat whatsoever, she still agreed to spar with Ranma in place of the injured Shampoo during their journey. That, and she had one other notable duty.

"Whah, that's cold!" Ranma yelled, shooting up from his sleeping bag as he was suddenly awakened by a frigid water bath. He then immediately began feeling his chest. "Haha, yes! I'm still a guy!"

Ringo shook her head, looking down at the soaked Ranma. "Of course you're still a boy. Miss Aroma cured you, remember? Why do you insist I wake you up like this every morning?"

"Are you kiddin'?! D'you realize how happy it makes me to still be a guy after that?!" Ranma asked in disbelief. The initial shock of seeing his female half separated from him had worn off over the last four days. He now treated Ringo as he would anyone else he knew. To him it was sort of like having a twin sister, even though the two of them were nothing alike.

Ringo placed her finger in front of her mouth and shushed him. "Keep your voice down! You'll disturb Shampoo."

Ranma looked around inside their tent. "What? She ain't still sleepin'..."

Ringo pulled the cover of the tent open and pointed outside. The sun was just beginning to creep over the hills in the distance as Shampoo sat motionless not far from their tent. "You see?"

"She's...meditatin'?" Ranma asked, somewhat surprised.

Ringo nodded. "So let's not disturb her, okay?"

Ranma scratched his head as he looked out at the lavender-haired Amazon. "Wow, I ain't ever seen Shampoo do that before. Guess that's all she can really do right now though."

"It must be so tough on her, not being able to train properly because of that injury," Ringo said, feeling very badly for Shampoo.

"She can't train her body, so she trains her mind," Ranma noted. "She's really somethin' when she gets serious."

Ranma crawled out of his sleeping bag and began stretching. "Well, c'mon, let's get packed up so we can start walkin' again."

Now four days removed from the disappearance of Ranma and Shampoo, a large group of people had gathered inside the Cat Café. The group, consisting of Soun and Akane Tendo, Genma Saotome, Ukyo Kuonji, Kodachi and Tatewaki Kuno, Ryoga Hibiki, and Mousse, were all summoned to the restaurant by Cologne, for what reason they had no idea. Akane was still noticeably unhappy, having been worrying about Ranma for the last four days without any word of his current situation.

Once everyone had gathered, Cologne entered the main area of the restaurant and greeted them. "Thank you all for coming here on such short notice."

"You heard something about Ranma, didn't you?! Let's hear it!" Ryoga said impatiently.

"And what about my Shampoo?!" Mousse yelled. He'd been desperately wandering around town for the last four days, just hoping he might find Shampoo somewhere.

"Calm down, you two. I have received some news about them that should put all of your minds at ease," Cologne said, holding a letter up in the air.

Akane's face lit up with hope. "So, Ranma's alright?"

"Yes, both Ranma and Shampoo are alive and well for the time being," Cologne replied.

Kodachi wiped a tear from her eye at the wonderful news. "Oh, thank goodness my Ranma-darling is alright!"

"I just knew Ranma-honey would be okay!" Ukyo said happily.

"So, what has become of them?" Tatewaki Kuno asked, not particularly concerned but curious nonetheless.

"I'll explain," Cologne began. "This letter I hold in my hand was sent by my great-granddaughter, Aroma, who lives in my village of Joketsuzoku. According to her, Ranma and Shampoo showed up in the village four days ago, the very same day that they disappeared from here."

"They're in China?!" Soun exclaimed, everyone else in the room just as shocked as he was.

"Yes, it would appear this technique Akane told me she saw their assailants use was no joke," Cologne said. "There is more to this story though. This was all done by a rather skilled pair of warriors who wish to challenge Ranma and Shampoo in battle. An associate of the pair showed up there three days ago and gave them the details."

"That's ridiculous!" Ryoga snapped. "If they wanted to fight then why did they have to send them to China?! They could've just fought them here!"

"These are not your everyday fighters, Ryoga," Cologne replied. "Apparently they are exiled members of the Seven Lucky Gods martial artists, whom most of you should be familiar with. In addition to this, they are well-known murderers in China who have been wanted by the authorities for quite some time. They fought here once already, and not only was Shampoo badly hurt but Ranma was unable to defeat them as well. I can only guess that they thought the two were capable of more and wished to fight them at their best. They sent them to China so that Ranma and Shampoo would not be distracted by their lives here while they prepared for the next battles."

"Well, at least they're okay. This should be a good training opportunity for the boy if nothing else," Genma said, probably not as concerned about his son as he should be. "How long will they be gone?"

"They have been given a month to prepare, so they will be gone for at least that long," Cologne replied.

"A whole month without Ranma-honey?!" Ukyo yelled, not at all happy.

"I agree! I cannot bear to part with my Ranma-darling for that long!" Kodachi added, also very upset by the news. "And he's going to be all alone with that hussie the entire time!"

Cologne shot a nasty look at the foul-tempered gymnast. "Watch your mouth about my great-granddaughter!"

"Forget this! I'm not sitting around here while Shampoo could be in danger! I'm going to China!" Mousse declared.

"I'm going too! I refuse to wait a month to fight Ranma again! Besides, I can't let someone else kill him before I do! I want to fight him right now!" Ryoga added.

Cologne slammed her cane against the ground, silencing everyone in the room. "No! I forbid all of you from going to China! Ranma and Shampoo have said specifically that this was their fight and that they did not want any one of you to get involved."

"But...why would they do that?" Akane asked, still trying to stomach all of this shocking information that involved her fiancée.

"I can think of many reasons," Cologne replied. "For one, their pride as martial artists is at stake. They want to prove that they can defeat these new foes on their own. Secondly, they do not want any of you to go there and get hurt. If these warriors were willing to go to such lengths to set up this battle, I'm sure they would not be forgiving if any of you were to interrupt it. And finally, if any of you go there then they will not be able to focus on their training! If you go then you will not only be endangering your own lives, you will be endangering those of Ranma and Shampoo as well."

Most of the group was now looking down at the ground, upset but understanding of why they should stay in Japan during all of this. They all wanted to help, but they knew deep down that it was too risky. In this case, it would be best to just wait it out.

Cologne was pleased that she'd seemingly gotten through to everyone. "So that is the current state of things. If I receive any other information, I will pass it along to you. Until then, please stay in Japan and wait for Ranma and Shampoo to return."

"Very well then, I shall just have to put my battle with Saotome on hold for a short while. I shall smite him upon his return," Tatewaki Kuno said, arrogant as always.

Slowly, everyone began to file out of the restaurant. They were relieved, but at the same time worried about Ranma and Shampoo. Akane was still very gloomy, now knowing that she would have to go at least a month without Ranma's company. Even worse, there was the chance that he wouldn't return at all.

Ryoga wasn't very happy either, but he hated to see Akane looking like this and decided to try cheering her up. "Don't worry Akane, Ranma's no weakling. He'll definitely win and come back home."

"You're right, Ryoga. If anyone can do it, it's Ranma," Akane said, managing a slight smile. "He'll come back in a month and everything will be just like it used to be. We'll just have to keep busy 'til he gets back."

Ryoga walked with Soun and Akane back to the Tendo Dojo, deciding that he would stay a little while and keep Akane company in Ranma's absence. He was well aware that this could be a prime opportunity to move in on her while Ranma was away, but he also realized that given Akane's current fragile state, it was probably best for her sake to not make any moves.

And so, everyone reluctantly went on with their lives as usual. Things would be boring without Ranma or Shampoo for a month, but they could get by for that long. Then, as Akane had said, everything would be back to normal when they came home. Wouldn't it?

Evening had now come in mainland China where Ranma and Ringo were once again sparring after a long day of walking. Luckily for Ranma, Ringo's skill level was comparable to his own, sans the enthusiasm about fighting of course.

The sparring matches they'd had thus far involved Ranma being on the offensive the entire time. Ringo didn't have to do anything but dodge his attacks. Ranma's wounds were still slowing him down a bit, but he was just glad that he was able to train, which is more than could be said about his Amazon friend. The major problem Ranma was having, however, wasn't his wounds, but the "equipment" that he brought with him from Joketsuzoku.

Completely exhausted for the time being, Ranma fell to a knee and tried to catch his breath. "I think...it's about time...for dinner..."

Ringo was slightly winded, but was in much better shape than Ranma at the moment. "Ranma, I think those bands are a bit much for you," she said worriedly, referring to the metal bands that Ranma had on his legs and forearms. He was exhausted for good reason. Each of the bands on his arms weighed 40 pounds and the ones on his legs each weighed 50 pounds.

"Look, I need to be ready for Li this time. The more I use these, the more prepared I'll be," Ranma told her.

"Well, if you say so," Ringo said. "Are you sure you don't want me to do anything but dodge you?"

"Yeah, that's all you need to do for now," Ranma said.

Ringo gave Ranma a worried look as he made his way back to his feet. "Okay...I guess. Let's go have dinner then. I'm sure Shampoo worked very hard on it."

"Yeah, and I'm starvin'. Let's go," Ranma replied. "I hope Jynn didn't do nothin' to rile Shampoo up again."

Ranma let out a sigh as he and Ringo arrived at the campsite, noticing a familiar figure embedded into a nearby rock ledge.

"What'd he do this time?" Ranma asked Shampoo.

"Stupid boy no think Shampoo can defeat Meilin," she replied coldly.

"I...only said she was tougher than you thought..." Jynn retorted.

"Hey, you're still conscious. Good for you," Ranma laughed.

Ringo winced as she stared at Jynn's body stuck in the rock. "Oh my, that must hurt so badly."

"It's...really...not that bad," Jynn stammered, not fooling anybody about the amount of pain he was in.

"Here you go, Ranma. Shampoo make you too too delicious top ramen," Shampoo said, handing Ranma a bowl.

"Alright!" Ranma said happily. "I gotta admit, I never get tired of eatin' your food."

Shampoo giggled at the compliment and handed Ringo a bowl. "How you do against Ranma today?"

"Oh, I guess I did alright. I do so dislike fighting though," Ringo said in her usual humble manner.

"Are you kiddin'? You have any idea how fast you are? It's such a waste that you don't like fightin'," Ranma said.

"Oh, Ranma, I only seem fast because you insist on using those weighted bands," Ringo replied.

"Shampoo tell you those too much for you, Ranma," Shampoo said in agreement.

"It's fine, I can handle 'em. You guys worry too much," Ranma snorted.

Ringo couldn't help but look over at Jynn with pity. "Would you like some help out of there so you can eat with us?"

"I'll...catch my own food later, thank you. I'm not so brazen as to have you cook for me...when I'm an unwanted guest," Jynn replied.

"Well, least you understand we don't want ya here," Ranma said as he continued eating.

"Shampoo still no like you," Shampoo added, sticking her tongue out at Jynn.

"You guys...are a handful, you know that?" Jynn sighed.

"Yeah, we get that a lot," Ranma replied. "This is nothin' though. You should see us when we're with the rest of the guys back in Japan."

Ringo looked up at the moon for a moment and thought about everyone waiting for them. "I wonder how everyone's doing."

"Great-Grandmother probably tell them about what happen if she get Aroma's letter," Shampoo said.

"I bet Akane's worried sick," Ringo said with a frown.

Ranma stopped eating for a moment, his mind wandering to thoughts of Akane. Shampoo started to feel uncomfortable as she noticed his concern. She still didn't like the idea of him thinking about Akane, inevitable as it was. Still, she'd promised Ranma that she would wait for him to accept her feelings, and that's what she intended to do.

Once they finished eating and mockingly applauded Jynn for working his way out of the rock ledge, they went to sleep awaiting another long day of walking toward Nekonron.

Later that night as Jynn approached a clearing, he saw two figures engulfed in the moonlight.

"You look like you've had better days, Jynn," Li said in Mandarin, sounding amused as he looked at the crack in Jynn's mask.

"Shampoo always did have a bit of a temper," he replied.

"So it would seem. It's quite ironic that the one Meilin wishes to fight is an old acquaintance of yours," Li said.

"We never had much time to get to know each other back then. It's been so long that she doesn't even recognize me," Jynn replied.

"For you to be roughed up by an injured woman, you must not be putting up any resistance against her," Meilin said.

Jynn shrugged as he looked over at the woman with snowy white hair. "I have no reason to fight them."

"Nor should you," Li smiled. "So, how are they doing?"

"Very well considering their injuries, Ranma especially. He's been sparring with Ringo since Shampoo is still recovering from Meilin's attack."

"Ringo? Who's that?" Meilin asked.

"Oh, right, I forgot to mention that part," Jynn laughed. "Well, Ranma had a Jusenkyo curse where he turned into a girl, and Shampoo's sister used some old incense burner to separate his male and female halves."

"Ranma had a Jusenkyo curse?" Li asked, sounding surprised. "Well now, that's news to me. He must have endured his own share of suffering throughout his life. That's good, I'm sure we'll understand each other a little more because of it, although it's still nothing compared to what I've endured."

Meilin sighed as she peered over at her partner. "You still can't forget about it?"

"How could I ever forget the hatred I bear toward those people?" Li said, smiling ever so slightly.

"Oh, I should mention, they plan to visit Seven Luck Mountain very soon," Jynn quickly added.

Li seemed a bit perturbed at the thought of the group going to Nekonron. "Do they plan on asking Kirin to aid them?"

"No, I think they're only gathering information on the two of you," Jynn said.

"Well that's no big deal then," Meilin said, shrugging it off. "Even if they tell Kirin we're planning to attack them, it doesn't change anything."

Li nodded in agreement. "You're right, it doesn't matter. If it's only information they're after, I see no problem with it. In any case, keep reporting back to us on their progress, Jynn."

"I will. Would you like to know how they're preparing for the battles?" Jynn asked.

Li chuckled at the very question. "No need to ask. You know the answer."

"That's what I thought. If you'll excuse me then..."

As Jynn disappeared, Meilin smiled over at Li. "Isn't it nice giving them the advantage of surprise? It just wouldn't be fun otherwise."

"Of course," Li smirked. "After all, you never know which battle will be your last. It's necessary to make every fight as enjoyable as possible."

End of Chapter 7