Chasing the Rainbow
Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½ or any related characters in any way, shape or form.
Author's Notes: Okay, it has been a really long time since we updated, and I'm sorry about that. Real life troubles have kept us from being able to communicate with each other, and so this chapter languished in development hell for a while.
Chapter 25: Another Bad Vacation! Togenkyo Island Blues Part 1!
Kuno led the way down the private dock in triumph, chest swollen with pride and smiling fit to make the top of his head fall off. Finally, he and Akane Tendo were going to have a romantic day alone together - just her and him, out there on the ocean blue in his beautiful new yacht, the Lady Binsense, painstakingly purchased after the wrecking of his precious Subdragon the 5th.
The only problem was that he had not been able to find the elusive pigtailed beauty to join them as well. Well, that, and one other thing...
"Kuno-baby, I should thank you for inviting us along." Nabiki snarked, smiling smugly as she walked alongside her family members; also present was a smiling Kasumi and a cheerful Soun Tendo. The fact was that Kuno had failed to specify just Akane, and the girl had promptly decided that her whole family should come along.
Ah well, the sacrifices made for love.
"Well, how could I refuse Akane's request? Besides, it would be a nice holiday away from the house am I correct?" Kuno laughed even as he inwardly groaned at having to put up with Nabiki. Still, the Lady Binsense was just around the corner and it was a large yacht so there would be enough space to keep contact at a minimum.
He was entertaining the thought of showing off his supreme sailing skills when the group turned the corner to the Lady Binsense's mooring and the group stopped dead as Kuno spluttered in shock.
"WHERE'S MY BOAT?"
A nearby Kuno family worker walked up to him, "Lady Kodachi left this for you." Kuno took the offered letter with trembling hands.
My dear brother, I have taken the boat to spend a romantic day sailing with Ranma. Much love, Kodachi. PS. You wouldn't have enjoyed yourself anyway."
Kuno quietly handed the note back and walked into the nearby office and locked the door.
Nabiki hmmed, "What do you think he's going to do now?"
Kuno's scream answered her question nicely.
Meanwhile, miles out to sea...
Shampoo flung her hair dramatically in the billowing wind, eyes lidded until they were half shut and lips pursed slightly in a pose that would have had the average guy killing for a camera… especially because her only apparel was a strange combination of a teeny little two-piece red bikini and shorter, cleavage-baring variant of the shirt & miniskirt combo that usually comprised her outfit when working at the beach. Her current fellow passengers, though, were not quite so impressed.
"Give it up, kitty cat, we ain't on no movie shoot here." Ukyo told her.
"Ukyo just jealous her hair not as long and pretty as Shampoo's." The Joketsuzoku replied, not even bothering to open her eyes or look at the Osaksan chef.
"She is hardly deficient in terms of hair herself, both amount and in beauty." Kodachi interjected, much to Ukyo's surprise.
She stared at the younger Kuno sibling, who blushed and looked away. "...Was that a come on?" She finally asked, in disbelief, looking as though she wanted to cover herself up. As well she might, given she was currently dressed only in a very daring string bikini ensemble – all of her fellow passengers had been quite surprised to see that she had clothes so… naughty.
"Don't be absurd!" Kodachi immediately retorted, her cheeks flushing. "I was merely trying to pay you a compliment, that's all. Ignorant peasant." Ironically, Kodachi was the most conservatively dressed, despite the fact that the last time she and the others had been on the beach together, she had been the most skimpily dressed.
"Shampoo thinking Kodachi not have much chance to say nice things for people in past." Shampoo noted casually. "That said... why Kodachi invite us here, anyway?"
"You saying you aren't enjoying being on the ocean, out of Nerima, in the worst heatwave of the summer?" Ranma called from where he was manning the steering wheel.
"Shampoo not say that. Just wonder why Kodachi ask us to come as well as Ranma."
"Can I not do something nice for my rivals? We may have opposing goals in this matter, but that does not mean we cannot be friends, now does it?" Kodachi asked with wounded pride.
"What she means is that she figured we had a good chance of finding out and sinking the yacht if she tried to steal away with Ranma-honey, so she decided it'd be better to just ask us along." Ukyo replied. She promptly turned up the volume on the radio sitting beside her, coincidentally drowning out any less than polite retorts Kodachi may have had for her.
"If you girls don't play nice, I'm going to turn this boat around and we can go home." Ranma called out, playful - and hardly able to believe he could be so casual when in the company of all three of his would-be fiancees.
"Yes Ranma." Was the chorus that met his proclamation, making the three girls sound like schoolchildren. Especially when they promptly started giggling madly afterwards.
Ranma ignored this. "Hey, Ucchan, change the channel to the weather forecast, will ya?" He called out.
"What for, Ranma-honey? We took a whole different direction. I mean, none of us want to end up on Togenkyo." Ukyo asked.
When Kodachi had tried to collect Ranma, she had done so last of all. Meaning all three girls had been witness to the surprise of Ranma being very reluctant to come near the Lady Binsense. Finally, Ranma had explained that during his mysterious "vision-quest", he had been given a glimpse of a turn of events very similar to this, which had ended up with all of them, save Kodachi who had somehow not been involved, being kidnapped by the women-starved raiders of the floating island of Togenkyo. They had all easily agreed that they did not want to visit that place, and so it had been no sacrifice to promise to listen to Ranma's advice and try to avoid the storm that had "originally" shipwrecked them near the cursed landmass.
"I just think it would be a good idea to check the weather. I mean, we are on the sea; a storm far off may still drive us in a direction we don't want to go." Ranma explained.
Kodachi laughed - to the surprise of Ranma and the other two girls, in a far less high-pitched, obnoxious cackle then she usually did. "My darling Ranma, you worry too much. I am an expert sailor; allow me to reassure you that there is nothing to worry about." She boasted.
"Shampoo not so sure about that..." The Chinese girl stated.
"I gotta agree, Ranma-honey. Kunos aren't exactly known for their modesty." Ukyo said, though she didn't make any move to change the channel on the radio. This was one of her favorite songs that was playing, after all.
"I assure you, everything will be fine." Kodachi said, waving her hand in dismissal of their concerns. "Now then, Ranma darling, please engage the automatic steering mechanism and join me in some lunch."
At that, Kodachi's rivals both perked up. "Your cooking? Sounds good to me." Ukyo said, happily switching off the radio.
"Ukyo not have any pride in own cooking skills?" Shampoo asked, sounding a little disdainful.
"Hey, free gourmet cuisine is nothing to turn your nose up at, kitty cat." Ukyo replied.
"Hmph." Shampoo made her opinion clear but began heading down as Ranma flicked a switch and hopped down to the cabin as Ukyo turned off the radio and got up as well.
"Geez, do you always pack enough to sink this place?"
"A well-stocked galley is the best defence against the doldrums, plus I needed to take my Ranma-darling's appetite into account."
"Hey! I don't eat that much!"
"Yeah, Ranma eat more!"
And so, with an air of squabbling that was yet somehow friendly, the quartet sat down to enjoy a meal. While they were occupied, though, none of them noticed the strange current that came out of nowhere, enveloping the boat and leading it far off course, the auto-pilot not being able to correct its course the way that a human pilot would. Thusly, when the first of the group left the mess...
"What on earth?" Ranma's voice bellowed in confusion, bringing the girls racing out to join him. They found him standing at the rail, staring in horror at an island now lying before them - and one that they had been nowhere near before they had gone down to eat.
"Oh great, we drift off course." Shampoo stated. "Still, is not so bad - we can find out where we are, yes?" She asked, hopefully.
"It's worse then that, Shampoo. Look!" Ranma stated, pointing dramatically.
The three girls curiously followed his pointing finger, following it past rocky beaches and dense forest to... "Is that a green mountain?" Ukyo asked, confused.
"It's a peach tree - a giant peach tree! This is Togenkyo!" Ranma groaned.
The three girls swallowed nervously, Ranma's story coming back to them. "The... men
living here don't really kidnap girls and take them to wife, do they?" Kodachi asked, timidly.
"Yes they do! Shampoo hear stories of this place when Shampoo was little girl. Is too-too bad place for womans." The Chinese girl declared.
Suddenly something hit the water and exploded, sending a spray of salt-water into the air, and prompting the group to reflexively duck as Ukyo looked up at the island, "What the hell was that?"
Ranma shook his head, "I don't know, but we'd better get out of here!"
"Right!" The girls rushed to get the yacht ready to leave when suddenly another explosion rocked the boat and threw them into the water.
"Oh… why does this always happen to me?" Ranma asked, spitting out a mouthful of salt water – she was too used to the taste from previous experiences to let it bother her that much. Another explosion struck the water not too far away, sending a great plume of water splashing over Ranma's head. She choked and spluttered, then looked around in concern. "Girls! Are you alright?"
"We're fine, Ranma-honey – hey, where's Shampoo?"
"Hold still, you lowbred animal! I am trying to save you!" Came Kodachi's indignant voice, Shampoo's own yowls sending an unavoidable shiver up Ranma's spine.
"Make for the shore – it's our only chance!" Ranma called, then struck out, long, slender limbs stroking powerfully, propelling her swiftly towards the shore. And when she got there, she was going to make whoever was responsible for this pay…
With the bombardment failing to cease up, the girls had all the encouragement they needed to make for shore as fast as possible. Ranma had swum the distance between Japan and China - not once, but twice. Ukyo had spent ten long years training constantly at the seashore, which had included frequent swimming lessons. And Kodachi was the heir to a samurai lineage and a scion of noble blood; swimming was something she had worked diligently at. And so they made it to the shore swiftly and without taking a direct hit from any missiles, which would surely have been a deathblow if they had landed.
Upon clawing their way onto the wet sand of the beach, they quickly spotted their assailants; about eight grizzled looking men, carrying a mixmatched array of swords and spears, desperately manning an ancient catapult. Seeing their targets had made it to the shore, they stopped trying to wench the windlass closed and instead took up their weapons, ready to attack.
Ranma didn't need to spit any invectives for her companions to attack. The three girls rocketed out of the surf, charging across the sand with righteous vengeance in their hearts and murder in their eyes.
The trio hit like a storm wave and even with weapons, the first guards crumpled like wet paper against the fists of the three girls. However, their sacrifice delayed the girls long enough for their comrades to put up a defensive stance.
WHAM! CRUNCH! BLAMMO!
Not that it did them any good.
Ranma winced as the girls got to work on the guards. "Ooh, that's gotta hurt." She shook her hair a little to get some water out of it before looking around, "Yup, looks exactly how I remember it. I'm just glad I don't have to save Akane or Nabiki this time."
She scowled slightly at the memories before walking over to the girls, who were just finishing off their opponents, who moaned piteously through the bruises and lacerations from accidentally cutting themselves on their own weapons.
Before either of the girls could answer, a sudden series of inarticulate warcries split the air, heralding a group of dirty, ragged, spear-wielding figures charging from the undergrowth. Instinctively, Ranma, Kodachi and Ukyo lashed out, figuring themselves under attack - it took Ranma several moments to realise she was busy kicking, punching and chopping at other girls, dressed in the rags of dresses and swimsuits. By the time she had called the others to stop attacking, the girls had been knocked across the sands practically to the last woman, and the guards were racing away as fast as they possibly could.
"...I think we made a mistake." Ranma admitted sheepishly, looking down at the ground as she took in the scene of carnage around her.
"Like, I'll say you did!" Whined one girl, wincing as she caressed a swollen cheek. "Like, what was that for? We were coming to save you, ya know? Protect you from those creeps?"
"I would correct that it was those fools who needed protection from us." Kodachi said, with remarkable dignity for somebody who had a cat sitting on her head.
"Where did you girls come from? What are you doing here?" Ukyo asked, removing the combat spatula she had just used to squash one particularly foolhardy lady wearing only a string bikini.
"We're, like, prisoners on this island, the same as you are." Said the apparent spokesgirl for the attackers. "We were all, like, taken prisoner by those creeps in the castle? Until, ya know, Kiyoko saved us - now we're, like, fighting to get off this island and that's why they've taken to bombarding any ships that, like, come too close to the island."
"Oh, great. Just what we need; more complications." Ranma groaned. Then she realized the strangers were looking at her with puzzled expressions and she frantically waved her hands. "Nevermind, ignore me, I'm just talking to myself!" She blurted.
The apparent leader of the group stared a moment longer before shaking her head, "Anyway, we'd better get you down to our hideout to meet Kiyoko. Its like, way too dangerous to stay out here for too long!" As if to punctuate that statement, a war cry sounded and an arrow zipped past one girl's head, which prompted a squeal of fright as the leader waved to the jungle, "This way!"
The group immediately raced off into the undergrowth as spears and arrows pinned the ground behind them and they didn't stop running for several minutes until the sounds of pursuit finally faded into nothing. Without the risk of being hunted, the group of girls lead Ranma, Ukyo, a still feline Shampoo and Kodachi, through paths in the jungle following either memory or some form of hidden marker until the trees began to thin out and the group found themselves on a bluff overlooking a graveyard of ships.
Ukyo whistled at the sight of the array of tents built on and around what appeared to be a beached tanker. "Hell of a setup you got going here."
One of the girls nodded. "Yeah. Now if we could only get our hands on a working engine. Still, welcome to our home."
Ranma blinked, curiously wondering where something like this had come from. "So, who's in charge of all of this? This... Kiyoko girl?" She asked. She wondered how anyone could be smart enough to not only organize a rebellion from the likes of these girls, but keep them out of Toma's hands afterwards.
"Like, follow me, girls." The apparent leader of the ragtag band proclaimed, ignoring Ranma's grimace at being called that. She started towards the tanker, then stopped at a spot where she could be seen clearly - for obvious reasons, as a bunch of girls holding spears and with wary expressions were now poking their heads out from hidey-holes in the tanker. "We have like, returned, bringing new members of the, like, army and stuff!" She called. In response, the spear-carriers disappeared, and she threw a confident grin at Ranma and her companions before leading them to a hole that had been torn in the side of the hull, crudely blocked up by a rude barricade, behind which Ranma and her fiancées could see more of the spear-carrying girls. After several minutes of cursing, they had pulled the barricade apart sufficiently that those outside could squeeze on through.
Inside, the tanker was dark and gloomy, but the girls who had rescued them led Ranma, Kodachi, Shampoo and Ukyo confidently through the gloom and the murk.
After navigating a maze of corridors and bulkheads, the group reached the crew deck of the ship where various other girls were chatting or sleeping, some fiddling with home-made weapons made from sharpened scrap steel, while others reviewed maps or read books.
As they passed through the mess on the way to the Captain's office, Ranma overheard a conversation from a pair of girls at a table.
"I heard the latest scouting party found out that Toma's planning on hitting another set of ships in a few days time."
"Great, as if we didn't have enough trouble."
"Yeah, tell me about it...are you filling in that crossword puzzle?"
"Dammit, you know the rules! Use a piece of paper! You'll ruin it for the others!"
Ranma let the conversation drift into the background as the group stopped in front of the captain's office and their guide smiled, "Like, some new recruits to meet Kiyoko."
The guards nodded and one of them knocked on the door, eliciting a call of "Enter!"
The captain's cabin was small, as was necessary for ships, but comparatively luxuriant. A crude curtain had been erected over the bunk, and a trio of rough futons had been thrown to the side, clearly waiting for nightfall, when they would be used. Behind a desk that had been bolted to the floor, so that it would not move with the pitching and rolling of the ship, sat a girl of about their age, fairly attractive looking (if, Kodachi and Shampoo in particular would have hastened to add, a plain, mundane sort of way compared to them), who steepled her hands and looked over them imperiously. Lounging about the cabin in idle repose were three more girls, each of whom looked at the newcomers with bored expressions.
One of these wore what looked vaguely like a stereotypical ninja's outfit - but this had been so heavily altered with garish colors and ribbons it was hard to say. Blue eyes glittered vapidly under a mop of bright pink hair - almost certainly dyed, but given some of the things that the quartet from Nerima had seen, that being her real color was not entirely out of the question.
The second wore clothes that were different in style, but just as garish; a black leather jacket over a dirty white "wife-beater" shirt, deliberately ripped and torn jeans, big thigh high boots with steel toecaps, lengths of chain, broken off pipe, knuckle-dusters, and black hair worn in vaguely 50s American-ish spikes, held together with grease. It was strangely appropriate for her lean body, sour features and general vicious alley-cur demeanor.
The last was the most easy to see, for she was clearly not Japanese in the slightest.
"I had heard Westerners were big, but that's ridiculous." Kodachi breathed in disbelief; though her ebony features and long, blonde hair under a backwards baseball cap suggested she was only about seventeen years old, she was easily as tall as Soun Tendo was. And amply built to boot... Shampoo, still seated on Kodachi's head, let out a forlorn mewl as she stared directly at the giantess's massive breasts, suddenly feeling rather inadequate. Was this how she made Akane feel when she teased her about her lack of cleavage?
"...Why is there a cat sitting on your head?" The punkish girl asked.
"Because she's not trained to sit on the shoulder yet." Kodachi replied primly.
"Enough." Kiyoko leaned back in her chair with a smile, "Welcome to the Hulk, a bitch of a place to visit, even worse to live in."
"So why live in it, then?" Ranma asked.
"Because it's better than being some whore prancing about to amuse that prick up there." The black girl rumbled, "You ain't a person up there, just some plaything and bed warmer."
Kiyoko nodded, "Yes, sad but true. Everything is done for the amusement and pleasure of Prince Toma up there. The other problem is that his army, for all of their stupidity, is quite well-led and trained and much better equipped in contrast to a bunch of civilian girls taken from everything from pleasure cruises to island resorts."
The pinkette put a finger to her lips, "What about that Israeli girl? Isn't she military-trained?"
Kiyoko rubbed the back of her head with a sheepish grin, "Oh yeah, I forgot about her."
"Then how the heck did you lot break out of there, and how do you keep them from just taking you back?" Ranma asked, feeling suspicious.
Kiyoko grimaced before speaking, "We believe for the entertainment value. What spies I have able to report back here tell me that the Prince is bored out of his skull. This little 'insurgency' is both a means of staving off boredom and keeping his troops in practice. For all of our efforts, we're simply another means of amusing Toma."
"I heard the bastard practically had a 'We Have a Rebellion' party the moment we started fighting back." The punk spat, "He knows he has more soldiers than we have fighters, even with the jungle to slow them down, we'd never be able to fend off a full-scale attack."
"Makes sense." Ranma admitted; she could easily recall those scenes of the "martial arts harem competition" that she and the other girls had been forced to participate in during that "other timeline". Pushing those thoughts away, she spoke up. "And I take it that you girls can't get away because he doesn't want to let you go - it's fun to fight back, but no fun if you escape?" She concluded.
"That is our situation in a nutshell. This hulk of a vessel is easily sea-worthy, with some time and hard work, but it's clear that the engine was taken apart a long time ago along with the radio equipment and distress beacon. While the island does technically float were the winds take it, Toma can influence it, somewhat, and he makes sure the island stays away from anywhere that could provide us with either rescue or weaponry as well. If we even had one rifle we could bring him down, and if we could steal his ships we could vanish, so he stays away from heavy shipping lanes and has the docks under heavy guard."
"Anything we build, he sinks. Patrols are constant and they overlap and intersect at regular intervals." The ebony blonde remarked. "One group tried it a couple of months ago. Never stood a chance."
"Great. So does that mean we're stuck here, Ranchan?" Ukyo asked. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life on some floating island!"
"We ain't gonna do that." Ranma assured her. She then turned to Kiyoko. "Hey, if somebody knocks out Toma, then could you girls make a break for it in the chaos?" She asked.
"Easily; we found that Toma moves the Island in a circuit, and it's reaching a point where he regularly deploys forces for raids in a few days time. We've been constructing boats, but they aren't enough to take everyone. If you can disable Toma and force the Island to stay in place long enough for help to arrive, we'd be in your debt." Kiyoko opened a drawer and pulled out a map, tossing onto the desk.
"The island and the palace are old, and we know that Toma and his lieutenants seem to have forgotten about a number of the secret tunnels and entrances. We've been mapping them for some time, so this should be of some help to you."
Ranma looked at her fiancées, who nodded back; this was the only real option they had. "Before we go, we just need ta ask you for two things." Ranma stated confidently.
Kiyoko raised an eyebrow, "Yes?"
"We need at least a cup of hot water, and a change of clothes." Ranma told her.
Kiyoko blinked. "What on earth do you need those for?" She demanded.
"...You wouldn't believe us if we told you." Ukyo finally answered, seeing as how neither Ranma nor Kodachi seemed very eager to speak.
"I...see. Head to the ship's kitchen, you can get some water heated there. However, I am afraid we barely have enough clothes to keep our own numbers modest – we have stolen as many outfits from Toma's palace as we could, but, still, you have seen the state of our attires." Kiyoko answered.
"…I understand. We will do without. But, still, can we get that hot water?" Kodachi asked.
Kiyoko nodded politely at them. "Of course. Erin." The black girl looked up. "Show our friends the way."
"You got it." The girl stood up and stretched with a few pops and cracks. "God, this place is cramped."
Ranma stepped out of the way and indicated the door. "Lead on." She told her.
Erin ducked and stepped through the door, "Kitchen's this way." As the group headed through the ship Erin glanced back at them, "You know something, its weird."
"What's weird?" Ukyo asked.
Erin shrugged, "Nothing, its just...Kiyoko's been planning this assassination gig for months, its practically been her baby. Kinda weird she'd just hand it off to a group of new arrivals just like that."
"Whoa, hold on there, who said anything about assassination?" Ranma yelped. "We'll beat seven shades of snot out of him, no problems there, but we ain't gonna kill nobody!"
"Ranma's right, that's not how we work." Ukyo interjected.
"Indeed, that is a level to which I will not stoop." Kodachi insisted, looking slightly green at the thought.
"Yeah, I figured you guys would say as much. That's why I think its weird, Kiyoko may look all sweet, but something snapped in her when she led the escape. She's been ranting about putting Toma in a grave since day one."
Erin rolled a shoulder, "Another thing, she's been lying to you about weapons. I don't know what this ship was supposed to be carrying but Kiyoko, Yumi, Midori and me found a crate of AKs and a crapload of ammo when we found the Hulk, more than enough to take care of Toma and his troops. We planned on using them to hit Toma and force him to give us some ships to escape, but then Kiyoko squirreled them away somewhere and made us say we found nothing in the ship."
Erin stopped and looked around before she leaned in close, "Yumi and Midori are wrapped around her pinky finger but I know something screwy is going on here. Watch your backs, okay?"
The girls (and girl-turned-cat) swallowed nervously and nodded as one.
And thus endeth part one of our adaptation of the movie "Nihao! My Concubine". We will strive to have the second part out sooner – there's only three (technically four; Ryugenzawa was a two-OAV picture) OAVs to cover and we'll have reached the climax of this story! We're grateful to all of you for sticking with us this long, and we do hope you'll stay with us until we reach the end.