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 8

Now a mere two weeks away from the date of their battles, Ranma and Shampoo, along with Ringo and Jynn, found themselves trekking south across mainland China. During their visit to Nekonron, Kirin had told Ranma of someone that could help him acquire power before his fight with Li. His directions were vague, however, as even he wasn't sure of the person's exact location..

"Man, we're wastin' time! Where the heck is this guy?" Ranma growled, his patience beginning to wither. His frustration with the fruitless search was becoming more evident with every day that passed. That wasn't all that was bothering him though. "Hey, he did say we were supposed to go south, right?"

Ranma looked back at the other three, but he got no response from Shampoo, who continued walking with her head down. She'd been like this ever since they left Seven Luck Mountain.

Ringo gazed over at Shampoo before looking back at Ranma. "Yes, Kirin definitely said it was this way. I'm sure we'll find his friend soon!"

Ranma reluctantly turned forward and kept walking. It was obvious that Shampoo was upset, and he had a pretty good idea what it was about, but he just couldn't think of the right thing to say to make it better.

Seven Luck Mountain came into view roughly ten days after the group had begun their journey.

"Oh man, finally," Ranma said, happy that they'd made it at last.

Upon reaching the first gate they were questioned by the brutish looking Bishamonten, who agreed to let Ranma, Shampoo, and Ringo pass. Jynn, on the other hand, was forced to wait at the bottom of the mountain due to his affiliations, which the rest of the group didn't mind at all.

As the group reached the top of the mountain and made their way to the top of the tower, they came upon the door to Kirin's chamber. Lychee, who married Kirin shortly after the group's last visit to Seven Luck Mountain, was very surprised to see them.

"Ranma!? Ranma! Lychee no see for long time!" she said excitedly, running over to greet them.

"Nihao!" Shampoo said as she walked in.

"Hiya. How's things been with you and Kirin?" Ranma asked.

"Oh, we very happy. What all of you doing here?" Lychee asked curiously.

"We need to talk to Kirin about somethin'. He around?" Ranma asked.

"What is all the commotion about?" Kirin asked as he walked into the room. He was as surprised as his wife to see Ranma standing before him. "Why, Ranma Saotome, it has been a while. What on earth brings you to Nekonron again?"

The lack of hostility was somewhat strange to Ranma considering everything that had happened the last time they came here, but it was only natural since they were on good terms with Kirin now. "Hey, long time no see. We ran into a couple old buddies of your-"

"Ranma..." Kirin interrupted.

"Huh? What?" Ranma asked.

Kirin had his eyes fixated on the shy Ringo, who started to slide behind Shampoo. "Kirin feels as if he has seen this person before, but...who is she?"

"Ah, this Ringo, Ranma's girl half," Shampoo said, sliding out of the way to give Kirin a better view of Ringo.

Ringo nervously waived her hand and smiled at him. "Um, hi..."

Kirin looked back and forth between Ranma and Ringo as he tried to understand the situation. "Ranma's...girl half? Kirin does not understand..."

"Yeah, look, can we talk about that later? We got somethin' more important to talk about," Ranma interjected.

"Yes, certainly, Kirin apologizes. Why is it that you have come here?" Kirin asked.

"The names Li and Meilin ring a bell?" Ranma asked him.

The expression on Kirin's faced turned sour as he was obviously not pleased at the mention of the names. "Tell Kirin what has happened."

After Ranma and Shampoo explained their predicament, Kirin had a pained look on his face. "Kirin is very sorry this has happened."

"Hey, it ain't like it's your fault," Ranma told him.

"Actually, Kirin fears that is not entirely correct," he replied sadly. "Very well. Kirin shall mobilize the Seven Lucky Gods to destroy Li and Meilin."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on! We don't want ya to fight 'em for us!" Ranma quickly told him. He couldn't believe how fast Kirin had decided on wiping Li and Meilin out.

Kirin shot Ranma a curious look. "Do not be foolish. This is the responsibility of the Seven Lucky Gods. We shall deal with them, so please put yourselves at ease."

Ranma was about to protest some more when Shampoo suddenly stepped forward and glared at Kirin. "Shampoo want to fight Meilin, no let you kill her before Shampoo do."

"Please no fight with each other!" Lychee pleaded.

Kirin was surprised by Shampoo's directness toward him, but he remained calm as he looked into her fierce eyes. "You wish to battle Meilin that badly?"

Shampoo nodded, prompting Kirin to turn his attention back to Ranma. "Is Kirin correct in assuming you wish to battle Li?"

"You got it," Ranma replied. "We just came to hear what you know about 'em."

Kirin quietly pondered the situation for a moment before addressing them. "If that is what you truly wish, Kirin shall not interfere. Come, let us sit. Lychee, would you please make some tea for our guests?"

Finally feeling at ease that there wouldn't be a fight in their home, Lychee happily nodded and headed into their kitchen as Kirin led Ranma, Shampoo and Ringo into another room with a sitting area.

"How much did they tell you?" Kirin asked them.

"Well, Li said he got into a fight, so you kicked him off the mountain and Meilin went with him," Ranma replied.

Kirin nodded. "Yes, it is absolutely unforgivable to draw your weapon on another member of the Seven Lucky Gods. Therefore, Kirin exiled him from the mountain. It is regrettable that Meilin went with him, such a fine warrior as she was. Kirin has doubts that Monlon told you, but Meilin is actually her younger sibling."

Everyone was surprised to hear this, Shampoo more than any of them. They did have a very similar ferocity to them, she thought, but their morals were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, when the group reached the fourth gate earlier and told Monlon why they were there, she very sternly told them to go ahead and leave her be. That strong reaction made sense now. "Why Monlon no tell us that?"

"Monlon has tried to forget about Meilin since she feels that Meilin brought disgrace upon the Seven Lucky Gods," Kirin replied. "She is a very dedicated warrior and does not take lightly any wrongdoings. She and Meilin were very close though. On the day Meilin left this mountain, Kirin believes Monlon lost her smile."

"That must be very hard on her," Ringo said sadly.

"We must all deal with hardships at some point in our lives," Kirin said.

"Okay, so what about Li?" Ranma asked.

Kirin let out a deep breath and thought about the man who left many years ago. "That man has probably endured more hardships than any of us."

He proceeded to tell the group about how Li not only watched his parents be murdered before his eyes, but was also accused of committing the act in his village when he was younger. Kirin met Li before he took leadership of the Seven Lucky Gods, having found him wandering through a nearby forest after Li had run away from his village. Unlike the other guardians at the mountain, Li treated Kirin like he would anyone else instead of treating him like royalty, and the two quickly became friends. Kirin then convinced the mountain's guardians to train Li as a guardian as well. Eventually some people from Li's village came looking for him, having learned that they'd wrongly accused him and that a pair of thieves had actually murdered his parents, but he still held a grudge against them and refused to go back.

"That very sad story," Shampoo said. "Why Li change to what he is now?"

"It is understandable how someone with such a troubled past could become twisted as he has, but Kirin believes there was something else influencing his personality. That something is the crescent scythe he wields, Yanlou," Kirin said.

"Yanlou?" Ranma asked.

Kirin nodded. "That crescent scythe is a cursed weapon that had been in safekeeping here in the tower for centuries. It is a demonic weapon that, according to legend, takes hold of the hatred in one's heart and amplifies it greatly. Because Li's heart was so full of hatred for his former village, Yanlou chose him as it's master. All of the knowledge and power of the spirit possessing that weapon became a part of him."

"Is that when he tried to fight Bishamonten?" Ringo asked.

"No, that actually happened much later," Kirin replied. "Much to our surprise, Li appeared to be in control of that weapon. Once he was an accomplished fighter and Kirin took the role of leader of the Seven Lucky Gods, we placed Li and Meilin as the guardians of the first gate. Over time, however, Li became increasingly irritable and violent with people who came to the mountain. Then one day the incident with Bishamonten occurred. It was difficult, but Kirin had no choice but to banish him from the mountain."

"So they were gonna get you guys back, but they decided to fight us first because of what we did that one time," Ranma said.

"That would appear to be the case," Kirin replied. "It is all a very unfortunate incident. The two of them would have made fine guards."

Lychee entered the room with several cups of tea on a tray and happily placed a cup before everyone seated.

"Thanks, Lychee," Ranma said as he began sipping at it.

"Ah, she seems interested in you, Ranma," Kirin said, staring down at Ranma's feet.

"Huh? Who?" Ranma asked. When he looked down, his face went pale as he saw a white cat sniffing at his leg. "C-c-c-cat!"

Kirin was startled as the screaming Ranma jumped up from where he was sitting and cowered behind him. "Ranma, what is the meaning of this behavior?!"

"There's a cat! Right there!" Ranma yelled in fright.

"Kirin is aware of that! What is the problem?!" Kirin snapped.

Shampoo placed the cat in her lap and began gently petting it. "Ranma...no like cat very much."

"That was not a scream of dislike, that was a scream of absolute terror," Kirin said, staring at Ranma.

Ranma began to calm down once Shampoo had seemingly neutralized the feline. "My stupid father put me through some Cat Fist training when I was six, okay?!"

Kirin narrowed his eyes as he stared over at the frightened Ranma. "Cat Fist? And yet you are still afraid of cats..."

"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?!" Ranma asked him.

Kirin sat quietly, thinking to himself for a moment.

"Hey! I asked what that was supposed to mean!" Ranma repeated.

"Ranma, Kirin may know a way for you to improve your chances against Li," Kirin said to him.

"What, some kinda technique?" Ranma asked.

"That is correct," Kirin said.

"No thanks, I don't need it. I'll beat him no problem," Ranma said, disregarding the offer.

"Oh? Tell Kirin, what color was Yanlou when you fought Li before?" Kirin asked.

Ranma thought back to his first encounter with the ex-guardian. "That scythe? It was just gray, silver, whatever..."

Kirin let out a sigh as he continued to peer over at him. "As Kirin thought, you were not able to push Li far enough to make him awaken Yanlou. Skilled as you may be, Ranma, you are vulnerable to Li's long range attacks. And if he were to awaken Yanlou, Kirin believes your death would be imminent."

Shampoo and Ringo were noticeably uncomfortable listening to Kirin talk about Ranma dying. Ranma didn't much like Kirin's analysis of things either, but he was well aware of his vulnerabilities to Li's energy crescent attacks. "Wait a sec, what do you mean by that scythe awakening?"

Kirin looked somewhat disturbed as old memories came back to him. "Kirin only saw it happen once. When Li first took hold of Yanlou, that scythe awakened. Or, to be more precise, it was as if Li let himself be consumed by Yanlou's power. He went into a rage that took several of us a number of hours to stop. Once we subdued Li he was able to regain his composure, but Kirin believes that should Li be pushed to his limits Yanlou would awaken once more."

Ranma was beginning to understand the severity of this a lot better after seeing Kirin's reaction. "Was it really that bad?"

Kirin nodded in reply. "Kirin believes there is a way to greatly help you. But, Ranma...do you think you could do something in mere weeks that takes some men decades?"

"D-decades?!" Ranma stammered, his initial surprise then turning into a cocky laugh. "Of course I could! Heck, I could have it down in a few days! But...Li's really that dangerous, huh?"

"He is. Kirin is going to give you directions to find an old friend of his. Yousuke is his name. He is a Japanese man, like yourself," Kirin said.

"And he'll help me learn this technique?" Ranma asked.

"Most likely he would refuse, to be honest. However, if you mention Li to him, Kirin believes he will agree to teach you," Kirin replied.

"Well, it's worth a try I guess," Ranma said, standing up and beaming confidently. "Try to do somethin' in weeks that can take some guys decades? No prob!"

"Very well. Kirin is glad he could be of assistance to you. Kirin wishes you luck in your battle, Ranma, and you as well, Shampoo," he said.

"You no worry, Shampoo and Ranma win for sure," Shampoo told him.

"You come back and visit when you done, okay?" Lychee suggested.

"Yeah, you bet," Ranma smiled.

Once they got directions to find Kirin's friend and left the chamber, Ranma and Ringo began walking down the tower's stairs again, but Shampoo remained standing next to the door in silence.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Ranma asked.

A sad smile crossed Shampoo's face as she looked at him. "Shampoo just think it funny is all."

Ranma looked puzzled, not understanding what she meant. "Huh? What's funny?"

Shampoo walked right past Ranma and began descending the staircase. "Is funny...Shampoo cursed to turn into what Ranma hate more than anything."

Ringo watched Shampoo with concern before turning to the pigtailed boy. "Ranma..."

Ranma just scratched the back of his head. He was completely caught off guard by the sudden change in attitude, and he had no idea what to say to her. "Jeez, it ain't like it's my fault..."

Now a number of days since their visit to Seven Luck Mountain, the group pressed forward in search of the man named Yousuke. While Shampoo continued to walk behind everyone else, Ringo moved up next to Ranma and put her mouth next to his ear.

"Ranma, shouldn't you say something to her?" Ringo whispered.

"Like what?" Ranma whispered back.

"Couldn't you apologize to her?"

"For what? Being afraid of cats? Forget it!"

"But, Ranma..."

Their whispering was interrupted as Jynn suddenly came to a stop, looking off into the distance. "Ranma, there is a hut up on that hill. Perhaps we should go ask for directions?"

Using his hand as a visor from the sun, Ranma looked up at the hill that Jynn was talking about and saw that there was indeed a small hut up there. "Hey, there really is one. How'd you see somethin' that far away through that mask anyway?"

"Magic," Jynn replied.

Ranma leered over at him, not amused by the sarcastic remark. "Ha ha, funny. Come on, let's go see if they know this Yousuke guy."

As they approached the hut, the group noticed that it was very old and run down. The wood of the hut was rotting and part of the roof appeared to be caved in.

"Man, what a dump..." Ranma said.

No sooner had he finished his sentence when he felt the ground give way beneath him.

"What the-?!" Ranma shouted.

Everyone turned and looked as they realized that Ranma had fallen victim to someone's pitfall.

"Ranma, are you okay?!" Ringo shouted from above as she looked in.

"Oww..." he groaned. "Who the heck put a pitfall here?!"

"Maybe the people that live here did it," Jynn commented as Ranma hopped out of the pit.

"But this is the middle of nowhere," Ranma said, brushing himself off. "You gotta be pretty paranoid to build traps out here."

"Where there is one, there may well be more. Try to watch where you step for the rest of the way," Jynn replied.

"You don't need to tell me that, you jerk! I know what I'm doin'," Ranma snapped. "C'mon, let's get movin'."

The group cautiously resumed their ascent of the hill, but saw no signs of traps for several minutes.

"Maybe the pitfall was the only trap..." Ringo said as she looked around.

"Coulda been, but don't let your guard down yet," Ranma replied.

After a few more steps, Ranma caught something out of the corner of his eye. There was something very small reflecting sunlight back at him from the ground to his left, which just happened to be right in Ringo's path.

"Ringo, stop!" Ranma quickly yelled.

It was too late though. As Ringo's foot came down on the object, an explosion of smoke engulfed the entire group. They all heard what sounded like the clanking of metal bars as the smoke began to clear.

Ranma had an annoyed look on his face as he saw that he and everyone else were now enclosed in a shabby looking metal cage.

"You've gotta be kiddin' me," he said, noticing the rusted bars on the cage.

"I'm so sorry! I can't believe I did that," Ringo cried.

"The quality of this thing is horrid," Jynn said, looking at the bars with disgust.

"Why bother make such stupid trap," Shampoo said, pulling out one of her maces. With one swift blow, Shampoo caused a side of the cage to rip off from the rest and go flying down the hill. She might not have been in the best mood, but at the very least her physical condition seemed to be returning to normal. The group quickly filed out of the cage and looked around for any further traps.

"Ringo, be more careful where you step," Ranma said, leering over at her.

"S-sorry," Ringo apologized again.

"I'm gonna give these people an earful when we finally make it up there," Ranma snorted as they continued on their way. Much to their relief, there were no other traps along the rest of the route to the hut.

"Huh, guess that wasn't all that bad," Ranma said once they reached the hut. "Let's find out who these paranoid nuts are."

Shampoo stepped up to the door and knocked on it a few times. "Hello, is anyone here?" she called out in her native Mandarin language, but there was no answer. She tried again and waited a few seconds, but still no response.

"Forget this!" Ranma said suddenly. "I'm gonna peek inside and see if they're here."

"Are you sure that's okay, Ranma?" Ringo asked nervously.

"Hey, they made us go through their stupid traps to get here. I don't care if it's okay or not," Ranma said sourly.

As he opened the door and peeked inside, Ranma was petrified with fear at what he saw. Hundreds of little yellow eyes were leering back at him from the inside of the shabby hut. Ranma immediately turned around and ran screaming down the hill with every ounce of energy that he had while an army of cats charged out of the hut and ran after him.

Shampoo, Ringo and Jynn stood at the entrance to the hut and watched in astonishment as Ranma ran away frantically.

"What those kitty cat doing here?" Shampoo wondered aloud.

"I can't believe this pathetic man is the one Li is so eager to fight," Jynn said as he continued to watch the pigtailed boy.

"Hey, who's that?" Ringo asked, pointing out a person that was now standing in Ranma's path. It was a heavy set, middle-aged man that looked to be a bit taller than Ranma and had short black hair and a mustache. He had brown farmer's clothes on and was carrying a pack full of vegetables on his back.

Ranma was so focused on running that he didn't even notice the man standing at the bottom of the hill. As he was about to pass him, the man stuck out his arm and clotheslined Ranma, sending him to the ground with a loud thud. He continued to slide along the ground as all of the cats stopped in front of the unknown man. Finally coming to a halt, Ranma slowly stood up while holding the back of his head.

"What the heck did ya do that for?!" Ranma yelled at the man. The others had all run down from the hut to see what was going on.

The man looked over at them and scratched his head. "What's this guy's problem?"

"Huh?! What'd he say?!" Ranma asked, looking over at Shampoo for a translation since the man was talking in Mandarin.

Shampoo ignored Ranma for the moment and looked over at the man. "He is short-tempered and is upset that you hit him."

"Is that so?" the man replied. "Well I'm not too happy you folks were invading my home either!"

"Hey, quit ignorin' me!" Ranma snapped. "Were you the one that put those stupid traps there?!"

"Traps?" the man said in Japanese. The others were somewhat surprised that he could speak Japanese since he didn't respond to Ranma's complaints at first. "Oh, I remember now! I buried a couple things here a few years back to see if anyone was stupid enough to actually get caught in them. I'm sorry about that, it was just a little harmless fun."

"Fun, huh?!" Ranma said angrily. He'd heard enough. He lunged at the man with the intent of beating him half to death. But before he got the chance, the man's eyes changed. One look from them sent a paralyzing fear down Ranma's spine that caused him to fall to the ground.

Shampoo, Ringo, and Jynn had no idea what had just happened to Ranma, but the rough looking man seemed intrigued by what he'd seen.

"Who sent you here?" the man asked Shampoo, once again in Mandarin.

"Kirin of the Seven Lucky Gods sent us to find a man named Yousuke," Shampoo told him.

The man snorted and began walking up the hill. "Kirin should know that I don't teach youngsters anymore. Leave here this instant."

The group now realized that this man was the Yousuke that they were looking for. As Kirin had said, he didn't seem willing to teach Ranma anything. While he continued walking, Ringo ran up in front of him to block his path.

"You're Yousuke, aren't you?! Kirin said to tell you that Ranma's going to fight Li..." Ringo told him, hoping he would change his mind.

Yousuke's eyes shot open at the mention of the name. He then turned around and looked back at Ranma. "You're Ranma, I assume. Was Li the one who challenged you?"

Ranma, still incredibly confused about what just happened to him, managed to stand himself up. "Y-yeah, he did..."

Yousuke let out a sigh and closed his eyes for a moment. "My sins just keep piling up, don't they?"

The group looked at each other for a moment, unsure what to do as Yousuke quietly walked up to his hut. Once the cats saw him walking up the hill, all of them stood up and ran past Yousuke to the other side of the hill behind the shack.

"Well, don't just stand there, get up here!" Yousuke yelled at Ranma and the others.

Ringo looked over at Ranma for some sort of response. "What should we do, Ranma?"

"He's the one we're supposed to see, right? We're followin' him," Ranma replied without hesitation. "Besides, I wanna know what the heck he just did to me..."

Ranma started walking to the top of the hill once again with Shampoo, Ringo, and Jynn right behind him.

Yousuke sat down at his makeshift wood table where the rest were seated and proceeded to introduce himself.

"As the young lady said, I'm the Yousuke you're looking for," he said, then turning his attention to Ranma. "You were put through Cat Fist training?"

"Yeah, how'd you know that?" Ranma asked him.

"How long until you have to fight against Li?" Yousuke asked.

Ranma was a little annoyed that he wasn't answering his question, but he decided he wasn't going to push his luck with this guy. "About two weeks..."

"Is that all?" Yousuke asked, seemingly not happy about the short length of time.

"Um, sir, Kirin said you could teach Ranma something?" Ringo asked him.

Yousuke let out another sigh as he looked over at Ranma. "Tell me, what do you hope to achieve in life?"

"Huh? What kinda question is that?" Ranma asked him.

"Answer me!" Yousuke yelled back at him.

This guy really was serious, Ranma thought to himself. "I guess...I just wanna get stronger. No, I wanna be the best martial artist in the world!"

"Idiot..." Yousuke muttered.

"What was that?!" Ranma asked, upset over the insult.

"Do you know what happens when your goal in life is something like to be the strongest or to be the most powerful?" Yousuke asked him.

Ranma blinked a few times, not sure what he was getting at. "What?"

Yousuke slammed his palms on the table and got right in Ranma's face. "YOU END UP LIVING ALONE IN A RUN DOWN SHACK IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH A BUNCH OF CATS!"

Everyone was so startled by the sudden outburst that they fell back to the floor.

"Honestly, I'd normally never teach an idiot like you anything!" Yousuke fumed. "There's more to life than strength, understand?! Strength alone won't make you happy!"

Ranma just gulped and nodded his head quietly, trying to avoid another one of Yousuke's outbursts.

"Good, if you understand then follow me," Yousuke said, standing himself up. "The rest of you stay here."

"Man, what's with this guy?" Ranma muttered. Despite his complaints about Yousuke's attitude, it seemed like he was willing to teach him whatever Kirin had sent him here to learn. After getting an assuring nod from Shampoo and Ringo, Ranma stood up and followed Yousuke out the door.

Yousuke and Ranma walked around the hut until they were on the side opposite of the entrance. All of the cats that had run up the hill earlier were laying around here, a fact that didn't please Ranma at all. His first instinct was to run, but Yousuke grabbed his shoulder to stop him.

"Did you ever read the Cat Fist training manual?" Yousuke asked him.

Ranma was shivering with fear, but he still managed to answer. "N-no, it was my stupid Pop that put me through that when I was six..."

"Is that so? Did he ever tell you what the last page said?" Yousuke asked.

Ranma tried to recall what Genma had told him regarding the manual. "S-somethin' like nobody was dumb enough to actually use that training method..."

Yousuke nodded. "And what do you think of that?"

"I think my Pop's a moron for not readin' it first!" Ranma snarled.

"It's a test, Ranma," Yousuke told him.

Ranma looked at him in confusion. "A...test?"

"Someone could easily read the entire manual and then give up on it after reading the final page. But you have to read between the lines sometimes," Yousuke said.

"W-what do you mean?" Ranma asked curiously.

"Do you give up, believing there really is nothing there, or do you go through with it anyway, believing there is something there? Something like that," Yousuke replied. "Or to those like you, who have gone through the training already, do you accept the fact that the training was foolish and that you gained the Cat Fist technique as a result, or do you believe there is more to it?"

Ranma was starting to see where this was going. "You're sayin'...there's more to it?"

"You saw my eyes earlier, didn't you? What did they remind you of?" Yousuke asked him.

Ranma recalled that sight that had put so much fear into him. "They looked like...the eyes of a c-cat..."

The older man in farmer's clothes chuckled to himself a bit. "It's rough being petrified of cats, isn't it? So the question is, do you accept that you're going to be that way for the remainder of your days, or do you overcome it?"

"Overcome my fear of cats?" Ranma asked, again looking at the horde of cats in terror.

"That's right," Yousuke replied. "While the Cat Fist itself is indeed a viable technique, it was never meant to be the end. When someone who endured that training overcomes their fear of cats, they acquire a power that is truly terrifying. It's not the Cat Fist, but rather something completely different. The proper name people like myself prefer to use for it would be...the Tiger Claw Style."

"T-Tiger Claw Style?" Ranma asked, his eyes still fixated on the field of cats. "You're sayin' I need to get over my fear of cats to learn it?"

"That's it," Yousuke told him. "It sounds simple enough, but surely you know how difficult it is after going through what you did."

Ranma was confident up until now, but this wasn't what he was expecting. If there was one training that he couldn't deal with in the world, it was something that involved cats. "H-hey, why'd you tell me about this?"

Yousuke was silent for a moment as he stared up into the sky. "Li being the way he is now...it's something which I'm partly responsible for. I would fight him myself, but my fighting spirit is something I threw away a long time ago. This is all I can do now."

Ranma was about to say something to him, but Yousuke had already turned around and began walking away.

"I'll tell you right now, Ranma, you need to succeed in this training to be able to defeat Li," Yousuke said to him. "Some people can't ever succeed, but you need to do it in two weeks. So get to it!"

Ranma was shaking at the very thought of it, but he still managed to utter a response. "D-damn right! I'll do it! I ain't lettin' a bunch of c-c-cats beat me!"

Yousuke managed a slight grin as he walked back inside the hut, leaving Ranma alone with the cats and a heavy burden on his shoulders.

"Dammit, why cats, of all things?" Ranma wondered aloud. "It couldn't possibly get any worse than this..."

End of Chapter 8