---Nexus---

---Nechiezu Amazon Village---

Slumping in through the village gates, a motley trio of characters entered. Two were portly men with old faces and beady eyes, at least Genma's would have been if he were not a panda; the third was a buxom red-haired girl. The panda went rushing in ahead, the Jusenkyo guide chasing wildly after him, screaming about troubles and tournaments; the girl walked slowly in, knowing full well what kind of trouble awaited them in the amazon town. Next.

The sentries were as they were before, two busty women chatting about the championship being held inside. They hazarded a brief glance in her direction as she past, sniffing disdainfully at the barbarian' woman. A wry smile split the emotionless fa├žade she had erected, if they only knew what would soon transpire they would have turned tail and run, either that or gathered weapons for the villagers around the challenge log. The sun was high in the sky, the misty mountains a shimmering mirage in the mass of heat lines boiling off the rock-strewn road, even so the red-haired stranger did not sweat a drop. Hefting a pack a least three times her own weight easily, Ranma Saotome plodded off to kick her father for eating the championship prize she already knew the fat man was devouring. Sure enough, a hulking brute of a woman went sailing over the village walls by one quick thrust of a bon-bori. Next.

Genma ignored the mousy guide as he sank long panda-teeth into a succulent roast of pig and inhaled a serving dish of pork buns as Ranma entered the village square. Little more than a dirt clearing, hardly in the centre of the town even, Ranma set her pack down and readjusted her gi over the fleshy orbs that bounced on her front. It was exactly as she remembered, Shampoo's hair was just falling from her bun, a signal for her to leap and throttle Genma as she saw her prize devoured, but Cologne was present this time (or perhaps he hadn't noticed her) sitting amid baskets across the suspended log. As the last lock of purple hair descended, Shampoo leapt from the log and landed poised with bon-bori to rip out Genma's entrails and feed them back to him. Next.

Ranma sped off and caught a multi-colored orb just as Genma launched off the bench and ran off into the countryside, another divergence. Looking unsure for the first time since they started the little adventure, Ranma patted the bon-bori against her calf as the girl rattled off some Chinese to the guide. Eyes went wide in the crowd as the steel mace conformed to his leg as if made from putty, the wrinkles and texture of the fabric molded into the hard metal. Laughing nervously, she through the mace behind her-where it shattered a wall and flew through a house- and tried to concentrate on the lavender-haired girl in front of her. Or made an effort to as the girl in question withdrew a short dagger from her bust and slashed her across the throat. Things weren't going as they should.

Shampoo turned her back as she took an offered cloth and wiped her dagger clean of blood. She found it quite odd as her finger was cut by the tip of the glinting metal as she slid it up the handle. The knife blade was bent all the way back and digging into her wrist. Screaming and throwing the weapon as if it were a snake, Shampoo threw her other bon-bori straight at the stranger. Ranma dodged and lunged at the girl only to be tackled by thirty armed women. "What the hell's your problem?!" [Gotta stay in character!]

"She say your panda cause great dishonor, sir. She say that only you defeat her can pay for lose of prize." The guide tapped out the leavings in the bowl of his pipe. Two paces behind him, Cologne did the same. "Other customer no here, you must fight or you die." The thirty women all were pressing various sharp points at her throat.

"I'minclined to agree."

With a sweeping gesture of her hand the women were knocked from her body and she bounded to the challenge log, the purple-haired Shampoo a step behind. As they mounted and stretched she gave the red-headed outsider a confident smirk, Shampoo was convinced she would prove to be the victor in this contest. Had Dowel not been the strongest, experienced amazon? Surviving three Musk attacks and killing over three squads of the hated Dragons? She had humbled even her, what could an outsider do? She growled at the girl as she fell into a basic kempo stance, her opponent thought that a bit too simplistic obviously and changed stratagems to a loose standing stance, hands at her sides as if she were not fit to fight a duel. I'll enjoy lopping off your foolish head, barbarian!!! Shampoo caught the barest glimpse of amusement in the woman's face and lunged forward, a curved sword glinting in the midday sun.

Cologne sat puffing on her pipe next to the Jusenkyo guide, rings of fragrant smoke collecting under the thatched awning of the Elder's house. The day had proved eventful after all, it wasn't every day an outsider came into the village with a panda, let alone fighting a duel with the new village champion. Her great-grand daughter would prove the victor in this battle she assumed.

Shampoo fell to the dirt ring surrounding the log with an excruciating thump of soft flesh and hard bone. The crowd started, goggle-eyed, as Ranma leapt down and let the referee name her the winner, the woman's striped shirt and black split skirt declaring her the arbitrator even if she did not admit it. She giggled as the crowd gave her a wide berth, the footfalls seeming like an earthquake and the crowd a forest of dead trees. It really was a shame things didn't work out so well this time, all the random elements had screwed her over royally this time, that was precisely the moment Cologne took to step in front of her. "Where do you think you're going?" That was all the warning she got before her staff appeared out of nowhere and rapped her over the head. Conditioner! Sugar! Take Shampoo to her bed! I'll accompany this outsider girl to the prisons!

---Considerably later---

Ranma awoke with a start, stripped down to her birthday suit and still a girl, bound to the wall of crude cell. By the shaft of moonlight she had slept half the day away, and night had fallen on the town she thought he knew so well. Clanking keys and the whine of ungreased hinges startled her view to the door, where Cologne and two other girls walked solemnly in.

"So you are awake. Good, then we can get this over with tonight. You," she pointed towards her cell with her gnarled staff, "have defeated an amazon, as an outsider you will be killed tomorrow morning. My Shampoo, the girl you defeated, will personally cut off your foul, barbarian head." Cologne spat on the floor in front of her and walked out, gesturing to the two guards.

One girl was pretty if not for the sneering scowl she directed to her, the other was slight but well-built, thin but muscular. She seemed uncertain of her steps and relied on the other for support. The shorter one was younger, fifteen or so, and the tall one was around twenty, both seemed dissatisfied with guard duty.

I just had to be picked for guard duty, didn't I? Sugar sighed and fell to a bench, pulling down her non-existent dress and crossing her legs. As she didn't know that Ranma was really a man cursed, she could be forgiven for showing Ranma (female) a flash of pink. She looked away. Well, why did she pick you, Mei-Ling? The shorter woman sat down with a hand from the older, seemingly unsure of where the bench was.

My mother asked Elder Cologne to have me on guard tonight. She said that since I cannot be a warrior I may be a guard for already captured prisoners. Mei-Ling was blind, born that way and shunned by Amazons all her life. Born the daughter of a honorable warrior she was a disappointment to the tribe, but her mother and family remained loving and caring towards her, helping her find other tasks to aid the tribe. As an apprentice healer she was assisted by many of the learning warriors, eager to learn a few tricks of the healing trade. It was always important on the battlefield for warriors to know simple poultices and healing herbs.

The chains were loose, long enough to reach the front of the cell and run his hands along the bars. Cold wind poured through the window and chilled his nude form. The least they could do was give him a sheet or something. "Umcould I have some water?" The pair glared at him turned her and he shut his mouth. "Please?"

What is he saying? Stupid barbarians can't even speak Chinese! Sugar through a stray rock through the bars. She walked sultrily to his bars. What do you want? You're going to die at dawn, why don't you just curl up and enjoy your last night of life?

Be quiet Sugar! The ignorant girl just wants some water. She heard the dry heaving in the prisoner's throat. Sugar helped her dip a ladle and hold the water out to the girl. To be a compassionate healer one must have concern for all who suffer, even if they are enemies. The girl inside seemed unsatisfied and looked with pleading eyes at the healer.

"_Hot_ water, hot." She blew on the ladle, pretending to suck a burnt finger. "I'd like some hot wateras a last request." The girl gazed at her funny with milk-white eyes. Sugar pulled her aside and sat her back down on the bench.

I understand what she wants, she wants some tea. I'll go and get it, you stay here. If you hear anything out of the ordinary, scream and I'll come running. Okay? Sugar left the girl with a smile and bolted the door from the outside as she left. Mei-Ling was left sitting on the bench, having the distinct feeling that the prisoner had purposely wanted her alone.

Have you been blind since birth? The woman's perfectly articulated Chinese wafted across her ears, the accented syllables pounding against her eardrums. She shot up with a tonfa held in her shaky hand.

Since when could you speak Chinese? Why didn't you just ask for tea in Chinese, hmm? She uneasily felt her way to the bars and stumbled her way to the cell door. Warm hands gripped her fingers as Ranma held the bowl of the ladle in his other. Using her ki to warm the water, she grasped Mei-Ling's tonfa and wrenched it out of her grip. Hey! Give that back foul pig!

Ranma splashed himself with the hot water and returned to his normal, albeit naked, male self. Who's a foul pig? Mei-Ling screamed as her other hand snaked inside the bars and grasped a ratheroblong object to confirm the speaker was male. Ranma dropped her tonfa as she continued to howl and bang on the door, the door was locked from the outside of course. Ranma stood back from the bars, embarrassed because of his nudity and the way he had introduced himself. Soon enough Sugar's footfalls could be heard as she and several other Amazons, shampoo included, bounded off to assist their blind kinswoman. With no time to spare, Shampoo kicked in the door and left it to fall with a resounding thud to the floor.

What's the problem!? Sugar and Shampoo flanked the entrance as Mei-Ling screamed and ran out the door, tripping on a bucket near the well and knocking herself into unconsciousness. Where's the outsider!? WHAT!?!?! Who's this naked man in the cell!? Sugar and quite a few others were far too busy admiring his nude body to respond.

[Time to end the charade] He ripped the chains from the stone wall and pulled his clothes from sub-space, dressing with speed born from the Katsu Tenshin Amaguriken, and tore the bars away from his cell. Shampoo goggled at his powers, her jaw still held tightly together by a massive line of gauze, then glomped him in a manner proper for an Amazon champion. "Husband/Airen!" She kissed him once behind the ear and slowly dragged her lips across his flesh until her ruby pair clamped firmly on his own.