Dummy Perception: Well,most of it is already written :D And if I don't post it, I keep editing and I can't get to work on other chapts, lol X-D Ukyo's gonna come by again in the last chapt :D
Thanks for R&R! :D
Akane moaned and stirred. Her hand flailed mindlessly to the side, searching for the alarm clock beeping so annoyingly. Her hand touched only grass. She opened her eyes to a sky filled with the colors of sunset. She looked around and found the lake and the forest and the sheathed dao. The beeping sound ended abruptly.
"Nihao?" She turned to look at Shampoo and found her with a cellphone to her ear. The girl scowled. "How you get this number? You making me waste my time."
Shampoo snapped the flip phone close. Akane snapped close her gaping mouth and reached for it but the thing started vibrating and beeping again. The Amazon opened it with a smart snap of her wrist.
"Nihao!...Who you?...Aiya, thank you!...Yes, she here. Okay…Is want talking to you."
Akane took the phone, one of her eyebrows raised.
"Hello?...Tsubasa!...Ro…IT'S NOT ROMANTIC!" There was a sudden commotion on the other end of the line. Then a new familiar voice spoke into the phone."Ukyo?...Not until you tell me…"
"You no talk to her!" Shampoo snarled and snatched the phone back. "What you want, stupid Spatula Girl? Stop wasting Shampoo time!..."
Akane was about to snatch it back when the Amazon's face went deadly pale. Her eyes widened and she gaped like a fish out of the water. An expression of sudden rage twisted her pretty features. The phone cracked slightly under her fingers.
"Oh, yes?!" She howled explosively. "Why you no come here and say that to face?! We's in Takeno Mo…"
The phone was snatched away. Shampoo let out a vicious curse and lunged to get it back. They struggled until Akane managed to get into a good position and shoved the Amazon back.
"Don't you see what she's doing, baka?!" Akane snapped at her and put the phone to her ear. "Ukyo…Nabiki? Who else's in there? Is-is everyone okay?...No, but I don't need rescuing…Because I'm mad at you!"
Shampoo jumped back to her feet. Nobody insulted her like that and nobody pushed her like that. She grabbed Akane's wrist and twisted it sharply. The girl yowled in pain and dropped the phone. Shampoo picked it up and gave her a warning glare. She placed the phone back to her ear, ready to finish delivering her challenge to Ukyo but it was not the chef on the other end of the line anymore.
"...I-I love you. I don't care about anyone else. I love you, Akane…"
Akane rubbed her wrist sullenly. Thoughts of rightful vengeance fled her as Shampoo's haughty expression changed to one of overwhelming grief.
"What's she saying? Did something happen? Is everyone okay?"
The silence stretched in what seemed like forever. When she finally spoke, it was in a heart-breaking moan.
"Why? Why her and not me?"
"What happened?" Akane gasped, placing her hand on the Amazon's shoulders. "Please tell me everyone's all right!"
Shampoo looked at her and there was but a second between the realization of sudden danger and the pain exploding in her face. Akane cried out as she hit the ground. She took a trembling hand to her face, brushing off pieces of plastic and metal from her mouth and nose. Shampoo dropped the remaining pieces of the phone and cracked her knuckles.
"That hurt, you jerk!"
"We need talk what is going to happen with you, me and Ranma, Akane."
She tried to stand. Shampoo kicked her sharply in the face and slammed a foot on her throat, pinning her to the ground. There was not enough pressure to cut off her breathing but it was enough to discourage movement. Akane gripped the Amazon's foot.
"What are you doing!?"
"You is obstacle now. Obstacles be for killing. Give up Ranma and you no longer obstacle. You no have to die. Say you give him up!"
"Get off me!"
Shampoo leaned more weight on the foot over her throat, snarling at her to obey. It was too much for her feeble control. Her fingers squeezed Shampoo's foot and ankle and with a feral snarl, Akane lunched forward, throwing the Amazon off of her and rolling back to her feet.
"I'm not giving him up! He's mine and I love him!"
Shampoo stood back up, baring her teeth in a low menacing growl. Akane didn't understand what had set this off but she didn't care. She was done being bullied. She dropped into a fight stance and the Amazon attacked, letting out a savage war-cry. Akane moved without thinking and blocked. A sharp pain spread through her shielding arm and Shampoo barreled forward, throwing her off her feet. The second her back hit the ground, Akane rolled back. The avoided kick ripped off the grass.
Akane screamed and threw a punch of her own, resting all of her strength behind it. Shampoo danced to the side and landed a sharp blow to her face. Akane ignored the horrible pain and kicked. Her leg was caught and shoved higher than it could go. She lost her footing and fell to the ground. The overwhelming urge to get back up was forgotten as a brutal kick impacted on her jaw.
Akane moaned pitifully, sprawled in the mud at the shores of the lake. Her mouth and nose were bleeding and her bleary eyes struggled to find their focus. Shampoo felt disgusted. She was a warrior, not a butcher. Joketsuzoku were supposed to hit and kill but her blows lacked strength. She had held back on Ranma and paid the price of her idiocy with a curse and constant rejection.
Shampoo whirled around and gathered her belongings. She stuffed everything in the backpack, keeping in her hand only a lantern. She switched it on and turned to Akane. The girl had managed to sit back up.
"Get up. We going back."
Akane struggled back to her feet, wincing and swaying slightly. Shampoo walked into the forest, the light disappearing with her into the darkness. She grabbed the dao and staggered after her.
"This's an emergency, don't you understand?!"
"I-I'm sorry, sir! There's nothing I can do!" The manager of Nerima's train station stuttered. "Last train to Takeno Mori's left. Next one leaves tomorrow morning."
Soun's tight grip on the poor man's collar did not loosen. Nabiki sighed and finally intervened. Uncle Genma seemed to guess her intention and dosed an unsuspecting Ranma with cold water. Nabiki whispered something on the manager's ear, pointing at the sputtering red-head. His eyes glazed over and his nostrils flared.
"I have just the thing for you!"
Ranma scowled darkly but didn't protest. Speed was essential and it was worth to see what this old fart could offer. He just hoped Shampoo didn't do something retarded. If something bad happened to Akane, it would be his fault. Why did he always have to blurt shit out?
The Manager guided them to a rusty iron door under a flickering white light at the end of the station. He grabbed the handle and gave them a huge toothy smile.
"Behold, strangers, the pride of my soul!"
The door was swung opened. They gasped in anticipation of the promised wonder and faceplanted.
"What's that piece of shit?" Ranma shriek explosively.
"Ditto." Nabiki stated.
The Manager screamed and hugged the pathetically small and trashy motorcycle sitting in the center of the otherwise empty room. He kissed it and turned the keys. The engines roared to life. A huge cloud of dark smoke farted right into the man's face. The wide grin was still in place when it cleared.
"This little wonder will take you right where you need to at top speed!"
Ranma regarded the bike carefully before climbing on it. After the initial explosion, the motor settled and purred softly. She rolled the handlers and the engines roared. Her lips twisted in feral grin. The fat-ass panda that was her father jumped on the passenger's seat, followed by Soun and the train Manager.
A nut flew off. A screw fell noisily to the floor. The motorcycle trembled and fell apart under them. Ranma was crushed on top by all her unwanted passengers. Nabiki stared at them with half-lidded eyes.
"Akane!" Soun wailed. "My little girl, please be okay!"
"I-I was curious," The Manager confessed when all eyes turned to him. He blushed. "Sorry…"
Nabiki sighed. She just hoped Akane was okay. All the money she was making would not pay off if her little sister got hurt.
"Wh-why did you attack me? And why are we going back now?"
"Hush. I no can hear around."
Their first expedition through the forest had been the most wonderful experience Akane could remember. This second journey was frightening. The ghostly light made the shadows dance. Glittering eyes came attached to dark formless bodies that hurried away in every direction. Shrieks and wails interrupted the cricket's songs. Akane huddled closer to Shampoo, stepping on her foot heels. Annoyed, the Amazon shoved her back.
Akane's frightened eyes fixed on her surroundings as they continued. The white light of the lantern washed over disfigured trees. Their trunks had been mauled, the wood ripped by strong claws. A cold breeze blew, bringing the stench of male cat urine.
"Do you smell that?" Akane whimpered, stepping on Shampoo again. "Do you see the trees? What could do that?!"
"A tiger, Akane."
"A tig- There are no wild tigers in Japan."
"Then what is that?"
Akane stiffened as low growls came from behind her. She whirled around to find the face of a huge fat tiger. His powerful jaw opened in a vicious snarl.
The light went out.
The tiger roared and attacked. Even as Akane screamed in terror, her body moved with a precision gained after a lifetime of steady training. She rolled with the momentum of the beast's shove and placed her feet into his stomach. The moment her back touched the ground, her legs sprang and sent the animal flying in the air.
She jumped back to her feet and strained to see and hear. The full moon was no longer grazing the skies to aid the eye. Her ears caught the low whispering of stirred vegetation at her left and a soft impatient growl at her right. The tiger rammed into her and thrashed violently to land a killing blow. Akane let out a blood-curling scream and lashed out with all she had, kicking and punching. The tiger yowled and retreated, taken aback by the viciousness of such a small prey.
Akane whimpered as she crawled to her knees. Her arms and legs were burning. She could no longer hear the beast move over the frantic pounding on her ears and the wheezing breaths slipping her mouth. A feral snarl filled the air. In the seconds that passed, Akane remembered the weapon still clasped firmly in her hand. She lashed at the air frantically with the sheathed dao. It never met something solid but the tiger yowled in pain.
Shampoo spoke in the darkness.
"You no attack me, stupid, attack her!"
The tiger growled and hissed. Akane narrowed her eyes. She could see the shadows moving and her nose caught the bitter scent of the tiger's fur and rancid breath. He roared. Akane unsheathed the dao and lunged with a scream. The blade embedded neatly in the thrashing darkness. Shampoo whimpered. The blood drained from Akane's face.
The tiger roared and attacked.
Akane snarled and caught the tiger's massive head, halting his charge. She hauled the startled beast and body slammed him against a tree. A storm of kicks and punches followed. Eventually, she had to stop to catch her breath and the poor animal crawled away, merging with the dense vegetation and hoping to never meet such strange and vicious animals again.
Akane dropped to her knees, panting heavenly. She felt like crying and laughing at the same time. She had just beaten up a tiger! And she was hurt, lost in the middle of nowhere with a sociopath as a field guide. A sociopath she had just stabbed.
"Shampoo? Where are you, are you okay?"
Pained moans answered her. Akane searched the lantern. Her hands brushed plants, branches and something scaly that hissed at her and darted away. After a seizure of shudders and moans, the search continued more frantically. She finally touched metal.
Akane switched the lantern on and gasped. Shampoo lay sprawled in the dirt, the hilt of the dao protruding from the left side of her stomach. She screamed as the Amazon grabbed it with bloody fingers and pulled sharply to the side. The hilt and part of the blade dropped, severed, to the ground.
"Hang on!" Akane scrambled for their backpack and rummaged furiously through it for the first-aid kit. "You know how to treat this! Tell me what to do!"
"Gre-Greatgrandmother-going k-kill you."
"Is that what you're worried about right now?! I-there's-It's still sticking out of your back, what do I do?!"
"Break what outside…leave inside…"
Akane wiped tears from her eyes and grabbed their blanket to shield her hands from the weapon's blade. With a quick and sharp twist, the protruding piece snapped loose. She threw it to the side and bandaged clumsily the stab wound. When it was done, she tended to the cuts the tiger had left on her arms and legs but ran out of bandages half way through.
Shampoo didn't look so good and the darkness surrounding them seemed ready to swallow them whole if they ventured inside. Akane concentrated, trying to remember all she had been taught about camping with Ranma, Uncle Genma and the stupid Amazon.
"A fire!" She said. "We need fire…"
It didn't matter how much time a lightened match rested among the leaves, the stupid pyre she had built would not caught fire. It smocked profoundly instead. Afraid they would get intoxicated or attract another mighty predator, Akane quickly abandoned her attempts. They at least had the lantern.
The white light flickered once and disappeared.
Akane lay down next to Shampoo and threw the blanket over them both. It felt wrong to hug an unconscious person but it was the only way to keep each other warm in the cold night. She lay in her back for long hours, staring at the glittering eyes of unknown creatures looking down at her from unseen branches.
Eventually, darkness retreated and the sky cleared. The singing crickets and screeching owls were replaced by diurnal birds and monkeys. Butterflies danced from one blooming flower to the other. Nature's indifference to the horrifying events suffered throughout the night was contagious and Akane stood up and faced the new day with energetic defiance.
She gathered dried branches and lightened the last match. She was about to set it down when a squirrel emerged from the pit-fire to be and leaped at her face. She howled and staggered back, tripping over the broken lantern. The match fell on her head and almost set her hair on fire. Enraged, Akane threw the backpack at the freaking squirrel and the lantern against the pyre. It exploded, sending her reeling back…and initiating a warm nice fire. Akane smiled, feeling at peace with the world once again.
Food was the next essential thing to take care of. The wild cherries Akane found burnt her throat when swallowed and the fruits were simply filled with seeds. Desperate, she climbed a tree to steal some eggs. The parents turned out to be very small but very vicious woodpeckers. Their small hammering beaks sent the Tiger Tamer running for cover.
"Okay, so there's no food." Akane announced proudly to Shampoo. "But I made us some tea. Will you be able to walk?"
"Leave." Shampoo mumbled. "I lie. Great-grandmother no care."
"I don't care if she cares. We need a hospital."
"I can no walk."
"Fine, then I carry you."
The birds continued singing; a humming bird scared a butterfly away from some flowers. A snake found cover in a bush. A fruit fell from a branch. Akane threw water over the fire. It hissed and died out. Only the essential was stuffed back into the pink backpack: the first aid-kit, the blanket and the two bottles with water. She hung it on her front and maneuvered the dozing Shampoo on her back. She didn't know where the end of the accursed wood was, but if she walked in a straight line, she would find the edge at some point. After all, what was an environmental crisis if not small woods?
"Oh, fuck it!"
Akane snarled as she reached the edge of the forest, forgetting all about good manners in the face of the broad soy fields extending before her. She had walked for hours and her legs and feet hurt. The dead weight of the backpack and Shampoo seemed to grow heavier each step. And huge flock of mosquitoes fed freely of them both. She cursed her unconscious companion with a passion.
Akane froze. Was her mind playing tricks on her? The eerie call repeated, closer this time. It was Ryoga calling her name! She strained to see through the tall soy stems.
"Akane-san! Where are you?!"
"At the edge of the wood! We're hurt!"
His voice grew fainter. Akane moaned in desperation. The idiot was probably running on the opposite direction.
"I'm coming, Akane-san!"
Akane ran into the soy field, calling him. She followed the sound of his voice. After a few turns, she could finally hear his erratic race across the soy stems. Then he was running in front of her.
"Ryoga!" She panted.
"I'm coming, Akane-san!"
"I'm behind you! Ryoga! Turn around!"
He stopped and turned around. He smiled broadly and ran to meet her. Akane fell to her knees and Ryoga knelt with her to hold her hands. His strong warm hands almost pushed her over the edge and Akane sobbed with relief.
"Don't worry, Akane-san. I'm here!"
Ryoga felt guilty for feeling so good in the face of Akane's anguish but it was his chance to prove he was better for her. Without a word, he grabbed her backpack and accommodated it over his own. He hauled Akane and Shampoo under his arms and barreled forward.
"Ryoga, wait! She's…!"
"The city's near!" He screamed.
Ryoga ran straight towards the wood. Akane screeched and thrashed so violently that he actually stopped. She pointed angrily on the opposite direction and he veered his course. Every time the Eternal Lost Boy turned in one way, Akane made him take the opposite direction. The technic worked and after two hours of painful journey, they reached Makeno Mori, one of the most populated neighbors of Tokyo. From there, it was easy to get help.
Akane and Shampoo travelled in the same ambulance. Ryoga could not get in with them but he promised to meet her at the hospital. She would probably see him again in a week. She regretted not thanking him.
Akane drifted in and out of consciousness as they arrived at the hospital. She was walked into a room where the cuts in her arms and legs were treated. Some required stiches. Shampoo had also broken her nose and her left eye was slowly swelling shut.
"That may teach you and your friend, little lady, to mess around in the woods at night!" A nurse scolded her. "It isn't safe with all the bears and that tiger that just escaped from the Zoo!"
Akane chose not to comment and asked for a phone instead. The nurse led her to the lobby. Kasumi promised to pick her up in the afternoon. Hopefully, she would find the others on the way. They had been out searching for her since her disappearance. Akane felt a rush of guilty over all the fun she had had before Shampoo turned on her. She reminded Kasumi how much she loved her and hung the phone. There was just one pending thing to do.
Shampoo was having a hard time understanding the incessant chattering of the doctor standing next to her bed. Japanese was a language that demanded longer pauses between words than Mandarin did. This woman omitted that simple rule and spoke too quickly for her dazed brain to understand. Words simply blurred into each other and explanations aimed to comfort and inform came out as a long irritating high-pitched babble.
Shampoo did not complain. There was nothing this woman could say that concerned her. She knew the stab-wound was not lethal and she would leave as soon as she was able to walk. Her father could come later to deal with any pending paperwork. Her lack of responsiveness finally sent the doctor away. She snatched off the wicked needles they had stock on her arm.
The door opened and Akane stepped inside. She was dressed in the same hideous pajamas the hospital staff had imposed on her. They left in plain view the bandages covering her arms, legs and shoulders. Shampoo sighed.
"Why did you attack me like that?"
"You is obstacle. Obstacle..."
"Yeah, 'obstacles be for killing' or whatever. But why then?"
"Ranma say he love you. On phone, when Ukyo call. He say he no care about anyone else. He just love you. "
"And so you just try to kill me? You know, everyone told me this was a bad idea. They called you a bully and a backstabber and a barbarian and I always defended you!"
Shampoo said nothing. Akane looked into her eyes, trying to discern what was going through her head. She could only see the reflection of her own grief-stricken face. It felt like something simply broke in her chest. She slumped in the chair next to the bed.
"I just thought that if I was patient enough, I'd get to understand you."
"No. You wanted to be my friend so we can fix Ranma deal without fight."
Akane wanted to deny it but it was true. The growing violence of the 'fiance war' had pushed her to pursue Shampoo. Her intentions had never been to hurt or trick but the unexpected call down made her feel guilty.
"But I wanted to be your friend." She said after a moment of self-reflection. "I do like you when you're not trying to kill people."
"I like you too, Akane." The vacant eyes shimmered with suppressed tears. Shampoo finally looked away. "I sorry thing finish this way but I no can say no to Ranma. We must be together. It is Law."
"Not here, it's not! You don't have to do this. If you don't love him…"
"Joketsuzoku no only place. It is us. We take Law where we go."
"Maybe if you explain to Cologne how you feel?"
"I go back to Joketsuzoku when Ranma say he girl. Great-grandmother no say nothing. She take me Jusenkyo, say I need learn. We train up in poles then she just knock me on pool. On Maoniichuan…"
Akane's hands closed into tight fists. Ranma had never told her the details of Shampoo's journey to Jusenkyo. She had never asked. She had never cared until then. She looked down, afraid the sight of Shampoo's bitter face and tearful eyes would break her. Her hands brushed the bandages hiding the wounds the tiger had left on her thighs and arms. Anger could shield her.
"She maimed me, Akane." Shampoo continued in a broken voice. "I no whole warrior anymore. It punishment for giving up, for going for help when I no should. She going hurt me again if I no marry Ranma."
Love wasn't a crime but she was feeling like a monster. Life was supposed to be simple at her age but it always seemed to grow more complicated. And it seemed fairness was always at a lost. Akane looked up at Shampoo, and the words simply poured out of her moth.
"Then I won't marry Ranma."