Letters of the Heart
By: Tellemicus Sundance
Chapter 1—Lamenting Beauty
He had run away, again, the blue-haired beauty mourned from her perch high up in a tree. Why was he always running away from her?
She only wanted to express her love for her Airen. Did he find her somehow repulsive? If so, then what was wrong with her? Was it her hair, her figure, her speech patterns, her attitude of obsessive love for him? What was so repulsive about her that caused him to continually run away from her, always back into the awaiting arms (and fists) of the violent girl, Akane Tendo?
The bluenette teenager watched from her perch in the tree outside the Tendo Dojo as the family—and more importantly, her dear Airen and his father—went about their daily lives in the dojo. She had sat there and watched from the wee hours of the morning as Ranma and his father engaged in their ritual morning sparring session, which ended with a customary splash in the koi pond shortly before breakfast had been served. She had watched as Ranma and Akane had both relaxed for about an hour, reading manga and watching television from the looks of it, before the demon Happosai burst in. The little letch had quickly drenched and groped Ranma-chan, which caused Ranma-chan to furiously chase the ancient pervert six times around and throughout the house before the old man tired of the game and left, likely for yet another of his panty-raids. She had watched, after the demon had left, as a surprisingly violent argument (even for them) had broken out between Ranma and Akane about something that she couldn't hear. This argument predictably resulted in Ranma letting the youngest Tendo send him flying into LEO via one of her favorite high kick attacks, probably to vent her anger instead of simmering in it all day.
Though Ranma had long since returned to the Dojo and life had carried on, Shampoo was no longer paying attention to it. Instead, she just leaned against the trunk of the tree she was in and silently bemoaned her continuing tragedy of a life. Shampoo was, for all intents and purposes, a very strong girl, physically, mentally, emotionally, and morally. But even she had her moments of weakness, which were steadily growing much more common as her time in Nerima dragged on. And though she could control and hide her pain far better than most others, her pride forbade her ever showing these moments of weakness to anyone, not even her dear great-grandmother or (especially) Ranma. Only the gods could possibly fathom the type of mockery, misery, and torment she'd have to endure if anyone of the Nerima Wreaking Crew were to see her during these times.
Shampoo truly wasn't a violent or bad person by nature, she only did what she felt was necessary to achieve her goals. She disliked telling lies, but wasn't above telling half-truths, though she usually tried to get her way across before any questions could be asked. She knew that this wasn't the best way to go about things with her dear Airen, but what choice did she have when faced with the fierce competition and craziness of Nerima? And it was the moral law of the Joketsuzoku, her home, right to the letter.
It was with an extremely heavy heart that Shampoo finally pulled herself out of her depressed funk; the sun was beginning to fall from the sky to hide behind the mountains on the horizon. It was a good thing that today had been one of her days off work at the Nekohanten, or else her great-grandmother might've come looking for her after the first hour. Reaching up, Shampoo touched her cheeks and felt the trails of dried tears that arced downwards. Hurriedly rubbing her face clean on the inside of the bottom of her shirt and gathering her calmness and resolve, she stealthily rose from her perch and prepared to leave.
Taking one last look at her Ranma, who was now in the midst of performing some rather advanced aerial martial arts form, Shampoo silently turned and leapt away, bounding from rooftop to rooftop with an elegant grace that only she was capable of.
Unnoticed by the distraught girl, a familiar pair of blue eyes had detected her presence not long into the day. Those same blue eyes had also been making regular, albeit discreet, check-ups on her location, just in case the girl was planning yet another of her usual chaotic encounters. But now those eyes, which had previously been full of suspicion and anxiety, were clouded in confusion.
She had been watching them all day. As unwelcome as it may have been, why hadn't she dropped in to visit?
The chime to the backdoor sounded as it opened, announcing the return of a certain individual whom she'd been expecting to return hours ago. With Mousse out doing deliveries in Shampoo's stead, it was up to her alone to keep up with the various orders. Thankfully, today had been a rather slow and uneventful day, so it was no chore on her weary old body. She had been in the midst of preparing the last meal of the day for her late-night customers when the door had opened.
Cologne only caught a fleeting glimpse of her descendant's face before the girl had vanished up the stairs, likely to her room to clean herself up. It was in that fleeting glimpse that Cologne had seen Shampoo's red eyes and rosy complexion; she'd been crying over him all day…again. And while she could understand and even sympathize with her descendant in most circumstances, Cologne was personally growing increasingly annoyed with Shampoo's newfound depression. That girl needed to be broken out of her gloom, and soon!
The elderly Amazon spent the next half hour thinking over the many different ways she knew of to help Shampoo. As an Elder and matriarch, she knew of and could use a frighteningly wide array of methods to accomplish her goal.
She was in the midst of contemplating using a magic hairpin of hers to 'pluck' the unhappiness out of Shampoo (admittedly that would only have been a temporary solution, if it worked at all) when something one of her customers was doing caught her attention. The customer, a college student by the looks of age and clothing, was hunched over a piece of paper and was furiously writing and then rewriting something in his notebook, his cooling ramen mostly unnoticed from where Cologne had placed it.
"Young man," Cologne said, catching the customer's reluctant attention. "I do not refund or particularly enjoy dumping out hard-made meals. So please put your homework away and finish your ramen before it gets much cooler and so I can close up for the night."
It took only a split second before the young man's face lit up with a soft flush as he realized that she'd caught on to what he'd been doing and hurriedly complied with her 'request', muttering out a soft apology. Satisfied, Cologne turned back to her sink and the stack of dishes that needed washing.
However she couldn't help but chuckle wistfully at the memories that the boy had unknowingly dredged up. Back when she was still young, especially during her prime years, Cologne had received quite a few love letters from males (and even a few women) who desired her hand in marriage but were unable to best her in battle. In fact, if her memories hadn't become too fogged from time, that was how her daughter had fallen in love with her husband. Ah, the good old days back then…
And that was when Cologne had a sudden epiphany, which caused her to start chuckling softly under her breath.
As her scheming quickly began to set up the scenario, Cologne almost failed to notice Mousse who had returned from his deliveries. As her mind began to fill with ideas, she absentmindedly directed him to cleaning up the main room of the restaurant, and whacked him over the head when he made one of his usual snide remarks under his breath.
Cologne quickly contemplated on getting her great-granddaughter to willingly and knowingly participate in her scheme. There was also the possibility, however unlikely, of her great-granddaughter accidentally dropping hints to her airen, enough to get him suspicious. The girl had a heart of pure gold, but her judgment and common sense seemed to always get derailed whenever Ranma was involved. No, perhaps having Shampoo knowingly participating wasn't such a good idea after all. If things went wrong, Cologne had little doubt that she'd lose a good deal of Shampoo's trust and love. But if this idea worked...it would definitely be worth a few weeks, maybe even months, of stress between them when things finally came into the light. It was a chance that Cologne was more than willing to take.
With a confident smile on her face, Cologne finished up washing the dishes and went about gathering the supplies she'd need to set her plans in motion.
It was a strange feeling of melancholy that was driving Ranma that evening. To make matters even stranger for him, he wasn't even entirely sure why he was feeling the way he was. It all stemmed from a certain blue-haired girl whom he'd become reluctantly acquainted with quite a while ago. To relieve him of the troubling thoughts that kept bludgeoning themselves through his mind, Ranma had decided to throw himself into some extra-strenuous nighttime training. His theory being that if he pushed himself to the point of complete physical exhaustion he'd be able to focus on nothing more than the said exhaustion, which would also have the bonus of aiding him in getting some much-needed shut eye in a few hours time.
Sadly, it didn't seem to be working to the extent of which he'd been hoping for.
He had two fifty-pound leg irons strapped to each of his ankles and a pair swinging from his wrists. The added three hundred pounds of extra weight would've normally been child's play for him to lug around. However, he was alternating running on both his feet and then switching to his hands per circuit he made around the Nerima neighborhood.
Ranma had long since lost count of how long he'd been doing this exercise, but he paid such minor details no heed. All that did matter was forcing those unpleasant thoughts about the Amazon beauty out of his head. Only Kami-sama knew of the problems (and poundings) he'd receive if anyone (especially his father, Akane, or Mr. Tendo) knew of where his mind had been drifting for the past few hours.
Rounding a corner, the pigtailed martial artist found himself on a familiar street. Up ahead he could faintly see a bridge in the quarter moon's weak light. It was the bridge that he and Akane always crossed over on their way to school. And, if his eyesight wasn't fooling him, there was an all-too-familiar figure standing on the bridge's railing, clearly waiting for his arrival. If he wasn't already out of breath from his long run, Ranma would've let out a low groan. Contemplating and trying to forget about Shampoo's strange behavior was more than enough of a headache. The last thing he wanted was to be adding whatever the eldest Amazon wanted into the mix and intensifying his headache.
"Good evening, Son-in-Law," Cologne said as he cautiously approached. "A bit late for a light jog, wouldn't you say?"
Coming to a surprisingly-gentle halt considering his heavy load and his heavy breathing, Ranma turned to face the ancient woman as he greeted her, "What do you want, Old Ghoul?"
After the customary whack for his disrespect, she curiously asked, "Is there something distressing you, Ranma-kun? I've seen the types of workout you and your father prefer, and I'd have thought that such a mundane exercise as this would've been far beneath you at this point."
"Just because it's mundane doesn't mean it's still not good training!" he countered immediately. "What do you want? I'm kind of busy at the moment."
Nodding with easy acceptance, Cologne dug into the sleeves of her robe as she said, "Yes, and I will be surely noticed to be missing if I delay this much longer. Son-in-law, I have something to give you. Something of an extremely delicate nature and you are to not discuss or mention it to anyone. If you do, I promise you, Son-in-Law or not, I will hunt you down and kill you like a rabid dog."
"What is it?" Ranma asked, instantly curious and wary. "It's not one of your little tricks again, is it?"
Rather than chuckle, as she normally would've at such a blunt accusation, Cologne leveled a very fierce gaze upon the teenager. "No, it is not," she answered nonetheless as she withdrew a blank white envelop from her sleeve. Holding it up for Ranma to see the envelop easier in the faint moonlight, she continued, "This is a letter to you, from Shampoo."
"What, like a love letter?" Ranma scoffed indignantly, disbelieving and annoyed in equal measures. Was the Old Ghoul really so desperate that she'd pull even one of these ridiculous stunts?
"Perhaps," Cologne conceded. "However, I have not read its contents. That privilege belongs to you."
"Not interested," Ranma stated, turning to continue his run.
"You saw her earlier today, didn't you?" Cologne said, freezing the youth in his tracks inadvertently and confirming her suspicion that he had. "You knew she had been watching you for the better part of the day, yet didn't once try to visit. Aren't you the least bit curious as to why?"
"No," Ranma said, though there was a heavy layer of uncertainty in his tone. He was curious; no matter how much he may have fought and screamed in denial, the simple truth was that he was. "No, I don't, not in the least bit."
"While this is speculation, I feel confident in guessing that the clues, if not the answer, is written here in Shampoo's letter," Cologne said, holding out the letter once again as Ranma reluctantly faced her. "All that I'm asking of you, Ranma, is to read the letter. Perhaps you'll have a better understanding of my great-granddaughter's recent depressions."
"Depressions?" Ranma repeated, unsure he correctly heard the old lady's words. But that couldn't be right! Shampoo was strong, like him, and she'd never get disheartened over something…for too long at least…would she? "Shampoo's feeling depressed about something? Is that why she—?"
Cologne cut off his questions by merely raising the envelop ever-so-slightly higher.
After a serious moment of debating with himself over whether he should take the offered letter or not, a sudden thought entered his mind. "Does she know you're giving me this? The Shampoo I know wouldn't want such things like this to get out."
There was a very serious gaze that filled Cologne's eyes as she answered. "That is why I'm telling you to never discuss what you read within with anyone else, ever. She's been coming back to the Nekohanten in tears more often than usual lately, so I tasked her with writing her feelings down in a letter as a way of soul-cleansing. So I am, in essence, betraying her trust by giving this to you. For if what is written inside here gets discovered and becomes known, she will know immediately who were responsible, us two. And I trust that you don't wish to have Shampoo invoking her Kiss of Death on you again, do you?"
Despite himself, Ranma visibly shuddered at the still-potent memories of a bluenette Amazon relentlessly chasing after him and his father throughout China and Nerima. Those were times he didn't want to have return ever again!
Returning his attention to the letter that Cologne was patiently holding out to him, Ranma slowly and hesitantly reached out for it. Even without the chained iron weighing his arm down, it was a very difficult act for Ranma to lift his hand and try to take hold of the letter.
Just as his fingers closed upon the envelop, Cologne gave it a short jerk, snapping his attention back to her. "Burn this letter immediately after you finish reading it, Ranma. If nothing else, it would be an act of kindness towards a young girl whose ignorance we're taking advantage of."
With that final statement, Cologne released the letter into Ranma's care and quickly pogoed her way back to her restaurant with all due haste. The first step of her plan was done. Now all she had to do was watch and wait for the coming events to take place, perhaps providing a guiding prod when needed to ensure that her scheme reached the conclusion she desired.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE) This is an idea that I've had for quite some time, though not necessarily for this genre. To be honest, it wasn't until I'd stumbled across various Ranma/Shampoo stories that I first started getting truly interested. And now, after some gentle prodding and discussions with rewind gone nuts (my beta) that I decided to try my idea out. However, I don't intend for this story to be one of my major ones, just a pet project, so don't expect too many updates in the near-future.
For those who are curious, I'm basing many of my views on the various characters and some of the more well-known of the Ranma-verse quirks in general off rewind gone nuts' statements on his profile. I respect rewind gone nuts greatly because he has logically and carefully thought out each and every quirk with a cool head and not given into petty bashing of characters or plots simply because he doesn't/didn't understand them at first glance.