Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma 1/2, or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Chapter 13: Preparations Begin

For Kasumi Tendo, the most important thing of all was family.

It was no secret that the Tendo family had seen more than its share of rough times, especially since her mother had passed away. And given the different personalities that lived beneath the roof of the Tendo dojo, she knew that it was inevitable that there would be flare-ups and difficulties. There had been before, and she knew that they would continue. This was proving to be especially true in light of the new additions to their household, and the chaos that each had seemed to bring along for the ride.

Still, Kasumi was a gentle person at heart, and she had survived knowing that her family needed each other. Each of them supported each other in their own ways, each had their own roles to fulfill, their own duties and quests. Soun oversaw the dojo, and would begin teaching just as soon as they found new students to train there, Nabiki kept a watch on their finances, and Akane was the obvious choice to carry on the dojo, to bear the next generation of martial artists at Ranma's side. That was just the way things worked.

As for her, her role to care for those who lived in her house, to make sure that meals were prepared as best as she could with what was on hand, to mend the clothes and maintain their home, and generally see to the emotional well-being of those who lived there, to help insure that they grew in the right way. And though this was challenging to the brink of impossible, Kasumi did so without complaint or hesitation, knowing that this was her role in life. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

At that moment, Kasumi was in her personal corner of the Tendo household, busily preparing breakfast even as the rest of the family went about their morning routines. Ranma and Genma were fighting in the yard, and would probably need some hot water, Ryoga and Akane were going for a running workout, with the fanged warrior showing her some of the finer points of working with weights. Soun was sweeping out the walkway, and Nabiki…well, she had no real schedule, so she just did what she did in the living room. As a result, Kasumi had the kitchen to herself, as was usual.

Or that was what Kasumi thought. Right until she heard the sound of footsteps coming up from behind her.

Momentarily wondering if someone had come to inquire when breakfast would be ready, Kasumi looked about. Only to see the very latest arrival to Nerima behind her. "Oh! Good morning, Shampoo!"

"Nihao," Shampoo replied in her native dialect. While Kasumi wasn't sure as to the exact meaning of the word, she could tell that the Amazon's greeting wasn't particularly heartfelt.

Frowning as she studied the lavender-haired , Kasumi asked, "Is something wrong? Didn't you sleep well last night?"

Shaking her head slowly, Shampoo finally eyed Kasumi. "Not sleep at all. Too much thinking to do," the Amazon murmured tiredly. "Even writing letter to great-grandmother take most of night."

"I see," Kasumi nodded, seeing how that could happen, giving the complicated nature of her situation. A situation that caused her to frown in how it pertained to her family. "Shampoo…there's something I need to ask you." A puzzled squeak escaped the lavender-haired 's lips at this. "Is it true that your laws might actually require you to marry Ranma?"

"If he count as man when he fight Shampoo, then yes," the Amazon confirmed. "Why you ask?"

"Well, it's just that Ranma is already betrothed to Akane," Kasumi explained, wanting to understand the situation better. When Shampoo gave the Tendo matriarch a look of surprise, she elaborated, "Our fathers decided that they should be married, to merge the Anything-Goes school and make sure that it is continued. So, I was wondering…what happens when you are beaten by a man who is already engaged?"

"Other engagements not matter. If great-grandmother say Ranma count as man when she defeat Shampoo, the Shampoo marry Ranma," she answered matter-of-factly.

"Oh, my," Kasumi murmured, bringing her hand up to her cheek. "I was afraid that might be the case."

"Shampoo sorry. No want cause trouble," the Amazon told her earnestly. "But have no choice. Shampoo must obey Amazon law."

Studying the woman warrior's expression, Kasumi could well see the sincerity with which she spoke. And while she wasn't happy about the situation, she knew that many countries had varying laws that sometimes didn't mesh too well with each other. And while she never expected to have to deal with such a situation herself, the stability of her family had once before demanded that she learn and adapt. This was just another case of that.

"Hmmm…still, you must realize how difficult this makes things for us. Not just for Ranma, of course, but also Ryoga, Akane, and the rest of us," Kasumi pointed out. "And from the look of you, I know you're not comfortable with it, either."

"This true," Shampoo murmured sadly. "Shampoo not know which man she belong with. Not sure…" Her eyes lowering that much more, the Amazon pressed her lips tightly together. "Saw Ryoga run off with Akane before."

"Run off? Oh, for their morning workout!" Kasumi deduced after a moment's thought. But this realization caused her to frown somewhat. "But…why does that upset you? They're just out exercising."

"If Ryoga Shampoo's husband, than Shampoo should be with Ryoga. Make breakfast, train…do everything together," Shampoo muttered her Japanese breaking down a bit more. "But…if Ranma's wife…then should be with Ranma. But…" The lavender-haired then heaved a heavy sigh, clenching her hands as if she wanted to beat her problems into submission. "Shampoo should be with one of them, but not know which one!"

If anything, Kasumi found herself becoming even more confused by the Amazon's dilemma. "But…Shampoo…" the gentle woman began, sounding out her words. "Even if you are supposed to be…engaged with one of them…that doesn't mean you have to be with him all the time! And besides, you're still too young to be married, and -!"

"No is too young!" Shampoo declared instantly, her eyes narrowing with her warrior's determination. "If Amazon is of age of fighting, is also of age of marriage! Shampoo became of age five year ago!"

"Five…?!" Kasumi gasped, bringing her hand to her cheek. "But…you would have been about…ten years old then! And…" Blinking a few times at her guest, the Tendo matriarch gathered her thoughts. "You mean…you would be allowed to get married at…?!"

Nodding, the Amazon declared, "If Shampoo is defeated at ten years, then Shampoo marry at ten years. That is Amazon law." Then she sagged somewhat before adding, "But…Shampoo never expect defeat by woman who is man."

"Oh, my," Kasumi murmured, realizing this situation with Shampoo's laws was even more complicated than she realized. "It must be difficult for you, watching them when you don't know what to do." When the Amazon gave a half-hearted nod, Kasumi gave the matter some thought. "Shampoo…if it's really that difficult for you to be here right now…why don't you stay someplace else? At least until you hear from your great-grandmother?" Shampoo made a questioning sound in her throat as her face lit up with surprise. "Don't get me wrong, I don't mind your company, but…right now, you don't even know what you are supposed to do, or who you're supposed to marry, or any of that. And you've already caused a great deal of damage to our home."

"Shampoo know," the Amazon nodded. "Will help repair house, if you like."

"Thank you. I really do appreciate the thought," Kasumi smiled, heartened by this offer. Clearly, when operating outside the dictates of her people's laws, Shampoo could be reasoned with. "But still, I don't think it would be proper for you to keep living here." Even as Shampoo was frowning unhappily at this, the Tendo matriarch smiled heartening before stepping closer. "Besides, watching Ranma and Ryoga and tormenting yourself about what to do isn't going to make things easier for you. And perhaps if you…distanced yourself from everything for a little while, it would make it easier for you to handle everything. Maybe decide what to do while you're waiting."

Pressing her lips together, Shampoo narrowed her eyes in thought. "Is…possible…" she finally murmured. "But…Shampoo have nowhere else to stay. And not know anything about Japanese law, so…"

"I see. Still, I don't think that's going to be a problem," Kasumi told her easily. "As it happens, I think I know the perfect place to stay for now."

"Really?" Shampoo got out, clearly surprised by this.

"Yes. You see, Dr. Tofu – you remember him, right? – well, he told Akane that he was interested in hiring a part-time assistant to help him in the clinic," Kasumi went on. "Now, I don't know if you know anything about medicine, but…"

"Aiyaa! Shampoo know lots about medicine!" the Amazon grinned broadly, jumping and clasping her hands together. "Great-grandmother teach Shampoo Chinese herbs and medicine! Is important teachings for Amazon womans!"

"Really?" Kasumi beamed, gratified by how perfectly this was turning out. "That's wonderful! Dr. Tofu uses medicines like those in his office! And I'm sure he could use an assistant who is familiar with them!" Giving Shampoo a moment to consider this, she then asked, "Does that sound good to you?"

Bringing her hand to her chin, the lavender-haired frowned. For several seconds she stood there, seeming to look at the situation from every angle. "Hmm…Shampoo not have better idea," she finally admitted. "And…"

Tilting her head to the side, Kasumi prompted for Shampoo to continue. "And?"

A few seconds passed with Shampoo seeming to consider what to say next. A time that was filled with the sounds of the Saotomes' morning workout. At last, she looked out the kitchen window, frowned, and shook her head. "No. Is nothing," she lied. Forcing a more upbeat look onto her face, she asked, "When we ask Dr. Tofu?"

"Hmm…" Kasumi started, considering the matter. "Well, I have some chores to take care of first, but…we could go out after lunch, if that would be alright."

"Okay," Shampoo nodded. Then her entire body went rigid, as if jolted with electricity. Just as Kasumi was about to ask what was wrong, she heard something else. A pair of voices she knew drawing closer.

"That sure was a great workout, Ryoga!" came Akane's voice. "Thanks for helping me with these new weights! It's getting easier to move with them all the time!"

"Uh, well…it was…no problem, Akane," Ryoga replied, the two of them passing by the kitchen door. "Just be careful about how you move with them at first, or…" The fanged warrior then looked in the kitchen, apparently looking to see if breakfast was ready, only to instantly lock gazes with Shampoo.

Oh, my… Kasumi gulped inwardly, taking an involuntary step backwards as she watched the two warriors exchange looks, untold emotions floating in the air between them. Neither of them speaking, but the silence that filled the air speaking volumes for them. Perhaps I should talk to Dr. Tofu as soon as breakfast is done. This is all very uncomfortable…

"Come on, Ranma! Hurry!" Akane cried out as she raced through the streets, schoolbag in hand. "We're going to be late!"

"Aw, relax, will ya?" Ranma returned as he jogged along the top of a convenient fence, as was usual. "We've got plenty of time!"

"We would have if you didn't waste so much time with getting dressed!" Akane shot back. "Honestly! Why can't you and your father find someplace else to practice? Like away from the fish pond?!"

"Hey, give me a break! The backyard has the most room for practicing!" Ranma declared irritably. "It's not like I try to get dunked in that thing all the time!"

"Well, for someone who isn't trying, you sure are succeeding!" Ryoga sniped, the fanged warrior keeping pace just behind Akane. "Every morning, it's the same thing! I'm amazed you don't get bucket duty every day!"

"You're not in a position to talk, pork breath!" Ranma countered irritably. "If it weren't for me leading the way, you'd have spent most weeks just trying to find the school!"

"Hey, don't even go there!" Ryoga countered, baring his fangs fiercely at his rival. "Besides, those days are over, so don't even -!"

"Would you two stop arguing already?!" Akane shouted, having had her fill of this sort of thing for the morning. "Look, we're late enough as it is! So would you please just save it until later?!"

A disgusted snort was Ranma's answer to this, while Ryoga gasped aloud before murmuring shamefully, "I…I'm sorry, Akane."

Darting a glance over her shoulder at the fanged boy, Akane couldn't help but smile. "It's okay, Ryoga," she told him gently. Deciding to change subject, she said, "Anyway, it's not like you had anything to do with our being late. So don't worry about it!"

"Huh? O-oh, right!" Ryoga returned, his cheeks coloring somewhat.

While Akane chuckled at how bashful Ryoga could be at times, the Ranma asked, "Say, that reminds me, Ryoga. Why exactly are you coming with us, anyway?" Two sets of eyes went immediately to the pigtailed warrior, who shrugged in response. "Well, it's not like he actually has to go. He's not enrolled in our school or nothing, and the match with Kodachi ended a while ago, so he doesn't have to play being your bodyguard anymore."

"Well, maybe I just felt like coming along! You got a problem with that?" Ryoga grumbled, an evil glare out of the corner of his eye.

"Besides, why shouldn't Ryoga come along? He can go wherever he wants!" Akane wondered somewhat irritably. Then, with thoughts of last night's absolute fiasco still burning her insides, she added, "Besides, after all the trouble we've had because of that crazy Amazon of yours, I know I'd like to get away from her as much as possible!"

"Hey, wait a minute! What's that supposed to mean?!" Ranma demanded crossly, never losing step despite his distraction. "It's not like I wanted her to show up! I've been trying to ditch her from the day I first met her!" When Akane snorted at this, the gender-bending martial artist added, "Seriously! Trying to lose her has been trying to lose a pack of wolves with raw steaks tied to your heels!"

"Oh, really?" Akane demanded.

"Yes, really! And I should know!" Ranma told her, his voice rising with his ire. "That was another of Pop's bright ideas! Thought it would it give me incentive to develop my speed!"

"That certainly explains how you got to be so good at running away, Saotome!" Ryoga sniffed, grinning wryly at Ranma.

"Ryoga, please don't encourage Ranma!" Akane told him, her eyes hardening as she glanced at the fanged boy. As Ranma celebrated his rival's rebuff, the youngest Tendo added, "And Ranma! Stop provoking Ryoga!" Aware that both males were now looking squarely at her, Akane declared, "I would like to be able to get through at least one day without any craziness or fighting or any of that! Is that understood?!" Though both boys made noises of annoyance (and in Ryoga's case, shame), they both fell relatively silent as they proceeded onward.

Despite Akane's concerns, they succeeded in reaching Furinkan High well before the bell sounded and the gate closed, and thus found many students still milling about the front yard. "Whew! Just in time!" the youngest Tendo declared as they arrived, heaving a relieved sigh. "You ready for class, Ranma?"

"Yeah, sure," Ranma returned disinterestedly. Looking around the corner of the wall as he walked onto school grounds, he had added, "Seeya later, Ryoga."

While Ryoga gave his rival a look, Akane nodded, smiling at the boy. "Right. Have a nice day."

"Right. You, too," Ryoga replied, his cheeks coloring again. Smiling broadly, Akane giggled at the fanged boy's reaction. She looked like she was about to say something, only to suck in a quick breath before lowering her eyes. "Huh? What is it?"

"Hmm?" Akane started, returning his look. Now it was her turn to blush as she shrugged and averted her face. "I'm sorry. I was just…well…I was just thinking it was too bad that you can't stay here for the day. At school, that is." Ryoga looked perplexedly at the , waiting for her to complete her thought. "I mean…you…must be lonely, staying at home all day."

Realizing Akane's , Ryoga smiled for her benefit. "Y-you don't have to worry about me, Akane," he murmured in abashed tone. "The fact is…I'm kind of…it's just…I've kind of gotten…used to it by now."

But he didn't like it. Akane could hear that reality in his words, despite the fact that Ryoga hadn't actually put it into words. It must hurt so much, she thought, the image of his wanderings as a perpetually lost boy in her mind. And then the thought of Ryoga just staying at home all day, with no place to go stung at her. Then again, it's not like he's going to be there all on his own, Akane remembered, trying to shove aside this pang of guilt. Dad's going to be there, and so is Mr. Saotome, and then there's Kasumi, and…

As this thought ran its course, Akane jumped as another image floated into her mind. An image of Shampoo, the deranged Amazon that had chased Ranma across an ocean with the intent of him, and had latched onto Ryoga the instant he had defeated her. Who was sitting in the Tendo household, trying to figure out who to kill and who to marry, and had already demonstrated a penchant for flying off the handle without any warning. And while Kasumi had mentioned that she was going to ask Dr. Tofu is Shampoo could stay with him, Akane had no idea whether or not her older sister would be successful in convincing him. And if she failed, Ryoga would be forced to either wander around town all day every weekday, or be under the same roof as a vindictive, dangerous, obsessive, seductive…

Seductive?! Akane thought, practically jumping out of her skin in realization. What the…where did that come from?! Grimacing in distaste, she quickly shook her head about, trying to rid herself of such errant thoughts.

While she was struggling with her own brain, Akane's eyes went wide when she realized that Ryoga was standing there, staring at her in confusion. "Anyway, I was just thinking that…you quit school because you went chasing after Ranma, right?" Ryoga numbly nodded to this. "Well, since you're not chasing after him anymore…why not reenroll here?"

A puzzled squeak was Ryoga's initial response. Taking a step back, he stared in surprise at the youngest Tendo. "Wh-what?"

"Why not? It's never too late, you know!" Akane persisted, warming to the notion. "You could try to take the placement test for here! Try to get in!"

"Huh?" Ryoga gaped. If anything, he was even more surprised than before. "You…you really think so?"

"Of course!" Akane beamed. "If you like, I could help you study to get ready for it! It's the least I can do for you, after everything you taught me about Rhythmic Gymnastics!"

Once again, Ryoga was floored by the idea. His cheeks coloring deeply, he brought his hand to the back of his neck and averted his eyes, grinning stupidly the entire time. "I…well, if you don't mind, then…I guess it couldn't hurt to try."

"Great!" Akane replied, almost surprised at how relieved she now felt. "How about I go to the principal's office and find out what we need to get started! Then we could start studying tonight, and -!" Akane's smile fell and went upside down when a metal scraping noise cut her off. Having a very bad feeling, she looked about, and saw that one of the janitors was just closing up the gate. "Hey! Wait a minute!"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Tendo," the janitor apologized as he finished his duty, locking the gate in place and sealing her out. "I'm just doing my job."

"But I'm not late! I was just talking to someone right here!" Akane protested, moving up to grab hold of the bars. "C'mon! please let me in!"

"Sorry. Rules are rules," the janitor told her, his bored manner making it clear that he had heard many similar excuses over the years. "If you have to jaw around with one of your friends, you should do it during free hours."

"But -!" Akane sputtered, but to no avail as the janitor walked away. Leaving her to stand there, to be penalized for a full day.

While the youngest Tendo rattled the bars, wanting nothing more than to rip them out and wrap them about the janitor's neck, a voice cut through her fury. "I'm sorry, Akane," Ryoga spoke mournfully, causing her to gasp in surprise. "This is all my fault."

Her anger momentarily forgotten, Akane turned to face the fanged boy. "No, it's not. I just…got to talking, that's all," she told him earnestly. Returning her eyes to the closed gate, she sighed unhappily. "I don't know what I'm going to do now, though."

Frowning himself, Ryoga looked at the gate that barred their way. "Well…actually, I could get you over this."

"Really?" Akane gaped. "Oh, Ryoga, could you?"

"Sure, no problem!" Ryoga answered, moving up alongside her and wrapping one arm about her waist. Holding her tightly but not enough to cause her any pain, he bent his knees slightly before looking at her. "Are you ready?" When Akane nodded, the fanged boy jumped up, effortlessly carrying her upwards.

"Whoa!" Akane, her eyes going wide as the two of them easily flew over the wall before coming to an abrupt landing within the schoolyard. But she barely felt the shock of impact, Ryoga absorbing most of the impact before her feet even touched the ground.

"There you go," Ryoga smiled as he released his grip.

"Whew!" Akane replied, turning to face her benefactor. "Thanks, Ryoga! I really appreciate this!"

"Uh, sure! No problem!" Ryoga chuckled nervously, his cheeks coloring once again. He quickly sobered up, though, and added, "Um…guess you should get going! Don't want you getting in trouble, and…"

"Right! I'm probably going to get bucket duty as it is!" Akane muttered, already seeing it coming. "Still, thanks, Ryoga! I'll see you later! Bye!"

Barely aware of Ryoga returning her farewell, Akane darted off towards the school. I really do hope Ryoga decides to enroll here, she found herself thinking. He's been so sweet and helpful…unlike someone else I could mention! Sighing in her heart, the youngest Tendo entered the school, her thoughts already elsewhere. If Ranma were that nice, I might not mind this stupid engagement business so much!

Staying just long enough to watch Akane enter Furinkan High, Ryoga then leapt back over the wall and started towards the Tendo dojo. Taking it slowly and being careful to mind all the road signs and landmarks he had painstakingly memorized while on his many walks with Akane, he made his way to the place that had slowly become his home.

As he made his way, Ryoga's thoughts slowly strayed on him, veering back towards the school he had just left. I guess haven't thought about it much since I left home, but…it sure has been a long time since I've been to school, he thought, memories of those days rising to the surface. Interacting with friends, fuming over the many impossible questions teachers seemed to delight in throwing into tests for the simple purpose of making their students' lives miserable, studying together. Of course, there were several things Ryoga hadn't enjoyed at all, like being laughed at for his awful sense of direction, and having to wear Ranma's foot marks in his hair after lunch, but…

That's right. If I'd never met Ranma, I might have a completely different life right now, Ryoga thought, considering the way things might have been. I wouldn't have this stupid cursed body, and… The fanged warrior than trailed off, this thought leading him to its logical conclusion. Because if he had never met Ranma, not only would he not have been cursed, but he also wouldn't have met Dr. Tofu, who had diagnosed the source of Ryoga's formally wretched sense of direction and improve it the point where he hardly ever got lost. He wouldn't have begun to understand why Ranma could be such a jerk at times, and most importantly…he never would have met Akane.

Still…I wonder…Ryoga thought idly. There's a whole part of Akane's life that I know nothing about. The part of her that enjoys studying, being with her friends at school, all those things… Frowning, the wandering warrior considered the matter. And…I guess I wouldn't have to put up with the kids laughing at me for getting lost anymore. But…

Exhaling sharply, Ryoga found himself giving the matter even deeper consideration. On the one hand, he owed a great deal of his strength to the fact that he was able to devote so much of his time to training, and his constant wanderings had certainly given him considerable endurance. Going to school would almost certainly take away from that.

But even as he thought of that, the image of his eternal rival appeared in his mind. Ranma was still going to school, despite his prolonged training expedition to China, and he made time for training. And as much as it goaded Ryoga to think about it, he had never been able to defeat the younger Saotome, whether in actual battle or in the sparring sessions they had at the dojo. So his wandering ways had clearly not provided him with the strength needed to finally triumph.

Still…I don't know, Ryoga thought. I guess I could put it even more time for training. I could get a serious advantage over Ranma, while he's sitting around in class. Before he could get at all excited about such a thought, the picture of the who had been so good to him came to mind. But…to be able to spend more time with Akane…to be with her more often, as a part of her campus life…

Love and revenge tearing at him with equal allure, Ryoga finally bared his fangs in frustration. "Dammit! If only I had some sort of sign! Something to…!" Then he looked up from his internal struggle, and his tongue fell flat in his mouth. "Wh-what the -?!"

Grinding to a halt, Ryoga stared in horror at what lay before him. Familiar sensations of shock, confusion, and humiliation ran through him as he stood stock-still, gazing at the very school that was at the heart of his dilemma.

"But – but I haven't gotten this lost in over a month!!" Ryoga howled in protest, raising his arms before him as if to shield himself from this reality.

Struggling to make sense of what had happened, Ryoga pushed his brain to its limits, considering the possibilities. The first to occur to him was that perhaps Dr. Tofu's treatment was wearing off. But then he shook his head, partly out of denial, for he had made his way through the Tendo household and even gone to one of the local grocers without any trouble just yesterday. Besides, I was busy thinking about what Akane said, Ryoga reminded himself, almost afraid to think about the alternative. I probably just missed a road sign, or…or…

Even as Ryoga was considering this possibility, that he had just made a minor mistake and had gotten himself turned around as a result, his mind went numb as another possibility occurred to him. To get so completely lost that he wound up here, of all places, when he had trying to choose between his feelings for Akane and his bitter grudge with Ranma? There was only one way something like that could ever happen.

"Of course! This is a sign! It has to be!" Ryoga declared, clenching his fist before him. Grunting with satisfaction, he stared at the school which was now his destiny. "All right, then! Tonight, I'll start studying with Akane, and I won't rest until I'm enrolled in Furinkan High School!"

"There!" Shampoo declared as she slid her letter into the postbox. "Shampoo hope Great-grandmother get it soon."

"So do I," Kasumi concurred, standing off to the Amazon's side. "Now that that's taken care of, let's get to Dr. Tofu's."

Nodding, Shampoo studied the gentle woman. "He won't be too busy to speak, will he?"

"Oh, no! Not at all!" Kasumi informed her with a bright smile. "In fact, his office is almost always empty when I drop by." Surprised by this, Shampoo studied the Tendo matriarch, who shrugged in response. "I'm not sure why that is, though. Just…good timing, I guess. Shall we go?"

Forgetting her momentary puzzlement, Shampoo nodded and quickly fell in step behind Kasumi. As the two of them made their way to the clinic, the young Amazon couldn't help but look about at the many people who made their homes and livelihoods within the Nerima Ward. While she had seen her share of cities in her pursuit of Ranma, she still had a hard time believing how big and crowded everything was. There were people everywhere, whether it be merchants hawking their wares or restaurant owners or people just going from here to there.

Sometimes it feels like everything away from home is big, Shampoo thought, feeling a twinge of nostalgia for the familiar surroundings of her native village. Furrowing her brows, she banished that twinge. Feelings of fear and the like were ill-befitting an Amazon warrior, and she was most certainly a warrior.

Despite this, Shampoo couldn't help but wonder what laws and codes these people lived by. If her limited understanding of Japanese was correct, she had already run afoul of one or two such laws. And while the code of her people certainly took precedence, she didn't like not understanding the people and laws of the land she was now in, or how these things impacted her own goals there.

My goals. I don't even know what my goals are! Shampoo thought woefully, thinking of the two males who had defeated her. Both of them were clearly strong fighters, and either one of them would certainly inject strong into her tribe. Allow her to give birth to many strong children. I hope Great-grandmother gets that letter soon. I don't think I'll be able to sleep until I know which of them I'm supposed to marry!

These dark thoughts hovering about in her mind, Shampoo was brought out of them when Kasumi gently announced, "Shampoo, we're here." Looking up, the Amazon saw that they had reached the clinic where she had tracked down Ranma's father. Surprised by this and a bit annoyed that she had been so lost in thought that she had been unaware of their progress, she followed Kasumi towards the clinic.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Saotome!" Kasumi spoke as they approached, Shampoo catching sight of Ranma's father, who was presently sweeping out the front of the clinic while in his panda guise.

"Nihao," Shampoo greeted him, to which the panda gave a slow wave of his paw. She then followed Kasumi in, aware of the bloated creature following them.

Once inside, Shampoo noted an elderly man sitting inside, looking at a magazine of some sort. "Good afternoon," Kasumi beamed cheerfully. The man looked up in response…and instantly paled.

"Uh – Kasumi!" the man gaped, jumping to his feet. "You…are you here to see the doctor?"

"Why, yes," Kasumi replied. "I have something important that I wanted to talk to him about."

"Oh! I – I see!" the man babbled out, stepping gingerly towards the door. "Well, it was nice to see you again, Kasumi, my dear! Have a nice day! Bye!"

Shampoo frowned as she watched the elderly man depart. Though her Japanese was faulty, she still recognized fear when she saw it. And that old man had most definitely been afraid of something. But what? the Amazon wondered. She doubted it had been her; she hadn't made any threatening gestures, and in any case, the old man hadn't been looking at her, anyway. His focus had been entirely…on Kasumi.

While Shampoo was considering this, a voice was heard from one of the rooms. "Hello? Is someone there?"

"Why, hello, Dr. Tofu!" Kasumi smiled as the door opened, revealing the doctor that had guided Shampoo to the Tendo household. "How are you doing today?

The bespectacled doctor looked about his waiting room. Then something very surprising happened. His glasses seemed to go completely opaque, and the goofiest smile Shampoo had ever seen spread across his face. "Why – um – Kasumi! Well, this is most unexpected, seeing you…here, of all places! Ah ha ha ha…"

Despite her flawed Japanese, Shampoo felt certain that there was something wrong with the way the doctor was speaking. She was about to comment about it when Kasumi replied, "Dr. Tofu, I came here because I have something very important to talk to you about." The Tendo matriarch then moved and gestured at the Amazon. "You remember Shampoo, right?"

"Oh, of course!" Dr. Tofu answered. Still smiling like an idiot, he went up to the panda now stood to her right. "H-hello, Shampoo! How've you been?" he wondered, taking hold of Genma's paw. The transformed man howled in pain to the tune of cartilage popping. "My, what nice fur gloves you have!"

If anything, Shampoo became even more confused than before. In her brief initial encounter with the doctor, she immediately recognized him as a formidable martial artist. And now he was completely falling apart, babbling incoherently and talking absolute nonsense! And how on earth could he possibly mistake a bloated, hairy animal for a fine Amazon woman?!

Unless… Shampoo thought, considering the situation even as Genma freed himself from the doctor's grip and shoved him to face her.

"Well, Shampoo is going to be staying in town for a while," Kasumi went on to explain. "However, because of her…situation…she can't stay our place. So I was hoping that she could stay here with you."

Dr. Tofu turned his blank eyes towards Kasumi, before babbling out, "St-stay…here?"

"It'd only be for a short while," Kasumi assured him. "And besides, you once said you were hoping to find someone to help you as a medical assistant."

"Oh, yes! Of course!" Dr. Tofu babbled. "I did say that, didn't I?"

No…it can't be… Shampoo thought, looking at the interplay between the two of them with increasing dread. Not here in Japan…not after all these hundreds of years! Her entire body tensing up, she focused on the Tendo matriarch. Besides, Kasumi's so passive! There's no way…she couldn't possibly have such a…

"Yes, you did," Kasumi agreed, smiling in an incredibly charming fashion. "And as it turns out, Shampoo knows a great deal about Chinese herbal remedies. I'm sure she'd make a good assistant for you."

"Uh, yes! I mean, of course she would!" Dr. Tofu replied, the perfect image of an absolute cretin. "A perfect assistant! Anybody could see that!"

"Oh, my! Does that mean…you'd be willing to let her stay here?" Kasumi gasped, clasping her hands before her.

"Absolutely!" Dr. Tofu replied. "She can stay here for as long as she likes!"

"Oh, Dr. Tofu! How wonderful!" Kasumi breathed, beaming gratitude at the man. "Thank you so very much!"

"Uh, sure! Don't mention – it's no big thing – I mean- I -!" Dr. Tofu replied jerkily, holding his hands before him like he didn't know what to do with them. All the while Shampoo continued to watch, her dread suspicion growing by leaps and bounds.

It…it just can't be! Great-grandmother told me it was just a legend! Shampoo protested inwardly, a gaping pit opening in her stomach. But…the way he's acting…he can't control his own actions, he's jabbering like an idiot, and he's even willing to let a complete stranger into his own home just because she asked him too?! Does…does that mean…?!

"This really does mean a great deal to me," Kasumi went on, moving closer and placing a hand on the doctor's forearm. Her slightest touch causing his grin to nearly split his face in half even as his body shuddered. "Really, Dr. Tofu, I can't thank you enough."

"Y-you don't need to…" Dr. Tofu tried to get out, but he was shaking too badly to do so. In mere seconds, the convulsions afflicting him caused the doctor to jump into the air, automatically grabbing hold of a lighting fixture. "In fact, I'll get her room ready right – now – I mean -!" The doctor was unable to say anything else, for the electrical current running through the light was adding to his convulsions, causing him to spasm madly.

"Oh, my!" Kasumi murmured, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that the doctor was electrocuting himself. "Dr. Tofu can be so silly at times."

Stepping backwards with a sense of growing horror, shaking her head as she did, Shampoo found herself looking at Genma, who was holding up a sign. And while she couldn't read Japanese very well, she could read it well enough to make out, 'The power she has over him is scary!'

With that, Shampoo's dread suspicion was confirmed. It…is IS! It has to be! The Yan Huanghou! The Eye of the Empress! she thought, practically cringing at the thought. The legendary technique created by Empress Xi-tai-hou of the Ching Dynasty!

As if a dam had blown, everything Shampoo had ever heard about this horrifying technique flooded into her mind. Of all the Chinese empresses, Xi-tai-hou was the least tolerant of anything male, and deemed them nothing more than puppets to be used and disposed of when she saw fit. She had developed many methods of manipulating and tormenting them, such as the woman-repelling herb Nyokenko. But of all the techniques she had developed, the Eye of the Empress was without a doubt the most terrifying. All she had to do was look at a man, and he would be helpless to do anything to resist her will. In extreme cases, when the victim was especially susceptible to this power, they were reduced to blithering cretins whose own bodies went completely out of control. Many tales had been written about the maddened antics of those pitiful souls as they ran throughout the city, acting like madmen until the influence of the Eye ran its course.

No wonder that old man ran out of here so fast! Shampoo realized, casting a nervous look at the woman who had reduced the poor doctor to the wreck that was currently smoldering on the floor before her. A woman who had risen to the position of power within her household, and obviously for good reason. He was probably afraid that Kasumi would turn the Eye on him!

While Shampoo was silently thanking any gods listening for the fact that she had been born a female, and thus immune to the Eye's horrible power, Kasumi turned to look at her. "Well, now that that's settled, why don't we go back and get your things," she decided. Then she looked over at Genma, looking completely as she asked, "Mr. Saotome? Would you be so kind as to help Shampoo with her things?"

The panda's response was immediate. He flung his paw up into a salute before casting a nervous glance at the pathetic wreck that was Dr. Tofu. I didn't even see a thing! Shampoo thought, awestruck at how simple the technique was. Either it's invisible to the eye, or she didn't have to use it because she knew Genma wouldn't put up a fight! Joining the panda in gazing at the tattered doctor, the Amazon thought grimly. Of course, if the alternative is to wind up like that, then…

Feeling a great swell of pity for the doctor, Shampoo was barely aware of Kasumi saying, "Well, then, let's get going, everyone. The sooner Shampoo's settled, the better." Not waiting for anyone else, the Tendo matriarch made her way through the door, with both Amazon and panda close behind her. As they exited, Shampoo noted a gathering of older people, mostly men, talking fearfully amongst themselves. And while she couldn't make out what they said, she certainly noticed the nervous glances they cast at Kasumi.

There's no doubt about it! It has to be the Eye of the Empress! Those poor people are all terrified of her! Even the women! Shampoo thought, goosebumps rising up from her flesh. They must know that to displease her is to invite certain doom!

As the odd threesome made their way back to the Tendo household, Shampoo found herself lost in thought. I…I never realized that there were people who had powers like that out here, she mused, darting fearful glances at Kasumi. Unable to forget how effortlessly he had crushed that poor doctor's will like a chestnut in her hand. I…I knew that Ranma and Ryoga are both strong warriors – they'd have to be, in order to have defeated me – but…

It was then that Shampoo truly realized how little she knew of the world beyond her rustic Amazon village. She had heard her share of rumors, of course, about the many strange machines and technologies, but she had always assumed that the vast majority of the people out there were pathetic weaklings.

But if that were the case, why would the elders have made the marriage laws? Shampoo thought, recalling the predicament her people were in. Her Amazon tribe had been keeping mainly to themselves for as long as anyone could remember, determined to preserve their strength and traditions from the march of time and the temptations of the outside world. But seemingly as a result of this isolation, both the skills and population of her tribe had been diminishing, and thus the elders had enacted those laws in order to draw in new from the outside world. If everyone outside the village was so weak, then why would we need outside ?

The fact of the matter was that they wouldn't. In fact, if her brief stay at the Tendo dojo were any evidence, then the martial way wasn't dying out in the outside world, it was in fact thriving. There were at least three families she knew of that could boast of powerful warriors…and where there were three, there were probably more. Possibly even a great many more.

And Shampoo was alone in this strange world. With only herself to rely until her great-grandmother arrived.

In that case, there's only one thing I can do, at least until great-grandmother gets here, Shampoo frowned determinedly. I have to train. Train as hard as I can. I have to study and master more of our Chinese Amazon techniques. That way, when great-grandmother arrives and tells me what I have to do, I'll be ready to fight…and to kill, if I have to.

While Shampoo was considering the training methods of the Amazon techniques she was aware of, a strange sound caught her ear. A sound very much like someone whooping in delight. Slowing down somewhat, the lavender-haired craned her neck as she looked about, searching for the source of the strange sound. Only to freeze in horror when she finally caught sight of it.

Dr. Tofu, the man she had only recently seen electrocuted, was running and jumping about the rooftops of the businesses lining the street. Crying out in delight as he seemed to dance about with a skeleton, completely mindless of the stares and cries of confusion that he elicited from the people about him.

As Dr. Tofu finally bounded out of sight, Shampoo stood there, trembling in horror. The old stories didn't lie. The Eye of the Empress really is a horrible power, she knew, turning to look at the woman who wielded such awful power. A woman who looked so docile and harmless, yet wielded such a skill with such utter ruthlessness.

Suddenly, I'm very afraid, Shampoo thought, praying that her letter reached its destination soon. Please hurry, Great-grandmother…

"Kaori? Kaori, are you in there?"

Kaori Daikoku didn't pause as she answered, "Yes, Father? What is it?"

Continuing her morning workout, Kaori was aware of her honorable father as he made his way into the family dojo. "Ah, Kaori, my dear, I have some wonderful news for you!" he spoke, waving his fan about for emphasis. "I just got word from my private investigator."

"About what?" Kaori wondered disinterestedly as she fired off a devastating blow at a target delivery case. "Has he gotten the dirt on Ashima Noodles so you can buy them out?"

Laughing at this implication, her father returned, "Don't you worry about that particular takeover, my dear. It's as good as settled, anyway." He then leaned in closer to her, a very familiar gleam in his eye. The gleam that appeared whenever he was about to close a very profitable deal. "As for the news I have, I believe it will be of special interest to you."

"Hmm?" Kaori returned, pausing in her workout to gaze at her father. "What do you mean?"

"Well, it seems I'm going to finally be able to cash in on an investment I made when you were just a baby," her father grinned. "I've found him."

"Found him?" Kaori repeated blankly. Then the meaning of her father's words became clear, and the long-haired beauty matched his feral grin. "So, you've finally tracked down Genma Saotome."

"Indeed, my dear!" her father agreed happily. "He's recently settled down in a new city. A small, but apparently thriving bit of real estate. Perfect for setting up a few restaurants!" Chuckling in his throat, the elder Daikoku shook his head. "Ah, Genma. To think that you actually believed that you could renege on deal with me. You'll soon learn the error of your thinking."

"And soon, I'll have a husband to help me carry on the art of Martial Arts Takeout Delivery!" Kaori grinned, making a fist as she envisioned the ten or twelve children she would soon be bearing and grooming in the way of her family.

"Quite so, my dear!" her father agreed. "So why don't you get packed and ready to go? It's time we collected your groom!"

"Right away, father!" Kaori agreed, darting off as she imagined her husband-to-be…

Author's Notes: It recently occurred to me that I've been neglecting this story gather dust for a little while, so I decided to get back on track with it. Please, read and review! And maybe check out my other stories.

Now, I know that in the anime, after Shampoo arrives and ultimately departs comes the fiasco with the Golden Pair, Mikado Sanzenin and Azusa Shiratori, despite that flashback Akane has at the time. I guess it doesn't matter, because I have no intention on fussing around with those two nut-jobs, anyway. For one thing, Ryoga's hanging around with Akane mainly as a human, rather than as P-chan, so the incident at the skating rink in which he's abducted wouldn't be likely to happen, anyway. And for another, I couldn't stand either of the Golden Creeps. Mikado's lecherous ways were totally repulsive, and listening to that hyperactive nightmare Azusa is enough to drive anyone crazy. So I hope you'll excuse me for not wanting to have to write either of them.

As for Shampoo's decision to prepare herself for battle, well, that stems from a major gripe I have with the way her character is handled. When Cologne shows up, she starts teaching Ranma and even Ryoga certain Chinese Amazon techniques. The Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken, the Bakusai Tenketsu, the Hiryu Shoten Ha, all these were taught to them by Cologne.

See, not only is Shampoo a Chinese Amazon, but she's also Cologne's great-granddaughter. And you'd think that she would know at least a few super powerful fighting techniques of her own. But the only trick she demonstrates is the memory-erasure bit with her special shampoo. Whenever she shows up, it's usually to use some potion or trick to make Ranma hers, and when it comes down to a fight, we only see her mindlessly bashing away at whatever is in her way with her maces. This annoys me. Even Ukyo, who is a cook first and a martial artist second, picks up some new tricks as the series progresses. Or am I the only one who remembers her cooking that French freak with her Batter Dragon?

So, I decided that, since I'm changing things up here, it might be interesting to have Shampoo hone her fighting skills and develop some special moves of her own. It'll certainly come in handy when she's dealing with the other rivals for Ranma's affection!

Lady Relena, I can certainly understand why you feel the way you do about Akane. The constant bickering between her and Ranma gets very irritating, very fast. But on the other hand, I guess I can't blame her for being upset, giving the conditions of her engagement aren't exactly what I'd call enjoyable. That's one of the reasons I decided to write this story, because I thought it would be interesting to put her in a situation with a pairing that I think would be much better for everyone involved. Well, except maybe Soun and Genma…those two are just so pathetic…

rewind gone nuts, it seems like a great many extremely unpleasant characters enjoy the benefit of Draco in Leather Pants, everyone from Nabiki Tendo to Sasuke Uchiha to Asuka Langley-Sohryu. It's just one of the great many things I'll never understand. As for when Cologne shows up, I do have a plan in my. I just hope it works out.

Starcalista, you'll just have to wait and see. But I'm going to be deviating from canon quite a lot here, just so you know.

Ganheim, you continue to be an excellent spotter for my various blunders. And yeah, I'm trying to get better at handling the various characters here, and the situation they're in. Just be sure to keep an eye on Shampoo! As you noted, things are going to be very interesting in regards to her!