"Is it ready?" Cologne asked her granddaughter when she found her at work deep in the forest. Beside her, Ranma was passed out like a drunk.
Chapter 24: No Control
"I can't find him anywhere." Akane complained.
"Then he got out of the water and is somewhere away from the riverbank." Genma told her. "I'll go check the other side in case he got out over there. You go back to camp and wait for either myself or him to return."
"Why do you get to search but I don't?" Akane asked.
Genma surprised her by leaning close to her. "Because I'm the only one who can cross the river without a bridge. Because I can track better than you in a forest. And because I'll make you eat only your own cooking for the rest of this trip if you think I'm asking for your permission here. Got it?" She nodded quickly like a scared child. "Good. Now head back to camp. Ranma may already be there but I'm checking in case he isn't. Send up a flare if he is, if not I'll return by sundown at latest."
He then walked off into the water, turning into a tiger-cow and swimming to the other side, leaving Akane alone. "Obviously there's a spine under all that fat." She mumbled before heading back to camp.
Tiger-cow Genma wandered thru the forest tracking with his nose. Long ago he suspected he'd have to track Ranma by scent with this form so he made sure to memorize the scents of both male and female Ranma for situations exactly like this one. Right now he noticed a faint scent of ozone, meaning Ranma was a girl, and there were two other scents accompanying it, one similar to Ranma's but with a hint of ash to it instead of ozone, and the other was familiar and mixed with herbal body wash, but not one he immediately recognized.
Genma didn't like that and followed the trail as fast as he could without losing it. As he moved, he noticed that it strangely went in a straight line. No turns or anything. Almost as if Ranma was fleeing something or being led somewhere.
With that in mind, Genma hurried even more.
It didn't take him long to find his son, who was in male form and stumbling around holding his head. "Ugh what happened to me?"
'Boy where have you been?' Genma's sign read, but Ranma didn't have his eyes open so he couldn't read it. Frustrated, Genma hit him over the head with the sign to gain his attention. Unfortunately, Ranma passed out instead. With a heavy sigh, Genma lifted his son up and on his back then carried him back towards the campground.
The whole time he was unaware he was being watched.
"Ranma!" Akane shouted when she saw her fiancee returned to her.
Genma dumped him on the ground and he groaned, regaining consciousness. Akane immediately hugged him while Genma helped himself to the hot water Akane had prepared. He yelled in pain when he found out how hot it really was.
"'Er em I?" Ranma mumbled.
"Ranma, are you okay? You're not hurt are you?" Akane asked.
He grimaced. "Nut so lawd."
Genma in human form approached the two and whispered. "I think he has a hangover. I've seen enough in my life to recognize one."
"You think it was actual alcohol or pickled plums?" Akane asked quietly.
"Doesn't matter. What he needs is quiet and rest. Put him in his tent and keep him warm. He'll be fine tomorrow. Then we can start on training you both."
Akane nodded and helped Ranma stand up. "Come with me Ranma, we'll get you some rest."
He looked like he was already about to pass out, but Akane and Genma managed to get him into his tent and lay him down. His clothes were a little damp, so without hesitation Akane took off everything except his boxers. Normally she'd be too nervous or embarrassed to even start such a thing, but right now her concern for Ranma overrode anything else she might be feeling.
After that she covered him with a blanket, seeing him sleeping peacefully. 'I should probably keep an eye on him, in case Ryoga or the Amazons come back.'
Her mind already made up and now armed with a convenient explanation, she slipped under the covers with him and cuddled up next to him. 'He feels so warm. And he smells better than I thought sleeping next to a boy might. I think I could get used to this.'
'Time to see if this works.' A figure in the nearby bushes said before looking at the small object in their hands then started to tinker with it.
Akane woke up when Ranma unexpectedly moved around in a jerking fashion. He suddenly raised his right hand as if pointing to the sky, though his hand was limp, then brought it down on her side with enough force for it to hurt. Not a lot, but enough to make her wince.
"Ranma what are you doing?" She asked.
The pigtailed just remained asleep, unaware of anything around him.
'Maybe it was a subconscious thing. Kasumi says I tend to move around a lot when I sleep so maybe he was just doing the same.' The youngest Tendo thought.
Then Ranma's whole body jerked upright quickly, the motion snapping him back into consciousness. "Wadda?" He mumbled, conscious but not fully awake.
Then, as if he were guided by invisible puppet strings, Ranma flipped upside down. He did not move like a martial artist might; instead it was more like something grabbed him and spun him around 180 degrees.
"What's going on?" He asked as he hovered above the ground, only a few inches of air separating his head from the tent floor.
"This has to be the Amazon's fault." Akane said, sounding as frightened as he did.
Before Ranma could reply, he was yanked out of the tent, nearly toppling it over in the process before he stopped, still hovering upside down. In front of him, now at eye level, was an amused Cologne. "You!"
"Why hello Son-in-law. Something looks different about you. New haircut maybe?"
"What the hell did you do to me?" Ranma yelled as Akane managed to follow him out of the tent.
"Now what makes you think I did anything to you?"
"Ranma can't float in air as a male. So this has to be your doing." Akane stated, looking ready to mallet the old woman into a wheelchair.
"If so, why should I undo it? I can make Son-in-law do whatever I want. Maybe I want him to spin around for a moment." Cologne replied.
As if on cue, Ranma started spinning like a wheel, at a moderate rate but not a comfortable one.
"Make it stop!" Akane shouted, reaching out to force Ranma to stop moving. Once she grabbed him she ended up spinning with him for a few seconds until she lost her grip and was thrown to the ground.
Ranma stopped spinning after a moment and fell to the ground himself. Akane came right up to him and helped him up.
Cologne just looked bored. "Or maybe I want him to attack you instead."
Unable to control himself, Ranma got on his feet though it still felt like he wasn't actually affected by gravity, then turned to Akane and arched his right fist. "Akane move!" He warned, his face showing he really did not want to do this.
His fist came forward, but rather than dodge it Akane managed to block it. His left leg followed up with an attack, but she blocked that too with little effort. 'Strange, there's almost no speed or force to his movements. I can easily see them coming and when they hit it's barely at normal strength. It's like... that's it! She can control his motions, but that's all he's really doing, going thru the motions. There's no substance behind them at all.'
Confident in her analyst, Akane backed away from Ranma and stared triumphantly at Cologne. "You think you can beat me with Ranma? Just two hits and I've already seen how much you can control him."
"Impressive, but who said I wanted him to defeat you?" The old woman replied, confusing them both. "Son-in-law, I can take control of your body at any point in your life now. There's nothing you can do to stop it. However, I am willing to release you from this, as long as you renounce your bond to this girl and marry my Shampoo first thing in the morning."
Ranma frowned. "Fat chance Old Ghoul. Akane, get me some water."
"Get me some water. She may be able to control my body, but I doubt she can control my lightning." He said. 'That and I don't get lightheaded in oni form from moving in the air like this.'
Akane nodded and left to get a canteen. 'I hope this works, because she doesn't seem to concerned about Ranma changing right now.' Akane brought the water, wondering if she should wake up Genma but deciding against it, and turned Ranma to his oni form.
Now Ranma was hovering by choice. She crossed her arms and released a few spark around herself as a warning. "Go ahead and control me now you hag-tcha. Can you control electricity too?"
Cologne still looked amused. "Go ahead and try it."
Confused, Ranma had no intention of not calling her bluff. 'I won't kill her, just enough to show I mean business.' She readied up some electricity, but as soon as she was sparking her head hurt and it was nothing like a hangover. "AAAGHH!" Ranma screamed screamed, clutching her head. 'It feels like I've got a vicegrip on it.'
The sensation disappeared and so did the sparks. Akane looked horrified but Cologne still looked like she saw something entertaining.
"See that Son-in-law? I may not be able to control your little lightnings, but I can stop you from creating them in the first place. And I can still control your movements even in this form. Understand? Until you agree to my conditions, you will never again have control over yourself."
"Why are you doing this?" Akane asked. "How can you call yourself a martial artist when you act so dishonorably?"
"I am an Amazon, my honor lies in upholding the traditions of our culture more than the standards of Japanese dojo families. As long as Ranma here is not someone we are better off without, rest assured there is no line we will not cross to ensure Shampoo's honor remains intact. I'm doing this for her, and thus your honor and his means absolutely nothing to me."
Akane glared hatefully and ambushed the old woman, or at least she tried to. She was knocked flat on her stomach with Cologne perched on her spine using her staff. "You're two hundreds too early to do anything to me."
"I'm not!" Ranma yelled before pouncing at the Amazon elder too, only to stop uncontrollably and be thrown back like an invisible giant hand batted her away.
"Is that so Son-in-law?" Cologne jested.
'How is she doing this?' Akane asked. 'If we can figure that out, maybe we can break her hold over him.' She looked at the old woman, trying to see anything on her that wasn't there normally. 'Unless she's got an amulet or something under her robes, I don't see anything. And I'm not undressing her to find it. It's not worth it.'
Akane tried to get up, but Cologne must have been pressing a pressure point to keep her from moving her legs. Best thing the Tendo could do was swing her arms. Cologne halted her attempted punch, but at the same time Ranma made another flying attack at Cologne's blind side, only to be redirected in a U-turn.
Akane widened her eyes. 'Wait, there's no way she saw that and even if she heard Ranma approach she gave no signal to control him. Can she do this with mere thought? No, that's impossible. Somehow, someway, someone has to be doing something that affects Ranma.' She thought, still confused but certain the answer was obtainable. 'Wait, where's Shampoo? Shouldn't she be nearby?'
"Let's now make this harder on us then it has to be Son-in-law." Cologne said, turning to face the oni while keeping her position atop Akane. "Just give up on this girl and be with Shampoo. It's not like you're in love with her yet or anything so what's the harm?"
Ranma landed on the ground, looking offended. "What I feel for her is none of your business-tcha. No one can tell me who to love, and I hate the idea of people telling me to marry a girl because it works in their favor, not mine. I'm not going to love any girl just because someone else wants me to-tcha. You got that you wrinkled up bitch?"
Infuriated, Cologne got off Akane and hit Ranma several times before she could blink. "Watch your tongue boy." She said before continuing the assault. All the while Ranma just smirked and blocked while giving Akane a brief glance.
Freed, Akane got back on her feet and ran towards the surrounding plant life. After a moment, she found the purple-haired Amazon crouched behind a bush observing Ranma and Cologne. On the ground was something that looked like a tiny male Ranma doll, and in her hands was another one for his female oni form. Shampoo was too engrossed in the scuffle in front of her to notice Akane was close by, and when it looked like Cologne was gesturing something, she made the doll in her hand punch itself in the gut, which Ranma promptly mimicked.
"So that's how you're doing it." Akane said, startling Shampoo making her drop the doll. Which in turn made Ranma faceplant herself. "You're doing some kind of voodoo control over both of Ranma's forms until he gives in, aren't you? That's low." 'Though if I could use these to keep Kuno away from me, I might be a little more tolerant.'
The shock fading, Shampoo grabbed both dolls and stood up firmly, resolute. "You no do anything. Airen mine to control with these. Even destroy them hurt him."
"Is this really what you want? To control him with dolls in order to keep him around?" Akane asked.
"Must make Airen mine. Must or else no can go home." The Amazon insisted.
'Sounds more like what she really wants is just to go home, not be his wife.' Akane thought. "You really think this is going to make him like you more than me?"
"No need it to, just need him notice Shampoo more than you." Shampoo declared.
'Is she jealous of me?' Akane asked herself.
With Shampoo distracted she couldn't control Ranma anymore and thus the oni girl was getting even with the Amazon elder. Ranma grinned seeing that Cologne no longer was influencing her movements. 'Here's something I've been wanting to try for a while, now's as good a time as any to see how it works.' Readying her fists, Ranma flew right to Cologne's face. "Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken."
Cologne thought she'd have no problem blocking the fists. She knew not only how to perform the Chestnut Fist, she knew how to counter it as well. Standard principle in martial arts, as soon as you learn a maneuver learn how to counter it and if possible how to counter the counter. This was almost laughable to her.
However, when she did block and deflect the punches, she felt something very unexpected, an electric tingle. The confusion and disorientation of this new sensation made her speed falter and Ranma was able to get a few hits in, all of which came with an electric tingle about twice as strong as static electricity.
'He's combining his cursed form's power with the Amaguriken?" Cologne realized, falling to the ground and this time not feigning wariness. 'Dear Kami what if he does this with other moves too? What if he can use it in ki moves or the Cat Fist?'
"Had enough?" Ranma asked, sparking a little more for show.
'He is definitely worth pursuing, but we must be more cautious in how. Also we must monitor his growth as a fighter lest he get too strong.' The old woman considered, then got back to her feet. "We will still win you over Son-in-law. You're not the first man to resist the lure of the Joketsuzoku and they've all been claimed by us. Don't forget, we still control your body."
"Sure doesn't look like it anymore-tcha." Ranma said before flying off to where she heard Akane's voice. She landed right between the two girls.
"Ranma, Shampoo has too voodoo dolls that she's been using this whole time. I don't know how they work, but they do."
Shampoo smiled. "They do, but no can stop me with them. Have boy for when Airen boy." She said indicating the male doll. "And have girl for when Airen girl." she then indicated the female doll. "And no can destroy without hurting Airen."
When they found Ranma passed out in the river and fed his oni form the pickled plum, it was to lead him to this contingency plan the Amazons had if Ryoga failed. Using special enhanced wax, they molded two effigies of Ranma and took a hair from each of his forms to place in them, thus creating a voodoo doll for either one of his forms. Whatever they did to one of the dolls, Ranma did the same or felt the same treatment the doll did.
"Oh really?" Ranma asked. Shampoo nodded, then Ranma held up a finger and fired a bolt of lightning at the male doll. It hit, ignited, and Shampoo dropped it before her hand burned. The ashes fell to the ground but nothing happened to Ranma. "Looks like I was right-tcha. I feel nothing that happens to them if I'm not the right gender."
Shampoo frowned then smiled pointing to the female doll. "Still have this one."
Akane smiled then pulled out a thermos she had on her, which she spilled on Ranma, turning him male since it was still warm. "Now it won't."
Before Shampoo could react, Ranma darted to her and grabbed the doll right out of her hand. She kicked him to get him to let go, but he ignored the pain and crushed the wax figure in his hands. "There. Now you've got nothing on me."
Shampoo frowned and it looked like she was trying not to cry, before she ran off, defeated.
Cologne then showed up and saw the ashes and wax chunks. "So you ruined this for us. Oh well, we have more tactics to us. This isn't over Son-in-law." Cologne said before pogoing away.
Ranma sighed. "This has not been a good night for me."
Akane nodded. "Me too. Let's just go get some sleep."
Ranma nodded. "By the way, thanks Akane."
"No problem. I'm just glad to be of help."
The two went back to their tent, and Ranma was too worn out to care about who slept where. So like before, Akane curled up next to him, enjoying this quiet relaxing time for them both.