Nothing's mine. Not even this computer. I'm still paying for it.
Mandarin dialogues in this caption.
I'm changing the order of events a little.
They sat in the foyer, enjoying the sunlight and the warm breeze of summer. It had been a strange day but everything ended well. Ling-Ling and Lung-Lung, Shampoo's amazon sisters, learnt the truth about Ranma's transformation. Instead of returning home with blood in their hands, the girls were glad to take the news of a happy marriage instead. That would avoid new unpleasant and unannounced visits from China...at least where the Amazons were concerned.
"That doesn't change the fact that Shampoo's still set on you…"
Akane said calmly, petting P-chan behind his perky ears. The small animal sighed in his sleep.
"That's her idea, not mine."
"Our engagement was our father's idea. Not ours…"
The comment seemed to anger Ranma but Akane didn't care. Not too long ago, they had tried to get married. It wasn't a decision forced by circumstances. They realized, after the unpleasant experience of killing and dying, how much they loved each other. They wanted to be married and spend the rest of their lives together. But the celebration was ruined by all the crazy people crowding their lives.
Akane made it clear to Ryoga and Kuno how she felt but Ranma failed to do the same with his numerous stalkers. It had been months now and Shampoo, Ukyo and Kodachi kept pestering them as if nothing had happened. She was growing impatient and doubts about his intentions were arousing.
"That's right but...You know..."
"Well, that I..."
"Ranma, look out!"
Ranma stiffened. Akane scowled at Shampoo as she landed neatly before them. The Amazon was not looking at her. She immediately dropped into a fight stance, facing the far wall intently.
"Ranma!" An imperative female voice roared from the other side. "Where are you?"
Suddenly, a chunk of wall collapsed. Two figures emerged from the settling smoke. They were female; they looked unfriendly and angry; they were heavily armed. This couldn't be good.
"Defiler of Joketsuzoku law, prepare to die!"
"Uh…Ranma…Say hello to two other sisters from Joketsuzoku tribe…"
Ranma wailed and fell back. It was a few hours since they had managed to dispatch Ling-ling and Lung-lung. The new visitors seemed to have far more potential and disposition to cause pain and property damage. The boy jumped back to his feet and snarled at Shampoo.
"They're your sisters! Deal with them!"
"But they come for you!" Shampoo whispered back. "Shampoo come help!"
The women warriors readjusted the hold on their wicked looking weapons and walked menacingly towards them. The one holding a kanabo and sporting two pig-tails made an imperative gesture with her left hand, signaling Shampoo to move out of the way. The younger Joketsuzoku refused and talked calmly in the native tongue. Her words seemed to calm the belligerent pair for a moment but, as the conversation continued, voices raised in volume and the pace of their words quicken. In less than three minutes the two Amazons were snapping and screaming at each other, waving their arms wildly in random directions. The third woman, holding a shield and a trident, stepped in between them in an effort to calm them down.
Ranma grabbed Akane's hand and started dragging her away.
"What're you doing?"
"Getting the heck away! Let's go!"
"No! Look what they did to the wall!" She yanked her hand free. "Get them out of the house, Ranma. They'll tear it apart!"
"They wanna tear me apart!"
"Well, are you a man or not?"
Ranma and Akane glared at each other. Ryoga -awakened abruptly from his nap by the sudden commotion- snorted happily. It was always nice to see them fight. After the wedding attempt- and the ingestion of their cure- his world almost collapsed. Then the girls came and destroyed it all. Ranma and Akane's relationship would run its natural course to failure safely and he could swoop down to aid Akane on her time of need when the jerk broke her heart.
"Hush. Do you-do you hear that?" Ranma whispered urgently.
Akane blinked and turned to glance at the Amazons. Ranma pushed her violently aside. A huge spiked weapon embedded itself to its hilt into the wooden planks they had been standing on, snapping them in half. Attached to the weapon was a very tall and very angry looking woman.
"She left to Hawaii!"
Ranma barked and tried to kick the weapon out of the woman's hand. He received a solid kick to the chest before reaching his mark. The blow forced him back and allowed the woman to yank her weapon free off the wood. She slammed it on the palm of her outstretched hand and smirked.
"Little boy need stick to what he know …"
"He husband, Spoh Nxe! You leave alone!"
Shampoo screamed from the other side of the garden as she dodged the vicious attacks of the other new-comer. Her cloths were shredded in places, evidence she had met the sharp bite of her opponent's weapon. A swift punch directed at the older woman resulted in a painful impact against the iron surface of her shield.
Shampoo's clarification of his identity did little to help the situation. Spoh Nxe's face contorted in an expression of rage.
"So you are the bastard! Little Xian Pu follow you around like puppy and you treat her like dirt! I teach you lesson!"
"She got that right, Ranma…"
Akane murmured. He glared at her and then at Shampoo. The Amazon shrugged in the middle of a back-flip. His attention was forced back to his opponent as she leaped at him. Her weapon slammed painfully on his side. He ignored the alarmed shouts of the girls and the pain spreading through his ribs like fire and dodged the next attack. He broke through her defenses and landed a solid blow of his own. The Amazon staggered back.
They faced each other, evaluating more carefully their opponent after the quick trade of blows. As a principle, Ranma hated fighting women. This one, however, was keeping up with him and that meant skill and toughness. Her pretty face was set in a hard expression. She didn't even blink as she stared at him. Her intensity reminded him of Ryoga. If he didn't get serious she may even manage to hurt him. Or Akane.
Ranma heard the scream before Shampoo slammed full force against him. Their bodies flew a few feet before bouncing on the grass and ending in the koi-pond.
The water was cold and the fish snaked around their legs. Their bodies started changing. Usually, the transformation was too quick to feel anything. When Shampoo was with him, Ranma could literally feel her slender human hands turning into the furry wicked paws of a cat. Its horrible claws hooked under his skin and into the muscles below and an eerie mew gurgled next to his ear.
The two Amazons stood in front of the pond with their weapons ready. It was unfortunate Shampoo was so mulish about this whole Ranma-business. It wasn't shameful to accept the aid of the Clan against an outsider. She had been dealing alone with this one for a year now. It was time to receive help, whatever she liked it or not. Their thoughts were interrupted by the sudden explosion of the pond's surface. A girl emerged from the falling water curtain, howling like a rabid demon, her arms and legs flailing wildly. They stared at her as she ran erratically around the garden.
"Foh Am, is that…?"
"I think she is. Red-hair, pig-tail…."
Spoh Nxe snarled and leaped to meet the screaming girl.
Even in her cat-induced panic, Ranma detected the spiked weapon coming towards her head. A shrill cry of relief left her mouth and she ducked to place the horrifying beast clawing her skull directly on the path of the mace. The kanabo hit the cat and sent it flying away. It bounced on the grass and slid to a stop several feet away.
"Get Xian Pu and that idiot out of the pond. Maybe they're hiding like this weirdo."
Foh Am was doubtful but she did as she was told.
Ranma- free from the horror of having a cat clawing her head-was able to focus and think straight once again. She saw an Amazon standing a few feet away and the other on the pond. Akane stood near the house, looking pale and shaken. Ryoga was gaping in her arms. The cat that was Shampoo lay motionless near them. Ranma's mind processed what she had done in a moment of blind panic. The blood drained from his face. Her heart started pounding on her ears. What had she done?
"Ranma, look out!"
Instincts kicked in. Ranma jumped back. The kanabo passed whistling inches away from her face. She had a female body now. Any dishonorable advantage was gone. They were on equal ground and she was mad as hell. Ranma's fist met the Amazon's jaw. Spoh Nxe kicked at her, trying to gain space to maneuver her weapon. Ranma blocked the attack and landed a solid punch right on her mouth. She staggered back.
"They're not in the water, Spoh Nxe!" Foh Am said. "Aiya….I think we made a mistake. Do you remember that…?"
Spoh Nxe couldn't understand her sister over the ringing on her ears. That Ranma girl was definitely good. She had punched her face several times before rattling her teeth with a swift kick to the jaw. The world was swirling before her eyes. No wonder little Shampoo had been unable to kill her.
The Joketsuzoku was swaying. Ranma waited in hopes she would just fall on her ass and stay down. They had no such luck. She shook her head and her eyes refocused. She swayed no more. Her hands readjusted their grip on the kanabo and she leaped at him, letting out a fierce battle cry.
Spo Nxe gasped when the red-head, instead of moving out of the way or trying to block the attack, leaped forward to meet her charge.
"Chestnut Roasting on an Open Fire!"
Spoh Nxe gritted her teeth as her arms strained to hold her weapon still. Ranma's hands blurred as she hit it viciously. When the assault stopped, the Joketsuzoku blinked and eyed the spiked mace. It had been bent and dented into an unrecognizable mass of flat iron.
"You give up now?"
"You little bitch break my weapon! It gift! Now, I going break you pet!"
The Amazon's eyes burnt. Ranma knew that feral look. She had seen it many times on opponents that were on the verge of doing something really violent and stupid and Spo Nxe delivered. Her arms blurred as she whirled towards the house. Ranma turned for Ryoga, knowing Akane would get hurt when the pig was attacked. The animal wasn't cradled on his fiance's arms. He sat alone in the grass, squealing in alarm. The high-pitched cry mixed with a human scream…
Akane held the cat close to her chest. She was proud of her quick reaction. She had not thought. She had simply jumped to aid the fallen Shampoo. It had been a wise move to make. The second she managed to secure the limp animal against her chest, a sharp sudden pain spread like fire through her arm. She couldn't help the shrill scream that crawled out of her mouth.
It was a lie. She was in agony. Two hands settled on her shoulders and Akane looked up to find Ranma leaning over her. She glanced at her arm and the pain seemed to increase: she could see the hilt of a dagger protruding from her shoulder.
"Don't freak out. Sit down."
"Behind you, Ranma!"
Ranma's eyes blazed. She turned sharply to face the Amazon. Woman or not she was going to tear her apart. There was no defiance on either of the Joketsuzoku as they approached. They were staring at the cat intently. The woman holding the shield cleared her throat and pointed at Akane.
"Could we please take a look at the cat?"
"You should get the hell outta here…"
Akane struggled to her feet and glanced at Shampoo. The girl turned cat was staring at her with bleary golden eyes,purring softly. She smiled at her through the dazing agony of her stabbed arm. Everything would be okay. A shadow loomed over them and Akane looked up. One of the Joketsuzoku was standing in front of her. She leaned over to stare a moment at the cat. She flinched and turned back to scream angrily at her sister in their native tongue. The other woman stammered and yelled right back. An argument broke between them. Ranma and Akane picked only one word from what sounded like gibberish: Jusenkyo.
"Gotta figure it out sooner 'r later." Ranma grumbled darkly. "Come on, we gotta stop the bleeding…"
One of the women grabbed her arm. Ranma snatched it back and whirled on her, throwing a brutal blow to her face. Her hand connected with an iron shield. The blow hurt her delicate female knuckles but at least the shield dented beyond usefulness.
"I can fix your friend!" The Joketsuzoku said, throwing the shield aside. "I'm a certificated healers…see?"
Foh Am produced a framed diploma from between her cloths that clearly stated she had completed her studies in Joketsuzoku Medical School. She flashed him a toothy sheepish smile before hiding it back.
They sat in the dining room, nursing steaming cups of tea. Soun was too busy suffering a weeping-stroke after seen his 'little-girl' bleeding. Ranma supervised the Joketsuzoku tending his fiancé.
As it turned out, the dagger was quite small. Its blade was no more than 2 inches long. Spoh Nxe explained it was designed to be the lightest and most aerodynamic of all throwing knives. The user required to have perfect aim if they were to make a useful tool out of it.
"It go right on neck or forehead. Maybe chest too if you can aim between ribs. " She explained when Ranma refused to give the dagger back to her. "You see how it no do much in limb."
"You can stick it in a joint." Foh Am said, putting away her medical supplies.
"Yeah...but if want incapacitate enemy, more fun break legs."
"You're a barbarian."
"You shouldn't call your own sister that in front of Outsiders you know…"
Akane stared at her bandaged arm. The pain had been numbed through shiatsu. She was warmed, however, that as soon as the effect of the pressure point passed, it would hurt. She should avoid using the arm as much as possible for at least three days. Despite the positive diagnosis, her family, Uncle Genma and Ranma hovered over her. She was sure it looked pretty bad. The sight of all that blood had scared Kasumi and put her father to tears. She felt fine and so much attention was upsetting. She was a Martial Artist, after all. Injuries were bound to happen.
"So…" She said. "How are you doing, Shampoo?"
Everyone turned to the Amazon. Ranma had insisted they turned her back to human as soon as the fight was over. Kasumi had been quick to comply. Since they turned her back, Shampoo had sat in silence at the opposite side of the table, wearing a borrowed bathrobe. They noticed suddenly how sick she looked.
"You don't look so good, little sister." Foh Am said. "Khu Long's going to crack your head open, Spoh Nxe."
"It all Ling-ling and Lung-lung fault! If they no ditch us at Airport..."
"Nothing of this would have happened."
"When I get my hands on them: bang!"
Spoh Nxe smashed a fist into the palm of her hand. It sounded like two massive rocks slamming against each other. Soun and Genma shuddered. The more they learnt about the women of Joketsuzoku, the grimmer the lives of their men seemed to be.
"Is she going to be alright?" Akane asked, looking at Shampoo.
"Sure! Come on, Xian Pu. We'll walk you home."
"I no feel so good."
"Move. I want catch up Ling-ling and Lung-lung tonight. "
Shampoo struggled to stand. Her pale skin glimmered with sweat. Ranma sighed and offered a helping hand. He was shoved roughly aside. Spo Nxe grabbed her sister by the back of the bathrobe and hauled her to her feet. Shampoo moaned loudly. Foh Am laughed.
"Japan has spoiled you, little sister. It's just a few cracks."
"Hey, leave her alone." Akane pushed her way in between the two Joketsuzoku and placed a hand on Shampoo's shoulder. "She doesn't look so good."
"You mind own business, little girl."
Spoh Nxe reached out to shove Akane out of the way. They needed to take Shampoo back to wherever she was staying at and report to Khu Long. If the old woman was going to punish her for this, she'd better do it fast. She wanted to catch up to Ling-ling and Lung-lung tonight. Those people had made them waste quite enough of their time already.
A stout hand latched onto her wrist and held tightly. A bit too tightly.
"Don't touch her."
Ranma waited till the woman stepped back before letting go of her hand. His met her angry gaze calmly. It had taken a lot of self-control not to beat her senseless after what she had done to Akane. The Joketsuzoku sneered and it seemed she would make the single stupid move he needed as an excuse to physically kick her out. But the other woman placed a firm hand on her shoulder and snapped sharply in Mandarin. Spo Nxe growled and stormed out of the house.
"Move you ass, Xian Pu! Let go already!"
"Yes, big sister."
Despite her words, Shampoo did not move and continued to sway unsteadily on her spot.
"Perhaps she could stay here tonight." Kasumi offered with a smile, picking up the used dishes. "It's no trouble at all!"
Everyone turned to stare at her in disbelief. Ranma was the first to voice his protests.
"She's gonna sneak into my bed!"
"I don't think she could." Nabiki said. "I think she's dying."
Ranma regarded Shampoo carefully. She was standing but her eyes had closed. She started snoring softly. She had fallen asleep on her feet...like a chicken. His eyes narrowed and he leaned closer. He poked at her in the arm, then on the stomach. He put his face inches away from hers and snapped his fingers under her nose.
Akane slammed him face-first on the ground.
"Where's the Neko Hanten again?"
Akane gave Foh Am instructions on how to get to the Chinese Restaurant and soon the Amazons were off on their way. The door was wide-open but they still smashed a new whole in the wall to exit. The family stared at the settling smoke in chagrin. The voice of the Amazons drifted in the distance. Only Shampoo's soft snoring interrupted the peaceful silence that settled for a few wonderful seconds in the Tendo's household.
"That was so weird." Nabiki stated dully, turning on the TV and biting a cracker. "Our lives are so weird now."
"Should we take her upstairs?"
Ranma placed a hand on the Amazon's shoulder. She snapped awake. Her wild-eyes darted around the room. After a moment, she seemed to recognize the place and settled down. She rubbed her eyes and wiped absently some drool from the corner of her mouth.
"I go home. Great-Grandmother worry."
"But your clothes are not dry yet." Kasumi informed her worriedly. "And you look so tired. Please, stay."
"But is late."
"You can sleep here."
Shampoo stared vacantly at the oldest Tendo sister for a moment before her glassy eyes brightened in sudden realization. She turned to Ranma. He jerked his hand away from her shoulder and stepped back. He knew what that happy face meant. The Amazon let out a happy 'yey!' before leaping at him with feline grace. In mid-leap, however, her body stiffened and a breathless whimper crawled out of her lips. Her body dropped to the ground like a stone.
"Geez…" Ranma knelt next to the fallen girl and tried to lift her up. Shampoo screamed and he jerked his hands back. "Wow! Shit! I'm sorry, I didn't…Man, she sure got ya good…"
"Maybe we should call Dr Tofu…"
Dr Tofu's expert fingers located hairline fractures in the left side of Shampoo's rib-cage but nothing had snapped out of place and the girl's breathing was steady and clear. Most of the pain she was feeling came from a strained muscle in her neck. All she needed was to sleep off the immediate effects of taking such a blow and a few acupressure sessions in the following weeks.
"Is no home…" Shampoo blurred weakly as he pulled a blanket over her body. "….this tacky…decoration…"
"Hey!" Akane cried out in outrage. "You're….Mo…Is she going to be alright?"
"Yes but it's really good that you made her stay. She needs the rest."
Dr Tofu gave her a warm smile. There had been a time when those eyes would have made her blush and stammer like a shy little girl. In time, without noticing, the crush she had had on him had lost its fire. She could smile back at him as if he were just another good friend. That's what Dr Tofu was to her now. She no longer wished him as hers. Almost subconsciously, Akane looked at Ranma. She found him staring at her.
"What you did." He explained in a matter-of-fact tone, looking back at Shampoo. "It was very brave."
Akane blushed and her eyes darted to the ground. She was not used to receiving compliments from Ranma. It made her feel all tingly inside.
"She's done the same for me before. Besides, I was just closer."
"Not so much. You moved pretty fast. It was-uh-it was…neat."
She finally found the courage to look up. Their eyes met. Her heart seemed to melt. He rarely dropped the hard wall of indifference clouding his eyes but this time, he allowed her to find the gentle forgiving soul that lay behind it.
Ranma swallowed. It was amazing what a few words would make of a woman. Some would turn Akane into this irrational and violent bitch and others turned her into the most beautiful and gentle girl he had ever laid his eyes on. His heart was pounding really fast. She was blushing. At least it wasn't only him who felt embarrassed by their growing proximity…
Ranma and Akane flinched away from each other. The entire family was standing at the door staring at them. Nabiki had a camera on her hands while Soun was having a second weeping-seizure. The panda had one of his infamous signs held high.
Dr Tofu babbled and jumped to stand next to Kasumi- first he tripped and slammed face first into Akane's desk but he recovered quickly. Kasumi smiled gently at him
"Hello again, Dr Tofu. How is little Shampoo?"
"Fine, she's great! You should come and visit more often!"
She laughed a little, unsure what the correct answer to such a comment could be. Nabiki stared at them. It was getting late and her patience had worn out. She reminded Kasumi it was late and that there was laundry still hanging outside. Her sister excused herself and they left.
Dr Tofu blinked at the sudden vacancy next to him. There were a few more seconds of stammering nonsense before his brain re-settled and recovered its awareness of space and time. He cleared his throat.
"Hum…well….uh….Well…Remember not to exert any pressure or to make any efforts with that arm for at least two weeks." He reminded Akane. "Then we can take off the sling."
Akane sighed. It would represent a great impediment during practice but she supposed there was no help for it. Before Dr Tofu arrived, the effects of the pressure point used by Foh Am had worn off. The sample of the pain she could feel with the arm hanging free was more than enough to help her accept the sling Dr Tofu put on it without comment.
"It is strange." He said. "The way she treated your wound talks of experience and skill. But to not still the arm properly…"
"They wanted Shampoo to walk home with them."
He sighed and scratched the back of his head. He glanced at Shampoo. She was sleeping soundly.
"Well, I should get going now. If something happens, just call me. I'll talk to Cologne and come back tomorrow morning to pick her up."
"Thank you, doctor."
Everyone left and Akane, Shampoo and P-chan were left in each other's company. The sister girl picked up the black piglet and held him close. Things had not turned out so good. It hadn't occurred to her that Shampoo would be sleeping in her room, much less in her bed. She had guessed unrolling a spared futon in one of the guest rooms would have been enough. The stupid Amazon doctor had made them believe Shampoo's injuries were not a big deal. When Dr Tofu arrived and reported that they were, in fact, something serious, Kasumi did not hesitate to offer a bed. And since Shampoo was Akane's friend...
"Maybe you're going to respect me more now." She stated haughtily to her sleeping guest. "Stupid weak Akane just saved your life."
She walked around the bed to lay down on the futon Kasumi had rolled out for her and cuddled P-chan to her chest. She closed her eyes and sighed. Ranma was proud of her. She felt proud of herself too. One of the many favors she owed the Amazon had been repaid. She had saved her life. Akane drifted to sleep with a smile on her lips.